TRANSCRIPT -Interview Sky News First Edition - QANTAS; Commission of Audit; Paid Parenteral Leave; Manus Island; Conroy, Nash

DAVID LIPSON: Joining me now to discuss this and in particular QANTAS, the Shadow Finance Minister and Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke, thanks for your time this morning.

TONY BURKE: Morning David,

LIPSON: We’ll start with QANTAS. A lot of attention on Labor’s opposition to the 49 per cent foreign ownership rule but would Labor consider changes to the 25 per cent rule for single foreign shareholders or the 35 per cent rule for a foreign airline?

BURKE: The only principle that we’ve said, that we’ve put out there that we would not move beyond, you know just as a straight line, is the concept that we want QANTAS to be an Australian company and to keep the majority ownership of QANTAS is something that we believe is important. Issues after that, and there’s a whole lot of different kites that have been flown by the Government, but issues after that we want to play a constructive role and it’s for the Government to put forward what proposals they want. Now QANTAS has approached the Government back in December about this. There’s 32,000 jobs at QANTAS. We have a situation where they need to come up with a proposal. We’ll be constructive, we’ll have a look at it, we’re not giving them a blank cheque that we’d instantly sign up to everything.

LIPSON: But you would consider raising for example the 25 or the 35 per cent figure?

BURKE: Well, I’ve told you the one we’d rule out. Beyond that we’re willing to be constructive and have a look at a government proposal, but it’s for the Government to make a proposal. They behave each day like they’re still in opposition, there’s a, the national carrier QANTAS, that actually needs a response from the Government, we’re saying we’ll be constructive. We can’t have the Government continue to delay responding.

LIPSON: Reports today that the Commission of Audits interim report has found the Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme to be too generous, should the full report be released?

BURKE: It’s 13 days since Joe Hockey’s had this on his desk. In that document are the clues to all the cuts that the Australian people might have up against them. That should have been released 13 days ago and what he’s doing is dropping it out in dribs and drabs to different newspapers. Release the report; let people see what the Government is actually considering. But you don’t need a Commission of Audit; you shouldn’t need a Commission of Audit to be able to tell people that what Tony Abbott’s promised in paid parental leave is not sustainable. You know, just talk to anybody who’s going to be affected by the GP tax and they’ll tell you that the priorities of taxing people to go to the GP, but then providing the most extraordinary benefit for people on very high incomes with the PPL design that Tony Abbott’s done is just plain wrong. The priorities there are wrong and anyone who gets hurt by the other cuts should be the key messages that the Government’s willing to listen to.

LIPSON: Another matter, and reports of a police report from Papua New Guinea today blaming G4S local security staff for the death of Reza Berati. As immigration minister at the time you awarded the contract to G4S, do you regret that now?

BURKE: I want to see what comes out in the report the, that’s taking place, you need to remember I was criticised by Scott Morrison constantly for not expanding the facilities there quickly enough and I always said you need to be careful here, you need to make sure that people are transferred across at a time when they will be safe, and. -

LIPSON: - But you suggested as many as 10,000 people could be housed on Manus.

BURKE: If required, but I also always said the pace at which people would go would be when facilities were there, services were there and people would be safe, and Scott Morrison was saying send them across in 48-hours, push them over more quickly and my view is always you need to be, you need to make sure that the capacity will always be there for however many people put their lives at risk on the high seas.

LIPSON: But if G4S local staff are found through that report that you want to see, to have caused the death of this 23-year-old, do you think that they should still be running the centre, I know that it’s shifting on to another firm but should they have been running the centre at that point?

BURKE: Well, I think we’re way to early on the facts on that. The gravity of it though is extraordinary. I mean a man has been murdered, a man who was, you know, started in Australia’s care and where Australia has a high level of responsibility there at Manus Island, so I think you know we owe it to all the circumstances to make sure that we get the facts, but I do think it is worth putting down a bit of marker over the change in the pace of expansion that’s happened and the people, you know, Scott Morrison didn’t even want me to be giving people their inoculations before they were sent across.

LIPSON: Ok, you look, just on a similar matter, the Labor Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy has been heavily criticised for accusing a three star general of a political cover up. Why shouldn’t he apologise?

BURKE: We’ll he’s withdrawn, the withdrawal took place.

LIPSON: But no apology.

BURKE: And lets, and the apology’s being demanded by politicians, the withdrawal was made immediately and I think what did matter was yesterday in the Parliament you could not have had a stronger speech in support of General Campbell than what you had from Bill Shorten, where it was made clear he has our complete respect, our complete support.

LIPSON: So you’re fully comfortable defending Stephen Conroy in regards to the apology?

BURKE: Well Stephen Conroy himself has withdrawn the remark, so the fact that the remark shouldn’t have been made is something that is settled and agreed with Stephen Conroy.

LIPSON: Just very briefly, much of your focus was on Fiona Nash yesterday of a conflict of interest claims regarding her now resigned chief of staff, he’s gone, why isn’t that enough?

BURKE: Minister Nash has misled the Parliament. Yesterday her answers were all over the place changing, when we put to Tony Abbott comments that she’s made and comments that he’s made that are in complete contradiction to each other, he just smugly stood up and said ‘oh both are true’, when it can’t be the case. When you have a Minister who misleads, if there’s one principle that says a Minister has to go, it’s that one.

LIPSON: Tony Burke thanks for your time.

BURKE: Good to be here.


Tony Burke