TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop interview ahead of the return to Parliament - SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 3 DECEMBER 2017
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Thanks very much everybody for coming out to my electorate of Watson. Can I start by congratulating Barnaby Joyce on yesterday’s result and also want to thank our candidate, Labor’s candidate David Ewings. It’s not often that an individual candidate gets a four percent swing to them but then a massive two party preferred swing against. Which is part of the circumstance when someone like Tony Windsor doesn't run. But notwithstanding that, congratulations to Barnaby Joyce. He will now be returning to the Parliament for the first time constitutionally. Certainly wish him well but he had a win yesterday and congratulations.
When we get to Parliament tomorrow, obviously Barnaby Joyce wont be declared yet, but when we get to Parliament tomorrow it is clear now that the Government has decided to engage in a form of behaviour which I think you can only describe as appalling. The Prime Minister has made clear in comments on television this morning that he has no intention of referring any of his own members to the High Court but does intend to refer Labor members. Now under standing orders at the moment only a minister can make those referrals. So what the Government is currently setting up is a situation where they will hide behind the standing orders, hide behind the Parliamentary rules to create a situation where Labor members can be referred to the High Court but they adopt a protection racket for their own members.
This is appalling and I will be moving in the Parliament tomorrow that this be fixed. We cannot have a situation where there is one rule for one side of politics and a different rule for another side of politics. If this is all going to be based on Malcolm Turnbull’s so called legal expertise, let’s not forget last time Malcolm Turnbull claimed he knew what the law was. He announced to the Parliament ‘and the High Court will so hold’ and the High Court, seven to nil, said that he was completely wrong.
We need, when we go back to the Parliament tomorrow, to have a situation where by the end of the week if there is doubt over any member of Parliament, referrals can be moved by either side of politics. It will be an unacceptable protection racket if the outcome tomorrow is that only the Liberal party can refer people to the High Court of Australia.
JOURNALIST: With the election, it has been a massive loss for Labor in New England is this a sign that the Government’s future is starting to turn around?
BURKE: First of all, as I said, our primary vote actually went up. But without Tony Windsor there in the field. I think it’s fair to say New England is not exactly our heartland seat. But it was a big win for Barnaby Joyce and I have congratulated him there at the beginning.
The risk of yesterday’s result is this, when you watched Malcolm Turnbull last night he was triumphant. The only message that seems to have been received by the Prime Minister of Australia is that he thinks he is doing really well. I suspect his backbench will give him a very different message when they are all in Canberra tomorrow. You heard Malcolm Turnbull say ‘the band is back together!’ The problem that he has got is it’s not Cold Chisel, it's Milli Vanilli.
It's a band where you've had other people singing the lyrics for years. Malcolm Turnbull hasn't been making these decisions he gets pushed by whichever direction chaos is coming. That’s what we’ve had from Malcolm Turnbull. I suspect after his triumphant attitude when he was standing next to Barnaby Joyce last night the Prime Minister as of today has learnt absolutely nothing.
JOURNALIST: Tony how are Labor’s preparations going for the deadline for disclosure statements on citizenship on Tuesday?
BURKE: Well, in a different situation to the Government, we do our preparations on this particular issue before people nominate. So the information that candidates put forward which goes to the citizenship of themselves, of their parents and their grandparents and for their spouse is something that you have to do before the Labor Party allows you to nominate.
So in the lead up to tomorrow's resolution going through the Parliament, we've simply been cross-checking information we already had. The difference for the Liberal Party and the National Party is they're seeking this information for the first time. This is why I find it so extraordinary for Mr Turnbull to claim there are all these Labor members under a cloud when he knows they all took reasonable steps but he's not interested in referring anyone from his own party to the High Court when he knows that if there was a citizenship question over any of them, they took no steps to renounce at all. The Prime Minister's comments today change everything about how this week will run.
The Prime Minister is not saying the Government intends to be even-handed with this. The Prime Minister's saying, with a board to rule attitude, one rule for the Liberal Party and a different rule for everyone else. A different rule if you're an independent, a different rule if you're from the Labor Party. Well, that's not what the public expect. The public expect that either side will be able to make referrals to the High Court. Up until now, this hasn't been relevant because referrals had only happened when people had come forward themselves. Mr Turnbull has made clear the rules have changed. Well if the rules have changed they don't only change for his political opponents. They've got to change for the Liberal Party as well and either side of politics must be able to move referrals to the High Court.
JOURNALIST: Are there any particular referrals you are expecting of your own members?
BURKE: I don't do what the Prime Minister does and prejudge information before I have it. So we will have all of this information at some point Tuesday. We believe it should be Tuesday morning at the moment I think for Government is wanting to delay it until midnight Tuesday or something ridiculous like that. So there is less time for scrutiny before we're moving motions on Thursday. Those issues all get resolved on Monday morning, then we'll know the time frame. Once we've got the information then every member of the Parliament and every member of the Australian community will be able to look and clearly see one, whether people had a foreign citizenship to renounce and secondly whether or not they took reasonable steps to renounce it.
We know that any of our people who had a form of foreign citizenship took reasonable steps. We also know that if there's anyone on the Government’s side who had a foreign citizenship we know from a clear example of what we've seen already, none of them took any steps at all. That's what we'll be dealing with as soon as the information is public.
JOURNALIST: In terms of same-sex marriage legislation, will there be any support from Labor MP’s for amendments to the legislation during the debate this week?
BURKE: The amendments that were put to the Senate last week I understand that they're going to be of similar style in the House of Representatives. My view has always been and I've said this before any of the amendments were presented, my personal view has always been that amendments should be dealt with in the Senate and we should not in the House of Representatives be seeking to put the bill through in a different form to how it passed the Senate.
For one very simple reason. After the Australian public made the decision the public made, which is no different to what opinion polls have been saying for years, it would be absurd if we end up with the Senate approving marriage equality in one form, the House of Representatives approving marriage equality in a different form and we will still not get the change through. That would be the most ridiculous of all worlds.
So I made clear, quite some time ago that whatever form the bill was in in the Senate whether they were amendments I liked or amendments I didn't like, I certainly intended to support the bill through the House of Representatives with no further amendments.
That's what I'll be doing. It's a conscience vote. People will make their own decisions on the bill itself. Most of the amendments that we've seen, the issue of a conscience vote didn't arise anyway and we didn't even have members seeking to be able to have a conscience vote to vote against those amendments.
JOURNALIST: Tony being it is the last sitting week do you expect Prime Minister Turnbull will survive it?
BURKE: You know, you're always careful when you look at anonymous quotes but yesterday's papers. I can't remember the last time I saw that number of anonymous quotes bagging out a sitting Prime Minister. I think it was probably similar to what the newspaper coverage was in the final week for Tony Abbott.
Look they may all fool themselves. They may all think that the Government has a thumping endorsement as a result of yesterday and if they make that mistake it'll show exactly how out of touch they are. Chris Bowen made clear the other day, Labor doesn't have an interest in Mr Turnbull going but he doesn't have support in the National Party, doesn't have support in the Liberal Party and we're going to continue to get chaos.
People have been asking me ‘are you going to bring on chaos in the Parliament?’ This Government doesn't need me to deliver chaos. They do it all on their own. They've been doing it when the Parliament wasn't sitting. They'll probably do it next week when the Parliament is sitting. This Government delivers chaos more effectively than anything the Labor Party could force upon them. So that's what we'll get from the Government. At some point, Mr Turnbull will go. I can't for the life of me see any chance that we're against him at the next election.
Julie Bishop's refusing to answer whether or not she's been asked about taking on the leadership. She's just saying it's not the issue we're focused on. I'll tell you what, when they're off the record they're all focused on it. At some point in the near future it's going to happen and the Australian Government, the Australian Parliament has no chance of stability as long as the Liberal Party and the National Party are delivering nothing but chaos.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has hinted that Sam Dastyari is under investigation over his links to China. Do you believe that this is the case?
BURKE: Look, the penalty when someone is deemed to have done the wrong things is to stand down from whatever additional offices they have. That's happened to a series of ministers over the years. Some of them are still on the backbench, ministers who've had to stand down and it's happened to Sam Dastyari now. Ordinarily, when that happens that's viewed as the end of the matter.
I think the reason the Government wants to keep this conversation going is this. While Sam Dastyari did not have access to intelligence to be passed on, the Government did. What was reported in the papers was reported as the media being given access to intelligence. Now, being given access to confidential information that is collected in order to keep Australians safe is an extraordinary step and the Government is absolutely desperate. for there to be no scrutiny over this.
But think about this, one of the first rules that intelligence organisations always follow is to not let it be known what levels of surveillance they are providing. Well someone in the Government decided that fighting the Labor Party was more important than protecting the Australian people.
I reckon that's the conversation that they want to avoid. That's why they're wanting to keep talking about the person having the conversation who had access to no confidential information to avoid the conversation about the Government that did have access to confidential information and decided to share it with the media for a political purpose.
JOURNALIST: Tony how do you feel about the sitting year coming to an end given it has been quite tumultuous in some ways? Will you be happy to see the back of it?
BURKE: No, I enjoy Parliament. I enjoy Parliament. Some days I probably enjoy it even marginally more than the Prime Minister. But I like it when the Parliament sits. Largely because they are the opportunities where get to stand up and fight for your beliefs. The people who are trying to cause the pain, the people who have been making excuses for the banks, the people who've been wanting to cut the penalty rates, the people who've been driving your electricity bills up are the people sitting opposite on the Government benches you’re there fighting and arguing directly against them. So I always welcome the opportunity for the Parliament to sit.
I wish we still had a Government with an agenda. Even if it's not your own side of politics, you want for the good of the nation to know that something is being done. When the Prime Minister cancelled one of the weeks of Parliament he didn't just stop question time for a week, he actually took 53 pieces of legislation off the agenda. 53 pieces of legislation off the agenda and decided that between now and the end of the year the only piece of legislation that would matter is marriage equality.
Now I want that legislation to get through. But for heaven's sake, to decide that there is no other reason to govern I think is a pretty sad indictment on what this Government has become. Okay? Thanks very much for coming out here.