SUBJECT/S: Dual citizenship saga, same-sex marriage bill.

FRAN KELLY (HOST): Tony Burke, welcome back to breakfast. Better turn your mike on.


KELLY: Let’s go to the issue of Sam Dastyari if we can and political donations. Malcolm Turnbull says Sam Dastyari quote ‘betrayed Australia and should be booted out and this is a test of Bill Shorten’s character’. Now Bill Shorten is also now this morning directly caught up in this affair. His office is not denying he visited Mr Huang at his Sydney home in March last year after ASIO had warned Labor in October 2015 about political interference. What was Bill Shorten doing visiting Mr Huang?

BURKE: Well the security briefings have strengthened over time and the critical issue out of those briefings was to stop taking donations from particular individuals. We're talking about people who will appear at a whole series of community functions as well. I've never heard…

KELLY: Yes but this is visiting his house. It’s different.

BURKE: Well I hear what you're saying but then you've got to work on the basis of what are the security agencies are advising could be a problem and the advice that they've been giving that has been strengthening has been to not be taking donations.

KELLY: Was that the advice in October 2015?

BURKE: It's been strengthening over time. It's been strengthened. That advice in 2015, the answer is no. The answer is no. We weren't getting advice that strong as I understand it back then. 

KELLY: Does money trump national security advice when it comes to donations?

BURKE: No not at all. And this is why as the security advice strengthened Labor took a decision that the Government still hasn't taken that for the people who had concerns raised about them we would stop taking donations from them, even if that put us at a disadvantage. And you're talking about people who have been significant donors to both sides of politics. You know, for every photo of Bill Shorten there's a photo of Julie Bishop or some senior member of the Government with the people concerned. But Labor, as the advice strengthened, took the decision that we would no longer be taking donations and to this day even for donations to the Bennelong by-election the Government won't rule out whether or not they're receiving that no matter what advice they get from the security agencies. 

KELLY: Okay the Government still wants more action on Sam Dastyari the Prime Minister said ‘how Shorten can stick with Dastyari and represent himself as a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister is utterly beyond me. Bill Shorten is putting factional support ahead of national security.’ How long can Labor's stick by Sam Dastyari?

BURKE: Well can we stop and take a breath on this one in that ,as long as I've been in the building when there is an argument against a minister or against a member of Parliament. The sanction that is sought is that they lose the various additional offices that they have. Now that happens from time to time with ministers 

KELLY: Craig Thomson got kicked out.

BURKE: And there were very different allegations, very different allegations there. There are ministers on the backbench now who the moment they've resigned as ministers at that moment the Labor Party has said, as both sides of politics have always said up until this case where Malcolm Turnbull is taking this to new levels that once someone loses their relevant Parliamentary offices that's a sanction. Bill Shorten took that very quickly when this issue reemerged.

KELLY: And that's enough? End of matter? In your view in the questions around it?

BURKE: In this building, I've got to say. Absolutely, and it's a fundamental change in how we operate on every minister in the Government if they want to change that principle. 

KELLY: We've got a lot to get through. Let's keep going the Nationals secured a swing of about 12 percent in New England absolutely spectacular according to Barnaby Joyce, no mood to send the Government a message in that result. Given that, and given that the numbers are going to be so difficult for the Government in the House of Representatives, how hard are you going to test the numbers? Are you going to still go all out to blow up the joint?

BURKE: We're going to pursue our agenda. Now a big part of our agenda this week will be the marriage equality legislation which is hardly blowing up the Parliament, it's trying to get some legislation through. Another issue in pursuing our agenda that we had expected to be pushing through this week was a commission of inquiry into the banks. That appears to have been largely dealt with during the spectacular backflip last week and there may well be other messages coming from the Senate which we'll deal with as well. One with respect to New Zealand's offer for people who are on Manus Island. There's also a message from the Senate that will probably come with respect to penalty rates. 

KELLY: Are you talking to the Nats? Is there any private members bill plans from the Nats on penalty rates?

BURKE: No private members bill as I understand it. 

KELLY: Okay let's go to same-sex marriage. Labor last week locked all of its Senators into opposing the religious protection amendments and the amendments didn't get up and the bill sailed through. Will you take the same no concessions approach to the bill in the lower house?

BURKE: Well we have a conscience vote as the issue goes directly to marriage equality and the bill itself goes to that and there’ll be a conscience vote. The amendments, the decision was taken last week that no one ended coming forward seeking a conscience vote on those particular amendments because a number of them deal with problems that don't exist. This whole charity's amendment, it's already the case that the definition of marriage observed by a whole lot of Christian charities is different to the definition of marriage at law already. They're not losing their funding. So some of these amendments are in search of a problem that doesn't exist. 

KELLY: All right. But there is a problem looming and it will be the citizenship declarations due by tomorrow night in the Reps. There are up to four Labor MPs including Justine Keay and Susan Lamb who didn't receive confirmation about their dual UK citizenship until after they nominated. Malcolm Turnbull says that's an absolute clear breach in light of what the courts ruled and an acid test of Bill Shorten’s integrity that Labor should refer them. Will Labor refer or cooperate with referrals to the High Court for its MPs?

BURKE: The first point, I'm not going to on this issue take legal advice from Malcolm Turnbull ever. After ‘and the high court will so hold’. If you go off to find a lawyer to give you advice on citizenship law the one person in Australia you wouldn't go to is him. 

KELLY: Well I'm sure you’ve got your own legal advice. What are you going to do?

BURKE: The members that you've just named are all people who under the decisions in Sykes and Cleary which is the last time that this point of law was tested.

KELLY: But what about for Malcolm Roberts? That was tested.

BURKE: I think sending an email to an email address that didn't exist doesn't constitute the same as going through all the processes required by another country. The difference between the Labor people who Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne keep referring to and the people who have been knocked out is the difference between people who took reasonable steps on the Labor side and people who took no steps whatsoever on the Coalition side. 

KELLY: So you won't be referring them?

BURKE: Our legal advice that we have says that they have followed every single legal requirement and the person is claiming that they didn’t is Malcolm Turnbull waving around advice that was received for the Liberal Party. 

KELLY: Just briefly and finally will you be seeking to refer Government members? 

BURKE: We may well. We may well and we'll wait till the declarations are out and we see the information. But it must be the case that members of Parliament on either side of politics can do referrals. Has to be the case. Can't be one rule for the Liberal Party and a different rule for everybody else. 

KELLY: Well Christopher Pyne says it is the case so we will wait and see. Tony Burke thank you very much.

BURKE: Good to be back on the program.

Tony Burke