TRANSCRIPT: Interview - ABC News Breakfast

ABC NEWS BREAKFAST TUESDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2017

 SUBJECTS: The Government’s dual citizenship debacle, SSM high court challenge, media reform

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Tony Burke, good morning and thanks for joining us.

TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER, CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA, THE ARTS: Good morning.

TRIOLI: The dual citizenship matter has been slated to be heard in the High Court for some time now so why does the Opposition persist in asking Barnaby Joyce and others to pre-empt that? You either have some faith in the High Court system or you don't, do you?

BURKE: Well, the High Court will determine whether or not the Deputy Prime Minister is lawfully allowed to be a Member of Parliament. And we haven't been saying that he should resign immediately as a Member of Parliament. He should wait for that decision. But while there's a cloud over him, he should be standing aside as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Every day he's making executive decisions and he might not even be eligible to be in the Parliament. Every day - he's not only in charge of his own portfolio now. He's also in charge of Matt Canavan's portfolio because Matt Canavan did the right thing and stood aside while the High Court was working this out. And it's getting now to the bizarre situation where at the end of this week, when Malcolm Turnbull goes overseas, their current plan is to put in charge of the whole of Australia someone who might not even be lawfully allowed to be in the Parliament.

TRIOLI: It's a bit of a circular argument, though, because as you say, you're fully accepting that the High Court is the one to decide who is lawfully able to be in the Parliament.

BURKE: Sorry, if I may, just quickly - I know you want to move on. It's not in this sense. There's a legal risk over every decision that's made. If the High Court ends up deciding that he's OK, then OK, the Government got away with it. If the High Court decides that he's gone, we then face legal challenges on every decision that he has made during this period where the Parliament had resolved that he might not be eligible to be here.

TRIOLI: So we can rely on you bringing legal challenges to every single decision?

BURKE: I won't be taking them to court but think about the sorts of things that Barnaby Joyce is in charge of and it doesn't take long to work out the problems that the Government is potentially tying itself in knots with right now.

TRIOLI: Well, look, this is interesting. I read Mark Kenny in Fairfax today and it struck me that when he said, "Abbott's dare yesterday," for Bill Shorten to put up or shut up, "and Shorten's capitulation has made it impossible now for any and all MP’s suspected of dual citizenship issues to withhold their documentation." That seemed to me to be a reasonable thing to say. Can you take me through the logic of why Labor won't release documentation from your side for any others who have been considered?

BURKE: Every member of Parliament - with the exception of Bill Shorten, because Bill decided that he's putting himself forward as Prime Minister so there needed to be absolutely no doubt so he sat there in Question Time yesterday while Malcolm Turnbull was taunting him - "Will you release your documents?" With the documents there on the desk in front of him ready to table them as soon as Question Time had finished - but for every other example whether people have put their names forward or not, what has happened is this. People have sought legal advice. If the legal advice has told them that they're OK, then that's been the end of the matter. If the legal advice has told them they have a problem, they have self-reported. Now, the difference with the Labor Party is we all sought the legal advice before we even nominated. Now, I think that may be the case for the Liberal Party as well. I don't know their procedures. It certainly wasn't the case with the National Party or with a series of the minor parties. But everybody has followed the same process. You get legal advice. If the legal advice says you have a problem, then you self-report. Every single one of our candidates before they nominated for the 2016 election had been through the lawyers. If they had parents, grandparents born overseas or with a foreign citizenship, the lawyers came in, made sure that everything was checked through and all of those procedures... We're in a situation where we have already found that...

TRIOLI: Sure.

BURKE: If everyone wasn't satisfied they weren't allowed to nominate...

TRIOLI: I need to jump in because you're not answering the key point of the question which is a logical argument as to why, given you've done all that, you wouldn't possible in one foul swoop, release the documentation. It could be done in Parliament in a moment and you know it.

BURKE: We don't accept that you have a reverse onus of proof. You want it squarely on that point, that’s the thing, take Michael Keenan…

TRIOLI: But what's lost by doing it?

BURKE: No, no. We think a lot is lost in Australia if you shift to a reverse onus of proof.

TRIOLI: But no-one is accusing you of criminal conduct, Tony Burke.

BURKE: No, no, no. If you get to a situation where every conspiracy theorist that comes out you have to suddenly jump to attention, that is a change and that's why, for example, Michael Keenan, one of the members of the frontbench, has been a minister for a long time. He made clear that he had renounced his citizenship prior to him nominating. We never then demanded to see the document. Everybody, when they've sought the legal advice, when they've explained the timeline, it's been accepted at face value. We've been consistent the whole way through.

TRIOLI: We did have documentation released yesterday, didn't we? Let's move on to something else. Does the Opposition - do you have advice on what you think the High Court might decide in relation to the same-sex marriage postal survey? It's being heard in Melbourne. How do you reckon this one is going to go?

BURKE: I don’t know, and I certainly won’t what the Prime Minister has been doing which is to announce in advance what the High Court will so hold.

TRIOLI: And if this does end with the High Court ruling it unconstitutional do you think this will then finally end with a vote in Parliament?

BURKE: Whether the vote goes ahead, this postal ballot, survey, whatever they want to call it, whether it happens or not the only place for the final decision to be made on this will be in Parliament. That's where it ends no matter what. And that's why, you know, the view from Labor has been the whole way through to not waste such an extraordinary amount of money when ultimately members of Parliament have to do their job anyway and that should be allowed to happen.

TRIOLI: Time is really tight because we're coming up to the clock but I quickly wanted to ask you - Nick Xenophon is talking with the Government now about tax breaks for smaller media companies in exchange for support for the media reform package that is being considered. Labor dealt itself out of this one. Do you think that's a good idea?

BURKE: Our position, simply, has been we won't accept the hit to diversity you get by abandoning the two-out-of-three rule.

TRIOLI: But Nick Xenophon's proposal deals with that issue of diversity.

BURKE: I don't have a clear proposal in terms of how that maps out. Certainly we won't be shifting on the two-out-of-three rule.

TRIOLI: Tony Burke, good to talk to you. Thank you.

BURKE: Good to be back.

Tony Burke