KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now is Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke. Thanks very much for your time. Michaelia Cash withdrew those controversial comments from yesterday. What more do you want from her?

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: It was a mealy mouthed, 'if anyone is offended then I apologise' not even apologise, withdraw. But it was only ‘if anyone is offended’. Of course people are offended. Of course they are. What she did yesterday was treat women who work in this building as political fodder. To just throw them under the bus because she was under tough questioning. Now the tough questioning she was under wasn't on this sort of theme at all and then she came forward with the most extraordinary, offensive claims against women who just want to go to work and do their jobs. Now, if you're in charge of the workplace and you're in charge there representing the Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash of all people should know exactly how wrong that was yesterday. 

GILBERT: But once it's withdrawn what more would you like to see from her?

BURKE: When somebody comes forward and says they said the wrong thing and they apologise, that's an apology. When somebody says 'oh if anybody was offended I withdraw' that is another slight as though how could you possibly be offended by those sorts of comments. 

GILBERT: So you want a formal apology?

BURKE: We want a straight up apology. We want an acknowledgement from Michaelia Cash that what she said was wrong. We want to make sure that what the Prime Minister said a fortnight ago…   

GILBERT: Were the staff members upset by the comments? You’ve spoken to a number of them.  

BURKE: Of course they are. Yes. Of course they are. Don’t forget what the Prime Minister said a couple of weeks ago claiming he wanted this place to be more respectful workplace for women. What happened after Michaelia Cash did that? The Government doubled down. You had on this channel Craig Laundy defending her comments. You had Michael Sukkar on radio defending her, claiming there was some sort of context where it was reasonable to make slurs like that against women. It’s not.  It’s wrong. Everything the Prime Minister said a couple of weeks ago is meaningless if Michaelia Cash is allowed to get away with this. 

GILBERT: Julie Bishop has been reported today in the Fairfax papers in relation to her not declaring David Panton as her partner and yet him claiming some domestic travel. But from my understanding in looking at the detail of this that within the finance department rules, it’s all above board. 

BURKE: I’ve had a brief look at this because I was asked about it yesterday as well. My understanding from what it looks is that the rules may not have been broken. Julie Bishop will have to explain it. Obviously in these sorts of situations often whether or not you’ve acted within the rules the public have their own view of what is reasonable and what’s not. 

GILBERT: Well they don’t live together hence not a formal partner arrangement. And she has never claimed international travel. 

BURKE: As I say, I’m not sure how the rules work in those sorts of situations. It’s something that Julie Bishop will have to explain and I’m sure she will. 

GILBERT: In relation to the China donation of Huang Xiangmo apparently encouraged by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make a donation to the Liberal Party. But the key caveat in the statement from Mr Abbott’s office is that it was within electoral commission rules. That’s fair enough isn’t it?

BURKE: The critical issue here isn’t what happened in 2016. The critical issue here is are we going to draw a line and stop foreign donations? Right now Labor is not receiving foreign donations we’ve drawn the line and the Government has not. What they’ve actually done with the foreign donations Bill that is before the Parliament is deliberately designed a Bill that won’t make it through the Parliament. They’ve done it quite deliberately. Because they know that no reasonable person on wanting to stop foreign interference is going to think that you need to silence charities from being able to ever receive foreign money. That people are going to have to fill out statutory declarations when they are giving money to their parish. 

GILBERT: But you’re not too worried about this case of Mr Abbott in 2016?

BURKE: The principle concern, and people’s views on this I think it’s fair to say certainly within the Labor party as well, have developed over time as we’ve watched this, is we need to draw that line now. Last year we made clear that we would no longer be taking foreign donations. The Liberal Party continues to. The Bill before the Parliament has been deliberately been designed to fail and they’ve put measures in there that no reasonable person could possibly support to try and give them cover to keep taking foreign money. 

GILBERT: On to the fact that China has reportedly undertaken a diplomatic freeze in the wake of the interference laws but also discussions over the South China Sea. What have you made of those discussions this morning?

BURKE: I’ve spoken to Penny Wong’s office this morning, we’re still working through the detail of exactly what has happened here. Importantly, Australian foreign policy needs to be in the interests of Australia and you need to be consistent and calm in how you deal with your foreign policies. We’ll work through the details of exactly what is here. At different points the Government has been clumsy in their handling of China. Barnaby Joyce’s comments saying that they were more dangerous than ISIS and comments like that weren’t really smart when they were made. The Government has been clumsy on this at different points in time. But whether this is related to that or exactly what’s going on…

GILBERT: You don’t want to overstate the move at this point?

BURKE: With foreign policy you need to know exactly what’s happened and then you also need to make sure that any response is in the national interest of Australia pursuing its own interests. 

GILBERT: Mr Burke thanks for your time, appreciate it. 

BURKE: Great to be back. 


Tony Burke