SUBJECT/S: Cooks River; Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal; Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce; Parliamentary Chaos; Part-Time Prime Minister; Pat Dodson.

LINDA BURNEY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BARTON: We’re here on the banks of the Cooks River at Cup and Saucer Creek. The Cooks River is a really important geographical feature through the seat of Watson and the seat of Barton. It is very special to people and the work that’s being done on the river over the last 10 to 12 years has been remarkable. It’s been an effort from the federal, the state and local government. This river is important to the seats and the people living in Barton and Watson.

REPORTER: So is there an issue you’re looking at here? What’s the purpose of the visit today?

BURNEY: We’ve met this morning with the Mud Crabs; they are the local environment group instrumental to this river and the health of the river. They’ve been talking to us about initiatives we might want to think about in terms of further cleaning up the Cooks River, which is such an important feature for Watson and Barton.

REPORTER: So no announcements at this stage?

BURNEY: No announcements at this stage, but some very good ideas about further initiatives. Already, through the work of Tony and other federal members, there has been a lot of effort put into the river. This is not a new phenomenon, this river has been important to Labor for a very long time. The evidence is this wetland behind us. We’ve been talking to the local environment groups about, in particular, some initiatives we might want to think about into the future.

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS AND SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER: Thanks Linda. It’s great to be here in the seat of Barton with Linda Burney, who after the next federal election will be one of the critical members of the Labor team. The state parliament will be sorry to lose Linda Burney, but we are going to be very pleased to have Linda Burney join our ranks.

Here is a project Linda has been a part of in her time as a state member of parliament. Where we’re standing right now, this was a park with no wetlands next to a river being treated like a stormwater drain. The reason this changed, was because in 2007 you had a Labor Government elected and in 2008 this work started. All the bird life that’s here now, all the ecology you see – what you see, in treating it like a river again, is part of the rehabilitation of the Cooks River. What has been and is, according to the latest figures I’ve seen, still the most polluted waterway in Australia but should be one of the most beautiful spots we have for urban environment here in Sydney. So, today we’ve been meeting with those local groups and doing the work getting towards the next election. 

Next week of course, Parliament will be back. We won’t have Linda Burney there yet, but the Federal Parliament will be back in the most extraordinary and shambolic sitting we have ever known.

Only two days ago, Malcolm Turnbull had finally decided he knew what days we would be sitting and he’d organised it so he would only need to turn up for two of them. He then said he knew what legislation we’d be dealing with. Now, one of the things the Prime Minister stated, was the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, the repeal of it, would not be put to the Parliament. Two days later they’ve now thrown all of that on its head. Two days later, he’s decided ‘no, we will now be debating the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.’ They don’t want to wait a minute longer before they start reducing the health and safety standards for people driving heavy vehicles.

Let’s not forget, people driving heavily vehicles have 12 times the fatality rate of other motorists. Safe rates of pay are part of making sure people don’t get pressured to be driving on the road under extraordinary and dangerous conditions. That’s why it was setup and that’s why Labor continues to support it. Bill Shorten has said we’re willing to look at a sensible process of transition; we’re willing to look at a sensible compromise here. What we’re not willing to do, is abolish the principles that are there for the purposes of road safety.

Finally, tonight, for the first time, Australia enters a new moment. Barnaby Joyce will be in charge of our nation tonight. Who would have thought that that might give more stability than we’ve had from Malcolm Turnbull? Malcolm Turnbull has not been able to stay on one thought, on one idea for more than a week. He’s meant to be running Australia and he can’t even run his own program for the Parliament. We are moving towards a week in Parliament of chaos.

REPORTER: None the less there is a lot of angst about what’s happening with owner-operator drivers. Do you think the Coalition actually has the numbers to get this legislation passed?


BURKE: I don’t know who’s got the numbers, but I know where the arguments lay. I know you should never compromise with road safety. Whether you are a driver for a company or whether you’re an owner driver, we want everybody when they go out to work to come home again that night, and too many people don’t. Now, Bill Shorten has said we are open to a sensible compromise. We are willing to have a sensible conversation. What Malcolm Turnbull is doing, is rushing to lower a tribunal that was setup to establish better principles for road safety.

REPORTER: It has been argued though there are already tribunals in place to actually monitor this and regulate this, and there is more concern from owner-operators that they’re going to go bust. Ultimately though, it’s going to be a scare campaign, this whole safety issue from that particular tribunal?

BURKE: The entire reason the tribunal was setup was for the purposes of road safety. It’s in its name. It’s the whole reason it’s there. I would not view for a minute there is a unified view among owner drivers at the moment. I don’t believe that’s true for a minute. It is the case, a sensible timing transition of these new rates to make sure owner operators aren’t disadvantaged is something Labor is open to. Bill Shorten has publicly flagged this. We’re willing to do that.

What’s important to know, is this is a law, a legal change that only two days ago Malcolm Turnbull said he would take as an election promise. Two days later he’s decided he’s going to legislate it and do it immediately. We don’t get to Parliament for a few more days, who knows what Malcolm Turnbull will believe by then.

What we do know, is there is always a massive gap between what Malcolm Turnbull says and what he does. Only a week ago he believed we needed to take tough action on the banks and that the banks weren’t behaving properly. Now he can’t fall over himself to rush out, defend the banks and claim there’s no need at all for a royal commission.

REPORTER: Is it justified to move quickly to the trucking tribunal given the Federal Court decision in recent days which basically [inaudible] action has to be taken?

BURKE: Well, Labor’s said we’re open to a compromise that deals with the timing of it. So the issue of the timing can already be dealt with. Labor’s been constructive on this. Malcolm Turnbull changes his view, is erratic and you never know where he stands from one day to the next.

REPORTER: Will Labor attempt to suspend Standing Orders in the Lower House next week to protest against the ABCC legislation.

BURKE: I’m not going to let you know right now the series of tactics Labor may use. But if I could put it in these terms: we don’t believe there’s a need for Parliament to be sitting. When Parliament rose, Malcolm Turnbull had none of this on the public record. He wasn’t willing to face the Parliament on it. We don’t believe Parliament should have been recalled, but if it’s going to be recalled, Malcolm Turnbull can turn up to Parliament every day for work to answer questions.

I’m not surprised they want to avoid Question Time. They don’t want to answer questions about Liberal Party donations and the scandals there. They don’t want to have to answer questions about the problems that have been happening with the banks. They don’t want to answer Questions about Malcolm Turnbull, in the same announcements, promising double taxation with the states and also promising the Federal Government would only fund private schools in the future. There are good reasons for Malcolm Turnbull to not want Question Time.

Beyond that, I reckon it’s a reasonable call, if you’re Malcolm Turnbull you wouldn’t want all of the members of the Liberal Party in the one place right now. They’ll fire at him every chance they get. But he’s Prime Minister of Australia, it’s his job to turn up to Parliament. He wants a Parliament to sit, he should turn up for it.

REPORTER: But you’re not ruling out attempting to suspend Standing Orders?

BURKE: We often suspend Standing Orders, and there’s a series of different tactics within the Parliament we use. Sometimes, exactly what you do changes on the floor depending on the games Malcolm Turnbull is playing.

We’ve only found out this morning the agenda for these two days has changed. It will change again between now and then. But our view won’t change, which is simply: the entire sitting of Parliament is a stunt from Malcolm Turnbull.

Who would have thought Malcolm Turnbull would be the person to go to the representative of the Queen and say ‘I need your help in performing a political stunt.’ That’s what this man has come down to.

REPORTER: Is Labor disappointed Pat Dodson is unlikely to take up his Senate seat next week?

BURKE: I think everybody’s view is we would like to have Pat Dodson among our ranks as soon as we can. It’s no small honour to have someone of Pat Dodson’s standing saying he wants to stand with us, in the Labor Party, in the Federal Parliament of Australia.

To be going to an election where we will have Pat Dodson as a Senator and Linda Burney coming into the Lower House as our Candidate for Barton, says a lot about – I don’t view this as what it says about Labor in making those decisions, I view it as Labor having the privilege that Pat Dodson and Linda Burney have made those decisions.

REPORTER: With that in mind, did Joe Bullock take too long to hand in his resignation?

BURKE: When anyone is elected, the issue of resignation is a decision that is entirely their own. Someone’s elected for a six year term, if they’ve decided to go earlier, at what point they’ve decided to go is entirely a matter for them. Certainly, the sooner we can have Pat Dodson among our ranks, I think everyone will be very proud of that.

REPORTER: Would Labor have liked [inaudible] Pat Dodson?

BURKE: Look I can’t add to what I’ve said. Someone’s resignation is up to them and when we have Pat Dodson among our ranks, I think people will be tremendously proud he made the decision to stand there with us.

REPORTER: Just one more on that. Do you believe the WA Premier should call on the Governor General to appoint Dodson immediately even if the WA Parliament is not sitting?

BURKE: I’m not familiar with the mechanics of that.

REPORTER: Thank you.

BURKE: All good? Thank you very much.

Tony Burke