SUBJECT/S: Peter Dutton’s eligibility, a Government in chaos
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: All he's really explaining is exactly what happened with Barnaby Joyce. With Barnaby Joyce, they had advice from the Solicitor General that was probably stronger than what they've got on Peter Dutton and they said we'll refer to the High Court anyway and check. What is happening now is Scott Morrison is providing protection for Peter Dutton that was never provided for the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. I don't know whether Peter Dutton is going to be found to be eligible or not but the concept that the High Court won't even be allowed to check is just a different standard for him than any other member of Parliament. 
KIERAN GILBERT (HOST): It's going to be much less likely though. Obviously, Malcolm Turnbull is not very happy with the Liberal Party right now given the events of the last few weeks. There's no indication that Mr Dutton will take the former Prime Minister's advice. 
BURKE: That's right and certainly at the moment Scott Morrison appears willing to provide a level of protection for Peter Dutton that's different to how Barnaby Joyce was treated, different to how a whole series of members of Parliament on each side have been treated. I don't think that's smart. I think of all the things Prime Ministers should be respecting the Constitution is probably one of them. To say that they have got strong advice from the solicitor general, well they don’t. They've got advice from the solicitor general and they had advice from the solicitor general on Barnaby Joyce and still went to check. Think of what the implications are if they get this wrong. If they don't even bother to check. We've got someone in one of the most important portfolios for the security of the nation and we're not sure whether he's legally allowed to be a member of Parliament. 
GILBERT: Up until this point though the view from both sides of politics I think that was the argument made by Mr Shorten as well over those many months is that you shouldn't be referring people on the other side of politics, it sets a bad precedent. Do you stand by that?
BURKE: Well our preference is for self-referral. That's our preference. Let's remember with this one though if he were to be found to be ineligible it is not because of a personal history of parents and grandparents and all the personal natures that went to the other cases. If he was found to be ineligible it would be because of a personal benefit from the Government. Direct or indirect pecuniary interest of some sort. Now if that's the case it’s not as big a bar in terms of the referral being moved so you know my preference is they self-refer but we don't rule out at all bringing this issue to the floor of the Parliament again.
GILBERT:  Would you expect to have the support of crossbenchers McGowan and Sharkie and so on?
BURKE: I'll let all the crossbench speak for themselves. But certainly, you know the when you say you know whether people are upset with the Liberal Party or not there's a lot of people within the Liberal Party upset with Peter Dutton as well. I think it will be one of those situations if we get to the point where it's clear the government is clearly not going to self-refer we'll look at what we do then and I don't think anyone or know where it lands until people vote. 
GILBERT: Well the former prime minister is making interventions as he has made clear via Twitter overnight. Do you have any sympathy for your opponents in the parliamentary party I guess there is another former prime minister in New York who I think from time to time sends the odd tip to your colleagues as well, Mr Rudd? 
BURKE: Well this one goes right to the heart of whether someone is legally allowed to be a member of Parliament. So I do think it's of a different order. It's also one where for Malcolm Turnbull there is an exact parallel because he had what he thought was strong advice from the solicitor general and made sure that we checked with Barnaby Joyce anyway and all of these cases both sides have found this, you can think you've got really strong legal advice in the High Court and have a very different and strong opinion. The concept of not even checking is appalling and it's a real test for Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. Does he see it as his job to simply protect Peter Dutton or does he see it as his job to make sure we've got the rule of law in the place?
GILBERT: The opposition leader yesterday, in your tactics to target Morrison and to say why are you the Prime Minister? Why was there a change of leadership? They're not really going to much detail if any in terms of explaining that. But does it matter because is Mr Morrison right in saying that the people the Australian people want this place to move on? To get something done? 
BURKE: There are lots of times when we will ask questions based on our own research or based on what's in the media. This is one time where we're asking the question that everybody is asking us. People keep asking why did this happen? And we're not just being approached by Labor Party people saying 'isn't the other side a joke?' We're being approached by Liberal supporters, dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voters who won't vote for us who are just looking at this gobsmacked saying why on earth did their party go through all of this to make itself less popular? The question is being asked it's being asked within this building around the country. If it was just a political issue of the day Scott Morrison would think the media cycle will move on. This goes to the heart. Why on earth is he now in the job? Liberal supporters don't understand it. Labor supporters don't understand it and when the Australian people keep asking that question it would be wise of him to answer it at some point. 
GILBERT: But do you think he's got some defence in saying he's focusing on the main game? On the things that affect people as opposed to the political drama in this place?
BURKE: It's not political drama it's 'why is he the Prime Minister?' It's a relatively fundamental question and I think for most people whatever your job is if you're asked 'why are you now in that job?' You can answer the question. The Prime Minister of Australia, the most senior politician in the nation doesn't know why he's there and it's a bit hard for the Australian community to have confidence in what he does in what he says when the impression is already that we've got a chaotic Government, we've got an illegitimate Government. All those impressions are already there and then we've got a Prime Minister who doesn't seem to have a clue why he's got the job. 
GILBERT: My last question relates to the Wentworth by-election on the Saturday, 20 October. If the Government were to lose that obviously it raises questions as to whether or not they've still got a majority in the House of Representatives. What would be your view as to the way forward then? Would you try and bring on a motion of no confidence in the Government and test the support of the likes of McGowan and Sharkie on the crossbench? We know where Wilkie stands. But in terms of those others?
BURKE:  Certainly it'd mean we were in minority government. It would also mean that we were very close to the next election by that point. I think the message will be this it will make absolutely clear that the only way to get stable Government back in Australia will be to elect a united Shorten team and if elected then to have a united Shorten Government. 
GILBERT: Mr Burke I appreciate your time, thanks. 
BURKE: Great to be back. 

Tony Burke