SUBJECT/S: Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in Parliament, strawberry tampering, a Government in chaos
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Burke thanks very much for your time. A no confidence motion against Peter Dutton, we are expecting that to be moved today by Adam Bandt. Is that your expectation?
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Yes and it is appropriate that Adam Bandt is the one who moves it because the misleading of the Parliament occurred in response to a question from Adam Bandt. For all the evidence that has come through the Senate Inquiry that we have deal with in the Parliament, nothing has changed the fact that when Peter Dutton was asked if he knew who these people were, he told the Parliament that he didn’t. That just wasn’t true.
GILBERT: But there was a nonconsenting report by the Government, this was an opposition dominated committee wasn’t it?
BURKE: The committee report will deal with what happens in the Senate. While they were getting evidence together Adam Bandt decided to delay this. But the case in the House of Representatives had already been made. The case in the House of Representatives has already been made on the basis that Adam Bandt asked a question ‘did you know these individuals’ and Peter Dutton said ‘nope, don’t know them’ and that was simply not true.
GILBERT: But is it a hang able offence?
BURKE: It’s actually the only one that is.
GILBERT: But he worked with this individual 20 years ago. His phone number wasn’t in his mobile phone, it’s not like they were great friends.
BURKE: But that’s not what he was asked.
GILBERT: He said there was no personal connection.
BURKE: He was asked do you know them and was there any personal connection. And he said I don’t know them. He answered ‘no’ and said I don’t know these people. Now, when you look at that, that just wasn’t true. There are a whole lot of times where for different reasons; for incompetence, for appalling judgement we will argue that a minister shouldn’t hold the job. Under our system of Government there is one reason that is agreed that is the offence that no minister can cross. That is you don’t mislead the Parliament. If it happens inadvertently, if your words come out wrong, you stand up at the first oppourtunity and you say ‘ I said I didn’t know people at all’ and then you go through and explain the level of knowledge. But the statement that he did now know who these people were…
GILBERT: But it’s not like they are great mates, if you haven’t spoken to someone for 20 years. That’s his defence I guess. He’s saying his defence would pass the pub test.
BURKE: You can argue whether or not it’s a defence in terms of the au pair decision. You can have that argument. I’ve got a different view but I accept that there’s an argument that he will raise on that. There is no argument that says he told the truth to the Parliament, none. And as a minister our whole system is based on the concept that our ministers will tell the truth.
GILBERT: Do you believe that this is more of a stunt than anything given you’re very, very unlikely to have the numbers to secure this motion of no confidence?
BURKE: Well if we only move motions based on the fact that we thought we were going to win we may as well go home as an opposition. The whole concept that you’re there, that you have an opposition, you have a minority on the floor, you continue to fight every day for what should be happening. 
GILBERT: Trying to put pressure on the Liberals as well given the recent tensions, to put it mildly.
BURKE: Anyone who thought the transaction cost would be something that would last a few days was completely wrong. They are continuing to implode. Every day there is some new leak. Every day there’s a new attack from one of their members against another.
GILBERT: So you’re hoping that one of them might follow you across to the other side of the house?
BURKE: They should. Effectively Peter Dutton is asking them to show more loyalty to him than he showed to them.
GILBERT: The strawberry sabotage issue, do you think the Government has handled this appropriately?
BURKE: The legislation was presented to us late last night. We are wanting to have a bipartisan approach to it and we will go through our normal processes today. It is a despicable act for anybody to harm food in the way that this has happened. 
GILBERT: The legislation is going to the House today?
BURKE: That’s right. It’s a despicable act for anything like this to happen. The full weight of the law should be thrown at people. I saw a statement yesterday from the strawberry growers and we have to make sure that we don’t get to a level of hysteria that causes permanent harm to an industry. These are good people, they employ a whole lot of other people, they are critical to regional economies. It’s not enough to say hysteria, hysteria oh by the way eat a lot of strawberries. We need to just make sure that we don’t reach a level of hysteria at any level of Government state or federal that also causes harm to a good industry. It just means you cut up your strawberries; it’s as simple as that.
GILBERT: Just finally, on the end of the first Parliamentary sitting period of the new Prime Minister do you feel that you’ve got a political fight on your hands given his response to that issue and other matters? He seems a bit more politically nimble than his predecessor.
BURKE: People are still watching him. He still can’t explain why he is there. He still can’t explain why the person the public elected, Malcolm Turnbull, is not still Prime Minister of Australia. His record has caught up with him. We saw it this week on aged care but we also see it whenever we talk about cuts to penalty rates, the cuts to schools and hospitals, the fact that he voted 26 times against a banking Royal Commission. These issues continue to catch up with someone who ultimately is smug, who is out of touch, who is illegitimate in the job.
GILBERT: One of the things in his office which has been reported on is the model boat that says ‘I stopped these’ it’s one issue that he can claim credit can’t he? In a policy sense?
BURKE: You decide what the issues are after you have been in the portfolio and it’s not unusual to have something that reminds you of that time. After I had finished as immigration minister I was sent a plaque with a whole lot of the names of unaccompanied children who I had got out of detention. I keep that in my office. It was a special thing to have. I think the thing that is always forgotten is with people drowning at sea and the boats is that half of them drowned after the Malaysia option had been blocked and it was blocked when Scott Morrison held the portfolio. It’s good that the boats had stopped now but that moment when half of those lives could have been saved I don’t think should ever be forgotten.
GILBERT: We’re out of time Mr Burke. I appreciate your time, thank you.
BURKE: Good to be back.


Tony Burke