SUBJECT/S: Government dysfunction and chaos; Government losing a vote on the floor of Parliament; Medical transfer legislation and ensuring sick people get the help they require.

KIERAN GILBERT (CO-HOST): Joining us now is the manager of Opposition business Tony Burke. Tony Burke thanks very much for your time. Given the events of this week and the Government feels like it's got on the front foot in relation to the boats, are you ready for an election to be called if Scott Morrison did that?

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: We've been ready for an election for a long time. But what Scott Morrison's done this week is tell untruths and tell lies and call them whatever you want. To make his case he has had to tell the Australian people things that are not true about legislation that's gone through the Parliament and I think that says it all about how sustainable that sort of campaign is.

LAURA JAYES (CO-HOST): In this policy you’re trying to be humane and tough at the same time. Doesn't history show you can't do both?

BURKE: No, you can. It's only recently that we've had this concept that part of offshore processing was to keep people sick. It's an extraordinary argument that somehow you can't when someone needs medical care, bring them to Australia, they're still in detention when they're in Australia and give them the medical care that wasn't otherwise available. For years this argument hadn't been run. And for us now to be told that's a critical part of the border protection regime is a ridiculous argument. The reality is if people were to try to get on boats there is still a bipartisan policy that those boats will be turned around. And I haven't heard the Government say that they are wanting to shift from that. If they are that would be extraordinary.

GILBERT: I guess in a political sense though the question is why would you allow this story, this issue to be front of the political frame debate now three months out?  You've had five and a half years if there were to be any compromise why has it happened now? It seems the timing is just not helpful to Labor to put it mildly.

BURKE: The timing came off the back of the AMA (Australian Medical Association) having sent  doctors there saying people are in a state of health way beyond, much worse than what people thought. That was when this process started. It should have been dealt with last year but the Parliament stopped. The Government stopped the Parliament early. Normally on the final day we are always here late. This is one of the very rare times where the moment it was 4:30PM they said quick let's get the House of Representatives out of here. Otherwise this would have been dealt with last year.

GILBERT: But have your tactics become a strategic problem? You were trying to embarrass them last year.

BURKE: No you're wrong on that. We have dealt with this on the merits the whole way through.

JAYES: You did it without security advice last year.

BURKE: The whole way through we've dealt with this on the merits. The security agencies raised issues with us this year and immediately we changed the position to make sure there were amendment made to accommodate their concerns.

JAYES: Was it a mistake not to seek that security advice last year?

BURKE: Last year we always dealt with legislation on its merits. We dealt with it on its merits. Security agencies when they have issues with this sort of legislation raise it. When it was raised we immediately varied the position to make sure that it only applied to the people who are currently there. 

GILBERT: So just to clarify because you said I was wrong to assert you tried to embarrass the Government by having them lose a vote in the House on this issue and it stayed alive over the summer and has re-emerged now to be a problem? That’s not true? 

BURKE: What I’m saying is, you’re saying there that there was a motivation in terms of embarrassing the Government. If that were the case then as soon as we'd won that vote I would have moved a vote of no confidence in the Government. I didn’t and that was very deliberate. Because what we are doing here is dealing with an issue on its merits. What the Government is doing, not only not dealing with it on its merits, coming up with a bizarre argument that somehow you have to keep people sick to keep borders safe and beyond that misrepresenting what's gone through the Parliament, not just to the Australian people but to people on the ground in Indonesia. 

JAYES: But Mr Burke, do you accept that people smugglers don't sell a nuance? They sell a message and they now have a message because that cigarette paper of difference now exists. More than a cigarette paper that they now have something to sell. 

BURKE: Scott Morrison had a choice for that message to be the truth and to make clear none of this changes anything for people on the ground in Indonesia now. None of it changes anything for them. Or to create the impression that there was a shift. He in a deeply irresponsible way decided to create an impression that there was a shift. Now, people can make their own arguments here about who is actually playing politics. But I think it reflects really badly to have a Prime Minister of Australia putting out messages that he knows are untrue that are deliberately engaged to try to make people think there might be a reason to get on a boat.

GILBERT: Because so much of this, and as a former minister you know, it does depend on sentiment doesn't it? That's how these criminals start to generate their marketing and so on. It's not one particular issue or another it's often the sentiment that they can get in to Australia isn't it?

BURKE: They will lie to people as well.  There's no doubt about that but when they've got the authority of this is what the Prime Minister said. That is problematic. I'm not pretending that's not. But what happens if someone does get on a boat? They're intercepted and turned back. That's what still happens and I haven't heard the Government say they intend to change that. I haven't heard the Government say that somehow they don't support the turn backs policy. We still do and it should still be implemented and that should be the end of the matter.

GILBERT: Mr Burke, thanks. Talk to you soon.

BURKE: Good to be back.


Tony Burke