TRANSCRIPT - TELEVISION INTERVIEW - SKY AM AGENDA - 18 DECEMBER 2018

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

SUBJECTS: Asylum seeker policy; Andrew Broad; Labor’s National Integrity Commission; Restoring faith in our public institutions. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go to Michelle Rowland who joins us now and Michelle Rowland, I want to ask about the asylum seeker issue because the party obviously reached a deal, it’s a more compassionate approach, more refugees will be accepted under a Labor Government but the Government still sees you as having a vulnerability on this question, particularly over these medical transfers; that is will open up a vulnerability that people smuggles will exploit. 

MICHELLE ROWLAND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well Kieran, this is a furphy coming from a government which is scared about losing a vote on the floor of the Parliament, so much so that there is even speculation that they're not going to reconvene Parliament at the beginning of next year. Let's be very clear about this, Kieran: our position all along has been that people who require medical attention, urgent medical attention including children who are currently in detention, should receive that on the advice of doctors, but of course the Minister will always have a role in this process and it is completely dishonest for Peter Dutton or the Liberals to be suggesting anything otherwise. And as Bill Shorten made it very clear on day one of our conference: this shouldn't be a choice between having strong borders and also being a country that has humanitarian values backed up by appropriate policies. 

LAURA JAYES: But it's not clear. What does the legislation actually say? Richard Marles was arguing the Minister, the Immigration Minister, should have the final say about these medical transfers. Is that where Labor is at? Is that what the legislation says?  

ROWLAND: Well that is our position and we have made it very clear that in all instances it will not be doctors making determinations, it will be doctors making recommendations. It will be doctors having a very clear role, medical experts having a very clear role and Richard is absolutely right when he points to the fact that the Government always has a final say in these matters and we don't believe that this should be a choice between humanitarian or having strong border protection. 

And we know what's coming, Laura. This is a government under so much pressure that they are going to turn the rhetoric up to 11. They are going to go out into seats and make out that Labor is soft on border protection. They do this all the time, but it is very clear, as we have seen from our conference yesterday, that Labor is a party which sticks to its values - in terms of supporting people who are vulnerable, our initiatives that we have taken in areas such as community sponsored humanitarian settlement, the initiatives we've taken also with supporting the UNHCR in our region - all point to not only a strong set of values reflected in our resolutions but also strong border protection underlying all of that. 

GILBERT: Let's look at the matter of Andrew Broad. Obviously, you know, this is a matter of many respects between him and his wife in terms of whether or not he's been unfaithful. The expenditure of public money is where the question is, but also, and this is where the vulnerability for him is isn't it, because he's been moralising on other issues, including his former leader Barnaby Joyce and same-sex marriage? 

ROWLAND: Well he was very fond of quoting Billy Graham on occasion. But look let's not sugar-coat this, it's a very sticky situation, and we've got here a person who is allegedly in a safe seat, but as they say the safer the seat the more marginal the Member. We wait to see whether he will actually be the candidate at the next election. We wait to see whether, as Stephen Conroy pointed out, there will be a strong independent contender in his seat.

But this only adds to the dysfunction and chaos we see from this government. We know that this is a government that has not only lost its policy initiatives, but also it’s still in search of a value which underpins what it's actually doing. So, we await to see what's happening but in the meantime questions are being asked about who knew what when, and now we have these allegations of public funds being used or misused, when was the AFP involved and why. Quite frankly, I don't know where people get the time to do this sort of thing. 

JAYES: That's a good point, Michelle Rowland. Will Labor ask perhaps the new Integrity Commission to look into this?

ROWLAND: Well again this will be a matter of Labor setting up its Integrity Commission, and indeed it's the one that we propose, not the one that the Government proposes, and if Labor's elected we'll have a real Integrity Commission. But again, these are matters for which we don't know the full facts at this stage and I think that those facts will all need to come out before we can make a decision on that. But certainly the reason why Labor has been prosecuting the case for an Integrity Commission is because the public has lost trust and confidence in key institutions, including in our elected representatives in many cases, and this only adds to that. 

We shouldn't have a situation where people are misusing public funds for personal pleasure or whatever the case may be, and again Labor has been very clear that you can do one of two things in this instance. You can just criticise and say that the system is broken, people have lost faith in government; or you can try to do something about restoring faith in our institutions and that's everything from reforming public donations, electoral reform, you can do things such as restoring faith in our public broadcasters, ensuring that they're publicly funded and having an Integrity Commission. Labor has chosen a hard path. We've chosen a hard path but it's the right path for the Australian people.

JAYES: Michelle Rowland, thank you.