SUBJECTS: John Barilaro Resignation; Gladys Berejiklian Resignation; NSW Liberal Party; Western Sydney; By-Election; NSW COVID-19; Dominic Perrottet.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, Dominic Perrottet officially nominated for Premier. Joining me last night live now as Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Communications Minister. Michelle, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. A bit of a reaction, there’s a bit going on when it comes to New South Wales state politics today. Now we've got this breaking news that John Barilaro has resigned as deputy premier. What do you make of everything that's going on?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: In a practical sense, it means that there'll be three by elections in New South Wales. And this is a time when the state needs stability - when residents and small businesses need to be assured that as we come out of lockdown, that they've got a government that's focused on them at a state and federal level. So it remains to be seen what happens from here on but it is quite a tumultuous time, as you say.

STEFANOVIC: Does it make sense to just clean the decks if anybody has got an inkling towards maybe leaving, or should they just be holding on?

ROWLAND: These are all political and individual decisions that will be made. I note John Barilaro’s statement that he considers this to be an opportune time for a refresh, and that is his prerogative. But as I said, it's very important for New South Wales residents and small businesses at this time to have stability, and a government that's got them firmly in their focus.

STEFANOVIC: What are your thoughts on the departure of Gladys?

ROWLAND: As a human being and a public office holder myself, it is obviously a decision that she didn't take lightly, a very difficult one. And I take no schadenfreude whatsoever, and what has happened, the ICAC will do its job, and she accepted that she had no other choice available to her. As a Western Sydney MP, I feel very much inclined to insert some objectivity into this commentary. This has been a very difficult time for the local residents in Greenway and right across Western Sydney. We still have segments of our community who are subject to differing rules compared to counterparts outside of the LGAs of concern. It's been a very difficult time for parents, a difficult time for our frontline health workers, and I think it's very telling that the amount of feedback that I've actually received on this issue from local residents is one where people want to get on with their lives. They are not particularly focused on the rights or wrongs of this issue. But I can tell you their mood is that if only we weren't put in this position in the first place.

STEFANOVIC: Her government divided the city, is that what you're saying?

ROWLAND: Well, it's very clear that there was one set of rules, and they're still in place, at least for another week for Western Sydney, and another one for the rest of Sydney. I've said it on many occasions - this is a time when decisions should have been made at the outset to take decisive action early. We know that we certainly wouldn't be in the position that we are in now. But I'll say this about the residents of Western Sydney, they have been resilient, they have come out and gotten vaccinated, despite everything being thrown at them. I'm so proud, as I've said, on many occasions to represent such smart people who knew that this was our one shot out of lockdown.

STEFANOVIC: And do you believe that's why Stuart Ayres has been brought in on the ticket to kind of assuage those concerns of division?

ROWLAND: I have no insight into the factional machinations of the New South Wales Liberal Party Pete.

STEFANOVIC: But it makes sense though.

ROWLAND: It might make sense to them politically. But again, the people who need to have the focus of government on them right now and their long term needs, are the residents and small businesses of New South Wales and in particular Western Sydney.

STEFANOVIC: If the ICAC doesn't find Gladys Berejiklian guilty of anything, what then of the commission do you think moving forward? 

ROWLAND: Well, I think the ICAC should be enabled to do its job. The “I” stands for independent, and we can have a debate about how the ICAC functions, but right now it's performing its job. It's been put in there, let’s be clear, not just to be a tribunal that investigates this type of conduct, but should act as an incentive for public office holders to do the right thing. I think that's a very important point that's often missed in some of this debate. But again, all this will come out when the hearings are done, and the investigation is finalised.

STEFANOVIC When it comes to the argument of there being a federal ICAC, it was actually the Gillard government who looked at it, but then did nothing. instead championing the benefits of the fragmented system of accountability that currently exists, claiming that no single body should be responsible. Do you believe there should be a federal ICAC With that In mind?

ROWLAND: Labor has a policy of a Federal ICAC, which we will take to the people at the next election. Scott Morrison promised one over 1000 days ago, and nothing's been delivered since. I think it's very important for the citizens of Australia to have confidence in their public office holders. Just as I said, have it there acting as an incentive to do the right thing and to act properly at all times.

STEFANOVIC: What more can it do, other than the officers and mechanisms that are currently in place?

ROWLAND: Well, let's be very clear - we've got conduct that's going on at a federal level, that is extremely questionable. Everything from the Leppington Triangle purchase to some ministers failing to disclose the source of important documents that go to the reputation of others. I think that there is a strong public desire for there to be accountability mechanisms such as this. I would hate to think, as I've noticed in some commentary of late, that notions of pork barreling and misuse of public money are accepted as somehow the norm. That should never be the norm. Public office holders, politicians, should always be held to a standard that demonstrates our respect for public money and for due process.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Michelle Rowland. Appreciate your time. As always, we'll talk to you again soon. 


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