19 February 2019



SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into the violence and abuse against people with disability;  Medical transfer legislation; Banking Royal Commission

GREG JENNETT, HOST: Ahead of question time we are checking in with two MPs on some of the issues of the week as we have on other sitting days so far. We are joined in the studio by Labor’s MP for Batman Ged Kearney and the LNP Member for Fisher on the Sunshine Coast, Andrew Wallace. Welcome to both of you. Andrew, if I can cast back to something that happened yesterday when the Parliament agreed to establish a disability Royal Commission, you, through your family, are familiar with these issues. Are you particularly anxious to see that Commission established in the life of this the 45th Parliament?


ANDREW WALLACE, LIBERAL MP: Look, I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister announced a Royal Commission would be undertaken. I think it's very important that a society looks after its most disadvantaged, in this case it’s very important that we ensure that our disabled – or people living with disabilities are properly cared for and any offences that may have occurred in the past - they be looked into. But I think also - it’s very important that we’ve got to understand that much of the care of people living with disabilities over the years has been state-based. It's only been recently since Julia Gillard and the NDIS has been brought in, so because –


JENNETT: So you want that consultation to tie them in – is that the idea?


WALLACE: It would seem an incredible waste of money if all we were doing was looking at Federal matters, so is very important that we involve the states because the States used to have primary responsibility for this and given the timeline it is very likely that any misdemeanors or any offences or any conduct that would come under the spotlight of the Royal Commission is likely to have happened whilst under the care of the States.


JENNETT: What of urgency is the process Ged? Is it better to get it right, to have the buy in of the states, as Andrew is suggesting or to have it fully established before we go to an election?


GED KEARNEY, LABOR MP: I think we need to start very quickly establishing the Royal Commission. There were a lot of people who were disappointed that the government voted against a Royal Commission in the Senate, and then by all intents and purposes it looked like they are avoiding a vote or losing a vote on this issue in the House of Representatives –


JENNETT: Although the Prime Minister said that wasn't what he was up to.


KEARNEY: Even the Speaker of the House said he knows what's going on, so everyone did know what was going on, but we are glad that the government has come to the realisation that a Royal Commission is important and we don't see why we can't start consultations and negotiations as soon as possible. I heard a very tragically affected family on RN this morning telling their story of their son who was abused for years in an institution and these stories need to be heard. Those people need justice, and we need to start very very soon.


JENNETT: In any event Andrew, would you accept that it is inevitable? Do you see anything actually stopping this, so if it does not happen in the life of this Parliament, do you accept that it would be inevitable in the life of the next?


WALLACE: I don't think anything is inevitable, but it is important that we get the terms of reference right, if you start with a bad plan, you can end up with a bad house. If you start with a bad terms of reference, you end up with a less than optimal Royal Commission, and given what’s at stake here, and the significance of it for so many families around Australia, it is very important that we get those terms of reference right. It’s very important we get to buy in from the States.


JENNETT: Alright. Ged, something that I know is close to your heart, medical evacuations and the laws that passed this place last week - we had the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department Mike Pezzullo talking last night about perceptions, regardless of what is in the bill, he thinks the perception might be projected out there to people smugglers that it is weakening. Is that the embedded danger of what the Parliament has done?


KEARNEY: I think we have been very clear that this is about getting sick people, sick people healthcare. I’m a nurse, I was a nurse for many many years before I became a politician - worked before I changed careers, at least 20 years of my life was spent caring for sick people, and I know what it means to have to get access to healthcare, particularly people that we are responsible for, and at the end of the day this is about. The government has made a brouhaha, they are trying to create a panic around this when it is nothing other than getting people to healthcare. They are a government that has no other policy, nothing else to put to the people, they have no climate policy, they have no real responses to the banking royal commission, and they’ve got nothing to address wage stagnation. You know this is a government that is floundering, so what are they doing? They are scaremongering.


JENNETT: I hear what you say, but at the same time, Labor says that there was no difference between it and the government on border security. For your own part, would it upset you greatly if boats did start, or even if one boat did sort of test the boundaries of Australia’s border protection because of this?


KEARNEY: Well, from what we know I guess, that it is a universally accepted point now, pretty much from all parties that what is stopping people getting on boats in the first place, and we have had that only recently from reports from Indonesia, is that policy. This policy is about, this bill is about getting healthcare, and nothing else than that. Really they are people that we are responsible for, that PNG have said we are responsible for, and we should get them to hospitals when they need it.


JENNETT: Andrew are you comfortable with the rhetoric, or at least the argument I suppose, that the government is deploying in this space? They’re talking about murderers and paedophiles, and all sorts of other undesirables that could now come to Australia. Are you comfortable with the arguments?


WALLACE: Well I think it’s important to point out that there is a gulf of difference between Labor and the conservative government in relation to this policy now. I mean, Labor went to the last election saying we are on unity ticket in relation to border protection, and now there is absolutely no chance that Bill Shorten can run that line in the lead up to the next election. There is every possibility that the boats will recommence now, and look it comes back to the old principle, if it ain't broke don't fix it. The Coalition Government has been absolutely rock solid on border security, we know that, and what - Labor's relying upon is that boat people who charge their clients $10,000 US dollars to get onboard a boat are going to be explaining the nuances of the law, and that’s not going to happen. I mean the people smugglers are going to be running a line that things have changed in Australia, now’s the time to get onboard.


KEARNEY: The only reason they are going to be doing that is because Scott Morrison has put a megaphone to his lips and is saying that loud and clear. There is no difference to that policy, you know that, the Prime Minister knows that, everybody knows that.


WALLACE: There is a huge difference. There is a huge difference.


KEARNEY: There is no difference. This applies to one cohort – this applies to one cohort only. Everybody knows that. Even the press gallery knows that is not true - what the government is saying.


WALLACE: And you are relying up, I mean look all of the security organisations ASIO, AFP -


KEARNEY: Let’s talk about ASIO – would we like to talk about the ASIO.


WALLACE: They have come out and said that this will be sold to people smugglers and –



Their potential clients as a weakening of border protection laws, and now is the time to start.


JENNET: That is what Mike Pezzullo said, regardless of the facts, it is the perception that they might seek to sell –


KEARNEY: So, ASIO in Senate Estimates said that was not the advice that they gave that as on the front page of the Australian, and Mike Pezzullo also said that the advice he gave to the government was based on the amendments that were passed before Christmas, and that any further advice he gave on the fly – on the fly. Now, something as important as this, if I were a Prime Minister, I certainly would not be accepting advice on the fly, I would be telling him to go back and get solid advice. Now this has all come about because this government has nothing to put to the Australian people. We have an opposition that has policies on dealing, we have put three very good solid policies to do with the royal banking commission – the Royal Commission in banking, things that could be implemented straight away. We have policies on education. We have policies on tax reform. We have policies coming out our ears, this government has nothing. They are going to a scare campaign.


JENNETT: Let’s just pick up on one of Ged's points Andrew Wallace, and that is banking – just quickly. I know you people have to get to Question Time soon, but there is this call by Labor to extend Parliament so that at least the easy stuff that arises from the Royal Commission might be legislated. Why not do that?


WALLACE: Well there is no easy stuff when it comes to banking and finance. I was a barrister for 16 years before I came to this place, and I have seen too much legislation that is drafted in haste and that the unintended consequences and problems that - it incorporates or results from that. It is very important that we get the sort of legislation right. In fact, Commissioner Hayne in his report said that the legislation that is in place now, is there is nothing wrong with the legislation that is in place, except the fact that it is too complicated. You know – the failings in relation to banking and finance have been a failure of regulators, more so than our existing legislation. So look I would absolutely caution and counsel the government from rushing into this, this is not an opportunity to take a political point, as Bill Shorten is doing. Let's do it, but let's do it right, and that shouldn’t come as a matter of political expediency.


JENNETT: Alright, well that as with everything  in the current Parliament is going to come down to numbers, so let's see if anyone has got the numbers to challenge what is currently a lean sitting schedule this side of the budget, but Ged Kearney and Andrew Wallace, you do have Question Time to get to. So thank you so much for joining us in our studio today and we will let you go in just a moment.