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30 March 2021



SUBJECT: Government Accountability; Karen Andrews as Home Affairs Minister.

SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: Thanks everyone. Well today, the Australian Labor Party at its conference, dealt with Chapter Six, Strengthening Australian Democracy.
Now I want to make a few comments about that because we have a Prime Minister in Scott Morrison, who is clinging on to power by holding close the incompetent, the sleazy and the scandal ridden members of his own government. We have a Prime Minister in Scott Morrison who was afraid to act to remove Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds from cabinet because he's scared of losing his majority on the floor of the Parliament.
He continues to shelter Andrew Laming, a Member of Parliament, a Member of the Liberal and National Party, who has been threatening women online and taking up-skirting photos and the Prime Minister continues to shelter him in his party room, because he's scared of losing his own grip on the House.
Now, when Scott Morrison sees bad behaviours from his ministers, he doesn't punish them, he actually rewards them. Let's look at this reshuffle, which is a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic, after eight long years of this tired Liberal Government. And how does Scott Morrison reward the bad behaviour?
We've got an Attorney General now in Michaelia Cash, who has misled the Senate on several occasions and refused to cooperate with the Australian Federal Police. We have Stuart Roberts, who was booted from the Ministry for using his position to advance his own private interests, now return to the cabinet and given responsibilities for Australian workers. We have in this cabinet, Linda Reynolds, the woman who called an alleged rape victim, Brittany Higgins, a "lying cow," she is now responsible for some of the most vulnerable people in Australia, through the NDIS and Services Australia.
Scott Morrison promised two years ago to introduce a National Integrity Commission. And he has not done so. It is because he is afraid to confront the sleaze, the scandal and the incompetence in his own government.
Let's understand that Scott Morrison cut JobSeeker and JobKeeper but in his own cabinet he seems to be running SleazeKeeper, ScandalKeeper and IncompetenceKeeper.
Australians deserve a government that is on their side. Anthony Albanese and Labor will deliver a National Integrity Commission. A federal anti-corruption body. It will be transparent. Independent. It will bring sunlight, the best disinfectant.
So, a federal anti-corruption commission that brings transparency and integrity to the Australian Government. That is what the Australian people deserve. They deserve a government that is on their side and Anthony Albanese and Labor will deliver that.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to miss Peter Dutton as your Home Affairs counterpart?
KENEALLY: What I was intrigued about this morning is to hear Karen Andrews, the New Home Affairs Minister, saying she had neither sought this portfolio, nor knew she was in the running for it. She said she has an economics background and she's not quite sure why she was handed the Home Affairs portfolio.
Now I say to Karen Andrews, I hope that you and I can begin as we need to go on. And that is to work in what Australians expect is a spirit of bipartisanship in the national interest when it comes to national security. There are many issues I look forward to sitting down with Karen Andrews and discussing. The rise of right-wing extremism. The historically high levels of foreign interference. The growing threats that we see from cyber security attacks. These are all areas that need not be addressed in a partisan manner. And I hope that in this new portfolio, Karen Andrews will do as has been done in Australia, in fact for many decades until recent times, which is to approach these matters in a bipartisan compact, in the national interest.
JOURNALIST: In picking up those comments from Karen Andrews, are you suggesting that her appointment is somewhat tokenistic rather than merit-based?
KENEALLY: Well, what I would say is that Karen Andrews was seemed to be a bit surprised she had the Home Affairs portfolio. And quite frankly, I say to Karen Andrews, let's work together. Let's work together in the national interest, to secure the national security for this country.
I would hope that Karen Andrew and I are able to work together on some key issues. Some of them I've just outlined. I would also say to Minister Andrews, this is an opportunity for her to bring fresh eyes to the situation of the Biloela family, who have been held in immigration detention on Christmas Island. And I don't make that comment in a partisan way. I make it as a mother. I make it as an Australian, who has been moved by the compassion and the passion of the Biloela community to save this family, including their two Australian born daughters, who've now spent the bulk of their young lives in immigration detention, to come home to the regional community of Biloela.
So I say to Karen Andrews, in a true spirit of bipartisanship and partnership, I hope that on some of these key issues we're able to work together.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe the government's new cabinet will actually make a difference in the way women are treated in politics?
KENEALLY: This is a tired Liberal Government. It's been eight long years in office. And we have seen scandal after scandal, incompetence after incompetence, sleaze after sleaze. No shuffling of the deck chairs, no new faces in new places is going to change that.
You can move the people around but the problem still exists. And for Scott Morrison, the very problem you spotted, some of his problems are his people. We've got Angus Taylor. He's had Watergate, jam land in the forged documents affairs and he still has his job. We have Christian Porter, who thought he might be able to be a part-time attorney general on a full-time salary. We've had no response to the Respect At Work report. It's been sitting on Christian Porter's desk for a year now.
We have a government that has - and this is unbelievable, so let me just be clear about this - the new Minister for Women's Economic Security, two weeks ago was still insisting the best thing for domestic violence victims is they would fund their own escape out of their own meagre superannuation savings. How is that a good thing for women's economic security? How is that a good thing for women’s safety?
Let's understand this. The big problem for Scott Morrison is that he still doesn't get it. He thinks shoving a bunch of women out in front of him somehow solves the problem that he and his government have only recently discovered that women in Australia have rights and dignity and expect to be treated as such. This is a Prime Minister who couldn't cross the road to come to the March for Justice. This is a Prime Minister who said that really women were just fortunate they weren't shot when they came to protest at the Parliament.
This is a Prime Minister who seems to shelter in his cabinet and his party room, people like Christian Porter, Linda Reynolds and Andrew Laming. There is no shuffling of the deck chairs that is going to cover up and paper up those facts.