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20 September 2021




SUBJECTS: Representing Fowler at the Cabinet table in an Albanese Labor Government; Diversity in the Parliament; Christian Porter’s resignation from the Cabinet; Who is funding Christian Porter’s blind trust?; Mr Morrison’s appalling lack of judgement; Facilities needed for Canley Vale community food hamper charity.

JOE HILDEBRAND, HOST, AFTERNOONS: Welcome back to Afternoons on 2GB and 4BC, I am Joe Hildebrand. It is just 25 minutes to one. And we have coming up right now, the woman of the hour. Now I want to give you a bit of background to this. I wrote a column over the weekend that was highly critical of the decision by the Labor Party to parachute Kristina Keneally into the seat of Fowler. 

She obviously has to move from the Senate because of a dispute over the top senate ticket among the NSW Right of the Labor Party. And Deb O'Neill got that spot, meaning that Keneally would have to find another seat if she were, were to remain in the Parliament. 

As I said it was highly critical. I almost wondered if I'd gone a bit too far. And I was surprised yesterday to get a text message that just said to me, 'Look, hey Joe, read your column. Fair enough.' And that text message was from Senator Kristina Keneally, and I thought that required great guts. 

And I thought that was a very fair, if you like, or gutsy thing to send. And I asked her if she'd come on the show today to talk about that decision and the community of Fowler, which has been kind of lost in this fierce debate. And she joins me on the line right now. Senator Kristina Keneally, welcome to Afternoons on 2GB and 4BC. 


HILDEBRAND: What have you made of the the, the huge storm that your move to Fowler has caused? It's not a bad? It's not a good look? Is it?

KENEALLY: You know, on one level, I really kind of welcome the conversation because I do think it's fair to ask, you know, how do we ensure that our parliaments represent the community? And you know, I think your listeners will know we've had a lot of conversation over a number of years about the equal representation of women in our Parliament. And I think it's fair enough, we have a discussion about the representation of people from more diverse backgrounds, but I don't, I don't shirk from that. And in many ways, I would say the, the party led by Albanese, and Wong has, has a pretty good record on, in this area. But is there more we can do? Yes. And should we do more? Of course. But I'd also just make the point that I made a deliberate decision here to seek to represent Fowler, South Western Sydney, a part of the city I know well, from my time as Minister for Planning, Minister for Disability Services, and of course, as Premier.

And it's a community that really has been doing it tough for a number of years, but particularly during this pandemic; left behind by a State and a Liberal Federal Government, particularly during this third wave of the pandemic. And they've never had a local member who sits at the highest levels of government, and, in a senior position at the cabinet table. And I, I think they deserve that. And that's why I put my hand up to step in and step up for the people of Fowler. 

HILDEBRAND: And when we talk about diversity and having people from more ethnic backgrounds represented in the Parliament, does it, how much does it pain you or how awkward is it for you that that by coming to Fowler and, and effectively taking the presumptive spot of Tu Le, the young lawyer of Vietnamese background, that you're actually - in doing this you're sort of part of the problem rather than part of the solution to that, does that, that must rankle with you and rankle with what you just said surely? 

KENEALLY: Well, you know, I make a reflection that, you know, right across the Labor Party branches in Fowler, there are a number of really talented up and coming young people, including Tu Le and I do think it's great that you know, she is seeking to make a contribution, and I'm sure she will. But there are people that are on council like Councillor Sera Yilmaz or Anita Kazi or in Liverpool Council, Charishma Kaliyanda, you know, young women in the Labor Party all making a really great contribution. And, you know, I hope that in some ways coming there as a more senior person in the party that I can provide support to them in a way that, you know, when I joined Parliament some 20 years ago, there weren't a lot of senior women around.

I would, I would also say, you know, Joe, that the thing about Fowler is that, you know, it is quite a diverse community. And, you know, for many years and including my time as Premier, you know, I worked with the Vietnamese community in Australia, the VCA, the Assyrian Australian Association, Imams Council, you know, the Cambodian Action Group, these are all really strong communities in Fowler. And there are of course, other communities there. 
And so I think, you know, we want to be careful not to characterise a community just based on one multicultural group. You know, and the experience I had in Heffron was quite similar to Fowler. You know, an electorate, where nearly 50% of the electorate was born overseas, 70% had one parent born overseas. And, you know, of course, while all kinds of migrants have all kinds of experiences, I certainly know that, you know, for some, and you will recall, during my time in State Parliament, there were those who said, I wasn't a real Australian…

HILDEBRAND: **laughs**

KENEALLY: …because of my accent. **laughs**

HILDEBRAND: We’re all migrants, ultimately aren't we?

KENEALLY: That’s right!

HILDEBRAND: Speaking, speaking of speaking of migration, you will have to migrate from your home, in the Northern Beaches to the seat of Fowler, will you commit to doing that ahead of the election?

KENEALLY: Oh absolutely, absolutely.

HILDEBRAND: ... and living there? Win or lose, you will, you will move to that community, you will be living there before you contest the election, and you will, and you'll stay there?

KENEALLY: Yeah, absolutely

HILDEBRAND: Even if you even if you lose the election?

KENEALLY: **laughs** Joe, let's be clear about something. I'm going there to be part of the Fowler community, and I'm going there to represent them in Parliament, in Government. And that's the clear commitment I'm making. Yes, of course, you know, Ben and I, my husband, Ben and I talked about this well in advance of me making this decision that, you know,  seeking to represent a community would mean living there. Absolutely. 

HILDEBRAND: And have you started house hunting? Will you be buying or renting?

KENEALLY: Well, we have started looking and we are in a position where we don't have any - our children are grown. And so, we're looking at different types of properties at the moment, but you know, I don't think we've made a final decision on those questions. 

HILDEBRAND: I'm sure buying would provide more reassurance to the community than renting. If they thought you were just going to go back to Scotland Island.

KENEALLY: Oh sure, I get that, I get that. But there's also, you know, the, the need to get in quickly versus the need to, you know, and your question about getting in before the election, the election could be this year. And so, there's a need to get in quickly. 

HILDEBRAND: And onto the other big news of the day, Christian Porter has resigned as Minister, he has blamed the Twitter mob and mob justice for his downfall. I mean, he's kind of got a point, doesn't he? I mean, he hasn't been, he hasn't been charged with anything, let alone convicted of anything. But he's been outed by the mob, as an accused rapist without even a police investigation ongoing into that. It's a pretty brutal way to get rid of a minister of any political persuasion, isn't it?

KENEALLY: Well, that's not really what the issue is here, though, Joe. The issue here is that he decided to launch a defamation action, he decided to not take out a loan or pay for it out of his own resources, but rather to accept money from a blind trust. That is, he has accepted a million dollars from a group of people that he has no idea who they are.

HILDEBRAND: I agree, that's pretty questionable, but he's only, but he was only put in that position, position because he was accused, of, of rape, effectively, and to clear his name, he had to either find the money himself or potentially go bankrupt, which would block him from being in the Reps, House of Reps anyway.

KENEALLY: And you know, the thing here, Joe, is he made a decision to launch that legal action, and he made a decision to accept money, a million dollars, from a group of people, he has no idea who they are. And let me just say, to explain to your listeners who may not be aware of the obligations that sit on Federal Members of Parliament. We have to disclose to the Parliament, all of our financial interests. And that includes things like where our spouse works, or indeed, if we have grown children who live at home, where they work, you know, and so the idea that somehow Christian Porter can remain a Member of Parliament and not tell the Parliament or the Australian people who is funding this million-dollar trust for him. I mean, are these people criminals? Are these people foreign countries? Is this Clive Palmer?

HILDEBRAND: **laughs**

KENEALLY: People who have contracts with the Government? I mean, this could well be people who have contracts with the Government or seeking to get contracts with the Government.

HILDEBRAND: ...well yeah, sure.

KENEALLY: And this is how corruption starts - when things are done in secret.

HILDEBRAND: Perhaps so, although it'd be difficult for him to behave corruptly in their interests if he doesn't know who they are, but look I agree that the blind trust is very…

KENEALLY: Are we supposed to just take his word on it? And if this is allowed to stand, Members of Parliament will be setting up blind trusts everywhere to get you know, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. This is the slippery slope. And so, what I say to Christian Porter, and what I say to Mr Morrison, you know, who's shown an appalling, you know, lack of judgement here in not sacking Christian Porter straight away. 

You know Christian Porter has some choices here; he can pay the money back to those, that blind trust. He can, he can ask them and force, tell them they will have to reveal who they are because he has to disclose it to the Parliament, or he can resign. You know, democracy abhors secrecy. 

HILDEBRAND: Oh, look, I, I agree with you on that, although I think he, I don't think it's a slippery slope because quite frankly, any politician who would want to put themselves in Christian Porter’s shoes and go through what he has gone through..

KENEALLY: Well, the standard you walk past Joe, is the standard you accept. And if we are willing to walk past the idea that a Member of Parliament can simply accept a million dollars from an unknown trust.

HILDEBRAND: I think yeah, look, I'm with you on that. I would also say if we are willing to accept the fact that someone can just accuse you of being a rapist without actually having a police investigation or any charges, let alone a conviction to go on, and that should be enough to force your exit from public life, I would suggest that that's a pretty dark standard as well. But coming back to Fowler, have you, have you spent much time in the community this week? Were you there yesterday? How much time have you actually been spending there?

KENEALLY: I want to just highlight something if you don't mind and I was there on Friday, helping a group called 24 Community Care. It's a group of locals who set up a local community support organisation. And they're extraordinary. And I just want to say to your listeners, you know, imagine this, this is a group of local residents in Canley Vale who set up this group, they are literally getting pallets of food dropped off from Foodbank, and Coles and Woolworths - and good on those groups for doing that. And, they are every weekend packing food hampers under a carport in their driveway. They're putting out hundreds of food hampers on the weekend to their local to their fellow residents, as well as in other parts of Sydney, just to help people get through.

And, and I was there, I helped them pack, I helped them deliver some. And I just - it's extraordinary to me that they're doing this in the carport in a front yard. They just need some space. They need a bit of space! 

So my plea out to listeners if, if you're in South Western Sydney area, if you're a church or a sporting club, or, or a business and you've got some extra space, on a ground floor level where these, this group can, can receive their food and put their freezers and pack these hampers, please get in touch with my office because it's you know, they're putting up tarpaulins, if it rains to keep the food safe, and you know, people in the community are definitely living,  some of them are just living, you know…

HILDEBRAND: …hand-to-mouth existence, yeah…

KENEALLY: …yeah, and this, this, these food parcels they get are just fundamental to their survival.

HILDEBRAND: I think we can certainly all agree that that is a fantastic initiative. And if anyone wants to get in touch with you, they can or if anyone wants to call us here at 2GB - 181 173. We'll make sure we put them in touch or just shoot us a text message 0460873873 or shoot us an email, just go and if you're in South Western Sydney or that general area, we'll put you in touch with the necessary people. That is a fantastic initiative and I hope that and I'm sure that our listeners will rally to the cause.

Senator Kristina Keneally, I know, you know, that a lot of our listeners are very, very critical of what has happened and your work and, and so I think credit to you for coming on answering these questions and fronting up and credit to you for acknowledging the criticism and whatever you think out there in listener-land of the Senator, I hope you at least respect the fact that she has come on to answer those questions and to answer her critics. Thank you very much for joining us on Afternoons. 

KENEALLY: Thank you, Joe, and thank you to your listeners for the time this afternoon.