TRANSCRIPT - DOORSTOP - SYDNEY - Saturday, 30 November 2019

30 November 2019

SUBJECTS: London terror attacks; the Morrison Government’s integrity is in tatters; Angus Taylor; Brian Houston; Gladys Liu; religious discrimination bill; Medevac; Wang Liqiang; remaining alert to the risk of terrorism; Jacqui Lambie’s Medevac negotiations; Angus Taylor should be in Parliament next week.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: I'd like to begin by noting the terrorist attacks, as they've been described by the London Police, that occurred overnight in London and first and foremost, express my condolences to the victims and their families of this terrible tragedy. And I would also like to acknowledge the bravery and the selflessness of the Police, as well as members of the public, who acted with courage to ensure that this attack was not more serious than it already is. It's a timely reminder, a tragic and timely reminder, of the collective threats that we currently face and especially as we are coming into the holiday season, it is a reminder to all of us of the need to be aware that while we do you live in a country that enjoys a strong police force and national security agencies, there are threats, and I would like to encourage people to, as we approach the holiday season, to continue their festive celebrations but mindful of the need to be alert to what's going on around them and to thank our police and national security agencies who work so hard every day to ensure that Australians remain safe as possible.
I want to reflect on the events of the past week because here we are six months from the election and the Morrison Government ends this week with their integrity in tatters. The Government started the week with a so-called ""Ensuring Integrity"" bill which was nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing, an attempt at union-busting, because that is about all the Coalition has in terms of an agenda- to go to war with the working people and their representatives. The Government starts at the week with this so called ""Ensuring Integrity"" bill; they end the week with their own integrity in tatters.
We have a Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is standing by Angus Taylor- Angus Taylor who is coming currently under investigation by the Financial Crime Squad of the New South Wales Police Force. They have formed a strike force operation to investigate the fraudulent, doctored document that Angus Taylor relied upon and making these fraudulent claims about the City of Sydney. A bungled political attack by Angus Taylor on the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney Clover Moore, under investigation by the police and what does Scott Morrison do? He stands by Angus Taylor. Doesn't stand him aside, doesn't ask him to stand aside. I mean, what is the point of ministerial standards if the Prime Minister won't apply them to Angus Taylor? Instead, the Prime Minister stands by Angus Taylor in a panicked bumbling attack on Labor in Question Time; the Prime Minister misleads the Parliament four times. I mean, here we have a Minister under investigation by the police for misleading the public, potentially, allegedly misleading the Parliament. This is what the police are investigating and what does the Prime Minister do? He misleads the Parliament in his attempts to defend the Minister who is under investigation for misleading the Parliament.
We also have a Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who is unwilling to tell the truth to the Australian people about whether or not he invited his Pastor Brian Houston to the White House. I mean what is this state secret here? Honestly, Prime Minister just look the Australian people in the eye and tell them the truth. Did you invite Brian Houston to the White House or not? Why can't you just simply say that? I mean, the Prime Minister went to Brian Houston's church, stood on this stage, talked about his love, talked about how he burns for the Australian people- but how about you burn for the truth? If you love somebody, tell them the truth. Prime Minister, I'm asking you, the Australian people are asking you, they have a right to know- did you invite Brian Houston to come to the White House? Was that shut down by the White House? It's been reported in the Wall Street Journal. They're not rumours. It's time for the Prime Minister to tell the Australian people the truth. Why can't he do that?
Finally, when we come to the Ensuring Integrity bill, it had in it something called a ""fit and proper person test"". Now, this bill has been defeated by the Senate and I want to thank the Senate crossbenchers for their commitment to working people. For their determination that working people should be able to democratically decide who their representatives are in trade unions. But the bill, the bill that the Government tried and failed to get up in the Senate, the Ensuring Integrity Bill had a fit and proper person test. Well, there is one person who won't answer whether or not she's fit and proper to sit in the Parliament and that is Gladys Liu, the Member for Chisholm. Questions continue to swirl around Gladys Liu and whether she is a fit and proper person to sit in the Australian Parliament. The Prime Minister won't put her forward to make a statement to the Parliament; won't let her make a statement to the Parliament about whether she's a fit and proper person. It is time for the Liberal Government to ensure the Australian people that all its members who are there are fit and proper, that they are acting with integrity. It is time for the Prime Minister to make sure that the Member for Chisholm, Gladys Liu, steps forward next week to Parliament and delivers a statement that clears up these questions that continue to swirl around her associations, around her fundraising activities. If the Government really wants to ensure integrity, if the Prime Minister wants to try to get his tattered integrity back on track, he can start by requiring the Member for Chisholm to make a statement next week in the Parliament. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: The Government's religious freedom bill faces a lot of opposition in its current form from religious groups. Do you think the Government will delay its introduction until next year?
KENEALLY: Well the Government have made a public commitment that they will be introducing a religious discrimination bill into Parliament into before Christmas; it's up to them to explain if they're walking away from that commitment. What I will say is that Anthony Albanese, the Labor Leader, has met, as well as I have along with Anthony with a range of religious leaders across Australia and leaders of the major religious organisations and churches and they continue to express serious concerns about the Government's draft exposure bill, they have serious problems with it and I understand that. I also understand that a range of groups in the community- business groups and, you know, groups representing equality in gay and lesbian Australians also have serious concerns with this legislation. It is a currently as a draft bill, a friendless piece of legislation. The Government have done public consultation; they say they're going to deliver a bill before Christmas. We will see next week if they are able to do that.
JOURNALIST: Should the Government trust Pauline Hanson when she says that she will vote for repealing Medevac?
KENEALLY: That's up to the Government in their conversations with Senator Hanson. But on the issue of Medevac let me be clear, the Labor position is unchanged. We support Medevac because it ensures that sick people get to see a doctor and the doctor gets to determine whether or not they get the treatment that they need. It also ensures that the Minister, Peter Dutton, retains the power and the ability to block someone from coming into the country if they pose a security risk to the Australian community. The Medevac laws also ensure that if people are transferred to Australia for medical treatment, they must be in immigration detention unless the Minister Peter Dutton agrees to let them out. So what the Medevac laws do, they ensure our border security and our national security yet they allow doctors to make the determination if sick people should get treatment. I imagine that all of us if we fall sick would go see a doctor, we wouldn't go see a government bureaucrat or government Minister and that's what these laws allow for. I would note that Peter Dutton, or doctors appointed by Peter Dutton, have approved every Medevac transfer that has occurred in Australia.
JOURNALIST: The spy on 60 Minutes- it's been revealed that security agencies have given advice to the Morrison Government this week that he's indeed not a threat and if anything a low-level operative and was probably just using the guise to claim asylum or residency in Australia. What do you make of those reports and have you been given the same advice?
KENEALLY: I have been briefed on this matter and I don't want to comment publicly on the things that I have been briefed on by our security agencies. I've seen the reports today. What I will say is that Mr. Wang (Liqiang) has applied for asylum. I understand that that is going to the usual processes for assessing his claim for protection. Every case must be judged on its merits and it's not for me to say whether or not he deserves asylum because that is a decision to be made by a range of agencies within the Department of Home Affairs and that process is, as I understand it, is underway now.
JOURNALIST: Is he a fraudster though? And does he deserve asylum?
KENEALLY: I just said that it is a decision- the issue of asylum claims- is one that can only be determined by government, using the agencies that are involved in assessing those claims. That is matter for the Government.
JOURNALIST: Have you briefed in detail on this case?
KENEALLY: I have been briefed on his case and I'm not going to comment publicly on that. I'm not going to add anything to what I have said here.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the religious discrimination bill, can you tell me what your issues are with the bill?
KENEALLY: Well this is a draft exposure bill and so therefore, Labor hasn't determined a position and we wouldn't determine a position on a draft exposure bill. What I can tell you is that religious leaders have raised with Labor, as they have with the Government a range of concerns around the $50 million threshold, around the idea that a court determines what is a theological teaching, around the employment of staff at aged care homes and other organisations run by religious institutions and that church leaders have also raised their concerns that the Government hasn't resolved the issues around discrimination in religiously affiliated schools. That is the debate that we had last year, where the Prime Minister had promised to fix this up about whether or not religiously affiliated schools retain the power to discriminate against students who are gay and lesbian or staff who are gay and lesbian. These are all issues that are still of great concern to religious organisations and I would add, there is some common ground that they have with gay and lesbian groups who also raised with Labor, as they have with the Government, their concerns around the $50 million threshold and around how discrimination laws are, are interpreted within this legislation. And there remains some groups who have concerns about whether or not there are definitions that are properly explained within the legislation. These are all significant current concerns being raised by religious groups, by equality organisations, in relation to the Morrison Government's draft exposure bill. What we have said as the Labor Opposition is that we will determine a position when the Government produces a final version of the bill.
JOURNALIST: The fact that some of the leaders are threatening to withdraw support for it unless it's changed- what do you think that says about this bill?
KENEALLY: Well this draft exposure bill seems quite friendless. I have yet to see any wholehearted or enthusiastic support coming from either religious organisations, equality groups, or the business community and it would suggest that the Morrison Government has some significant problems in relation to delivering on their commitment to deliver a religious discrimination bill before the end of the year.
JOURNALIST: You said that there was a need to be aware especially coming into the busy holiday season. Have you received any advice that perhaps the threat level of terrorist attacks in Australia has increased?
KENEALLY: No but the threat level does remain that the conditions are possible for an attack and that we always must remain vigilant. We are fortunate here in Australia that the national security agencies and the counter terrorism operations within our State police forces are of a high quality. They have managed to thwart a number of terrorist attack attempts and whenever we have lost gatherings of people of course, and I think the Australian people understand this now, that we do need to remain alert to what is going on around us. But we are fortunate that our police force and other agencies will be working very hard over the holiday season and it is our job to work to support them as best we can.
JOURNALIST: Moving on- should the public know what the national security condition Jacqui Lambie has asked for is?
KENEALLY: I'm not privy to the conversations that Senator Lambie is having with the Government and it is up to her to determine if she chooses to make those conversations public. What I will say is the Government has stated a determination to repeal Medevac. Labor supports Medevac and, you know, it is quite clear that Jacqui Lambie will have a significant vote in that. But I have yet to see any evidence publicly that the Government have made any movement towards coming to an agreement with Jacqui Lambie. This is an, appears to be, a mysterious conversation that is occurring between Senator Lambie and the Government and it will be up to the Government to explain their position come Monday morning when the bill is scheduled to be debated.
JOURNALIST: Back on Angus Taylor- should he remain a minister and be in the Parliament for the last sitting week? And also what do you make of the Prime Minister standing closely by him amid all these allegations and would you like your Leader to do the same thing if such allegations were to arise for a Labor member?
KENEALLY: Angus Taylor is a Minister in the Morrison Government who is under investigation by the police- he should not leave the country at this time. He should remain in the country and be available to answer questions from the police if required. He should be available and present in the Parliament to answer questions in the Parliament. Part of being an elected representative, part of being a Minister, is to be accountable to the public. And quite frankly Angus Taylor and his Prime Minister Scott Morrison have seemed to act as if accountability is not something that applies to them. What I would expect of any political leader, the Prime Minister included, is to show integrity, to abide by ministerial standards, and where you have a Minister who is accused of being involved with the doctoring of a document, of producing fraudulent figures, of depending on those in a political public debate and he's unwilling to say where that document came from or explain its provenance- he needs to be here. He needs to be in the country to answer the questions. The police have formed a strike force, an operation to investigate Angus Taylor. He should be in the Parliament, he should be in Australia and he should be available to answer the police's questions if required, and the Parliament's. Alright, thanks, everyone.