6.06pm | October 11, 2021




SUBJECTS: National Anti-Corruption Commission, NSW reopening, Action on climate change.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel - Liberal MP Katie Allen and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister. Welcome to you both.
KARVELAS:  Jenny, I want to go to the admission from your federal colleague Anthony Byrne,  who told the inquiry that he has paid for party memberships. Is that acceptable?

MCALLISTER: Patricia, I think you'd understand that I'm unlikely to comment on evidence in proceedings. But it is worth recalling these allegations are not new. They were made about a year ago, a little bit more than a year ago in a Channel Nine television program. At that time Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews said clearly that branch stacking was a problem and they also said that they were going to do something about it. They suspended voting rights in the Victorian branch and put in place a process to review the branch. I don't think anyone can accuse the Labor Party of not taking those issues seriously.

KARVELAS: You are right, it is currently proceeding, but what we do know, on the record Anthony Byrne has said that he has paid for memberships. You can have a view on that. Is it appropriate?
MCALLISTER: Look, as I said, I'm not going to comment on evidence that he put before...
KARVELAS: But he said it. We can attribute the quote to him. He's in the federal caucus of the Labor Party and he has paid for other people's memberships which is surely not appropriate. Surely you would denounce that?
MCALLISTER: Patricia, as said, branch stacking is a problem when it occurs and when the revelations came out last year, Daniel Andrews and Anthony Albanese acted incredibly firmly and immediately to put in place a process to deal with it. I'm not going to comment on proceedings that are on foot because as you'd understand, it is not our practise to do so.  But I think that the actions of Anthony Albanese and Daniel Andrews are very clear.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, you are a Liberal MP, but you are a Victorian MP. Branch stacking we have seen on both sides of politics. The current inquiry is about Labor. It is a problem across politics, would you concede?

ALLEN: Look, I think branch stacking is something that's not acceptable and we need to shine a light on all of this activity, whichever party this sort of thing is happening. It is interesting Anthony Byrne himself said, "Branch stacking is corrupt." He says it has been rife for a long period of time and he seemed remorseless when he was talking about it. It was amazing to watch him talk about it during the proceedings. We need a federal ICAC. I believe we need a Commonwealth integrity commission that would look at these issues. I think the Australian public expects that and I'd like to see an integrity commission delivered during this parliament.
KARVELAS: I was going to ask about that. There are some people in the party who are dragging their feet. Your government has promised to deliver it. But they won't be investigating MPs. Shouldn't they investigate MPs?
ALLEN: There have been draft guidelines which have been sent out and looked at and there are submissions, more than 333 submissions made assessing the CIC or the Commonwealth integrity commission. There has been b$106 million put forward in the last budget for such a body. So yes, there is a lot of debate about what a Federal Government ICAC will look like. That debate is really important and as you can see, these state-level ICACs make people have that conversation. I welcome that conversation. It is incredibly important going forward because the Australian public do expect their politicians, their leaders to be above reproach and this is where, I think, this conversation needs to be rightly had.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, what do you make of this?
MCALLISTER: Well, we don't see much sign of urgency coming from the Prime Minister or any of the people responsible for delivery. It is more than 1,000 days since Scott Morrison promised to have a national anti-corruption body. And this has to be an institution with teeth. It needs a capacity for independent action, and it needs a capacity to scrutinise the actions of parliamentarians. This is the case in other states and regrettably from time to time these institutions uncover wrongdoing in political parties. Sometimes my own political party. It doesn't make for comfortable reading, but it is immensely important and I think the public expect us to get on with it.  I don't understand why the Prime Minister is so reluctant to act.
KARVELAS: I want to talk about today's so-called Freedom Day. I don't know if you're happy to embrace that language, but New South Wales reopening today. Are you confident there are enough protection ins place for this opening to happen safely?
MCALLISTER: We have to see how it unfolds. Our argument is that we want to re-open, but we want it to happen safely. The key areas we've identified is making sure there is appropriate test, trace, isolate and quarantine arrangements and adequate hospital capability and that people, vulnerable groups, aren't left behind in the vaccination program. The thing that we are really looking for in New South Wales is assurance of the capacity of the hospital system. There was analysis commissioned for the National Cabinet looking at this question. We are calling on the Prime Minister to make that public. People need reassurance that hospital resources are going to be sufficient to cope with what is projected in terms of new cases and the need for hospital treatment.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, Victoria has a reopening plan that we are all excised about if you are a Victorian about when it is going to happen. Are you comfortable with the current settings given the high case numbers? It is better today, but yesterday was another alarming number.
ALLEN: Look, we are seeing case numbers come down a little bit, but as Australia gets to the double jab target at 70% and 80%, the pandemic is changing in nature. We can see that Australians understand that and I think everyone is looking to New South Wales and saying, "This is fantastic. This is what we want to get to. That's why we are coming forward and getting our double jab." If you haven't got it, go and see your GP and find out which jab is right for you, whether it is AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna. Go and get an appointment and go and get it done. We know from modelling around the world, the impact as we move forward, to be able to model that and I welcome the fact that the federal Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy has been asked to make sure that the health system is ready. The Federal Government has been looking at funding for test capability and for telehealth capable across the state and territory jurisdictions. It is time to get ready for that. Of course, people will be nervous. This is the way to move forward, and this is the way to do it.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, I wonder what you make of what this will look like in schools. If we're living with COVID and younger children aren't vaccinated, you would expect there would be common outbreaks in schools. Does that mean there will be a stop-start approach to schools? They will open. There will be cases and they will have to shut down again. Is that what parents should be expecting?
ALLEN: Well, we see different reactions by different state leaders. Overseas, different jurisdictions are responding differently.  There is no vaccine available for under-12s approved in many places in the world. Kids have been going back to school throughout the world and they have been doing it safely. This pandemic seems to have a different impact on children than say the Spanish flu or other respiratory infections. It does seem to have a different impact and it is not causing so many serious outcomes. That's not to say that
there won't be serious outcomes. It seems to be less for younger adults. Parents should be reassured that schools are doing the right thing that they are preparing with COVID safe environments. Good hand hygiene and physical distancing and they are preparing for their children to come into the school environment. We want the teachers and the parents to get their double vax and they can get that and the age that we know that they are the ones most likely to spread it, are the 20 to 40 year-olds. For some reason this virus is acting in a different way for children than young adults and we want to focus on double jabs for young adults.
KARVELAS: Just quickly, the Business Council of Australia says there are greater opportunities for the nation to benefit from emissions reduction targets than there have been in the past. Jenny McAllister what do you make of that change?
MCALLISTER: It shows how isolated Scott Morrison is. He is in a position where the peak business organisations and state governments and indeed, our international peers are all saying that there are huge opportunities here. We are yet to sign up to net zero by 2050 let alone any other pathway to getting there. It is really irresponsible. We have had nine years without a climate or energy policy and the costs are being felt both in the opportunity for jobs lost, but we don't have an energy policy and people are feeling the costs at home.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, Barnaby Joyce says the Nationals are yet to settle on a position on committing to net zero by 2050. Are you frustrated this is being debated down to the wire here?
ALLEN: The Nationals have an important role to play because they
represent rural and regional Australians. They want to make sure that no one is unfairly impacted, but what we are hoping will be a 2050 target. If the Prime Minister manages to bring everyone together for this 2050 target and the plan around that target, that's a momentous moment in our history and that is an opportunity for us to put the climate wars behind us and move on the front foot and move ahead and become world leaders in green energy. It is a very exciting moment for Australia and I'm really welcoming it. And I'd say there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes by the Prime Minister and his cabinet to make this a real possibility. It is a very important time in our history in my view.
KARVELAS: We will be watching closely. Thank you to both of you.