10.07am | November 09, 2021



SUBJECTS: Federal anti-corruption commission, IBAC, trust in politics, Glasgow, covid-19 testing to stay at school. 
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel with Liberal MP Jason Falinski and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister. Jason Falinski, starting with you. Talking about that issue. This is a pretty serious allegation and I think goes to the heart of the way taxpayers feel about the way politicians use their hard-earned cash. Why is the Government just repeating this rather than establishing an investigation?

JASON FALINSKI: Hi. What I can say to you is that I agree with you. This is not what people expect us to do with their money. We are here to obviously make sure that Australians are better off. Our job should be to advance ideas and advance policies that make Australia a better place to live and give people more opportunities not fewer opportunities. The allegations which were aired, which I have to say, Michael has denied, and it has been investigated once before, they are very serious allegations. I understand that they are part of a legal case at the moment, I am not sure where all of sits. But I effectively agree with your underlying sentiment on this.
KARVELAS: Yeah, because it is really serious.  You are right, it is being investigated by the finance department and that is just once and it is the finance department. It seems to me that it warrants a more serious investigation, particularly given public trust is so important on these matters. Do you think the Government should launch some sort of investigation into this again?
FALINSKI: The answer to that question is I don't know. My sense of this is that it is before the courts at the moment. I somewhat disagree with you, I think the finance department investigation is quite a serious matter.
KARVELAS: OK, but there is obviously more evidence now, right? If you watch 60 minutes…
FALINSKI: Which are part of legal proceedings…
KARVELAS: Doesn't that demonstrate we need a federal ICAC and there is a sense of urgency?
FALINSKI: Oh, sure. As you know I am as supporter of an oversight body, an independent commission, and integrity commission, whatever you want to call it. Because it does protect decision-makers as well as hold them to account. I think it is something that we should do. I know that we will be doing it. The argument is about the model.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, obviously you heard that he thinks it is serious, do you think the Government is dealing with it seriously?

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: It is 1000 days since Scott Morrison begrudgingly promised there would be in a federal anticorruption commission. This case goes to the reasons why it matters but also points to, I suspect some of the reasons why Scott Morrison has been so slow to act. A federal anti-corruption commission should have powers that would allow a much more robust investigation of this matter than anything the finance department could come up with. Our view is that it should have essentially the powers of a standing royal commission. It should be able to investigate serious persistent corruption. If something like this happens, it is the sort of thing that should be referred to a body like this.
KARVELAS: And yet it doesn't exist so it can't be referred to a body like this. In the absence of that, you mentioned these legal proceedings, should Michael Sukkar step aside while this unfold?
FALINSKI: I think people are entitled to the presumption of innocence.
KARVELAS: Stepping aside doesn't mean you're guilty, it means you are setting aside while something like this gets settled.
FALINSKI: I understand that, but we can’t get into a situation where if every allegation, no matter how founded or unfounded it is, people have to step aside, we would need to get a whole bunch of new people in just to step in. Look, they are questions of judgement. Michael has denied this, he has been through one investigation I understand that people in the Labor Party do not think that investigation was thorough enough, it is a matter of legal proceedings. I think we should let this play out and people are entitled to a presumption of innocence while under these things play out.
KARVELAS: Jenny, I know you are in New South Wales but some of these issues have been raised in the Victorian IBAC today with your own party. Moving on to what Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek has said, he said the premier in Victoria was aware or knew that this kind of using staffers to basically do political work for the Labor Party was going on. Does that alarm you?
MCALLISTER: Let's start from the beginning. It is important that this has been referred to IBAC. There are going to be claims and counterclaims as we have seen already, and is why the IBAC really matters. It is the body that is able to sort through the claims and counterclaims and come to our landing about what has happened. But what – in Victoria, there is actually been decisive action to deal with the things within the party's control. Anthony Albanese, as you recall, stood down the branch leadership, asked people to step in as administrators and they have undertaken a thorough and systematic review of the integrity of the branch rolls. That process commenced more than a year ago. And it stands in real contrast to the way Mr Morrison has dealt with the case of Mr Sukkar. We don't see any similar kind of action, no sense that it is serious. We see him dragging his feet on establishing a national anticorruption body. And essentially, working with Mr Sukkar to prevent information about the Department of Finance investigation coming into the public domain. These are very different approaches to quite serious issues, and I think it is emblematic of a Government that really is quite afraid of scrutiny.
KARVELAS: Yeah, I guess we still wait, Jason Falinski, what happens in relation to a federal IBAC. Should it happen immediately? The Government should actually start doing something on this? We still don't know if it has gone through cabinet. Very scant details.
FALINKSI: Look, I think we need to be very careful. Jenny is in NSW. I’m in NSW. We have seen what happens when you get the model wrong. We have seen a sort of horrible injustices that can be perpetrated upon innocent people that has occurred in New South Wales over and over again. It is not a matter of yes, we need one, yes, it would have been great if we had one before but let us not make timely enemy of the good. These things, I don't know where they are up to. I know there have models before cabinet already and that a lot of work has been done and will be presented to Parliament shortly and those reasons behind it will be there. So, Yep.
KARVELAS: Just want to move on to Australia's contribution to major global climate talks in Glasgow has been labelled a "great disappointment" by the United Kingdom's top government advisor on climate change, who accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of failing to understand the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Jason, it's a strong rebuke of your Government's commitment, yes, net-zero by 2050 in the forward years, many elections away. In the interim, not much action.
FALINKSI: I dispute that. We have seen a lot of action by the Federal Government by this country, bluntly. Have reduced emissions by 20% and will have reduced them by 35% according to projections and hopefully that'll be even higher. We have a lot of good stuff in the pipeline. A lot of good technology coming down the pipeline that can be used here and around the world. I saw those comments a couple of weeks ago by Lord Deben. I found them offensive. Really understand what his complaint was about what Australia had done or not done. This seems to be a general sense from him over many, many years that he is opposed to the action we have taken under both governments. I don't understand what more he like to see us do or why he singles us out for special attention while ignoring the efforts of so many other countries around the world that are not within cooee are what we have achieved. I don't say that as a political sense overlook what the Liberal Party has achieved versus Labor Party. It's been under both political parties.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, that criticism is quite pointed at Australia. Is it justified?
MCALLISTER: The Prime Minister has spent the last few years and previous Liberal Prime Minister’s before him have spent eight years, frightening Australians about the future of a low carbon transition. They said it would put a wrecking ball through the economy. Now they are expected to be taken seriously when they turn up to the Glasgow, unwilling to update their 2030 targets. Of course the international community is frustrated with this behaviour and I think Australians are too. There are so many opportunities available to us, but communities and businesses need certainty to plan for this transition. Under this government, all we have is politics. It's very hard to take Mr Morrison seriously with this very late conversion to the cause.
KARVELAS: Just finally, we are about to speak with the Doherty Institute about this idea of testing to stay at school rather than getting young children as has happened to some very sad Melbourne kids who have been able to go back to all because they are back in isolation after being home schooling for so long, rapid antigen testing, checking every day so they can stay at school, Jason Falinski, is it something all state and territories should adopt?
FALINSKI: Absolutely. It's a no-brainer and we should have done it months ago. What we have done to schoolchildren over this last 18 months, is incredibly regrettable. In the years to come, we will work on it as something, suddenly, in the first lockdown, I understand we didn't know enough we didn't know what we didn't know. But the last six to nine months, it really has boggled my mind the way that we have dealt with this situation.
KARVELAS: What do you think, Jenny, should that be approach, testing to stay at school?
MCALLISTER: I actually don't know the detail of that proposal and I can't really comment on how it would work from a public health perspective. I do know that in my community, the kids and parents are immensely happy to be back at school. It's a pretty big part of a child's social development and we should everything we can to make sure that kids can get back to school, be safe, be healthy and be with their friends.
KARVELAS: Yes, very important part of their well- being. It's absolutely true. Thank you to both of you.