Transcript: ABC Afternoon Live 25/2/20

12.00pm | March 02, 2020


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: The Panel this afternoon, Shadow Cabinet Secretary, Jenny McAllister and Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent, welcome to both of you.
KARVELAS: Russell Broadbent, Scott Morrison has ruled out a fiscal stimulus package as the Government made this announcement that the economic affects of the coronavirus would be worse than that of the bushfires. Now it looks like, that surplus you promised isn't going to be delivered. Isn't that a test you set for yourselves as a government, isn't abandoning that? Isn't that a broken promise?
BROADBENT: I don't think so. Look there's a fire storm raging across our micro-economic business community in Australia. An absolute fire storm and it's hit every area from Cairns all the way through to Tasmania right across to Perth. It's a very serious situation. We've never faced a contagion of what of three. We had firstly the fires, we've had some floods then we had this virus and on top of that we have had probably one of the most prolonged droughts we've had in many years. I mean the contagion of all those put together doesn't put us in a good position financially anywhere and the Government reflects the businesses that are hurting so badly across Australia.
KARVELAS: Sure, but the Coalition side of politics was very critical of Labor when it didn't deliver a surplus and Labor used the global financial crisis obviously for the reason it sighted. Isn't this just the same thing?
BROADBENT: What we are facing now is an unprecedented situation. I've been in the Parliament a long time on and off as you know Patricia. I have never seen a set of circumstances like this that are so damaging to an economy. It will damage our macro-economy as well as international economy. It will damage every business is still in the affects of this and the affects of this I believe have only just begun. It's a very very difficult time. My dear friend, Warren Entsch, said to me that Cairns is like a morgue at the moment. Things are very difficult everywhere and that's got a hit the base line for the Government of the day.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, the Government has clearly been hit by this coronavirus and so has the world. Isn't it reasonable that it would have to alter what it delivers on the back of a crisis it couldn't actually see coming?
MCALLISTER: Well, the coronavirus is going to have a very significant impact on the global economy and that is going to expose quite significant weaknesses in the Australian economy that were already present before this summer. And the issue is of course that before Christmas and now after Christmas we are in the same situation where the Government doesn't really have a plan to address it. The Government's first priority really at this point should be helping communities affected by fire and other natural disasters get back on their feet. And they should be helping those sectors of industry that are badly hit by coronavirus and developing a plan to help them through this. In the aviation sector, in the education sector, in the tourism sector. But there is no word about any of that. There wasn't a plan for the economy prior to Christmas and it appears that there isn't one now.
KARVELAS: Well, let's move on to something you're working on Jenny McAllister because tomorrow you are going to introduce legislation to increase the oversight powers of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which you're of course a member of. Why do you want to change this?
MCALLISTER: Look, the Labor Party is supportive of giving the intelligence community the powers it needs to keep us safe. That is an essential priority for a party of government. But as those powers increase, you actually need to adjust the oversight regime. The intelligence agencies do their work in secret - that's the nature of the business - but it means that you need special intelligence bodies like the Parliamentary Committee that can actually assure the public that what's happening in those organisations is both legal and ethical. And actually the Director General of Security last night, talked about this, about the importance of public trust and confidence in the agency and I really commend him for being so open in his remarks last night. What this Bill does it actually gives the Committee the power to initiate its own enquiries. At the moment it has to wait for a reference from the Prime Minister. It also gives the Committee the opportunity to co-operate a little more with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and she's actually able to have, she has Royal Commission like powers to look at these agencies. And thirdly, it will actually expand the coverage of the Committee to look at all ten agencies in the national intelligence community including the Department of Home Affairs. Our laws and our organisational arrangements have changed a great deal in the last ten years, and it is time for the oversight arrangements to be similarly updated.
KARVELAS: Russell, does that sound reasonable to have more oversight of organisations that are doing very secretive work?
BROADBENT: I've been a long time supporter of parliamentary oversight in areas like this. And I think Jenny's right, as the laws change for what these agencies can and can't do, especially within Australia, we need to have further powers and opportunities to oversight such bodies. So I don't know the exact details of what Labor are proposing, but I am not opposed to the concept of further oversight for parliamentary committees in regard to agencies like these. I think the Australian public have to be protected first, it doesn't matter whether it's in aged care or the other services we provide, you've got to put the Australian people first and make sure that these agencies are accountable to somebody. 
KARVELAS: Russell, ASIO Chief Mike Burgess delivered his first annual security threat assessment during which he singled out the far right, but today we've seen references to the far left as well. Do you think they pose an equal threat?
BROADBENT: I've always thought that they have. They have in America in the past and I don't think there'll be any difference here. We need to be eternally vigilant every day, watching what any extremist groups may have planned to the detriment of this nation. So I' don't care which group it is on the far left or the far right or some nutter in between, my concern is for, once again, the Australian people and their protection, and I hope these agencies are doing their job. 
KARVELAS: What do you make of it Jenny McAllister? Because Labor targeted Peter Dutton, but also the Government, on this issue in Question Time. What are you concerned about?

MCALLISTER: Well, in this area, it's important to be precise. You should never ignore a threat, and you should never exaggerate a threat. These are very serious issues. The Director-General of Security, Mr Burgess, is best placed to make an assessment about the threats that present, and he spoke last night about the threat of right wing terrorism. I don't know the basis on which Mr Dutton made his remarks this morning about left wing extremism. Mr Burgess didn't speak about it last night. It's really only Mr Dutton that can clarify the basis on which he made those comments. 
KARVELAS: Mike Burgess said "in suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat, and share their hateful ideology. Do we need to have a national conversation about how to curb this threat, Russell Broadbent?
BROADBENT: We always need to continue our national conversation. It's really important that we know what is going on within our communities when people like the three of us sitting here have no idea of these organisations, we have no connection to them, the community wouldn't know. That's what we rely on these agencies for.
KARVELAS: Ok, so, you're saying trust the agencies, they're the ones that know. But do you feel like enough is being done to tackle right wing extremism?
BROADBENT: Patricia, we pay them to know. We pay them to work on our behalf. We invest in them to work on our behalf, that's why these laws have been changed when they've asked us to change the laws. That's been supported by both parties, and I think the crossbenchers as well. These are really important issues in a changing world - we've never experienced a world like this and we have to defend ourselves against any extremism anywhere, any hate language, any proposals that would offend the Australia that we believe we are. 
KARVELAS: Now something has just happened in the Senate which is worth observing, and Jenny McAllister it's something your side of politics was working on, the Government has actually voted with Labor on a motion condemning Bettina Arndt for reckless and abhorrent comments on the death of Hannah Clarke and her children. For those who don't know, she's a pretty outspoken person who is essentially someone who defends men's rights, but Bettina Arndt clearly has been denounced by the Senate. Did you know the Government was going to vote with Labor?
MCALLISTER:  It's probably a better question for Russell. I'm actually up here, obviously in the studio and not in the chamber right now, but this is a really important issue. Domestic violence is a scourge. It is at totally unacceptable levels. And if you receive an Order of Australia, or some kind of award, you ought to reflect the values of that award. I'm pleased that the Government's taken the position it has.
KARVELAS: Russell, Pauline Hanson votes against this, are you comfortable with her staying on as Deputy Chair of the family law court inquiry?
BROADBENT: I don't have any influence over her position on the family law court inquiry - there's always issues around family law and it's a very difficult area. We have people in my office, of course Patricia as you would be well aware, on both sides of the fence saying that the other is always wrong. There's no winners out of family disruption, there's no winners out of family violence, and the tragedy in Brisbane was so horrific, a murder-suicide, and the children, and just completely rocked the whole of the community, because those sorts of things happen in other countries, they never happen here. And this has brought home to us the horrific nature of what has happened up there and it's to the point where it's nearly unbelievable. I read Anne Aly's article with some pain when she described her own experience, which must've been very hard for her to do. And to say enough is enough. Surely the message must get through to men of violence today - they must get through to men of violence today - that if you're out there and you're doing it, there's a whole body of the nation coming after you.
KARVELAS: Thank you to both of you for joining me on the panel this afternoon.