Transcript: Afternoon Live with Patricia Karvelas (ABC)

10.55am | March 27, 2019




SUBJECT: New South Wales election, One Nation preferences.
PATRICIA KARVELAS HOST:I want to bring in my political panel this afternoon, Liberal MP, Trent Zimmerman and Labor Senator, Jenny McAllister. Welcome to both of you.
KARVELAS: Trent, I'm going to start with you. After the NSW Nationals suffered huge swings away from them and towards the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in the state, Barnaby Joyce says it's time to differentiate from your Party? Is he right?
ZIMMERMAN: Ah, well, we are two different Parties and I think the Nats do have a different approach to some issues but the important thing is that we are providing a Coalition Government and we make decisions jointly through our Coalition Party room and I think that that unity is very important.
KARVELAS: Ok. So given all of that. Actually, I think I've got some breaking news. I think Michael Daley who was the NSW Opposition Leader has stepped aside. I'm just going to confirm that. Yep, I believe he has stepped aside. So, well look it was just literally minutes ago, guys, that I said to Anthony Albanese what does he think should happen and he said that there should be a challenge to his leadership. So if he's stepped aside, I think he's answered that question. I'm just going to go straight to you Jenny McAllister.
What do you make of that? Why so quickly because I know the party in NSW had made a decision to essentially delay any decision about leadership until the Federal election was over?
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES: Yeah, well that's really a question for Michael and I obviously don't have insight into his thinking. Nor even direct knowledge of the decision that you're referring to.
KARVELAS: Well, Penny Sharpe is going to be interim NSW Labor Leader until a ballot is held for the position after the Federal election, so she'll be standing in for all this period until the election is over. But his standing down now Jenny, I mean, you can be pretty honest. The election is over. Did those comments, those racist comments that were heavily reported on in the last week, essentially destroy his leadership?
MCALLISTER: We had a very bad week in the last week of the campaign and we needed everything to go right. This was an election where Labor had a very steep hill to climb; a very short amount of time to prepare with Michael in the leadership for 132 days. We couldn't afford mistakes, and they were very significant mistakes at the end of the campaign that made it very, very difficult for any other message to get through to voters right at the end. No doubt, big mistake. I think that the decision to have a ballot will be very important for New South Wales. So New South Wales Labor, this will be the first time that we've had a ballot where members have been involved in the process of selecting the Leader. That's a process we've used federally and you may remember that I was the National President during the period we had the ballot between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten. A really useful process after an election loss to actually reset the Party, to reset the direction and to set everybody up on a solid footing for the next four years, in the case for New South Wales.
KARVELAS: Jenny, was it the right decision for Michael Daley to step aside now rather than to stay around and perhaps even be a drag for Federal Labor during the campaign?
MCALLISTER: Ah, look, I think that Michael's made his own decision and presumably he'll have his own reasoning for it. I think the most important thing now for everybody in New South Wales is as you say, to focus on the federal campaign. We've got a really positive story to tell. We've got Bill and Tanya leading. Having led a very united team for six years. Everybody now will turn their focus to the federal campaign.
KARVELAS: Well, Trent Zimmerman I began with you, but of course then we got the breaking news about Michael Daley stepping aside, so had to interrupt my question to you. But the question is still really relevant because clearly Barnaby Joyce says he still believes in the underwriting of coal fired power station or the building of a coal fired power station by the Government and that he wants to be more outspoken about these issues. Is that a disruption to your unified potential message, for Barnaby Joyce to be saying this?
ZIMMERMAN: Ah well, I think I said the same thing last time we spoke and that's that I think this close to the election now is not the time for policy adventurism. We do have a settled policy on our approach to these issues and I don't think that what Barnaby and some of my colleagues from Queensland have been arguing for does stack up. I don't think that there is a case for the Federal Government to be funding and building coal fired power stations in Queensland. I said before, that if the market's not prepared to do it for good reasons, environmental and economic, then I don't know why the Federal Government would step in and do that.
KARVELAS: Ok, but Barnaby Joyce wants to be more outspoken. I know that you were quite buoyed and I was watching you on the ABC coverage on Saturday night. I have an amazing life! I watched the entire overage, Trent Zimmerman, so I know everything you've said. I know that you said that you wanted Barnaby Joyce to spend less time on television for instance, but you were clearly you know, feeling pretty upbeat about the result. Does that mean that you are really out of the woods though? I mean, in places like Victoria where I'm here I can tell you the Liberal Party brand is toxic. Do you still worry about your chances in some of those safe Liberal seats that have been concerned about some of these positions like coal?
ZIMMERMAN:  Well I think to start off with your general observations that Saturday's result in NSW has given the Coalition across the country a huge moral boost and will help build the momentum, but, I don't think any of us are underestimating the huge mountain that we still have climb to win the election in May. And what I would remind those that have been arguing like Barnaby for that position on coal, is that even within the National Party constituency there is a huge divergence of views and I think that one of the reasons that the NSW Nationals were so upset with Barnaby's intervention was because of the impact  that type of ill-discipline has on their own seats, both in terms of the perception of disunity within the Nats but also they do represent, or seek to represent, a lot of regional coastal seats in New South Wales, where that type of message would not have gone down well at all.
KARVELAS: If I can bring you back in Jenny. Michael Daley says he will be contesting the leadership when nominations are called for. What do you make of that decision? Do you think he's the right leader for the times?
MCALLISTER: Look, this will be a decision for a combination of our members and our parliamentarians. We really don't even know who will put themselves forward at this stage, and my expectation is that all of our parliamentary team are going to be devoting themselves - a) to getting their house in order in opposition in New South Wales but also to contributing where they can to the Federal effort. The effort in New South Wales will absolutely be on the Federal election from here on.
KARVELAS: Ok but given the comments he made, I'd like to draw you on to them again, because they were highly, highly controversial and very offensive clearly to many Asian Australians. Do you think he's fit to be leader if he is making comments like that?
MCALLISTER: I was really disappointed in those comments, and to be clear, there are plenty of ways that we can talk about immigration in Australia and NSW without making reference to the ethnic composition about immigration intake. And in fact a core principle for Labor and for the country, is that we have a non-discriminatory immigration policy and everything we say when we talk about immigration ought to reflect that. I think it was a problem. I think Michael was right to apologise immediately. I will point out that there are plenty of people on the conservative side of politics who've had the opportunity in the last couple of weeks to reflect on their own remarks in relation to race, ethnicity, religion. They haven't chosen to apologise. Michael did the right thing but the decision about whether or not he's the Leader will be ultimately a question for branch members and of course for the parliamentary team.
KARVELAS: Trent Zimmerman let's stay on the issue of race or racism in politics or Islamophobia more specifically. You've been quite outspoken about your views about One Nation, but clearly some of your colleagues don't agree with you. They think One Nation should be preferenced above Labor and The Greens. What do you say to those colleagues who are still arguing this, that One Nation should be preferenced above the Labor Party and The Greens?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, I disagree with them. I understand the perspective particularly in relation to The Greens that they are what I think to be a quite radical Party, both on economic and social policy and so therefore I understand why Liberals are reluctant to see us preference The Greens ahead of other parties. But there is something intrinsically wrong with what One Nation advocates across Australia and that has to do with race and when you see the type of comments that Pauline Hanson has made across her career, they flow contrary to everything that a Liberal does and should believe in because essentially she's inviting us to make a judgement about a person's worth based on the colour of their skin and there is something so intrinsically offensive about that, that I do believe they should be put down the bottom of the ticket. Now I don't say last because in some electorates there'll be people that'll have even more radical views.
KARVELAS: Well, that's why I asked very specifically if you think it should be below Labor and The Greens?
ZIMMERMAN: So I think it should be below Labor and The Greens. But I have to say I am surprised that there are Labor candidates in the union movement today that are arguing that the Liberals should be put last in seats where there may well be candidates who hold One Nation type views. So for example, in the last couple of weeks we've seen the union movement letterboxing in Flinders saying put Greg Hunt last. In a seat where Rise Up Australia, a white supremacist party, has been a regular contender and I would urge the union movement and Labor to rethink that type of approach which sends an appalling message.
KARVELAS: Well Jenny, I have to put that to you. Do you think it's the wrong approach from some that are arguing that Greg Hunt should be last?
MCALLISTER: The Labor Party is absolutely clear on this and we have been clear on this since 1998. We put the parties of the racist right last. That has been unequivocally the case for 20 years.
KARVELAS: So Jenny, what's your message to the union movement or anyone who is arguing for something different?
MCALLISTER: The union movement will make their own decisions about how they campaign but I can tell you what the Labor Party's approach is. We've put the parties of the racist right last and Trent's perfectly correct. There is something uniquely awful about racist politics and parties that espouse that ought to be at the bottom of the ticket. Unfortunately there is no unity about that in the Coalition team. You've had Scott Morrison making a kind of equivocal statement about this, sort of saying that he thinks yes, they ought to be last. But conceding he can't do anything to enforce it. Right across the country there are Liberal Party members right now arguing to put One Nation ahead of Labor and Scott Morrison really ought to bring that to a halt.
KARVELAS: Well Trent, why doesn't the Prime Minister take a stronger stand against those who are advocating for that position and I want to hear from you, what kind of an impact would it have if for instance, One Nation was preferenced above Labor in a seat like yours or in some of these moderate seats like Kooyong in Melbourne, or Kelly O'Dwyer's former seat, now Higgins?
ZIMMERMAN: Well in a seat like mine, I think the biggest impact comes from the fact that it is a very multicultural seat and something like 20 percent of my residents, have a background from China and Hong Kong for example. But in relation to the first question, I think the Prime Minister has firstly made it very clear that there's going to be no preference deals with One Nation. 
KARVELAS:  But he hasn't made clear where they'll be with preferences, though.
ZIMMERMAN: But secondly, he's made two other points. Firstly, within our Party's structure these decisions are made at divisional level, state by state. Now obviously he has some influence but it is not his decision in the end. But thirdly, and very rightly, I think it is important that we wait to see who else is on the ballot paper, because as the union movement will discover in Flinders, they have done the wrong thing if they see Rise Up Australia standing again, in saying that the Liberals should be put last. So, there will be in many seats, circumstances where there are other parties and other candidates who we do find more objectionable. For example, if Fraser Anning has people standing in a seat, I would be urging that we put him behind, as in being last, One Nation for example, because on the scale of things, I would argue that his values are even worse still.
KARVELAS: Trent, who's going to run in the seat of Reid because I know you've had a few knock backs. High profile knock backs. Stan Grant for instance. Nick Kaldas. Who's going to run?
ZIMMERMAN: I don't know. I haven't been engaged in any of the discussions in relation to Reid. At this stage in the electoral cycle.
KARVELAS: It's a bit late isn't it if the election is seven weeks away?
ZIMMERMAN: At this stage in the electoral cycle it’s across the bridge I'm not really focused on it. I'm focused very much on my own electorate. But look, obviously we had the decision from Craig Laundy only a week ago and we've been looking for a good candidate and I have every confidence that we will find someone that will continue his fantastic work in that seat.
KARVELAS: It's pretty hard to win it now though isn't it?
ZIMMERMAN: No I don't think so at all. I mean that the Government's message in a seat like Reid is as strong as it is anywhere else and that's what will count and I'm sure that we'll find someone who's got great local credentials as well and that will be able to represent the Party exceptionally well and we are not giving up on Reid for a second.
KARVELAS: And Jenny McAllister, final word to you. Now Penny Sharpe will be the acting leader of the Labor Party and Michael Daley says he wants to run, but none of that will happen till after the Federal election. Does Penny Sharpe give you sort of better chances for campaigning alongside Bill Shorten than Michael Daley would have?
MCALLISTER: I think that Penny will be able to play an excellent role, keeping things in place while people make the campaign effort. We went through a similar process as you will recall when we federally had the ballot. Chris Bowen acted as the Leader during that period. I think having an interim leader makes sense and Penny will do a terrific job. She was an asset to us during the campaign period.
KARVELAS: And how about on your side? I said final word but I get carried away. Trent Zimmerman, are we going to see Gladys Berejiklian next to Scott Morrison everywhere he goes from now on after the result in New South Wales?
ZIMMERMAN: Ah, look I'm not privy to those type of arrangements but I'm sure we'd welcome Gladys' support for our efforts during the Federal election campaign. Because there is no question as Saturday's results demonstrated, that she's an effective and popular leader, so I'm sure that she will be supporting my campaign in North Sydney and I hope she does so more broadly.
KARVELAS: I'm sure you'll have her there all the time. Ok, thanks so much for your time guys.
KARVELAS: Liberal MP, Trent Zimmerman there and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister.