Transcript: Jenny McAllister Live with Samantha Maiden on Sky News

3.30pm | February 01, 2018









SUBJECTS: Cabinet Leaks, Foreign Interference Laws, National Security, Donations reforms

MAIDEN: There was evidence provided by ASIO to parliamentary inquiry, parliamentary committee on national Security that the risk of foreign influence is was worse than the cold war, more serious than ever before, now of course, this is also against the backdrop of these cabinet leaks that we've been hearing about with ASIO turning up in 1 am in the morning to deliver new cabinets to keep those documents in safe keeping. 

Joining us now to discuss this and more is Labor's Jenny McAllister. You are on this committee that heard this evidence this morning. Can we start though with the cabinet leak. Now as a journalist obviously I would always support the reporting of this. It is clearly in the National interest but it is, is it another element of comedy here that ASIO has turned up at 1 am in the morning, not to raid the ABC but to deliver them a special piece of furniture so it lock these documents up. 

MCALLISTER: Well, I don't know a great deal about what happened. Like you i am reliant on what's been publicly reported, but, it does seem as though there's been a dialogue between the ABC and ASIO. That seems to be a kind of, relatively mature way for executive government to deal with the..

MAIDEN: yeah,  and presumably, and it’s been, it looked like it was scheduled. So presumably ASIO didn't want a whole bunch of cameras and people rolling around while they were there and so they've arranged with the ABC to come at that time for the raid.

McAllister: I have no, i honestly don't know. I mean we are reliant on what's been reported publicly and I imagine the government may say something about it at some point later today. There is a broader problem though, and it’s not the fault of the ABC. How these documents which are extraordinarily sensitive came to be in a, in the public domain completely unsecured. A very big problem. It’s a very significant leak of sensitive information and the government is right to pursue an investigation but we need to find out how this happened. 

MAIDEN: Do you agree with um, Terry Moran, the former PMC chief who said that whoever was responsible for this need to be sacked? 

MCALLISTER: I think there needs to be very serious consequences for whoever was responsible for this. It's a little bit hard to pre-empt or to say what those consequences might be without knowing any of the details about how this came about but, on the face of it, it is a very significant breach of security. 

MAIDEN:  What about Labor's Penny Wong because the reports also said that there was documents in there detailing a security breach in her own office. The documents, ah, the reporting suggests the documents that they had did not relate to that but referred to this other security breach.

MCALLISTER: I mean, Penny is obviously someone who takes these things really seriously. She's said this has not been raised with her in the four years since the event took place. I, my understanding is that the documents were secured and they were disposed of by the Department of Finance. I think Penny is someone who, ah,of the many people in this place who you might expect to take national security seriously, Penny is obviously one of them. 

MAIDEN:  Ok, in relation to the AFP though, it also details hundreds of breaches and documents going missing. I mean, do we have a problem here if the very people who are meant to ensure that this classified material doesn't make it's way into the public domain, keeps losing it? 

MCALLISTER: It is a problem. This is a very significant problem and it's not just a problem for our domestic politics, our domestic security. The organise...the partners that we work with in national security expect us to have robust processes in place to manage confidential material. When you have a breach of this kind it risks undermining the basis of that collaboration with our partners and it is a problem. 

MAIDEN:  ok, turning to this evidence that was taken yesterday from ASIO. They are suggesting that the issue of foreign influence is more serious than ever before, comparing it to the cold war. Do you agree with them?

MCALLISTER: The basis on which they assert this is an enhanced effort but also just that in a globalised world the tools which are....other state actors might have to pursue their intelligence objectives have increased enormously. So,  you have cyber methods, you have much greater.....penetration of just communities, people moving back and forth across borders. The opportunities have increased and i think that's the basis of their assessment that the threat is greater than ever before. 

We'd always accept an assessment provided by ASIO and we take that very seriously.

MAIDEN:...and yet we have this, um, discussion, debate in recent days within the Coalition, where there was reports that Marise Payne said that she was on the same page as the United States in terms of the threat of China and Russia and then we had Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull really moving to say no, no that's not what she was saying it's terrorism that's a greater threat. In Australia, what is it in your mind is the greater threat terrorism or foreign influence? 

MCALLISTER: The...ASIO actually gave evidence yesterday that we ought not seek to prioritise those two things. i think the bigger problem here is that you have cabinet ministers all over the shop in the way they are talking about significant actors in our region and we have to be alive to the opportunities and the threats that the changes in our region present. We'd....obviously power dynamics in our region are shifting but i don't think it helps to talk up all of those actors and their interests as a threat. Different actors in our region are going to have different interests. They may not be the same as our interests but it doesn't mean that we can’t engage with them respectfully, seriously and potentially as partners. I think it’s very important that we tread very carefully in the way we establish....diplomatic relations and it does mean having a coordinated approach across the Cabinet rather than this ad hoc, sort of ham-fisted approach that the Coalition seems to take. 

MAIDEN: The Australian Electoral Commission donations are out today and no doubt there'll be lots in there from Labor as well, but we've finally got the paper work from the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, about this donation of nearly two million dollars that he made to the Liberal party campaign. He had to bail out the campaign during it. Um, do you think that originally Malcolm Turnbull took too long in saying how much money that he had donated? It took a long time to get that out of him. 

MCALLISTER: It certainly did. I think we need donations reforms so that we see the impact of these donations much sooner. I mean if someone is making a really big donation, admittedly at least Malcolm Turnbull's interests are relatively transparent, he wants to get elected. But if people are making very large donations, to political parties, that ought to be visible. It’s really important for confidence in politics and it should be visible as soon as possible after the donation's been made. 

MAIDEN:  What do you think Australians will make of the fact that Malcolm Turnbull kicked in two million dollars? 

MCALLISTER: I think it does highlight that his life is very different to the life of almost everyone else in the country. I mean....

MAIDEN: Is it a crime to be wealthy though? 

MCALLISTER:  No it's not a crime to be wealthy but we do look for politicians that are capable of empathizing sincerely with the life experience of other Australians. I think that it will inevitably raise a question about that but like I say, Malcolm Turnbull wanted to get elected and he paid money to that end. That's all, you know, within the rules, but I do think that there is a problem with the timing of disclosures. 

MAIDEN:  yep, ok, alright. Jenny McAllister, thank you very much for your time today.