Afternoon Briefing - Four Corners, Aboriginal Flag

Afternoon Briefing - Four Corners, Aboriginal Flag Main Image

10 November 2020

TV INTERVIEW – Afternoon Briefing, ABC News
Tuesday, 10 November 2020


PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: Time now for my political panel Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and Labour MP Kristy McBain. Welcome to both of you and beginning with you Kristy, what do you make of what Kate Ellis had to say? It's just like a big cultural issue in the parliament?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Look, I think what we all have to do is politicians is acknowledge that this is a position of privilege, and it's a position of power, and that everybody coming to work should feel safe and secure in their workplace, and that we need to uphold the highest of standards as elected officials and make sure that there is no place where women feel unsafe to come forward, or feel like they have to be involved [in a relationship] in some way with their bosses [to be promoted].

KARVELAS: Matt Canavan. Is it appropriate for a minister to have relationships with a staff member? Even if it is outside of the minister's actual office?

MATT CANAVAN, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Look, look, look obviously it's best or ideal not to complicate work relationships in those ways. You know, in reality, we're all human beings, Patricia, and human relationships get complex and difficult at times. I have to say, Patricia, I think the ABC has unnecessarily dissmershed itself in last 24 hours. I don't watch a lot of the ABC anymore unfortunately I used to be a big watcher. But, you know, there's so much of this rubbish and gotcha journalism now. And there's not it's not really a broadcaster that engages seriously on public issues. It's always seems to be about getting people assassinating people's characters. I mean, bringing up stuff that Christian Porter did when he was at university. I mean, like, really? You guys are the national broadcaster, you know, you should be you should be you should be serving a higher purpose.

KARVELAS: I am asking about relationships with staff, what do you think about that?

CANAVAN: Yeah, as I said, I look, I don't think it's ideal. And I think it's unfortunate. It's had to be codified in this sort of way. But as I say, I mean, you know, this is workplaces, and these relationships are issues that all workplaces have to handle, I don't actually think that parliament is, is in any way that much different from other workplaces. There are some unique pressures here that go with the high stress jobs or the other industries or high stress, the time away from home. And those things may be factored in. And we're all trying to do things better over time. So you know, I feel I feel a lot of sympathy for those caught up in these circumstances. I don't know if trawling through people's private lives on national TV the best way to handle these issues for all of those involved. Because there was no, I mean, I didn't watch the show, as I said, but I haven't seen any reports of harassment or illegal behaviour.

KARVELAS: So lets go to the parent balance then, because it's about power imbalance, right? So if you're a junior staffer ministers got a lot more power than you if you're having a relationship with that minister, the Minister has got to be the one that goes this isn't appropriate.

CANAVAN: As I said, I taught it's not ideal. And that's what is is reflected in the code of conduct at the same time I, I don't, you know, all these situations have to be evaluated on their individual circumstances. And I don't think it's right and proper to say every female staffer or every male staffer is without their own agency or responsibility or can make their own choices. That's not fair on them either. But but there's no doubt that is a risk. And that's why the ministerial Code of Conduct has been updated. That's why we have strengthened the complaints processes in this parliament to deal with these issues as they crop up. And those are things that should continue. But as I said, you can't say the reporting from the ABC of the last 24 hours as anything else but an attempt to assassinate particular people's characters.

KARVELAS: Does that mean you think that anything anyone did at university like, for instance, you know, things Julia Gilad did in a previous life that that should always be discounted that should never be part of...

CANAVAN: What what concerns me Patricia, that doesn't seem to be the application of any kind of public interest test here from the national broadcaster. I mean, obviously, there would be certain circumstances of illegal conduct or some such which could be relevant. But again, going on the reports I've seen, it seems to be, you know, some third party or second hand claims and allegations, presumably going back decades, you know, it's beneath you. And I do think it's embarrassing for the public broadcaster to be trawling through people's lives like that.

KARVELAS: Does that mean you don't think there should be any trawling of any politician before they enter parliament.

CANAVAN: No, no, I didn't. I didn't say that at all Patricia, I just think there has to be a standard of public interest here applied and I think seemingly the national broadcast has failed on that in the last 24 hours, which is very sad.

KARVELAS: Kristy what do you think? Is it in the public interest?

MCBAIN: Look, I'd have to take umbrage with what Matt just said, I mean, the women in this story have a compelling story to tell. It's a journalist role to follow that story and make sure that it does come to light. You know, without journalism, we wouldn't have heard about half the things that have happened, which started off the Me To Movement. You know, we wouldn't have heard some of the things that have taken place in this building, and you know, what, they have taken place, and they should be acknowledged, and they should be investigated. That's the role of journalists. That's the role of the public broadcaster. I don't think individuals get to decide what's in the public interest or not, that's the matter for the public.

CANAVAN: There's no comparison to the Me To Movement here, I mean, there's no there's no claims of harassment or, or any kind of that.

MCBAIN: But you are unsure of that. How do you know whether that is the case as yet?

KARVELAS: Well, the woman who did go on the record, but it's really hard to have a discussion if you haven't seen it, I've got to say Matt Canavan. But the woman who went on camera and talks about her relationship with Alan Tudge clearly did feel like the power imbalance was a huge issue and ultimately was driven out of politics. Doesn't that concern you that she was driven out of politics? A woman who was clearly very competent by all people's accounts, who dealt with her.

CANAVAN: Look, as I said before, I've got a lot of sympathy for that. But what I really can't stand is that you've obviously done a programme to assassinate someone's character, you've tried to drill up all of this crap. And then you get on the high horse and try and sell and now we're really trying to help this person. Don't give us that rubbish. We're not fools. This is a clear attempt to try and introduce some kind of Americanisation to Australian politics is what happens all the time to the Senate confirmation process over there. We start with Brett Kavanaugh, where's all those claims now? They've all gone once they got confirmed. And and I'd hate to say that imported to our political politics. But that seems to be where the road is headed here, which is very unfortunate.

KARVELAS: Kristy, is it an Americanisation that claim that's just been made by Matt Canavan?

MCBAIN: No, I don't think so. And again, I think you have to look at the story that's being told here. There are women that have come forward that had concerns about the relationships that took place, and the overall treatment of women within Parliament House. And I think that is in the national interest. It is about making sure we're having these conversations. So things are different in the future. I mean, I'm new to this place. But I certainly want to make sure that there is a standard going forward, that women feel safe and secure coming into the building, that there are more women putting their hand up for pre selection for leadership roles. For you know, for promotion in the staffing ranks, I think that we should all be having that discussion. I mean, I don't think that there is a question here about the person involved. It's about how women feel in this. And ultimately, that's the thing that gets lost in these stories. It becomes about the men. This story was about women.

KARVELAS: I just want to change the topic if we can talk about a pretty significant policy that was announced a reduced rate but still an extension of that higher supplement for the job seeker allowance so that means it's till the end of March, but then after that, we don't know what's going to happen. Matt Canavan. Should it be permanently increased after that point?

CANAVAN: Look, I I don't know if we can afford to have it permanently increased Patricia our debts going towards a trillion dollars here at the commonwealth level. I have been an advocate for an increase in the doll but that was in a circumstance where we're heading back to a surplus. The Coronavirus has destroyed all of those projections. So we have to look again at what we can afford as a nation. I mean, the the sort of level it was before Coronavirus, the level that people had sort of gotten around as a reasonable increase was $75 a fortnight which would have cost around $5 billion a year. That's a lot of money in the current environment. And the most important thing right now as we get people back to work, there's enormous concerns from small businesses that they can't find people at the moment they put out applications and just now when applying and we can't continue with that environment when we've got to pay these bills, including a massive public debt.

KARVELAS: Kristy, what should be permanently increased to? Labor has been critical of today's decision, but Matt Canavan says the debts high, can it be permanently increased in a realistic way?

MCBAIN: Look, I think we're gonna have to have that discussion because at this point in time, with the job seeker rate being scaled back, we've still got over a million people unemployed, that's scheduled to go up by another 160,000 people. That rate won't cover a lot of people's mortgages or their rents in some circumstances. So we're going to see a huge social problem starting to emerge if those jobs aren't available for people to take up and be filled. So, look, I think there's going to have to be a sensible discussion going forward, because I know that there is many people in my electorate, who will not be able to pay rent or mortgage and I'm not in a capital city. So you know, if it's the case in the regions, I'm sure it's the case in the capital cities that we're going to see huge housing stress shortly,

KARVELAS: Just very briefly, Linda Burney saying that the government is voted against Labor's motion to hang the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the parliament. It's obviously NAIDOC week. Why is that the case Matt Canavan?

CANAVAN: Look, our parliament, both I believe houses but certainly the Senate has the Australian flag in it and it's a decision was made around 30 years ago to put the Australian flag in the senate because it was the flag that represents our entire nation. I think that's the appropriate signal.

KARVELAS: Sure but Aboriginal Australians were first here 60,000 years ago why shouldn't they be represented to - particularly in NAIDOC Week.

CANAVAN: The national flag is for all Australians and I reject the position that was put forward by a Greens senator during the debate before in the Senate that somehow Australian flag is a colonial flag. I'm proud of our flags and national flag, it's the one it's the one we should all unite about. And I think that's the appropriate flag to include an our chamber and fully support the government's decision.

KARVELAS: Kristy, can I just get a quick response from you?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, all three flags should be flying it represents our traditional owners. It actually puts us on a path to real reconciliation, and there should be no question that all three flags are flying.

CANAVAN: So once we put a flag in the place, it's all right. I mean, you know, if you think the land stolen, give it back. I mean, this is this sort of symbolism doesn't do anything to help indigenous people. We've got to get back to actually focusing on what is important, not these symbols.

KARVELAS: But if you're working towards healing a country that clearly needs some healing, why wouldn't you think about respecting the first people?

CANAVAN: But this is the problem Patricia? I mean, we have there's a lot of politicians who stand up at the start of their speeches and say, I want to recognise the land on which we meet and its traditional owners. Well, give you house back, give your land back, you know give it back to indigenous people, if you really believe that it's all words, it's all symbols. And I hate that I actually won't let's do practical things that can improve people's lives because too many indigenous people still live in third world conditions.

KARVELAS: A lot of indigenous people say they do find that acknowledgement. Actually, not all that does actually mean something to them. Doesn't that matter?

CANAVAN: Yeah, I find it massively hypocritical, particularly then when you get the same people the same politicians, often from the Labor Party or the Greens. Then when they choose to do ignoring the voices of Aboriginal Australians, including for example, and things like the Adani Carmichael mine, where the traditional owners voted 294 to one in favour of the mine, then the politicians go away and work hell to leather to stop the rights and views of indigenous peoples being implemented.

KARVELAS: All right. I'm gonna have to leave it there thanks to both of you.