PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 2 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Lockdowns; Jenkins review; Porter’s resignation.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Well here we are at the end of 2021. Only last year as we headed towards the end of 2020 people said to me, gee, I hope 2021’s going to be different. But it wasn't, because we endured more border closures, lockdowns, a government that couldn't lead the National Cabinet, a government that couldn't get a National Cabinet to agree to a set of agreed principles between jurisdictions. My electorate is in New South Wales and borders the ACT and Victoria. There was not one cohesive policy between those three jurisdictions, which leads to massive unrest in communities, for businesses and for industry. 2021 was meant to be the year that we regained what we should have had in 2020. Instead, in 2021, we saw the stroll out of the vaccine. We saw Scott Morrison's lockdowns take place right across this country. And we saw businesses still uncertain about their futures. Businesses right across Eden-Monaro have said to me that if there is a third wave they will not survive. Two of those businesses yesterday in Jerrabomberra, not far from here.
We started this year with allegations of sexual assault in this building. Where the Prime Minister said about the March for Justice that those women weren't met with bullets. We've ended this year with the Jenkins report, and a government in complete disarray, unable to even get any of their own legislation across the line. Which is surprising because there’s not much legislation to actually deal with. This year, 2021, we have seen the undoing of the Morrison Government. This is a government in complete disarray. We need an election because communities, businesses, and industry right across this country actually need a cohesive government with a set of policies and plans to get us through the end of this pandemic. The time is up for the Morrison Government and it's time for them to move over. Because communities actually want the support, communities actually want recognition of what they've been through, and communities actually want a leader. It is time for someone to lead this country because Scott Morrison has not been.
JOURNALIST: As you say today is the last sitting day of 2021. How are you feeling about your chances at the next election?
MCBAIN: I don't take anything for granted. I'm in the seat of Eden-Monaro which is traditionally the bellwether seat. It's a marginal seat because it is a microcosm of Australia. We've got a coastal strip, we've got a metropolitan area, we've got plains, we've got mountains, we've got it all. But what I hear when I'm traveling around is that regardless of where people sit politically, they are unhappy with the leadership of this country and that sits directly with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
JOURNALIST: Do you hope that more would have been achieved over the past two weeks, in terms of legislation passed and legislation debated?
MCBAIN: I was elected in July 2020, and I was hoping there'd be more achieved over the last 17 months. My electorate suffered significant damage during the Black Summer Bushfires, over a million hectares burnt and over 1000 homes lost, over 2,500 sheds and outbuildings gone, and literally hundreds of thousands of kilometres of fence line gone. We've lost livestock, we've lost businesses, we've lost lives. There has been little action from this government to make sure that businesses,communities and industries have been able to rebound from that. The attention so quickly turn to the pandemic, which was, honestly, exactly what this Prime Minister wanted. He wanted to forget that he left the country, he wanted to forget the people were angry at him, he wanted to forget that he had to deal with this issue. There are people right across my community that believe this government should have been doing more in the 17 months since I've been elected not just the last two weeks.
JOURNALIST: Should Christian Porter be proud of his final year in politics?
MCBAIN: Christian Porter is now going to be remembered as the guy that took a brown paper bag stitched up by lawyers to pay his million dollars in legal costs against the defamation action on the ABC. The Prime Minister will be remembered as the guy that never challenged a million-dollar anonymous donation. Neither of those things speak well to our democratic institutions. Neither of those things are respected by communities across Australia. Neither of those things pass the pub test.
JOURNALIST: Christian Porter was found to have complied with his obligations even though the blind trust was a factor, does that mean the rules need to be tightened around disclosure of those sorts of donations?
MCBAIN: It’s very clear to me that there's a number of loopholes, a number of ways around things. I'm a lawyer, there are always arguments to be made. The question is, was it right? And the answer is no. It is not right to take an anonymous donation of up to a million dollars to fund your private legal fees, that puts you in a serious conflict in your role representing communities in this place, in the place in this country where decisions are made. Who knows who contributed to that fund? Who knows what they wanted in return? That is not right and it should not stand. It should have been challenged from the start by a strong leader. And it clearly was not.
JOURNALIST: He announced his resignation last night on Facebook. He's not here this week, depending on when the election is called, may not make a return to Parliament. Would you be happy if that's his last contribution to political life?
MCBAIN: It's not up to me what Christian Porter’slast contribution to political life is. But what I can say is, I'm sure that you would lead a much better post parliamentary life, if you are honest with people about where that donation of a million dollars came from. As I said, it is not right, people across this country are rightly worried about how people in this building can fund private, private legal matters. And it is not acceptable to simply wash your hands of that and say, it's now done and dusted. It raises serious concerns not only for people in this building, but for people right across this country, because they should have faith in what their politicians are doing in this building. They should have faith that no one is tainted by donations made by anonymous beneficiaries.
JOURNALIST: Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe was accused of making a pretty derogatory comment towards Liberal Senator Holly Hughes yesterday. Do you think that this shows that women contribute to the toxicity in federal parliament?
MCBAIN: There is no doubt the Jenkins review has put out some really alarming statistics. Everyone in this building contributes to the culture in it. We all have to make sure that we are implementing the highest of standards, because we are held to a higher account in this building than any other workplace. And I have no problem with that. Every member of this Parliament should be doing their utmost to raise the tone and raise the respect of people outside this building. At the moment, there is a loss of faith and trust in our democratic institutions. Because over the last eight years, this Liberal-National Government has trashed these institutions. There have been numerous rorts, there's waste, there’s lies, and there’s huge problems with the way some people in this building interact. But there's also huge problems with the way decisions are made. They are not transparent. And people outside this building can't rely on this Coalition government to give them the truth about what is happening.
JOURNALIST: A few minutes ago, one of your colleagues, Julian Hill described the Prime Minister as a grub you talk about raising the bar. Do you agree that the Prime Minister is a grub? And secondly, is that sort of language helpful in changing workplace culture here?
MCBAIN: Look, it's not a word that I would use. I mean, there are a whole bunch of other words that could be used. But the point of the matter is that we have a Prime Minister that's actually notleaving this country. He's sitting back, he's doing as little as possible. He's moved away from actually making decisions. During this whole pandemic, we have seen state premiers have to take the reins, because Scott Morrison didn't want to be criticised for making a decision that was wrong. Yet when things have gone right, he's come right back into the fray and said, look how great we are -we've got this right. We need a leader in this country. Following on from bushfires, we've dealt with a global pandemic and what we actually need is someone that's going to unite the country, somebody that's actually serious about getting out and listening to communities and to businesses right across this country. And that person is not Scott Morrison, and it hasn't been for a long time now. And the Australian people are working this guy out.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Jenkins review. Some of the women who participated in it, have criticised both Labor and the Coalition's response wanting to consult people before agreeing to support the recommendations. Are you happy with the position that your party's taken, or do you think more immediate actions needed?
MCBAIN: The Labor Party has been taking some of its own steps since the 2019 election. We already had a review underway of our own policies into bullying, harassment, and the workplace culture. We actually called for this review to take place in this building and we were supported by the crossbench and eventually supported by the government, which is why the actual review took place. I think it's incumbent upon us all now to get right through that report, to really understand what is at the heart of it, and then take appropriate actions to implement those recommendations. But it does require us to actually make sure that we have a really good understanding that we actually go out and talk to each individual in this building, for us all to be having conversations with members of our own staff, as well as our colleagues to make sure that any action is going to be worthwhile, that is going to be implemented in full and that will reflect the Jenkins report in its entirety.
JOURNALIST: And do you think it's appropriate to call a calling people boofhead?
MCBAIN: I think boofhead is probably one of the most colloquial Aussie slang terms you could come across. But, look, the way that this parliament has been working over the last few months has been that we've seen Coalition members on the attack constantly. We have seen bluff, bluster, hubris on display to Australia every Question Time. And I think what's really unfortunate is that one word is reported, which is said by the Leader of the Opposition, yet none of the slang terms, none of the hypocrisy, none of the absolute rubbish that is said from the Coalition side, thrown at our side quite frequently is reported. So if we're going to play that game, then let's play it fairly.