TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price

TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price
Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Subjects: Zali Steggall’s political donations, Pauline Hanson’s parliamentary attendance, and foreign interference

E&OE

STEVE PRICE:

On The Project on Monday night, we interviewed Zali Steggall, the independent member for the seat of Warringah. She, of course, ran a very strong campaign against Tony Abbott in the last election and unseated the former prime minister. We didn't know at the time, but we do know now that she was operating off a donation of $100,000 – sent to her in eight separate amounts, but in one cheque – to finance her campaign. How hypocritical would that be coming from a climate change advocate taking money from a director of a coal company? Assistant Attorney-General and Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker joins us. Zali tried to weasel her way out of this on Monday night, her answers were just pathetic. Is that not hypocrisy writ large?

AMANDA STOKER:

It really is. Thanks for having me on the show, Steve. Look, for Zali Steggall to pretend to be a climate zealot and an integrity crusader, and to then take six-figure donations from coal interests, and then fiddle the paperwork so that they appear to come under the disclosure threshold, demonstrates something that I have felt very strongly for a long time; that is that people who call themselves independent are anything but. We should really call them the unaccountables.

STEVE PRICE:

I'm told the donation was the largest single donation to that campaign. Now, you've run plenty of political campaigns. If your office got a six figure donation, would you not go, ‘Hey, that's amazing, where's that come from?’ Or do you, as she claims to have done, believe that it was from eight individuals in Warringah who just wanted to suddenly support Zali Steggall against Tony Abbott?

AMANDA STOKER:

All in one big cheque? This just doesn't add up. And the day that you get a six figure cheque come through the door, you really do notice it. And you know a few things about the people who give it to you. And so, for her to play dumb now is disingenuous. At best it is incompetent, but let's call it what it is: it's dishonest.

STEVE PRICE:

Well it comes from someone who's not only a climate change zealot, she's also stood up in the Parliament of Australia and talked about political campaign funding and how it should be completely transparent, while all the time knowing that she had a donation herself that wasn't transparent.

AMANDA STOKER:

And she has stood up in the chamber over and over, slinging mud at the Coalition parties, suggesting that we've got something to hide when it comes to integrity. And of course, we don't, the things that we do are all very public. But for her to, while saying those things out of one side of the mouth, be doing another from the other side is pretty repugnant. And I think it well and truly fails the pub test.

STEVE PRICE:

The twisting and turning almost takes us back to her Olympic career, because she then tried to suggest to me in answer to a question from me that, oh look, it was okay for me to take that money from the Kinghorn family because I wasn't advocating on behalf of the coal industry, I was actually saying that we should stop using coal and gas and any other of those non-renewable fuels, because that meant that the people giving me the money had changed their mind about getting rich from coal. I mean, seriously, anyone believed that?

AMANDA STOKER:

Look, it sounds pretty duplicitous to me. As I say; at best naive, at worst dishonest. And let's face it, the people of Warringah, and in fact, the people of Australia – because there are similar independent and what they call ‘Voices Of’ groups running candidates right across this country – they deserve better. The major parties may not be perfect, and they do make mistakes from time to time, but at least you know what you're getting. And you never know that with an independent.

STEVE PRICE:

Many of these independents are being bankrolled by this outfit, ‘Voices Of’, which is financed by Simon Holmes a Court. He makes donations to these people and they then stand up as ‘Voices’ candidates. One of them is a woman called Nicolette Boel, who is standing up against Paul Fletcher – your cabinet colleague, the Communications Minister – for the seat of Bradfield. She's gone on the record today in The Courier Mail and other News Limited papers saying: oh, well, I wouldn't rule out taking donations linked to fossil fuels. People who earn a living from some fuel industries are entitled to participate in the democratic process like anyone else.

AMANDA STOKER:

And yet, those same parties of the left would have a completely different position, for instance, if it were in relation to donations from, say, cigarette companies. And yet, in the Chamber, they will tell you they are as bad as one another.

STEVE PRICE:

It seems extraordinary.

Pauline Hanson, Senator in Queensland, a fellow Queensland Senator – she’ll be on the ticket, as you will be, to get re-elected in Queensland. She went down to the convoy to Canberra protests on the weekend. I spoke to her on Monday, she described what she thought was an under representing of the numbers there. But she then didn't sit in the Senate. Is that acceptable?

AMANDA STOKER:

Well, she didn’t sit in the Senate all last week, and she's not here for estimates all this week. We had all been operating on the basis that there was some medical reason she couldn't be here connected to her not being vaccinated. Now, you accept these things at face value. But then to see her at the protest at the weekend exposes those excuses for the mirage they are.

She's spending her time, instead of serving in this Parliament, campaigning back home. Now, we all campaign, no crime against campaigning. But you campaign to serve in the Parliament. So, if you want to serve in the Parliament, show up and serve in the Parliament. Do the job that you campaigned for last time before you start campaigning for the next one.

We are doing really important things down here. Last week's debates were sensitive and difficult. These are the moments that matter in the Parliament. This week is estimates; it is the most important opportunity that exists to carefully scrutinise the way that the Government is using wisely taxpayer dollars, and making sure that they achieve the stated objectives of policy. That's what parliamentary service is all about – getting the results that Australians voted for. And if she's not prepared to rock up and deliver on last elections commitment, you’ve got to wonder why she's even bothering this time around.

STEVE PRICE:

My understanding is you don't have to be vaccinated to attend Parliament.

AMANDA STOKER:

That's my understanding too. But you know, when somebody has not been vaccinated, you can see why they might take extra precautions. I wasn't going to be harsh on her for making that call. But to show up to protest in the same environment, whilst not using the same travel, for instance, to do your parliamentary duties – and that's before we even ask, I think, quite sensible questions about who funded that travel. I hope, I hope upon hope, that the Australian taxpayer hasn't been billed in the circumstances.

STEVE PRICE:

Yeah. That’d be interesting to find out. I'll ask her next time I interview her. Just before you, go. The PM, in Question Time yesterday, used Question Time to label Labor soft on China and the Chinese. The Government's gone pretty hard on Labor connections to Chinese influence in and outside of Australia. Do you believe Labor will be softer on China than what the Coalition is?

AMANDA STOKER:

Well, when the Global Times – the Chinese Communist Party propaganda outfit in Australia –endorses Mr Albanese and slams Mr Morrison, that speaks volumes about who is the preferred candidate of the Chinese Communist Party. I mean, one Party in this Parliament has resolutely, and consistently, and strongly defended the interests of Australia and Australians in what is, let's face it, a changing and uncertain global environment.

In contrast, Mr Albanese was attending functions in honour of the very people who have been scrutinised by ASIO for foreign interference, and did so only weeks after parliamentarians were warned about those risks. I think the record speaks for itself.

STEVE PRICE:

Do you think the electorate would like both parties to be bipartisan on this? Given how big an issue it is?

AMANDA STOKER:

I'm sure they would. I mean, Australians don't like the bickering that happens in the parliamentary environment, and particularly when you're talking about things that are so important to Australia's security and stability. They want us all to be on the same page. But we're not. And Australians are faced with a choice, and the choice is clear: There is only one party that has a consistent record of standing up for Australia's interests and Australian sovereignty, and that's the Coalition.

STEVE PRICE:

Do you think our border protection will be as secure if the Labor Party were to win the next election?

AMANDA STOKER:

Well, it's very clear from the questions we had-

STEVE PRICE:

Given how much they failed last time?

AMANDA STOKER:

It's very clear from the questions we had in estimates from Labor, and very clear from their policy. They say nothing would change, and yet they're prepared to dismantle the bits of the Operation Sovereign Borders exercise that they don't like, when what we know is that it's a package that needs to work together.

There's a reason why there's been over 2700 days since an illegal maritime arrival –that is, you know, a boat – arrived on our shores filled with people who have been the victims of people smugglers. And that's because our policy of hard borders, of boat turn backs, of making it very clear that those who arrived on our shores will never settle here, works.

And what it does – really importantly – is it allows Australia to continue to be the among the most generous countries in the world in helping the truly vulnerable in the most dangerous places get to safety. This is actually a policy of compassion. And in their short-term political interests, Labor would undo it.

STEVE PRICE:

Good luck in Canberra today, and rest of the week. Thanks for your time as usual.

AMANDA STOKER:

Good on you. Catch you soon.

STEVE PRICE:

Assistant Attorney-General, Queensland LNP Senator, Amanda Stoker.

[END]