Transcript - Sky News with Peta Credlin

Subjects: National Cabinet, Queensland borders, IBAC

PETA CREDLIN: Two thirds of Australians say National Cabinet isn’t working. That’s according to a new poll; the IPSOS survey commissioned by the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership also reveals an overwhelming majority of voters think National Cabinet has failed the COVID test. More than thre quarters say it failed to facilitate cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States on the issues of vaccine rollout and more. To discuss this, let’s bring in my panel from Canberra; the Minister Assisting the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker, and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. I’ll start with you if I can, Joel. There’s a history, obviously, around COAG, there’s now this new beast National Cabinet. Your former colleague, former ALP leader Simon Crean, has mounted a defence of National Cabinet – he thinks it should be kept post-COVID. I don’t. What do you think?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: It’s a really interesting conversation, Peta. I’m old enough to remember when we called them Premiers’ conferences, so we’ve had various models over the years. I think Simon’s not wrong, I think there’s a role for National Cabinet but I think it is only necessary when there is an emergency situation like we’ve been going through with COVID-19, the global financial crisis could provide another reason for example but I can’t see how a National Cabinet can possibly replace the old architecture we had around COAG, where we had lots of public servants giving resourcing and advice to lots of different COAG committees across every portfolio. And now, to be honest with you, I don’t know what’s been happening with those COAG committees since National Cabinet has been meeting. I’d like to think they are still operating because I think they are critical to the successful operations of the government.

PETA CREDLIN: Yeah, I think the Prime Minister abolished COAG at the start of the process, but I’ll go back and check.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I think he did too.

PETA CREDLIN: I guess my concern is that none of it is binding, Joel.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I just don’t understand how many of leaders could do all of the work of the committees that could typically be chaired by the various ministers. For example, for a short time I chaired the COAG committee covering the agriculture sector, and I used to meet with the state Agriculture Ministers, we had all of the resources of a secretariat and those behind them. You can’t have the leaders of the nation meeting together to deal with every issue across every portfolio so I think we all need to do a little bit of research to see what’s been going on.

PETA CREDLIN: Yeah, I agree with you on that point, I’ll go back and do some homework myself. Talk to me, Amanda, if you can; Queensland opening up, you know, there’s been a battle up there with closed borders. A lot of lack of compassion for Queensland’s own people by the Premier. The Mayor Tom Tate says businesses ‘won’t survive if you don’t open up quickly’. She’s still sticking, she says, to some sort of timetable. But she also then says, in the other brief, come the 17th of December, whether those milestones are met or not, you’re opening up. So, it begs the question, what’s this all been about?

AMANDA STOKER: It does beg that question. And while I am grateful to see, at last, something resembling compliance with the National Plan, something resembling a map out of this cycle of perpetual border closures and lockdowns, we have had to drag her there kicking and screaming. It’s frustrating though –and I hope an eye-opener for Queenslanders about the fact that this Premier can’t be trusted – that last week or the week before we were being told that unless there was an urgent injection of federal funds, there could be no opening up because our hospitals weren’t in a fit state, and now we have the Chief Health Officer and the Premier telling us no, no, everything’s fine and it’s always been fine, in our hospitals. Well, which one is it? Either it’s a craven shakedown for cash, or there’s a problem with our hospitals. You can’t have it both ways all the time. And in the meantime, while they’ve been playing those sorts of games, real Queenslanders, in their thousands – some of them in makeshift refugee camps at the New South Wales border – suffer enormous hardship. Queensland cannot open soon enough.

PETA CREDLIN: Right. Joel, I want to ask you another question. It was prompted about some evidence in the IBAC inquiry in Victoria, this is the branch stacking inquiry. IBAC is investigating a scheme where a whole lot of Victorian MPs employed relatives of political and factional allies in taxpayer funded jobs in their electorate offices. Now, I’m curious, Tony Abbott banned the appointment of family members inside the Liberal Party and the National Party, back in November 2013 – copped a fair bit of heat for it, I might add too, from some of his colleagues. What’s the status quo inside federal Labor? Can you hire your family?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I don’t believe anyone does but I’d have to check that Peta, because you are right, Tony Abbott did ban it. Although I don’t know he really had the authority to enforce it, I’d have to check that. But I’m surprised[1]PETA CREDLIN: He did. A Ministerial direction.



JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yeah, well, we were late to change, in my view, because the New South Wales

Parliament banned it, I’m pretty sure, maybe decades ago. I recall being told many years ago that you couldn’t employ family members in New South Wales Parliament. So Victorian Parliament, it seems, is still living in the 20th Century. But I think you’d be pretty confident after this debacle, it will be sorted out.

PETA CREDLIN: Alright, before we go[1]AMANDA STOKER: It’s worth observing here, Peta, that[1]PETA CREDLIN: Please.

AMANDA STOKER: Oh Sorry, I beg your pardon.

PETA CREDLIN: No, please.

AMANDA STOKER: It’s worth observing here that these have cropped up in circumstances in Victoria in circumstances where they have an Independent Broad based Anti-Corruption Commission. And yet, without a structure of that nature, although there are many integrity agencies at the federal level, there were cultural safeguards and rules put in place voluntarily to guard against these kinds of conflicts of interest. It means that, while some see an integrity commission as a silver bullet in fact it can bring with it its own harms, and you can often achieve more without that kind of structure.

PETA CREDLIN: And then when you have it, as you can see in these cases, it doesn’t capture everything. Amanda Stoker, Joel Fitzgibbon, I appreciate your time.