SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC MELBOURNE MORNINGS
THURSDAY, 13 MAY 2021
SUBJECT: Anthony Albanese Budget Reply Speech; Budget 2021; Scott Morrison’s Vaccination and Quarantine failures; Government’s failure to support a national anti-corruption commission; Andrew Laming.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and the Member for Isaacs. Good to talk to you Mr. Dreyfus, how are you?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning Virginia. Good to be with you.
TRIOLI: What can we expect in the Budget Reply this evening?
DREYFUS: Well, you'll have to wait for the Budget Reply this evening.
TRIOLI: My goodness, you sound like a Member of the Government.
DREYFUS: Perish the thought. But Anthony's already announced that he's going to unveil an initiative of a startup year, which would offer 2000 students the opportunity to be mentored by our most innovative universities and private sector incubators to turn their ideas into Australia's future businesses. And that's the kind of forward thinking, planning for the future, planning for long term growth, harnessing the talents of our young people that we could have seen in the Budget that we got on Tuesday night, but we didn't. We got missed opportunity after missed opportunity.
TRIOLI: I want to talk to you about the Budget and what we saw in just a moment but just picking up on our last conversation Mark Dreyfus, where does the Labor Opposition stand on the limiting of Australians leaving the country and getting back in? Do you believe it's time to loosen up those restrictions and grant more exemptions?
DREYFUS: I think what we need is larger and better quarantine facilities. Another thing that we didn't see in the Budget was any plan at all for the Commonwealth to pick up its constitutional responsibility, which is to run quarantine. We can't get anywhere with people leaving the country and more people coming into the country unless we have larger and better quarantine. This pandemic is not going to go away tomorrow, or next month, or anytime soon and in order to get the economy opening up again, in order to get Australians living their lives again, of course we need to open up more. But in order for that to happen we need larger and better quarantine. We know what the model is. It's worked at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. We know that there were problems with what I had always thought was going to be a stopgap of hotel quarantine. The Commonwealth many months ago should have been building larger and better quarantine facilities.
TRIOLI: So you're saying that unless those quarantine, those broadacre airspace quarantine facilities are built, at this stage you're not in favour of granting more exemptions for Australians to leave, even if they have no intention of coming back in the next couple of months?
DREYFUS: No, I think we've got to look at every possible way for people to say farewell to their loved ones, to see ill relatives, to carry on with their lives. But it's pretty apparent that without larger and better quarantine that is going to remain difficult. So, get on with it is what I say to Scott Morrison. Build larger, better quarantine facilities. Do it now. We've had plenty of people over the last few months saying they could build a decent quarantine facility - 'broadacres' is the term that's being used - within a matter of months, so it should have been happening last year. Hotel quarantine should be temporary because it's got its problems. We keep seeing escapes. The scare we've just had in Melbourne is an example of an escape from, or someone getting infected in, a hotel quarantine situation in Adelaide. We really need to get to grappling with this so that we can get more people going overseas who need to and we can get more people coming back who desperately need to.
TRIOLI: Just a couple of quick things before I let you go. I know that we're now, you know, going through the real weeds and the details of the Federal Budget as it was handed down. And you've noticed that it turns out that there's no allocation for a long lobbied for federal ICAC of some kind, an integrity commission. A federal integrity commission that's not being funded?
DREYFUS: That's right. And it's yet another announcement by Scott Morrison that won't be delivered. The 2021 Budget, very sadly, has confirmed that the Morrison Government has no intention of establishing a national anti-corruption commission. Not a single staff member has been funded, which means that there's no anti-corruption commission for at least another 14 months. You could say zero staff for a government with zero integrity. It's long past time that Australia had a powerful and independent anti- corruption commission. Scott Morrison promised it three years ago. We've had Sports Rorts, Grassgate, Angus Taylor's forged documents, the airport land rort, there's a long list and it's getting longer. Eight long years of Liberal rorts and it's no wonder that they don't want to establish an anti-corruption commission. Labor would.
TRIOLI: Another issue is that Labor on Tuesday - and I don't think this got much coverage of course because of the Budget - tried to force Liberal MP Andrew Laming out of his role as Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, but Coalition MPs voted down the motion so he retains that position. What do you think of that?
DREYFUS: It's shocking. Andrew Laming is not fit to continue to serve as a Member of Parliament, let alone as the Chair of one of the Parliament's standing committees. And yet Scott Morrison and his entire Government have voted now two days in a row to continue the $23,000 a year pay rise he gets from being a Chair. Think about this - Andrew Laming some weeks back apologised, said that he was going to resign from all his parliamentary positions - we think he shouldn't be in Parliament at all - but he hasn't even done that and in fact, he reneged on his apology within hours. We've got Scott Morrison who was quite happy to shout about the head of Australia Post Christine Holgate and say she must go, but in relation to one of his own MPs who's been correctly described as a taxpayer-funded troll, he's still sitting there and worse, sitting there as a chair of a Parliamentary committee.
TRIOLI: Now just to finish on the Budget, which, of course, the Budget reply given this evening, as we mentioned, by Anthony Albanese in the House this evening. I did notice in Question Time yesterday Mark Dreyfus, that Labor Members were using the phrase ‘Liberal debt’. You guys didn't like it when the then Opposition was carrying on about ‘Labor debt, Labor debt’? Are you really going to try and use that same stick with which to beat them? Isn't the whole debt and deficit argument now just, I'll use that phrase, "dead, buried, cremated"?
DREYFUS: I think what you heard yesterday much more was us pointing to the fact that real wages have gone backwards for eight years and they're going to continue to go backwards under this Budget. And that despite spending almost $100 billion and racking up a trillion dollars in debt, this Budget reveals, according to the Morrison Government, that real wages are going to continue to go backwards. On the 'debt and deficit disaster' that we heard endlessly from Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader and from previous Liberal Prime Ministers, Liberal Leaders for decades now, it's now impossible with this Liberal Government having taken us to nearly a trillion dollars in debt for that to be the discussion. And of course, I'm very pleased that after years and years of Labor attempting to explain to the Liberal Party that you have to invest for growth, they seem to have finally understood that. But everywhere you look in the Budget, despite the expenditure of huge amounts of money they are investing, they're not investing in the right things. They're missing opportunities all over the place. It's impossible listening to Josh Frydenberg's speech or reading the Budget to detect any long term plan, any plan for long term growth in Australia, any plan for renewables or for energy, or as I said before, even a plan for larger and better quarantine. This is a Budget of missed opportunities.
TRIOLI: Look forward to the detail in the Budget Reply this evening. Mark Dreyfus, I appreciate having you on this morning.
DREYFUS: Thank you so much.