SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
THURSDAY, 13 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: Government’s failure to support a national anti-corruption commission; Andrew Laming; Budget; Moderna announcement; Brittany Higgins.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Scott Morrison's promise of a national anti-corruption commission has been exposed as a fraud. Yet again, we see an announcement by Scott Morrison and no delivery. Three years ago Mr Morrison promised to establish what he called a 'Commonwealth Integrity Commission". He actually put out a discussion paper, that was something, and then nothing. And now we see confirmed in the Budget, with this line, we see confirmed in the Budget that the Government has provided zero staff in the Budget for its supposed national anti-corruption commission. It's not good enough. After eight long years of Sports Rorts, Grass Gate, Angus Taylor's use of forged documents - the list gets longer and longer. We have a Government of no integrity and we have a Government providing zero staff for any pursuit of integrity matters. This is clearly a Government that does not want to establish a national anti-corruption commission. It should be keeping the promise that Scott Morrison made. It should be sticking to the announcement that Scott Morrison made three years ago but it's now clear from the Budget that it won't and it's a disgrace. Labor stands in sharp contrast. We will, if elected to Government, establish a strong and independent national anti-corruption commission.
If I could just say something else on Andrew Laming - because we've seen for a couple of day now, Andrew Laming, who is not fit to continue to be a Member of this Parliament - not leaving the Parliament but not even leaving his chairing of a Parliamentary Committee. When he gave what now appears to have been a fake apology some weeks back, he said that he would resign from all his Parliamentary positions. His own party members in his seat of Bowman they've dumped him, but Scott Morrison and the whole Government are standing behind Andrew Laming. They've voted now two days in a row for him to keep the $23,000 a year additional pay that he gets for being chair of a committee and they're keeping him. He's not fit to be a Member of the Parliament. He should have resigned completely and it's extraordinary that this Prime Minister is quite happy to say, shouting in the Parliament, "she can go" to the head of Australia Post, but for someone like Andrew Laming, a member of his own party who's behaved disgracefully, who was described correctly yesterday as a taxpayer funded troll, that man is still in the Parliament and Mr Morrison and his Government are not only not doing anything about it, they’ve voted for him to retain his $23,000 a year pay rise.
REPORTER: Just on that, if Mr Laming were to sit on the crossbench, would Labor ever accept his vote?
DREYFUS: You're referring back to the behaviour of the Abbott Opposition with their notion of a tainted vote. I'll simply say, Andrew Laming should not now be sitting in the Parliament.
REPORTER: But would you accept his vote?
DREYFUS: We'll consider that if he stays, but he's not fit to be in the Parliament. He's someone who's stalked his own constituents, spread false allegations about his own constituents, took inappropriate photos. There's a long list of misbehaviour over many years now. It's extraordinary that the Prime Minister is still standing behind him.
REPORTER: We see reports this morning of individuals taking a greater share of the tax burden than companies. Who should be taking a greater share of the tax burden - individuals or companies?
DREYFUS: Of course that's a concern, those figures that have come out this morning to show that individual Australian taxpayers are going to be sharing a greater burden. And it's symptomatic of this Budget that, overall, Australians are not going to be better off as a result of this Budget. Australians, in particular ordinary wage earners, are revealed in this Budget that despite the spending of another $100 billion, despite debt reaching almost a trillion dollars, we're told in this Budget that was read by Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night that Australians' wages are going to be going backwards as they have been going backwards for eight long years under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Government. It's eight long years of Liberal Government and during the whole of that time, the wages of Australians have not risen.
REPORTER: Moderna has announced overnight 25 million doses of the vaccine for Australia. Good news?
DREYFUS: Of course it's good news but it's not going to do anything for the Australian vaccination rollout until probably next year. Before anything happens with Moderna it has to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. That's going to take some months. So, yes, it's a good thing, but it's something that the Morrison Government should have got on to many months ago. That's what Labor was saying many months ago. It's been an extraordinary stuff up by Scott Morrison. We should have had millions and millions more Australians vaccinated by now. Other countries have managed this. And where's the plan? We looked in vain in the Budget for a proper plan for the vaccination rollout. They won't even commit to a target. We got multiple different stories from the Health Minister, the Finance Minister, the Prime Minister yesterday, all of it shows there isn't a plan. We don't know when Australians are going to all get vaccinated. And where's the campaign to encourage Australians to be vaccinated? And as for the quarantine, which is the other bit of the fight against the virus, there was nothing in the Budget about larger and better quarantine facilities. Both of them together - a proper, faster vaccination rollout and larger and better quarantine facilities are what Australia needs to ensure that there is a lasting economic recovery. A complete stuff up by Scott Morrison on both the jobs that he had to do on fighting the virus. So for Scott Morrison to be claiming, as he was saying again yesterday - 'I'm fighting the virus' he likes to say - he's not fighting the virus in any effective way if he's stuffed up vaccination and stuffed up quarantine.
REPORTER: You have knowledge of legal process. The Prime Minister said back in March he was going to be asking questions about who knew what about the briefing out against Brittany Higgins. We’re now in May and he said he still doesn't have an answer. Should there be an answer by now?
DREYFUS: Absolutely there should be an answer. It's not like there were thousands of staff in the Prime Minister's office. It should be a matter of days to ask direct questions of the some dozens of staff in the Prime Minister's office who work for him personally "Did you have contact with Brittany Higgins, as she has said you did?". It should not take more than a matter of days to find out whether, as is pretty clear, Scott Morrison has in fact misled the Parliament and that's why he's dragging his feet. That's why we're not getting a result and that's why, disgracefully, yesterday in Scott Morrison tried to get out in his mumbling way that the inquiry was still ongoing. It's an absurdity and I'd say again, it should not take more than some small number of days for the Prime Minister's inquirer to ask the direct question of the staff members "Did you talk to Brittany Higgins?".