THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY
SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA, AM AGENDA
WEDNESDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 2010
SUBJECTS: Speaker; Pairing.
GILBERT: Welcome back to AM Agenda. With me now, the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, he’s also the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Dreyfus. Good Morning Mark.
DREYFUS: Good to be with you, Kieran.
GILBERT: And we’ve got Liberal MP Steve Ciobo, joining us as well. Steve, thank you for joining us.
GILBERT: Peter Slipper has taken the Deputy Speaker job. Apparently Tony Abbott
was furious in the party room yesterday, last evening. Was there really a sense that
people wanted to dump Slipper, get rid of him out of the party after this?
CIOBO: I’ve read those reports Kieran and I think they’re a little bit overstated. Let’s
be clear about what happened. The Coalition has picked up the Deputy Speaker’s
role and the Second Deputy Speaker’s role because the Labor party walked away.
They weren’t even initially prepared to back Harry Jenkins for Speaker. This is a
Government so absolutely obsessed with trying to be in power without an agenda
that they’re pulling out every trick in the book to try to stack the numbers their way.
GILBERT: But another Liberal must have voted with the Government on this, if you
look at the breakdown of the numbers.
CIOBO: I don’t think so: 71/78, Peter Slipper voted for himself, so from 72 that puts
us on 71.
GILBERT: So you don’t think that another Liberal has defected as well? Because
looking at the numbers, if the five independents went, you’d need one more.
CIOBO: Well you’re leaving out Tony Crook, who’s sitting on the cross-benches now. But look, from my perspective and I know from speaking with colleagues, this is not a top priority issue for us. I mean, what we’re more concerned about is the fact that we’ve got a Prime Minister and a Labor Government who only a couple of weeks ago said that they would not introduce a carbon tax and now, less than a month into –
well into a first week of the new Parliament – in fact, we’ve now got the Government embracing a carbon tax, completely turning on its head their pre-election commitment.
GILBERT: That’s what Tony Abbott is doing this morning as well. He’s held a news conference. We’ll bring that to you as soon as we can. But essentially trying to get the focus back onto the issues, rather than the machinations of the Parliament. But no doubt in this hung Parliament the movement, the colour and the light is going to dominate a fair bit of our coverage. And Mark Dreyfus, Julia Gillard says this morning that Peter Slipper was essentially the best person for the job. He’s shown that he can be independent in the past. Please, it’s all about out-manoeuvring the opposition isn’t it?
DREYFUS: Kieran, I’m very pleased to be working with Peter Slipper as Deputy Speaker. He was my Deputy Chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in the last Parliament and he’s a parliamentarian of great experience. The point has been made already that he has shown his independence in the last Parliament, when in the Chair, withstanding a motion of dissent brought by the Coalition against him. I think it’s representative of the opportunities we’ve got in this Parliament for real parliamentary reform. I’m hoping that the Opposition is not going to walk away from the agreement for parliamentary reform that they signed up to. As the Governor General said yesterday, it is a real opportunity.
GILBERT: Julia Gillard, and you now, are saying that this is all about the right person for the job. It’s hard to buy that though, when clearly you’ve nominated this Liberal against the wishes of the Liberal Party.
CIOBO: And over the top of the Labor candidate.
DREYFUS: What’s important is that he’ll do a good job.
CIOBO: This is why what Mark’s saying is completely implausible. When we’ve got the Labor Party out there, trotting out these lines. You walked away from Anna Burke, who’d been your Deputy Speaker for years, who was a top quality Deputy Speaker, because you had a political point to try to prove.
DREYFUS: The Liberal Party was happy to have both the Deputy Speaker and the second Deputy Speaker position?
CIOBO: We are, but it highlights you’re the ones that are claiming that this is in some way about parliamentary reform. My point is, simply, of course the Coalition will accept two Deputy Speaker positions but lets be clear about what the actual motivation by the Labor Party is here. This is all about your quest for power in the Labor Party. Nothing to do with bone fide motives with respect to parliamentary reform. It’s just about the numbers for the Labor Party.
DREYFUS: It is actually about providing stable and strong government. It’s about ensuring that the Parliament is a workable place and we’re looking forward to getting to the co-operation that the Opposition signed up to when they reached their agreement with the independents.
GILBERT: Well it’s the first question time today. We’re going to get shorter answers. Can we really expect much difference? We’ve had those sorts of limits in the Senate for some time, Mark Dreyfus. As Harry Jenkins said yesterday its going to take more than just the words on the paper to change the way of doing business. It doesn’t look like its going to change.
DREYFUS: Of course, Kieran, it’s not just the words on the paper. It’s about honouring the spirit of this agreement that goes directly to how the Parliament is to operate. We need the Opposition to carry out the spirit of their support for parliamentary reform and new parliamentary procedures and not, as seems likely at
the moment, just ripping it up.
GILBERT: Well let’s look at the paring situation as an example of that. Is Tony Abbott and the Opposition being belligerent on this? Are you going to be reasonable when it comes to a Minister who has commitments like Simon Crean today at the National Press Club? Initially he wasn’t going to be paired, and then it seems
someone saw common sense within Opposition ranks.
CIOBO: What we’ve said is that we’ll assess pairing on a case-by-case basis, Kieran. We believe it’s important as parliamentarians, and this applies to all parliamentarians, that people are on the floor of the Parliament to vote on motions. Now, if the Government says there’s a national interest argument about why someone should be paired then we are certainly happy to look at it, and we’ll probably provide the pair. Before we get too caught up in Labor’s lecturing on this, lets go back to the last time we had a hung Parliament. At the last hung Parliament, Labor refused to provide anything in terms of Deputy Speakers, they refused to provide a pair to the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies. So we don’t take too seriously the Labor party when they get all sanctimonious with us about this issue. We will provide pairs where there is a demonstrable national interest for that pair to be provided.
GILBERT: That’s a fair enough argument isn’t it? Shouldn’t Ministers be in the Parliament? It is the primary democratic institution in this country. Why should Ministers be floating off to business lunches? They should be here.
DREYFUS: I don’t think we need to go back 70 years. We’ve had for many decades in the Australian Parliament and in the House of Commons – parliaments across the world do this –a very clear convention which says if there is a real need for Ministers to be away then there will be a pairing arrangement.
GILBERT: Let’s move on to another issue. Graham Richardson, former powerbroker, has written in the Australian today that Julia Gillard was forced to keep two Cabinet Ministers after they threatened to quit. We’ve got a comment on the Graham Richardson story: Julia Gillard was on the ABC earlier this morning and lets hear what she had to say about these Graham Richardson claims.
PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: That report is completely untrue. I met with my ministerial colleagues, I met with colleagues who became Parliamentary Secretaries. No one on the front bench, anyone with a Ministry, anyone with a Parliamentary Secretary, no one got their position by suggesting that if they didn’t get the job they
would resign from Parliament.
GILBERT: The Prime Minister Julia Gillard there this morning on the ABC essentially saying she had no conversations of that sort. Rejecting the report outright. It didn’t happen. I suppose, Mark Dreyfus, the issue is where would the claims come from because if Graham Richardson is writing it then surely someone’s told him that?
DREYFUS: I’m not going to speculate on that. The Prime Minister has said absolutely clearly that it’s absolutely untrue.
CIOBO: The problem with that, Mark, is that Julia Gillard said absolutely clearly that she absolutely wouldn’t be introducing a carbon tax before the election. Here we are, weeks later, and she’s introducing it. What we know is that Graham Richardson is very well connected in the Labor Party. He’s a man who now has nothing to lose because he’s got nothing to gain by being involved in politics. He’s obviously, clearly, speaking the truth. We know from his revelation that there were two Cabinet Ministers that said unless we are reappointed we are going to walk away and force by-elections. Julia Gillard was back up against the wall, she’s had to basically bow to their wishes and this really is part of a continuing pattern by Julia Gillard to keep shifting to suit the interests of other people. We’ve had it with the Greens, we’ve got it with the Independents, we now have it with Labor’s factional power brokers. Really, this is the major problem: we don’t know where we stand with this Prime Minister who lacks the spine to give direction.
DREYFUS: Look, this is an absolutely untrue allegation. The Prime Minister has made that clear. We have a very strong front bench, Stephen. We certainly can trust the Prime Minister’s word. She has also said very clearly in relation to putting a price on carbon that we need to have a conversation. This is the great confusion we’re getting from the Liberals all over the place here, Kieran. They want to confuse a carbon price with a carbon tax. They are two different things. We need a price on carbon in this country. We have put in place a process that will get us towards a price on carbon in this country. There needs to be a conversation. The multi-party climate change committee which we’ve established this week is the first step to having that conversation. You know, Steve, because the Treasury documents, the incoming government brief, told you that there needs to be a price on carbon.
GILBERT: Just quickly, we’re almost out of time, 30 seconds left, does the Coalition risk being alienated and isolated in that debate?
CIOBO: Kieran I think anybody who just heard that answer from a Labor front bencher that Julia Gillard promised a carbon price not a carbon tax would be scratching their heads about what wriggle room you’re trying to create. Labor’s all about a carbon tax. We’ll see what comes to pass as you’re dominated by the
GILBERT: Steve Ciobo, Mark Dreyfus, great to see you both. Thank you for that. That’s all for this edition.