Doorstop - Brisbane (18)

10 February 2018



SUBJECT/S: Wayne Swan; US Ambassador to Australia; Barnaby Joyce; Cyber-bullying


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: On behalf of all of the colleagues who work with Wayne, or who have worked with Wayne, and many of us who have worked for Wayne, today is a very sad day to hear that Wayne doesn't intend to contest the next election for the Labor Party. But it's also an opportunity to celebrate what has been one of the most remarkable contributions to Australian political and economic life. 


Swanny is a battler's champion. He has been a warrior for this community, for his country, for his party, for the labour movement, and for the causes of ordinary working people in this country for a quarter of a century or more. And nobody has worked harder for longer for people on modest incomes than Swanny has over his remarkable career.


He's a bread-and-butter idealist who wants nothing more for the people of this country than good jobs and wages and opportunities, decent education and healthcare and other services, and a fair go for people who live and work and grow up in communities like this one, which he's been so proud to represent. It's heartening to know that when Wayne vacates his parliamentary office, whenever the next election is - and he'll work hard right up until that day - it's heartening to know that he doesn't intend to vacate the battleground of ideas and particularly the war on inequality in this country and the war on entrenched disadvantage in our society. 


As someone who spent a long time working for Wayne, and two terms serving alongside him, I'm so proud to be able to say that I've been able to count on him for many years, as many of us have counted on Wayne, as a mate and a mentor. It is a very, very proud day - a sad day as I've said - but a proud day for Wayne, for his wonderful family, for our Labor Party and our labour movement as we celebrate the contribution made by a warrior; someone who has got a very hard head but a very soft heart, and lots of scars. Somebody who appreciates that when you have big national challenges, you've got to go through them, not around them.


That's true of the Global Financial Crisis. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians in this country who wouldn't have had a job during the Global Financial Crisis were it not for the efforts of Wayne and his colleagues in the world-leading response to that global recession. There is no prouder boast for a Labor politician to say at the end of a remarkable career that they protected Australians from the very worst that the global economy could throw at them, and that's what Wayne can say today. And he's got every right to be proud of that amazing contribution to the politics of this country, his representation of this community, and the broader Australian economy.


He will work hard right up until the election, as he said. We will take the necessary time to pre-select the necessary candidate. I think it speaks volumes of Wayne that that he's made this announcement early enough so that we can organise an effective campaign here on the ground in Lilley, the seat that he has represented for something like 23 out of the last 25 years.


I'm happy to take questions on Wayne in just a moment, but just briefly on Admiral Harry Harris: Labor welcomes President Trump's nomination of US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris to be the Ambassador from the United States to Australia. Harry Harris is well known to a number of people of both sides of politics, a number of us have spent time with him. Harry Harris is a very accomplished naval officer, someone with a deep understanding and lots of experience in our region, and we welcome President Trump's nomination of him to be the American Ambassador to Australia. We know that the process has a little way to run yet; we know that the nomination has to become official, but we do welcome Harry Harris as President Trump's nomination to be the American Ambassador to Australia. And we know that a relationship which is deep and enduring, arguably one of our closest relationships with any nation in the world, will be further deepened, and further broadened and improved, by Harry Harris being the Ambassador here.


Over to you.


JOURNALIST: In relation to Mr Swan, are you disappointed to see sniping from anonymous Labor MPs from his remaining in Parliament? Do you accept his presence acted as a reminder of the at times chaotic moments of the Gillard-Rudd years?


CHALMERS: I think Wayne's presence for the last two terms, since the end of the Labor Government, has been a permanent reminder of the extraordinary things that he achieved along with Kevin and Julia and others to save Australia from the worst impacts of the sharpest synchronised downturn in the global economy since the Great Depression. And Wayne has been an extraordinary help for so many colleagues in the Parliament. He's been a warrior, as I said, for the causes of so many ordinary working people and pensioners and people on modest incomes. If it were up to me he'd serve another 25 years in the Parliament. It's not up to me. He's made his decision today. All of the other commentary about that period in office, I think is a matter for another day. Today we celebrate what Wayne achieved, along with Kevin and along with Julia, in a really remarkable period; a period that I was privileged to play a small role in, as we tried to deal with the worst that the world could throw at us. For someone with Wayne's achievements and his extraordinary contribution, it is up to him and the people of this great community how long he wanted to hang around for. But he's made a big contribution in the two terms since the end of those governments, and he's got a big contribution still to make.


JOURNALIST: On another matter, are you concerned there's been any inappropriate staffing arrangements made relating to Barnaby Joyce's former media adviser?


CHALMERS: I don't intend to add to the commentary about the personal matters impacting on Barnaby Joyce and his family. I think when it comes to the stories about the staffing arrangements, I think it is time for Malcolm Turnbull to give a proper statement about what's happened there. I don't want to add to the broader commentary, but I do think it's in the interests of Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce to make a statement about what has happened here. I don't know what's happened here. I don't know what arrangements were struck between the people involved. That is something for Malcolm Turnbull to explain.


JOURNALIST: Do you think it's right for Barnaby Joyce to be living rent-free in Armidale?


CHALMERS: His living arrangements are a matter for Barnaby. I'd hope that that, effectively a donation, has been properly disclosed. It's for others to determine whether that has been properly disclosed. But I read that in the paper this morning. His living arrangements are a matter for him and those close to him, so long as they comply with all of the requirements around disclosure.


JOURNALIST: Do you think this whole Barnaby Joyce issue and the appointment of jobs is affecting the way that Australia is being governed at the moment?


CHALMERS: I think the Turnbull Government was a hopeless Government before these revelations. I think that the Turnbull Government governs for the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia. That was true before we heard these things about Barnaby and his family, and it's true after we hear these things about Barnaby and his family. From my point of view, I would rather focus on the extraordinary damage this Government is doing to middle Australia by taking money, effectively out of the pockets of people who work and struggle, and handing it to the profits and bottom lines and big multinational corporations and the four big banks. That is a far more damaging proposition for the people who send us to Canberra to represent them than any other these other personal matters.


JOURNALIST: We're talking about two jobs for Barnaby Joyce's girlfriend now. What do you think the Prime Minister needs to get up and say about that?


CHALMERS: The Prime Minister needs to give a full statement about what's happened here. I don't know, you don't know, the ins and outs of what arrangements have been struck. It's for the Prime Minister to stand up as soon as possible and explain that to the Australian people.


JOURNALIST: If the arrangements are deemed inappropriate, should Barnaby Joyce step down as Deputy PM.


CHALMERS: Well the first thing we need is a full accounting of what's happened here and we can make those judgements after that.


JOURNALIST: At the very least though, isn't it a bad look that (inaudble)?


CHALMERS: Well, obviously. A lot of people in communities right around Australia would find that hard to cop. But that has to be explained by the Prime Minister and by Barnaby Joyce. I don't know every aspect of what's been arranged here. So the first thing that needs to happen is a full statement.


JOURNALIST: I'm interested to know, the Federal Opposition has spoken about a Federal ICAC Commission of Inquiry. Is that something which would look at what's happened here with Barnaby and his staffer, whether taxpayers' funds have been misused and the reasons for these two opportunities?


CHALMERS: There's still a lot of detail to be worked through with the National Integrity Commission, as Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus indicated when they made that announcement recently. I think the first thing that needs to happen - there's no prospect in the near-term of that integrity commission being set up in time for the Prime Minister to give what should be a full account of what's happened here. If and when we come to Government we would cross that bridge.


JOURNALIST: I've got one other question on an unrelated topic if you don't mind me asking. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, I think in the Daily Telegraph today, it might have been in The Courier-Mail also, spoke about the need for new laws and legislation in order to protect and guard against cyber bullying. Is this where we need to head in order to protect young people, especially at home? Do we need more legislation to protect them?


CHALMERS: Cyber-bullying is a scourge in our society. We need to do all that we can to stamp it out. I noticed that the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has done some good work on this, as has the Federal Parliament. We need to make sure our kids are safe, not just on our streets, but also behind their screens. I know as a parent, and I know that a lot of parents are worried about their capacity for kids to be bullied online, and whenever those arrangements and those laws need to be strengthened, we should give that a good look. 


Thanks very much.