Transcript - TV interview - ABC News 24 - Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett

GREG JENNETT [HOST]: Why don’t we go now to our political panel? And we’ve got a Tasmanian focus today. Labor frontbencher Assistant Minister Anthony Chisholm joins us from Ulverstone. And Liberal frontbencher Jonno Duniam is in Hobart. So, one visitor to the island state today and one local. Jonno, why don’t we start with you? Since Tammy Tyrrell has already referenced it, there’s a lot of people in Tasmania looking towards the budget for approval or some clarity on the Hobart Stadium for the AFL bid. Did you read anything into the Prime Minister’s response today? He pretty much said you got to wait for the budget night itself. But are you optimistic that it goes ahead?

JONATHON DUNIAM [LIBERAL FRONTBENCHER]: Well, of course, I’ve made my position clear on the stadium and I think you’d find I’m probably more in line with Tammy Tyrrell than perhaps others who are pro stadium. And the point for that is, at a time when Tasmanians are struggling with the cost-of-living pressures, which I’m sure we’ll reference later in the program, and there are other needs and demands on the budget, I’m not 100 per cent sure how that is the best use for federal taxpayers’ funds. We’ve made our views clear on that.

But the one thing I would say is if Anthony Albanese can find however much is required to build that stadium on Hobart’s waterfront, he’s not going to have a single excuse to not fund all of the other things we need through electorates like Lyons, Bass, Braddon and Franklin to make sure Tasmanians needs are met. I mean, Tammy Tyrrell talked about housing and health. They’re two key things that are going to require a lot of money and he won’t have an excuse not to fund them if he’s going to fund a stadium.

GREG JENNETT: All right, well, you’ve actually got some skin in this game, even as a Queenslander, Anthony Chisholm, because you have regional development responsibilities. Bring us your insights. Doesn’t seem on this program today that we’re hitting a deep vein of political popularity for the project. How high should the hopes be for those Tasmanians who actually want the facility?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Greg, and good to be with you. And I don’t think it would be in my best interest to contradict the Prime Minister today, given he’s also in Tasmania. So, we will have to wait for the Budget to see what announcements are made.

But I’ve actually been around here for the last couple of days, and I spent Saturday in Wynyard watching the mighty Ulverstone Robins play Wynyard in the local competition. I was watching my cousin play actually, and I certainly know that football in Tasmania is an important part of the community. I’m a massive supporter of the Tasmanian team in the AFL because I think it would make a tremendous impact on the region. And I’ve seen that happen with the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. I’ve seen what an impact it can have in a regional community. So, I really hope that this opportunity can be realised and that we do have an AFL team from out of Tasmania because I think it will be great for the region.

GREG JENNETT: All right, well, even the Assistant Regional Development Minister is probably not going to be able to spill the beans on where that’s going on this program today. Why don’t we move on to The Voice and Jonno I saw Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockliff, Liberal MP Bridget Archer, and, of course, the Prime Minister out today farewelling Pat Farmer on his long run. I didn’t see you there. It does invite the question; how will you be campaigning or otherwise now that you are bound by the party room position to run against the Voice?

JONATHON DUNIAM: Indeed. And I did see the PM, the Premier and others just a couple of hundred metres from my electorate office today.

GREG JENNETT: So, you were close?

JONATHON DUNIAM: I was pretty close, but not at the event. And as you alluded to, I’m a Member of the Shadow Cabinet and we’ve formally adopted a position to oppose the proposal on the table and we’ve made clear out the reasons why for that. And so, I will be advocating for people to vote no, because my view is that what is proposed will not fix the problems that are being experienced in regional and remote Indigenous communities. It won’t solve those problems and indeed, it won’t embrace and take on board that local and regional input that we need, which was a big part of the Calma Langton Report as well. So, I’ll be campaigning for a no vote. The good thing is, in the Liberal Party, we are a broad church, to coin a phrase. And you saw the Premier, saw the member for Bass at that event supporting the yes campaign. I respect their right to do it and good luck to them. And I’m sure I’ll see them on the campaign trail as we get around the state, convincing people of our views being the right one.

GREG JENNETT: Okay, so that indicates that you will be, in some senses, active on the trail, so to speak. It won’t be a passive form of support, as I think others are clearly indicating from the Coalition frontbench.

JONATHON DUNIAM: Yeah, that’s right. Look, I strongly believe that there are some consequences to enshrining something in the constitution which paves the way to something that we have no detail on. And again, fundamentally, this is about improving the lives and the outcomes for Indigenous Australians. And no proponent has been able to tell to me how exactly what is being proposed here will make those positive differences. It’s a nebulous concept and that’s why I will be campaigning for the no.

GREG JENNETT: All right, well, we know which side you’re on, Anthony Chisholm, but what about the state of Queensland more generally? It’s difficult to get a read on these things, but a Newspoll more recently showed that support was faltering, barely reaching 50 per cent in your state. And Annastacia Palaszczuk seemed to be looking towards the feds to try and mobilise some opinion for the yes campaign. Are you up for that challenge?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Absolutely, Greg, and we think it’s a great opportunity. And I note from the Prime Minister, being with the Liberal Premier today, shows you that there is widespread support out there in the community, across different political opinions. I certainly intend on being active in Queensland. I’ve got a community forum that I’m organising around where my electorate office is, which happens to be in the electorate of Dickson, which is obviously home to the Opposition leader. So, I certainly, as the travels I’ve been on around Queensland, I’ve been engaging with both traditional owner groups and also generally with the community and I’ve seen strong support from it. I was also in Alice Springs for work a couple of months ago and saw strong support in Alice Springs as well. So, I think that there is strong support across communities because they know that if we are working with people and listening to local people, we’re more likely to make a difference on the ground. So, that, for me, is a real strength of the Voice and that’s why I am absolutely committed to doing what I can to ensure it’s successful.

GREG JENNETT: And I guess Pat Farmer will eventually make it somewhere through Dickson and your part of South-East Queensland.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I might drive the support vehicle behind Greg instead of running with it.

GREG JENNETT: I reckon he might have a few supporters like that.

Now, why don’t we move to aged care and I’ll throw this one back to you first, Anthony Chisholm, there are some nursing homes that aren’t going to make the 24/7 promise by 1 July. Do you have any understanding how many of those are in the state of Queensland and whether it’s creating any anxiety for family members that that benchmark will not be attained by all homes?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I’m not certain of the numbers, Greg, but we do know that it is a small number across the country. And what the government has said is that we’re committed to working with those institutions. We know we inherited a significant challenge when it came to the workforce because of the lack of action from our predecessors. We can’t be expected to fix that in a year. But we have put significant effort into ensuring that we are getting more TAFE places, getting more university places to train those aged care providers that we need to ensure that standards are higher. And we make no apologies for that. We’re proud of – we’ve got ambitions in regulations to aged care, to improve standards, whether it be in care, whether it be in food standards. That’s exactly what we want to do and that’s what people expect of their Federal Government.

GREG JENNETT: And would you acknowledge, Jonno Duniam, that this is on a sort of a continuum towards improvement, even if promise for 1 July is not reached? The view that’s kind of being expressed by Anthony and COTA on this program this afternoon, is that it’s okay if you’re trending in the right direction anyway. Do you acknowledge that much?

JONATHON DUNIAM: Look, I suppose we do need to ensure that all of the responses or recommendations out of the Royal Commission are addressed. And when we see ticks in boxes that is a good sign because at the end of the day, if that is actually happening, the experience for residents and their families is going to be improved. But the deadline that was set, the 1st of July by the Government was 12 months earlier than the recommendation out of the Royal Commission and that is the experts, the people that took the evidence and made the recommendation obviously did that based on advice and evidence that they had. So, the reason we do see this, and I think the Prime Minister referenced 90 per cent compliance so far. Another five per cent have sought and received, as I understand it, exemptions. There’s five per cent out there with a big unknown going on and that’s where the uncertainty is, and I suspect the majority of those are in regional communities. And again, Senator Tyrrell talking about the lack of housing, the lack of childcare in some of these regional communities there’s a lot more than just training required to attract these essential workers to be able to meet the requirements for aged care. So, there’s a lot of work to be done and rushing it the way that it has been done I think is part of the problem. But let’s see where we go from.

GREG JENNETT: Well, I’m pretty sure there’ll be a political spotlight, if not spotlight shone by families and interest groups in that area over the coming months.

Now why don’t we finally go out with one that I’m not sure whether you’re going to welcome this discussion or not, but it is about Parliamentary standards and it’s about Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe. She’s earned a lifetime ban from a Victorian strip club. We won’t go into all the details alleged about her conduct, but Anthony Chisholm, is there a role here for the Parliament? There is an, as yet, not fully implemented code of conduct that seeks to set down in paper the standards expected. It’s not actually active yet. I don’t understand, but do you think there’s a role for the Parliament to look at what’s gone on here?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, I think Senator Thorpe should obviously answer for herself about her own behaviour, but I think it’s a reminder for all of us who are elected representatives that we’re community representatives and that we are answerable to the community and that we should behave accordingly. I do know that Senator Thorpe has had a challenging couple of months, and I certainly hope on a personal level that she is getting has the necessary support around her. But I do think it’s a reminder that we’re all in the public eye, 24/7 and we should conduct ourselves accordingly so that we earn the trust and respect of the community that vote for us.

GREG JENNETT: All right, Jonno Duniam, one for privileges or any Canberra-based body around the Parliament to have a look at do you think?

JONATHON DUNIAM: Look, I think there’s a space for common sense around how anyone in the community, be they a politician or a business leader or just a member of the community, behaves. I mean, there’s a standard the community have about what happens in public, and that standard equally applies. So, I don’t think we need any body of work done to work out what’s good and what’s not. But, look, we all have causes to represent, and when members of the public see us in a light, as our colleague has been shown, it does set our causes back. And I guess it’s not great for any of us, and certainly not for Senator Thorpe. But, no, I don’t think we need a body of work to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong here.

GREG JENNETT: Fair enough. Noted. Thank you for answering our questions on it, nonetheless. Jonathan Duniam, Anthony Chisholm. Temporary Tasmanian combo today. Thanks for joining us from there for Afternoon Briefing


ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks, Greg. Thanks, Jonno.