Interview with Greg Jennett, ABC 24 Afternoon Briefing


GREG JENNETT, HOST: It is now time to check in with the Territories and Local Government Minister Kristy McBain. She joins us in the studio. Kristy, we've had so many people coming in, face to face. It really is a refreshing change to have you all back here. Why don't I get a bit of a reflection, first of all, on the feel of the 47th Parliament. You were through the ceremonials yesterday and then Question Time today. Is it more user friendly? Is there any culture shift we can say we've detected early on?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Well, it was lovely to be part of the opening of the 47th Parliament, obviously being elected during a by-election. I've never been through that experience myself, so it was lovely going through that as well. I think what you will see is a bit more collaboration and debate in the Chamber. The last Parliament was probably defined by the words, ‘I move the member no longer be heard’. And we want to make sure that people are there representing their constituencies by engaging in good, robust debate. And I think we've seen that first change with the crossbench being given three questions in Question Time yeah.

GREG JENNETT: And some limits on the late night sitting. Just discussed that with Adam Bandt. That would be more family friendly for a bunch of MPs, I imagine, finishing later than 10 o’clock. What's the meaningful character that comes in the culture of the Chamber because of that?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I don't think it's helpful for just a small bunch of MPs. It's helpful for every MP. And we've been through the last Parliament where we spoke about making this workplace a safer workplace. We've got the Set the Standard report and we know in the last Parliament we sat for 20 hours straight over a particular bill. So if we want to make this place as inclusive as possible, as family friendly as possible, then we have to understand that no other workplace extends to those large working hours. So a change in those standing rules will assist, I think, all MPs and all our staffers to actually really achieve that work life balance.

GREG JENNETT: Yeah and I should point out by way of footnote, for anyone who thinks that politicians are slacking off, at least in the Reps, they're actually bringing the start time forward by half an hour on a few days a week, anyway. Why don't I move on to areas of your own responsibility? Kristy McBain, we're seeing lots of first pieces of legislation coming in. You will, of course, have your own before too long. And then where does the territory rights, it’s got to do with voluntary assisted dying, of course, but the territory rights process, what update can you bring us on that?

KRISTY MCBAIN: We've worked with MPs and Senators across the government. It has been a long held policy position of the Labor Party to allow a conscience vote to actually repeal the previous Andrews bills, which didn't allow both the act and the Northern Territory to debate their own laws in regards to assisted voluntary dying. So right now we will have a private member's bill introduced into the House by the Member for Canberra and also the Member for Solomon, and that will be a conscience vote for members of the Labor Party. And I hope across the Parliament. This isn't specifically an issue of voluntary assisted dying. This is an issue of making sure that the territories can debate those items if they want to in their own parliament.

GREG JENNETT: Okay. And the expectation on timing around that particular bill?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, look, I hope it will be introduced next week. So we took a policy position to the election. It's been a long held position of a number of my colleagues. We know that it also came up in the last campaign. So really pleased that we can bring this private member's bill forward and it will be dealt with quickly.

GREG JENNETT: And it's not your job to count numbers on these things, but just assessing the lay of the land or the mood of the room, what would be your expectation about levels of support based, as you say, on conscience?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I think it's interesting that we now in the country have every state that has legislated a voluntary assisted dying law. I think the debate has well and truly moved forward over the last 20-25 years. And I would anticipate, given the positions that a number of Members and Senators took to the last election, that we would be in a position to see that bill pass.

GREG JENNETT: Yeah, well, that would be a big change after, I think it's 25+ years, isn't it, of it having been installed for the territories. Anything else beyond that which is actually a private member's bill. But you must have a suite of initiatives that you've got to deliver on in your own portfolio area before too long. That's a work in progress?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, definitely. Obviously, the Australian Council of Local Governments is an item that the Prime Minister wants bought back. It's really important that we engage with the 546 Local Government Areas across the country. We rely pretty heavily on them to deliver projects not only for us, but also for the various states and territories where they sit. And I think it's really important to make sure that they have access to Federal parliamentarians to talk about some of their big issues. Also sitting in a territory portfolio with me is Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Island. And we know that shipping has been a big issue, the security of getting supplies to the islands. We know how tough it is on the mainland at the moment, so making sure that we are working with those communities so that they have that continuity of supply is really important.

GREG JENNETT: All right, well, as you get closer to delivering those, we'll issue an invitation to get you back to talk more specifically on those details. Kristy McBain, thanks again for joining us.