Transcript - Doors

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
6 June 2013

TOPICS:                                100 days to the election, policy vs flim-flam, security assessments, State of Origin.

Andrew Leigh: It’s 100 days to the next election and for Australia that’s a fork in the road: a choice between a Government which has continued to invest to make strategic savings and so we’re able to build a DisabilityCare system, better schools, and invest in aged care, and an Opposition which are going to deliver savage cuts. They have to deliver those savage cuts because of the big tax cuts they’ve promised to big miners and big polluters. And if you want to see what the future for Australia would be if we went down that fork in the road, you just need to look to Queensland where the Newman Government is making savage cuts following their Commission of Cuts – the same model Tony Abbott’s promised, or to the UK where a Conservative Government has delivered savage austerity that’s driven that economy back into recession. So that’s going to be the fork in the road that Australia will face and I’m going to be out every day from now until the election speaking with my constituents and other Australians about that choice. Happy to take questions.

Journalist:                           With a hundred days to go is it helpful that some of your fellow MPs [inaudible]

Andrew Leigh: I’m focused on talking about policy. That’s why I got into this place. I’m far more interested in the ideas, the values, the choices that we face, and on encouraging my Coalition colleagues to be clear with the Australian people about the cuts that they’ll make.

Journalist:                           Isn’t the fact that they’ve packed up their offices a sign that they’re not interested in policy and have given up?

Andrew Leigh: On any given day there’s going to be flotsam and jetsam, and there’s going to be matters of substance. I’m out here today to talk to you about matters of substance. I’m happy to take questions on those all day, all night, and in to tomorrow if you like.

Journalist:                           But these are elected members with constituents and they’ve decided that it’s in their best interests, and they say in the interests of taxpayers, not to come back after the election and pack up their offices because they don’t think they’re likely to be back.

Andrew Leigh: We’ve obviously go a tough hundred days ahead of us. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. But for people like me the choice is between focussing on gossip and flim flam, which have filled too much of the airwaves this week, or on the sort of things that matter to my constituents, like the important reforms passed in the parliament on schools reforms, even like the Australian volunteers going abroad that I spoke to last night. Happy to talk to you about the book on inequality I’ve got coming out next month. All of these things are matters of substance and I think bear a little more reporting than gossip and other stuff that’s floating around this week.

Journalist:                           It’s not gossip; we’ve confirmed it.

Andrew Leigh: There’s serious questions and there’s flim flam. And yesterday, I sat in a Beyond Blue event watching an AFL footballer tell a powerful story about his battle with depression and his near brush with suicide. Part way through that a hoard of camera folk rushed across the room to chase a parliamentarian. If that’s your priorities then I think you’ve got it backwards. I think Australians are far more concerned about the issue of suicide than about the gossip that might be floating around inside this building.

Journalist:                           Should there be a shake-up of the Immigration Department following what we’ve heard over the past week or so about the Egyptian national [inaudible]?

Andrew Leigh: You’ve just heard the Attorney General make the point as the Prime Minister has in the parliament; that the individual in question was always in detention and that, I think, is the key issue here. The Opposition are keen to play politics, a little ham-fistedly; they can’t even work out the gender of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. But it’s important to focus on the issue here, that that individual was in detention throughout the period.

Journalist:                           Should there be a parliamentary inquiry? Should that be something that the parliament should consider?

Andrew Leigh: Well here’s the absurdity of the situation. The independent inspector has the legal authority to carry out the inquiry, and the Opposition say no. The parliamentary committee doesn’t have the authority to carry out the inquiry, and the Opposition say yes. Again, they’ve got it backwards because they’re diving in to play politics with national security rather than trying to ensure that the right inspector carries out the process.

Journalist:                           Any thoughts on the State of Origin last night?

Andrew Leigh: I was farewelling the international volunteers otherwise I would have loved to. The best I can do is turn up with a blue tie today and maybe suggest that we can just make this season a one game season. Thanks folks.

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