SKY NEWS AGENDA
MONDAY, 30 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: High Court decision and Barnaby Joyce breaking the law, Queensland election, Labor’s positive trade agenda, Choosing Openness.
KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. That will be Labor’s focus, won’t it, to try to break off one of those members of the Coalition under the final sitting fortnight when it arrives at the end of November?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, we’re strong champions of the issues that we were elected to parliament to work on – issues like defending penalty rates, making sure that Australians have a clean environment and renewable jobs. We won’t stop our forceful advocacy of those issues just because the government is in crisis. This is entirely of their own making. They were warned months back that Barnaby Joyce ought to step down as a minister as soon as his citizenship was in doubt. But Malcolm Turnbull thought that he knew better than the High Court and he’s once again proven that maxim that a man who would be his own lawyer has a fool for a client. The High Court said very clearly that Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence was misplaced. Now, many ministerial decisions are up in the air.
GILBERT: So, in relation to Labor’s approach though, you can reassure our viewers this morning that it won’t be about simply trying to bring down the government? Because as I said, if there were to be a vote on relation to restoring penalty rates or indeed even a bank royal commission, that would be so damaging to the government. To lose control of the floor in that way would be the end of the government, essentially – it would be a vote of no confidence, essentially.
LEIGH: Kieran, our focus is on getting good outcomes for the people of Australia. Australians want decent penalty rates on weekends. They believe - from every study I’ve seen, Australians believe that those working on weekends should be paid fairly for their services. They believe the banks should be held to account through a Royal Commission. We’ll pursue those issues as strongly as ever, because that’s what we were elected to parliament to do – to focus on reducing inequality and bring about a fairer Australia.
GILBERT: Does that include also repealing some of the laws that have been put in place while Joyce and Nash were Ministers? Because according to the advice to the Labor Party, there are more than 100 laws that could be in doubt if scrutinized.
LEIGH: I think there may be some that would challenge those laws. Again, this is an issue that Malcolm Turnbull has left himself open to. He thought that Matt Canavan was in doubt and that Barnaby Joyce was safe. In fact the High Court, seven to nothing, said the opposite. They very clearly rejected Malcolm Turnbull’s view that the issue of Section 44 turned on your state of mind. They said that would be just be unworkable. Ultimately Malcolm Turnbull’s been rebuffed and his cavalier approach to public policymaking has laid open the potential for these decisions to be challenged.
GILBERT: Do you feel any change to the Constitution in that Section 44 is appropriate now? The Attorney-General yesterday said it’s not really in line with a modern multicultural democracy like ours?
LEIGH: Labor’s platform has for many years said that we’d support changes to Section 44. But to put that ahead of constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians would, I think, be very odd, We’ve got the Government now rebuffing the Uluru Declaration – that’s an issue that goes to the very heart of who we are as a nation, Kieran, and you’ve seen the disappointment from so many Indigenous leaders on the way in which that rebuff has been delivered. We ought to put that issue absolutely front and centre of any question of Constitutional change. The republic would clearly be a higher priority. The National Party want this change because it’s caught them out, not because they actually believe in long term Constitutional reinvigoration.
GILBERT: Finally, you’re in Queensland. The election’s underway. The Premier – I spoke to her earlier and she handled that Adani protester very well. She was unflustered by that again today – two days in a row Adani has featured. But really, in terms of the politics of Queensland, it’s One Nation, the resurgent One Nation that’s the big threat. Is this, in your sense as a politician but an economist as well, is this the Queenslanders not choosing openness when it comes to the economy and other matters?
LEIGH: Kieran, I think it’s no secret that the vote of minor parties has quadrupled since the 1990s. We need to respond to that with stronger advocacy, but also with better policies. So on the trade front, Jason Clare today is making an important announcement that a Labor Government would have the Productivity Commission scrutinize trade agreements and look back a decade on to make sure Australians have gotten a better deal. Our FutureAsia policy aims to ensure that Australians are getting a great deal out of the rise of Asia. It is an exciting time to be in our region, but it’s important that we better engage through greater Asian literacy, including at a corporate board level, and by making sure Australan kids have the opportunity to learn Asian languages. Unless we keep on updating our policies, we’ll fall behind. With the APEC Leaders meeting coming up in Vietnam, it reminds us that the Hawke and Keating legacy involved setting up those leaders meetings, getting APEC to lead on the trade agenda. We have to do more of that, to make sure that Australians embrace openness.
GILBERT: Indeed. Well, Andrew Leigh, I know it fits in with the thesis of your recent book “Choosing Openness” and a very interesting time politically to be watching the developments here in Queensland particularly. Thanks for that, we’ll talk to you soon.