It is really important that we get the census right - Sky News Karvelas




SUNDAY, 31 JULY 2016

SUBJECT/S: UN Secretary General; Northern Territory juvenile detention Royal Commission; Herbert result; 2016 Census.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Joining me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh from the Labor side of politics. Welcome to the program.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Patricia, and as a fellow parent, happy Harry Potter day.

KARVELAS: Harry Potter day is indeed an exciting moment. Just on some news that's dominating this weekend, Kevin Rudd has released letters. He says show the Prime Minister had supported his candidacy for the UN Secretary General before ultimately refusing to back him. Doesn't that prove he wasn't up for the job? Why would you release these confidential letters?

LEIGH: Patricia let's go back to first principles. Australia has a history of former leaders being supported by governments of different political stripes. The Hawke Government supported Malcolm Fraser's bid to be head of the Commonwealth, the Howard Government supported senior parliamentarian Gareth Evans' bid to be head of UNESCO. And in government, the Rudd and Gillard Governments both made appointments of senior Liberals to important diplomatic posts including people like Brendan Nelson. So I do think that tradition is in danger now from a Government which seems to put partisan politics before the national interest. Kevin Rudd is eminently well qualified for a range of international posts. And the Government's decision not only to slap him down but to reject Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is a dangerous omen for where the Government is going.

KARVELAS: Barnaby Joyce says Labor actually sunk his chances. He has told the ABC that Bill Shorten had been instrumental in removing Rudd as Prime Minister in 2010 and of course there are so many Labor people on the public record saying that he is unfit for office. Really extreme language being used by very senior Labor people, so do you accept that Labor participated in perhaps destroying his chances?

LEIGH: If you looked at any of the serious contenders for Secretary General they would have their critics. I'm sure that's true of Helen Clark across the ditch: a former Labor Prime Minister being supported by a conservative Prime Minister. New Zealand is doing that because they think it's in their national interest in order to have a candidate in the field. Australia now won't have a candidate in the field for the UN's top job and that's a pity for us as a nation.

KARVELAS: Let's move to this Northern Territory juvenile detention Royal Commission. I know Labor wants two Indigenous commissioners on the Royal Commission and that point has been made strongly today again by Bill Shorten who is now the Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister. Is that a deal breaker? If they aren't appointed does Labor really think that the Royal Commission can't be effective?

LEIGH: Patricia it's not really a deal here. Royal Commissions are set up by the government and it's up to the Turnbull Government as to how they construct this Royal Commission. We've simply argued though that it's important given the history of Indigenous disadvantage that Indigenous Australians are involved in the process of this important Royal Commission. Indigenous incarceration as you know is rising steadily. In the 25 years since the Aboriginal deaths in custody report, we had a 25 per cent increase in Indigenous incarceration. So Labor is concerned that this Royal Commission do as good a job as possible. Those images of a 14 year old boy shackled and hooded just as a parent really strikes me. We need to make sure this Royal Commission does it's work on the problems that have occurred. 

KARVELAS: But can it do its work without Indigenous commissioners?

LEIGH: I think it could do its work better if it included senior Indigenous Australians. Bill Shorten's proposal has been that an Indigenous man and an Indigenous woman be a part of that Royal Commission. That's a way of insuring that Indigenous Australians are represented at a senior level by the Royal Commission. But also invariably as people are giving evidence there might be a greater level of comfort if they're giving evidence to an Indigenous co-commissioner.

KARVELAS: Now the seat of Herbert has been declared today for Labor. I just want to get to this quickly before I get to my very favourite topic which is the census. So Cathy O'Toole has won, it might be contested by the LNP, we don't know yet but it looks like it's going that way. But regardless of all of that, I'm interested to know how Labor is going to play this. The Government only has a one seat majority now because of this decision or this declaration. Are you going to make it a chaotic Parliament and copy the tactics of Tony Abbott or are you going to try and work towards some serious outcomes?

LEIGH: First, let me say that Cathy is a cracker member for Herbert. I was up there in Townsville campaigning with her. She's somebody with a small business background, social policy engagement, somebody with deep love for her community and she will be a great local member. But in the Parliament we will work for the national interest, we will argue firmly against policies we disagree with but we'll be there making common cause with the Government if they're putting forward good policies. I'd love it if Malcolm Turnbull could now live up to that speech when he toppled Tony Abbott. Where he spoke about the need for economic leadership, the need for putting three word slogans behind, the importance of focusing on optimism and engagement. He promised so much but delivered so little over the last year or so. So if Malcolm Turnbull lives up to that we'll be as constructive as we can be.

KARVELAS: We only have two minutes left but we've got to get to the census, it's very controversial this year. Boycotts being threatened, privacy concerns over the retention of names and addresses for a long period of time, I think five years. Do you sympathise with these boycotts and this response?

LEIGH: Patricia I love that you share my passion for the census. It is really important that we get the census right. It determines the allocation of resources across communities and that's why I would certainly be urging people not to spoil the census, not to boycott the census. I can understand that people are frustrated at the Turnbull Government's level of engagement around this. Frankly, Scott Morrison and Kelly O'Dwyer shouldn't be leaving it up to the Bureau of Statistics to do their job. There have been changes on data retention and they should be out explaining why they believe those changes are appropriate. But people ultimately should fill in those census forms no matter how angry they are at the Turnbull Government.

KARVELAS: Andrew Leigh there you go, a strong endorsement of the census this year. Thank you for your time tonight.

LEIGH: Thank you, Patricia.



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