Culture in Parliament needs to change - Transcript, 2SM with Marcus Paul





SUBJECT: Liberals failing women - and failing to read the room - on International Women’s Day; the need for change within Parliament and an independent complaints process for staff; JobKeeper being misused as BonusKeeper and DividendKeeper; charities under pressure.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Right now it's time to catch up with one of our warriors, our #JobKeeperWarrior, Andrew Leigh MP. Good morning to you, Andrew. 


PAUL: Thank you very much. Let's start first of all with the comments on International Women's Day yesterday. You weren't at your local railway station handing out Dave Shama roses, were you?


LEIGH: One of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen, I’ve got to say. I mean, Dave’s not a bad bloke, but talk about tin-eared. In the current environment, people want to be closing the gender pay gap. They want to be dealing with family violence, they want to focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. They don’t want their local MP handing out flowers.

PAUL: I mean, the sentiment is nice. But still, I don’t know. Look, at the end of the day, the Prime Minister didn't even utter a single word on International Women's Day yesterday, did he? I didn't see anything. Did Scott Morrison offer anything on International Women's Day for the women of Australia?

LEIGH: I didn't see much. We had Anthony Albanese out there with Tanya Plibersek and Jenny McAllister talking about Labour's plan to extend family violence leave, about the importance of pay transparency in closing the gender pay gap, and about the critical importance of getting an inquiry into the allegations being made against Christian Porter. These are issues which are front and centre for Australian men and women right now. And on International Women's Day, you'd expect a strong response from the Prime Minister recognising that we are in a real MeToo moment for the federal parliament, and that the ‘business as usual’ just isn't going to cut it.

PAUL: Or maybe we thought just Ms Bishop appearing on 7.30 last night might you know to seal the deal, make it look like this government was caring about women around Australia. But no. I mean, she doubled down on claims that male MPs effectively almost forced her out of Parliament and she says there is a culture in Canberra that needs to change inside that Canberra bubble.

LEIGH: It's the blokiest workplace I’ve ever been in, Marcus. I’ve worked in corporate environments and university environments, and parliament is the most macho workplace I’ve ever been in. It could do with a change in the culture. For staff we need a compliance mechanism that sits outside the partisan political process, so people are able to have their complaints heard, just as they would in any large commercial organisation. The British Parliament's just moved to that, and I hope that the recommendation out of the Jenkins Inquiry will be that Australia adopts that approach. 

PAUL: Andrew, I think I've found out why our mate, your mate, my mate Gerry Harvey is refusing to pay or repay JobKeeper. I’ve got to the bottom of it. 

LEIGH: Excellent. Fire away, Marcus.

PAUL: Well if you go to the biggest selling newspaper in Australia, The Daily Telegraph, today and you go just a couple of pages in - one page, two page, three pages - a big three page spread on the latest 1000 days interest free, no deposit, no interest. I wonder how much all of this cost. There is - and every time I go to the newspapers, there are dozens of ads for Harvey Norman. They don't advertise on this radio station. I know they do on some of our regionals. But I mean, if they can afford to advertise - and that wouldn't have been cheap, it’s a part of a, you know, rugby league season preview game campaign at the front of the newspaper. It wouldn't have been cheap at all. But if they can afford to spend money on this sort of advertising, surely they can repay the millions back in JobKeeper, considering they've made record profits. 

LEIGH: You’re absolutely right, Marcus. Harvey Norman made nearly a billion dollars last year, and they’ve ploughed a lot back into advertising. But you know what would be great advertising for Harvey Norman?  To pay back the corporate welfare they've received from the Australian taxpayer. Gerry Harvey has been saying that because he pays tax, he doesn't have to pay back the JobKeeper handout. That’s just flat out wrong. Plenty of other firms have done it - we’ve had more than $100 million in JobKeeper paid back to the federal government by firms like Toyota Australia, Iluka and Domino’s, that have recognised that they burnish their corporate image when they do the right thing. I'd love to see Gerry Harvey, and for that matter Solomon Lew, putting pressure on the companies that they own to pay back JobKeeper they didn’t need.

PAUL: You're worried about charities at the moment, and the pressure that will continue on them. It's been tough enough during the pandemic for charities, but with the withdrawal of JobKeeper later this month, it’s a worry. 

LEIGH: It really is, Marcus. I wrote a book last year with Nick Terrell called Reconnected, about the challenge of community life in Australia. We've seen a fall in volunteering and joining. We've got fewer Australians being part of a union or a church. Sporting groups are really struggling, and right now charities are under huge pressure. So we need more support from the federal government for charities, just as we do for exposed sectors like international tourism, and a recognition that charities do so much to hold the social fabric together. I really hope that people are able to step up and volunteer if they're in a position to do that. Volunteering Australia’s website is a great place to start, and volunteering is a terrific way to to give back to the community. I'm sure many of your listeners were out there on Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday. The striking thing for me, Marcus, was my kids helped clean up their local community but when they came back home, they were just three nicer young men then when when they left the house, because they’d been doing something for other people.

PAUL: Yeah, it's rewarding. And we should be encouraging more and more young people to get out there and make a contribution to their community, because you get a lot more out of it than what you put in. It’s just amazing. 

LEIGH: So many do, but so many more could as well. With volunteering rates having fallen markedly, we really do need to do more to make sure we're a nation of ‘we‘ rather than a nation of ‘me’. 

PAUL: Good to have you on, Andrew. We’ll chat again next week. Thank you. 

LEIGH: Looking forward to it, Marcus.

PAUL: Alright. There he is, our #JobKeeperWarrior, Andrew Leigh MP.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.