Online misinformation needs to be called out - Transcript, 2SM with Marcus Paul



SUBJECTS: Deadly Capitol riots; Social media platforms; Impeachment; State border closures; Federal election.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Labor is sharpening its attacks on the federal government, and the Australian Labor Party is now ready for an election. Andrew Leigh MP would be one of those who is sharpening up the verbal attacks on his counterparts there in Canberra. He joins us for the first time in 2021. Happy New Year, Andrew.


PAUL: Wasn’t too bad actually. Sadly, I wasn't able to travel to the Gold Coast, which I wanted to do to visit family and friends and in particular my old dad. But, fingers crossed, we'll be able to do that in a couple of weekends’ time. It's very tough. But look, a lot of people were out there doing it a lot worse. I mean, the pandemic goes on. We know we've got border closures. Unfortunately, COVID is still here and probably until the vaccine’s introduced. Let's hope in the next month or so we'll be able to perhaps get some, back to some sort of normality, both socially and economically Andrew.

LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus. And when you look around the rest of the world and you see the dreadful toll that pandemic is taking in other countries, then I think the fact that our state governments are listening to medical experts and adjusting border closures accordingly, it makes sense.

PAUL: Yeah. Look, you say to hold an elected office is a privilege, never a right. You say it's essential to democracy that those who lose stand down gracefully and defend democratic institutions. Now, I don't need to be Einstein to work out you’re having a crack there at what's going on in the United States. 

LEIGH: It was pretty extraordinary to see, for the first time since the British burned the Capitol in 1814, a mob raging in the Capitol, egged on by a president in office. Donald Trump’s actions were extraordinary, and I was surprised that Scott Morrison didn't join other world leaders in forcefully condemning the role that Donald Trump played in inciting those protests. Historians will be picking over this for years to come but right now, what we know is that at least one police officer was killed by that mob. And it was very, very clearly a mob which wouldn't have been out there were it not for the enthusiastic encouragement from President Trump. 

PAUL: Yeah, look, I know that the acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack and others, including Craig Kelly and even the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, all had their say on whether or not social media giants should be able to close down their platforms for people like the outgoing President of the United States. Albo made his view on this perfectly clear on my program yesterday. No doubt you support what Anthony's had to say on this.

LEIGH: Absolutely. As my colleague Tim Watts, our acting communications spokesperson said, the social media companies have self regulatory policies which are pretty much in accord with our democratic norms. You don't incite violence, you don't spread hate speech, you don't spread dangerous medical misinformation. But it is appropriate that over time we also look at the way in which these platforms have chosen to make their decisions of banning particular people. The American Civil Liberties Union has raised that issue. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has talked about the importance of it. But in this case, I think unequivocally they made the right call. If you're inciting violence, you shouldn't be on one of these platforms. 

PAUL: Should Donald Trump be impeached in your opinion? I worry that if this goes ahead, the impeachment - which you know, the documents have been drawn and drafted, and the opposition, well the incoming administration is certainly trying to fast track this thing - I have concerns that it may lead to further unrest, Andrew.

LEIGH: It's a question as to what's the right decision to make morally and legally. I think the questions that further ripple out are secondary. But I imagine Democrats at the moment are looking at whether or not they could actually get two thirds of the Senate to agree to impeachment, and also the impact that an impeachment trial would have on President Biden’s ability to implement his agenda. I saw President Biden today suggesting that perhaps Congress could alternate between a day of impeachment hearings and a day of advancing the agenda. But that seems to have a messiness about it that I imagine will make some Democrats wonder whether this is the right road to go down. 

PAUL: Just one thing. I noticed that the acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack is this morning in Townsville. I would have thought the best place for an acting Prime Minister would be the centre of government in Canberra, or at least one of the major cities.

LEIGH: I certainly wouldn't begrudge Michael McCormack for being out in the regions. But yes, it's terrific to have people here at the centre of government. One of the things that we've seen consistently from the coalition since they came to office in 2013 is a distancing from the public service and the notion that the public service is there to take instructions, not to provide advice. Ministers do better work when they spend time around their departments, engaging with those experts, and January is a good time for Michael McCormack and his colleagues to be doing that. So more politicians spending more time in Canberra is something that I as a proud Canberra supporter would always be keen on.

PAUL: Well, the only reason I bring it up is because there's this war of words that's continuing with WA taking a swipe at New South Wales over the handling of COVID-19. Mark McGowan has been very vocal in his criticism of New South Wales, which I think by the way is unfair. I mean, WA’s taken next to no returned passengers from overseas like New South Wales has. My issue is that the handling of the pandemic, from all accounts, has turned far too political. I'm sick to death of hearing of squabbles between premiers, and that's why I think it's important that Mr McCormack and those at the centre of government are in Canberra, as you say, talking to public servants and trying to work our way through this. It's a little hard to pull recalcitrant premiers into line when you're up there in Townsville, in the tropics, surely?

LEIGH: Yes. it’d certainly be good if the national cabinet was playing the role that was meant to play when it was originally established. I totally agree with you - people are sick of the squabbling. They just want the problem solved. They want to make sure that they can see their loved ones as soon as it's safe to do so. And the federal government's got an important role not just in quarantine, but also in ensuring that premiers are on the same page. So hopefully, we will get a greater degree of clarity and consensus across the leadership.

PAUL: Alright. Well, it's good to talk to you, Andrew. We’ll continue our chats through 2021, each and every Tuesday as we prepare -  look, do you think, I guess, last comment here is apt - do you think that Scott Morrison will go early? Can you see him heading to a federal election this year? 

LEIGH: I think it'd be a chicken decision if he did. People sometimes suggest that to go early shows a sense of boldness, but the fact is that every time you go to an earlier election, you cost the taxpayer money that they wouldn't have had to pay otherwise. And you're doing so because you're concerned about not going your full democratic term. Australian electoral terms are shorter than in most other countries. We don't need to shorten them still further. But anytime he wants to go to the polls, we're ready. 

PAUL: Alright, Andrew. Good to talk. We'll chat again next week. Thank you, mate.

LEIGH: Thank you, Marcus.


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.