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ABC News 24: Afternoon Live -

View in ParlView


29 JULY 2010

Subjects: Knife crime; National Disabilities Strategy; Australian Labor Party.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Gentlemen, good afternoon.

CHRIS BOWEN: Good afternoon.

CORY BERNARDI: Good afternoon.

UHLMANN: First to you, Chris Bowen. Why is the Prime Minister talking about knife crime and knuckle
dusters? Isn't this something that you would expect a state Labor Premier to be talking about?

BOWEN: Well, of course the Commonwealth has got responsibility for the borders and for importation,
and the announcement today goes to making sure that any weapons that are imported into Australia
have a legitimate use and really toughening the requirements for that, and ensuring that there's
some very rare circumstances where those sorts of weapons are acceptable but people would need to
justify that. That's a perfectly appropriate thing for a Commonwealth Government to be doing, and
more importantly, an obligation on the Commonwealth to be doing.

ALI MOORE: Cory Bernardi, can I put the same point to you, though? It does seem that violent gangs
and knife crime, but we're actually talking about a federal election, one can get confused and feel
that they might be at a state election, and these are very local issues.

CORY BERNARDI: Well, the Coalition is concerned about the under-resourcing of the Australian Crime
Commission, the failure of the Labor Government to bring in, you know, an additional 500 Australian
Federal Police, and so we're proposing that there should be a national register of gangs and gang
members, including bikie gangs. We think that there should be a stronger importation restrictions
on dangerous knives and knives that are going to be used as weapons. We also believe there should
be a harmony of drug laws. These are common sense things; they're direct action it takes a
Coalition Government to deliver.

UHLMANN: But both of you ... Go, Chris.

BOWEN: Could I just pick that point up? The Opposition's announcement today is quite perplexing. I
note the Opposition's support for our changes on customs rules and weapons. They've also announced
a range of things that have already happened. There already is a register of gang members organised
through the Australian Crime Commission. This Government toughened the ability of the Crime
Commission, or the Federal Police, to seize gang proceeds, gang funds, and to take those steps. So
while of course we welcome the Opposition's support for any policy measures, and some of those the
Opposition tried to water down in the Parliament at the time, it is quite perplexing that they're
announcing things that have already, frankly, been done.

UHLMANN: So Cory Bernardi [inaudible]?

BERNARDI: Yeah, what's perplexing is why Labor have failed to commit to the 500 additional
Australian Federal Police officers, why they're under-resourcing the Australian Crime Commission,
and we're promising to resource them adequately so that they can do the job they're entrusted to

BOWEN: Well, we're meeting that commitment and you're also promising to do things that have already
been done that you tried to water down when they went through the Parliament, so -

BERNARDI: Chris, you haven't met your commitment to find 500 new Australian Federal Police
officers. Now, if you're going to tell me differently now, I'm happy for that, to check that out.

BOWEN: Well, we're investing in the Federal Police and we are increasing the number of Federal
Police officers, and you are just simply re-announcing things that have already happened. That's
fine. If you want to do that, that's welcome.

BERNARDI: [inaudible]

UHLMANN: Aren't you both just wrestling over the suburban angst here? You're both just wrestling
over the suburban angst that you know is out there and really, this is a very small scale thing for
a national government to be talking about, isn't it?

BOWEN: Look, I don't think so, in fairness.

BERNARDI: You might think it's a small scale thing.

BOWEN: I think Cory and I just reached agreement on one thing.

MOORE: [laughs]

UHLMANN: It's tremendous, we're bringing you all together.

BOWEN: That's right. I'm glad. Cory will be saying, 'Let's move forward' in a minute. We do agree
that this is important to people and yes, law and order is primarily a state issue. Of course
that's the case. But the Commonwealth always has played a role and it's important that we make sure
our policies are as good and as tight as they can be, and that's certainly what we're doing.

MOORE: Cory Bernardi, another policy area which the Government's focused on today and that's more
money for disability services, particularly for early intervention. What's Coalition policy for
early intervention for children with disabilities?

BERNARDI: Well, the Coalition's disability policy will be released very soon. But let me just say
that there has traditionally been bipartisan support for these sorts of measures because we
recognise that those with a disability and those that care for them, you know, are often doing it
very, very tough. And so, you know, our Coalition spokesman, Mitch Fifield, Senator Mitch Fifield,
has worked very closely with Bill Shorten and in trying to get these sorts of measures up. But our
policy will be released very soon.

UHLMANN: Well, Chris Bowen, it looks like we've found two areas of agreement now, they've been
behind your disability policy. But this is just the beginning, isn't it? The big ticket item in all
of this would be a no-fault disability insurance program.

BOWEN: Yeah, and that's something we've got the Productivity Commission looking at in terms of the
long term care needs. Can I just say I think this is a really important announcement today. It's
really important that these sort of issues do get a very good airing in a federal election
campaign. This is not a lobby which has traditionally - and this is not a political statement -
traditionally received a lot of attention in the past. But I'd really like to congratulate Jenny
Macklin and Bill Shorten on the very substantial work they've done. Early intervention is very
important, a national strategy is very important, more support for supported accommodation: all
things that the disability community's been talking about for a long time, and it's appropriate
that this get a very high level of attention during an election campaign.

MOORE: Chris Bowen, is it fair to sort of say that this is perhaps one of the few policies that
you've put out that is actually something you've been working on for some time? If you look at
asylum seekers, for example, that's still in negotiation with East Timor, wherever that may end up.
If you look at climate change, that's going to a people's assembly; whereas this is a policy which
actually has some concrete ideas and you've been working on it for months, if not before that.

BOWEN: Well, I can assure you that the policies we work on, all of them, receive a lot of thought.
Yes, the new Prime Minister brought a new focus to some policies, but a number of the policies
we've announced have been worked on for many months by the appropriate Cabinet Minister and the
other Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. So, look, I'd have to say this is not something
that, policy development is not something that gets rushed. It shouldn't get rushed and our
policies are always well considered and often there's many months of thought that go into them.

UHLMANN: Well, Chris Bowen, I can sense that Cory Bernardi is about to part ways with you on that

BOWEN: Oh well, that would be a shame.


BERNARDI: Well, one of the criticisms about this policy and the disability approach by the
Government is that it's been, it's taken such a long time. I mean, Bill Shorten has been floating
his national no-fault disability insurance scheme. There's meant to be a national disability
approach that was started in 2009. It's not going to be released until after the election. Now, I'm
not trying to score political points, but you know, this is an area that needs action. There has
been some action taken and I'm sure you'll see the Coalition release their policy in the coming

MOORE: We're going to talk to Bill Shorten after the next hour. But Cory Bernardi, an issue we've
been asking our pollie panel during the week: do you think women in politics are treated

BERNARDI: I don't know. I personally have always looked at my colleagues and assessed them on their
merits and their capacity and their ability to perform. I don't think gender comes into that at
all. There are a number of high profile women, both in the Coalition and in the Government; maybe
they're assessed by different standards within certain sections of the community, but certainly not
by their colleagues as far as I'm concerned.

UHLMANN: Chris Bowen, just a question to you: why did Julia Gillard feel it was necessary to give a
warning now against leaking, that whoever's responsible for it is going to be sacked? Are there
that many rats in the ranks in the Labor Party at the moment; you're just not quite sure who they

BOWEN: Oh, I'm not sure you could put that characterisation on it at all, Chris. I think the Prime
Minister's just clearly stating the obvious, that a Government must have those sorts of rules in
place, and I'm sure it would be the same under Tony Abbott in the Liberal Party. Leaks do happen
from time to time on both sides of politics, but leaders of both political persuasions are not only
entitled but obliged to deal very firmly with them.

UHLMANN: Cory Bernardi?

MOORE: I just wanted to say to sack them you've got to know who they are, don't you?

BOWEN: Sorry, I didn't pick that up.

MOORE: Just let me clarify what I said, Chris Bowen, was to sack them you've got to know who they
are, but there seems to be no effort underway to try and find out where this leak came from.

BOWEN: Well, Ali, I know people such as yourselves and journalists like holding over these issues.
This is an election campaign where issues are really important. The first two issues we talked
about, I think, will be very important: law and order and disability, and health and education and
economic management and paid parental leave. They're things that people want us to be focusing on
in an election campaign, not conducting some sort of speculation as to who might have said what to

UHLMANN: Cory Bernardi, it's been unnaturally quiet on leaks on the Liberal Party side for a while,
but the Labor Party obviously has some problems at the moment.

BERNARDI: Well, it's quite incredible. It's more bluster from Julia Gillard about she's going to
sack people who leak. I mean, there are laws in place about Cabinet solidarity and Cabinet
confidentiality. Now, there are people clearly breaching these laws because there are disgruntled
people in the Labor Party who know that Labor have lost their way. They had this great hope in
Julia Gillard, but she's had a makeover of her policies and that's been exposed as just more fluff
and froth and bubble, I guess. You know, the Labor Party is in internal turmoil and that's coming
out. If they're not fit to look after themselves, they're not fit to look after the country.

MOORE: Chris Bowen and Cory Bernardi, we are out of time, but thank you very much for joining us on
this politicians' panel this afternoon.

BOWEN: Always nice to talk to you.

BERNARDI: Thank you.

BOWEN: Good afternoon.