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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 28 July 2016: Royal Commission into detention abuse; allegations concerning Cardinal Pell; Kevin Rudd and the United Nations

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SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into Detention Abuse; Allegations concerning Cardinal Pell; Kevin Rudd and the United Nations

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now, the Shadow Finance Minister, Jim Chalmers, and also here in the studio, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Zed Seselja. Senator Seselja, first to you on this issue: do you agree with Colin Barnett that the Territory Government is just not up to the job when it comes to this? They had a number of warnings and they failed to respond to them appropriately.

ZED SESELJA: Well Kieran, let's see what the Royal Commission finds. The Prime Minister, as you know, has responded very swiftly to this and we'll be announcing the details of this Royal Commission in the following days. So let's allow the Royal Commission to do its work before we go and pronounce that we should be taking functions away from the Northern Territory Government. These are obviously very disturbing images. I think all of us who saw them were absolutely shocked by them and so the right thing to do is to try and get to the bottom of it with an independent process through a Royal Commission to make sure that in doing that we learn from why this has been allowed to occur, what needs to change in the cultural aspects and legal aspects and whatever else comes from the Royal Commission and then make sure those changes are implemented.

GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, do you think the Prime Minister has got an argument when he says that the most effective Royal Commissions are more narrowly focused to ensure that there is change where the problem has emerged? That's his argument again this morning, he was on radio saying that his experience with Royal Commissions suggests they need to be focused, and need to be focused on issues, but also in terms of time frame, Jim.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Look as you know Kieran, we support the Royal Commission that the Prime Minister is proposing. I think it is

important that we focus on the Northern Territory as a first step. There are some other issues at play here as it relates to the incarceration of young indigenous people in this country, which is a national shame. That's why we want to have that measure included in the Closing the Gap targets. But when it comes to a Royal Commission, it is crucial that we get the Terms of Reference right. We think that they shouldn't be finalised until they have proper input from experts, from people with experience in this field and some genuine bipartisan consultation, because we do want this to be a bipartisan Royal Commission, we do support it, we want to have some input into the Terms of Reference. I was very interested in what Ms Carney just said in that good interview you just did about some of these issues. Clearly, the investigations that have happened to date have not been sufficient to get to the bottom of some of these systemic issues so we want to make sure that we get it right.

GILBERT: I'll tell you one thing, Senator Seselja, that would have a lot of support I think is for the Corrections Minister who stood aside from that portfolio but holds five others, that he should stand aside pending the Royal Commission, surely.

SESELJA: Well, look again that's a matter for, obviously, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory as to how he runs his Government. And ultimately, how he runs his Government will be judged by the people of the Northern Territory very, very soon. But we don't dictate to heads of Government who they should have in their Ministry. The Northern Territory people can cast their judgement on that, and Adam Giles has taken action obviously in taking the Corrections portfolio in recent days. So I would just say, let's get the Royal Commission in place, let's allow it to get to the bottom of these issues, let's try and fix these issues, but in the meantime the Northern Territory has its democratic processes and the people will get to vote very, very soon.

GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, it does seem to make sense from the Government's perspective, I know there have been questions as to whether or not the Northern Territory Government should or should not have some involvement in this, but once you have a Royal Commissioner in place, they will make their judgements without fear or favour. So it's good to have the Northern Territory Government at least lending their support to this so that when they cop the flak as you'd expect they would, then they've got to be accountable to it. They can't just blame the southern states for a conspiracy against them, or something of that sort.

CHALMERS: In one sense I understand your point Kieran. It is an unusual situation in that, as you were just discussing in your earlier interview, that the Northern Territory is about to go to an election as well. Zed said that the people of the Northern Territory can cast their judgement, I suspect they are about to cast a pretty harsh judgement on the CLP Government in the Northern Territory. I think the level of State or Territory input into these things is up for discussion. As far as I'm concerned the first priority is to get those Terms of Reference right, to get proper input from people who know what they're talking about in this area and also to make sure that both sides of politics are supporting those Terms of Reference. That's the task most immediately in front of us. A lot of the other commentary around Ministers and state input and that sort of stuff, I'll leave to others.

GILBERT: Okay, let's take a break. Back in just a moment with the Shadow Finance Minister, Jim Chalmers, and the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multiculturalism, Zed Seselja.

GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me, the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers and the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multiculturalism, Zed Seselja. Senator Seselja, to you to on the allegations reported by the ABC last night against Cardinal Pell. They date back to the 1970's. He has denied them throughout. He's now from the Vatican calling for an investigation into the leak out of Victorian Police of the investigation, suggesting that it could be an issue of perverting the course of justice. What's your take on all of this?

SESELJA: Well what I would say is obviously Cardinal Pell is absolutely entitled to the presumption of innocence. You know people are entitled to make allegations if they want to make allegations to the relevant authorities. The authorities are entitled to investigate those and make judgements on the veracity of those allegations. In terms of any potential leaks and the like, obviously I don't know the detail of that. All we do is we read the reports and obviously you would hope that in any investigation by the police or other relevant authorities that they are done properly and without any information improperly getting out. I'm not aware that's occurred but obviously if there are other allegations like that then I think they should be investigated as well.

GILBERT: Jim, your thoughts on this? Obviously some very disturbing allegations made but denied forcefully by the Cardinal and he says that he's not going to participate in a trial by media.

CHALMERS: I watched that report last night, very difficult viewing of course, but as Zed says, it's not possible or desirable really to get into the specific allegations. We've got at least two processes going on at the moment, the police process that you mentioned as well as the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. It's important that they run their course properly without interference or political input. But it is hard to watch those sorts of interviews. Without going into the detail of them, there has seemed to have been a lot of allegations made generally in this area in the last little while. We owe it to those people and to the nation to get to the bottom of it. That's what the Royal Commission and the police processes are all about.

GILBERT: Let's look finally on a couple of other issues that Cabinet will have to address today. One of them, Senator Seselja, is the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Will he or won't he be nominated for the UN Secretary-General position? It doesn't look like he will be, with Julie Bishop, one of very few within the Ministry, that supports Mr Rudd's bid, Senator.

SESELJA: Well look Kieran, let's wait and see. Obviously it is a decision for Cabinet and let's allow Cabinet to have its processes. I'm sure it will consider all of the relevant factors. I'm sure they will consider statements from people like the Former Ambassador Kim Beazley in relation to whether or not Kevin Rudd should be backed by Australia, but I would leave that to my Cabinet colleagues to make those judgements.

GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, you were working for the then-Labor Government when there was talk of Peter Costello potentially taking an international job. This has been referred to by no less than the Treasurer Mr Morrison in suggesting that 'well Labor didn't offer a comparable job to Peter Costello, so why should we be doing it?'

CHALMERS: I'm happy to get to that, Kieran. I think first of all, it's important to say that anything short of a full endorsement of an Australian to run the UN out of Cabinet today would be a victory for petty, undergraduate politics and the hard right in the Cabinet over Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull. People have a right to expect their Cabinet to make a hard-headed assessment, a hard-headed judgement of the national interest and to act on it. I think not pushing for an Australian to head the UN would be an extraordinary failure on that front. When it comes to Peter Costello, as you said, I was working for the Treasurer for a substantial period in the last Labor Government. I have no recollection whatsoever of Peter Costello putting his hand up to run the IMF. There was an opinion piece written by Julie Bishop where she proposed it, but there was certainly no approach made to the Government of the same nature that Kevin Rudd has approached the current Government about the United Nations. Really, if you think about it this way Kieran, if Peter Costello wanted the job but didn't go for it, it wouldn't exactly have been the first time that had happened in his career. So, no there wasn't an approach made as has been claimed, no approach like the approach that Kevin Rudd has made to the current Cabinet. The current Cabinet should make a hard-headed assessment of what's in Australia's interests and act on it, and not proceed with these petty, undergraduate politics practiced by the hard right and Scott Morrison.

GILBERT: But your former boss Wayne Swan when he was Treasurer, as you well know, when the leadership battle was underway was scathing, he couldn't have been more critical of Mr Rudd, so is he really the sort of person that you think would make a good Secretary-General? Isn't that a hard-headed assessment that also needs to be made - does he have the capacity to do it?

CHALMERS: You're welcome to put that to Wayne, Kieran. But what's being asked here of Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull is not whether or not they like Kevin Rudd but whether or not they think it would be in Australia's national interest to have an Australian run the UN. I can't imagine that any objective assessment would come to the conclusion other than that would be a good thing for Australia. It's time for the Cabinet, the Turnbull Cabinet, to make a decision in Australia's interest and not to let a divided Cabinet fall again on the side of the hard right who want to proceed with these sorts of petty politics.

GILBERT: Yep, well Senator Seselja, wouldn't it be in our interest if he did pull of the unlikely and secure the Secretary-General position? Wouldn't it be in Australia's interest to have someone there at the very apex of the United Nations?

SESELJA: Well let's wait and see. As I say, the Cabinet will make its judgement. You know, it's in our interests to have obviously the best person in that UN role and the Cabinet will need to make a judgement as to who and if they give backing to. You know, Jim Chalmers talks about, you know, what Labor did in office and I think he's sort of skating around the issue in terms of Peter Costello. I think it's very clear

that Wayne Swan and the Labor Party made it very clear that they wouldn't support him and that's why he didn't put his hand up--

CHALMERS: We appointed him to the Future Fund.

SESELJA: That's a matter for them, but as to the IMF role. Maybe Wayne Swan can give a reference in relation to Kevin Rudd? All of these things will be considered and I'm sure the Cabinet will make the right judgement.

GILBERT: Okay, let's wrap up on one final issue, a very serious one. Various other issues have distracted from the Government's move to toughen the counterterrorism legislation in terms of detaining offenders beyond their date once they've served their time that they might be kept if they remain a risk. Senator Seselja, obviously from a national security perspective, I'm sure Labor will support this initiative, but from a community perspective, as Assistant Minister for Multiculturalism now, do you need to consult with the community to explain to Muslim community as well just what's going on here and the detail of what this legislation is all about?

SESELJA: Well there will be a very detailed consultation in the ordinary processes, and a very detailed committee process that looks at these things. But what I would say is in relation to consulting any particular parts of the community is that this legislation is not aimed at any particular part of our community. It is aimed at terrorists. It is aimed at convicted terrorists who have shown that they can't be rehabilitated. And I would argue that regardless of where you come from, you would want to see someone who is convicted of a terrorism offence who shows no propensity that they are now safe to be in the community, you would want to see the community protected from them. So of course we will consult with all parts of the community, but I would just emphasise that point: this is not aimed at one particular part of the community, it is only aimed at those who would do us harm and those who are convicted of serious terrorism offences.

GILBERT: Minister we're out of time. Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers, we're out of time. Thank you for the discussion this morning, we will talk to you soon.