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Transcript of interview with Ashleigh Gillon: Sky News AM Agenda: 25 November 2010: NBN; Party Room discussions; Inverbrackie Detention Centre; Victorian election; highs and lows of 2010 and priorities for 2011

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The Hon Richard Marles MP Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Sky News 'AM Agenda': Transcript of interview with Ashleigh Gillon and panellist, Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella

Subjects: NBN, Party Room discussions, Inverbrackie Detention Centre, Victorian election, highs and lows of 2010 and priorities for 2011.

Transcript, E&OE

25 November 2010

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda, I'm Ashleigh Gillon.

Well it's the final day of what has been a remarkable parliamentary year. 2010 saw a Prime Minister knifed in his first term, a strange election campaign and, of course, an historic hung Parliament. Joining me this morning to look back on the year that was and to preview the final sitting day for the year, we have the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, good morning to you.

RICHARD MARLES: Good morning Ash, how are you?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well thank you. And the Shadow Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Sophie Mirabella, good morning.


ASHLEIGH GILLON: Let's start on the National Broadband Network. It really has dominated proceedings this week. Sophie, isn't this a big win for Julia Gillard on this final day, to secure the support of the Independents and get this legislation through the Senate?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: I think the Federal Parliament should be more about little games won and who has lost, it should be about making important decisions for Australia's long-term future. And the government, if we're looking at a year in review, has delivered scam after scam. Dog of a program after dog of a program. Billions wasted. Billions splurged.

And now we have the NBN. They set up their own organisation, Infrastructure Australia. That should be the body to have looked at the NBN. It hasn't. They have confused the end with the means. We all believe there should be affordable, universal broadband, but how can any government — how can any government go on the path of spending billions of dollars,

more than any other government has spent on a single project, and be so afraid to subject that to a cost benefit analysis?

Why don't we find the best way to spend taxpayer's dollars. This has become an issue not of good government and delivering universal affordable broadband, it has become an issue of ego for the government.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well let's ask — let's put that to Richard Marles. We still haven't seen a cost benefit analysis. We've seen the summary now of the business case, that surely could have been released months ago?

RICHARD MARLES: Well, of course, we saw the implementation study a long time ago, which pointed out the commercial viability of the NBN. You know, there have been issues in relation to the business plan, about it being commercial in confidence, about the market sensitivities and about the fact that we've got an ACCC decision next week.

But let's not forget this is a huge win for Australian families today. We're going to see cheaper, faster broadband which is going to revolutionise our country. It's going to build the backbone for our economy going into the twenty-first century, and when you want to talk about, you know, visionary ideas taking us forward into the future, this is a red letter day. And it stands in stark contrast to what we've got on the other side. Big on carping and complaining, but barely an idea to be seen from the Opposition. And certainly not any alternative scheme to what we're putting forward.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: The Opposition does now support the structural separation of Telstra. It originally, when it was first announced, it didn't, but Malcolm Turnbull, under his guidance, the Coalition is now backing that. But still not willing to actually show support in the Senate are you, for that bill?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Well how can we support a policy — how can we support a bill that has no transparency. Why is the government covering up…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: A lot of information was released yesterday that we hadn't seen.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: There were — there were no financials. If you took that information, a potted little summary to a bank and asked them to support the NBN they'd say no.

RICHARD MARLES: But when they see the information come out later…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Hold on, hold on, hold on a second…

RICHARD MARLES: …we'll see the information come out later.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Why not now? Why not…

RICHARD MARLES: Well because there's an ACCC case next week.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …why not — why not have the Productivity Commission look at a cost benefit analysis, because it's not just your way, or the highway. Why didn't we get the

Productivity Commission to look at all available options, to get the best option. And the point is, we're finishing a really bad parliamentary year for the government and Richard's coming in full of slogans. And what happened yesterday? We now know that 21 members of caucus said to Julia Gillard…

RICHARD MARLES: Oh, that's ridiculous.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …stop the parroting, stop the sloganing, because people are sick of you being a wound up doll, being put out there and running these lines.





RICHARD MARLES: Well we can get onto that, but what — you know, what is important is that we are delivering something which is going to take this country forward. There's going to be 25,000 jobs created in the rolling out of this over the next decade. It is a red letter day

and to hear what we've got from Sophie, which is no alternative vision at all; no alternative about how we go forward. Just speaks volumes about where the Liberals are at.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Yes, we do. Take it — no, we do have a vision. We're saying…

RICHARD MARLES: And they've seen a lot of consultation around this.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …we're saying take it…

RICHARD MARLES: There's been the implementation study.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: ….to the Productivity Commission.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay [indistinct]

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: We're saying take it to the Productivity Commission, because look Richard if you guys can't put free fluff in people's roofs, basic sheds on school buildings

without costs blowing out to five or 10 times the amount — if you can't deliver on basic promises like Fuel Watch and Grocery Watch and — you're just lost.


SOPHIE MIRABELLA: You can't deliver…

RICHARD MARLES: But what the — but…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But the Productivity Commission is going to look at this in a few years before all of this does actually get — start to be sold back again. But…

RICHARD MARLES: But I think the point that we also — well, look let's…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: …why not now I guess is the question that Sophie's asking.

RICHARD MARLES: …let's also be clear about where the Opposition are at. They have made it clear from day one that they're aim in terms of the NBN — no matter what it means for Australia — is to abolish it. Malcolm Turnbull's job is to demolish it. Barnaby Joyce is out there saying that he wants to bring down the NBN because it will bring down the

government. Now you want to talk about playing politics and, you know.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay. Look, let's bring up the other point that Sophie raised. We've seen some notes about caucus meetings this week. We saw some reports today about a ministry strategy meeting yesterday, where Julia Gillard unveiled this five point plan. She says she wants a strong economy, a strong environment, a fairer society governing for all

Australians and keeping the nation safe. They all seem like pretty obvious goals to me. Is this Julia Gillard trying to come up with the narrative that she's been accused of lacking so far?

RICHARD MARLES: Look, I thin… we've had a narrative. What this is, is we're at the end of the year. I think this is a bit of a stock take about where we are at the moment and how we intend to prosecute our agenda, which we absolutely have — how we intend to prosecute our agenda through 2011. And it was a really good session with people in caucus asking them for their input. Far from being, you know, 21 people standing up and raising complaints, it was people making a contribution to how we take — how we prosecute the agenda going forward into 2011. Again, it stands in stark contrast to the Liberal Party room which had Steve Ciobo bell the cat on the fact that they have no ideas in the Opposition.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Oh, Richard you…

RICHARD MARLES: They go on whinging and whining, but no ideas.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …weren't there mate.


SOPHIE MIRABELLA: You weren't there mate.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, so you were there.

RICHARD MARLES: Well nor were you at ours.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So let's get your take on that, because we have heard that there is a bit of a push within the Coalition for you to look back at industrial relations and make that part of your platform again.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: One thing that we're not afraid to do Ash, is to look at policy and to develop it. To look at what is good in Labor proposals to support, and what is bad. We're not going to go out there, you know, with slogans. We've had the Prime Minister come up

with a supposed — another five point jingoistic plan. She can't even get the basic policies that…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But hasn't Tony Abbott been…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …the knifing of Kevin Rudd. She can't get — she can't stop the boats…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Yeah, but look at what's happening…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: ….she can't fix the [indistinct]…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: …on your side of politics.

RICHARD MARLES: Well that's a slogan.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: And she can't fix the mining tax.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, but what about your side of politics?

RICHARD MARLES: Three word slogans. Stopping the boats.



SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Why hasn't — why hasn't…

RICHARD MARLES: Wrecking the policies.



SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …fixed the problems that caused Kevin Rudd's knifing?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, Sophie, I just want to look at your side of politics again though. Hasn't Tony Abbott been shying away from this IR issue, because it's too politically dangerous? Isn't that one of the points that Steve Ciobo was making?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Abso… no, absolutely not. Absolutely not. And we're not going to crucify anyone who comes up with ideas and proposals in the party room. Our leader doesn't go out like Julia Gillard and talk in a parrot-like fashion. At least our leader and people in our caucus are encouraged and, in fact, know that it's their responsibility to think of poli… alternative policies. That's why we took detailed policies to the last election. That's what we're on about.

We're not all about controlling the agenda, so that the Prime Minister looks good. I can understand why last night, at an industry dinner, the Prime Minister looked like a stale bottle of beer. Didn't circulate. Didn't talk to people, because she's ending the year on a sour note.

There's Kevin Rudd who's now sitting there on there front bench smiling, thinking I bet you all wish I was still there, because it's getting worse and worse.

RICHARD MARLES: So you support the Fair Work Act?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, another issue…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: It's getting worse and worse.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: ….another issue that the Coalition has been targeting the government over this — this week and the last few weeks is the connection to the Greens. And yesterday this is another issue, apparently, that came up in that meeting was the push for Labor to really take on the Greens. What are some ideas about how you're going to do that?

RICHARD MARLES: Oh, look, I — the Liberals want to create this sense of a connection with the Greens, which absolutely is not there. And we're not in coalition with the Greens. And I think what is important is that we stake out our position within the political spectrum which we've been doing. And there are many, many positions where we have very different

views to those of the Greens.

I mean you just — in — you can look at climate change as an example. We put through — we sought to put the CPRS through the Parliament. The Greens actually sided with the Opposition in blocking that.

So there are big differences between us and the Greens, and I think it's important that we make those differences clear and that's what we're doing.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: I do want to just move onto another issue. Yesterday, we saw the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, visit the Adelaide Hills. Of course, there was then a lot of angry scenes there because of the new Inverbrackie detention centre that is expected to be up and running by Christmas, I believe it is.

Chris Bowen was asked a few questions at this community meeting. Have a listen.

[Start of except — Chris Bowen responds to question regarding the new detention centre]

QUESTION: Can you guarantee the safety of my family? We live very close to the facility.


I want a guarantee that my family will be safe.

QUESTION: Minister, thank you very much for coming.


QUESTION: I'm afraid to say it's probably 12 months too late. You've already wreaked irreparable damage on this community. You've split the community.

CHRIS BOWEN: As the community gets more information, as they see the centre in operation, this community will deal with the centre in the same way that other communities, whether it be Leonora or Weipa deal with it, despite initial concerns that get raised. As those concerns get dealt with, the community responds well.

[End of excerpt]

ASHLEIGH GILLON: We should point out that there a number of supporters who did turn up as well to that meeting last night. Richard, good on Chris Bowen for turning but there is an argument that he just left it way too late.

RICHARD MARLES: Well look as soon as a decision was made in relation to this we've been very upfront about it, that does stand in contrast to how the Liberals dealt with detention centres during their time in office. Chris Bowen is out there dealing with the issues that people are raising and as you point out, there were many people at that meeting last night who could see the opportunities that come with this; employment, better services to the region and I think as the minister said, as the community gets used to this being in their community and they see how it operates, they'll welcome the opportunities that come with it.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So we've seen the Coalition really pushing this issue hard, Jamie Briggs the local member has been bringing local residents here to Canberra this week to push their cases, is it whipping up fear though — are people like Jamie Briggs ignoring the sorts of benefits that this local community could see in terms of the economy because of this new detention centre?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Absolutely not. There's a magic figure here and it's four. That's how many people were in detention when the Coalition lost government. There are now over 5000.

Jamie Briggs is a relatively new member of parliament, he's very experienced in politics, he's been there, seen good policy operate having worked for a former very successful prime minister, it would be negligent of him not to represent the concerns of his electorate.

And here we have a community that has been ignored, that had a decision imposed upon them and if the Labor Party was fair dinkum, was fair dinkum about community consultation, they would support Jamie Briggs' motion this morning to refer the matter for further consideration to a parliamentary committee. But the Labor Party will go into parliament today and oppose Jamie Briggs' motion.

Now you can't expect a member of parliament — you saw how concerned people are…

RICHARD MARLES: There are a whole lot of people there seeing the opportunities.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: It's great that other people from around Adelaide took the opportunity to attend as well…

RICHARD MARLES: Well you know that they weren't from that community.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Now Jamie Briggs is going to represent his community and…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But that deal today, have any of the independents' offered Jamie his support or is this something that purely the Coalition is on about?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: No this is something, a motion that an individual member, Jamie Briggs is putting up of course the Coalition is supporting him and I'm not sure what the independents' position is but if the Labor Party is not afraid of community consultation, then the minister should have gone there months ago and they can now show they're not afraid of the community and speaking to the community and actually supporting Jamie Briggs' motion.

There's nothing to be afraid of, politics is about…

RICHARD MARLES: Well that's why the minister's there.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Richard hold on — politics is about representing the dreams, the visions, the aspirations and the concerns of the Australian people. If you're too gutless to go out there and meet with them then how can you possibly do that as a government?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well Chris Bowen did go there last night and he has said he's…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Finally he's right.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: …willing to do the same thing in Northam in WA with the second mainland detention centre will also be built. Richard after we've seen so many boats arrive, do you still insist that the change of policy that your government implemented when it first took power has nothing to do with that influx?

RICHARD MARLES: The key issue in terms of there being more boats is to do with the fact that there are more people on the move worldwide. This is…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Nothing to do with the changes that you implemented?

RICHARD MARLES: Are we honestly saying that there are people in villages in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan who are thumbing through the pages of The Australian to work out the fine detail of Australian policy when they make their decision about whether or not they're going to flee their country.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: But that's what smugglers have said?

RICHARD MARLES: No, no, the fact of the matter is there are a whole lot of people who are out on the move now, far more than there were at the time that the opposition lost power in 2007, this as we've said on many occasions is a problem which is facing the world and facing the region and therefore it's a problem which requires a regional solution and we're working on that.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Actually well — no in response you're not right Richard. The number of boats to other countries hasn't increased by the enormous proportion that it has to Australia. We do know because they've told us — people smugglers have told us it is much easier for them to do this…

RICHARD MARLES: [Laughs] People smugglers have told you. You're in contact with the people smugglers.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: They've actually been reported in the national media mate. Like you know you should read that some time…


SOPHIE MIRABELLA: People — when you run a business, whether it's illegal or legal, you know the conditions under which you can operate better and they know that the Labor Party having changed the law, having gone soft on border protection, makes it easier for them.

RICHARD MARLES: But you also know that there are far more people on the move now than there were in 2007 and that is the reason…


RICHARD MARLES: That's a global thing…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, we're going around in circles…

RICHARD MARLES: It's a global issue…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: But why haven't other countries…

ASHLEIGH GILLON: We need to go to a break now, we're going to come back after the break and look at some of the highs and lows of this parliamentary year.

We'll also be touching base with our reporter in Victoria to see how the election there is heading with just a couple of days to go until voting day. Stay with us.

[Unrelated item — advertisement break]

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Welcome back to AM Agenda. It's just two days to go until Victorians go to the polls. Today the Victorian Premier John Brumby is heading bush while the Opposition leader Ted Baillieu is apparently planning to mimic what Tony Abbott did in the final days of the federal campaign.

We are going to get back to our panellists shortly to look at the highs and lows of this parliamentary year, but first let's cross straight to Melbourne. SKY's reporter Gemma Veness is there. Gemma good morning to you.

GEMMA VENESS: Good morning.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: The Coalition's finally releasing its costings today I see.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Yes, so it does leave long for analysts to go through them. Basically Ted Baillieu, the Opposition leader, refused to submit them to Treasury during this campaign, giving much the same reasons as Tony Abbott did during the federal campaign. So saying

that he didn't trust that Treasury was fully independent and thought that his policies would be leaked to the Government.

So we have seen in this campaign Labor having a sustained attack on the Coalition for refusing to do so. Labor saying its policies add up to about $7 billion and actually accusing the Coalition of promising basically double that. So we will see the final figures today from an independent accounting firm. We don't know which one yet so we'll have to wait and see for that. It looks like it will be this afternoon when they're finally released.

And it also looks as though it will be the Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Finance Minister that will be answering to those costings with Ted Baillieu out and about and campaigning. So he will have to be answerable of course at some point but it looks like it'll be left to his shadow ministers for today.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: And Gemma, what are the leaders up to today? And you've been following this closely out every day with the leaders, who do you think has the most momentum behind them at this crucial stage?

GEMMA VENESS: Well John Brumby will be meeting with his ministers in about an hour's time before they deploy and as we saw yesterday they went right across the state. It does seem at this point that the momentum is with John Brumby.

As we saw this sustained attack over costings but also as we've see Ted Baillieu, he has pressed ahead with his policies in recent days, kept on the campaigning, but he has had this attack from Labor over his past business dealings, namely in a real estate agency that sold off some of the schools in the state and these ads to that effect which he is — says he is now suing Labor over defamation. But they're still running and the election's in two days time.

Ted Baillieu, he will be making an announcement in about two hour's time, we believe, on having convicted criminals automatically paying compensation to their victims as opposed to when victims simply apply for it. So continuing on this law and order theme that he has been.

The Nationals' leader Peter Ryan, he'll be embarking on a blitz of 30 towns in 30 hours. So again, in this sort of campaign bender theme that we saw from Abbott in the federal campaign, he accused Labor yesterday — they visited — John Brumby — 17 towns yesterday. He accused John Brumby of panicking that he would have a backlash from the

bush and we did see Bob Hawke join the campaign yesterday.

We've got some vision there of Brumby and Hawke having a bit of a dance together in Geelong and I think this brings home — it could have been a tale of two campaigns, had the Libs done a preference deal with the Greens. We would have seen the Brumby Government confined to inner Melbourne, rather than going out in the regions as they have and there is a cluster of seats that certainly Peter Ryan, the Nationals leader will be focusing on today for the Coalition. They're Labor-held, but they're marginal. They're from Geelong to Ballarat, Bendigo and Seymour and will be crucial for this election.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Gemma Vaness thank you, we'll be watching closely over the next couple of days. There's no doubt my panellists will as well.

Sophie Mirabella, Richard Marles are still with me. You're both obviously Victorian MPs. Very quickly, because we're running out of time, Richard, do you think there'll be a really big swing again John Brumby. Is that what you're expecting?

RICHARD MARLES: Look I think the Brumby Government's been a very good government. It's been in power of course for 11 years so I think this is going to be a tough election but he's been doing a great job. We see echoes in the costings from the federal campaign. I think that's going to count against the Liberals but I think John Brumby will win.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Sophie was it the right choice to count out the Greens in the preferences do you think?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: We believe they are the most extreme party and they are bad for Australians. They're bad for Victorians and particularly bad for country Australians. We did the principled thing. We're not going to enter into some backdoor political deal with the

Greens at the expense of good government.

The Labor Party will say and do anything to win and we've seen Mr Brumby who's got more media advisors than anyone else and I think Julia should go and look at her old boss for some media tips. Get the biggest media unit in the country and spin your way out of trouble because that's what John Brumby is trying to do at the expense of good government in Victoria.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Back in this building though, just finally and quickly, the highs and lows of this year Richard; surely dumping a first term prime minister wasn't Labor's finest hour?

RICHARD MARLES: Look it's been a very big year and not just because of the election. I think the highs; the National Health and Hospital plan is a really significant moment in Australia's history. The NBN was turned on this year and that's going to be a huge thing for this country as we've discussed and we're also seeing really solid steps being taken to get

the budget back into the black. So you know, I think it's been a great year in terms of those policy steps forward.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: We have seen three Opposition leaders in three years, is Tony Abbott going to make it through the next term do you think?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: Tony Abbott has shown that he has got the Government to be accountable. He's forcing them to actually stand up for what they believe in to answer to their policies and they — they're on the run. You've seen now caucus members — caucus members — actually mouthing the same complaints that we have been making and Tony Abbott…

RICHARD MARLES: That's not true.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: …Tony Abbott has been voicing out there in the community because he speaks straight. He's a real person, speaks a real language and Tony Abbott brought this government almost to their knees because they deserve to be. Their arrogance in the way they've spent billions of dollars, their arrogance in covering up, keeping information

secret; not releasing information on the home insulation disaster, not releasing information on the NBN, trying to spin their way out of trouble. He's exposed them and he's done Australians a great service.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Final word, going forward into the new year, what are the key priorities do you think?

RICHARD MARLES: Well I think the key priorities are to continue work on the budget to make sure that we get the budget back in the black by 2012-'13 and we're very committed to doing that. Making sure that we implement the NBN, that's a huge thing for the Government. Advancing the debate in relation to climate change and making sure that the National Health and Hospital plan is on its way.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Plenty for us to look forward to. Sophie Mirabella, Richard Marles, thank you for your — joining us this morning and…



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