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Transcript of interview with Laura Jayes: Sky News Newsday: 30 November 2017: Banking Royal Commission; Senator Dastyari

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SUBJECTS: Banking Royal Commission; Senator Dastyari.

LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O'Connor. Shadow Minister thanks so much for your time.

First of all, this banking Royal Commission. I’ll let you gloat in just a moment, but do you think that 12 months is enough for this inquiry?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: I think it’s very hard to know at this point because there’s been so little consultation by the Government with the victims in the finance sector and the banking sector. In fact the Terms of Reference, it would appear, have not been in any way - the Government has not engaged with victims and I think that’s a crying shame.

And look, Royal Commissions often do extend their own life on their own motion. They’re independent bodies to that extent. We saw that with the Royal Commission into trade unions. I don’t think the Government engaged and consulted with trade unions about the Terms of Reference for that enquiry so it is somewhat concerning to many that it would appear the major banks have been involved in not only this announcement today, but it would appear also the framing and the Terms of Reference of the Commission itself.

JAYES: Why do you say that? What draws you to that conclusion that they’ve had some-

O’CONNOR: Well firstly the Prime Minister having resisted calls from Labor for 601 days to call a Royal Commission, only a day ago saying it would be over his dead body he’d call a Royal Commission. He’s now saying he is calling a Royal Commission because he’s been asked to by the banks. And what the Prime Minister and indeed the Government needs to explain is the extent to which the Government has been engaged with the banking industry, not only about calling this Royal Commission into the banks today, but also the Terms of Reference and the composition and potentially the appointments of the Commission. They’re important given how long the Government has resisted the public calls for a Royal Commission.

JAYES: Sure, sure but it has been pointed out by the banks that the speculation and indeed the Government was really undermining the financial system without having a Royal Commission because it was so unwieldy. Wouldn’t it be remiss of the Government not to consult the banking industry for this Royal Commission? Wouldn’t that be putting our financial system, our economy, really in a tenuous position?

O’CONNOR: Well indeed one of the reasons they opposed the Royal Commission, Laura, was they said it would undermine our financial institutions to have a Royal Commission. Now they say they are having a Royal Commission so as not to undermine the confidence in our financial institutions. Now that is a monumental, humiliating backflip by the Prime Minister. But he’s done that because the Senate would have passed a Bill today and the Government, divided as it is, would have passed that Bill in the House of Representatives next week, so it’s a weak, divided Government and it’s for that reason we’ve seen this backflip.

JAYES: Can I ask you about Sam Dastyari now. Why does he deserve to stay in the Labor Party and as a member of parliament?

O’CONNOR: Unlike Minister Cash and other members of the Government, Senator Dastyari today resigned from his senior role as deputy whip of the Labor Party. He’s accepted that he has made a significant error and for that reason he will suffer the result of that, as he did when of course last year he made another error.

No we have made it clear, indeed the Federal Leader has made it very clear that he wanted Senator Dastyari to resign from that position and he has done so. I think that’s sufficient punishment for him mischaracterising his explanation as to how he came to answer a question in relation to foreign policy regarding China.

JAYES: Ok, so you regard losing a Deputy Opposition Whip’s position as a heavy price?

O’CONNOR: Well, we’re talking about Opposition. I make the comparisons because I’m still waiting on answers from Minister Cash who is a Cabinet Minister of the country and yet there has been no punishment metered out towards a Cabinet Minister who has on at least five occasions misled the parliament about her office

being involved in tipping off the media into a police raid of unions’ offices. And now is hiding behind a criminal investigation by the Australian Federal Police and saying she will not be answering any questions in relation to that matter.

JAYES: It is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police. Do you think Sam Dastyari should be investigated by the Australian Federal Police?

O’CONNOR: Well there’s obviously some information that’s been provided to the media. I think there is another question that needs to be asked in the public interest, Laura, and that is if the media has sensitive information then it is also I think quite reasonable to ask where have they received that information? If that information is classified how did it end up on the front page of the Fairfax newspapers? And was the Government in any way involved? I think they are serious questions that need to be answered because clearly now we have a situation where sensitive information is being used.

JAYES: Sure.

O’CONNOR: And we also know this Government has used agencies’ information in the past - the recent past - to attack the political opponents of the Government. So I think that needs to be answered and I think the Attorney General should be examining and investigating what has happened in relation to that information provided to the media.

JAYES: So you want to see an investigation into the leak but not necessarily Sam Dastyari. That seems perverse doesn’t it?

O’CONNOR: Well, I think it’s already clear that there’s been reporting on Senator Dastyari, but that reporting arises from what clearly is now, or at least is being alleged, is national security.

JAYES: But what has not been denied here-

O’CONNOR: I just wanted to finish by saying, that in itself is of concern and it should be of concern to people who put national security as the number one priority, that that information is entering the public domain and we should of course know how that’s happening.

JAYES: Okay, what hasn’t been denied here and I think this is probably the key question, you can disagree with me if you’d like. Why did Sam Dastyari go to such lengths to avoid a conversation he had with Chinese donors being monitored?

O’CONNOR: I’m not aware of the details here, of course I’m only relying on what I have read in the newspapers and the statements made by Senator Dastyari. He’s made clear that he heard a rumour in relation to that matter-

JAYES: But I don’t think he has made clear why he would want to avoid such a conversation being monitored though, doesn’t that concern you?

O’CONNOR: As I’ve just said to you, I think that there is an answer to that question that he’s put, but you’d have to specifically ask Senator Dastyari in relation to that matter. I’m mainly relying upon reports that are second-hand, that are hearsay. I don’t have any evidence to suggest these matters have taken place, but I do know of course what did take place a year ago, which was of course that Senator Dastyari answered a question and contradicted Labor Party policy and it came to light this week that he went further than he originally said and for that reason he quite rightfully made a decision to resign.

JAYES: Brendan O’Connor, how frustrating is it for you and other members of the Labor front-bench having to come on, defend Sam Dastyari about some of these allegations. This is not the first time, it is not the first indiscretion, depending on what score card you’re looking at; probably the fourth mistake he has made. How many chances is he going to get? What is a sackable offence?

O’CONNOR: Well, I just say he’s resigned from the office that he held and he’s accepted his mistake. What is frustrating for me Laura is I see the behaviour of a Cabinet Minister of this country and there seems to be no consequence for them actually being involved in criminal behaviour by tipping off information about a police raid of a Union office. That is a very significant matter that’s yet to be resolved and the Minister for Employment is hiding behind the criminal investigation she says is being undertaken by the Australian Federal Police. That is cover for her; we need to get to the bottom of that. If it’s fair enough for Senator Dastyari to resign given his conduct, surely a Cabinet Minister in the Turnbull Government needs to answer questions about her involvement and her office’s involvement in using the agency, the Registered Organisations Commission in such an improper and in quite arguably a criminal way.

JAYES: Brendan O’Connor as always, thank you for your time.

O’CONNOR: Thanks very much Laura.