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Transcript of interview with Tom Connell: Sky News: 25 October 2018: Invictus Games; Veterans Affairs; Labor's announcement of a military covenant; transition from the ADF to civilian life; discrimination again LGBTI students; negative gearing

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SUBJECTS: Invictus Games, Veterans Affairs, Labor’s Announcement of a Military Covenant, Transition from the ADF to civilian life, Discrimination again LGBTI Students, Negative Gearing

TOM CONNELL: Joining me live now is the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Defence Personnel and also Early Childhood Education, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks for your time today.


CONNELL: Now, I better ask you first; did you get along to the games?

RISHWORTH: I did get along briefly, obviously with parliament sitting it has been hard but I did get to see some of the cycling on Sunday and it was really wonderful so many people there encouraging the athletes along. I also got to go to the opening ceremony and families were actually put at the front and centre at the opening ceremony to actually recognise the support that families give as well, so it was really inspirational, really wonderful to meet people and it’s not just the athletes and families but there are volunteers that have given up their time. Whether that be coaching or supporting the athletes or just helping the running. It is a really inspirational time in Sydney at the moment.

CONNELL: Yeah good to see a good atmosphere there with people getting along. Now, we have had- as I said- this week an annual statement on veterans’ and their families; what do you think the state of play is at?

RISHWORTH: I think there is good progress being made in some areas, especially

stemming from the Senate Inquiry into suicide but certainly my take and speaking with veterans, we can do more. I think the claims system is still difficult for many veterans.

CONNELL: What claims system are you talking about there?

RISHWORTH: This is the claims system if a veteran is injured. We know that the ANAO report came out in June. It had some pretty big criticisms of how difficult it is for veterans to put a claim in for it to be processed in a timely manner and actually to get the proper support. Veterans tell me that they find it over adversarial.

CONNELL: Basically the bureaucrats are saying no too much?

RISHWORTH: Too much. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has accepted all the recommendations of the ANAO report which is certainly welcoming but we would like to see progress on that.

CONNELL: Labor wants a military covenant. What does that entail exactly?

RISHWORTH: What a military covenant is- and there is one in the U.K.- is an agreement between the government of the day, the Prime Minister of the day, the Defence Force Chief of the day; making a promise to our current serving military personnel and veterans and saying that they will look after them. It is a very explicit promise. Governments of all persuasions have put systems and processes in place to look after our veterans and I guess this has been an implicit promise. What we are saying is that we would like to see it explicit, signed with accompanying legislation to report back to the parliament.

CONNELL: Right. One of the specific areas is veterans being able to find work after their service. An interesting part about it is because we have had more of a focus- for example- on mental health, perhaps some employers think they wouldn’t make good employees.

RISHWORTH: That is certainly been a concern that veterans have raised. There is a conversation that veterans are broken and therefore wouldn’t make suitable employees. My message is; that is simply not the case. Whether or not someone is affected by mental illness doesn’t mean they are not a good employee. Veterans bring a wealth of experience. But, I don’t think that is the main reason that veterans are not getting their foot in the door- there is a lost in translation piece where you have got all these skills that you experience in the military but they are hard to explain to an employer and I think we see that with not necessarily having a civilian qualification in your back pocket, even though you could do your job. That is one of the biggest issues is this lost in translation piece and with employers and the wider community not really understanding the breadth of skills that veterans bring.

CONNELL: I always reckon they must be so much more disciplined than the rest of us.

RISHWORTH: They get to work on time!

CONNELL: Getting up in the morning and getting to things- I think they would have me covered.

RISHWORTH: Absolutely.

CONNELL: Now, I want to talk about the religious discrimination; the push for both major parties to totally ban letting any schools to discriminate based on a student not a teacher- a student’s sexuality or gender. The legislation we have been given at Sky News suggests that they are going to get rid of the direct discrimination- this is the proposal from the government, indirect would still technically be allowed to stay. Now, there are some caveats there that the school has to be conducted in accordance with the doctrines, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion, it says it would also need to have regard for the best interests of the student. So, if you are regarding the best interest of the students maybe this would never be able to be used anyway?

RISHWORTH: Obviously the Attorney General- our Shadow Attorney-General will have more to say but look, at the outset the Prime Minister was very clear about wanting to end discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation. Labor expects that the legislation should do just that.

CONNELL: So it should- there is just no way any school in the land can discriminate in anyway against student based on their sexual orientation.

RISHWORTH: That is what the Prime Minister put forward and that is what Labor accepted. We will look at this policy but we have got concerns that if you close one way to discriminate then open another way to discriminate that that leaves children in a very vulnerable position.

CONNELL: Would there be maybe a caveat if a school wanted to open up and accept no government money- cause that is another aspect. People say you can’t take government money and then not obey the law of the land. What about that as a prospect?

RISHWORTH: I think that as a proposition we shouldn’t be discriminating against children and I think what we have heard from the public is they expect that government’s will- I think a lot of people were shocked to think that schools could discriminate against students and children based on their sexual orientation. I actually think that the public would like to see a ban on discrimination against children and the government certainly indicated that that’s what they were going to do.

CONNELL: It is a complicated area but you are just saying; no caveat, nothing, strike it out?

RISHWORTH: That is what the Prime Minister said and I think the Australian public

would have concerns about getting rid of discrimination in one way and opening the door for another. I mean, let’s remember we are talking about children here, children that may be trying to work out who they are about what their identity is and what are we saying? That we will discriminate against you, we won’t let you into our school, not let you enrol? I think people would be pretty concerned about that.

CONNELL: I want to ask you about Labor’s housing policy, finally. Are there any voters who have come up to you a little bit concerned with the downturn in the market that it might not be the best time for the policy?

RISHWORTH: It hasn’t been raised with me personally at all. Quite frankly, I think that most people have raised that this is long overdue, this reform. That is what people have been telling me; that this reform is something that has been talked about for a long time- for decades in fact and they have actually welcomed Labor’s commitment to actually making structural changes for the future.

CONNELL: Is it a watching brief though? Because presumably no policy like this- it is a big, it is a significant policy in the housing market. There is obviously contrasting modelling out there; Master Builders isn’t too complimentary about the jobs that it might cost. Is it a watching brief that if things really turn south, you might go; okay we will just wait a year?

RISHWORTH: What this is, is a long term policy- this is about structural reform and I don’t think you can base your long term policy on the auction clearances on any one weekend- you have actually got to-

CONNELL: But you could be talking a year or two.

RISHWORTH: What we have got to look at is the long term structural reform and creating a level playing field. This has been our policy for some time. The Master Builders’ modelling does not actually consider Labor’s proper policy.

CONNELL: Even a part from that though, you know how important this is in the Australian economy. It is everyone’s biggest asset. People get jittery about this; it is not so much the economics but the behavioural economics if you like.

RISHWORTH: If we want to talk about behavioural economics, I think a lot of people are jittery about this government and the confidence that they bring to the economy. That is why we have been very clear; we are not going to do something after the election that we haven’t told people we are going to do before the election. This is long term structural reform that would have- this modelling that we have, The Mitchell Institute-

CONNELL: The McKell Institute

RISHWORTH: Sorry, the McKell Institute; clearly says it will have modest impact on


CONNELL: It also says on the front, June 2015. Should you get something more up to date?

RISHWORTH: As I said, what we are seeing in the housing market is short term. It is around the regulatory environment that the changes being made. This is long term policy. This is about decades to come and it is properly targeted. I mean when it comes to jobs, if we think about jobs; this will not affect anyone that wants to build a house, they can still negatively gear and of course anyone under the current arrangements can do it as well. I think there is a lot of scaring out there by the Liberal Party on this but it is sensible, long term policy and that should not be dictated by market conditions on any one weekend.

CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth thanks for your time today.

RISHWORTH: Thank you.