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Transcript of interview with Fran Kelly: ABC RN Breakfast: 12 September 2018: Peter Dutton; sexist bullying in Parliament; Herald Sun cartoon

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SUBJECTS: Peter Dutton; Sexist bullying in Parliament; Herald Sun cartoon.

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader,

she joins me in our Parliament House studio. Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to




KELLY: Roman Quaedvlieg, the former Border Force Chief, says the Dutton attack

was an abuse of privilege. What do you think? Would you be encouraging him to

take this matter up with Parliament through the Privileges Committee?

PLIBERSEK: He can write to the Privileges Committee and ask for the ability to

respond to what Peter Dutton said but I think what it tells you is that Peter Dutton is

certainly feeling the pressure. I mean, it was quite an extraordinary attack, to have

a Minister using this kind of language under parliamentary privilege against

someone with a long public service career, I think is quite unusual.

KELLY: The Minister told Parliament that Roman Quaedvlieg, this is a quote, is

Labor's Godwin Gretch, which is a reference to the former Treasury official who

fabricated evidence in the so-called Utegate scandal, I'm sure you remember that.

PLIBERSEK: Boy, do I, Fran.

KELLY: Can you trust everything you are being told or hear from Roman

Quaedvlieg, either directly or indirectly? He is a disgruntled sacked former


PLIBERSEK: Okay, well two things. It's interesting that Peter Dutton doesn't miss

an opportunity to sink the boot into Malcolm Turnbull, who of course was Godwin

Gretch's contact in the Liberal Party. But secondly, it's not for us to judge the

correctness of what Roman Quaedvlieg is saying. It's for us to interrogate what

he's saying. So he has made some serious allegations through the Senate inquiry

process, he is regularly tweeting more information, or making more information

available. He is not the only person who has given evidence to the Senate inquiry.

We would be irresponsible as an Opposition not to ask the questions that are

raised by these propositions.

KELLY: Well the Minister says Roman Quaedvlieg's written evidence to the inquiry

though is, quote, entirely false and indeed fabricated. I mean, does Labor have any

evidence that what Roman Quaedvlieg is saying is true or that Peter Dutton has

actually breached any ministerial guidelines?

PLIBERSEK: It is for us to ask the questions and to interrogate, and that's why

we've supported this Senate inquiry. But you asked is there any evidence that what

he said is false, I mean, he has claimed that he has no knowledge of the people in

the au pair cases. He has himself released an email that starts “Peter, long time

between calls”. That does not sound, to most people, like there is no relationship

between those people.

KELLY: I will move on from this for a moment -

PLIBERSEK: And sorry Fran, just one other really important thing. That email

came through at, what was it, 4:08 one day. The ministerial intervention that was

asked for by this person that apparently the Minister didn't know and hadn't seen in

two decades, happened on the same day. We've got people who fight for years to

have a ministerial intervention in very serious cases. It can take years. Why in this

case did it take just a few hours?

KELLY: Yeah but Peter Dutton's response to that is that he is a hard-line minister,

he stopped the boats, his mantra is Labor is more intent on stopping au pairs than

stopping bikie gangs and people smugglers. I mean, are you vulnerable to the

charge of a) being weak on border security but b) perhaps being preoccupied with

a second-order issue?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think it's a second-order issue to ask whether Ministers are

correctly exercising their authority and this is exactly the reason that we support a

National Integrity Commission. This is exactly the sort of area where you would

want to look quite deeply at decision-making processes and see if they were

influenced by any issue other than a proper consideration of what would benefit the


KELLY: Roman Quaedvlieg, his former chief of staff in Border Force, Paul Iozzi I

think, I'm not sure if I'm saying that correctly, is now Bill Shorten's national security

advisor apparently, I've read in the papers today and the Minister alluded to this in

the Parliament yesterday. Has he been advising Labor on this pursuit of Peter

Dutton and the au pairs?

PLIBERSEK: Has who, the person in Bill's office?

KELLY: In Bill Shorten’s office.

PLIBERSEK: Look I can't say what he's been doing, he's a career public servant

who's in Bill's office. So much of this information is on the public record Fran, you

don't need to have an insiders perspective to take the evidence that's been given

in the Senate inquiry and formulate some pretty important questions, from the

evidence not just from Mr Quaedvlieg but from a number of public servants who

have raised concerns in this area.

KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. It's 18 to 8 , our guest is Tanya

Plibersek, Deputy Labor Leader. One issue that has really flared up since the

Liberal Party's leadership spill a couple of weeks ago is the treatment of women in

the Liberal Party, and more broadly the culture of the Parliament. Scott Morrison

has spoken with Senator Lucy Gichuhi who had been threatening to name

colleagues she said who had bullied and intimidated her and her colleagues. The

PM now says that, quote, she told me very plainly she was not bullied by anybody.

Case closed?

PLIBERSEK: What is it, a quarter of women in the Liberal party room have raised

issues around -

KELLY: I don't know if it's that many, but it's 5 or 6.

PLIBERSEK: How many women are in the Liberal party room?



KELLY: You're right.

PLIBERSEK: It is a very serious thing when that proportion of women are

prepared to risk their own political advancement, risk their reputation, to say we

need to do something to change here. And so I'm supportive of them, I think it's

brave to do that and I think it's troubling that the Prime Minister is not prepared to

take those claims seriously. He said on 7.30 Report the other night -

KELLY: Well he's not saying he's not taking them seriously.

PLIBERSEK: Oh yeah he is. He said the Whip will investigate that and in fact I

don't believe we do have a problem with bullying. So he said that the Whip's

investigating it but he's already pre-judged that they don't have a problem. If your

former Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader, your current Minister for Women, two

Senators - can't even remember who the last one was - have all said yes we have

a problem with our culture, wouldn't you as leader come out and say I'm sorry I

never realised, let me have a closer look at that.

KELLY: Some of these female Liberal MPs have talked about bullying and

intimidation from both sides, your own colleague Clare O'Neill says politics is

increasingly toxic for who she describes as normal people. Do you accept there's

bullying and intimidation that occurs from the Labor Party as well, if not within the

Labor Party?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I've been in Parliament now for 20 years and I can say that

over my 20 years I've engaged in some pretty extreme conflict with people, it is a

very difficult environment at times. But there is a difference, Fran, when we're

almost 50 per cent women, the Labor Party is almost 50 per cent women, I

think there is a difference in the culture. There's someone to turn to if you feel like

you're being -

KELLY: What happens if there is a complaint?

PLIBERSEK:Well quite often people come and see me. If they're in the Senate

they might go and see Penny Wong, they'll go see one of our Whips.

KELLY: And then what?

PLIBERSEK: This doesn't actually happen very often, but there have been times

when I've stepped in and said I don't think what you said in the Chamber today

was appropriate, go and apologise. I don't think that sort of language is fit for this

workplace, maybe you should reconsider your language. I mean, if you have an

organisation where you've got a critical mass of women and you've got someone to

turn to, to complain, I think it makes it a lot easier.

KELLY: What about the case of Senator Lisa Singh, Labor Senator, she's the

Labor Senator for Tasmania dumped to the unwinnable fourth spot on the Senate,

despite the fact that at the last election she got 20,000 primary votes and

someone who is being promoted ahead of her got 1,200 votes. So put that aside, it

was a factional deal between the left and the right, a handful of union official

deciding who's elected to the Parliament and the vote apparently involving

delegates having to show and tell their completed ballots. How is that not

intimidating? You shouldn't have to show and tell a secret vote should you?

PLIBERSEK: Lisa is a fantastic contributor to the Labor Party. She has been a

great senator, she was a very good minister in the Tasmanian State Government

before that and she will go on to have a terrific career, whatever she does. I think

Lisa Singh is a terrific person and a terrific politician. But I think about 70 per cent

of our delegation from Tasmania are female, so if you're saying that's sexist -

KELLY: Yeah but I'm asking you about having to show and tell to prove. What kind

of behaviour is that? It goes to culture.

PLIBERSEK: We are a party of collective decision-making Fran. The internal

workings of the Tasmanian preselection processes are for Tasmania to decide, but

you've moved from sexist bullying and now you're saying that the Tasmanian

delegation, which is about 70 per cent female, is somehow being sexist in dropping

a female senator. I don't think that's a fair conclusion to draw.

KELLY: Just briefly and finally, can I get a comment from you on Mark Knight's

cartoon depicting Serena Williams throwing, bashing her racket and spitting the

dummy? The Herald Sun says her exaggerated features have nothing to do with

gender or race. That's not how it's being seen in some parts of the world. What do

you think?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's good to be having the debate. I don't always like the

cartoons drawn of me but I accept that satire is a really important part of political

debate and other debate. I think it is sometimes hard for people in Australia to

understand what the racism against the African American community means when

they see depictions like this. So if you've been subject to racism you are sensitive

to things like this in a way that Australians perhaps aren't and if you look back on

things like the Hey Hey it's Saturday sketch that had the blackface, and a lot of

Australians thought it's an overreaction it's all in good fun, but if you understand

from the perspective of an African American how much skits like that have been

used to demean the intelligence of African Americans, you see it in a completely

different light. So at the end of the day, healthy debate.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.