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Transcript of interview with Tom Connell: Sky News: 13 September 2018: Women in Parliament; Banking Royal Commission

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Subjects: Women in Parliament, Banking Royal Commission.

TOM CONNELL, SKY NEWS: Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil is here with me in

the studio. Clare his point, not taking direct aim at high number of women in the

party, compared to the Liberal Party, but to many of the same background. Get

more diverse, more business people for example. Is that fair enough?


SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE: I do resent a little bit being called a

‘cardboard cut-out’, Tom, and that’s not the only nasty thing been said about Labor

women by Liberal people this week. You had Grahame Morris early this week

referring to Labor women as ‘dregs’. I didn’t take too kindly to that and can I just

say these comments reflect an act of complacency, of disrespect of Liberal men

towards women in the Labor Party and women generally, and I think that’s

reflected in everything we’ve seen in the way that this political party has treated

women over the last few months. It’s totally unacceptable and I’m just sick of

everyday coming into this Parliament and having another Liberal person say

something rude about me and my colleagues, another thing about Liberal men

bullying Liberal women and it’s just got to end. When is the party going to realise

they’ve got a problem with their culture as it regards to women, and it’s hurting


CONNELL: Graham Morris did apologise for that comment, and fair enough, just

pointing that out.

O’NEIL: And I’m glad he apologised, Tom. But he said those comments because

fundamentally that’s what he believes. And might have used a phrase that he didn’t

feel comfortable with after the fact, but he’s not the only Liberal who has done this.

Look at the treatment of Julie Bishop in recent weeks. This is a political party that

has shown cultural disrespect to women on so many occasions and again in

Question Time yesterday we had the Prime Minister brush off this idea that women

have been bullied and intimidated. What evidence does this man need to take

responsibility for the culture within his own party? He’s got five of the most

respected women in the Liberal Party standing up and saying there’s been bullying

and intimidation and he’s brushing it aside, saying ‘nothing to see here’ and it just

cannot continue.

CONNELL: What do you mean by the treatment though of Julie Bishop over the

past few weeks?

O’NEIL: Well, the situation just seems to continue to unfold here. What I would

have referred to - before Julie Bishop’s comments this morning - was the fact that

this woman, who was widely recognised as the highest performing person on their

frontbench - their most popular person and their best fundraiser - and she can in a

leadership contest third? None of her Western Australian colleagues voted for her,

and we found out after the fact that she was used as some sort of political game

between the two men who were running in that contest. That is just completely


CONNELL: Was that particular element a female/male thing, or a sort of, left/right

divide? This seemed to be a different leadership contest about ideology.

O’NEIL: Tom, I’ve heard lots of different theories from people who are on the other

side of politics to find every excuse for this behaviour, other than the obvious one,

which is gender. And I find it very difficult to believe that if we had incredibly

popular figure, someone that is so widely regarded, who is doing so well for their

party to be dismissed in that way, I just don’t think we’d see that happening.

But we learned more this morning, didn’t we Tom? Because David Speers was on

earlier and talking about how Julie Bishop has actually indicated that there may

have been some illegal conduct in this weeks leading up to the horrible conflict that

occurred in the Liberal Party. So this is not a matter where the Liberal Party can be

allowed to just get away with saying ‘nothing to do with us’, ‘this is behind closed

doors’, ‘we’re going to get our whips to deal with it’ - we have a respected female

politician saying illegal conduct has occurred in the context of a leadership ballot.

CONNELL: Well she didn’t say it ‘had’, she was talking about ‘possibly’, so we’ll

see what accusations come forward. Right now - and I accept what you’re saying,

we’ve got a whole host of people saying that there was an element of bullying in

there - but do we have a concrete example of something that was done that was


O’NEIL: Tom, you need talk to the Liberal women who are making allegations

here, but I think this is an ongoing problem when we’re talking about issues and

offences against women, where we’re saying to the women ‘this is about you,

you’ve got to front up, you’ve got to provide evidence’, all this sort of thing.

What I see, when I look at the other side of the chamber, is five respected women

who are on the record. They’ve done a difficult thing in coming forward in the public

realm and saying that their treatment amounted to bullying intimidation. They don’t

have ulterior motives for doing it, they’re actually just trying to do the right thing.

And if I was Prime Minister, that would be enough for me to say this is a very

serious cultural problem in a party that has got a historic, profound under

representation of women that has to be fixed.

CONNELL: But don’t we also need to know exactly what the accusations are,

given we kind of need to know where the line is in politics. I mean these leadership

contests are not nice affairs, so don’t we need to know - someone such as Julia

Banks, she’s existing politics so she doesn’t need to worry about putting her down

and getting promotion - wouldn’t it better know what a concrete allegation is? Then

the debate might be able to be had, or you could even codify this and figure out

that’s crossing the line, that isn’t, as an example.

O’NEIL: Well, what I see is all I need to know, Tom, and that is five respected

women, one of whom has said that she’s been bullied so forcefully that she

actually doesn’t want to be in this Parliament anymore. We’ve got another woman

this morning saying there is potential illegal conduct that has occurred. Now we

have got a problem on our hands if we’ve got five women that are all saying the

same thing and we might get into this area of, ‘do we need specifics for this or

that’, maybe to prosecute allegations in a court of law we might. But this is the

Australian Parliament and we’ve got five community leaders saying what has

happened to them is unacceptable to the point of law breaking. Now if we need

more than that, then we have a much bigger problem as a Parliament.

CONNELL: There’s obviously been one who saying that’s a possibility, but does it

need to be codified in some way, because right now, an example is someone

comes to you in the next Labor leadership contest - there’ll be one, one day - and

hints to you, this persons been good for you preselection, it’d be in your interests is

that bullying, is that stepping over the line or not? We don’t know that right now do


O’NEIL: Tom, I know you need to try bring me -

CONNELL: I’m just trying to get a specific about -

O’NEIL: It’s a very hypothetical situation. What I’m seeing here is a political party

that has a profound difficulty with dealing with women. And my political party,

which has addressed this problem, and we half almost half our MPs who are

female now -

CONNELL: I can tell you about setting the rules but what are the rules right now?

O’NEIL: I think we’re getting into the weeds here. It’s not about whether we need

to codify this, or any of these things. What we need right now is for Scott Morrison,

Prime Minister of this country, leader of his party, to step back and say ‘I

acknowledge that this is an issue and I am going to tackle this in a genuine


Now we’ve not heard anything like that from Scott Morrison. He’s not able to use

the word ‘bullying’. He called it ‘gender-specific lobbying’. What a weasel word that

is. I want the Prime Minister, who represents 25 million Australians - half of them

female - to come forward and accept that this is a significant problem, it’s affecting

public policy in Australia, and he’s actually going to have to a crack at fixing it. But

I’ve got no confidence that he’s going to do that.

CONNELL: But if he does do that, doesn’t he need to set some rules? Can you

say definitively right now what is politics and what is bullying?

O’NEIL: Well we’ve got five women - who I think we all agreed beforehand are

very reasonable, sane, calm, intelligent adults - who are telling us that they

experienced bullying, and that’s enough for me.

CONNELL: Fair enough, but we need to get the specifics don’t we. This isn’t just a

specific incident, you’re talking about a cultural issue here. So in any given

corporation, for example, there will be a list of things that are out of bounds, we

don’t have that for Parliament do we?

O’NEIL: I think we’re talking here about the Liberal Party. And perhaps appropriate

that the Liberal Party look at something like that. But we’re never going to get

anywhere near that point unless we have a Prime Minister who takes responsibility

for the culture that is within his political party. And at the moment, we are nowhere

even near that point.

CONNELL: Would that make sense for Labor as well? Because I know Tanya

Plibersek has been asked about that this week and she said that there have been

instances where people have come to her and she has counselled colleagues, if

you like. So right now I guess she’s a cop on the beat almost. But if she’s not

there, who does it fall to? Would it be wise for Labor to have a system of rules,

something codified as well?

O’NEIL: Well I think you need to demonstrate that there’s something within the

Labor Party that’s broken. And that’s not what I see, Tom. So I’ve spoken about

this previously, and I haven’t received any bullying or intimidation from my Labor

colleagues while I’ve been in Parliament.

CONNELL: Well this is a safeguard for the future isn’t it? You never know when -

O’NEIL: Well the safeguard is that we have a culture when that sort of conduct is

not allowed. And the reason we have that culture is because for 25 years we’ve

been trying to make sure that women have a voice within our political party. And

that’s why today we’ve got one major party in the country with almost half women,

and another with less than a quarter.

CONNELL: Well you haven’t had a leadership spill either during your time in the

Parliament so perhaps that’s when these kinds of things are needed from this


O’NEIL: Well I think we need to establish that there’s a problem first. I’m not trying

to avoid that, if there was a problem in the Labor Party I can guarantee you that

there would be a number of people that are extremely concerned about that and

trying to fix it. But right now there’s not a problem in Labor, we’re talking about a

Liberal Party here where we’ve got a former Deputy Leader who has come out this

morning saying there may be illegal conduct - bullying and intimidation, so bad to

the point of illegal - and I am asking that party for the good of the country to

address it.

CONNELL: We’ll see what happens out of that. Because it’s one remark by Julie

Bishop, I’m sure it will be followed up on. Let’s get into your portfolio as well. The

Royal Commission this week - astonishing evidence about the extent, the number

of times companies are breaking the law in terms of selling insurance and cold-calling. What needs to happen out of this?

O’NEIL: Well it’s incredibly disturbing the things that have come out this week,

Tom. We heard, in fact on Monday, one of the first things to come out of the Royal

Commission was an insurer that’s broken the law three hundred thousand times. A

lot of your viewers would have heard the extremely distressing audio of a young

man with Down syndrome being essentially bullied into buying life insurance and it

is gut-wrenching. For those that are interested, you should look up the audio and

listen to it.

And also the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is in extremely deep trouble today

and yesterday over some of the handling of their insurance matters. There is a

fundamental issue with the way that some insurance companies have been going

around the law and, in some instances, the law not properly protecting consumers.

The sorts of allegations coming out - that’s exactly why Labor fought for a Royal

Commission for so long and so hard.

CONNELL: Part of this they seem to not even be aware of it. Cold calling - should

we just scrap it all together? Is it of benefit to society? I had to do once - I can

almost declare an interest in wanting to get rid of it.

O’NEIL: We’re watching really closely what’s coming out around the sales

techniques that are being used. One of the other areas of inquiry this week is

looking at the way that insurance is being sold. We’ve heard not just the fact that

there’s this kind of bullying going on over the phone to sell insurance products but

also just things that feel really unethical in the sales of important things like life

insurance and funeral insurance. One of the examples is around giving young

people the tantalising idea of a luxury trip to Bali if they’re able to sell X number of

life insurance products.

CONNELL: So are we talking about maybe removing incentives around selling

insurance? Because we’ve had that around financial planning for example. And

potentially scrapping incentives for selling these kinds of products?

O’NEIL: We’ve got a Royal Commission that’s looking at these problems in a really

forensic way, Tom. I’m really worried about some of the practices that we’ve seen

in insurance. But the reason that we’ve got a Royal Commission is because they’re

going to be able to have an end-to-end view of what should be allowed within sales

in these industries. I think the Royal Commission is probably going to make some

recommendations around this area and Labor’s watching really closely.

What I want Australians to just remember is that these stories are the reason Labor

wanted this Royal Commission. If Scott Morrison had had his way, none of these

stories would’ve been told because he didn’t want a Royal Commission, he voted

against it 26 times, and I think he should apologise for doing that because it’s

showing itself to be so important.

CONNELL: Clare O’Neil, thanks for your time.

O’NEIL: Great, thanks Tom.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.