Title Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 29 November 2021: Morrison Government in chaos; final sitting week of 2021; Omicron COVID variant; lack of purpose-built quarantine facilities; Religious Discrimination Bill; Morrison Government dragging its feet on federal anti-corruption body; social media trolls RICHARD
Database Press Releases
Date 29-11-2021
Author MARLES, Richard, MP
Citation Id 8302234
Cover date 29 November, 2021
In Government no
MP yes
Pages 6p.
Party ALP
Speech No
System Id media/pressrel/8302234

Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 29 November 2021: Morrison Government in chaos; final sitting week of 2021; Omicron COVID variant; lack of purpose-built quarantine facilities; Religious Discrimination Bill; Morrison Government dragging its feet on federal anti-corruption body; social media trolls RICHARD











SUBJECTS: Morrison Government in chaos; final sitting week of 2021; Omicron COVID

variant; lack of purpose-built quarantine facilities; Religious Discrimination Bill;

Morrison Government dragging its feet on federal anti-corruption body; social media



begin the last week of the sitting calendar, and the Government is in a complete mess. Last

week we saw a number of Government senators cross the floor on the question of public

health measures being implemented by the states. We saw the Government split on the

question of the Religious Discrimination Bill. We saw a Government Member cross the floor in

the House of Representatives over a debate around establishing a federal anti-corruption

body. The Government lost two votes on the House of Representatives floor last week. The

Liberals hate the Nationals, the Nationals hate each other. The Government is in a fight with

itself on just about everything. It is a shambles and little wonder because Scott Morrison's own

colleagues have stopped taking his voice and his word seriously.

And while this is all happening, we are seeing middle Australia being increasingly placed under

pressure. Income in average households, over the course of this year, have declined in real

terms by $700. Over that same period, petrol prices have increased by $900. In my hometown

of Geelong, rents have increased by $2000. Middle Australia is being squeezed and people

are looking to a government to show character, to show leadership, to provide answers in this

really difficult moment. And instead, all they've got is Scott Morrison and his Government,

which is a complete rabble.

JOURNALIST: Should the states hold their nerve and stick to their reopening plans despite

the threat of this new variant Omicron?

MARLES: Look, I can understand the sense of anxiety that people have around the country in

relation to the Omicron variant. People have been magnificent all around Australia in getting

vaccinated and dealing with the various restrictions in their lives over the course of this year,

indeed over the course of the last two years. I think people need to take confidence in the

health systems that we have in this country which have guided us through so far. No doubt the

health experts are looking at this in every way. It has been right to close the border to southern

Africa. And I just think people need to remain calm and have confidence in the health systems

that are in place and take comfort in the really fantastic effort that people have engaged in so

far in getting our vaccination level so high.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the current balance is right - the three days quarantine for

international arrivals in New South Wales and Victoria, or do you think Australia should go

further and reinstate the two weeks quarantine until we know more?

MARLES: Look, I think it's really important that we are listening to our health experts in this

moment. They've got us through this pandemic so far. We've done a lot of really hard yards

over the last couple of years, our vaccination rates are now very high compared with the rest of

the world, and people should take some confidence in that. I know that, you know, after all the

work that's been done, we've got Christmas on the horizon, and people are hoping to have a

normal Christmas for the first time in a while. I think we just need to stay calm and listen to the

medical advice.

JOURNALIST: People, especially with families living overseas, as we get closer to Christmas

are going to be very nervous if this becomes more of an issue. Would you urge premiers, in

Queensland and WA in particular, just to hold their nerve to give people a bit of confidence that

they will be able to reunite their families for Christmas?

MARLES: Well, I think it's important that governments are holding their nerve, but I think the

states have done really well throughout the pandemic is the truth. They've been acting every

single day to keep their citizens safe, and they've done a great job in that. And in doing that,

they've been listening to the health advice, which is what we've got to focus on right now, and

take some comfort and confidence in the fact that we've got vaccination rates which are really

high. People have done the right thing, that's going to hold the country in good stead.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there's any appetite to return to, you know, lockdowns and border

closures after everything we've been through over the past two years? And given we’re so

highly vaccinated if this variant is shown to not be vaccine-resistant, why do you think we

should change any of the settings that are currently in place?

MARLES: Well again, we just need to be listening to the medical advice here. It's early days,

people are still learning about this variant. But the country has done the right thing in getting

vaccinated in high numbers, and people should take confidence from that. And it's just really

important at this moment that everyone stays calm, that we listen to the medical advice as

people around the world come to terms with what this variant is and how it operates. And then

we just need to make the best decisions from there.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor settled on its position on the Religious Discrimination Bill?

MARLES: Well what we have said in relation to the Religious Discrimination Bill is that we

want to work with the Government on delivering a bill which prevents discrimination on the

basis of religion, we've been saying that for some time now. And we've been working with the

Government and putting forward constructive ideas around this for a long time. The bill's now

been introduced into the Parliament at last, and what's important now is that there is a proper

inquiry process, and that's what we're saying should happen.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it should pass before the next election?

MARLES: I'm not exactly sure when the next election is, so it's hard to answer that question,

given how late the bill has been introduced relative to a potential federal election. I think we

need to be dealing with the bill on its own terms now. And it does require a proper

parliamentary inquiry process, it's been referred to a committee, and we're seeking for that to

occur now.

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten has raised some concerns around medi-hotels [inaudible] the virus

coming out, do you share his concerns? Do we need to be doing more?


JOURNALIST: Medi-hotels, [inaudible].

MARLES: Hotel quarantine?


MARLES: Yeah, sorry. Again, we need to be listening to the best medical advice in relation to

this, in respect of what quarantine measures are put in place. I mean, look, one thing is

obvious here – is we would be better served if we had fit for purpose quarantine facilities in this

country. And that's a point that the Government was advised to pursue last year, more than 12

months ago. We really don't have that in Australia right now. We would be in a better situation

if that were up and running. But in terms of how we now react to this, given the situation we're

in, we just need to be listening to the medical experts.

JOURNALIST: Why won’t Labor support the Government's legislation for a national integrity

commission? Isn't it better to get something in place, you know, and wouldn't just backing in

that just ensure that something actually moves forward?

MARLES: I think this is a pathetic attempt on the part of the Government to literally blame

anyone they can find. The idea that the failure to implement a national anti-corruption

commission is now Labor's fault frankly beggars belief. I mean, they committed to doing this

three years ago. And our expectation is that they would be putting into the Parliament a

credible proposition for a federal anti-corruption body. The exposure draft, the proposition that

they have in the public domain now, has been slammed by the experts. It doesn't have teeth.

That's their issue. That's the Government's failure to put to the Parliament a serious

proposition about establishing an anti-corruption commission. One thing we've made clear is

that if we were to be elected to government next year, that's what we would do. We would put

in place an anti-corruption body which had teeth, which was serious. And that's what the

Government promised they were going to do three years ago, they should be doing that now.

JOURNALIST: Just on the proposed social media laws, cracking down on online abuse and

trolls. Are you concerned - well, first of all, what are your thoughts on the principle of cracking

down on online bullying, online trolls? But also, do you believe there to be any implications for

free speech if social media companies are obliged to hand over the details of people who are

either anonymous, or just have their own name and face on there?

MARLES: All good questions. So the answer to that is we support, in principle, the thrust

behind cracking down on trolls on social media, and to crack down on bullying on social media.

Obviously, that's a worthy objective, we should be moving down that path. It's important though

that we understand what's being proposed here. Because there could be a whole lot of

unintended consequences in whatever legislation is put before the Parliament. So once again,

what we need to see from the Government here is what they intend to do. To actually put the

proposition in front of the Parliament so that we can scrutinise it properly, make sure that the

worthy aim that it's pursuing is successful, but doing so in a way which doesn't create any

unintended consequences. But this is a Government which has always been big on talk, it has

been pretty weak on delivery. And I fear that that's what we're seeing play out once again with

this proposition.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see a bill this week?

MARLES: Well, I mean, the Government has raised it, we would like to see action in this

space. But most importantly, it's one thing to go out there and talk about an idea. If you're the

Government, the idea is you govern, and they should be presenting a proposition to the

Parliament that we can properly scrutinise so that we can make sure that there aren’t

unintended consequences, and that it does achieve the aim that it set out to pursue.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s reasonable for taxpayers to foot the bill for defamation action

against these publishers? That's part of the plan that's in place, that taxpayers would foot the

bill if an individual launches defamation action against these publishers of social media


MARLES: Well again, I think before answering that what we want to see is what is the actual

proposition that's being put here and what's the rationale for it.

JOURNALIST: Do you support at Senate inquiry into this bill, like the Greens have called for?


JOURNALIST: Into this social media bill.

MARLES: What we would like to see is the actual proposition, and I think it is important that

there is proper scrutiny of the proposition to make sure that there is not unintended

consequences as a result.