September 26, 2018
With Scott Morrison flagging his government will take a hard line on industrial relations, especially the CFMEU, Labor’s shadow minister for employment and workplace relations, Brendan O'Connor will have a tough job ahead of the election.
O'Connor says Labor remains totally opposed to the government’s Ensuring Integrity legislation, which the Coalition wants to resurrect. “I can’t see this bill in any way being salvageable, and that’s why of course it sat for a year without the Senate debating it,” he says.
O'Connor acknowledges there have been problems with “civil breaches” by the Construction division of the CFMEU but insists the claims of bad behaviour have been “highly exaggerated”. “It is very hard to take this government seriously when it politicises institutions it establishes and uses those institutions for political purposes … this government really has no standing and no regard for the rule of law when it actually acts unlawfully itself and then wants to attack other institutions for acting unlawfully,” O'Connor says.
With his brother Michael the CFMEU's national secretary, O'Connor indicates that in government he would recuse himself from decisions made specifically by the minister – though not from general workplace policy relevant to the union. "I would consider the situation and if I thought there was a perceived conflict or a conflict I certainly would of course absent myself," he said.
September 13, 2018
Independent Cathy McGowan and Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie share more in common than just sitting on the crossbench. The members for Indi and Mayo respectively have dug in to retain their seats - they believe there is “a mood” in the community for alternative candidates.
McGowan and Sharkie have given the government their confidence until the Wentworth byelection - after which they will consult with their electorates. They think Kerryn Phelps would have “an excellent chance” of winning the byelection if she runs. Sharkie said “I would certainly be keen to support her in any capacity and that just might be phone calls just to give her some support”.
Even a few weeks after the leadership spill, Sharkie said “there is still a lot of grieving in Mayo for the loss of Malcolm Turnbull”. The feeling in Indi was “very similar”, McGowan said “except there was another level” - the loss of an energy policy.
On the Liberal’s problems with unity and women, McGowan said “It’s not just the bullying it’s how they work together as a team. In making themselves into a much better party they might open themselves to greater diversity and to better systems and practices for managing conflict.”
September 7, 2018
Former Victorian Liberal senator Judith Troeth is no stranger to speaking out forthrightly on issues, even when that goes against her party’s position.
In this podcast, Troeth says the party should adopt quotas to rectify the “abysmally low numbers” of Liberal women in parliament. “We should have quotas, but not forever … to get the numbers up”.
One of the group of moderates when she was in parliament (1993- 2011), Troeth is concerned about the party’s drift to the right. “Sometimes i feel as though i am standing on the extreme left … when everyone who knows me knows I’m certainly not”. She partly attributes the present situation to newer MPs being reluctant to rock the boat. Troeth’s advice to them? “Be brave and let your conscience be your mouth piece.”
On asylum seekers - an issue over which she confronted then prime minister John Howard - Troeth believes “quite strongly” that on humanitarian grounds people who have been processed and found to be refugees on Manus and Nauru should be allowed to come to Australia and stay.
August 8, 2018
Barnaby Joyce has confirmed he could cross the floor on the federal legislation associated with the National Energy Guarantee. “Of course I could,” he says in an interview with The Conversation.
Joyce is out on the author’s circuit for his just-released book Weatherboard and Iron, which reprises the personal saga that took him from deputy prime minister to backbencher, as well as canvassing life in Canberra and policy issues.
On the NEG, he says in this podcast: “If it comes back from COAG and it’s absolutely untenable in regards to what happens to power prices and it forces even more misery onto people that can no longer afford power then I think you’re almost duty bound to leave that option [crossing the floor] up your sleeve.”
Asked whether the government should ditch its tax cuts for big business if it cannot get them through the Senate, Joyce says: “To be quite frank I’ve probably got a different view than some of my colleagues, in that I look at the company tax cuts and I say, well we have to also be internationally competitive.”
Provocatively, Joyce says the Nationals should run a candidate in the NSW Labor held seat of Eden-Monaro - which would mean contesting against a Liberal contender.
On future aspirations, Joyce makes it clear he would like to return to the frontbench after the election. “If I was offered that I would never knock it back,” he said. “In politics you should try to get to the point of most effect – because that’s how you bring the best outcome”.
August 1, 2018
Incoming Labor national president Wayne Swan has made it clear he will have an assertive voice in the role, as the party moves towards next year’s election.
While many in the ALP would like action on party reform, Swan says bluntly it’s not top of mind for him. “I made it very clear [in campaigning for the presidency] that party reform in the first instance was not my priority,” he says. “My priority is winning the battle of ideas.”
Looking to the rescheduled party conference in December, Swan acknowledges there will be battles on issues such as asylum seekers. But “we have to be mature about it – and I think the party will be”. “I think you’ve seen from the Labor party for the last five years a degree of unity of purpose that has been very strong, and I think that will shine through what will be very passionate debates at the national conference”.
Swan alleges that the Liberal party has been taken over by “tea party fanatics who are dedicated to actually trashing government as an institution”. He stops short of calling Malcolm Turnbull a “tea party fanatic” but says the Prime Minister is “dancing to the tune [of them] at every turn … people like Peter Dutton, people like the Institute of Public Affairs.”
July 26, 2018
After an eight-week campaign, Super Saturday is finally here. There are five byelections being held, but the race in Longman is one of two nail-biter contests that could go either way.
Dennis Atkins, the Courier Mail’s national affairs editor, says the mood in Longman is one of political exhaustion and that the result is anybody’s guess because of preference changes.
But Atkins says the LNP and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could well be the winners regardless of the result. “If Shorten wins both the byelections he stays, and they regard Shorten as their best asset,” Atkins says. “If Shorten loses one or both of these byelections, then there is internal fighting in the Labor party and the Coalition will benefit from the appearance of disunity.”
July 5, 2018
A recording of a conversation with Katharine Murphy, the Political Editor of The Guardian Australlia about her new book 'On Disruption'. Murphy's book is about the dramatic changes that have taken place in the media and their implications, and is published by Melbourne University Press.
This conversation was hosted by Australian National University Crawford School of Public Policy and introduced by their Director, Professor Helen Sullivan.
June 27, 2018
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek talks on Anthony Albanese's Whitlam oration, Bill Shorten's unexpected announcement on rolling back company tax for medium sized firms, the "tough" Braddon and Longman byelections - and really fires up about mobile phones and over connected children.
June 24, 2018
Frances Adamson is secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She was previously international adviser to Malcolm Turnbull, and served as Australia’s ambassador in Beijing between 2011 and 2015.
This interview is published in partnership with The Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
June 20, 2018
Attorney-General Christian Porter says the response to the consultations for the national apology to victims of child sexual abuse has been very strong with a total of 167 attendees at consultation sessions so far. "There are further consultations coming up in Ballarat, Melbourne, Bendigo, Newcastle and Sydney ... it is a very important process and is going very well," he said.
Porter also says there's "some level of common sense" to suggestions that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who set up the royal commission, should have a role in the apology. "I do think those things are best dealt with by exchange of letter or meetings directly between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister."
In this interview Porter also speaks about foreign interference laws, elder abuse, the amalgamation of the Family and Federal Circuit courts, and why he rejects calls for change to section 44 of the constitution.