TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LIPSON, SKY NEWS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 10 OCTOBER 2012
TOPICS: Peter Slipper; Afghanistan; NATO-ISAF Defence Ministers meeting
DAVID LIPSON: Stephen Smith, thanks for your time. We'll get to Defence in a moment- but first to Peter Slipper. Do you regret voting to put him in the Speaker's chair now?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we've seen since that time a range of matters which have emerged effectively as a result of a court case. The text messages that Mr Slipper was responsible for, I've only of course seen those reported but they are offensive and widely condemned. He came to a conclusion that it was no longer tenable for him to stay in the Speaker's chair and he resigned. So, people will make their own judgements about his conduct, and so far as the Government is concerned, when Mr Slipper was in the chair we actually thought he did a very good job. It's been other circumstances which have caused the difficulties for him.
DAVID LIPSON: But how can Labor justify backing him yesterday, when even he decided that the honourable thing to do was to resign?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I think a couple of things and I think - obviously I wasn't there; I've been away since Sunday. But the Leader of the House, I thought, made these points in a very strong way yesterday, which was that on Friday of last week we saw a judge have these materials before him, and the judge reserved his decision on these materials effectively and there's a need from time to time to show respect for court processes. Secondly, for the first time in the history of the Parliament, we saw out of the blue at Question Time a motion to remove the Speaker. I frankly think that any government in the face of that would have defended the Speaker. And so, respect for court processes, respect for parliamentary processes, but at the same time people from the Prime Minister down making it clear that what Mr Slipper had transmitted were vulgar and offensive and were condemned in the event. After all of that, Mr Slipper came to his own conclusion that he couldn't stay in the chair and we've seen Anna Burke elected as the new Speaker.
Again, as I say, from my observations, as a Speaker, Mr Slipper did a good job in the chair. It's been these other matters which have caused trouble for him and I'm very happy to be corrected on the record. As I say, I wasn't there for yesterday's proceedings but my understanding is that some of the messages that he has transmitted were messages that he transmitted before he became Speaker and indeed, after he had been preselected by the Liberal and National Party or both for eight or nine occasions. So, one needs to keep these things in context when one makes political or other points about them.
DAVID LIPSON: Okay. Well, you're in Brussels at the moment meeting with NATO, largely about the so-called green on blue attacks in Afghanistan. This is when the Afghan- or people wearing Afghan Army uniforms turn their weapons on their coalition partners. Now, what's the situation? I know that Australia has resumed joint patrols but what about the wider group of NATO and the relationship between the two forces - NATO and the Afghans?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I spent Monday in Afghanistan in Uruzgan Province at Tarin Kot where the bulk of our forces are. As you correctly say we've now been given authority by Regional Command South to, at our own discretion, resume partnered patrols and that's now occurring. On the conversations I've had with some of my Defence ministerial colleagues in the course of today in Brussels, including US Secretary for Defense Panetta, that seems to be what is occurring throughout the country. The gradual resumption of partnered patrols after all of the force protection measures required to minimise this risk have been taken into account. The Afghan National Security Forces are some 300-350,000 strong. There's a small number of incidents - some 50 or so in the last year and a half - but the adverse consequences are dramatic and very damaging. And in Uruzgan where we are, there's a very close working relationship between Australian forces and Afghan forces. One of the things that some of the troops remark upon to me and our commanding officers remark upon to me is that very many of the Afghans express to them the same contempt and revulsion for the so-called green on blue or insider attacks as we had done publicly and privately when they occurred to us so tragically a few weeks ago.
DAVID LIPSON: Stephen Smith in Brussels, appreciate your time.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks David. Thanks very much.