Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Channel Nine, Today

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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23 August 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, Scott Morrison’s secret ministry saga is back in the spotlight today with the Prime Minister to release legal advice on his predecessor’s self‑appointments.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: To discuss, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles joins us now live in Canberra. Nice to see you this morning, Deputy PM.


STEFANOVIC: How are you?

LANGDON: We know the PM was briefed on the Solicitor‑General’s advice yesterday. Are you also across it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I’m not, but we will be getting that later this morning when Cabinet meets, and obviously it’s important that we understand what the legal dimensions of this are so that we can, as we go forward, close whatever loopholes exist here so this never happens again.

But I think there is a real political issue here, because what we have is a Prime Minister - former Prime Minister - who obviously treated the Australian people with contempt but his own Cabinet colleagues with contempt and the Cabinet process with contempt, and there’s got to be some political consequence to that. And the question really for Peter Dutton is, what is that? I mean, you hear Karen Andrews saying that Scott Morrison should resign from Parliament. Peter seems to think it’s okay if he makes a few calls and says sorry. Surely it’s got to be more than that and surely Peter Dutton cannot be okay with this being the way in which government is undertaken.

STEFANOVIC: Does Peter Dutton have any power to do anything if it’s the office of Prime Minister? And also, if he’s found to have done actually nothing legally wrong, what loopholes will you close?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, Peter Dutton has the power to determine how he pins his colours to the mast. Fundamentally, where does he stand in relation to this? Is it okay or is it not? Is it enough just to make a couple of calls and say sorry, or is it more profound than that? Because I think the idea that we had somebody who was secretly administering five separate departments of government while the Ministers themselves didn’t even know about it is obviously – 

STEFANOVIC: But are you saying – 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: – it completely undermines the way in which government operates.

STEFANOVIC: Sorry, are you saying, Richard, that he needs to have a Coalition edict, a rule drawn up internally, or is this more than that? Is this something that you can outlaw and close those loopholes?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, from the Government’s point of view, from our point of view, what we need to do, looking forward, is make sure that this never happens again. So, it’s our job to understand what loopholes existed here so that we can close them and that’s what we’re going to do. And that’s why the Solicitor‑General’s report was important, and that’s why we want to look at that today and understand how we move forward.

From Peter Dutton’s point of view, he’s got to determine what are the political consequences for someone in his party doing something of this kind. And he really needs to make it clear what his position is in relation to this, and the divisions that you’re seeing on the part of the Opposition right now between himself and Karen Andrews speak to the fact that we do not see leadership here from Peter Dutton about what the consequences for Scott Morrison should be for acting in this way.

LANGDON: What if there’s nothing significant in this report? And we did hear from Chris Uhlmann earlier that he’d heard that Scott Morrison did request permission from the Solicitor‑General when he took over Health initially, but then he used that advice to take over the further portfolios.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Whatever the legal consequences – whatever the legal situation around this is, the political situation here is manifest. Scott Morrison treated the Australian people with total contempt. He sought to administer five departments of government secretly. I mean, that’s not okay. Whether it’s lawful or not, it’s just not okay. And there has to be a consequence to that, which is Peter’s job. Our job as the Government going forward is to make sure that this can’t happen again. And that’s what we want to understand. We want to make sure that Government happens in a transparent way in the future. Obviously, from the point of view of our Government, we’re going to govern in a transparent way, but not just us; Governments in the future, need to be constrained in a way which means that government is done in a transparent way, and the Australian people deserve nothing less.

STEFANOVIC: So the long and the short of it is if there’s nothing illegal or there’s no loopholes to close, you’ll outlaw it as a Labor Party?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Government should happen in a transparent way, and we want to understand how this has occurred and put in place whatever measures we can to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. That’s our responsibility, as well, of course, in terms of the way in which we govern Australia, to do so in a transparent way, which is what we’ve been doing and what we will continue to do. Peter Dutton’s job is to understand what is the political consequence for Scott Morrison, and he actually needs to show some leadership in respect of that.

LANGDON: And, Richard, where was your invite last night to the Gang of Youths concert with your Leader? We expected to see you by his side downing beers together.


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I actually have had the experience of having a beer with Anthony in his own electorate and that experience was Anthony going to the bar, getting a couple of schooners of Albo draught, coming back and then there’s a conga line of people wanting to get selfies with Anthony as he’s drinking his own beer. And the only conclusion I drew from that is I’m obviously a completely hopeless local MP because none of that happens when I go for a beer in my electorate.  

STEFANOVIC: Well, maybe when you go to the finals against the Pies and your Geelong, I mean, that’s – 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: That’s going to be a big, big day. A big day. Cannot wait. And I expect the Today Show to be done from Geelong when we’re in the granny.

STEFANOVIC: All right.

LANGDON: The Deputy Prime Minister tells us to – well, that’s, you know.

STEFANOVIC: And the Government can pay for it. Then we’ll end up at ICAC. Everyone’s happy all round. Thanks, Richard, great to see you.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No worries. Good to see you.


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