Interview with Lachlan Kennedy, Channel 10, News First Breakfast

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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23 August 2022

LACHLAN KENNEDY, HOST: There’ll be some interesting reading later today when the Prime Minister releases legal advice into former PM Scott Morrison’s secret job-sharing in five ministerial portfolios. Leaked media reports suggest Solicitor‑General Dr Stephen Donahue’s view is scathing of Morrison’s failure to honour the conventions of Australia’s democratic system. Joining us from Canberra this morning is the current Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles. Minister, you would have read this report from the Solicitor‑General, is it scathing?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Oh, look, well I’ve not seen it yet. It’s going to be presented to Cabinet this morning and it’s important that we understand the legal dimensions of this. We really want to make sure that whatever loopholes exist here we can close so that this never happens again. We’re obviously engaging in our own Government in a transparent way, but it’s really important the governments of the future operate in a transparent way. But I think, Lachlan, one of the things that comes from this, is that there’s got to be some political consequence here for what Scott Morrison has done. He’s treated the Australian people with contempt by keeping the whole country in the dark. But the idea that he can be there, secretly administering five departments of government while the Ministers themselves had no idea about that, undermines the Cabinet process, which is at the centre of the Westminster system. And it’s really, I think now for Peter Dutton to explain what are going to be the political consequences of that. We hear Karen Andrews saying that he should resign from Parliament. Peter Dutton seems to think as long as he makes a couple of phone calls and says sorry it’s all okay. Surely, it’s got to be more than that. Peter Dutton needs to show some leadership now and explain what is the consequence for Scott Morrison’s behaviour?

KENNEDY: And in terms of the political consequences, you’re obviously talking about more than a censure motion here, you’re basically saying he’s got to go, right? There are only two consequences really?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, ultimately, I think it is for the Liberal Party and for the Leader of the Liberal Party, Peter Dutton, to make clear what he thinks should happen here. What is the consequences of somebody behaving in a way which is so duplicitous of the Australian people? Because whatever the legal consequences of this are, whatever the legality around this is, what’s absolutely clear is that Scott Morrison hid from the Australian people that he was secretly administering five departments of government. I mean, that is clearly a disgrace, and it’s got to be more than simply ringing up and saying sorry which remedies this, and that’s why Peter Dutton needs to come out and show some leadership on this issue. Really the ball is in his court. We want to see what he’s going to do about the consequences for Scott Morrison. From the Government’s point of view, we want to make sure this can never happen again, which is why we’ve commissioned this advice from the Solicitor‑General and we’ll take whatever steps we need to make sure that if there are loopholes here, they are closed.

KENNEDY: Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce says Australians don’t really care about what’s going on here. It’s within the Canberra bubble, it’s not relevant to people who are in the checkout, doing their shopping today, dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. He’s got a bit of a point, doesn’t he? I mean, it doesn’t really affect people day to day.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think there are a whole lot of issues which are very much present in people’s mind, like cost of living, I understand that, and the skills crisis that the country is facing at the moment. You can speak to businesses big or small and they will be talking about the skilled workers they cannot find which is why we’re having the Skills Summit next week. But I don’t agree with Barnaby Joyce that people don’t care about this, because this goes to the question of transparent government, and Australians want to know that what they see is what they’re getting from their government, and transparent government is a really important principle, and so we do think this matters. We can walk and chew gum at the same time here. We’ll be dealing with issues around cost of living as we have and we’ll be dealing with the skills crisis which we are, but this is something which needs to be dealt with as well.

KENNEDY: Just on the issue of the transparent Government, I’m a little surprised that you, your office and yourself, haven’t been presented with a copy of the Solicitor‑General’s advice. The Prime Minister did receive it yesterday. You’re the 2IC, shouldn’t it have been shared with you?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is being shared with us today and within 24 hours it’s going to be shared with us. So that’s happening and we’ll be considering it and making the decisions that we need to make so that as we go forward, as a government, but also governments of the future, if there are loopholes here we’ll close them.

KENNEDY: Something a little bit lighter. We saw video last night of the Prime Minister out in Sydney having a good time, taking in a concert, enjoying a beer. You can hear the crowd cheering him on to skull that beer. I can’t help but compare these scenes here to the controversy that is surrounding Finland’s Prime Minister after videos of her dancing at a private party released. There’s all sorts of claims that she wasn’t taking her job seriously. Is there a double standard for male and female leaders in your opinion? I mean, where do you stand on the line between politicians’ public and private lives?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think one of the things that’s really clear is politicians are humans as well, and it actually matters if you want people to perform at the highest level in their job that they have some down time as well. I mean, that’s actually really important to give you the break to enable you to do your job at the highest level and think that’s what we’re seeing happen with Anthony last night. It does explain why I had a missed call from Anthony this morning when I woke up which was quite late. I was worried that there was something pretty serious going on, but when I saw the new this is morning, I breathed a sigh of relief that he’d just been coming back from a concert.

KENNEDY: Right, so, he’s going to be singing his way through cabinet by the sounds of it.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Looking forward to that.

KENNEDY: I bet we all are! If you could record some of it for us, let us know.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Sure, no worries.

KENNEDY: Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it.



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