Television Interview, Today Show

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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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16 June 2023

CHARLES CROUCHER, HOST: Let's bring in the Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Gentlemen, good morning to both of you.

Peter, I'll start with you. You expelled David Van from the party room yesterday because of further allegations. When did you first hear of these further allegations?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Charles. Look, obviously I think every leader in the Parliament needs to act and act swiftly if allegations are brought to his or her attention. And obviously, Lidia Thorpe had made her statement to the Senate last night, sorry, the night before. And yesterday morning, I heard further information that caused me considerable concern, allegations that were made, I raised those with Senator Van and ultimately I made a decision that he would not sit in our party room. And I thought that was the appropriate course of action to take and I hope it sends a strong message to anybody else who is conducting themselves in a way that is not acceptable to our party or to our nation.

CROUCHER: Are there other allegations that you're aware of?

DUTTON: Yes, I am. And I raised another allegation with Senator Van, but I'm not going to comment in relation to those matters otherwise. I made a decision yesterday based on all of the information that was available to me. It had come to me, as I said, overnight, and on that morning. I raised it with him. I made a decision. And that's a decision that I don't regret at all.

CROUCHER: We certainly don't want to reveal the identity as person or anything like that without their approval. But you are suggesting there is more than just the allegation from Senator Stoker and from Lidia Thorpe?

DUTTON: Yes, and I'm not going into that detail. As I said, I've made the decision. I believe it's in the best interests of the Liberal Party and that's what I've acted upon. And I don't want Senator Van sitting in our party room. I've made that clear. And I think, to be frank and to be fair, I think the Prime Minister would have made the same decision in relation to somebody from his own side. This is an issue in any workplace and I think any boss would be remiss not to act on suggestions. It's unacceptable behaviour. The thought of sexual assault against any woman in the workplace is not something that I would tolerate. And it's been an issue in the press gallery, it's been an issue in Parliament House and obviously there's now a system where matters can be referred independent of the parties and I've referred the matters to that independent workplace authority for investigation, and it's now with them.

CROUCHER: Is it something that has been tolerated, though, because Senator Van moved officers two years ago following a complaint from Senator Thorpe. Should Scott Morrison have done more?

DUTTON: No, there wasn't a suggestion, as I understand it, of sexual assault in relation to that matter. And it was discussed with the Greens Senate leadership team at the time and obviously Senator Thorpe as well. And she was in the Greens at that point before she moved to the crossbench. That outcome was to the satisfaction of Senator Thorpe and the Greens leadership team, as I'm advised. So, it seems on what I've been advised, the correct and appropriate course of action.

CROUCHER: Okay. Senator Van denies the allegations–

DUTTON: And Senator Van obviously, as you know, Charles has made a– exactly yes.

CROUCHER: You can go.

DUTTON: No, sorry mate. I’d just make the point you've just made, that Senator Van denies those allegations of wrongdoing in relation to that incident as well. And that's an issue for him.

CROUCHER: Yeah, it is. Look, he's now calling for an inquiry. Richard, would Labor support an inquiry?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, I acknowledge the steps that Peter has made here. This has now been referred to the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service and they will look at the allegations here. Obviously, appropriate support needs to be provided to Senator Thorpe here and indeed, all those others who have raised allegations in this matter. I think for a lot of us, we just have a sense of sadness and disappointment about the fact that this is what we're now talking about, or that this is happening again in the context of this building. Obviously, and this is not a political issue, obviously this is across political parties, as Peter has said. But I think all of us feel an enormous sense of honour and pride about working in this building, which is an amazing place. Extraordinary things happen here. But at the same time, this has been a constant theme since I've been in Parliament and it's deeply disappointing. And all of us in this building need to do better.

CROUCHER: Yeah. And certainly hope this doesn't discourage people from coming forward if they've experienced something similar. We'll move on, because there is new economic data out yesterday effectively showing the number of people in jobs has reached 14 million for the first time. There is more Australians working more hours than ever before. Peter, what are we seeing for all that work?

DUTTON: Well, Charles, we saw some figures out during the week that 88% of young and growing families are now facing mortgage pressure under the government and interest rates have risen as a result of the budget. They're going to stay higher for longer because of the budget decisions as well, and families are paying the price for that. And I think in an environment where people are really struggling to keep up with those additional mortgage payments, your electricity bill goes up, your gas bill continues to go up. And I think the figures of additional people going into the workplace actually reflect the reality of many households and that is that the spouse or the second person within that household is now deciding to go back to work because they have to, just to make ends meet under this government. I think that's why people are starting to get really frustrated with the decisions the government's making that are driving interest rates up.

CROUCHER: And Richard, underemployment went up yesterday as well. If working harder and working longer isn't working for people, what is the solution?

MARLES: Well, let me firstly say the fact that there are more people in the workplace is a good thing. Unambiguously a good thing. I mean, for the first time, we've got more than 14 million Australians who are in employment under our government. We've created 465,000 jobs in our first year in office and we've been very focussed on employment, we've been very focussed on getting wages going again. The very first step we took in coming to office was to make a submission to the national wage case to see an increase for those who are lowest paid. And I think part of the story here is that work is a better place to be, which is why you are seeing more people in work in the context of an economy which, relative to the rest of the world, is strong.

And yeah, there are definitely cost of living pressures. That's a function of an inflationary environment around the world. But we've been focussed on those as well. And we put in place a measure going through Parliament last year, which was about reducing pressure on power bills, which Peter and his party voted against. But if you look at what we've been doing with cost of living, we've got more affordable childcare, for example, coming into play on 1 July. That is an issue which we're deeply focussed on. And we have a forecast surplus for our first full year in office, something that the Liberals never did. So, on the whole question of economic management, what we've now got is a government which is serious about it and which is actually achieving in it. And that stands in stark contrast to the government of which Peter was a part.

CROUCHER: Gentlemen, we appreciate your time this morning. It's been a difficult week in Canberra and difficult for so many, so I appreciate your fronting.



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