Feb 3, 2020


SUBJECTS: Bridget McKenzie’s resignation; sports rorts scandal; Nationals Party.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. I, of course, am back in Melbourne today to pay tribute to the late John Cain, a great Premier of Victoria, a servant of the Labor Party, but more importantly, a servant of this great state who saw such extraordinary economic development and social progress in his time as the Premier of Victoria.

I did want to make some comments about yesterday’s quite extraordinary press conference by Scott Morrison, in which he received a report from his former chief-of-staff that essentially said that there was nothing to see here with regard to the sports rorts saga. Bridget McKenzie, of course, has been thrown under the bus for what relative to this $100 million scandal is just one small element of it. Bridget McKenzie has been treated very differently than the way that Angus Taylor has been treated. And it’s remarkable that it appears he’ll still be sitting on the frontbench when Parliament resumes tomorrow. It is the case that Bridget McKenzie is the only sports player to ever be sacked for following the instructions of her coach. It’s very clear that the Prime Minister’s office was involved in this. I’s clear that there was rorting. And that was found by the independent Auditor General. And for the Prime Minister to just dismiss the independent report of the Auditor General because he has something from his former chief-of-staff, which conveniently lets everyone else off the hook, means that there needs to be a full and proper inquiry into this sorry saga.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Barnaby Joyce (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well, look, this is a Coalition that’s in chaos. They have no plan for the economy. They had no plan to deal with the bushfire crisis. They have a plan just about themselves. And that’s what the sports rorts saga showed. All about themselves, not about the national interest. And the idea that they are contemplating bringing Barnaby Joyce back, as the Deputy Prime Minister just shows how low they have sunk. They have a choice between various people who’ve been discredited in the past but then again, you’ve had Stuart Robert brought back, you’ve had Sussan Ley brought back and, of course, Bridget McKenzie, I’m sure has been given a nod and a wink. If she goes quietly, she’ll be brought back sometime in the future. So, it’s quite bizarre that Barnaby Joyce could be considered to be a future Deputy Prime Minister as well as one who’s a past Deputy Prime Minister. Can I say that, as a former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce’s presence there has devalued the currency. And I don’t want to see that happen again.

JOURNALIST: Should the Government release the Gaetjens report?

ALBANESE: Well, of course they should release the Gaetjens report. Once again, this Government pretends it has precedents that it just ignores. Whether it is precedent about notifying who’s actually running the country as acting Prime Minister, whether it’s a precedent that they had two positions on yesterday morning in an hour over whether people would have to pay for the flight from Wuhan, or whether it be this precedent. It’s very clear that there needs to be the report released. Because it’s just a farce. The existing provisions for grants mean that when there is a change and ministerial intervention, they have to notify the reasons to the Department of Finance. They have to go through various procedures of transparency that are there now that have been ignored. Phil Gaetjens, if he doesn’t know that, then I don’t know how he has got the job as the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It’s quite farcical, this whole exercise.

JOURNALIST: Will you be seeking to establish a Senate inquiry?

ALBANESE: We absolutely will be seeking to establish a Senate inquiry. And I would have thought that anyone who’s concerned about integrity of taxpayer funds will vote for that inquiry. It’s very clear as well, that this is a reminder of why we need a National Integrity Commission. And perhaps it’s a reminder too of why in spite of the fact that the Government promises one in 2018, we still haven’t got one. Thanks very much.