Sep 18, 2019

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Canberra – Wednesday, 18 September 2019

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon and thanks for joining me. I’m joined by Mark Dreyfus, Linda Burney and Julie Collins. We are joined to respond to the Prime Minister’s announcement that there would be a Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into the system of family law. Yesterday, the Prime Minister in announcing this after their party room meeting,; said that he would consult Labor on the terms of reference. He did nothing of the sort. The fact is, that these issues should be dealt with on a bipartisan basis. We’ve had the Australian Law Reform Committee report tabled just months ago, in March. It had 60 recommendations, many of which were recommending practical changes. The Government hasn’t responded to them. In the last term of Parliament, there was a very important report from the House of Reps committee chaired by Sarah Henderson; the Deputy Chair, Sharon Claydon, that produced again a bipartisan report with important recommendations, again which the Government hasn’t responded to. I would have thought that if the Government was proposing more inquiries, then its starting point should have been to respond to the Committee Reports that people have made to submissions – those processes – as a first step. I would have also thought, that genuinely we would have been consulted on the terms of reference. What’s more, the announcement this morning; that in response to the question on the Today Show, where the Prime Minister, in a response to a question that Pauline Hanson was keen to co-chair the inquiry, said that the Government would be supporting that. The way that we have committees in this Parliament, which can play a real important role, is to that bipartisanship. The Government would normally chair inquiries, the Opposition would have the position of Deputy Chair. You would have genuine discussion about terms of reference. These are difficult issues for families out there. They’re particularly difficult for women. The issue of domestic violence should be taken seriously by everyone in this place. And we take it very seriously, and I know that there’s been a range of activities, around White Ribbon Day; around statements about domestic violence that enjoy bipartisan support. That’s important that that continue. I don’t want this to be a political football. But I say to the Prime Minister: we can’t support an inquiry in which he has unilaterally, along with Pauline Hanson, done a deal. Bipartisanship in this Parliament is about Government and Opposition. It’s not about Government and One Nation, excluding Labor and ignoring the reports that the Law Reform Commission and the House of Representatives inquiry, which the Government hasn’t bothered to respond to. Happy to take a couple of questions.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to Pauline Hanson’s comments that women make up domestic violence complaints so that they can keep their fathers away from their children?

ALBANESE: They’re completely unacceptable. The fact is that you can always find, in any circumstance, you can find activity that’s outside the norm. But, the norm of these issues is something that we should not make normal. Women die at regular intervals. Chances are, in this country, a woman will die at the hand of a partner. This is a scourge on our society. It’s something that all of government should respond to. It’s something also, that all of us – the media have a responsibility to raise these issues. It’s important that we discuss it with our friends, our mates in our communities. It’s something that should be one of the – well, is – one of the the real challenges for our nation. I know there are many people across this Parliament including members of the Liberal Party, the National Party, and minor parties who have worked really hard on these issues. The people who have worked on the Committee – Sarah Henderson and Sharon Claydon in the last term of Parliament, have worked hard on these issues as well. I think that really, the comments of Pauline Hanson, in the context of being made the co-chair of the committee – which will receive evidence – it would appear from those comments that Pauline Hanson has already judged what that evidence is, and is saying that people don’t tell the truth about family violence. And that’s a real concern, given the Prime Minister’s deal to make her co-chair, which he announced this morning.

JOURNALIST: Rosie Batty has also raised concerns about Pauline Hanson being the co-chair, so is that – Labor’s non-negotiable about that? The only way you’d get behind is if Pauline as co-chair is off the table?

ALBANESE: We are not hostile to the Parliament having inquiries about issues. That’s not our starting position. Our starting position would be – yeah, let’s sit down, talk about terms of reference, let’s make sure it’s not a partisan issue. But quite clearly, you’ve had co-chairs apparently appointed – the Prime Minister informed me that Kevin Andrews would be the chair. Fair enough, it’s up to the Government to appoint a chair of the committee. And Kevin Andrews has had an interest in these matters for a very long time.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, so to be clear …

ALBANESE: Last one.

JOURNALIST: Will you be voting against the establishment of this committee?

ALBANESE: Yes. Thank you. I’ve got Question Time.