Subjects: Julie Bishop, women in politics, Labor’s plan for compensation for banking victims, Helloworld scandal.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
KELLY O’DWYER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Good morning Deb.
KNIGHT: Now Kelly you were quite emotional yesterday when Julie Bishop made her announcement in Parliament. She really was a trailblazer.
O’DWYER: An incredible trail blazer, an amazing leader and an inspiration and role model to women not only here in Australia but right around the world. Julie Bishop can stand very proud on her record of achievement. She is someone that I think most Australians admire and respect. She has been someone who has taken us through very difficult times with MH17 and she has handled it always with extreme strength and poise. It was an emotional moment. She is a good friend of mine and she will be greatly missed.
KNIGHT: And Albo, Julie Bishop’s achievements were recognised of course by both sides of politics even though Julie herself didn’t stick around to hear them. Was she the best Liberal Leader that that Liberals never had?
ALBANESE: I think that is right Deb. I think it is unfortunate that they didn’t take the opportunity to elect Julie Bishop as Leader when she put herself forward. She is someone who has my respect. I regard her as a friend. I’ve always had a very good relationship with her. I think she was I think she was a very good Foreign Minister and represented Australia on the world stage and I wish her well in the next stage of her life.
KNIGHT: Now Kelly, Julie’s announcement of course came a day after you delivered your valedictory speech. Two senior women bowing out. The party, we know, has a problem attracting and keeping women and you both raise a lot of money for the party. You have cut through with voters. It’s going to hurt the party and the Government isn’t it? You need every vote you can get.
O’DWYER: Well obviously we are after every vote that we can get. But there are very personal reasons for my decision as many people know that relate to family. It has been almost ten years in the Parliament for me.
KNIGHT: But losing two women of your stature though is a blow.
O’DWYER: There are incredible people who will also take our place. No job is for ever. As Julie has said and as I have said, there are incredible women in the field running for both of our seats to get pre-selection and I suspect that one of those women in Curtin and in Higgins will be very successful and of course will make a wonderful contribution here in the Parliament.
KNIGHT: And Albo, you know the personal toll politics takes on relationships and families yourself. Is it harder do you think for women than men in politics?
ALBANESE: I think that politics is a hard life. We give up a lot to do what we do. Here we are in Canberra on a Friday morning having been here all week. I go from here to Brisbane. I’m in Melbourne on Sunday and Perth on Monday. The fact is that it does take a toll and particularly I think Kelly has been a really important role model. Women who have children in politics – it’s a particular challenge. Myself and Carmel raised our young son with both of us in political life.
O’DWYER: Very unusual.
ALBANESE: It’s difficult but the fact is that what we need is a Parliament that is representative of the community and that is why I am very proud that Labor will hit 50 per cent women’s representation after the next election and I do think it’s a problem for the Liberal Party that they are losing two very senior women in Kelly and Julie. I perfectly respect Kelly’s decision. People will make those decisions at particular times in their lives.
KNIGHT: Now Julie Bishop’s departing gift of course was stealing the headlines from what was a good week for Labor. But Albo, you are desperate to get the focus off border security and on to the banks and making the banks pay for ripping off customers. This compensation scheme you are unveiling today, how much is it going to cost?
ALBANESE: Well it depends how much the banks have ripped people off. That’s the question. But people need to be compensated. That’s why we are increasing it four times up to $2 million. It will of course be paid for by the banks paying. They need to be held to account for the fact that so many individuals and small businesses have been worse off. It’s had a material effect on their living standards of themselves and their families and that is why they deserve to be compensated.
KNIGHT: And Kelly will the Government match Labor’s compensation scheme? It’s much more generous than the one you have got in place.
O’DWYER: We actually established the Australian Financial Complaints Authority so Labor has actually come to this a bit late. Of course we put on those big penalties to the banks and of course allowed small business to be able to access binding compensation. But of course Labor isn’t talking about the compensation that will be there for the retirees who are going to be hit to the tune of about $55 billion because of their retirees’ tax. They are not talking about compensation for all of those other Australians who will be directly affected by their more than $200 billion of new or increased taxes. So you know, it’s all very well to talk the talk, but you’ve actually got to walk the walk.
ALBANESE: Well the problem for the Government of course Deb is that when you raise issues of compensation and the banks they try to segue into something else, just as they did on the 26 occasions that they voted against the Royal Commission.
O’DWYER: It’s an uncomfortable truth.
ALBANESE: Twenty six times.
KNIGHT: Talk about uncomfortable. I’m loving the optics of seeing you two standing together and being very polite. This is kind of fun actually. We might try and replicate this again.
ALBANESE: We like each other. She’s nicer than Christopher.
O’DWYER: Well that’s not hard.
KNIGHT: The last time we saw Mathias Cormann and Joe Hockey get together they were sharing their love of cigars – that famous photo before the 2014 Budget ….
O’DWYER: We won’t be doing that.
KNIGHT: Well we will see about that, but at the moment their links to the travel company Hellowworld have them back in the spotlight. So Kelly, how do you think the average Australian who is struggling to pay the bills feels when they hear that Mathias Cormann didn’t realise his mate and the CEO Andrew Burnes had paid for these $3000 in flights because Gee, he didn’t notice his bank account was still flush with the cash?
O’DWYER: Well look clearly Australians are not impressed. Right? The point is there have been around this issue a lot of very big assertions made and there have been a lot of pretty vile smears. But of course the facts don’t match up with a lot of the allegations the Labor Party made in the House only this week. The truth is they are not prepared to repeat those allegations outside of the Parliament because they won’t stand up.
KNIGHT: How does it stand up though that Helloworld is given these lucrative government contracts when its CEO, Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party Treasurer and your Washington ambassador, Joe Hockey, has a $1 million stake in the company? It’s on the nose. That’s all voters see isn’t it?
O’DWYER: I suppose there is a pretty fundamental point here and that is that the Ambassador and the Minister have no say in the procurement arrangements – no say at all. In fact these decisions are made by the department so it’s completely incorrect to actually link the two and that is what I think is pretty grubby actually about this exercise. I can understand people weren’t impressed by not paying for a flight. I can understand that. But to make these vile smears is actually not right and I think it is pretty much below the people in this place.
KNIGHT: Albo, will you remove him as Washington Ambassador if you win government?
ALBANESE: Helloworld, hello conflict of interest. Joe Hockey as the Ambassador was helping to organise – there’s a trail of emails here which indicate his direct involvement in organising meetings with a company Helloworld with Embassy officials when he had over $1 million of shares. They are shares that increased by the way in value at around 170 per cent once these Government contracts started flowing through. Mathias Cormann has questions to answer as well. This is all red hot. Helloworld have had these massive contracts from government.
O’DWYER: From Labor Governments, Labor Governments.
ALBANESE: They haven’t got a bit of it – they’ve got all of it, and the bloke who is running it is the Treasurer of the Liberal Party.
KNIGHT: Well, no doubt we will hear more on this topic and good on you for joining us in Canberra. Is there anyone else in the courtyard? Is it empty? Are there crickets?
ALBANESE: I just saw Bill in the corridor. Bill Shorten is out there working hard.
KNIGHT: All right, any opportunity Albo. Thanks for joining us.
O’DWYER: How shameless.
ALBANESE: Good on you.