SATURDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Sportsrorts, Coronavirus, Cashless Welfare Card
JASON CLARE: Thank you for joining me on a red hot Sydney summer's day. The Australian people are screaming out for leadership. In a crisis leaders turn up and we've got three crises on our doorstep at the moment. You’ve got the Coronavirus. You've got the bushfires back threatening Canberra again and then you've got the scandal over Bridget McKenzie and the 100 million dollars of taxpayers’ money that's clouding this Government.
There’s a cloud of corruption hovering over this Government. The Prime Minister was too slow to act when it came to bushfires and he's too slow to act when it comes to sacking Bridget McKenzie. Scott Morrison should have sacked Bridget McKenzie three weeks ago. It's almost three weeks since we've had the audit report and only three days until Parliament returns.
Any other Prime Minister would have sacked Bridget McKenzie by now. Think about it, Bronwyn Bishop got sacked for a five thousand dollar helicopter ride to a Liberal Party fundraiser. This is one hundred million dollars of taxpayers money that's been rorted here.
He has all the evidence he needs to sack her now. He’s had it for three weeks. There's more smoking guns than a Clint Eastwood movie. You've got the Audit Office report. You've got the colour coded spreadsheet leaked from the Minister's Office. Now you've got leaked emails showing that the Prime Minister's Office were involved in this as well, pulling the strings directing the Minister's Office where to put the money. That's the only reason I can think of why he hasn't sacked Bridget McKenzie already, because he knows that if he sacks Bridget McKenzie then who else does he have to sack after that and where else does this lead. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: There are reports that show the Prime Minister's Office had some direct input in the allocation of sporting grants, will Labor be satisfied with Bridget McKenzie's resignation? Or should Scott Morrison wear some of the blame?
CLARE: If Scott Morrison was put on a polygraph this week it would have blown up. He was asked and answered questions this week about the involvement of him and his office in this and he said they had no involvement other than passing on representations. Now the evidence that was on Channel 10 last night indicates that that's not true. The Prime Minister needs to come clean. He needs to not only sack Bridget McKenzie but he needs to explain what role his office had in this whole affair. What did he know? When did he know it? What involvement did they have in this from the start? If you think that the Prime Minister didn't have any role in a scheme that involved allocating 100 million dollars to marginal seats to win an election then I've got a harbour bridge I want to sell you.
JOURNALIST: Can Senator McKenzie survive the weekend?
CLARE: Senator McKenzie should have been sacked three weeks ago. The fact that she's still a minister shows that this Prime Minister is holding the Australian people in contempt. She should have been sacked three weeks ago.
As I said this is one hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money that was allocated to win votes rather than to help local communities. I feel sorry for the mums and dads that did all the work to put in these applications. They thought it was a legit process. Turns out the game was rigged from the start.
JOURNALIST: Do you think she can survive the weekend?
CLARE: I would only say this, if she survives, it shows that this Government has no standards at all. It tells every other Minister in the Government that they can get away with whatever they like, and it tells the Australian people that this Government is as dodgy as hell.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor support calls by the Transport Workers Union to suspend all flights from China?
CLARE: Well look that’s a big call. I heard what the Chief Medical Officer said about this yesterday. We've got to take practical steps here. The fact is it it'd be a bit like closing a window when all the other doors are open. If you close off a direct flight from China to Australia it doesn't stop people flying to another country and then indirectly to Australia. So the advice from the Chief Medical Officer makes sense. Let's take practical steps here. This is serious. I can understand why people are scared. But now's the time for leadership not panic.
JOURNALIST: Australians in Wuhan who want to be part of any wide evacuation will have to pay a thousand dollars. Do you think that’s fair?
CLARE: Well I would hope that the Government applies a bit of common sense here. The last thing I'd want to see is people left on the tarmac because they don't have a thousand bucks in their pocket.
JOURNALIST: Regarding the cashless debit card there are reports today that the Government is pushing ahead with its plan to roll out the cashless debit card nationally. What's your response to that?
CLARE: I understand why governments want to help people to manage their money better. I get that and there's ways to do that. I just don't think this is the way. Certainly not doing it in a way that makes it compulsory. If they made it voluntary then that's a different story.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of plans to impose new controls on the card to help people manage their finances?
CLARE: I think the key point to remember here is where they've rolled this scheme out before it's applied to everybody on Newstart. Now the stereotype of a person on Newstart is that they’re some sort of dole bludger surfing on the coast. That’s just not true. One in four people on Newstart is over the age of 55. They are our mums and dads and our grandparents. They are people that have worked their guts out their whole life. They've been thrown on the economic scrapheap. They can't get another job for love or money.
Now the Government wants to whack this card on them. Punish them. Holding them in contempt. You know I just don't think this is the right approach. We've got big challenges in this country. I said before we had three crises on our doorstep. You've got the virus, you've got the bushfires and then you've got this corruption scandal. The Government should be focused on all three. When you've got a crisis leaders turn up. This Prime Minister needs to be focused on all three of them.
JOURNALIST: What do you think will happen if the card is rolled out nationally?
CLARE: Well we'll have to see Fiona. The Government has indicated what their plans are today but there's no detail. We'll wait for more detail when it comes.
Thanks very much.