ABC AFTERNOON BRIEFING
MONDAY, 2 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Queensland State Election; Scott Morrison and Annastacia Palaszczuk; Australia Post and Christine Holgate’s Resignation; National Integrity Commission.
JANE NORMAN, HOST: I'm joined now by Treasurer Jim Chalmers whose seat is in Logan, Queensland. Jim Chalmers, welcome to the program.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: G'day Jane.
NORMAN: So we've now had the Northern Territory, the ACT and now Queensland all return the government, are we seeing the benefits of incumbency during a pandemic, during a crisis?
CHALMERS: I think incumbency matters, Jane, but it's what you do with that incumbency that matters. Annastacia Palaszczuk won a stunning victory here in Queensland on the weekend, a thoroughly deserved victory which recognises that she made difficult decisions in a difficult time for our state. She was right and resolute and people rallied behind her because they understand that the best way to protect the Queensland economy is to limit the spread of the virus.
NORMAN: We saw during the election campaign, Annastacia Palaszczuk very much stared down her critics in the south, including the Prime Minister. This has clearly sort of worked hasn't it, by standing firm with the policies that she had implemented?
CHALMERS: I think people recognise that she has their interests at heart. One of the most memorable things I've heard in politics in recent times was when she said that she'd rather lose an election than lose lives unnecessarily. People really trusted her that she meant that when she said it, people have rallied behind her in big numbers. I've been calling her the people's champion. I haven't seen a reaction to a state leader like I saw on the booths, I was on four different booths on Saturday, it really was quite remarkable seeing people get around her. You mentioned Scott Morrison a moment ago, he came up here for the best part of a week, he tried to pick a fight with Annastacia Palaszczuk, I think the people of Queensland resoundingly backed Annastacia in that disagreement over the borders. I was listening to that footage you were playing a moment ago of Deb Frecklington and I think it is the case that Scott Morrison did Deb Frecklington no favours by being here and by the way he conducted himself when he was here.
NORMAN: One of the more interesting aspects of this result was how the minor parties fared One Nation suffered a massive swing and only held on to one of its seats. This is home turf for the One Nation Party. Do you think we're seeing the kind of beginning of the end for that party in Queensland?
CHALMERS: It certainly warmed the heart to see One Nation's vote effectively collapse, it was also terrific to see, despite millions of dollars thrown at this election on behalf of the LNP by Clive Palmer, to see him barely register in the counting on election night. But I think it would be premature to write off the role of minor parties like One Nation, unfortunately, they've been part of the furniture and the political system now since the 1990s. So I think it would be premature to say that it's the end of One Nation. Ideally, that would be the case. We don't need more of their divisive brand of politics. So it was it was heartening to see the way that Queenslanders didn't support them in great numbers at the election but let's see what happens into the future.
NORMAN: Queenslanders obviously massively got behind Labor because the primary vote for Queensland Labor is around 40 per cent now, which is a really significant chunk of the vote. What lessons can federal Labor learn from this?
CHALMERS: You're right, that is a pretty remarkable result, given how many candidates and how many parties were contesting this election. I think the lesson for federal Labor is that there are people in communities right throughout Queensland, not just in the southeast corner, who are open minded about supporting the Labor Party if we get the message right and we get the policies right. There's nothing to say that we can't do much better at the federal level than we have been. We absolutely must do better than we have been. I've been in the Labor Party now for 23 or 24 years, and we've only really done well at the federal level in one election in that entire period and that was 2007 under Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan. So we need to recognise that there are votes there, there are people willing to support us but we have to get everything absolutely right. That's what Annastacia Palaszczuk was able to do and that's what we need to do.
NORMAN: Federally Labor has done, particularly the last election, did pretty poorly sort of outside Brisbane. There aren't too many regional Labor representatives now federally in Queensland. What do you think of the policies that Annastacia Palaszczuk had that appeal to people in those sort of regional Central Queensland and northern areas.
CHALMERS: She had a laser-like focus on jobs which is what we are doing at the federal level as well. Also to recognise that Queensland isn't one big economy, it’s a series of regional and local communities and economies and to make sure that you have a policy offering which is relevant to every part of the community. I think if you take one example, one thing that's common between what Annastacia Palaszczuk is talking about and Anthony Albanese is talking about, is reviving the train manufacturing industry in parts of regional Queensland. That's a good example of the type of practical down-to-earth jobs-focused policies that we need to be on about. People are prepared to support that if we get those policies right, and that's what we intend to do.
NORMAN: Alright, let's move on to some other news that's broken this afternoon and Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate has resigned, of course, she was forced to stand aside pending an investigation, but she's now gone over the luxury watches scandal. Is this something is this an appropriate course of action for her?
CHALMERS: Clearly what went on at Australia Post wasn't something that we're prepared to support. But I think it's also true that Christine Holgate, having taken this decision, still doesn't resolve the two main underlying issues at Australia Post. The first one is the way that services have been wound back with Scott Morrison's support, this doesn't change that. Secondly is the way that the executive hasn't been properly overseen by a board which is stacked with Liberal Party mates. So Christine Holgate’s departure, whatever people think about her and what's gone on with these $20,000 worth of watches, I think we can agree that those two underlying issues are still in place. The other really important issue Jane is this, if Christine Holgate is hounded out for $20,000 in luxury watches by the Prime Minister, what does that now mean for Scott Morrison's own ministers who've been sprung paying $30 million to a Liberal donor for a $3 million dollar parcel of land? What does it mean for sports rorts, regional roads and doctored documents? All of these sorts of things that Morrison Government ministers have been caught red handed doing but remain in their jobs while Christine Holgate is hounded out of hers. What we ask from the Prime Minister is that he apply the same standards to his own ministers that he's applied to Ms Holgate on this occasion.
NORMAN: We'll get onto the national integrity issue in just a moment. But just to finish off with Australia Post, is it fair that Christine Holgate has taken the fall here, though, because you mentioned the board, there is an investigation underway, which takes in the board's role here, would you expect possibly changes to be made once that investigation comes back?
CHALMERS: We need to think more broadly about all of the underlying issues at Australia Post. Clearly the board has not done an effective job of overseeing some of this behaviour. Clearly some of the cutbacks in services that have been instituted with Scott Morrison's support are not consistent with servicing the community to a standard that the community has a right to expect. So there are issues there. The inquiry which will look at some but not all of those. The point that we're making is that Christine Holgate's departure doesn't solve those underlying issues. But if that's the standard that's been set here, $20,000 of watches, what does that mean for ministers caught paying 10 times the value of land near Western Sydney Airport to Liberal Party donors? We need to apply these sorts of standards equally.
NORMAN: Which brings us very neatly to the draft legislation that's been released this afternoon into a new Commonwealth Integrity Commission. Now, I don't expect that you necessarily have had time to read through the details of the legislation. But on first glance, is this the kind of federal anti-corruption watchdog that Labor has been calling for?
CHALMERS: At first glance Jane it looks weak, it looks secretive, and it looks compromised. My colleague Mark Dreyfus has made our initial views known on the draft that's been released today. The Government's been sitting on this draft since December. They've been saying for years now that they believe in a national integrity commission while sitting on their hands and trying to delay its implementation. So you're right, we will go through the detail of it. My colleagues who are legal eagles like Mark Dreyfus and others will go through all of the detail but at first blush, it does look weak and secretive and compromised. Unfortunately, when you join the dots between what the Government is attempting to do here, and what they've been doing with the Auditor-General as well, we need a strong and independent national integrity commission. We need a strong and independent Auditor-General and all of the Government's actions in recent times have sought to diminish those two important things.
NORMAN: All right, Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for your time.
CHALMERS: Thanks Jane.