Sky News AM Agenda - 7/2/19

February 07, 2019

SUBJECT/S: Asylum seeker medical transfers; Leak of ASIO advice to media; Potential leak of banking Royal Commission report; Royal Commission recommendations; RBA Governor’s speech
LAURA JAYES: Let's bring in the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers now. You've heard all that and what we've revealed this morning. Jim Chalmers, Labor's legal advice being called into question by the Government, is it really all that independent?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: By the sounds of it, Laura, he's a very accomplished lawyer, who's an expert in these matters. We have our advice and we think that advice is right. What we're talking about here is a couple of things. First of all, we believe in very strong border protection measures. That means offshore processing, it means turnbacks, it means regional resettlement. But we think it's possible to take care of sick people within the confines of a very strict and very strong border protection policy. I think it's really concerning to see on the front page of the papers this morning a classified report from one of our agencies. I think that Scott Morrison has some questions to answer about the leaking of that material. I think most Australians would agree that we wouldn't want to see our security agencies politicised in the way that they are being politicised here.
KIERAN GILBERT: The question is though, the advice to Labor conflicts with the advice from the security agencies to Government. That's difficult for the Labor Party to reconcile, isn't it? Given the advice to the Government is pretty clear that the Phelps Bill would undermine the third pillar of the border protection policies, which is offshore processing.
CHALMERS: The most important thing here is the ministerial discretion. And what our advice shows and what others have concluded is that when a minister retains the right to refuse people's entry to Australia on the basis of national security considerations, then that allows us to maintain that strong border protection position that we have in the Labor Party.
JAYES: But on advice from the Department of Home Affairs, who you'd have to admit has a greater oversight of these issues, greater information and intelligence available to it, would you strengthen this Bill at the very least to make sure, as the Department warns, 1000 people might start to arrive by boat within a week.
CHALMERS: We're dealing with a report of the leak of some classified material. We don't have access, of course, to all of the advice, or at least I don't. It's for others to determine in our team how we deal with this information. But our advice is pretty clear. Our position is very strong. This is about ensuring that sick people can receive the treatment they need without compromising our strong position on border protection and border security. The Government should stop politicising our agencies. They should stop lying about Labor's position, and we can have the debate in the Parliament next week.
GILBERT: But it's not, you know you say the politicising and lying about the position, but Labor's position is to support the Phelps Bill. Their security advice is that that would undermine their border protection policies. Surely Labor's got to take that on face value, doesn't it? Because the last thing you want to do, even if you do win the election, is face more boats?
CHALMERS: Obviously, and that's we have a very strong position on border security and border protection. We have a position which is regional resettlement, turnbacks when it's safe to do so, offshore processing. We've got very strict policy on border protection. We don't want to see the people smugglers back in business. That's been our position all along, and the Government lies about that position. All we're dealing with this morning is a report on leaked classified material. I think the first thing we need to do is have Scott Morrison or Peter Dutton explain how and why this material's been leaked, because Australians don't want their agencies politicised. I think that's a very important principle that needs to be dealt with here. 
JAYES: Jim Chalmers, I appreciate that this is not your portfolio area, but it would be prudent, wouldn't it, ahead of this vote next week for Labor to seek further advice and ask for these internal briefings from the Home Affairs Department. And if this briefing does provide this advice, that 1000 people could arrive by boat if this Bill is passed in its current form, would Labor take steps to mitigate this? Ask for the report and then potentially make changes to the Bill?
CHALMERS: It's right to say that I'm not intimately involved in the conversations around these policies or these briefings that happen from time to time. That's a matter for Shayne Neumann and Bill Shorten and others in our national security team. What I will say is we've got a very strong position, as I've outlined. We've got advice that says there will be ministerial discretion to refuse people on national security grounds. That's the most important thing and that's how we can ensure that sick people get the treatment that they need without compromising what is and would should be and what would be under Labor very strong border protection measures.
GILBERT: On your concerns about the Royal Commission and whether or not it was leaked given market fluctuations on the day before it was publicly released, can you give our viewers a sense of what exactly went on in terms of trading that has created the Labor concerns here? 
CHALMERS: Something very fishy's gone on here. We've got, some hours before the report and its recommendations were released, something like half-a-billion dollars plunged into bank stocks on our stock market. That was turned into a very tidy profit of something like $22 million in less than 24 hours. You'll recall and Laura will recall that when Labor was calling for the Royal Commission report and its recommendations to be released either on the Friday night or the Saturday after it was handed over by the Commissioner, we asked the Government to guarantee that it wouldn't be leaked. They gave that guarantee. Instead, we've had some very fishy behaviour and what Clare O'Neil has done is written to Martin Parkinson, the head of the Prime Minister's Department to ask that he urgently investigate what has gone on here, whether a minister or a minister's office or an official has inappropriately passed on insider information, which has influenced the stock market. Independent, respected observers of the market have concluded that something very dodgy has happened here, and I think the Australian people need and deserve a proper investigation so they can determine whether or not there's been some kind of insider stitch-up here and somebody's made out very well from it.
JAYES: The Government says this is just Labor muckraking over the Royal Commission. I'll let you respond to that. But on the substantive allegation you make, as you say, billions and billions of dollars were made on the stock market by speculators, rightly predicting in the end where the market would go. If advice was leaked, it would have had to have been leaked to hundreds of people wouldn't it to have the effect on the stock market that we saw?
CHALMERS: Well, let's get to the bottom of it. We're simply asking...
JAYES: Are you really saying that you think that some secret confidential advice was leaked to hundreds if not thousands of market speculators over the course of the weekend? It doesn't seem likely, does it?
CHALMERS: Well before you interrupted me Laura, I was about to say that these sorts of allegations should be investigated. All that we're asking for, simply, is for the Prime Minister's Department, and potentially the regulators to be involved, in getting to the bottom of what has happened here. Obviously, something fishy has gone on here. We need to work out what that is; who, if anyone, was involved in that. It's not for us to come to conclusions, particularly between you and I on the program this morning. We're asking, I think quite reasonably, that it be investigated. Because some hours before the final report and the recommendations were released - a couple of hours before the lock-up began - we had some unusual activity on the markets. And when that happens, the Australian people deserve some kind of explanation.
GILBERT: Have you had contact with mortgage brokers in the last couple of days? Because they're running a fierce campaign against the Hayne recommendations. They feel that they've been treated unfairly and that competition will be diminished because they won't be able to provide a service where they can say to consumers or borrowers to compare the loans; people have to go to the banks as opposed to the brokers.
CHALMERS: There's an email campaign going on, Kieran, which is fairly standard when changes of this nature are proposed. Like every Member of Parliament, I've received some emails from mortgage brokers. The position that we've taken, after the release of the final recommendations and the final report, is to accept all of the recommendations in principle, and to say that we will take them through our usual processes and have the usual conversations. No doubt people will be in touch with us about that. I think it's pretty extraordinary to see on social media this morning that Josh Frydenberg is actively now campaigning against one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, having tried to pretend earlier in the week that he would take action on each of the recommendations. I think that speaks volumes about how the Government's not taking this Royal Commission very seriously. Their heart's not in it. They are, as always, running a protection racket for different parts of the financial system. But people will campaign on aspects of the final report and the recommendations. That's entirely normal and we're entirely comfortable with that. 
JAYES: Jim Chalmers, just before I let you go, you would have seen the comments from the Reserve Bank Governor yesterday, now predicting perhaps a rate cut in the event of an economic downturn and some weaker economic predictions. In the event of a downturn, would Labor revisit any of its current policies?
CHALMERS: It was a very important speech by Phil Lowe yesterday, I thought. It was very consistent with a lot of the things that Labor has been saying about how the economy is much softer than what the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have been claiming, whether it's stagnant wages, slowing growth, falling consumer confidence, weak business conditions, weak investment, low household saving, high household debt. The list goes on and on and on. And from all of that data, we've concluded as many Australians have, that the economy's just not working for ordinary people in this country, and I think Phil Lowe made an important contribution to those kinds of observations that we've been making for some time. We've got very detailed, very considered economic policies across the board which have been released some time ago in the public domain. We've said for some of them that the start dates of those policies are still to be determined. But overwhelmingly, we believe in the policies. We believe they're right for Australia, particularly where we want to make the tax system fairer, so we can build up a buffer against these uncertain times and a slowing domestic economy.
GILBERT: One of the things that he did back was Frydenberg's cautious approach to the mortgage broker recommendations. Will you take that to your deliberations within the Labor Party as well?
CHALMERS: We take whatever the Governor of the Reserve Bank says very seriously, but we have accepted in-principle all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Josh Frydenberg wants people to believe that they have as well, at the same time as he actively campaigns against some of the recommendations. Is it any wonder Australians have concluded the Liberal Party will always run a protection racket for aspects of the financial sector. They trust us to deal with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and that's because Scott Morrison didn't support the Royal Commission in the first place.
GILBERT: Mr Chalmers, thanks so much, talk to you soon.