Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Mark Parton

SUBJECTS: Tony Abbott’s royal commission; Abbott Government Chaos & Dysfunction; Dyson Heydon

MARK PARTON: Gai Brodtmann is the Federal Member for Canberra for the Labor party. She’s on the line right now, hello Gai.

PARTON: Are you worried that they’ve got nothing to talk about?

BRODTMANN: They are a dispirited, disunited rabble Mark. They’ve got no vision for Australia. They’ve got no strategy for achieving that vision. When was the last time we saw a Government define itself by the Opposition? There was a time when Oppositions were not even mentioned. This Government is more about keeping the Prime Minister in his job than keeping his Liberal Party in Government. 
PARTON: It’s just as well Bill Shorten is not a conservative or we might have already had a change of leadership!

BRODTMANN: No this bunch they’ve just got nothing to say -

PARTON: Because what I’m saying Gai -

BRODTMANN: In terms of the debates this week, we’ve got a Federation Chamber that’s meeting for I think an hour and a half, there’s no legislation before us. It’s fantastic in the sense that it gives us an opportunity to talk about our electorates but it just underscores the fact that this Government has no vision for this country and no strategy for achieving it.

PARTON: I guess what I’m saying is – and you asked the question – when was the last time a Government was defined by the Opposition. It was probably the time when your mob was in.

BRODTMANN: No we had a very strong agenda, Mark. We were very busy implementing Gonski, implementing NDIS, making major changes to this nation to improve it.

PARTON: The by-election at Canning is being brought up as a pivotal moment. Now we put that to Zed Seselja earlier on. He thinks it’s just a story that entertains journalists and he doesn’t think that the result of that by-election will be a major factor in anything.

BRODTMANN: History shows that changes are unlikely. But it will be an opportunity to see how this Government is performing and to get an assessment from the people about how they think the Government is going.

PARTON: I’ve had a major ideological battle going on when it comes to the Royal Commission and it’s really come to the fore of course with all that drama over Dyson Heydon and that speaking engagement that didn’t occur. And I’ve got a major concern that anything positive, anything constructive that may have come out of this Royal Commission is now just going to be diluted by the whole Barwick address.

BRODTMANN: Well it’s a serious and significant matter. Bias, or even the perception of bias, is a serious problem. We’ve got the quote from Justice Heydon in a judgement he made in 2011 where he –

PARTON: But Gai I’m not talking about the perception of perceived bias, what I’m talking about is I’m worried that anything constructive that might have come out of the Royal Commission is just going to be swept away in this argument about perceived bias and I think that would be a great pity. Would you agree?

BRODTMANN: Well our view is that it’s always been a witch hunt. We’ve consistently said that we’ve got zero tolerance for criminal activity and corruption in the workplace and that whether it be an employer, an employee or a union, it should be dealt with by the full force of the law. By the police, not an $80 million tax payer funded Royal Commission.

PARTON: But we in Canberra had more people come forward from the building industry than anywhere else in the country. They came out and spoke about all sorts of things that they alleged were happening on building sites. And it didn’t look like a witch hunt to me. It just looked like some people with genuine grievances who were trying to get them fixed.

BRODTMANN: Well as I said Mark, we’ve got zero tolerance for corruption and criminal activity in the workplace and it should be dealt with by the full force of the law.

PARTON: Alright, I just think maybe if we genuinely had zero tolerance that okay we’ve made the point about the Barwick address and everything else, but wouldn’t you just now let the Royal Commission run its course and stop focusing on perceived bias.

BRODTMANN: Well it does go back to that perception of bias and as I was trying to say about what Justice Heydon said in 2011, I’m quoting his own words, “that it’s fundamental to the administration of justice that the judge be neutral. It is for this reason that the appearance of departure from neutrality is a ground of disqualification. It is the perception of the hypothetical observer that provides the yardstick.” So these are his standards we’re talking about and that’s what we’re judging him on.

PARTON: But what do you achieve? I mean, I know that there were calls for him to be stood down and the whole Royal Commission disbanded and whatever. What do we achieve out of that because I think that we were onto potentially some changes in the way that we do things on building sites and that would all be swept out the door because of some perceived bias that we can link back to a statement that he made once in court years ago. I mean, what would be the point of that?

BRODTMANN: Well I suppose it gets back to the actual intent of this Royal Commission -

PARTON: And you think it is political points?

BRODTMANN: It’s a smear campaign. A smear campaign aimed at the Prime Minister’s political opponents. An $80 million smear campaign. There are other mechanisms for corruption and criminal activity to be dealt with.

PARTON: Gai, thanks for coming on this morning, it’s always a pleasure.

BRODTMANN: Thanks Mark.

PARTON: Gai Brodtmann, who is the Federal Member for Canberra.