Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Mark Parton

SUBJECTS: Tony Abbott’s royal commission into trade unions; Political discourse

MARK PARTON: Go along and see it [Love & Mercy]. It’s confronting and a little sad but I think it’s worthwhile seeing. Not quite as confronting as the Royal Commission was yesterday. It must have been confronting for a Labor member, to watch your leader sit there and be grilled in this sort of setting.

GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Well I know that just from speaking to Bill in advance of yesterday, he was keen to speak at the Royal Commission earlier rather than later which is why he brought it earlier. But he was also keen to talk about the work that he had done, in terms of advocating for workers, in terms of advocating for fair pay and conditions.

PARTON: But that’s not really what the Royal Commission is about, is it?

BRODTMANN: You know what the Royal Commission is about Mark –

PARTON: Do you think it’s a witch hunt?

BRODTMANN: It’s a witch hunt. Definitely. There were suggestions that it’s about political donations but it’s not about that. It’s about attacking the labour movement and unions. And I think it’s particularly telling when you find out that this Government has spent around $80 million on this Royal Commission and it’s spent only -

PARTON: It’s a lot of money!

BRODTMANN: And it’s spent $15 million on domestic violence, family violence, when women are being killed through domestic violence. I think the rate now is two women a week.

PARTON: The late declaration of that election donation of I think $40,000 will definitely haunt Bill Shorten. Now I understand that sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of things because I can remember being hassled by some journalists after the 2008 ACT election because there were some things on my declaration sheet that didn’t add up and I declared a donation late. I can’t even remember who it was from but it was a genuine error of accounting. I think it was around a thousand bucks worth or something. But it certainly didn’t happen eight years after the event. It happened around three months after the event. It is extraordinary that this declaration happened on the week of the Royal Commission, isn’t it?

BRODTMANN: Well as my colleague Gary Gray said yesterday, it was not helpful. But it’s been remedied now, he’s rectified the situation and he’s acknowledged it.

PARTON: You can understand though for the general public from the fact that the declaration was made on the same week as the Royal Commission and they’re of the belief that if the Royal Commission wasn’t happening then the declaration wouldn’t have been made.

BRODTMANN: Well we know of many instances across the political divide where people have made declarations years and years and years after the actual event so -

PARTON: Tell me Gai, on a personal level, is it weeks like this that make you question why you’re doing this, why you’re in public office, why you’re actually subjecting yourself to this sort of carry on?

BRODTMANN: No. Particularly after last week, when I had a coffee catch up and a mobile office. And the coffee catch up was terrific. It’s something I’ve just instituted. I did my first down at Tuggeranong and I did last week’s out at Kingston Foreshore, just sitting and talking with Canberrans about the issues they’re concerned about. At the first coffee catch up individuals would come to me with individual concerns, whereas this one was a conversation about what’s happening on the political scene at the moment. And one of the issues that came up – we ranged across a broad spectrum of issues – but the major theme that came through from last week’s discussion was the nature of political discourse and how people are feeling disengaged with the tone and pitch of the discourse. They’re really keen to find out about policy. They’re really keen to chew the fat on policy. To find out what the Government’s vision is for this country, what the Opposition’s vision is for this country -

PARTON: Here’s a free hit for you but it’s true, in this town there’s not a lot of love for the Prime Minister, is there?

BRODTMANN: No, there’s not. That definitely came out last week in the conversations. And I think it’s because they see what this Government has done in terms of last year’s Budget being fundamentally unfair. But they’re also screaming out for a vision. They’re screaming out for an idea about what this Government wants to achieve for this country and what its strategy is for achieving that vision -

PARTON: I don’t think they’re of the belief that Bill’s got that vision with what they’ve seen thus far.

BRODTMANN: We talked through what Labor had discussed so far. Particularly on the STEM plans, on the startup plans, on our vision to skill up young people for the challenges of the future, particularly in the digital era. So we talked about that, we talked about a range of issues. But the main thing was the tone and pitch of political discourse.

PARTON: But I don’t think they believe that Bill Shorten has the vision.

BRODTMANN: We talked about a range of things on Labor -

PARTON: We must be speaking to different people Gai, that’s all I can say. Gai, thanks for popping in this morning I really appreciate you doing that.

BRODTMANN: Thanks Mark.