Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Dan Bourchier

SUBJECTS: Marriage Equality, Chinese Political Influence, Foreign Donations, By-Elections, Citizenship; Kwaussie

DAN BOURCHIER: Time now to turn our attention to politics. Both Houses are returning this week to what will likely be the final week of debate for the year and in Parliament I am joined by Gai Brodtmann, Labor MP for Canberra. Good morning.

GAI BRODTMANN: Morning, Dan.

BOURCHIER: And Angus Taylor, the Minister for Digital Transformation and federal MP for Hume. Hello to you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Morning Dan.

BOURCHIER: A big week ahead of us. Let’s start on the legislation we largely expect to be in the house. Same sex marriage. Where is this at, Angus?

TAYLOR: Well, there will be a private members bill brought forward this week. I would expect it to be passed this week. There will be amendments, private members amendments, around protection of religious freedoms and I am certainly hoping that all members of the house will be free to vote with their conscience on those amendments, but expect all of that to be through this week. But it is an important week as you say, and it’s important that each and every member of the Parliament be free to vote on their conscience.

BOURCHIER: And you were very clear throughout the entire discussion about your position on this. Will you be abstaining or voting no?

TAYLOR: No, no. I will be clear, for five years, since I was a candidate that I would vote with my electorate and with, more recently, with the nation and I will do exactly that.

BOURCHIER: And in terms of any amendments, are there any that you would support or you would put forward?

TAYLOR: Yeah look, I haven't seen the terms of those amendments yet Dan, but protection of charity, celebrants, the Dean Smith Bill doesn't cover all celebrants and I think it should. Those amendments will certainly be ones that I support and I expect to support others as well.

BOURCHIER: Gai Brodtmann, if a celebrant doesn't want to do a wedding, can't they just say they're busy?

BRODTMANN: Well, I think we need to get to the nub of this issue and the fact is the Australian people have spoken on marriage equality. They want marriage equality and they want it now. And Labor wants this to be a reality by the end of the week.  So we do not want to see delays in any way on this issue and the debate coming forward. Hopefully, this will be passed by the end of the week. The Australian people have spoken, and they have spoken very loudly. They want marriage equality and we do not want to wind back anti-discrimination laws. We will not remove one form of discrimination and replace it with another.

BOURCHIER: Another story that has been dominating for the last couple of days, and indeed throughout this year, has been Chinese political influence and alleged donations or connections to the political sphere here in Australia. We're going to see some legislation around this, this week. But Angus Taylor, there are now connections in the newspaper today to both sides of politics. Is this getting to a point where Australians are starting to lose faith in our Parliament being separated from any sort of connection to overseas donors?

TAYLOR: I do think it is an important issue for anybody to debate and we've seen Sam Dastyari is like a cat with nine lives. He keeps surviving but that's largely because Bill Shorten is running a protection racket for him. This is a very, very serious issue.

BOURCHIER: It’s also connected now to John Alexander in the seat of Bennelong.

TAYLOR: Well, that’s a very tenuous connection, Dan, to be frank with you.

BOURCHIER: What, the chief advisor to… (Interrupted)

TAYLOR: That, hey look, honestly the issue here is that Sam Dastyari has been taking money from the Chinese billionaire and didn't declare the money and then there's been he's also tipped him off that he may be getting his phone tapped. And look, this is Bill Shorten's numbers’ man. This is a very, very serious set of allegations that Bill Shorten needs to answer to.

BOURCHIER: Gai Brodtmann, what do you say to those?

BRODTMANN:  If this government was serious about foreign donations it wouldn’t have blocked the legislation that Labor put up last year to ban foreign donations. I mean, we've been talking about this for over 12 months. We put up legislation last year and it was blocked by the government so if it's serious about it, here we are.

Last week, we could have actually debated this issue in Parliament but the Government cancelled Parliament because the Prime Minister was too chicken to face question time. If the Government is serious about it, well just how serious are they, really Dan, when they could have addressed this issue 12 months ago? We've been calling for this issue – a ban on foreign donations – for 12 months through legislation.

TAYLOR: But Gai, if you're really serious you should stop accepting them. And Sam Dastyari did accept them and he is being protected by Bill Shorten because he is Bill Shorten's numbers man and factional ally. And look, you've got to walk the walk in this game if you are going to talk the talk, and that that means dealing with Sam Dastyari.

BOURCHIER:  What about then, the other question of the Prime Minister having dinner with the very same donor after there was a donation made to the Queensland election?

TAYLOR: Well, whether or not there was a dinner or not, look, the fundamental question in the same photo with somebody? I mean, seriously, Dan.

BOURCHIER: But it doesn’t look good, does it? The point is there is a perception in the community that politicians from both sides are too connected to foreign donors and those with foreign powers. We're having a major debate about section 44. This would seem an extension to me. Do you not see it that way?

TAYLOR: Right, and Sam Dastyari should be dealt with for exactly that reason.

BOURCHIER: The whole thing should be dealt with, shouldn't it?

TAYLOR: Well, you know, what we've got is a protection racket being run by Bill Shorten for disloyal and dual citizens and, seriously, to not deal with this is extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary. And of course Labor will dig up photos where this guy is in the background with somebody from outside. That's what they do. But the fundamental question is, are you going to walk the walk? Is Bill Shorten going to walk the walk and he clearly isn't.

BRODTMANN: Bill Shorten has ruled out accepting foreign donations from Mr Huang. The Liberals haven't said whether they will or won't. They have not said whether they will or won’t.

TAYLOR: Well, what is Bill Shorten going to do with Sam Dastyari? That is the fundamental question.

BOURCHIER: Ok, we will wait to see on that here on ABC Radio Canberra, I guess. Gai Brodtmann, Labor MP for Canberra, and Angus Taylor, the Minister for Digital Transformation and Federal MP for Hume, we saw a by-election over the weekend. Barnaby Joyce is back but won't be at least for this sitting week. What does this say about the numbers, Gai Brodtmann?

BRODTMANN: It's still going to be an interesting week here in Parliament and I congratulate Barnaby Joyce on his re-election after a very expensive process – a process that didn't need to take place if the Nationals had got their house in order and gone through the appropriate processes in terms of citizenship. But, he's back. I don't know whether he's back in Parliament this week. In terms of declaration, there is talk that he will be here later in the week.

BOURCHIER: And Angus Taylor, what do you have to say about that?

TAYLOR: Well, I mean there is a resounding victory and it was very clear that the people of New England consider Barnaby to be a true Aussie, not a Kwaussie, and he's back in with a resounding level of support from New England. I mean, this is a near unprecedented result for a government in a by-election, so it was a fantastic outcome and it's a true tribute to the extraordinary contribution Barnaby has made and will continue to make.

BOURCHIER: This, of course, is part of that broader discussion around section 44 and who can and cannot sit in the Parliament. Just for the record today, both of you have checked through all of your records – there's no question marks there?

TAYLOR: I'm very confident. I'm in good shape on this one, thanks Dan.

BOURCHIER: You've got a check from all of the embassies and consulates that you don't have any family relations?

TAYLOR: I'm very confident on this one.

BRODTMANN: I have also gone through that process, but I went through that process years ago when I nominated, as do all Labor candidates. It's just a pity that it didn't happen, that it doesn't happen, in the Nationals and Liberals.

TAYLOR: Well, Justine Keay and Susan Lamb have got some questions to answer.

BOURCHIER:  Well, section 44 has some questions for more MPs across the divide I suspect, not just in citizenship but perhaps ownership laws as well. Look, we are almost out of time and I was probably a bit remiss to leave this right to the end but the word of the year - “kwaussie”. What do you both make of it?

BRODTMANN: We actually had to check the spelling with your producer, Dan, because I was working on Q U A S I and wondered why that would make word of the year, but it's an interesting one. It sort of reflects the reality of politics today and it will be interesting to see what Canberrans have to think about it.

BOURCHIER: Absolutely. Angus Taylor, what do you think?

TAYLOR: I think it's a ripper. It’s a ripper. And just for the record it is K W A U S S I E so taking like the Kiwi and then the Aussie. It’s a very contentious, I can see the text line and the phone line is lighting up.

BRODTMANN: I can imagine.

BOURCHIER: Look, thank you both so much, it's been lovely to chat this morning. Have a good week of what is going to be, to use your words, Angus, probably a ripper week in parliament. 

TAYLOR: Good on you. Appreciate it.

BRODTMANN: Thanks, Dan.