TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Sydney, Tuesday 29 December 2015




SUBJECTS: Resignation of Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well anyone who's watched the American TV series The West Wing knows all about the concept of taking out the trash. It means saving all the bad news for one day and hoping that there is so much of it that you can't report any individual piece of bad news in any detail. What we've seen today is the Turnbull Government taking out the trash day. The first thing we read this morning is that the Medicare services review won't be returning money to the health budget, it's a simple device for a cut to Medicare services. Then we hear of course that the Gonski school funding reforms won't be completed but this government, that year's five and six of Gonski school education funding is Gone-ski. Now we hear late this afternoon that the Prime Minister has lost two of his Ministers, first of course we hear that Jamie Briggs has resigned after a unspecified incident in Hong Kong and secondly that Mal Brough will be standing aside while police investigate him. Well, we know from the government’s behaviour in this effort to take out the trash- we know the government is planning an early election, that they're trying to clean off the barnacles, as Tony Abbott would say, before going to an early election in coming months. But this tells us about more than just the government, it tell us about Mr Turnbull the Prime Minister. Mr Turnbull has been unwilling to come clean with the Australian people about his plans. He's saved up all the bad news to a day between Christmas and New Year when he hoped no one was listening. Mal Brough has been in trouble for many, many months now, in fact he was under suspicion and under police investigation when he was appointed by the Prime Minister as the special minister of state. A position of course which is about upholding the integrity of the Parliament and upholding stands of behaviour by Ministers and by MPs. The fact that Mr Turnbull appointed Mal Brough when there were so many clouds hanging over his behaviour is an indictment of Mr Turnbull's judgement. There were red lights flashing around this guy when Malcolm Turnbull appointed him to become a Minister and Jamie Briggs as well. This incident is reported to have happened many weeks ago. Why would the government wait until a quiet day between Christmas and New Year to make this announcement. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister must have known about this complaint many weeks ago and yet they waited until now to accept Jamie Briggs resignation. In fact the Prime Minister was out this morning in the fire affected areas of Victoria quite properly working with the Premier Daniel Andrews to inspect those fire affected areas but why wouldn't the Prime Minister also stand up this afternoon and talk about these very serious issues of propriety from his Ministers. It is incredible that the government has waited until now to release information as serious as two Ministers actually having to give up their Ministerial responsibility because of their behaviour. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Have these Ministers done the right thing in stepping aside?

PLIBERSEK: No, they have done completely the wrong thing. This should have happened much, much sooner. They've done completely the wrong thing because they've waited until they think Australians have got their feet up on the banana lounge, that their having a nice beer in the shade on the quiet time between Christmas and New Year. Mal Brough should have stood aside when these allegations were first made, in fact Malcom Turnbull should never had appointed him a Minister with these clouds around him. And Jamie Briggs should have stood aside when this complaint was first made, he should have stepped down when this complaint was first made. To wait until now when the government assumes Australians have clocked off, they're not listening to federal politics shows a degree of cynicism which is quite shocking.

JOURNALIST: Is it possible that the Prime Minister only found out about this today?

PLIBERSEK: It's a laughable proposition. I think it is clear that the government has decided to use the quiet time between Christmas and New Year to try and get all the bad news out in one go, in the hope that they can clear the decks for an early election next year. I think that fact that Malcolm Turnbull's judgement is appalling in appointing Mal Brough in the first instance that's one thing that we take from this announcement today. But the second thing we take is that the government is highly cynical and wants to slide back into government without being scrutinised. They're prepared to use this quiet time when most people are not following politics in detail to try and get out the bad news. It is a highly cynical effort to slide back into government without scrutiny and I’ve got to say, that obviously applies to the Medicare review, it applies to the Gonski school funding cuts and it applies to the fact that both the GST and the penalty rates suggestions that the government are making that they don't want to be scrutinised on.

JOURNALIST: What can you see as being the ramifications for the Government from losing two ministers in one day?

PLIBERSEK: Well this shows a shocking degree of dysfunction. But, it most particularly shows Malcolm Turnbull’s appalling judgement in appointing Mal Brough in the first place and the high degree of cynicism that this government is prepared to use this quiet period to make announcements like this. Why was Malcolm Turnbull standing by Mal Brough just a month ago? Why did Malcolm Turnbull appoint Mal Brough to the frontbench given that just weeks ago, Mr Turnbull was out there defending Mal Brough – he’s saying that he has his confidence? Today, apparently he doesn’t have his confidence anymore, I mean it is bizarre. It is very plain that Mr Turnbull is making decisions based purely on the political interests of his government and that he appointed Mal Brough in the first place because Mal Brough was instrumental in knocking off Tony Abbott.

JOURNALIST: Jamie Briggs wouldn’t be drawn on exactly what happened. Do you think he should reveal what happened while he was a Minister?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think when there are other people involved in an incident you have to be a little bit cautious – certainly I wouldn’t agree with identifying the person who has made the complaint. But, look the point here is that this has been known for many weeks and the Prime Minster, the Foreign Minister, really have to answer why it’s taken until this quiet time of year - when the Government thinks no one is watching and no one is listening – for action to be taken. I think we might leave it there. Thanks everyone.