By Tanya Plibersek

11 September 2023





SUBJECTS: SPA flights; Voice to Parliament.

NATALIE BARR: Richard Marles has warned that releasing information about his taxpayer funded VIP flights could reveal patterns of behaviour that may make him a target. The Deputy Prime Minister will this week have to hand over documents to the Senate revealing the dates and the cost of every flight he has taken in the past year. But the Defence Minister has hinted he may refuse to produce some details about his multimillion-dollar travel bill based on concerns by national security agencies.

Let's bring in Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you.

BARNABY JOYCE:  Good morning.


BARR: Tanya, so if Richard Marles has nothing to hide here should he just release all the flight details?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well I think we have to always behave the way our security agencies advise us to behave. Richard has made clear that he'll release all of the information that's available subject to the advice that he's been given by the security agencies. I think that's a sensible approach. We do want to see more transparency. We've made a commitment to provide this information to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority.  That's the oversight body that makes sure that parliamentarians when they travel are travelling within entitlement and he's very confident that every flight he's taken is within entitlement and because of his work.

BARR: Yeah. Because the allegation here is that he's been hitching VIP flights into Avalon, because that's closer to his home rather than taking a commercial flight to Melbourne and then a car, and then sort of ripping off the public. That's the allegation, not me saying that. Barnaby, what has the case been for other Deputy Prime Ministers and Defence Ministers, have they released this sort of information or is it a security problem?

JOYCE:  Look, he's dead right. It does show a pattern of behaviour and it does make him a risk, a political risk. You know, we've always disclosed manifest and travel details, who was on the plane with you. This has only recently stopped. He's got, what, $3.6 million worth of trips. We're wondering if the risk is that we found out where he was playing golf. That's what we think the risk might be. This is ‑‑


BARR: Was it only recently stopped, Tanya?

JOYCE:  You've got this big problem because ‑‑

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: No, no, hang on a minute. When the reporting stopped ‑ my understanding is the reporting stopped when Peter Dutton was the Defence Minister and, Barnaby, you took 65 flights on special purpose aircraft to your home base.

JOYCE:  Happy to tell you about every one.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Were they the wrong thing to do, Barnaby? I think it's the right thing to do if the security advice is ‑‑

JOYCE:  Happy to tell you about every one. Got no problems. Nothing to hide.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well we already know about every one of the 65.

JOYCE:  Of course. We want to know about Richie's flights.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: As Deputy Prime Minister.

BARR: Barnaby, was it stopped under Peter Dutton, the release of the documents?

JOYCE:  As reported today by Samantha Maiden ‑‑

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: That's my understanding of it.

JOYCE:  ‑‑ this was reported in the past. I've got no problems with you having a look at my flights, none. Usually, you will find me on commercial flights.

BARR: Hang on. Barnaby, just a second, because you guys are sounding like Richard Marles is the one who stopped this so can we just go back a bit. Was the reporting of these sort of flights stopped under your government?

JOYCE:  I'm pretty sure that every one of my flights that you could see, and I'll ‑‑

BARR: Regardless of your flights, was the reporting of the documents stopped under your government? Because you guys are making it sounds like it's the Labor Party that stopped it.

JOYCE:  Well I'm going with Samantha Maiden's report this morning that said ‑ that it's only recently that it stopped with the manifest and the flights.

BARR: Okay. And Tanya ‑‑

JOYCE:  And I've got no problems you looking at my flights. It's just where has Richard been going? Avalon to escape the traffic, that's where he's been going.

BARR: That's the allegation. So Tanya, if there is no problem, and Richard Marles says there's no problem with this, why is it stretching out weeks? Why didn't he just say straight away, "Here's the documents"? How much of a safety risk would it be?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I think we have to be careful if our security advisors are telling us that showing a regular pattern of travel puts someone at greater risk, I think we have to listen to that. That's really quite a serious thing to be told.

BARR: So, Tanya, could it be released to, say, not the public? Could it be released to a bunch of people that just see whether it's kosher or not, to see whether he has been taking a few too many?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: That's exactly what we're proposing. Nat, that's exactly what we're proposing. The Independent ‑‑

BARR: So how is that not a security risk?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority is set up specifically to make sure that all travel is within entitlement.

BARR: So what's the hold up?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And we're saying that they would get it. Well, there's actually a problem with the computer system, I think that's the hold up.

BARR: What?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It's as simple as that.

BARR: Hang on. With the computer system?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: The Parliamentary Expenses management system, yeah. Yeah, I think it's as simple as that.

BARR: What's the problem with the computer, like for the last few weeks?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I don't know, I'm not a computer expert.

BARR: Computer says no. And Richard Marles says no. Okay, well look, keep us up‑to‑date on that computer system, I guess these things happen. Right. Look, if you want the Seven IT team, we can send them down. It's not very far.


BARR: We can sort that out. Moving on. Support for The Voice to Parliament has slumped to just 43 per cent according to a new survey. After the opening week of the formal campaign for the referendum the latest Resolve Strategic poll shows 57 per cent of voters are opposed to the change, up from 54 per cent last month. Tanya, we've got just over a month until people vote. The support has been sliding since January. How are you going to claw back support for the Yes vote?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well we know there's still a lot of people who are undecided. We've got to a few weeks to convince those people to vote yes. We're going to ask them to vote yes because this acknowledges 65,000 years of Australian history. It shows that we've got a long history that didn't start with, you know, Arthur Phillip planting a flag in Port Jackson. We also ‑ I mean this is a practical thing to do. It's setting up a committee to give advice to the Parliament to make sure that we spend money wisely, we make good decisions when we're making decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues that affect them. It's a way of saving money and getting better results.

This idea came from Aboriginal people, well over 80 per cent of them support it. This is not a committee that has a veto over Parliament. It doesn't get to stop things happening. It doesn't run programs. It is a committee to give advice. It is really a lot less scary than some of the no campaign are making it out to be.

BARR: And, Barnaby, if this fails it looks like we're spending another 450 million under you guys to have another referendum. Are you supporting that?

JOYCE:  Well this ‑‑

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: That's right. There's nothing better than one referendum but two, Barnaby.

JOYCE:  That answer is about as transparent as Richard Marles' flights what we've just got there. The Voice is vastly more than that and it will fundamentally change how this nation works and that is why people are moving away from it. And why aren't you being transparent about that? Why don't you table legislation? Won't tell us what Richie is doing. Won't tell us what the legislation is doing, and the Australian people are telling you what they're going to do. They're going to vote it down.

BARR: And you're supporting the extra referendum, Barnaby?

JOYCE:  I would happily have a referendum about constitutional recognition and happily go to a constitutional convention, work out something which both sides of politics can agree on.

BARR: Okay.

JOYCE:  Rather than this divisive really nasty process that the Labor Party is taking our nation into.

BARR: Okay. We thank you both, we'll see you next week.