By Tanya Plibersek

26 November 2020




SUBJECTS: Australian Special Forces Report; COVID-19.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Let's go to our female panel, Tanya Plibersek, the former Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and Amanda Stoker the Liberal Senator from Queensland. May I just say to my viewers, we're not here to agree with one another. We are really here to think and my panellists know we want their views. They are under no limits, say it as you see it. You're the voter at the end of the day, you'll have the final say. From time to time of course I stick my sixpence worth in don't I? As you would expect. Now look, it's no use gilding the lily. Anthony Albanese a nice bloke. As Richo said last night, as I'm speaking now more than 80 per cent of our electricity is coming from black coal. If Albo can't bring himself to acknowledge that he's gone. And significant sections of the Liberal Party know no better. Honestly Matt Kean the Liberal Minister for something has gone mad. The point being, given the volatility of politics there could be a new leader of the Labor Party come the next election and that'll really rattle the Coalition. But the Morrison Government has done appallingly on this Brereton Report. The next challenge facing Scott Morrison will be the Ministerial reshuffle. Will people as talented as Amanda Stoker get a guernsey? No government can talk about wanting the nation to be the world's best in anything, if they can't pick the best to govern. Now, I don't want to dwell on this Brereton Report, but I do want a comment from both of the ladies. Amanda you first because you were a lawyer of significant distinction, a Commonwealth prosecutor, a judge's associate in the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. The Prime Minister's first comments on this report was to warn the nation of brutal truths. Amanda this report’s been written from evidence that's not been tested in a court. How can a Prime Minister talk to the world about brutal truths?
SENATOR AMANDA STOKER: Well the brutal truth with which we are faced is that Brereton in his inquiry reached the conclusion that non enemy combatants had been killed and that was outside the heat of battle. Now that will need to be tested-
JONES: It was an allegation Amanda. 
STOKER: I agree- 
JONES: It’s not a truth 
STOKER: That will need to be subjected to the scrutiny of a judicial process- 
JONES: But I know you're in a difficult position Amanda, but you're a lawyer. That is not a truth. It's an allegation, you know the difference. It's a big difference.
STOKER: And what's important is that anybody to whom such an allegation is directed has the benefit of the opportunity to have a full judicial process where the evidence is presented in full. It is tested according to the laws of evidence. And accountability is attributed appropriately.
JONES: It’s not a truth! The Prime Minister of Australia told the world it was a truth. Tanya, this inquiry was not bound by the rules of evidence. There's now talk that all of these men, 3000 of them or more will be stripped of their meritorious unit citation. But worse than that there are reports today that the Government were planning months ago to strip the meritorious unit citation from those who served in Afghanistan. Five months before defence had seen the report and now 10 have been asked to show cause why they shouldn't be sacked. Isn't this standing justice on its head?
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING, TANYA PLIBERSEK: It's for the Government to explain why they're making decisions like that. But I go back to first principles Alan. Of course people are innocent until proven guilty. And this is the beginning of a process. These reports do contain some very concerning allegations. But those allegations have to be properly tested in a court of law with the proper rules of evidence and so on.  
JONES: But the Prime Minister said they were truths Tanya.
PLIBESERK: Alan, I think one of the things that it's really important to remember is we do support our troops overseas. We are grateful to them. They serve on behalf of our whole nation. And the complaints in these reports were initiated by serving personnel and former personnel because they saw things that concerned them. They are whistleblowers, and they deserve our support too.
JONES: That can be investigated 
PLIBERSEK: That must be investigated properly.
JONES: He said they were brutal truths. Now Tanya, both of you. How do you defend the nation by demoralising those who are asked to defend it, Amanda? I can tell you – you must have had calls – people are really genuinely upset. This has opened old wounds and old sores. 
STOKER: My colleague Andrew Hastie, who as you know has served in the SAS as a troop commander put this, I think really well earlier this week when he wrote about it in the Aus. And the way he put it is to say, we protect the honour and the standing of our service men and women when we take these allegations seriously, when we tackle them head on and we don't hide them from view. I have had feedback from members of the community in line with the comments that you read out shortly before this segment on your show. But I've also had really strong feedback from serving and former members of the ADF saying I don't want my unit or my service to be tarred by allegations like this, and so I want it to be flushed out and cut out as much as is possible. There's no reason why this kind of scrutiny is incompatible with perpetually increasing the capability and the morale- 
JONES: But Amanda no one is objecting to scrutiny. But see Tanya there are thousands of these people who served in Afghanistan. They're all threatened. You've got Campbell writing to the Governor-General to take away their meritorious citation award. All of them, no one's named. All I'm saying, no one's objecting to scrutiny, but we cannot have this level of demoralisation, and there is a lot of hurt out there. Do you have a final comment about that Tanya? 
PLIBERSEK: I think Alan it's really important to be very clear that we are we are grateful. We are proud of our serving personnel, current and former. And that allegations against a few should not tar the reputation of the many, many brave men and women who have served on behalf of their country.
JONES: Okay well I want to ask you one question before you go, this is called repetition by the way. Now I know both of you are married and so you don't have to get married on Saturday. But if you were getting married on Saturday under these ridiculous coronavirus rules and no one can give me a piece of paper that says this is why we're doing it. If you get married on Saturday, you can have 150 at the wedding, but if you get married next Saturday can have 300. Amanda what's going to happen between this Saturday and next Saturday. Can someone please tell me I'm just a dumb person? Can you tell me?
STOKER: The Prime Minister and the Morrison Government have been trying really hard to get transparency and consistency out of the state governments in the way that they apply these restrictions. It's very hard to understand in a similar comparable example how it is that it's okay to have people confined in an aeroplane at well more than one per square meter, but you can't have more than two per square meter in an open-top boat, which is core to the tourism industry getting back on its feet. All of this kind of madness demands consistency. It demands the evidence that underpins it. 
JONES: But you've transition beautifully from being a lawyer to a politician because you didn't answer my question. Tanya before we go, you can get married on Saturday married have 150, but next Saturday 300. What's happening between this Saturday and next Saturday that I don't know about? 
PLIBERSEK: Alan I think we should go back to the to the old days of a few months ago where you could have half a dozen and save an absolute fortune on dinners for people that you're barely know and who your parents invited to your wedding. I think there'd be a lot of people who are worried about the fact that we're increasing the number allowed at weddings. 
JONES: Yes you're most probably right, certainly those who have to pay the bill. Thank you both always, lovely to talk to you. Talk to you next week. There they are Tanya Plibersek and Amanda Stoker.