Transcript - ABC Afternoon Briefing [15 October 2020]

October 15, 2020

SUBJECT/S: COVID-19 restrictions; WA border closure; Gladys Berejiklian; Federal Integrity Commission

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I want to bring in my political panel for this afternoon – Labor MP Anne Aly is in Perth and Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman is in Sydney. And Trent, let's start with you, because while there are cases of concern in Victoria, there are more new cases of coronavirus in New South Wales, and there's obviously been some delay that the Premier announced in relation to opening up further. What are your thoughts on how to kind of manage this now? Are you confident that the systems are working and that there should be a pause on a further reopening?

TRENT ZIMMERMAN: Well, I am confident that the system's working, and I do think that New South Wales has had one of the best contact tracing and quarantine and management systems when cases do emerge, and has really been the gold standard in how you can keep a reasonable degree of normal activity and economic activity while keeping the virus in check. Obviously the figures are watched closely every day and I was very pleased that the Chief Health Officer in New South Wales this morning was... Kerry Chant was saying that she is feeling a bit more confident today, and all of the cases seem to have been able to be traced, and obviously that leads to the management that's put in place to, to protect those that... from those that have got the virus.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly, I want to take you to the WA story where it's been revealed that the decision for the hard lockdown wasn't actually based on health advice. Are you disturbed by those reports about that revelation – given your argument on this show and other times has always been, "this is the health advice, we take the health advice"? Well, if it's not being followed, how can you argue that?

ANNE ALY: Well, Patricia, I've actually got the health advice right here. This was a letter that was written yesterday by our Chief Health Officer, and I won't read the whole thing, but the last paragraph says, "I am of the current view that the Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions should remain as currently promulgated". And it very clearly outlines the case for keeping the borders closed, and that is that opening the borders to safe states when those safe states still don't have confident protocols in opening their borders to non-safe states would be a risk to the WA community. We've seen, as Trent has said, the way that this virus spreads, the, the level of community transmission that is possible, the way that clusters spread quite quickly – and I maintain, as does the Chief Health Officer, in this letter, maintain, that the WA hard closure, border hard closure, is the right way to go.

KARVELAS: Trent Zimmerman, I'll give you a right of reply there, because it's actually Federal Government and, and Federal MPs that have been saying, you know, WA needs to look at this. What do you make of the arguments put by Anne Aly?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think we've seen some contradictory advice emerge in the last day or so, and we saw the chief medical officer over there, Dr Robertson, saying before a Parliamentary committee that he recognised that five out of seven states or jurisdictions had 28 days clear of community transmission, and he was confident about the border arrangements that most of those states had in place, and I suppose this is what's hard to fathom. I mean, why can't someone from Tasmania or the Northern Territory or South Australia, that have had no cases for 28 days, travel to WA? And you've also had statements from the West Australian Premier to the effect that it was actually, um, an economic benefit to keep the borders closed because it stopped people going for holidays outside Western Australia, which is, to my mind, a pretty bizarre reason for keeping the Federation closed.

KARVELAS: Yeah, I want to stay with you but change the topic quite dramatically, if I can, Trent Zimmerman, I want to talk about New South Wales. I want to talk about your colleague, the Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and I want to talk about today's ICAC testimony by Daryl Maguire, her, you know, secret partner of five years, and what's been revealed there, including this drop-in meeting where she... where he brought a property developer to meet her. We've also got conversations about the Badgerys Creek deal. Is it really possible for Gladys Berejiklian to stay in her role? She was in this long-term secret relationship with a man who clearly has admitted that he was doing these very inappropriate things, and trying to use his highest-level contacts, including clearly Gladys Berejiklian.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think she can and will stay in the role, and she should. It's obviously a very difficult time for her because it's put a spotlight on what has otherwise been a very determined approach of Gladys to keep her private life just that, and she's obviously been very upfront this week about the consequences of trusting someone that, that shouldn't have been trusted. And I'd simply say to everyone watching this show – how many of us have been in relationships where we want to believe the best in the person that we have a relationship with, and sometimes we find out with hindsight., often... often, very sadly, that that trust was misplaced?

KARVELAS: Okay, but this is... no, but that doesn't stack up, because she actually forced him out of the Parliament, she said with others, and continued the relationship. So, you know, it wasn't a case of being duped, was it, because she didn't dump him like a hot potato then, did she?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, she also explained on Monday why she felt that she should maintain that friendship, and I don't know what the nature of the relationship was that... since, since those events. But what I can tell you, Patricia, is, is that I've known Gladys as a close friend for a quarter of a century and I can honestly say that there are very few people that I've ever come across with the integrity and dedication to public service and all that goes with it than Gladys Berejiklian. And this year we've seen that writ large – this state, this country, has seen everything thrown at us: bushfires, and now the pandemic, and floods, and New South Wales has been the gold standard in managing these because of the great team. But every team is only as good as its captain, and its captain has been Gladys, and she has given extraordinarily to this state this year, and I'm happy to stand by her now because I do think that she is a person of, of utmost integrity and probity in everything that she does as a leader and as a politician.

KARVELAS: Okay... I want to put that to you, Anne Aly. You're in WA, you're a Federal MP, but certainly this is being watched very closely around the country. Do you think she should go?

ALY: Well, I'm always going to err on the side of being prudent and waiting until the ICAC, the Integrity Commission, has completed its investigation, so I'm not going to comment on, or speculate on whether or not she should go, Patricia. But I do think that the evidence that we've heard thus far certainly raises some serious questions about what she knew, when she knew and how she knew. I also think that this... the reason that this has gotten so much attention across Australia is because it puts a spotlight on the need for a Federal Integrity Commission, and that's something that I'm very passionate about, and I know that the... Christian Porter, who is responsible for it, has stalled on it, and we have LNP backbenchers calling the ICAC a kangaroo court. It just seems to me that integrity is not a priority for this... for this Government.

KARVELAS: Okay, I want to put that to you – and I've read the Government talking points, so I'll know if you're just following the script, Trent Zimmerman, because they were leaked. For any of our viewers who don't know, sent to all the press, they're usually just sent to MPs so that they know what to say in interviews like this, but now we've seen them and I know the answer on ICAC is "we're prioritising the pandemic [inaudible] the Federal Integrity Commission". But I reckon, I reckon we might need one and it might be an urgent thing, and I also wonder, why can't you walk and chew gum at the same time? You've got, you know, departments, and.. and ministers and resources, why not prioritise this?

ZIMMERMAN: They're my talking points, they're all handwritten, so they're not the Government's talking points!

KARVELAS: Okay, you've got your own version, but seriously, this should be a priority, shouldn't it?

ZIMMERMAN: Look, I do strongly support having a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, and, and I hope that we can get on a, get on to releasing the legislation and considering it within the Parliamentary processes as soon as we can. But I do have to say that... I mean, Christian Porter as the Attorney-General, but more so as the Minister for Industrial Relations, has, has had a pretty full plate in terms of managing the industrial relations side of the labour market issues that have arisen during the pandemic. So I don't think it's, I don't think it's fair to say that he's been sitting on his hands over the last six months.

KARVELAS: No-one's saying he's sitting on his hands – give it to someone else, give it to another minister. I mean, you can always resolve the issue.

ZIMMERMAN: He is, he is the Attorney-General and will be responsible for it, but I, but I hope that we can progress this.

KARVELAS: Do you think there's a sense of urgency around this, given integrity issues are very much front and centre at the moment? And I would say there is a view in the public – of course they care about the coronavirus, and their jobs, everyone's gonna care about that first – but there is a sense that public money and integrity should be paramount at a Federal level as well.

ZIMMERMAN: I agree with that proposition. But I do think that Australians do expect us to make the current crisis the number one focus of government. But, ah, but hopefully we can get on with the legislation very soon.


ZIMMERMAN: And, and my understanding is that the legislation is very, very close, and has been extensively worked on, and obviously there are a number of models for integrity commissions, both within the states of Australia, but also internationally, and it's not a simple task of setting up a new police force or a new court system, it's actually quite complicated in getting the right mix for a body like this.

KARVELAS: Well, I'm going to give you another question without notice just on, on an issue that's broken this afternoon. Our colleague here at the ABC, Dan Oakes, said the case against him has been dropped by the Australian Federal Police. This case, of course, he's been waiting for so many days now. We know now that that's not going to be pursued. But doesn't it mean we need bigger reforms so the public interest journalism is protected, Anne Aly?

ALY: Yes, absolutely, we need bigger reforms. We need bigger reforms on a range of issues, and I just want to pick up that the, the Federal ICAC – and I understand Trent is saying that there is a sense of urgency, and I also understand people say the wheels of government turn slowly – but this is not a new issue. I remember a time when politicians resigned over a bottle of wine, Patricia, so, certainly, yes we do need reforms in a number of areas. I think... I don't want to comment too specifically around this particular case, but I think the fact that it's been dropped has... demonstrates that we need to look at this much more closely than what we are.

KARVELAS: Yeah and I want to put that to you, Trent Zimmerman, 763 days – that's how long he's been waiting, it's now been dropped and public interest is mentioned. This is, this is a system that's clearly broken, isn't it? I mean, journalists have the right to tell stories. No one's ever said these stories are inaccurate.

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, look, I think that obviously press freedom is the cornerstone of any, any successful democracy. Now, the other point that I would make is, is that equally importantly is the separation that exists between operational matters within a police force and, and politicians. The reason that's there is because that, when it wasn't here that was actually a source of corruption, as we've seen in New South Wales 50 years ago or in Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen era. So that separation exists for the very reason that we want to prevent the type of corruption that we've just been talking about. But look, justice delayed is justice denied, and I, I do think that leaving anyone under investigation hanging for that period of time is something that should cause the AFP to reflect on their processes.

KARVELAS: Thanks to both of you, it's been a very interesting conversation this afternoon.


ANNE ALY: Thanks, Patricia.