November 14, 2019









SUBJECT/S: Death of Mr Walker; Bushfires; Numpties; Employment Figures; FinTech Senate Inquiry


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I wanna bring in my panel, Labor MP Anne Aly and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, welcome to both of you.




ALY: Thank you Patricia.


KARVELAS:  I’ll start with you Andrew Bragg. The Walker Family want a coronial inquest in to his death to take place in the community, what do you think should happen? Because, there is a big call now for an independent investigation, there are big concerns about the way this has been handled.


BRAGG: Well – firstly, I’d like to express my sympathies to the Walker Family. I think given this matter is now before the courts, it’s very difficult for me to pass comment on. My understanding is that the Northern Territory Government is considering its response in terms of an inquiry.


KARVELAS: Yeah, that’s right. Do you think there should be an inquiry? I mean, that doesn’t prejudice anything that goes on in the courts. Do you think there should be an inquiry given the high levels of community concern about this?


BRAGG: Uh, look, I just don’t have all the information to be able to make a sound judgement. I think the… I’d first want to hear the rationale the Northern Territory Government put out for either having or not having an inquiry.


KARVELAS: Anne Aly, what do you think?


ALY: Thank you Patricia, look, I think this is such a devastating case, but it’s not the first case of a death in custody amongst our First Nations people. I understand just how devastated the family and the community of Mr Walker is and I too would like to extend my condolences to them.


I think there are a number of things about this case and the first one that struck me was that there were no clinical staff on hand and the Royal Flying Doctor Service never arrived, so I think there is a cause, or a case for at least looking in to why there was not that medical assistance on hand, and had there been that medical assistance been on hand, would the death of Mr Walker have been prevented?


In terms of the actual case itself, I think it’s wise to, as Andrew said, to let the investigation pan out and follow the investigation. But I think the demonstrations that we saw around Australia are an expression of where we are at as a nation in terms of the number of deaths in custody of our First Nations people and the inequality for our First Nations people in those communities.


KARVELAS: Andrew Bragg, that’s right isn’t it? The response we’ve seen –




KARVELAS: - the demonstrations, the heavy hearts, this is all result – it’s a cumulative result, as well as about this individual case – that this is a community that feels that justice is just not being served in a systemic way. Do you have… do you agree with that position?


BRAGG: Well I mean, as you know PK, the Uluru Statement deals with this question of significantly higher rates of incarceration relative to the population as a, you know, one of the central tenets for, uh, position for, some changes, and I’ve always thought that was a quite compelling logic. It is not that case that Indigenous Australians are inherently criminal people.


KARVELAS: I want to ask you another question actually, because you raised the Uluru Statement from the Heart and constitutional recognition. The Government’s going down this road of, perhaps legislative change in terms of a body that represents Indigenous Australians rather than putting it in the constitution. I know you still think it should be in the constitution but that’s not the pathway the Government’s followed. Do you think it’s still possible to put that body in the constitution?


BRAGG: I think the Minister has done an outstanding job in bringing together a – you’d have to say – quite a high calibre panel to look at the co-design, to be co-chaired of course by Marcia Langton. I’d also say that the Labor Party have been very constructive by being bi-partisan on this project. So if the principle that’s being sought is more consultation before law-making, then I think that this process could yield something very, very useful.


KARVELAS: So, when you say something very, very useful, are you talking about down the road having it enshrined in the constitution?


BRAGG: I don’t think we should quibble about the final form, I think the issue here that people are asking for us to address is that we want to be consulted on laws which affect us. And I think that could be achieved, well and truly, under the process that Minister Wyatt has outlined.

KARVELAS: Okay, then on constitutional change, do you think there’s any point in doing something just symbolic over the next couple of years given, look I would say the majority of Indigenous Australians, at least in the expressions through the Uluru Statement, don’t want that?


BRAGG: I think, let’s see where we get to. I thought it was a real feather in the Minister’s hat to be able to secure the appointment of Ms Langton, Professor Langton. So I think we wanna try and see how that process will go.


KARVELAS: Alright, let’s change the conversation to the other huge conversation we’re having and that’s fires and the response to these fires. Former New South Wales Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins says this Government fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change. Andrew Bragg, is that right?




KARVELAS: Really? Cos, we keep getting told not to talk about climate change during this period or sometimes maybe even more often than that.


BRAGG: Well I know that you would have been glued to the TV watching the Senate all week –


KARVELAS: I have actually, sadly…


BRAGG: - and – oh, well that’s why I said it – and um, so there has been, I think many attempts to try and… get some rises from the Government and the Opposition. I think this has been a week where people have lost their lives, there are still fires raging in Queensland, this is not the week to be playing political games where people have lost their lives.


KARVELAS: Anne Aly, Labor has joined calls to tone down the climate change debate while the fires are still burning. So when are we supposed to have this conversation?


ALY: Patricia, look, I don’t… I think it’s rather extraordinary where you have several former Fire Chiefs saying that the Government was warned about this and was warned about the link between climate change and bushfires. As a Western Australian, I am watching from afar and I think I feel what many West Australians feel, which is extraordinarily helpless and extraordinarily frustrated.


Frustrated that the Greens are using this and milking it as much as they can with their faux outrage and their Holier-than-thou-ness and the Nationals are taking the bait and responding. So while you have ordinary Australians pulling together and doing the hard work of helping these communities, what they see on their television screens is these numpties going at each other’s throats. It’s absolutely embarrassing at the moment, to be honest.


In terms of the climate change, I think it’s undeniable that there is a climate change element in this. But I think at the moment, our focus should be with all of the Australian people who are out there doing the hard work and helping – you know – donating, getting out there with the first responders getting out there, that’s what we should be doing right now.


KARVELAS: Do you agree with the language that was just used there? Are they numpties Andrew Bragg?


BRAGG: I think we’ve tried to be very restrained in the Senate sitting week because we don’t want to convey the wrong message to the Australian people, that we’re not focused on - and I’m talking about the bulk of the Senate this week, including the Labor Party – that we’re trying focus our efforts and attention on people who’ve lost their lives and on the ongoing fire battle.


KARVELAS: So… what do you say –


ALY: Let me make it clear Patricia –


KARVELAS: Yes, go ahead.


ALY: When I say numpties, I mean the Greens and the Nationals that are responding to them. I don’t mean those others in the Senate and other politicians who are taking a very civil approach to this as Andrew has just mentioned.


KARVELAS: Andrew, do you agree though that the Greens and the Nationals that have been identified there by Anne Aly have gone too far?


BRAGG: Are you talking about this sitting week, in the Senate?


KARVELAS: I’m talking generally. We know what we’re talkin’ about, we’re talking about Barnaby Joyce’s comments about the two people that died and I think we’re talking about Senator Steele-John and others’ comments in relation to arson -


BRAGG: Right.


KARVELAS: - arsonists, these two comments were the ones that seem to have upset people a lot.


BRAGG: I don’t agree with either of those contributions, but I repeat myself and say that I think is a week to be focused on people who have lost their lives and people who may lose their lives through the ongoing fires. It’s not going to be a good look for parliamentarians, politicians to be throwing mud at each other while this is happening.


KARVELAS: So Andrew, a coalition of these former Fire and Emergency Service Chiefs will meet with David Littleproud. Should the Prime Minister also meet with them, given this is quite obviously such a crisis?


BRAGG: I think the Prime Minister and the Ministry are well across a lot of the advice that would be tendered by a range of experts, because we accept that there are many, many experts in the field, we have a range of meetings and I understand that this organisation was offered a meeting with Minister Taylor some time ago but for some reason that wasn’t taken up. But I understand there is now a meeting that’s going to occur with Minister Littleproud.


KARVELAS: Okay. Briefly from you Anne Aly, should it be with the Prime Minister given the sort of urgency and the warnings they’re making?


ALY: Yes, I think so, I think it’s a time to show leadership.


KARVELAS: Alright, let’s just move to another story today. Andrew Bragg, ABS figures reveal the total number of people employed fell by 19,000 last month. That’s the biggest drop in employment since 2016. Does that undermine the Government’s claim to be the best economics managers? You know, if unemployment’s ticking up?


BRAGG: I think over the last year we’ve created over 100,000 jobs. I mean these month to month figures do move around a little bit, it’s going from 5.2 to 5.3, back to 5.2. I guess we’re… rather than sort of, go through these figures endlessly, we’re more focused on we can create more jobs which is why we’re signing trade deals, which is why we’re looking at the industrial relations system, which is why we’re looking at FinTech, which could create more Australian jobs.


KARVELAS: Okay, but you know, you wouldn’t be welcoming the news. If unemployment goes up, that’s not something that the Government would be particularly pleased with, I imagine you’re not either.


BRAGG: I’m not a commentator, I can tell you what we’re doing as a Government to try and create more jobs.


KARVELAS: Well you’re a politician, so you make comment don’t you about issues including unemployment?


BRAGG: Well I’ve just made a comment on it and I think we have a number of processes on foot that will yield more jobs.


KARVELAS: Okay… what do you make of the result today, Anne Aly?


ALY: I think it speaks to what you just mentioned there Patricia about the Government’s inability to actually do anything to stimulate the economy. You know, I’m in the… my electorate is in the outer northern suburbs. We have some of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the country, but we also have some of the highest wait times for employment in the country as well. I meet people every day, they’ve lost their jobs, they’re over 55 or over 50 and they can’t find jobs, they’re underemployed or they’re unemployed.


I think that the Government needs to really, really, stop talking up the figures that are out there when the evidence is very clear that unemployment is not going down.


KARVELAS: Just finally Andrew Bragg, you’ve actually already touched on this but I’d be curious just to hear a bit more. You’re chairing this Senate Inquiry in to the FinTech sector. Strip it back for my viewers, because it’s a really dense policy area, but what are you actually trying to ultimately achieve here?


BRAGG: Well there’s really just two things. The first is we think we can create more jobs with technology. Some people may think that technology could be a jobs loser. Technology’s actually jobs accretive. And the second thing is, we want to create more consumer choice and control, so we want people to be able to move their bank account around or their energy company around basically just by pressing a button on their phone.


KARVELAS: Okay, so do you think there can be substantial reforms to do that? Do you have any modelling about what could be produced with reforms to FinTech?


BRAGG: We’ve already had some submissions in to the inquiry which have talked about many thousands of jobs that could emerge if we’re better at this than other countries. So, it’s like anything we do in Australia, we’re always competing with investment; for investment, in to new areas which ultimately creates new jobs.


KARVELAS: I wanna thank both of you for coming in this afternoon, a pretty lively conversation, thanks so much.


BRAGG: Thanks PK.


ALY: Thank you Patricia.