WAYNE SWAN MP
MEMBER FOR LILLEY
ABC NATIONAL WRAP
SUNDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: National Conference, encryption laws, refugee processing, medical evacuations legislation, offshore processing and Liberal Party infighting.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, Wayne Swan welcome to national wrap.
NICK GREINER: Thank you.
WAYNE SWAN: Good to be with you.
KARVELAS: Wayne Swan should this asylum seeker medical evacuation bill be the first order of business in the New Year for Parliament? Does Labor want to be prioritising and focusing on this issue?
WAYNE SWAN: Well we're focusing on a lot of issues. The fact that the Government ran away from its legislative agenda on the last day of Parliament was unprecedented I've never seen anything like that in 25 years of Parliament. So if it comes back to Parliament in the normal order of things of course we will be dealing with it.
KARVELAS: But do you think it should be a priority?
SWAN: Well we're not afraid of this Government. The fact is that they are divided and chaotic we saw that on the last day of Parliament. We've got a very big agenda which we are discussing at our National Conference to create prosperity, fight inequality and spread opportunity. We're going to deal with all of those issues and this is simply one of them.
KARVELAS: Nick Greiner does the Government want to fight an election on border security? Is that really the main issue for Australian voters? We've seen the result in Wentworth for instance and it seemed to be sending another message.
NICK GREINER: Well I think to borrow from Wayne we're obviously not at all worried about fighting an election where border security and national security in all its forms is an important issue. I think it's obvious if you look around the world and what's happening at the moment in terms of terrorism and general political volatility the Liberal National Parties’ obviously believe that we are better to deliver in that area so I don't think either party should run away from the issue. Security is always a fundamental matter at any election.
KARVELAS: Nick Greiner you didn't address the other part of my question which is do you think this tough line on border security particularly in relation to sick asylum seekers is consistent with the result in Wentworth?
GREINER: I think that this is sort of an end of parliamentary year exercise mostly by the cross benches that Labor has tagged along on. We clearly believe that we've done an excellent job in terms of border security. There are now effectively no children on Nauru. There used to be hundreds under Labor. So I think if you get past the political grandstanding, the Government thinks it's behaved fairly in terms of the people concerned but more importantly it’s behaved fairly and appropriately for Australians at large.
KARVELAS: Scott Morrison says he hopes that Labor will come to its senses on its support for these amendments when the Parliament returns in February, will (Labor) change its mind?
SWAN: Well what we've seen is the politicisation of national security. We saw on the encryption legislation. We're now seeing it on this medical evacuation legislation. The fact is that they are prepared to play with national security for political reasons and I think Australians should be very concerned about the extent to which they are trying to politicise these essential issues of national security. We have tried to work with the Government through the Joint Committee and we have put it to the forefront of what we're doing, the national security of Australians and they're simply playing politics with it. I don't think Australian’s are going to appreciate that and that's going to be very obvious to everybody right through this Christmas break.
KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, if Labor does alter its border protection policy at next week's national conference do you make yourselves vulnerable to a government campaign?
SWAN: We are absolutely in favour of very strong border protection and that will be very clear and on display at our national conference. We're not afraid of going before the Australian people and having a policy debate. We've got 400 delegates over three days eight hours a day talking about the issues that are critically important to the future of our country. That marks us as a party which is prepared to involve the public in our debates and to secure their support in a public way in contrast to the behaviour of our Liberal opponents.
KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, Malcolm Turnbull has been pretty vocal this week. Do you need a strategy to deal with him? What happens when he speaks out because it seems to be a big distraction for the Government?
GREINER: Well I think Malcolm certainly made some comments last week that I said were not helpful. I've since had a good conversation with him about that. I think by and large the media choose not to report when Malcolm goes to the Wentworth Christmas party and endorses Dave Sharma which happened two days ago that doesn't seem to get any attention. Look I'm sure past Prime Ministers will use their own judgement as to what they say but I think that Malcolm will live up to what he indicated at the time he left the job which is essentially that previous Prime Ministers should well keep a low profile.
KARVELAS: Tell me more about this conversation you say you've spoken to him since you were critical of his interventions on RN breakfast what did you say to Malcolm Turnbull?
GREINER : Nothing more than what I said to Fran (Kelly). Simply that I thought that it was not helpful for him. His answer was that it only happened because of something that was leaked in the weekend paper. I think it becomes a bit of a matter of arcane detail but he certainly indicated that he was not about to attack anyone. And I certainly indicated but I didn't believe there was any desire in the parliamentary or organisational party to attack him. I mean you'd expect that.
KARVELAS: Do you really think peace is about to break out in the Liberal Party? Malcolm Turnbull also called for your party to adopt a national energy guarantee the policy that he constructed with Josh Frydenberg. What do you make of that policy suggestion?
GREINER : Well I suspect we will continue with the policy that he ultimately adopted which didn't involve keeping the NEG.
KARVELAS: Yes but what do you make of his suggestion to adopt the NEG?
GREINER : Oh well I say I think it's quite clear that we've decided to prioritise one of the three elements of what they call the trilemma. In other words we've clearly prioritized getting electricity prices down and we've given lower priority to sustainability. Our opponents have chosen a different set of priorities. That's a perfectly reasonable political difference.
KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, given so many Labor MPs think the encryption bill is bad legislation why did you pass it?
SWAN: Well it's very clear, we negotiated amendments through the committee as we've done consistently for the last five years. The Government deliberately ran out of time and chose not to accept those amendments. So as always we put the national security of our country to the fore of our concerns and we will pursue those amendments in the New Year, but we should never forget one thing about Malcolm Turnbull - the reason we're having our conference at Christmas is through the bastardy of Malcolm Turnbull.
KARVELAS Why are you blaming Malcolm Turnbull for current problems, he's gone isn't he?
SWAN: Well we had to change the date of our conference you might recall because he set the date of the Longman by-election on the advanced date of our conference so now we've got it jammed up against Christmas. They're the sort of tactics that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are using all of the time. That's what they've done with encryption and that's what they're doing with national security more generally.
KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, more broadly on legislation and the future direction of your party, John Pesutto lost his seat of Hawthorn in the Victorian election. He gave an interview this week on ABC radio in Melbourne where he talked about his teenage daughter who attended the climate change action demonstration but she still wants to be a liberal he says. He said that this is the dilemma of appealing to young people that the Liberal Party essentially is alienating them. Do you agree with that characterisation?
GREINER : Well I'm on the record as saying that the Liberal Party needs to successfully manage the fact that there are different streams, the classic liberal stream and the conservative stream. They've both been there pretty much since Menzies started the party three-quarters of a century ago Patricia. It is right that we need to manage what John Howard calls the broad-church. Manage that more effectively than we've done for some part of the year that's about to finish. I don't think it would be sensible for me to deny that but I think the answer to the way forward is that you do need to integrate, to manage different streams of thought. Just as Wayne correctly said there are different streams of thought in the broad-based Labor Party and they manage them in a certain way. We manage them in a certain way, we've got to manage them better than we have some parts of this year.
KARVELAS: Has there been any change yet you say that this needs to happen but I don't see any evidence that it has?
GREINER: Well my impression, I was at the Federal Executive of the party on Friday I think there is a very clear view and indeed the Prime Minister, I can leak the important thing he said that if we didn't get unity right it was very unlikely we'd get the result we wanted in May. So of course I mean it is self-evident that the Liberal and National parties need to behave in a in a united way and we need to do better at that than we have, as I say, for parts of this year.
KARVELAS : That's not my question it's not about unity I'm talking about seeing those other streams that you talked about reflected in policy that's what John Pesutto was talking about. It wasn't just talking about unity he was talking about the kinds of policies and solutions that your party offers?
GREINER : Well I think the two are not unrelated. There are always and not trying to make this a partisan thing, there are different streams of thought on policy on refugees in the Labor party. Their challenge and they will rise to it in one way or another is to manage those disparate policy ideas. And that applies in the case that you're talking about climate change it applies to the Liberal Party. So the fact that there are different policy ideas or thematics in broad-based political parties is hardly a staggering revelation, what matters is how well the respective parties manage those differences.
KARVELAS : Okay so Wayne Swan you have to manage those differences at the National Conference of the Labor party. We know that labor for refugees will be pushing pretty hard for a very big overhaul of the border protection policies of your party, an end to our offshore detention process, also an end to boat turn backs. How are you going to handle that? Clearly the left in your party and a lot of your membership are pretty unhappy with the positions that you've taken?
SWAN: Well I think our party believes in strong borders and our party doesn't want to see people drowning at sea. We will have a fulsome debate about these and a whole lot of other matters but I can say a couple of things there'll be no climate change deniers at our conference. And of course we are a group of people who are passionate about issues and we'll have that debate and I think that's a good thing because it says the Labor Party is genuine when it comes to these very important issues that go to the kind of country we want to be.
KARVELAS : Doesn’t it also say that your party is out of step with its membership?
SWAN: Well I don't believe that we're out of step with our membership I've just been elected president of the Labor Party with a very substantial majority and I've dealt with these issues in that election campaign. Our party realizes that we have to deal with a range of issues but at the core of what we do is that we want a policy platform that addresses inequality, a policy platform that creates prosperity and one that delivers opportunity and fairness across our society that applies to everybody. We are passionate about equality whether it's economic, race or gender and that's what you'll see on display at our conference and that's the big difference between us and the Liberals.
KARVELAS : Just finally on election timing Nick Greiner will the Government go to an election in May or will we see a federal election before the New South Wales state election?
GREINER: Well look I certainly have no inside information Patricia. I'm not giving advice on your show to them. My view is that the election will be held in May which is when it's always been most likely to happen.
KARVELAS: Wayne Swan do you think it will happen clearly the Government wants to avoid a defeat in the House of Representatives. Do you think that might change the idea of when the election is held?
SWAN: I think anything could happen I've never seen a government run away from its own legislative programme at the end of session. So god knows what they'll get up to and in a year where they are so divided and chaotic nobody could predict it.
KARVELAS: I want to thank you both it's been an interesting conversation have a great Christmas.
GREINER: Thanks Patricia good luck
SWAN: Thank you