09 March 2021


SUBJECTS: Christian Porter allegations; Victorian Truth and Justice Commission; Job Seeker.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I want to start with you Stephen. Former Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop told 7:30 last night she would have felt a duty to report an allegation of rape to the police. What do you what do you make of this?

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: There are a number of occupations that have a particular duty of care to report those sorts of allegations, a mandatory reporting obligation if you like. And they generally arise when there's a vulnerable population group, children in classrooms is an example or where there's a significant power imbalance. And whilst there isn't a lawful or a mandatory reporting obligation, I think there's an ethical issue that arises here. Of course, the individual who is the victim of an alleged sexual assault their wishes should be given paramount concern here. But I don't think there's anything wrong with somebody who has knowledge of this bringing it to the attention of the police and to that extent I agree with Julie Bishop.

KARVELAS: Andrew doesn't Julie Bishop have a point, that there is a way of dealing with this and perhaps that would have been the better way to deal with it?

ANDREW BRAGG: Well, because I think the institutions need to support the culture that we want and I think there has been a lack of clarity around how these processes work between the Department of Finance arrangements and the like. and one outcome I'm hoping we get from this Jenkins process is a much clearer sense of what sort of human resources support can be initially available and then a much clearer pathway for dealing with complaints. I mean people shouldn't have to choose between their job and making a complaint.

KARVELAS: Andrew just staying with you if I can, sorry I'll come back to you Stephen. But in relation to the allegations against Christian Porter, Ms. Bishop said the next logical step is a coronial inquest. Do you want to see that happen? 

BRAGG: Well, I don't think it's appropriate that people interfere with coronial processes. And so it's not for me as a politician to give advice to the coroner. But I do think that would be a useful step right now given the public debate.

KARVELAS: Stephen Jones?

JONES: Look, I just want to get back to this issue about the cultural stuff that Andrew and others have been saying, when the Prime Minister has been saying we've got to shift the culture on this. And frankly, the Prime Minister is the boss of the cultural problem. There has been people talking about this issue in Parliament House for well over four months now and for that not to have reached the Prime Minister's ears frankly beggars belief. When the Four Corners report went to air at the beginning of the year it beggars belief that this did not come across the Prime Minister's desk. So I think the Prime Minister is a part of the problem. Clearly what the Prime Minister has adopted here is a “don't ask, don't tell”. Now if the head of the Government is adopting this position, then they're percolates through to everybody else who sits around that cabinet table and everybody else in his Government. I think there is an obvious case here for there to be an independent inquiry to occur. No, it is not taking the same role as a criminal investigation or the same role is a judicial process, but there absolutely needs to be an independent investigation and the Prime Minister should call it. He should not be delegating this responsibility to a state.

KARVELAS: Let’s that's just stay with you on potential double standards as they've been described. Of course, Bill shorten was investigated by Victorian Police for 10 months in relation to a historic rape allegation that was subsequently not pursued by police. Should he have stood down during that time?

JONES: I'm glad you have raised that issue with me. There are so many differences, not the least of which being it wasn't a Minister of the Crown. He wasn't the Attorney General. 

KARVELAS: He was the opposition leader. He wanted to be our Prime Minister. 

JONES: Yeah, absolutely. He fronted up to the police station and said, I understand allegations have been made against me. I'm making myself available for interview. I will fully cooperate with the police at every step.

KARVELAS: He did, but he didn't step aside. He didn't step aside.

JONES: He did all of those things. There was no call for him to step aside.

KARVELAS: No, but do you think that's right thing? Do you think that’s the way we should deal with these sorts of issues?

JONES: I think in the circumstances of the Shorten allegations he did all the right things. He fronted up, he made himself available, he answered all the allegations. He put himself before the police process.

KARVELAS: So you’re just saying he shouldn't have stood aside then because he did everything right. Why should he not stand aside, but you expect Christian Porter to stand aside during an independent inquiry?

JONES: Christian Porter is the first law officer of Australia. 

KARVELAS: Yeah but the other guy was the Opposition Leader who wanted to be Prime Minister. 

JONES: Very different role.

KARVELAS: It's a historical rape allegation. They were both about rape allegations, serious crimes.

JONES: In terms of Bill Shorten, I think he did the right thing. Whether he should have stepped aside at that point in time, I’d have to go back and have think about it. I think he handled it properly at the time Patricia. You've asked me about Christian Porter. I think it is appropriate that he stands aside while there is an investigation that occurs. I think that's happening on a de facto basis. I think should happen formally.

KARVELAS: Andrew Bragg, there are calls from a lot of people for this independent investigation. Shouldn't the Government have asked the Solicitor General whether that kind of process could be pursued rather than not even asking?

BRAGG: There's not much more I can add to these historical allegations.

KARVELAS: You can. You can answer the question I just asked. Shouldn’t the Government have asked the Solicitor General for advice?

BRAGG: Well my position is that there has been a judicial process which has run its course in the state of New South Wales. And now in the state of South Australia there is an open question as to what the coroner will do there. And I think it's important that the coroner can make a decision that is in the public interest.

KARVELAS: Just on another issue which is being really big today and I've been covering it throughout this show, the Victorian Government is establishing a broad-ranging Truth and Justice Commission to guide the state's treaty negotiations. It's going to host public hearings essentially about colonisation and its consequences to a truth-telling process. Andrew Bragg, do you welcome this move? 

BRAGG: Well the past lives in us, which is a quote that was used widely by Charles Perkins and I think that is true for many indigenous people. The past is there. It is omnipresent. And I think whatever we can do to rebalance our history and I think improve the legitimacy of the state for indigenous people I think is a worthwhile initiative. I haven't been briefed on the detail as you can imagine. It's only been released this morning, but I think anything that can inject a better balance into our history is to be welcomed. 

KARVELAS: What do you think Stephen Jones? I mean, obviously the Uluru Statement called for a truth and truth-telling process. Should this Victorian commission be a kind of model for something nationally?

JONES: I think a nation that wants to celebrate its great achievements and wants to characterise itself as the sum of those great achievements also has to take stock of the inglorious episodes and the acts of monumental injustice upon the First Nations people. And unless we reconcile ourselves with those dark aspects of our past, we won't be able to move forward. We won't be a full nation. I welcome the fact that Dan Andrews has made this announcement today, that the Andrews Government has made this announcement today. I think it should be something that should be done on a national basis.

KARVELAS: And Andrew Bragg, you are essentially saying the same thing aren’t you? That you think a sort of national commission like this would be useful in this country?

BRAGG: Well, I think many indigenous people that I talK to want to have an opportunity to explain their perspective and their position. And I think at a local level that could make quite a significant different to people difference to people's lives. And so I think we ought to look at these sort of ideas as they were set out in the Uluru Statement which I have always thought was a very good statement and was quite a significant contribution to nation-building. So the answer is yes.

KARVELAS: Very briefly, I'm giving you 30 seconds each on this, we know Job Keeper is getting wound down. But today there are calls for Job Seeker to be higher. Stephen Jones if Labor were to be elected, would you fight for a high rate of Job Seeker? 

JONES: We've already said that we don't think the $3.23 a day is going to be sufficient to pay even the increase in rents. The rate’s not right. We'll have a look at the budget situation and will consult with the sector to work out what the right number is, but we're not going to vote against an increase but we don't think it's enough.

KARVELAS: And Andrew Bragg, would you have liked to have landed higher? 

BRAGG: Well, it's the biggest increase since 1986. And obviously at about half the minimum wage, it is not a huge amount of money, but it is designed to be an incentive to encourage people to go into the workforce. So I think that's the balance that we've made. I think it's a reasonable balance and we've got to try and create more jobs.