10 February 2021


SUBJECTS: State Border Closures; Helen Coonan; Crown Casino; Secure jobs; Fair pay.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg. Welcome to both of you. And as a result of this cluster we've seen borders restrictions with Greater Melbourne look set to be re-imposed by the South Australian Government in response to this outbreak at Melbourne's Holiday Inn quarantine hotel. I'll start with you Andrew Bragg, are you comfortable with state borders being consistently opened and closed like this? South Australia obviously being the latest to make this decision to close to Greater Melbourne?

ANDREW BRAGG: Well PK, I don't think that state borders should close holus bolus . I think that there should be closures around certain local government areas where there is a spread of infection. I think that's a much more sophisticated approach. I mean closing a whole state border I think really is disproportionate and regrettable. That is not the way that we will be able to recover if that sort of process is to unfold throughout this calendar year.

KARVELAS: Stephen Jones, obviously this this Holiday Inn cluster is of concern and the Victorian government has been trying to deal with that. Is it reasonable in your view that South Australia would close its border to Greater Melbourne?

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well firstly it sends a message that we're not out of the woods yet. Vaccines are on the way but we are definitely not out of the woods. Regrettable but understandable that the South Australian border has been closed. I like Andrew, I hope they, over the coming days as more information comes to light about the contacts that are associated with the Holiday Inn cluster, hopefully, they'll be able to become more precise in the areas that are precluded from traveling over to South Australia or elsewhere. Let's just watch and wait and have a look at what happens over the next 24 hours. 

KARVELAS: All right, let's leave that issue obviously with the health authorities as well and talk about Crown. Stephen staying with you, James Packer’s company Consolidated Press Holdings has cut its ties with Crown’s board after terminating its consultancy contract with non-executive board member John Poynton. He was the last remaining CPH appointee sitting on Crown’s board and that follows the resignation of Guy Jalland and Michael Johnson from the board this morning. Are you satisfied or do you think more needs to happen here?

JONES: Look, I think more does need to happen. It's very tempting for people to frame this as James Packer versus the rest of Crown and the rest of the Crown shareholders, but I think it goes deeper than that. What we have here is an abject failure of management and an abject failure of governance for which the whole board has to take responsibility. There is no doubt as the Bergin Inquiry Report demonstrated that there were problems of honesty. But there are also problems of competence and that goes to the entire board. How can you have an anti-money laundering investigation being initiated by Austrac and not have red flags set off in the board and them demanding weekly reports from senior management about the nature of those investigations. That would be the normal course of business, but that's clearly not what has gone on here in Crown. And frankly at another level Helen Coonan, the Chair of Crown, been on the board for ten years, the Chair of Crown how she can continue in her role as Chair of a financial regulator, the Financial Complaints Authority is absolutely bewildering. Clearly her role at least in AFCA is untenable, even if the shareholders of Crown decide that she can continue in her role in that body. Clearly there are further questions to be answered in relation to this whole messy affair.

KARVELAS: Andrew Bragg, should the rest of the board go, including Helen Coonan?

BRAGG: Well, I think I'm a federal legislator. So in terms of any transgressions of federal corporate law be it through ASIC or Austrac’s purview, I mean, these are things which are of interest to us as federal legislators, and these can be probed further at estimates, but also we can see what sort of enforcement action can be taken or what wasn't taken. I mean one of the issues has been that, I mean ASIC is not being a very scary corporate cop. It hasn't been focused enough on enforcement. It's been, in my estimation, too focussed on trying to change the law in Canberra rather than undertaking enforcement. But insofar as the as the casino itself goes in the state of New South Wales, I mean, it's up to the State Government to determine what it wants to do with the licensing arrangements and it would be improper for me to comment on that given the Premier issued a statement today that there will be a review of the review so to speak. 

KARVELAS: Okay, maybe you say improper. But equally we've got two casinos in Melbourne, Perth operating. And a lot of the allegations we've seen, a lot of this evidence that we've seen, is actually about the operating casinos. You say you're a federal legislator, but we're all Australians, aren't you concerned about the operation of these casinos?

BRAGG: We are all Australians, but it's also important that we maintain a focus on our own stations. and I think there are a slew of federal laws around money laundering, around corporate conduct, where we should ensure that ASIC and Austrac have done their job, and if they haven't, we focus on that. And I think that's a very important step forward for our country that we need to make. I mean ASIC itself in recent weeks and months is was found to not even be able to comply with its own guidelines. So we need to get much more serious about corporate misconduct. That is something that I think we can pursue in Canberra. But as far as the state's go, I mean they need to be comfortable with their own judgment to their own independent gaming regulators make.

KARVELAS: Okay, I want to park that and just briefly talk about, before I bring in actually my next guest, Labor’s industrial relations announcement today. I've already spoken with Tony Burke, Labor's spokesperson on this. But Stephen Jones, he contests that, you know, this is price tag that the Coalition is putting on your policy says, you know, it's been exaggerated this idea that they're portable entitlements. But I've looked at Anthony Albanese’s speech and he does talk about these portable entitlements. Clearly someone has to pay right? Labor has to at some point quantify how that will happen. 

JONES: Well, here's the thing Patricia. if we've got somebody who's being employed allegedly as a casual but is working for years and years and years then they deserve some of the rights and benefits that apply to a permanent worker. We've actually got a crisis, and it's not being talked about. We've got a crisis with casual and insecure employment in this country, the cost of which was exposed during the covid crisis where you saw workers in insecure industries having to do not one, not two, but sometimes three and four jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. And in the midst of a health pandemic that was not just a problem for the individuals, but that was an enormous risk and a cost for society as a whole. So, we've going to take a step back and say if we are going to build back our economy and our workplaces after this Covid crisis, what's it going to look like? Are we going to wind back to the situation where more than one in four Australian workers are in some form of insecure work? Some of them classified as individual contractors when they are de facto employees with no rights? Or are we going to build back something that is better than that? And that's what Anthony's speech tonight is all about.

KARVELAS: Andrew Bragg, you know, your side of politics is putting a price tag, some quick modelling clearly, on a policy Labor says it doesn't even have. But at the heart of this policy is trying to address insecure work and also gig economy work with people are drastically underpaid for very hard work in dangerous situations. Do you care about those people? 

BRAGG: Of course we do. And that's why we have a bill before the Parliament trying to make sure that workers who are casual for more than 12 months can transition to part-time permanent employment. And that is important. But the reality is Labor hates technology. They’re an old world party now. The gig economy has created work opportunities for people that weren't possible generation ago, and that is important for many Australians.