Thursday, 06 June 2019
SUBJECTS: AFP raids, Early Education
TOM CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth thanks for your time. Let’s start with these AFP raids. Labor was saying the government had questions to answer, the government has said it has no role in the timing of these nor in the referrals as well. Do you accept them at their word?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I think what is incumbent on the government is to come out and explain to the Australian people why these raids were necessary. Obviously it is a pretty extraordinary event when a journalist’s house gets raided, that the ABC premises are raided and I think there are people- and Australians, not just the Labor Party but Australians- that are scratching their head as to why these raids were necessary. When we live in a democracy and there is freedom of media and the right to know for Australians, I think it is incumbent on the government to come out and explain why these actions were necessary.
CONNELL: Right, well the information we have so far is there were referrals from the departments, including the Department of Defence, the AFP took those referrals they were asked to investigate, they do that, they get a warrant, they conduct the raids. If that is the case, it is not anything to do with the government and these actual operations, is it?
RISHWORTH: I think when it comes to our democratic institutions it is incumbent on the government of the day to ensure that the Australian people understand the actions of our law enforcement agencies, especially in situations like this. These actions would have a lot of Australians wondering whether their right to know about actions of government are being compromised. I think it is incumbent on the government to explain to the Australian people otherwise we are just going to see more and more cynicism from the public about government institutions. We live in a democracy and I do think it is incumbent on the government to explain their actions.
CONNELL: Do we need a really systemic look at laws that look at government journalists and whistle-blowers as well?
RISHWORTH: I will leave that for others to comment but certainly I think the government needs to come out in the first instance and explain these actions to reassure Australians that freedom of the press is not being jeopardised and that indeed we do continue to live and they will pursue a flourishing democracy. There is always tension between protecting our national security and ensuring we enjoy the freedoms of democracy and I think it is incumbent on the government to come out and reassure Australians that is not under threat.
CONNELL: What we know so far is though- as I said- departments have made referrals, the AFP have followed those referrals, that is how the system works, that is how the system works for the current laws we have in place. It is one thing for you to say the government needs to explain and sure, they will be asked for more detail; what about the laws themselves? Because they allow these raids, do the laws need to be looked at?
RISHWORTH: They need to explain the laws themselves and why this was in the national interest. I really think it is incumbent on the government to do just that and have a conversation with the Australian people and not hide-
CONNELL: Doesn’t Labor need to explain laws as well? You supported legislation last year and some of these laws go back to early last century, so it is not just about this government of the day at all. So the question still is- for you and Labor- do you think the laws need to be looked at for journalists and whistle-blowers?
RISHWORTH: Tom, they are the government, they are the government and they are responsible for reassuring the Australian people, they are responsible for the agencies that enact our national security legislation. Ultimately, I do think that the government has the obligation to come out and explain.
CONNELL: Now, you are keeping the child care portfolio after this relatively minimal reshuffle in terms of ministerial responsibilities- or shadow responsibilities for Labor. Is it fair to say you’ll have a similar approach? And, I am not expecting you to announce policy today but more money into child care and making it more affordable for lower earning Australians.
RISHWORTH: Look, Labor has been historically, absolutely focused on the early years. We have got a proud history in which we introduced the quality framework, we have constantly, while in government looking at ways to reduce the cost and affordability of child care but at the same time as increasing quality and also of course, preschool and kindy and the investment in the years before school. Look, in terms of our values, they haven’t changed. Ensuring that early education is accessible, that ensuring early education is of a high quality and significant importance is something that I won’t stop from. Of course, our policies will all be up for review but I think it really is a sharp contrast that we saw in the election campaign in which the Minister for Education talked about more affordable child care as some sort of communism or social conspiracy and I think that highlights historically the difference between the two major parties. We see the early years as a big investment and it is backed up by science, it is backed up by research, it is backed up by economic modelling, whereas the government really just sees the early years as a bit of babysitting.
CONNELL: Alright, well I know policy discussions are going on so we will touch base again once they have happened. Amanda Rishworth, always appreciate your time.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.