Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - Today Show with Allison Langdon and Anna Caldwell

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

Topics: Final parliamentary sitting 2021; The Senate; Calling out political violence; Support for Abdallah Family Memorial; Cricket sexting scandal

E&OE-------------------------------------

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, get ready for a bumpy ride. The Federal Parliament's last sitting of the year is starting today and the Prime Minister is facing a revolt in the Senate over vaccine mandates, while Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews has weighed in again over the anti-vax protests, accusing Scott Morrison of, quote, pandering to extremists. There is plenty to unpack with the Minister for Employment Stuart Robert and Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph Anna Caldwell. Nice to see you both this Monday morning. Minister, the PM has got a big problem here.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It’s the end of the year, Ally. It's always challenging. It’s always a little untidy. But that's politics.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, it's a bit more than untidy. You've got colleagues now refusing to pass any legislation until this issue is sorted. They're basically holding the Prime Minister to ransom.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Ally, I've been here 14 years representing the people of my electorate and I'm still yet to work out how the Senate works. It's a little interesting place but we’re a broad church in the Liberal Party. There are strong views and strong passions but we always tend to work it through in the interests of the country so I'm very confident we'll do the same thing in the next fortnight.

ALLISON LANGDON:

What do you think of these colleagues who are holding out?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Again, it is a broad church, that's the great thing about the Liberal Party, its strengths and, indeed its weaknesses but at least it’s representative. You get a broad spectrum of views and many are passionate. And there’s one thing you can't say against our colleagues, that they’re not passionate. And they're bringing their issues forward. At the end of the day, we'll work it through and sensible policy will always win.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Well, I'm not sure if that is going to be the case here, where basically nothing potentially is going to get done in the next two weeks. Anna, you’ve got Senator Pauline Hanson, she’s introducing this bill to Parliament this week which would force vaccine mandate rules to be relaxed, but it’s the state imposing them.

ANNA CALDWELL:

Yeah. That's right, Ally. I mean, if there’s one thing that we’ve learnt in this pandemic is that Scott Morrison has very little control over what the states are doing. We've seen that time and time again. Now, you know, personally, I actually have been supportive of vaccine mandates but the point is this- this, you know, kind of baby politics in the Senate actually won't have any impact. I can see Stuart Robert there is very hesitant to level criticism because I can see there’s probably some negotiations to go on this week but the reality is I think the senators are acting in a childish way.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yup. You're not going to hold back on us this morning, are you, Anna?

ANNA CALDWELL:

That's right.

[Laughter]

ALLISON LANGDON:

And look, the other big headache facing the Prime Minister, he’s got this ongoing stoush with the state premiers. Daniel Andrews again yesterday accusing him of pandering to extremists. And that’s as we saw these pandemic protests held right across the country over the weekend. Stuart, do you have sympathy for these protesters?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I've got zero sympathy for political violence, Ally. Full stop, none. No place in our discourse, no place in our national life. Regardless of frustration, it’s not on. Full stop. Now, in terms of people's frustrations, fine, but demonstrate, use your freedoms of speech and expression but do it peacefully. But no Australian is going to have sympathy for any violence or disruption in any corner.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Anna, the issue, I think, that the Prime Minister has got here, it looks like he’s trying to please all sides but it's backfired, hasn’t it?

ANNA CALDWELL:

Yeah. That’s right. It does feel like that. I mean, it’s not often I've agreed with Dan Andrews through this pandemic but the idea of prime ministerial double speak, I can really see where he’s coming from, you know. As a nation, we push really strongly on these vaccine mandates. They were critical to getting our lives back. I think that rhetoric from the Prime Minister has shifted in the past week and I can see the frustration from Dan Andrews.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay. There’s another story I want to talk to you both about today. It’s on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, a golf club facing criticism for approving the sale or pushing for the sale of land for development. This is just six months after rejecting the Abdallah family's request for a memorial to four children killed in a car crash. Anna, I mean, this seems heartless.

ANNA CALDWELL:

It just defies belief, doesn’t it? I honestly- I can’t wrap my head around it. I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday. This family has been through so much. You know, they wanted a memorial, they wanted it a particular way. Even the Prime Minister wrote to the golf club asking for the memorial to be supported and to be built. They were turned down, and now we learn yesterday that, you know, this golf club wants to build 193 apartments on their land. It just makes no sense. I think the only word is heartless.

ALLISON LANGDON:

I just want your thoughts on this one, Stuart, because the whole reason why the golf club in the first place rejected the memorial is they said it was too big, yet here they are pushing for 193 apartments.

MINISTER ROBERT:

A beautiful family lost four children. A memorial to forgiveness, a memorial to grace - goodness, make it twice as big, and let's let this message of forgiveness and grace resonate. It's un-Australian, let's call it what it is. Let's have a memorial to the loss of four beautiful lives and a memorial to the power of forgiveness, which is what this beautiful family is trying to do, and let's do it now. I understand the golf club's made a decision, it's a poor one; I'd say to the chairman, it's a poor decision, it's not Australian, make a better one and make it today.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And if you're a member of that club, make sure your voice is heard. Speak out here, because this is a community still hurting and I think this will go a long way to bringing people back together. And now just finally, the Tim Paine sexting scandal, and it’s taken a bizarre turn this morning. So the former captain's brother-in-law is now accused of sending X-rated messages to the same woman. Anna, your thoughts on this? I mean, it’s just, it’s so grubby.

ANNA CALDWELL:

That's right. I mean, these are just headlines you do not want to read, aren't they? I mean, the only winner here at the moment seems to be the Barmy Army. And I have to say, they'll be making absolute hay out of this, and I can't sit back and enjoy that.

ALLISON LANGDON:

No, and Stuart, what are your thoughts, too, on the former chair of Cricket Australia, this is David Peever, saying: Tim Paine deserves the loyalty of the board. Do you agree with that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We look at cricket as a game. We also need to understand that cricket is also a workplace. And in a workplace, people deserve to feel safe, supported, heard, respected, and you have to ask the question whether the actions in question are indeed allowing people, women in this case, to be heard, supported, to feel safe. Now I understand these issues may well go to court, but I think the average Australian will recognise this is not on in a workplace. This is not how we conduct ourselves. This is not respectful of fellow colleagues and how we should work, and people need to consider this as a workplace first of all whilst at the same time understanding it is the great sport of cricket.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So Stuart, do you think Paine should play in the upcoming Ashes test?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I'll let others determine how that works, but we need to understand...

ALLISON LANGDON:

[Interrupts] You got to have a personal- I'm asking your personal opinion of it.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Again, I’ll let others work through this one. It’s a delicate issue because it’s a workplace issue, and what we've got is a potential issue in a workplace whilst it pertains to sport at the same time. Delicate crossover, but as long as we all appreciate it's a workplace and there are standards and we need to respect each other.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Are you happy to answer that question, Anna?

ANNA CALDWELL:

I will answer the question. I mean, I don't think he should play. I think they've taken a position on it. I think it would be a distraction. I think you can't have both sides of the fence on this, you know? Cricket Australia has taken a position on this now, after years. It doesn't make sense to me if he was to play.

ALLISON LANGDON:

All right. Thanks for joining us this morning, guys. And hey, Stuart, enjoy the next two weeks in Canberra.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It will be great. It will be democracy at its very best.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Is that at its best? We'll wait and see, won’t we? Nice to see you both this morning. Enjoy your week.

ANNA CALDWELL:

Thanks, Ally.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Cheers.