Minister Rishworth interview on Afternoon Agenda


Topics: Mark McGowan resignation, Voice to Parliament

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: I'm joined live now by the Minister for Social Services. Amanda Rishworth joins us live from Adelaide, about to head to Canberra for the sitting week. What a day, a huge day in politics. Not just WA, but nationally. We're talking about the departure of one of the most popular leaders of the modern era.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: This is a really big day. When I heard Mark McGowan's words what really stood out to me was his ongoing, relentless commitment to making a difference to the people of Western Australia. And it's very clear that he did it every single day. I think it is always very hard to make a decision to go out when you're on top, but that's exactly what Mark McGowan has done and I'd like to wish him all the very best. He was such a fierce advocate for and also delivered for the people of Western Australia. He can be very, very proud of everything he's achieved, but also of the type of state that he's leaving. He said he'd hoped to leave the state better than the one he found, and I think he's done just that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Not tired of the job, he's just tired, in fact, exhausted. I think anyone who's worked in government or public life that would resonate with him, particularly off the back of that period of the pandemic, Amanda.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think we forget some sometimes, the uncertainty that was presented every single day for leaders. And leaders had to back in the decisions they made in what they thought was for the best interests and not to play politics, not to get political gain, but really to do what they believed was in the best interests of their state. Mark McGowan kept his economy going, the decisions he made kept people safe. But no doubt it would have been incredibly taxing with new information coming in all the time, decisions being made. But also he alluded to the sacrifice that he didn't do the job in a half way. He did it absolutely to the best of his ability. And of course that means you sacrifice time with your family, you sacrifice time for your friends and that is so difficult.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, I spoke earlier to my colleague Andrew Clennell and we were talking about the impact not just at the state level but federally, because the popularity of the Premier would have boosted Labor stocks, no doubt at last year's federal election. Is it a challenge now for the Federal Government to try and retain those stocks in the West, Minister?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: As Mark McGowan outlined, there are a number of excellent candidates that will step into – one of them will step into his shoes. And no doubt the agenda that has proved so successful in the West of a Labor agenda about growing the economy, caring for their people, but also the environmental progress that Mark McGowan highlighted, I have no doubt that agenda will continue. And the productive relationship that the Federal Government has enjoyed with the West Australian Government will continue. I know in my own portfolio I've had a very constructive working relationship with the Ministers that I work with. So, I have no doubt that the very good partnership between the West Australian Government and the Federal Government will continue.

KIERAN GILBERT: On another matter, where Mr McGowan's impact it's believed, has already been seen, is on the Voice. That there's popularity, more support in WA because of McGowan's leadership and his encouragement for that. Do you think that that will be sustained? Will that yes vote hold up, even with McGowan gone in WA?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think you see both very prominent political leaders as well as other leaders in our community coming out and urging people to vote yes. And we see this right around the country, whether that be sporting codes, whether that be sporting legends, whether that be legends in other civic life or indeed political legends like Mark McGowan. There's people all around the country from all different walks of life, of all different political persuasions, indeed urging Australians to consider voting yes in this upcoming referendum on the Voice. So, I have no doubt that Mark, along with many other people, will continue to have their record stand where they are urging people to vote yes in this upcoming referendum.

KIERAN GILBERT: And just on that, the Prime Minister is giving the Lowitja O'Donoghue address tonight. He says Australians have a healthy scepticism of doomsayers, a scepticism kept in good health by memories of all the predictions offered by the Chicken Littles of the past. Do you think that's key to the argument as well to remind voters of that period through the Apology and so on.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's absolutely right that we reflect back when it comes to the strides we've made for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Firstly, I would say it has always been with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I think back, I remember some of the scare campaigns – I was pretty young, I was at school – but the scare campaigns about Native title and the Mabo decision, some of the concerns around the Apology. Yet we look back now and they are really proud moments in our nation's history and when we look back at a number of these different moments, it gives us a sense of national pride. That is what I think the Prime Minister is alluding to. And certainly the message I've got is we look back at that Apology. It was one of my first days in Parliament and everyone has this sense of pride now about the step that it took. But the job isn't over and that's why this referendum is the next step and why it's so important.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. I know you’ve got to get the plane to Canberra for the sitting week. Appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.