Minister Rishworth interview on Sunrise with Natalia Barr


Topic: PM trip to Germany, NATO and Robodebt

NATALIE BARR, HOST: The Prime Minister will meet with the Chancellor of Germany in Berlin today, where he’s to sign a $1 billion defence deal to build 100 Boxer armoured military vehicles in Brisbane. The agreement would be one of the largest Australian military export deals ever and follows extensive testing and live exercises. For more let’s go to our politicians, Families and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, who is joining us on her birthday, Happy Birthday Amanda, and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to you. Amanda, let’s start with you. How significant is this defence deal?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: This is really significant. We have a strong relationship with Germany, but this helps strengthen our relationship, particularly as we have shared strategic values and believe in international rules. This is significant in terms of strategic relationships, but also really significant for local jobs and our ability as a country to scale up our sovereign capability. Being able to make things here, to build things here, has been a real focus of our Government and so this will further enable that to happen and means really good news for local jobs here in Australia. This is a really significant agreement and one that I'm sure will be welcome right across the country.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah. Barnaby, a great deal for Brisbane, the suburb of Redcliffe, more specifically, isn't it?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, it's a great deal and I'm really proud that we're going forward with this. It goes on the back of other deals we're doing, such as making shells for them at Maryborough for the German Army. Australia does have the capabilities to produce world class, world class armaments. And that's why it raises the question, why are we sending the Ukrainians our M113s, which came into production 1961 I think? They're older than me, they're older than Amanda, they're older than you. We might as well send them over half a box of Omo and a couple of cans of half-used Mortene sprays. It's completely out of date technology. We can produce the best, we can make the best, and if we want to support the people of Ukraine, don't send them the rubbish that you just were about to put in the dump.

NATALIE BARR: Amanda, that has been brought up before. I know that the Prime Minister is going to a NATO meeting after this German meeting. Are we sending Ukraine the rubbish, the leftovers?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No, we're not, Nat. What we are doing is contributing one of the highest levels of support outside of NATO countries. Australia is absolutely doing its fair share, but importantly, we're working with the Ukrainians to work out what their requirements are, what they need on the ground and working with them. We’ll continue to do that. We'll be continuing to play our role because this war has dragged on for too long and this NATO meeting is a very significant meeting and it's significant for Australia to be going to that meeting and we continue to play our role in the world, but importantly, make a significant contribution. As I said, one of the highest outside of NATO, actually.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, NATO is looking to expand its membership into the Asian region. Is the organisation stepping outside its lane, like some have said, when its title stands for North Atlantic?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, when you listen to Mr Keating, but of course, Mr Keating, he's pretty virulent on a whole range of things. I think he'd like us just to live in the lap of the Chinese Communist Party. When you listen to Mr Keating, he has his say. But if you were listening to Ukrainians and asking them what they wanted, Amanda just said, we listen to what they want. They want Hawkeyes and Bushmasters, not the rubbish that you're going to park in the dump. They don't want the rubbish with the cobwebs on it. They want the stuff that works. We were the biggest non NATO contributor to the Ukraine. Now we're slipping. We're behind the Swedes, behind Japan. We're slipping. We've just sent them, what, $10 million in aid? I think that the coalition sent them $65 million in humanitarian aid. Labor just sent them ten.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: [interrupts] …Barnaby that’s just not true. We have provided a lot more support.

BARNABY JOYCE: And look, we believe democracy is a shrinking idea. Democracies are shrinking. Democracy is a shrinking idea in the globe. A shrinking idea in the globe. And more and more people are going to be living under totalitarian regimes. And if we believe in this form of this beautiful form of government we have, as experienced by all of us watching this today, then you have got to stand with the few people left who do, and NATO is one of them. And if we can work with NATO for a more secure world so other people can enjoy the life we live, then I support that.

NATALIE BARR: Okay, let's move on to the fallout from Robodebt. One of the Royal Commission's recommendations is to require that any new Federal Budget policy is to be lawful. Amanda, call me stupid, but isn't this a ‘dur’ moment? Before you put something in a budget, shouldn't it be lawful? Wouldn't this have happened before?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Royal Commission has provided a shocking indictment of the way the previous government operated and how it looked at something like this debt scheme, which was designed to claw back money from Australians who in many cases, didn't owe it, to fix a budget black hole. That's what it was designed to do. And the public service, unfortunately, seemed to be in a position where they needed to capitulate to the government and not actually check whether it was legal. So, this is a damning indictment. What I would like to hear from Barnaby, he has the opportunity now, and indeed from the former Coalition Government, is some contrition on this, an apology, because they got it horribly wrong. They didn't check the legality of this and there have been real human consequences as a result. It is time that we draw a line under Robodebt, and actually get on with not demonising people on Social Security, but actually ensuring that there's a strong safety net. To make sure that something is legal was something the previous government didn't do. And this damning report has shown the human consequence of it.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, we are hearing this morning that Liberal MPs want Scott Morrison out over his role in this. Do you?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, look, I'm not here to speak for Scott Morrison, but look, absolutely, there are people who died, if they committed suicide, or were affected by this. Absolutely I apologise to them and absolutely we must make sure we do the right thing. You don't have to ask me for contrition. I've been offering it in every interview I've given thus far, Amanda. What is also really important is that I think people have to know, as soon as we knew it was illegal, we stopped the scheme, the Coalition stopped the scheme. But that is not good enough. We always must learn.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Actually that’s not what the Royal Commissioner says. I think she said that you pressed on even though the legal advice was unlawful and doubled down. So, that will come in the fallout. But the question was, do you think Scott Morrison should go Barnaby?

BARNABY JOYCE: I don't like telling other politicians to leave politics, right? That's their decision. They will make that decision and when they decide to make it, they make it. I just think it's…first of all, it doesn't…. It just has a whiff of not being earnest about it. It's a decision that's best made by the person themselves as to what they want to do with their career, not for other people. Otherwise you always get the inevitable. We tell all the Labor Party members they should leave politics, they tell us that we should all leave politics. There'll be no one left in the place. So, that's a decision to be made. But if you're asking for contrition, you don't have to ask me. The interviews I've done already, people have been hurt. Of course we are sorry. Of course we learn and of course we move on. We want to make sure we fix this. We don't want to politicise this. Every time we politicise that, it starts once more to lose its sense of earnesty. It starts to become a political weapon and starts to question what your motivations are behind it.

NATALIE BARR: Sure. Okay. Thank you both. We'll see you next week.