Minister Rishworth interview on Sunday Agenda with Kieran Gilbert


Topics: Middle East conflict, energy prices, extension of Paid Parental Leave, new Intimate Partner Homicide Data Dashboard, Operation Sovereign Borders

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST:  Joining me live now is a member of the Albanese Government Cabinet, Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks for your time, Minister. Before we look at issues at home, let's look at these developments in the Middle East. A significant weekend with the release of hostages hopefully the release of some more over the next hour or so. And it is a conflict, isn't it, that is very keenly felt by many local communities in this country. Very unique in that sense.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Look, it is something that is keenly felt. Obviously everyone sees the distressing images coming in and many people can put themselves in the shoes of family members that may have had hostages taken. So, it is a very distressing time for a lot of people. But, of course, this temporary ceasefire is an important step towards a permanent ceasefire and a permanent peace in the region. So, this is an important step and it's pleasing to see hostages being returned.

KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, let's hope that that continues, that those groups get larger and more hostages are returned home. Let's ask you about this nuclear energy issue. Andrew Clennell reported on polling that says less than one in five now oppose lifting the ban on nuclear energy. Is it time for Labor to rethink this issue?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: When I speak with people, they want the energy cost to come down. That's actually what people want. And I expect that people would be wanting us to explore the cheapest form of energy production, and that is not nuclear energy. When you look at the cost of nuclear energy, when you look at the difficulties, the huge length of time to actually put nuclear energy in place, what people are telling me is they want to see an investment in renewable energy because people understand that that is a cheaper form of energy. And in a country like Australia, where we've got abundant wind, sun, we've got many options for storage capacity as well, whether that is battery, pumped hydro, and even our investment into the future of hydrogen in particular. Certainly when I speak with people, they want to see us getting the energy investment right and they want to see energy prices being driven down, and that's what our focus on renewable energy is all about.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Minister announced that revised capacity investment scheme. It's going to cost billions to underwrite projects. Are you and the Government willing to have this fight, renewables versus nuclear, even with that additional investment? Are you confident that you are on the right side of not just the policy but the politics of this heading into the next election?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, like I said, when I speak with people in the community they want to see investment in renewable energy, they want to see cleaner energy, but they want that double dividend which also means cheaper energy. Renewable energy is one of the cheapest forms of energy and so I think when I look for example, in my own electorate, many households have opted for solar on their rooftops because that drives down their cost of energy. So, look, quite frankly, I think that renewable energy ticks the boxes when it comes to meeting our climate targets, but importantly driving newer, cheaper energy into the grid.

KIERAN GILBERT: You're going to be debating the expanded Paid Parental Leave scheme this week in the Lower House. Obviously you wouldn't expect it to pass the Senate as well. I imagine it goes to a Senate Committee before the vote in the Upper House. The Greens and others calling for this paid parental leave to have superannuation attached to it. Are you open to that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly I would say the legislation before the House is the biggest expansion in paid parental leave since the scheme was first introduced. And importantly, not only is it the biggest expansion but it also encourages shared care and increased flexibility for families. So, that's a good thing. There is an amount which both parents are encouraged to take, a use it or lose it component, but also flexibility around the 26 weeks. So, this is the right design, it was recommended by the Women's Equality Taskforce. But in terms of superannuation, obviously we've said we would like to do superannuation on paid parental leave when the Budget allows us to do that. So, this is something that we will keep looking at. But the legislation before the House and then to go to the Senate will be the largest expansion of paid parental leave and I would encourage those Senators wanting bigger and better, to sure, continue that argument, but not hold up the legislation because of that, because this is a significant improvement for so many families. Twenty-six weeks of paid parental leave is a very significant advancement when it comes to paid parental leave in this country.

KIERAN GILBERT: How soon would you like to get to that issue of super as well? It sounds like you support it at some point. What sort of timeframe would you hope to see that achieve?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't have a timeframe on super. It's something, as Minister Gallagher and the Treasurer have said, that this is something we would like to do but we've also got to make sure that we're managing the Budget as responsibly as possible. You've seen the result of that. You've seen the result of what a good Labor Government managing the budget in a responsible way delivers. We see that international ratings agencies are endorsing our approach to budget management, so we've got to take that balance very carefully. But it is something that we will, of course, in the future like to consider.

KIERAN GILBERT: This weekend the Government has marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. And you and your colleague Katy Gallagher announced what's described as a statistical dashboard for intimate partner violence at huge rates, disturbing rates of intimate partner violence in this country. Is this about providing greater, I guess, clarity for our police forces and other agencies around the country and how to respond to this? Because it is obviously an ongoing scourge.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, I have to say, it has been a tragic few weeks in Australia with the number of alleged deaths we've seen of women - well, there have been deaths -  allegedly at the hands of their intimate partner. It is important that we get timely information. At the moment, there is a really significant lag with different data sources. So, in some ways, it makes it very difficult to understand the problem that we're facing. So, we have now committed to much more regular updating, quarterly updating, when it comes to intimate partner homicide. And importantly, that is going to be in a more timely fashion. We need a source that people can go to so that we know how to change things. And so this commitment to a quarterly dashboard, but with more updated and more reliable data from the states and territories, is so important because this is a really difficult issue. It is something we've invested records amounts of money in - $2.3 billion. But we do need to be agile and keep responding because we do need to eliminate this scourge.

KIERAN GILBERT: There were four alleged murders at the hands of intimate partners in your home state of South Australia last week alone.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, people are reeling from these deaths. It is absolutely horrific. And, of course, any death, any death, any murder is one too many. But to see the numbers, it is really significant. So, we need to be responding. There is a message, though, for the whole of community, the whole of society. Violence against women should be absolutely unacceptable. It needs to be called out. We need to be, as governments, responding. But the whole of community business, community organisations, all have a responsibility to work with us.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Opposition, on another matter, it says the Government has opened up a vulnerability on our borders with the arrival of the first asylum seeker boat in a number of years on the shores on the mainland in WA. This obviously is a terrible trade - people smuggling. You don't want to see it emerge. Does the PM need to reiterate the strength of the Government's commitment to stop this from ever starting up again?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I want to be really clear. Our Government from day dot, has been very clear about our position on people smuggling. We have been very clear. We have adopted all the same policies that were in place under the previous government. So, criticism by the Opposition on this is all about politics and actually not about substance. Because Operation Sovereign Borders has not changed from the previous government to this government. Our Prime Minister as well as our Home Affairs Minister, our Immigration Minister, have been categorical that we have no tolerance for that type of people smuggling.

KIERAN GILBERT: And those on board not be allowed to resettle here under any circumstances?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The settings under Sovereign Borders has not changed. I'm not going to talk about on-water matters of individual arrivals, but I'll be very clear that our Operation Sovereign Borders that existed under the previous Government is still existing in the same way under this Government. And we've been very clear from the get-go about that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, the Parliament, as we said, sits for the final sitting. No doubt the Opposition will be going hard again off the back of that High Court ruling on non-citizen detainees. Will the Government, should the Government, seek to put those people back behind detention through preventative detention orders or similar, as soon as this week?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, obviously, the High Court made a decision that had overturned many, many decades of the way we dealt with detention in this country. So, our Government moved legislation in the last sitting week to put community safety at the front of mind. The Home Affairs Minister has said that she is exploring preventative detention options. But the problem here, Kieran, is that we don't know the reasons from the High Court. And what would be very difficult is for more laws to be put in that then get thrown out by the High Court. So, we need to work through all of these. We've said we will work through all of these, and we have offered, in a bipartisan way, for the Opposition to work with us. That offer is out there to work with us. So, it is incumbent on them whether they would like to work in the national interest to work with us on an issue that predated our Government. This was a way that governments dealt with detention. The High Court has overruled that. We need to now respond.

KIERAN GILBERT: Amanda Rishworth. Appreciate your time.