Minister Rishworth interview on Sunrise with Natalie Barr


Topic: Dunkley by-election win, ASIO threat assessment.

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Both sides of politics are claiming a win after Labor retained the south-east Melbourne seat of Dunkley in Saturday’s by-election. There was an almost 4 per cent swing against the Government, with the seat’s margin cut from 6.3 to 2.5 per cent, but it wasn’t enough to turn the seat blue, with the Prime Minister welcoming another female politician into the caucus. For more, let's bring in Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to you both. Barnaby, you’re claiming a win despite not actually winning. Doesn’t this show you’ve still got a long way to go?

BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, it is the first time after three elections where our vote has slided in Dunkley and now it’s turned around. It’s probably going to be the most marginal seat in Victoria. What it does say, quite clearly, is it is game on. The Australian sentiment has changed towards the Government and now we are seeing the reality that after 13 interest rate rises in a row, after power prices going through the roof, after people struggling at the counter to pay for their groceries and fuel, the reaction is there. The Government has been unable to get the $275 rebate in power. Power prices went through the roof and people believe the management capacity of this Government with the detainees, the criminals on the street, is not up to scratch. We might not have won Dunkley, but by gosh, it has turned around the sentiment. This election coming up, I am afraid the front-running horse is a hung government. But let’s see what happens.

NATALIE BARR: Amanda, how concerned are you that Dunkley is now a marginal seat?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I haven't seen spin like that, that Barnaby's put on this, for a long time. The average swing against a government since the Hawke era was between 5 and 7 per cent. So, I think Barnaby is putting really the best possible light on it. Of course, the Labor Party took this by-election very seriously. It's not a by-election we wanted to have, but we were firmly focused on cost of living. Our Prime Minister was down there campaigning. Unfortunately, Peter Dutton didn't choose to see fit to go down there on election day. But our focus was absolutely on cost of living. Whether it was through the redesigning of the tax cuts to give more tax cuts to more people, whether it was talking about other benefits, whether it's cheaper medicines, cheaper Medicare. This was what we were talking about on the doors.

BARNABY JOYCE: [interrupts] Problem is the voters didn’t believe you.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No. There was a clear rejection of the $300,000 that Advance Australia put in. There was a negative, divisive campaign run by you and the Liberal party, Barnaby. And also it didn't work. It just didn't work Barnaby.

BARNABY JOYCE: Oh, and GetUp is so pure?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think what voters did was reject that negativity, reject the negativity of your leader, reject the negativity put out by Advance and endorse Labor's positive plan for the future.

NATALIE BARR: And no One Nation or United Australia party to take that conservative vote either. Moving on, Australia's top spy has revealed more details about the former politician who sold out the nation. Mike Burgess says the politician was serving in parliament at the time they were successfully recruited by foreign spies, however, refused to confirm which parliament it was. It's also been revealed China's leading spy agency was behind the foreign interference. Amanda, Mike Burgess is refusing to reveal who the politician, the former politician, is. Could this person still be receiving the parliamentary pension?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't want to add anything more to this than Mike Burgess has done.

NATALIE BARR: Well, people want to know.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: If we take seriously our national security, if we take seriously that we want to listen to our national security agencies, then we have to follow their advice. So, I think that's critical. Mike Burgess has been doing this annual statement on our security threats, and I think it's a good development, but I think we do need to pay attention to his advice, and his advice has been really clear. One of his key messages that I saw today is don't play politics with national security. National security is too important and we all really need to be working together to combat some of these threats that face our country.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, do you care that every former politician is now tarred with this brush that they could be a spy?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I'm not.

NATALIE BARR: Because you're still standing there.


NATALIE BARR: We can rule you two out, but if you were a former politician, what do you think Barnaby?

BARNABY JOYCE: Michelle [sic], I've got to say something. What we do know is that there's an active spy, or has been, within our government. And what we do know is that China is behind it. Now, what you must do, Australia, is become as strong as possible, as quickly as possible. What other warnings do you need? They've taken over the South China Sea, the imprisonment of the Uyghurs, the absolute exponential growth in their defence force. The fact that they've got an active spy who has been operating in Australia. You must become as strong as possible, as quickly as possible. You must focus on your defence. Not for the next decade, not in two decades time. Right now you've got to make sure you've got affordable power and reliable power. Right now, you've got to make sure that you've structured this nation so it can deal with the threats that are quite evident, that are quite there right now.

NATALIE BARR: Exactly. So, the spy doesn't turn off the power, but aren't you curious who it is?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, they might. See that's the problem. If you've got the right capacity, cyber capacity that adversaries would have in Australia, they might be able to turn off the power, they might be able to turn off the banking system, they might be able to do a whole range of things.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It might have been good Barnaby, if you actually supported our National Reconstruction Fund, which was building sovereign capability. You actually voted against that in the Parliament.

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] Oh Michelle [sic]. Go for a unity ticket on this and try and not do the political spin you want to put on it.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Come on board. Come on board.

NATALIE BARR: Neither of you want to know who the spy is. A lot of people do, though. We'll leave it there.