16 February 2018
Transcript - #2018013, 2018

Interview with Tom Elliott, 3AW

SUBJECTS: Deputy Prime Minister; Ministerial Code of Conduct; Bill Shorten’s failure to accept revised Ministerial Code of Conduct; longest consecutive monthly jobs growth in Australia’s history

TOM ELLIOTT:

Mr Morrison, good afternoon.

TREASURER:

G’day, Tom. Good to be with you.

ELLIOTT:

How would you describe Barnaby Joyce’s press conference this morning?

TREASURER:

I understand he’s under a lot of pressure and the Prime Minister was very clear later today in saying he understands that well. When people are under pressure, you let a fair bit of things go through to the keeper in terms of what they might say in the heat of the moment but look, I think they’re two very separate issues here. One, you’ve just articulated very well which is what the Prime Minister said yesterday. This is about bringing Australian politics into the 21st century – 2018, things that aren’t tolerated in a big law practice or a publicly administered company or, as you say, in the military, well, they shouldn’t be tolerated in politics either and that standard’s been set down. I suspect many of your listeners found it quite surprising that you’d have to actually write this down – but clearly you do. And what that does is it provides a clear statement, a clear deterrent, a clear cautionary warning that if you do this, that’s it. And that should be a clear message to everyone who’s involved and he said it’s prospective and that means this isn’t about opening up – you know, open slather for people to go through everybody’s bedroom tales over the last 30 years – that’s not what’s relevant now, what’s relevant is how the Government manages those issues in the future and there’s a clear standard and good on Malcolm for doing it.

ELLIOTT:

I agree. I agree it’s surprising people had to say it or write it in a code of conduct but there it is and I read the code of conduct the other day and it also says that Ministers should behave in a matter of the utmost proprieties so you would have thought that covers this. Look, right now, you’ve got the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce clearly not happy with each other. How do they get over this?

TREASURER:

I believe this will be resolved in time but it’s a very sensitive issue, what has occurred. Now, I know Barnaby has come out today and supported the code the Prime Minister announced. It had been discussed all through the course of the week by senior Ministers and he was part of those conversations. So I welcome him in supporting that new code. The Prime Minister was also very clear – he made comments about the episode involving Barnaby. This was not a comment about the National Party and any suggestion this was reflecting on the National Party or their processes or their independence, that’s just not true. The Prime Minister made it very clear what his values and standards were. I think the Australian people had a right to know what he thought about this and what he thought was the right thing. I think he spoke his heart yesterday and what he’s lived all his life and any suggestion that Malcolm Turnbull would walk past this standard and leave it as it was just wasn’t on so I think people got a clear sense of – I think Malcolm did have to say what he said yesterday.

ELLIOTT:

Okay, but Barnaby’s publicly referred to the Prime Minister as inept.

TREASURER:

You just let that go through to the keeper. Honestly, you do because in the heat of the moment, he’s under a lot of pressure, he’s taking some leave, he’s going to – I’m sure – talk to a lot of people and then beyond that week and I imagine beyond that, these matters will be able to be moved on from. From time to time, when events like this happen, it does put on a lot of strain. This is a pretty serious event, let’s be serious, it’s changed the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

ELLIOTT:

Does it make you angry? I mean, I know we’ve spoken before and you’ve got all sorts of economic challenges you’ve got to deal with. I mean, there’s the deficit, there’s making sure the economy keeps growing, etcetera, etcetera – which are very important issues – but none of that’s being focused on at all.

TREASURER:

That’s right. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing and that’s why Malcolm yesterday – he didn’t play around the edges of it. The Labor party spent the week going on about things at the margin which they can’t stand up because they didn’t want to talk about the real issue that was at the heart of this and that is that Barnaby had a sexual relationship with his staff member. They wouldn’t say that, they wanted people to write about it, they wanted to juice it up by keeping it in the Parliament but today, Bill Shorten hasn’t adopted – as I think he should in a bipartisan way – this new standard for modern Australian politics. The question is, why won’t he adopt it? It seems like a pretty common sense thing to do.

ELLIOTT:

Some of his own MPs are guilty of breaching that same standard – Tony Burke, for example, did the same thing.

TREASURER:

That’s in the past.

ELLIOTT:

Well, I know it’s in the past but the point is yes, I don’t know why he doesn’t. Look, can I ask you another thing? While Malcolm Turnbull’s away, Barnaby Joyce conveniently is going to take leave and, therefore, you colleague Mathias Cormann is going to be the acting Prime Minister.

TREASURER:

Yes.

ELLIOTT:

Did you secretly hope that maybe you would have got that job?

TREASURER:

[laughs] That would be a real ‘Bradbury moment’, wouldn’t it? Mathias’ elevation to the Leader of the Senate, I mean, he’s really taken the bull by both horns since he’s taken to that job with George leaving and we had a great getting legislation passed again this past sitting fortnight. I know the public attention was obviously distracted elsewhere but more legislation got passed this week. We had some special legislation passed this week which protected people from getting ripped off on their credit cards, from being predated upon by lenders who are out there selling credit cards to people that people can’t afford, and we got that passed through law this week. Now, I know that was overshadowed by other things as was the fact that we’ve had the longest consecutive running jobs growth of 16 months in Australia’s history.

ELLIOTT:

And precisely, no one is talking about that. Look, should Barnaby Joyce just quit and be done with it?

TREASURER:

That’s for Barnaby and honestly, that is, that’s not for us to tell the National Party how they run things and what they do. This set of personal circumstances that flow on from Barnaby’s conduct, well, we’ve all got to deal with what we deal with in life and we’ve all got to find ways to be able to get back on your feet and move forward to enable your former wife – in this case – and your daughters – in this case – to move forward as much as they can. And same for Barnaby and his new partner and the baby to come and an electorate that just re-endorsed him who want him to be there and do his job for them so there’s a lot of responsibilities to weigh up. They’re matters entirely for him and the National Party, they’re not matters for the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister, as far as he’s involved in this, has set out very clearly what his code, what his standard and what his values are and I think the Australian people shouldn’t be in any doubt about those things.

ELLIOTT:

Scott Morrison, thank you for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot, Tom. Great to be with you.