TOPIC: CHRISTOPHER PYNE
E&OE - PROOF ONLY
DAVID BEVAN: Senator Penny Wong, Labor Senate Leader and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, joins us now. Good morning Penny Wong.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Good morning. How are we both?
BEVAN: Very well. Do you think that Rex Patrick from Centre Alliance, also from South Australia, has a good point when he raises concerns over Christopher Pyne’s decision to get a job with Ernst & Young so soon, immediately after leaving the portfolio as Defence Minister?
WONG: I have made public comment about this already. Not only has Senator Patrick raised concerns but so have Mr Dutton and Senator Abetz – Mr Pyne’s own former colleagues. The point is there is a ministerial code, these are standards of behaviour which apply after you have been a minister and certainly it does appear that there are really serious questions about whether or not the Code has been breached. But I think the point I would make here is that this is actually, ultimately, a matter for Scott Morrison. The enforcement of the standards of ministerial behaviour that are set out in the Code of Conduct is a matter for the Prime Minister and he really does need to demonstrate that these standards mean something. He needs to demonstrate to Australians that Mr Pyne is complying with the Code.
BEVAN: Well of course Mr Pyne maintains that he is.
WONG: But on what basis?
BEVAN: Well that’s for him to answer that, but what are the penalties for a breach? What could the Prime Minister possibly do to somebody who has left the Parliament?
WONG: I’m not doing the Prime Minister’s job for him. He has said to the Australian people, as the Prime Minister of the country, these are the standards of behaviour that I expect of ministers. All ministers agree to accept those standards and there are two aspects to these standards which are relevant. One is that you’re not supposed to work in an 18-month period as a lobbyist or advocate or have business meetings with members of the government. But the second is you are not allowed to use knowledge that you have gained as a minister for that period of time in your work where that knowledge is not available to the general public.
Now I think it is pretty difficult to understand how it is that Mr Pyne could have a job advising on Defence when he’s only utilising knowledge that’s available to members of the general public. Members of the general public haven’t got this position.
ALI CLARKE: But Senator Wong what would happen then if an inquiry found that Christopher Pyne was in breach? Does the Government have ability to take away his super?
WONG: These are entirely matters for the Prime Minister. I would’ve thought if you have been a senior cabinet minister you don’t need threats to do the right thing. Surely the Prime Minister of the country makes it clear what you should do and makes it publicly clear what should be done. The problem here is not sanctions, the problem is any action at all. Mr Morrison hasn’t said a word in relation to this that I have seen. We heard Senator Cormann on Radio National earlier today saying he was advised that Mr Pyne was complying which was the basis of my question to you David.
BEVAN: Yes well how would you know?
WONG: What is that advice? Where’s the advice? If this is the advice is it just what Mr Pyne has said, or is it actually that the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, has done his job and has obtained advice? If so it should be provided.
BEVAN: Will Labor support a Senate inquiry into the compliance of former ministers with the Code of Conduct?
WONG: We are open to those discussions. We do think this ultimately is a matter for the Prime Minister but we are open to discussions. Senator Patrick sent some propositions over to us, I think late last night, on terms of reference. We will certainly have some discussions with him.
BEVAN: And it would only make sense if the Senate went to the trouble of inquiring into this, if they saw that the whole thing collapses because there is no penalty; there is no way of enforcing the standards; that the inquiry then made recommendations about putting in mechanisms?
WONG: But ultimately, even if we did inquire, and even if we did make recommendations, there is still a question for the executive government, the government of the day, to act and that’s why I come back to where we started. This Code is only as good as the Prime Minister. This Code is only as good as the Prime Minister of the day and if the Prime Minister of the day refuses to ensure that the Code is complied with what he is saying, and what he is saying to the Australian people is, I don’t expect actually expect my ministers, or former ministers, to maintain the standards.
CLARKE: Senator Penny Wong thanks for your time.
WONG: Good to speak with you.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.