Michelle Grattan talks politics with politicians and experts, from Capital Hill.
Matt Canavan on Holgate, Di Bartolomeo, and John Andersen
Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate has given evidence to a Senate inquiry into her dramatic exit from Australia Post.
Holgate left her position last year, when the prime minister denounced her in parliament for giving Cartier watches as rewards to Australia Post executives.
Victim of a hit job, Holgate inflicted damaging hits of her own – delivering blows against Scott Morrison and Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo, and following up her evidence with a media blitz.
She accuses Morrison of bullying and says Di Bartolomeo should resign.
Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan, who sat in on her appearance, also believes Di Bartolomeo should go.
“The CEO of Australia Post, just like any government organisation, is not appointed by the minister or the government. The government appoints a board and then the board, under the chair’s direction, hires a CEO.
"The big main job of the chair is to find a good CEO and give them good direction. And that hasn’t occurred here.
"And I think, therefore, the buck must stop with Lucio.”
Despite this, Canavan doesn’t believe an apology is owed by the prime minister for his “parliamentary reaction”, as it was “understandable and everyone had a similiar reaction”. An apology is required from the government, however, for the “dismount, how we’ve handedled the situation post the initial scandal”.
Canavan belongs to the group within the Nationals known for being pro-coal, stirring the pot, and putting pressure on leader Michael McCormack. On this podcast, he discusses the Nationals’ election prospects, as well as the possible return to parliament of former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister John Anderson, who is seeking preselection for a Sneate run.
“[John Anderson is] making a major contribution to the intellectual richness of our country[…] he’s quite a thought leader. I think having the platform of the Senate would amplify that voice a bit. I think he’d also play a very stabilising and educating sort of role in our party room.”
Stephen Duckett on what's gone wrong with the rollout
As of Tuesday, only 920,334 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered - a fraction of the four million doses the Morrison government had promised by end-March.
The rollout's complications and failures have sparked a backlash from some GPs, pharmacists, and states.
The federal government says the problems are mainly supply issues – notably, the failure of millions of doses to arrive from overseas. Also, CSL has had trouble quickly ramping up its production.
At the same time, there have been glitches in the logistics of delivery to doctors and the states.
This week Stephen Duckett joins the podcast to critique the rollout. Currently director of the health and aged care programme at the Grattan Institute, he was formerly secretary of the federal health department and so has seen the health bureaucracy from the inside.
Duckett is highly critical of how the rollout has gone, with the government over-hyping expectations.
"The government hasn't met a single one of its targets so far. They had targets about four million people by the end of March. They had a target, about more than 500,000 residential aged care workers and residents by mid-March.
"Now, sure, it's the biggest logistic exercise we have ever seen, but the government has had eight months or so to prepare for it.
"I think the government should have set reasonable targets. It should have said, look, we know it's really, really important to get the vaccine rollout started, but we are reliant on overseas."
"The prime minister said he wanted to under promise and over deliver. He did the reverse."
One issue Duckett identifies has been the politicisation of the process.
"There's been a huge number of vaccine announcements. Every micro-possibility has been wrung out of every announcement. We've got photos of vaccines coming off planes. We've got announcements that we're thinking about having a contract."
"I think[...]the commonwealth initially thought it was all going to go very smoothly and they'd coast into the election very, very comfortably on the back of a successful vaccination rollout programme.
"So I think it had a political overlay from the start."
Linda Burney on the treatment of Indigenous Women
In the passionate debate over the treatment of women in workplaces, and particularly the extent of violence and harassment, the voice of Indigenous women, especially those living in isolated communities, has gone largely unheard.
Linda Burney, speaking at the ALP’s National Conference this week, strongly advocated for equality and opportunity for all in Australia. She called for a constitutionally-enshrined voice for First Nations people in parliament, commitment to realising the Uluru Statement in full, and a renewed focus on ‘truth-telling’.
As Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, and for Indigenous Australians, Burney joins the podcast to discuss the voice of Indigenous people, especially in light of the current cultural movement.
Domestic violence against women in Indigenous communities is a serious issues - a 2018 report by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare assessed Indigenous women as 32 times as likely to be hospitalized due to family violence as non-Indigenous women.
Burney sees the abuse partly in historical terms.
“Think about the Stolen Generation…so many women that were removed were sexually assaulted and ended up in dreadful situations. Now they became mothers, and those mothers became mothers, and that trauma is handed down.”
Burney calls for change on at a “local community level”
“The Aboriginal women that I speak to don’t necessarily want this to end up with a man with a criminal conviction and the possibility of going to jail.
"What they want to see is for the violence to stop and for men to get help. And where I’ve seen domestic violence programmes in the Aboriginal community that are really successful, is at a local community level. Because the community has to own the problem, before it’s dealt with.”
And what about the attitude of Indigenous men?
“I don’t think aboriginal men are resistant to change. We have in the Aboriginal community a very strong movement in terms of mens’ groups.
"Men realise that there is a problem. They realise that they’re part of the problem. But we have to find ways to make them part of the solution as well.”
Sussan Ley on being a woman in politics
Over the last month, as more and more stories of sexually explicit behaviour and misconduct within the walls of Parliament House have been revealed, the “culture” of politics has come into question.
One particular issue is the role and representation of women, and the need for more female voices to express the interests – and pain and frustrations – of women across the country.
As Sussan Ley puts it:
“I feel overwhelmingly that the culture of this place has got to change.”
Ley, Senator Marise Payne’s “proxy” as minister for women in the House of Representatives, represents the regional seat of Farrer in southern NSW. She acknowledges there is much work to be done in educating the diverse members of her electorate about how far the whole gender debate has moved.
While there was a small women’s march in her electorate - in Albury - she notes the silent majority who are desperate for change:
“Women on farms, women who are powerless in their relationships because they wouldn’t even be able to talk about these things at their kitchen table or, in some cases, women who aren’t allowed to leave the house because of the nature of their personal relationships.
"There were women silently cheering this from everywhere.”
Ley was one of the first government MPs to voice her support for quotas within the Liberal Party - to afford more women political opportunities.
Talking to Michelle Grattan, Ley advocates for what she calls for a “smart quota system” in contrast to a “blunt instrument”.
“I’m uncomfortable with something that would say ‘okay, your seat’s a woman seat, your seats not’. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Under her idea, “in [the Liberal Party] constitution, it will say we accept that we will have 40% or 30% of women candidates in our seats.
"It then has to say not just women candidates, because sometimes candidates have a very small chance of winning in safe opposition seats. So you’d have to say we’ve got seats that we describe as winnable…and unwinnable.”
“And the ones that step forward in seats where there’s not so much chance would get very well supported, so they wouldn’t be left to fend for themselves.”
Zali Steggall on Monday's march and Scott Morrison's response
On Monday, women across the nation marched, demanding justice, safety and equality. But the government's response was lacklustre, with Scott Morrisona and the Minister for Women Marise Payne refusing to go outside to the crowd.
Morrison later chose his words badly when he said: "Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country".
Independent MP Zali Steggall described Morrison's comments as "incredibly sad" and "just stunning".
A former lawyer and olympian, Steggall is currently championing two private member's bills - a proposal for a national climate change framework, and an amendment to the sex discrimination act which would allow judges, MPs, and statutory appointees to be prosecuted for sexual harassment. Steggall is disappointed in the government's response to the strong push for women's rights. "I've been quite baffled to understand the Prime Minister's response to this situation and the [rape] allegations."
And she doesn't believe Payne has been much better. "I've been absolutely, really disappointed with the minister for women's response."
She is somewhat more encouraged by the government's changing attitude towards climate change, noting Morrison's language has changed "dramatically" in the last 12 months. But simply saying he wants to get to net zero "as soon as possible" is not good enough, she says.
"That's not the certainty that business and the private sector are looking for. They are looking for it to be legislated, and with a clear pathway."
Fleur Johns on the rule of law
Christian Porter has unequivocally denied the historic rape allegations levelled against him, and says he is determined to stay in his job as attorney-general.
Both Scott Morrison and Porter are adamant the "rule of law" in this country places the attorney-general beyond prosecution, now that the NSW police have closed the case.
Porter is the country's first law officer and many argue that requires a stiffer test of suitability.
This week UNSW professor of law Fleur Johns joins the podcast, to discuss the legal role of the attorney-general, how allegations of this kind can affect the performance of his duties, and the validity of the "rule of law" argument.
The role of the office of the attorney-general is both one of "actual powers" and "a repository of great symbolic power," Johns says.
This symbolic power is compromised by "serious allegations that go to the ability of a person to exercise power over another person in a way that is responsible."
"Allegations that are made of a serious abuse of power having been conducted could erode...public trust, especially when those allegations have not had an opportunity to be tested, as is the case here."
Johns "wholeheartedly" rejects the view an independent inquiry into the rape allegations would compromise the rule of law.
"It's absolutely par for the course that the rule of law is delivered through a range of different procedural mechanisms."
"The testing of these allegations...with the appropriate protections to ensure the rule of law, would actually be a way of ensuring that that ideal of the rule of law is defended and promoted.
"[It would show] that we do experience a sense of being governed by laws and legal processes and legal institutions, rather than by particular men and women who happen to be in power at any one time."