Kieran Gilbert, Host: Let’s turn our attention back to politics now, and with me is the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Patrick Gorman. Thank you for your time. Let’s start with the CEO sleep out tonight at St Vinny’s. It’s a big charity event. They hope to raise $10 million. I spoke to the CEO, Jack de Groot, earlier. You’re doing it, you’re flying back to Perth to do that?
Patrick Gorman, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: I’ve done it in Perth every year since I’ve been elected as the member for Perth, and it’s a great way to work with the business community in Perth and indeed across Australia, talking about the different roles that the business community and government have in the very complex challenge of homelessness.
Gilbert: It’s complex, but it shouldn’t be beyond a country like ours to ensure everyone has a roof over their head.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: No, it shouldn’t. But what we know is that homelessness is complex and the ways that people become homeless are complex. And indeed, the sort of different services that people need vary depending on where people are at. The reason I first got involved was for a small service that St Vinnies’ supports called Passages, which helps recently homeless young people in my electorate and across Western Australia. And it is a great fundraising initiative and I do give a shout out to all of the corporate CEOs and leaders who participate, because it’s a really good way of showing that everyone has a role to play. Government has a huge role and we’re stepping up in that space.
Gilbert: You are stepping up. And I’d like you to elaborate on what the government is going to do on that front with Julie Collins. I know the Minister is going through some of that detail yesterday with the Prime Minister, but the point is, during COVID, we were able to find beds for nearly all homeless for a period of time. Why can’t that be done permanently?
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Well, what we were able to do was to find some beds, particularly for people who are rough sleepers. But what we know is that’s just a very small proportion of those who find themselves homeless at any one point in time, about 100,000 Australians don’t have a place to call home in terms of rough sleepers in Western Australia and Perth, which I know well, at any point in time, you might have between 300, 600 rough sleepers and we were able to accommodate those. But the problem is so much deeper, which is why we need to get into building those social and affordable housing pieces. We’ve said 30,000 over the first five years under the plan that Prime Minister Albanese and Minister Collins have put together and are working on implementing right now. So it is complex and I don’t want to pretend that sleep out or one particular charity event or one particular policy will solve the entire puzzle, but I think, for me, engaging in that conversation, not just at a political and policy level, but with business leaders is.
Gilbert: So important and it can happen to nearly anyone. I’ve had a friend who volunteers for Orange Sky, which does the laundry for homeless, and he’s met several people who show him their LinkedIn pictures and images just six months ago. They were connected and successful. Something happens and it all falls over. Yeah, it doesn’t take much.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: It doesn’t take much. And I think the other end of that story is that with the right support, those people can get back into the workforce, back into secure housing. And that’s got to be the journey that we’re trying to help people take, because it could happen to anyone.
Gilbert: Let’s look at the broader international set up now, the Prime Minister’s off to NATO next week. Why is he attending that? It’s a long way away. I know there are others from the Indo Pacific attending, but why does he see it as important?
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Well, if you look at the agenda of what’s being discussed at Madrid, in Spain, at this NATO summit, they are things that are important to Australia. You’ve got conversations happening which affect us in the Asia Pacific around the increasing assertiveness of China. That’s an important conversation for Australia to be a part of and for the Prime Minister to be part of. Obviously, the entire world is watching with Russia’s completely unjustified war against Ukraine. Australia has many interests there, so it’s good to see that the Prime Minister will be there. Indeed, climate change and the security impacts of climate change, which we saw the Prime Minister talking about earlier this week, the security impacts of climate change are front and centre of the NATO agenda. So it’s really good that we’re going to have the Prime Minister there, putting Australia’s view and hearing from other like-minded countries about how we preserve the rules based order.
Gilbert: The Ukrainian ambassador joined me on the programme earlier and he liked the Ukrainian President, have followed up their invitation to the Prime Minister. They’d love him to visit Kyiv next week. Do you think it would be an important show of support if he were able to do that?
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Can I first say that it’s a very welcome invitation and the Prime Minister is very grateful that he has been invited and I think it’s a great honour to be invited by the President of Ukraine. But he’s also said that we’ll take advice from security agencies about the best way to respond to that and the best timing in which he responds. So it’s a very welcome invitation and I think Australia, whether we are able to have our Prime Minister visit or not, we’ll do everything we can to help the people of Ukraine in responding to this entirely unjustified war.
Gilbert: You touched on the Chinese assertiveness and aggression in our region. It’s going to be a big focus at the NATO summit. Just on another story that we’ve been reporting on this afternoon. The Australian Labor Party national Secretary Paul Erickson met with the Chinese ambassador. The opposition through Keith Pitt has been critical of that. What’s your take on it?
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Well, I just don’t know what’s changed for Keith Pitt from when Foreign Minister Payne met with the Chinese ambassador in March. I think the then Foreign Minister met, I’m sure on the advice of officials. I understand that the party secretary Paul Erickson did so having sought advice.
Gilbert: His argument was that he’s not a member of government. So why is he doing that?
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: He’s not a member of government, but I think he’s done the appropriate thing and seek advice. I think it’s useful party to party dialogue,. Let’s be honest, there’s a range of foreign embassies who maintain dialogues with political parties and as I said, the former Foreign Minister Marise Payne did meet with the Chinese ambassador just a few weeks ago in March. I don’t think Paul Erickson is breaking any ground.
Gilbert: Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman. Appreciate it and all the best with the CEO. Sleep out tonight there in Perth.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: Thank you very much.