Television Interview – ABC Afternoon Briefing 22 September

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister

MATTHEW DORAN, HOST: The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Patrick Gorman, joined me in the studio a short time ago. Patrick Gorman, welcome to Afternoon Briefing. Thanks for joining us today. Quite an interesting service that we’ve all seen here in Parliament House today. What do you think is the significance of it?

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II asked us to do a uniquely Australian service. That was part of the goal of today and I think we have fulfilled that. We saw the Australian Girls Choir singing beautifully. We had the Wattle floral tribute, which was a really moving moment. We saw the speeches from the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, talking about the Queen’s deep connection with Australia. I think Australians who watched that service would be reminded afresh of just how deep that connection was, those 16 visits that she was part of so much of our national history and indeed, the opening of this building back in 1988.

DORAN: That very same spot where the memorial was held today. For Australians that were watching the service today and have been watching how the Federal Government, how politicians, how the institutions of Australia have been responding to the death of Queen Elizabeth, what do you think they would take out of it? Because there is this debate about the role of monarchy in Australian society. Now, what do you think the key takeout would be?

GORMAN: Well, the key takeout that I hope Australians take from the recognition of Queen Elizabeth’s life is that it was a life of service and that we can all live that life. And indeed, that’s what the Prime Minister said in his speech, is that if there’s one thing we take away from this, it’s not building another monument or another statue to recognise the life of Queen Elizabeth II. It is that we can all aspire to live a life where we serve our community, whether that be through sporting clubs, serving through RSLs, serving through community activity, or indeed serving seeking to address some of those big challenges we face as a nation. I think we can all take something out of her life and what it means for us. Whatever role we play in Australian society.

DORAN: Clearly, many people would be looking to what’s next when it comes to that learning process that you’ve pointed to. And a lot of the discussion has focused around things like referendum, do we change the constitution to become a republic? But also, looking at that issue of Indigenous recognition. The Prime Minister has been very keen to say that Indigenous recognition is the priority here. But do you think the reflection on the Queen, the reflection on Australia’s ties, that colonialism might in fact influence how people are viewing this debate about Indigenous recognition as well?

GORMAN: What it does is it does show that Australia, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has undergone dramatic transformation. We saw the 1967 referendum which happened under her reign that we took a step forward in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But we have so much more work and walking to do to work with our First Nations people. So what we seek to do is to be very clear where our priority lies. That is embracing the Uluru Statement, one component of which requires constitutional change. To do something that we should have done if we were to go back in time, we should have done that when we wrote that constitution, which is to properly acknowledge who were the First Nations of this land which we now call Australia. We believe that we can get that done. We believe that we can have that big national conversation about how we will be a stronger country with that Voice, how that Voice will help us deal with some of those huge challenges that we continue to face in terms of getting quality of outcome for Indigenous Australians. So, that’s where we’re putting our energy. That work has continued over the last 14 days. Indeed, on the Friday that this news broke to 27 million Australians here and to people across the world, Minister Linda Burney continues to convene the working group with First Nations people to work through those pieces. The Prime Minister participated in that forum, because this is a priority for us and we will continue to outline our steps towards that very important referendum. And I’m always careful to say that for our Government, our goal isn’t to just hold the referendum, our goal is to hold a successful referendum that brings people together so that we can get this long overdue change done.

DORAN: Are there fears that, obviously it’s a coincidence, for want of a better word, but are there fears that the death of the Queen, tis discussion about monarchy, the discussion about Republic, is going to muddy that debate going forward when we’re looking at Indigenous recognition that rather than running in parallel there, it is going to confuse the situation.

GORMAN: I think the core value at each of these things, both with our historical ties to the Monarchy and with our 65,000 years of First Nations history that is on this land. The joining thread is respect. How do you show respect to the people who were here first, the people who are the owners of the land on which we are on. And how do we also show respect to this centuries old institution of the Monarchy which has had such an impact on Australian life as we know it today. We believe that we can respect both and indeed, I think that’s what we’ve seen over the last two weeks. But the next big piece of respect is to make sure that we recognise our First Nations in the constitution.

DORAN: Let’s throw forward to next week – Parliament reconvening. Well, it’s actually reconvening tomorrow, but just for condolence motions. The business of Parliament, usual business of Parliament reconvening next week top of the agenda will be the introduction of legislation to set up a National Anti-corruption Commission. Are you confident that the Government can get that through both houses of Parliament before the end of the year?

GORMAN: I really do hope that we can, and that is our aim. We have a strong mandate from the Australian people to introduce this legislation and to get it passed. There are many people in the Parliament, not just in the Albanese Government, but other parliamentarians who also have been waiting for so long to see a government take integrity issues seriously. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. I’m looking forward to the introduction of that legislation. It’s something I promised my community that I would stand for in this Parliament. I know many others stood on a platform of doing exactly the same, again, both in the Labor Party and outside the Labor Party. We believe this is well and truly overdue. It’s been talked about for years and years. I mean, how many questions have you asked about integrity commissions over the years? We’ve just got to get it done. It’s ridiculous that the Federal Government is the only level of government that doesn’t have this oversight. Every state and territory has done it. We’ve got to get on board with it.

DORAN: Labor was highly critical of the Coalition’s model, which we must point out never actually made it into Parliament. It wasn’t ever debated. But Labor very critical of what it saw as a highly secretive model, an integrity commission that was lacking serious powers. Labor was promising quite a lot here in terms of the gold standard model, but we also know, as you pointed out there, there are crossbenchers who’ve come into this Parliament with specific demands about how an integrity commission would operate. Are you confident that you can meet all of those expectations that the Government’s actually set for the community?

GORMAN: We’ve got a mandate that we got at the election to introduce the sort of model that we put forward. And I also know that the public are expecting that politicians get this done. That we take that big leap forward for integrity to make sure that people like myself, my Ministerial colleagues, are held to account for the decisions we take. We’ve said that it will have the sort of powers of a standing Royal Commission. That’s serious teeth to get into systemic corruption, because we can’t ever assume that any level of government is perfect. We need to make sure we’ve got those integrity standards to hold people to account when wrongdoing occurs and also to lift the standard. That’s the other thing that I think is really missed in this debate. If you look at the work that anticorruption commissions do in the states and territories, they also do a lot of work of saying, how do you prevent corrupt conduct. How do you make sure that when you on board new public servants that they understand where the line is. How do you make sure that people feel confident in reporting when they have concerns. All of these things will be the other pieces of work that that big, strong Integrity Commission can achieve. We’ve just got to get our legislation into the Parliament and I’m confident that people will want to get this done by the end of the year and I’m hopeful that’s what happens.

DORAN: We’ll pour over the detail on that one next week. Patrick Gorman, we are out of time.

GORMAN: Thanks for having me on the program.

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