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TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 31 October 2017

TITLE: Transcript AM Agenda with Kieren Gilbert Sky News

TOPIC(S): Possible debts for ineligible parliamentarians, GetUp!, complaints about banking and financial services, closure of Manus Island


KIEREN GILBERT:
Let’s go now to the Special Minister of State Scott Ryan. A few things to touch on today Minister, first of all, the story today in the Fairfax papers suggesting that the ‘citizenship five’, as they’re being called now, who were ruled ineligible for Parliament, that they collected close to $9 million in payments that were not due to them, but you’ve declared they’re going to be waived, any repayment of those numbers.

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:
No Kieren, I have made no such declaration and I’m not sure how those numbers were calculated. The process on this is fairly clear. Officials and bureaucrats, not politicians, not ministers, will make a determination on whether there is a debt and how that is to be calculated. That will likely take place over the coming weeks. The only role for a minister here, is if someone – and anyone can do this about any debt they owe to the Commonwealth Government – applies for a waiver of that debt. Now I deal with lots of those applications, they range from tax to Medicare to Centrelink issues to acts of grace payments for things that might be unintended consequences of government policy, in some cases, decades ago. No such declaration has been made. Whether there is such a debt will be determined by officials and bureaucrats in the Department of Finance and across Parliament over the coming weeks and months.

GILBERT:
But it has been suggested you’ve agreed to the waiver, that’s not right at this point?

SENATOR RYAN:
Not at all. In the past, I did receive an application from former senator Bob Day to waive a debt that was issued by the Senate and by the Department of Finance. It is on the public record the reasons why I granted that waiver, but those decisions are only made after an application and applications can only be made after a statement is issued and neither of those have taken place.

GILBERT:
Would you see similarities though, in relation to these matters as those that were relevant in the case of Bob Day so we could take that as a precedent that this would be similar thinking in this regard?

SENATOR RYAN:
Kieren, I can’t make determinations, decisions, or even drop hints without seeing an application. What I will say is that, in various ways over the course of the last century, this has been dealt with. I explained what I did with respect to Senator Day and the reasons why, that is all on the public record, but I can’t pre-judge, and I’m not going to be making any comment. No statement or declaration has been made regarding that at all.

GILBERT:
OK, so they might still have to repay the money?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well officials will make a determination as to a debt and if people want to apply for a waiver of that, they will apply and I will consider it. That’s all that’s been said and that’s the process.

GILBERT:
OK, let’s look at the issue of GetUp! and the requirement to declare themselves an associated entity. The Electoral Commission apparently requested that of them, they’ve rejected that request. What’s your position on that? Today, I think they’ve passed a deadline which means they’re in breach of that requirement.

SENATOR RYAN:
The most important thing to note about this Kieren is that the Electoral Commission is completely independent. No minister can direct them, no minister on either side of politics has done so in regard to a matter like this in living memory. GetUp! last week, crossed the line. They attacked the independence of the Electoral Commission in a way that I have never seen someone do – not Labor, not Liberal, not the unions, not any other group. But GetUp! attacked our independent Electoral Commission. They send letters like this, they have discussions like this with all groups that participate in politics, but GetUp!, for some reason, thinks the laws it argues should apply to others, shouldn’t apply to itself. Now, everyone is allowed to take legal advice, anyone is allowed to challenge a decision of a Government instrumentality or an independent authority, but we should all take everything GetUp! says with a large dose of salt. No one has ever attacked the independence of the Electoral Commission the way they have.

GILBERT:
So are they now guilty of a criminal offence, in your view?

SENATOR RYAN:
Firstly, my view is not important. Secondly, it is up to the Electoral Commission – independent of Government, independent of Parliament and any politician, to enforce the electoral law. It has these discussions about the disclosure obligations with all groups that participate in politics. And let’s get this point right, the provisions in question only require transparency of where the money comes from and where the money goes, they don’t stop anyone campaigning at all. But GetUp! does seem to be very, very concerned that the transparency obligations it argues get applied to other, should be applied to itself.

GILBERT:
Well they deny they’re an associated entity of the Opposition, of Labor and the Greens. That’s the bottom line. So why shouldn’t they repudiate that, reject that case?

SENATOR RYAN:
The electoral law has a number of tests for whether you have to make extra disclosures and that’s all this provision does. The independent Electoral Commission applies that, and if the independent Electoral Commission wants to take that further they will. As I said, everyone is allowed to take legal advice or challenge a decision of a government authority. But this is something that an independent commission, that is in good standing, that conducts our elections in a world-leading fashion that we don’t question, does to every group that participates in politics. GetUp! thinks what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

GILBERT:
Now a couple of your Liberal colleagues, your Liberal and National colleagues in fact, held out the prospect of crossing the floor on the issue of the banking royal commission. One of your Liberal counterparts – he is in New York at the moment on secondment to the UN – Warren Entsch says all hell will break loose if it’s not dealt with in the short-term, this issue. That would be a terrible way to finish the year if you were to see people crossing the floor and backing a royal commission here. Should you just call a royal commission and get on with it?

SENATOR RYAN:
The first thing Kieren is the Government’s taken action to solve some of the issues with banks and consumers. Every Australian is a consumer of financial services. Rather than hold a royal commission, which will delay action and just employ lots of lawyers for lots of years, we’ve taken action on the regulation of banks, the regulation of financial advice and such matters that really impact the day-to-day workings of small businesses and how consumers operate with banks. I don’t think any of my colleagues would like to see, you know, Barnaby Joyce’s temporary absence used by the Labor Party, and as Julie Bishop said yesterday, all Ministers involved in this are working very closely with all Members of Parliament to ensure individual issues that consumers have can be dealt with.

GILBERT:
But if backbenchers had clout before the Joyce dramas and the by-election, they’ve got even more clout now with this threat to cross the floor. It would effectively, if they were to cross the floor, two or three of them, and support a royal commission, that would be an effective vote of no-confidence in the Government, wouldn’t it?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well look, I wouldn’t use those words at all. Backbenchers are always heeded and listened to in the Government, in the Coalition. As a Minister, I take the advice, counsel and priorities of my colleagues very seriously. That’s something the Coalition is very proud of. But I don’t think any of my Coalition colleagues will want to see or support the Labor Party trying take advantage of, what is hopefully, a temporary absence of Barnaby Joyce.

GILBERT:
Manus Island Detention Centre set to close and hundreds of the asylum seekers protesting at that closure, worried about their safety if they are forced to move to other facilities, how did it all get to this?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well, Kieran, it got to this because Labor weakened our border protection policies with the Greens, we had thousands of people try and come to Australia illegally, and thousands who made it.

GILBERT:
But you have been in office for several years now.

SENATOR RYAN:
Yeah and the issue we’ve maintained as our first priority, that we will not allow people who seek to unlawfully come to Australia to settle in Australia. That’s the policy the Australian people have repeatedly voted for. It’s a policy we hold dear. Now with respect to Manus Island these people were advised in May that this centre would be closed. Those who are found to be refugees will go to one facility, those who are found not to be refugees will go to another facility. I also note that some of the people and activists complaining about being moved Manus Island were also people complaining about the facility there. So, there’s a group of people who want us to weaken our border protection policies, this Government will not let that happen.

GILBERT:
Minister thanks for your time, we are out of time, we’ll talk to you soon.

SENATOR RYAN:
Thanks Kieran.

[ENDS]

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