ABC RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE WITH PATRICIA KARVELAS > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

CONTACT SENATOR FIFIELD

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Electorate Office
42 Florence Street
MENTONE VIC 3194

Phone: 03 9584 2455
Phone Toll Free
(Vic only): 1300 797 110

Parliament House Office
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6277 7480




10-August-2016

5 July 2016  

E & EO

Subjects: election, Medicare, NBN

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The Liberals Mitch Fifield and Labor’s Stephen Conroy. Welcome to you both.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Thanks Patricia.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Good to be here.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Mitch Fifield, you’re first. Why didn’t Malcolm Turnbull say all these things on election night? Why did it take him three days to show this contrition?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Election night wasn’t clear what the circumstances were. He gave some initial assessments as to some of the reasons that we found ourselves in the position we did and he’s added to those today. I think that quite rightly, he has flagged that the Mediscare campaign on the part of the ALP, was a significant issue. But also there is something for us to learn and that is, clearly, in the public there was a pre-disposition not to have as much faith in the Coalition compared to Labor on the issue of health and that meant it was fertile ground for Labor to leverage and to run an outrageous and despicable campaign based on lies.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But if the public believed it, and you say you have things to learn from it, clearly it wasn’t all lies. What have you got to learn from it? It’s all just a, you know, a fiction. You’ve got nothing to learn do you?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The allegation that we had the intention to privatise Medicare was a lie. Completely wrong. Not based in any fact. The point that the Prime Minister was making today, is that it does seem clear that the public didn’t, as a starting point, have the same degree of trust in the Coalition on the broader issue of health compared to our political opponents. So that’s something we have to look at. And I know from my own experience, that you can be in that situation at times. When I first became the Shadow Minister for Disability there was not as much trust in the Coalition in relation to support for people with profound disabilities. NDIS as a concept came along, people weren’t convinced that we were really committed and I worked day by day, group by group, to get to a point where people trusted both sides of politics equally to rollout the NDIS. So there are parallels, there are things we can do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Stephen Conroy, Bill Shorten’s come out with a claim that the Coalition will take Australia back to the polls. Here’s Bill Shorten:

There is a very real chance that Malcolm Turnbull is considering calling a snap election, in the mistaken belief that this will sort out his own problems.

Where is the proof? I mean, in fact when Bill Shorten was asked in the media conference he ducked the questions. I heard what the Prime Minister said, I watched the entire press conference. I didn’t get any indication that he was about to go to an election.

STEPHEN CONROY

That’s cause it’s George Brandis that’s examining the issue, just like the great secret surprise plan that George Brandis sprung on us. That genius bit of political manoeuvring to pirogue the Parliament using some obscure part of the constitution. And Brandis is up to it again. You’ll have to listen to what he said again.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So you think they are hatching a secret plan for another election?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I think they are examining all their options in another dummy spit, just like you saw from Malcolm Turnbull on election night. He was stamping his feet and a dummy spit and we are just seeing more of it behind the scenes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Isn’t it something you have to consider though, if no one can command a majority in the House of Parliament, no one can form a government?

STEPHEN CONROY:

No one has tested that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But the Prime Minister indicated that he would try to today.

STEPHEN CONROY:

No one has tested that. But the Liberal’s and George Brandis are investigating all their options behind the scenes. So I think it’s a very real thing to call out and get a commitment. Just because Malcolm Turnbull can’t run the country cause it’s in such chaos and he hasn’t delivered the stability. But I just want to take up a point that Mitch just made. Let me be very clear, this election was fought on a huge lie and the lie was that the Liberal’s economic plan created jobs and growth. Straight up lie. Couldn’t be a bigger lie, centrepiece in this election campaign. A complete lie.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok, but there is evidence that that plan will create jobs, maybe you don’t think it’s enough.

STEPHEN CONROY:

In the next three years, not one job, not one centimetre …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But in the long term, it does deliver some lift to economic growth in the long term.

STEPHEN CONROY:

It’s based on an assumption by Chris Murphy, the Liberal Party’s preferred modelling for the last twenty years, that 75 per cent of the gain…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I don’t want to revisit that election because …

STEPHEN CONROY:

75 per cent of this gain comes because tax avoidance companies kindly agree to pay tax …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The question I do want to ask …

MITCH FIFIELD:

Let me just pick up on that issue of another election.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Very briefly ...

MITCH FIFIELD:

I think Bill Shorten has campaign white line fever and I think he should take half a day off. Have a rest.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

He is the one that wants an election.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Like Malcolm yesterday, take a day off, stay at home under the doona.

MITCH FIFIELD:

I think Bill Shorten has campaign white line fever. He needs to take a rest.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Has George Brandis looked at this option? Has he talked to ….

MITCH FIFIELD:

I haven’t heard about it.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You might not have heard about it but is it being considered?

MITCH FIFIELD:

What we are focusing on is forming government.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Is he getting advice?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I’m not aware, but our objective … The Australian people have been to an election. They have rendered their verdict. It’s incumbent upon us to respect the verdict that they rendered by the ballot box and to set about forming a government. And that’s what our focus is on.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Malcolm Turnbull said he has learnt a lot from Labor’s Medicare/Mediscare however you want to frame it campaign but he also referred to other learnings, that’s the word he used. What are those lessons beyond Medicare, do you know of any other lessons you’ve got out of this?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Clearly there has been a higher vote for minor parties and independents. I think it’s reasonable to extrapolate from that, that perhaps there is a bit of dissolutionment from that with the major political parties. And that’s something that we need to reflect on. But you don’t want to make snap judgements across a range of issues two days after an election.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Beyond health, any other issues? Perhaps it was also a vote on the national economic plan? Maybe people weren’t convinced by that plan?

MITCH FIFIELD:

We stick by the plan but all …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But you know you can’t get it through.

MITCH FIFIELD:

All political parties, whether win, lose or draw reflect on the campaign and see what the lessons there are to learn. Some of those you discover in the short term, some in the medium term.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

If you are just tuning into RN Drive, I just want to tell everyone who you guys are if they are listening. They don’t even know who you are. Mitch Fifield is the Liberal Senator for Victoria and the Caretaker Arts and Communications Minister. And Stephen Conroy trying to get in there as well, Labor Senator for Victoria and the Shadow Minister for Defence. Stephen Conroy?

STEPHEN CONROY:

Well I think what we saw was a rejection of trickle-down economics. If you give $50 billion to the biggest companies in the country that are currently doing really well, like the big four banks. I mean like the big four banks don’t need a $7 billion tax cut frankly. If you give trickle-down economics a go, you get rejected by the people. And that’s what we saw. The economic plan, the mirage of jobs and growth in the economic plan, based on absolutely ludicrous assumptions in a Treasury model, has been rejected. So it’s in the Liberals DNA, if they want to do some learning, it’s in their DNA. They want to introduce a GST.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The Labor Party also …

MITCH FIFIELD:

Stephen we do not. That’s another lie. Labor said we wanted to privatise Medicare. Lie. They say we want to introduce a GST. Lie. It’s time for the lies to stop.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok, let’s play nicely. What other lessons did we get from the election guys? People are sick of negativity, seriously? Mitch Fifield, we talked about Medicare the Prime Minister said there is learnings from Medicare/Mediscare campaign. Very specific question – what policies will you change now based upon those lessons? For instance, will you end the six year freeze on Medicare rebates?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Look Patricia, we have made no calls on policy.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But is that something that you should consider? Should you be open to it?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The Prime Minister made clear that he had heard the electorate in relation to the fact that they didn’t have as much trust in us on the issue of health and that’s something we want to reflect upon. It’s two days after the election so I’m not going to make any declaratory statements …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I know you’re not but do you think it makes sense that you would review your health policies in light of the public’s vote which was a rejection of your health policies.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Look, I’m not going to make any declaratory statements in relation to policy. What we need to do is to have the vote counted. We’ll then seek to form government. We’ll have a new Cabinet sworn in. And then we can look to issues of policy.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Will it no doubt be on the agenda?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Look, again, I’m not going to go beyond what the Prime Minister has said.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Well then it’s illogical. You can’t say, oh I understand we are learning on Medicare but not do anything. I’m not saying you are going to announce a new policy, but saying yes we are going to review our policies on health, seems to me to be very logical.

MITCH FIFIELD:

I’m not going beyond what the Prime Minister has said. For me to do otherwise would be to make up policy on the spot, which I’m not going to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But do you think lessons from this election are that you need to look at your broader health framework?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The Prime Minister has made clear that we need to take steps to reassure the public and to earn their trust on the area of health.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Stephen Conroy, Bill Shorten confirmed today that the Queensland Labor Party was behind those misleading texts warning the Coalition will privatise Medicare … 

STEPHEN CONROY

You’re just repeating a Liberal Party claim.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

No, I’m not. I’ve seen the texts. They say Medicare at the top.

STEPHEN CONROY:

That’s not what they are trying to suggest other than the Prime Minister was too embarrassed to admit his own failing on election night and demand that the police be called in. I’d like to know who called in the Police? Which Cabinet Minister broke the convention, the caretaker convention, and directed Medicare to call the police in on an alleged fraud.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok, but Bill Shorten acknowledged in a press conference that it came from the Queensland ALP.

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’m not disputing that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think it’s an ok campaign strategy to pretend you are from …

STEPHEN CONROY:

You claim, you’re alleging, you’re just following up the Liberal Party claim that it was from Medicare. The Queensland Labor Party ….

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Said it was from Medicare …

STEPHEN CONROY:

The Queensland Labor Party aren’t claiming it. They’ve called the police in. Who called the police in? Did the Prime Minister pick up the phone? The Government referred it to the AFP, just like the nbn called the police in and Mitch supervised my office getting raided.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The screen grabs said they were from Medicare …

MITCH FIFIELD:

Stephen that was the AFPs action.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’ve seen them, we’ve all seen them. Do you think that is a legitimate form of campaigning? Perhaps you do? I’m asking?

STEPHEN CONROY:

There is no suggestion that it was coming from the organisation of Medicare.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So do you think voters would have known that?

STEPHEN CONROY:

It is simply the Liberal Party propaganda to cover their own …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’m asking a question Stephen Conroy, do you think ….

MITCH FIFIELD:

Who issued the texts?

STEPHEN CONROY:

Queensland Labor Party apparently. I’m prepared to believe

MITCH FIFIELD:

Queensland Labor Party issued a text purportedly to be from Medicare …

STEPHEN CONROY:

It didn’t purportedly to be from Medicare …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It said Medicare at the top …

STEPHEN CONROY:

It said Medicare at the top but it didn’t say we are from Medicare organisation …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Let me take the mic here. What would you think if you got a text message at the top that said Medicare?

STEPHEN CONROY:

That is was about Medicare …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

About Medicare? But it didn’t say who the sender was? It didn’t say ALP Queensland?

STEPHEN CONROY:

The message was clearly a political message – a political message.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But you don’t know where it came from?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Patricia, let me share something with you. I was standing with someone on a polling booth on Saturday morning and their phone went beep. They pulled out their mobile phone and said, oh this is interesting Mitch, I’ve just got a text message from Medicare. That was the reaction of someone who pulled their phone out of their pocket and saw the message there. It was not authorised, it did not say from the ALP …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Didn’t the Liberal Party also engage with, some people would say, dirty tactics with the CFA in Victoria? I’ll ask the question. Didn’t you do the same thing in Victoria? Aren’t you all just playing the same dirty politics?

MITCH FIFIELD:

No, the Liberal Party did not.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You did change the logo fractionally.

MITCH FIFIELD:

We didn’t send text messages claiming to be from the CFA.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So you think that was legitimate? What you did with the CFA? There were people on the polling booths saying they were from the CFA. Vote for the CFA, some people were told.

MITCH FIFIELD:

I stood on a polling booth and I said to people as they walked past, if you want to support the CFA, vote Liberal. I think that is entirely legitimate.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I want to move on to issues of leadership. Senator Fifield, you’re a strong supporter of Malcolm Turnbull. Did the Malcolm Turnbull experiment fail? Did rolling Tony Abbott justify this result?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, the Party Room as a collective, by a significant number, decided in September last year to change leaders. And the Party Room took a range of factors into consideration. That decision was taken. Malcolm became the Prime Minister. And, clearly, we would have preferred at this election to be winning more seats than we are …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

What went wrong for Malcolm Turnbull? What went wrong? He was popular, what went wrong?

MITCH FIFIELD:

… but we respect the verdict that’s been rendered by the people of Australia. And we will now work to form a government led by Malcolm Turnbull. And I can tell you …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But what went wrong? Malcolm Turnbull was very popular, what went wrong?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Election campaigns and the Australian electorate is a dynamic environment. We put our case forward to the Australian people. We argued it. The Australian people have cast their ballots at the ballot box. Those votes are now being counted and we will work to form a government. And I can tell you …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

There’s a strong conservative backlash, conservatives are briefing against Malcolm Turnbull. Some them want to get rid of him as Prime Minister. How can his job be secure if they’re doing that, they’re telling journalists they want to get rid of him?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Absolutely secure …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you concede that there are some in your Party Room that don’t want him to be Prime Minister?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Let me tell you what I know. The Cabinet is rock solid behind the Prime Minister. I have spoken to dozens of Party Room colleagues and they all as one, want us to form government and they want Malcolm Turnbull to continue as Prime Minister. And that is our duty. And that is our obligation.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But I’m asking about your Party Room, people like Cory Bernardi, others who have spoken out, said that he’s …

STEPHEN CONROY:

Call a Party Room meeting. He’s running scared from it, Patricia. Malcolm Turnbull won’t call a Party Room meeting because he’s scared to.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

… said that we need a conservative … we need a conservative revolution …

STEPHEN CONROY:

He’s running scared from it, Patricia. Malcolm Turnbull won’t call a Party Room meeting because he’s scared to.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you concede that there are people on your backbench who are very dissatisfied with the Prime Minister?

MITCH FIFIELD:

There are colleagues, understandably, who would have wanted us to win more seats at the election. That’s taken as read. But, as someone who has spoken to Party Room colleagues I can tell you that I have not spoken to a colleague who doesn’t want anything other than for us to form government and for Malcolm Turnbull to continue as Prime Minister.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Well call a Party Room meeting then.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Why won’t you call a Party Room meeting?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, we will call a Party Room meeting. But we’ll call a Party Room meeting when it’s clear who the members of that Party Room will be.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Let’s be very clear, the rules always are that you can call a Party Room meeting – or a Caucus in our case – before the final counts are done. That happens almost every time. You see the Prime Minister who’s too scared to meet …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

... he had been in hiding until today. What was the Prime Minister doing?

MITCH FIFIELD:

In relation to Stephen, rubbish, that we’re in hiding from a Party Room meeting. There will be a Party Room meeting. Absolutely.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And do you expect it to be full of fire and robust Mitch Fifield?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Our Party Room meetings are always …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On this one, I’m not talking about historical ones, I’m talking about this one.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Our Party Room meetings are always ones where people feel free to express their views and do so.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you expect they’ll be saying to the Prime Minister that you stuffed this up?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I think they will be sharing their experiences of the campaign.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Which will be something along those lines?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Patricia, all we’re focused on, I know this doesn’t suit the narrative of Stephen and others ...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’ve just looked at the election result …

MITCH FIFIELD:

We are actually focused on forming government and seeing Malcolm Turnbull continue as Prime Minister. But that is not inconsistent with wanting to learn lessons from the election, which we are determined to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Stephen Conroy, your colleague Chris Bowen confirmed there will be an ALP leadership vote if you don’t form government, it looks very difficult for you to form government …

STEPHEN CONROY:

I didn’t think he said that, I think Anthony Albanese just said that he’s supporting Bill.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok. But actually, Antony Albanese, he was the obvious contender, said that changing captains in ‘extra time’ wasn’t a good idea.

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’m confident …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But that’s not unequivocal, is it?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’m confident I mean people put a lot of interpretation on it and I’ve seen a lot of different commentary but I’m confident that Bill will be elected unopposed. Very confident.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You don’t think anyone will put their hand up?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’m very confident that Bill will be elected unopposed.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well Tania Plibersek on election night …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That was election night though.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Yes, she was hedging her bets. She threw her head back, she laughed, she said ‘oh it’s not reasonable to expect me to answer that question tonight, we should just be enjoying the moment’. She was keeping her options open.

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’m very confident that Bill will be re-elected unopposed.

MITCH FIFIELD:

But Anthony Albanese didn’t rule out if Labor failed to form government …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

He did call it ‘extra time’.

MITCH FIFIELD:

… challenging in that circumstance.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok, on the Senate, Mitch Fifield, what kind of relationship will you seek with Pauline Hanson and how will you challenge, in a respectful way that perhaps improves the democracy some of her ideas, which are basically very divisive in the community.

MITCH FIFIELD:

With the crossbench there are a range of issues that I’m not going to agree with them. And my colleagues are not going to agree with them. And Pauline Hanson is one of those colleagues. But, we have to recognise that she was elected fair and square. So, the Government of the day, which we’re working to be, will have to deal respectfully with all crossbench colleagues. And I think the thing with dealing with crossbenchers is you can’t start with a crossbencher where you think they should be, or where you want them to be. You’ve got to start dealing with them where they are, and then work back from there. And if you do that, then you can get good outcomes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

How about you? Have you engaged with Pauline Hanson?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’ve never met or spoken with Ms Hanson but I would start by making the point that the reason that Pauline Hanson and her ilk are going to be in the Senate when it resumes, is because the Greens and Malcolm Turnbull did a dirty deal about the Senate.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Even if we didn’t have the half quota she could have actually got a quota under the normal rules.

STEPHEN CONROY:

No, under the old rules she regularly ran and couldn’t get a quota …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But under this time …

STEPHEN CONROY:

No, this is my point. The Greens and Malcolm Turnbull did a filthy deal to introduce optional preferential voting, and even worse from a Greens perspective, a deal that actually allowed the Government to call …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But a significant number of Australians wanted to vote for her though, Stephen Conroy. So how do you respect them, how do you deal with them?

STEPHEN CONROY:

Under the previous [rules] she’s ran many times, in many parliaments, in under previous elections with compulsory voting she has missed out. This is entirely at the feet of Richard di Natale and Malcolm Turnbull that we have the Hanson presence in Parliament again. The country’s now going to live with this debate.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just another few questions before I let you go. 0418 226 576 if you want to text in, I’ve forgotten to tell the number I’ve been so preoccupied with these two Senators.

Mitch Fifield, is the plebiscite on same sex marriage in danger of being delayed? I mean, Senator Cory Bernardi wants it delayed. Will you push for it to happen this year and stick to that pledge?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well that’s the intention is to …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Intention, or will you make it happen?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, that was the intention, to have the plebiscite happen before the end of the year. That hasn’t changed.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And will you vote against the enabling legislation?

STEPHEN CONROY:

It’s far too early to tell if the Government can actually get the numbers to go ahead with their own position. But if the Government form a minority government then I suspect one of the first things that will happen will we will be debating, on the floor of the Parliament, a change to the same sex marriage Bill. So I’m not at all interested in the plebiscite issue, I’m interested in trying to get the debate going to see if the Parliament can make the change very quickly.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think that you’ve got the numbers I mean, so many seats are undeclared but I have seen some reporting that perhaps you’ve got the numbers to bring on a conscious vote? Do you think you do?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I think if Malcolm Turnbull can’t form a majority government, which is increasingly unlikely, I think there’s a real opportunity to get this decided on the floor of parliament in the first hundred days.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So you will still prioritise it even if you’re in opposition for bringing it on.

STEPHEN CONROY:

It’s a conscience vote for Labor but Bill said, that he would bring it on in the first hundred days. And if we have capacity and we think we can bring it on and have the vote in both chambers then I’m sure that’s what will happen.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And just some breaking news, Antony Green is calling the seat of Grey in South Australia. I think the Liberal candidate is … has lost, is that right? Is that right Beverley? I’m checking with my executive producer Beverley, no … has won! There you go, has won that seat … the Liberal, according to Antony Green, against the NXT. You’re contesting that Stephen Conroy?

STEPHEN CONROY:

No, I think he’s called it … my goss, which I got a text just a minute ago

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

… Let’s get some goss …

STEPHEN CONROY:

… while we were talking, what is in actual fact the opposite, that he was going to call it the other way. I will just see if I can, err …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Yes, I think you’re right, right? So the NXT would have won that seat?

STEPHEN CONROY:

Yep.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Is that your mail?

STEPHEN CONROY:

That is my understanding.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The seat of Grey, which means one less for you? That’s disappointing isn’t it?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, I’ll check with our people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But if it is one less for you, that makes it harder again.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Obviously …

STEPHEN CONROY:

… you won’t get to 76 without Grey …

MITCH FIFIELD:

Obviously, we always prefer to get one more than one less.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think, given you can’t get to 76 without Grey what’s your reflection on that, that you will have to cobble together a minority government?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, we’ll talk to our party officials about that seat after now …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’m just asking for your frank …

MITCH FIFIELD:

Sure, look Rowan Ramsey is a terrific representative and would have been terrific to have him continue the opportunity to represent the people of Grey, so if that’s the case it’s very disappointing.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Now, we’re getting mail that he is calling it for the Liberals, so there’s a bit of confusion.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, Patricia you can see my hesitation in, on air. .

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

… I just think that was the most exciting moment on Radio National I have to say okay? So now they can reach 76.

STEPHEN CONROY:

(Laughing) So I have a very exciting moment for you now …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So now they can reach 76.

STEPHEN CONROY:

They could if that’s the case.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Now they could actually have majority government, there you go.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Hence my disposition …

STEPHEN CONROY:

I, I have some exciting news.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Before we wrap up, what’s your exciting news?

STEPHEN CONROY:

I’ve written to the Federal Police, on Friday, asking them to end their ludicrous investigation into leaks from the NBN on the basis of legal advice that NBN Co have incorrectly called the police in. They are not Commonwealth officers and I am seeking and demanding an end to the investigation, an apology from Ziggy Switkowski, an apology from Mitch Fifield who has overseen this, and that Ziggy Switkowski resign over it.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Wow, so you’re breaking this on RN Drive.

STEPHEN CONROY:

There you are. I told you I had some exciting news.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Well, and what’s your response to that because that’s … well he’s asking for Ziggy to resign …

STEPHEN CONROY:

… and an apology from Mitch for raiding my office.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Mitch, will you resign. Not will you resign, do you want him to resign too? Will you respond?

MITCH FIFIELD:

They are calling on everyone to resign today. I didn’t raid Stephen’s office, the Federal Police did. The referral from the NBN to AFP was a matter for NBN and the AFP determine what is and is not within their jurisdiction. I’m someone who has confidence in the integrity of the AFP. It’s something that has been called into question by the Australian Labor Party.

STEPHEN CONROY:

Were you embarrassed you raided my office?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I didn’t, I did not …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

… Well he didn’t individually but do you think …

MITCH FIFIELD:

I didn’t raid your office, Stephen.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

… that was appropriate which was the question?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The lies keep coming, you know, whether it be Medicare.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think it was appropriate that Stephen Conroy’s office was raided during an election campaign?

MITCH FIFIELD:

It’s entirely a matter for the Australian Federal Police. They have operational independence and to question the AFP and their motives is to question the integrity of that organisation which is something that Labor continues to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And have you got a response yet to that letter that you’ve written?

STEPHEN CONROY:

No, I’ve written a number of letters to the AFP over the course of the … since the six weeks that the Government oversaw the raid on my office. I’ve got all of the documents that they took from my office on the night, at the Senate with the Clerk. I’ve written to them and asked for all the other information that they’ve gathered, that might have been uncovered by listening in on phone calls or by looking at other people’s emails. I’ve asked for that to be covered by Parliamentary Privilege. I’ve asked for that to be given to the Clerk. I’ve received no response whatsoever to that. And I’ve written again to them saying that NBN Co have illegally authorised them to conduct this investigation and their raid on my office is illegal. And I want an apology. And I want Ziggy to resign. And I want an apology from Mitch.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, I can tell you …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Last word because we have to move on.

MITCH FIFIELD:

I won’t be apologising to Stephen. The referral to the Australian Federal Police was from the NBN, as they are entitled to do when there’s documents and intellectual property that is being stolen. NBN as an organisation is perfectly entitled, and it’s very reasonable to  call …

STEPHEN CONROY:

I used to be the Minister and that’s complete and utter trash …

MITCH FIFIELD:

… to call the AFP to investigate.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’ll have to leave it there. This campaign looks like it’s never going to end. Thank you so much to both of you for coming in. Well, it’s been a fiery and robust conversation, thank you.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Thanks Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And that is, of course, Mitch Fifield. He’s currently the Communications Minister. Also Labor’s Stephen Conroy who is the Shadow Defence Minister. Both Senators, both from Victoria.

[end]