Sky News Afternoon Agenda - 26/11/2021

26 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Political Panel with John Alexander MP; Bridget Archer; National Anti-corruption Commission; Religious discrimination bill.

DANICA DE GIORGIO, HOST: The Prime Minister is seeking to downplay divisions within the Coalition after Sky News revealed he hauled Liberal MP Bridget Archer into his office after she voted against the government in Parliament. Scott Morrison has defended the government's decision to block debate on a federal anti-corruption body, saying former New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, was done over by her state's corruption commission. To discuss this and what's been a very busy week in federal parliament. I'm now joined by Liberal MP John Alexander and Labor MP Alicia pain. Hello to both of you. Thank you so much for joining me this afternoon. John, we'll start with you. Bridget Archer crossed the floor over this issue yesterday, was hauled into a meeting with the Prime Minister over it. How messy is this for the Coalition?
JOHN ALEXANDER, MEMBER FOR BENNELONG: Well, hauled in, was invited in.
DE GIORGIO: Well, it was a frank discussion, apparently.
ALEXANDER: Well, I'm sure it was. And, you know, I think Bridget showed an incredible amount of courage to what she did. It's obviously very important to her, as she like many is probably frustrated that this hasn't progressed. And it's probably going to be the icebreaker to allow things to progress a little bit better. 
DE GIORGIO: The Prime Minister likened the New South Wales ICAC to a kangaroo court and said, what was done to Gladys Berejiklian was an absolute disgrace. Do you agree?
ALEXANDER: Well, I think we've learned a lot in the last two years and with the COVID virus and medicine. And the first rule of medicine is do no harm. And I think those coming from New South Wales are so aware that the ICAC in New South Wales has done harm at times in the past, and that's, you know, turned out to be so. Whether it is proven to happen again, with the Gladys, we'll see. And so therefore, the concerns when you're putting in a Federal ICAC, is you've got to have something that's not going to do any harm, but does the job. And I think that's where we've got the trouble. And you hear what the Prime Minister said yesterday in question time. And then you hear what Mark Dreyfus said in return. And I thought what some of what Mark said was very wise. You know, there's, there's eight states and territories, they've all got their ICAC, some have been very good, some have very bad, we should get the best. But I think to progress it rather than, you know, we've had for more than a year now, a draft exposure to be commented on. I don't want this to be like the climate change battles, where 20 years from now we'll still be hurling insults at each other. Can't we get in a room and act like mature people and negotiate through each issue line by line.
DE GIORGIO: That would absolutely be the ideal and I can see Alicia there nodding. This bill, it still hasn't passed. Why?
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: It hasn't been introduced yet, Danica, is exactly the problem. And I agree with John.  A Labor government would introduce an integrity commission with teeth if elected. We would absolutely do this as a priority if elected. We're supportive of it. Members of the Prime Minister's own government are supportive of it, as we saw this week when Bridget Archer across the floor. But he has not introduced this legislation in spite of claiming that he is committed to introducing a federal integrity commission, even though there are major problems with the exposure draft that's been released. If he brought it into the parliament so we could debate it, we could talk about amendments even, we could progress the issue. But it's clear that he doesn't want too. This week, even though on a technicality that motion didn't pass, the majority of the parliament wanted to debate this. Wanted to debate this. And it was shut down again by the Prime Minister. And it's really, I think, says everything you need to know about his views on integrity. He doesn't care about it. 
DE GIORGIO: The Prime Minister also commented saying that the current ICAC model is a kangaroo court. Do you agree with that, Alicia? Is the current model a problem?
PAYNE: No, I don't agree with that. And I think that seeing the Prime Minister talking about Gladys Berejiklian today in response to questions about his own need to introduce a federal integrity commission. It just shows that this is a Prime Minister who doesn't want to take responsibility for anything. We've had a premier that's had some very serious allegations put against her and that's been investigated. And at the same time, he's talking about her potentially running for a federal seat in the next election. He doesn't care about integrity.
DE GIORGIO: Let's move on now. It's been a busy week. Of course, the religious discrimination bill yesterday was introduced into parliament. John, there's been a divide over that between MPs about this proposed legislation. Given how complex it is, do you think it will go through next week?
ALEXANDER: No, I think it's going to a Senate scrutiny. And I think that will take more than a week. I think what Michaelia Cash had to say, in presenting it to the joint party room was very, very good. And to be understood that it is designed to protect religious freedoms. That there's all sorts of other legislation in place to protect other areas of discrimination, which had been raised.
DE GIORGIO: So you think there's enough protection then in its current form?
ALEXANDER: I think it's there, when you look at it is fitting in with other legislation and laws in place to provide protection against discrimination. I think it looks pretty good to me. But, you know, it's, I would like to see that go through too.
DE GIORGIO: Alicia, do you support the bill in its current form? Do you believe that there are enough protections?
PAYNE: Well, Labor obviously supports the rights of people to practice their religions and beliefs without being discriminated against. And we've said that and so you would think if the Prime Minister actually wanted to achieve this, rather than just a political agenda that he's got, he would have shown us the detail earlier and work with us on it. But again, we have not seen this until Wednesday this week. We hadn't, similarly to previous exposure drafts over the last three years, we only saw them at the last minute. There are still elements of it that we are concerned about. We're particularly concerned about the impact on LGBTIQ people, particularly employees of religious organisations, and students in religious schools. No student should be discriminated against, no young person should be discriminated against because of their sexuality. And I think we really need to scrutinise this properly. And ramming it through, trying to get it through the Senate with the inquiry over Christmas just shows that this Prime Minister does not want proper scrutiny or consideration of anything that his government is doing. And luckily, the Senate rejected that being rammed through over Christmas. And I don't think we'll support it if we don't get time to consider these issues properly.
DE GIORGIO: All right. Well, we are certainly almost at the end of the year. Unfortunately, we've run out of time here. John Alexander and Alicia Payne. Thank you so much for joining me this afternoon.