SUBJECT: Car Park Rorts, lockdowns.
RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: Catherine, did we learn anything different today? I mean, we sort of knew what the auditors had to say. Did we learn anything substantially different today?
CATHERINE KING: Yeah, a couple of things. I think the first was obviously this top 20 marginal seats that seemed to be sitting in Minister Tudge’s office and then someone within the Prime Minister’s Office was working on this list as well. I think what I also learned from just watching the Senate Estimates hearing today was just how blatant this was, and that the government doesn’t care about it. It also felt a bit like the department really didn’t care too much about this either. I think this is what, you know, really bothers me about this. Sports rorts was one thing, and that was terrible. That was just like, well, we had a process, we didn’t agree with the process, so we didn’t go with the recommendations, but this was let’s not have any process at all. Let’s not even pretend to be fair.
EPSTEIN: It’s very difficult when people listen to this, I suspect they go oh hang on, hang on, people on both sides of politics have done this for some time. If the department, the infrastructure department didn’t kick up a fuss with this, why should a voter think there’s something wrong with this?
KING: To be honest, that’s one of the things that really bothers me a great deal about this. We need department officials, when things look dodgy, when they look like they’re not fair, you’ve got Treasury saying look we think you need to run an independent process here, the department makes no comment according to the audit office about that, and the government makes a policy decision to basically run an unfair process to advantage itself electorally. If you haven’t got public servants coming back and saying this is not right, or an independent corruption commission there as a bit of a threat to ministers to say, you need to be careful about taxpayers’ money here, then I think it really undermines the fundamentals of democracy. That’s why this one, you know, Sports Rorts was pretty terrible, but this is a big thing. It’s not just about the car park. It’s about the government now prepared to say, we don’t care, there’s no consequences for us, we don’t care at all, there was an election and we won, bad luck.
EPSTEIN: Aren’t they saying that the politicians get to make the decisions? I mean, the department said they didn’t need a tender process so if a government wants to put transport infrastructure into electorates and the department says you don’t need a tender process or a competitive process. What’s wrong with the politicians picking the list first?
KING: Because then what they’re doing is deliberately using taxpayer money just before the election. These were all announced in an election. This was appropriated budget funds, this is not an opposition party during an election campaign saying, right, this is what we’re going to do for the election. This is 2018 budgeted funds, appropriated taxpayer funds. This is a government saying there’s not even going to be a pretence to fairness here, we are just going to use this to pork barrel and win our own seats. That is the only way. There’s not even a pretence about trying to run a process at all. And I just think that you fundamentally have a massive problem for our democratic process, if that is the way that this government thinks that this is how you govern.
EPSTEIN: Let’s see if we get an opportunity to ask the government about this later on during the week. I don’t know, I’ve forgotten to be honest, forgive me, precisely what sort of lockdown Ballarat has been in and out of. How’s your hometown right now?
KING: Yeah, we’re okay. Look, I think, like everybody, we’d rather not be locked down. We’d rather not have heard the news today that it looks like it’s going to be extended. It’s going to be close for us, obviously we had those removalists with an exposure site in Ballan not far from Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh, a community that is also in my electorate, had to deal with exposure sites. So, we get it, and I think we want to get out of this as quickly as we possibly can. It’s hard for people. Of course, it’s a fifth lockdown and I’ve spent the day trying to juggle work and homeschooling a year seven student, which hasn’t been the most fun day of my life and I suspect there are hundreds of parents who are in exactly that position. I think we all desperately want to get out of it as quickly as we can and get that the lockdown’s what we have to do. Now we’re lucky in a regional area in the sense of lots of fresh air, although it is freezing cold in Ballarat, not surprisingly. Having seen Melbourne, you know, when it was completely and totally shut down before, it whacks your spirit a bit, but I guess we all recognize that that’s just what we’ve got to do. We’ve just got to do it, until we all get vaccinated. I think that there’s a level of frustration and anger I think about the vaccine…
EPSTEIN: I might come to the vaccines in a moment. I wanted to ask, is there a danger that Federal Labor and the State Labor Government gloat a bit too much about the trouble New South Wales is in.
KING: I think that one of the things that bothers me, and I put out a tweet about New South Wales, we so want them to get out of this. It’s horrible. I hate they’re having to go through this, but the thing that I think all of us as Victorians felt, was I was so shocked when we had the Prime Minister of the country basically sort of trying this divisive nonsense about how one state’s got gold standard and isn’t Victoria terrible because they have a Labor Government. All of that, it all started with the leader of this country just deciding that that was okay. It wasn’t okay then, it’s not okay now for anyone. We have to be in this together, we need New South Wales to succeed. People travel, that’s what we do, so we want New South Wales to get out of it, they need all the support that they can get as do all people who are in lockdown. It’s right to observe, well, perhaps there are some things you could be doing better. But I think this all started with the leader of this country, federal ministers, Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg, deciding that they would politicise this.
EPSTEIN: Weren’t they just pointing out people’s pain?
KING: No, I think what they were deliberately doing was trying to, you know, I think Josh Frydenberg tried to goad Premier Andrews into opening the state too early. I think this whole notion of to have a federation, you need to work at it, and you need a leader who’s going to lead and that is not what the Prime Minister did when we were in lockdown, last year, and I think Victorians feel rightly pretty angry about that. So, there is a bit of karma that people feel about well look what’s happening in NSW, I don’t think that’s helpful, because we need them to succeed, and I wish them every single success in doing so.
EPSTEIN: Thanks for joining us.
KING: Really good to talk to you Raf.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC MELBOURNE – MONDAY, JULY 19 2021
SUBJECT: Car Park Rorts, lockdowns.