ABC NEWSRADIO WITH GLEN BARTHOLOMEW
WEDNESDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: New chair of Infrastructure Australia; George Christensen and extremist threats.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: Good afternoon, Catherine.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good afternoon, Glen.
BARTHOLOMEW: What do you know about Col Murray?
KING: Well, I’ve met him once before and I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke, but if you’re telling me, as Barnaby Joyce says, that of all the millions of people in the country and millions of people who live in regional Australia, that this one person who is the retiring mayor of the Deputy Prime Minister’s own constituency is the only person worthy to chair Infrastructure Australia, a job that attracts $130,000 a year, well, I think, you know, in the words of the Castle, I think he’s dreaming. I mean, really, this is a serious body, it’s one of the preeminent economic bodies in the country. It advises government and industry on billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure. It’s important to have a regional voice there, but frankly, I think Barnaby Joyce is having a lend of all of us with this appointment.
BARTHOLOMEW: You represent a regional area yourself in Victoria, you’ve got here a former long-time mayor of a major regional centre with a with a background in construction, I heard over 25 years mentioned there. There’s some merit in that isn’t there?
KING: I love the Mayor of the City of Ballarat, he’s a great, great bloke. But I don’t think as infrastructure minister, I would be appointing the mayor of my own city to a senior economic body. You know, if you look at the calibre of who we appointed, Anthony Albanese, then as the transport minister appointed, Sir Rod Eddington, someone who’d been with British Airways, Cathay Pacific. He had a long, long history, in infrastructure development. It really doesn’t matter if you come from a regional area or not. That’s not actually the issue. The issue is Barnaby Joyce not going through any process. He’s clearly gone to the Prime Minister and said, I want to appoint my own people and I think this is one of a number of appointments we’re about to see in the dying days of this government where they put people in that they like or who are supporters of theirs. So, I think you can smell the whiff about it and this, frankly, I think, stinks to high heaven. I think that it’s up to the Deputy Prime Minister to explain what other names he considered, what the department’s view was, what process he went through to select this person. It’s up to him to explain it, but I think it smells to high heaven.
BARTHOLOMEW: So, does that mean that if Labor wins the next election, you won’t honour the appointment?
KING: Well, we’ve said that we’ll have a review of Infrastructure Australia, and that includes looking at all board appointments. I think that anyone would expect in the circumstances of particularly this appointment, and I understand there’s another seven board members who are about to lose their jobs as well, you would expect that we would have a look at it if we were in government. But we do want to have a review of Infrastructure Australia overall, it’s pretty clear the government has sidelined it and I think it’s too important. The reason they have sidelined it is you’ve got the Nationals who we have seen from car park rorts to better regions to sports rorts, like using taxpayer money for their own election purposes and don’t like having advisory bodies that tell them what they don’t want to do. And that’s what Infrastructure Australia has been there to do, to take some of the politics out of large-scale infrastructure funding. They clearly haven’t liked them, they’re clearly wanting to put their own people in because they haven’t been able to get rid of it as a body, and you’d expect that Labor would want to have a pretty good look at both the appointments, but also the way in which it’s functioning and how it’s actually working to advise government and business of what is, after all, billions of dollars of productivity boosting infrastructure investment across the country.
BARTHOLOMEW: And many regional areas need some of that infrastructure boosting money as well and wouldn’t be the first government I guess, to want to put their own person in charge. In the meantime, I see in the Senate that the your colleague the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally was asking the government questions today about a post on LNP member George Christensen’s telegram account, that’s a social media account, criticising your views on COVID-19 restrictions. Now I understand some of these comments are pretty vile and your colleagues say it’s been brought to the attention of the federal police. What can you tell us about this? You think Mr. Christensen is guilty of inciting violence? Have you had threats to your safety?
KING: Yeah, I have. And I think it was just incredible. We’ve just seen in the House of Reps in question time, the Prime Minister refused to even condemn the Member to Dawson. What happened in my case, is the member for Dawson has been using, as have a lot of people, unfortunately, the Eureka flag. You would understand, as the member for Ballarat, we feel pretty proud about the flag. I think it’s been used completely and utterly inappropriately by both left and right groups, we want to reclaim it as our own and as a part of our history. The Member for Dawson did that and used the diggers’ oath, I had a bit of a crack at him about that in Parliament. He took the decision to basically put my email address up on his website and incite people to send me messages. I got messages of vile hate, frankly, to my inbox. But then what happened is on, I think, one of the signalling accounts that we can see, someone from my own constituency put up private details about where I might be at certain points of the day, including with my 13-year-old, and we had to call the Australian Federal Police to try and get that taken down as that prompted a risk to my safety. The Member for Dawson has neither apologised for that, he’s never taken that post down. We had to get the individual to do that themselves. And frankly, I think we’ve seen the Member for Dawson has really got beyond a joke and it’s well past time that the Prime Minister condemned his behaviour and stopped him from basically inciting civil disobedience and threats against Members of Parliament, myself included.
BARTHOLOMEW: Between that and One Nation candidates releasing Jacqui Lambie’s phone number, it sounds like things are getting pretty ugly in Canberra. Catherine King, thanks for joining us this afternoon.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC NEWSRADIO – WEDNESDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2021