Transcript - National Wrap (Preselections & Quotas)




SUBJECTS: Wentworth and Warringah preselections; Women in politics; Quotas.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Nick Greiner and Wayne Swan, welcome to National Wrap.

NICK GREINER: Thank you.


KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, I want to start with the byelection in the seat of Wentworth. High-profile Sydney doctor Kerryn Phelps will stand as an independent. She has said that voters should put the Liberal Party last — what does that mean? Does that make your chances difficult?

GREINER: Look, I think Kerryn Phelps has got a bit of a following. She’s a political chancer; she’s been a Liberal, she’s been a community left activist, she’s apparently now a centrist. She says she’s not destabilising, yet of course the single most destabilising thing a voter in Wentworth can do is vote for Kerryn. So we acknowledge it’s a challenge, that this time there is clearly a bit of a protest mood around. So as I’ve heard the Prime Minister say a number of times, we by no means take it for granted, even though we do think we’ve got a good candidate.

KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, Labor is running a candidate in Wentworth. How will you direct your preferences? How does this play by Kerryn Phelps affect that race?

SWAN: Well we don’t know who else is standing. We haven’t won Wentworth in over a hundred years, but we have a great community candidate as well. So we’ll be in there, and we’ll be in the contest. But for a Labor victory, highly unlikely.

KARVELAS: I want to turn to another very contentious seat, and that’s the seat of Warringah, where we know Tony Abbott faced a backlash. Nick Greiner, shouldn’t the LIberal Party reveal the real numbers in the interests of transparency, in terms of that vote against Tony Abbott?

GREINER: Well, I think the chicken answer for me is that it’s a matter for the state organisation, but in principle, yes, the Liberal Party announced the result in Wentworth. I can’t particularly see why they shouldn’t announce the result in any preselection.

KARVELAS: Ok, so you think the results should be shared. What does it say about the base? Because we keep hearing the base is very conservative, and yet, whatever the numbers might be, there is a push against Tony Abbott.

GREINER: Yeah, well that’s not a total shock or surprise, I wouldn’t have thought. There are clearly very strong different views about Tony and his views, his— the way he’s behaved since he was defeated by Mr Turnbull. I think it’s not surprising that there are both passionate supporters and quite a few who apparently were against him. It’s sort of the nature of democracy; I don’t think we should get too excited about that.

KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, how do you reflect on this? I mean, clearly this is not a Labor seat, but no doubt Labor’s watching.

SWAN: Well, in Warringah, there were concerns during the last federal election campaign about whether Mr Abbott could retain the seat. So I’m sure there are Liberals on the ground who are concerned — one, about his behaviour and two, about whether they can hold the seat.

KARVELAS: We know that politics is looking pretty shaky and messy at the moment. Wayne Swan, Labor is obviously not having these kinds of internal brawls at the moment, but you’ve had them in the past. Are you sitting back enjoying the government having these problems and hoping you just win the election on the back of that?

SWAN: No, we’re not. In fact, it just drags the whole political system down. I don’t take any pleasure watching these events unfold in the Liberal Party. We learnt our lesson — a hard lesson — five years ago. And for the last five years we’ve had the same leadership team; in that time, the Liberal Party has had five leadership teams. What this does, I think, is shatter faith and trust in democracy. We learnt our lesson the hard way. The Liberals didn’t learn from us. And the consequence of that is disillusionment with the political system, and that affects all of us in the political system, and I think undermines trust in democracy and undermines participation.

KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, do you agree with that sentiment? That, broadly, over the last few weeks, what we’ve seen is undermining trust in democracy?

GREINER: Well I think there is no doubt there is a loss of trust in a lot of institutions, including political institutions, including government; yeah, I think that is perfectly clear. And I do think the behaviour — Wayne skated around it nicely, you know, they’ve learnt their lesson, we haven’t — the truth is, neither side of politics in the years since John Howard has covered itself with glory, in terms of respecting the will of the electorate and both sides have tended to put their internal games – if you like, but they’re serious games – ahead of the wishes of the electorate at large. So, yeah, I think it would be ridiculous to pretend there isn’t an issue of trust in government; I think there clearly is. You’d like to think — I’d like to think — that both sides by now — and it’s about equal on the scoreboard — that they’d be deaf, dumb and blind on both sides if they haven’t learnt the lesson yet.

KARVELAS: Just on another big issue, and that’s women’s representation in the parliament, but very acutely in the Liberal Party. I’ll start with you, Nick Greiner. The Liberal Party’s Federal Executive Chair Helen Kroger has admitted she has no problem with quotas but can’t endorse them because Labor has killed the term “quota”. Is that how ridiculous the situation has become now — that you can’t back something because you think it’s somehow linked to the Labor Party?

GREINER: Oh, look, I can’t speak for Helen. I’d refer you and the viewers to my very excellent article in The Australian yesterday. I’m not hung up on the means to an end. The question is what are the results. The reality is that over the last year or so, the results in the federal Liberal Party, including in Wayne’s state of Queensland, we have started to do very much better in terms of endorsing women. We still — as you and I have discussed on this show previously, Patricia — we do have a way to go; I don’t deny that for a minute. I personally, if I had to be semantic, prefer targets to quotas, but frankly, all I care about at the end of the day, is I want the Liberal Party to be broadly representative of the community that it seeks to serve. And that, of course, includes gender as a major factor, but it also includes ethnicity — which our candidate in Wentworth is a great example; he’ll be the first person of Indian heritage to represent us in Canberra if he wins — I think it applies to occupational background, where we are doing a bit better than our political opponents, but where I think both of them have failed to get real diversity of background into the parliamentary parties. So look, it’s a serious issue, it’s a serious part of the doubt, if you like, over our democracy. So while I do think the Libs are doing better than we’re generally given credit for, I don’t for a minute deny that we’ve got a lot more to do.

KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, Labor has been boasting about its number of women, but in Tasmania, Lisa Singh has been put into an unwinnable spot. You’ve got some issues about that too don’t you?

SWAN: Well, we also have strong female representation in the Labor Party, and after the next election, virtually whatever the outcome, we’ll have 50-per-cent-plus women in the federal parliamentary Labor Party. In my home state here, in the northern suburbs, we have three talented young women running. And in my case, they’re replacing a male Member of Parliament. Quotas work because they change the culture, and they take time to work. That’s now coming home for the Labor Party in quite a radical way. And it’s not just in terms of female representation; we have been much more diverse in terms of female representation but other backgrounds as well. And I think our Party, as a consequence of quotas and other measures, looks a lot more like the community in which we live than the modern Liberal Party.

GREINER: Yeah, Patricia, if I can just say, I really wonder whether people in Wentworth — and it’s a really current, this-week example — there were, eight candidates were women. The person who won was clearly outstanding on the night and generally. Does anyone really think the people of Wentworth would have preferred us to go on a strict gender basis — which might be a quota if you like — rather than select the outstanding candidate? I’d be bemused if that’s what the people of Wentworth wanted.

SWAN: But if you have quotas and they are well established over years, then what would have happened in Wentworth is there would have been, I think, much more female participation in the preselection process and getting ready for it. Quotas give you time for people to position themselves, for local electorates to know there will be a need for female representation. And it hasn’t worked the way Nick just suggested in Wentworth in the Labor Party. Plenty of women have lined up and there’s been lots of contests. It’s not a question of just knocking out talent; there’s a lot of talent in our community, and when there’s a quota, and they know there’ll be a need for female representation, people go there early, get ready, and they generally come through. That’s not to say that talented men don’t get preselected; they clearly do. But across the party, with quotas, people get ready, it takes time, and you’re seeing the fruits of that now in the Labor Party. It’s one thing we’ve done very well. We’ve got to fix our game in many other areas, but in this area, quotas have worked.

KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, the Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, says the party should have an independent and confidential process that can assist when and where concerns are raised with the party’s organisation. And that’s in the wake of all of this bullying and intimidation reporting. Is that a good idea?

GREINER: It’s basically, the way we’re structured, it’s a matter for the states. As I understand it — and I’ve checked — each state has its own arrangements; they’re not all identical. If the states want to coordinate and have the same arrangement, I don’t mind, but there are existing arrangements. And I accept — and I did say on the weekend — I accept that the parliamentary workplace is different from most workplaces in Australia in terms of standards of behaviour, and it is not reasonable for that to go on. I do think it’s more an issue for those — the party leaders, the whips, the people who work in parliament — than it is for the organisation, but I wouldn’t turn my face away from there being an organisational effort to address this. In our case, it might well be state-by-state.

KARVELAS: I want to thank you both for coming in; it’s been a really interesting conversation. Thank you.

GREINER: Thanks Patricia.

SWAN: Good to be with you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra