Interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today Show – Friday, 25 March 2016


SUBJECT/S: Arthur Sinodinos – donations scandal; Malcolm Turnbull’s dysfunctional Government; ABCC; election

LISA WILKINSON: Here with me is Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy and Shadow Minister for Communications, Jason Clare. Good morning gentlemen.



WILKINSON: Happy Easter to you too. Now Wyatt I’m going to start with you. Arthur Sinodinos was Treasurer of the state Liberal Party at the time of these donations. Unless he’s got something to hide, why would he refuse to reveal where these donations came from.

ROY: I must confess I am not an expert of the inner workings of the New South Wales Liberal Party. I think this is in regards to the 2011 State election.

WILKINSON: That’s true and he was Treasurer at that time.

ROY: That’s true, he was. As the Prime Minister said last night, of course all of these donations should be disclosed under the law and that is exactly what should happen. I did notice that Arthur put out a statement last night saying that some of the claims made by the electoral commission were wrong and I’ll let them prosecute that argument. Basically I think the understanding was that he wasn’t asked to disclose that as it was sort of reported and I’ll let his statement stand. And we’ll see what comes of it.

WILKINSON: Wasn’t he asked to disclose at the time?

ROY: I’m not sure actually of the inner workings of that but Arthur has basically said that there has been some misreporting on what’s happened from the Electoral Commission and we’ll see this flesh itself out. Of course these should be disclosed under the letter of the law that makes perfect sense.

CLARE: Lisa part of the problem is that it seems like almost every other week there is another member of the Government that is under investigation from the police, or from ICAC and now from the Electoral Commission. I think Arthur Sinodinos is in a lot of trouble. Remember, as you said, he was the Finance Director of the Liberal Party when this happened. If the Liberal Party now reveals that these were illegal donations that were made to the Liberal Party when Arthur Sinodinos was in charge of the finances of the Liberal Party then I think his position becomes untenable because he was the man in charge of finances for the Liberal Party when all these illegal donations were made.

WILKINSON: When we say illegal donations the problem is you’re not allowed – if you’re a property developer for example – you’re not allowed to make those donations because the idea is that will equal some sort of favourable decision from the government in return.

CLARE: The law in New South Wales is very clear and that is for state elections you can’t donate to a political party if you are a property developer. What looks like has happened here is the Liberal Party has allowed property developers to donate to the Liberal Party and then they have hidden that. Arthur Sinodinos was in charge of the finances of the Liberal Party when this happened and so if he was responsible for it then I think his position becomes untenable.

WILKINSON: And untenable particularly at a time Wyatt where we are leading up to an election clearly, maybe even sooner than we originally thought and the Prime Minister told me earlier this week that Arthur Sinodinos is such a trusted part of his inner circle that Arthur Sinodinos knew that the budget was being brought forward before the actual Treasurer did. I mean this is a man in a very trusted position.

ROY: Arthur is an enormous contributor to the Government. He’s been around a long time. He’s very wise, he provides incredibly wise counsel to the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet. He’s a key player and I think that we are fortunate to have him. He’s put out a statement saying that the claims that the Electoral Commission made are false and I think that we shouldn’t be jumping to any conclusions in this case. And of course the donations should be disclosed under the law.

WILKINSON: If it’s found that he hasn’t done everything according to the letter of the electoral law should he stand down.

ROY: That is an enormous hypothetical. I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt given the statement he has put out.

WILKINSON: At the moment the Electoral Commission are holding back four million dollars in funds.

ROY: I think that we should give him the benefit of the doubt obviously given this story has just broken, that he has put out a statement contradicting it. I don’t think that we should get into those sorts of hypotheticals.

CLARE: Here’s the problem for the Prime Minister, Wyatt and the Liberal Party – the election was effectively called this week, we’ve got 99 days until the election effectively and it hasn’t been a great start for Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve had Tony Abbott undermining Malcolm Turnbull from London, we’ve had Malcolm Turnbull undermining Scott Morrison and now you’ve got Arthur Sinodinos allegedly involved in this illegal slush fund and no talk about health, education or jobs.

ROY: I would just make one point, we are talking about corruption here. The reason the Prime Minister is recalling the parliament is to consider the Australian Building and Construction Commission which was a successful policy that existed before which was about ensuing that the rule of law was maintained on our worksites. We know the construction industry contributes – is the third largest contributor to the economy and employs over one million people. The Labor Party isn’t as excited about the rule of law being maintained on construction workplaces which will help economic growth, will help Australians get more jobs and we’ll have this political argument –

CLARE: Wyatt the standard you set for unions has got to be the standard you’ve got to set for your own Ministers.

ROY: And we should have this debate in the Parliament about the Construction Commission.

CLARE: Happy to.

ROY: This is a successful policy that existed in the past, everyone knows the militancy that we see on construction sites in this country that is stopping economic growth and the creation of jobs for Australians. That’s a really good reason to bring back the Parliament.

CLARE: People want to talk about jobs, they want to talk about health care, they want to make sure that they can actually get into hospital and get the services they need, they want to make sure their kids have got a great education but all we are seem to be talking about in the first week of an election campaign is Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Arthur Sinodinos. People don’t want us talking about ourselves, they want us to talk about what we can do for the country and that’s Malcolm Turnbull’s problem at the moment.

WILKINSON: With 99 days to go, is the Labor Party ready to jump the gun and –

CLARE: We certainly are. I think we are the underdog, we have to make history to win this election but we’ve got two things in our favour Lisa. The first is that we are united, you’ve got the Liberal Party at each others throats and the second is we’ve got policies, great policies. Where as in the Liberal Party at the moment the problem is they talked about cutting income tax. The talk for the last few weeks is cutting income tax, now that’s been ditched and now they are talking about company tax. I think that is rubbing salt in the wounds of everybody watching this morning, to think that companies are going to get a tax cut but Australian workers aren’t.

ROY: Of course under Labor everyone gets taxed more.

WILKINSON: Hang on, I’m in charge here. You’ve got a problem with Bill Shorten’s popularity but that’s going to have to be a subject for another day. Gentlemen thanks so much for your time this morning.

ROY: Thanks so much.

CLARE: Thanks Lisa.