Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 21 October 2022


SUBJECTS: Resignation of British PM; Cost of living; Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe; Medibank data breach.

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Liz Truss’s resignation makes her the shortest-serving Prime Minister in British history. For their views, let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. Jason, politics, we know, can be tough. This was just a disaster from beginning to end, though.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: It’s just amazing, isn’t it? I think Scott Morrison took longer to move out of Kirribilli than Liz Truss was British Prime Minister. I feel sorry for her. Politics is a tough business, but ultimately 44 days, she’ll end up going down in history as a pub trivia question.

BARR: You’re right. Sussan, how did they get it so wrong?

SUSSAN LEY: I feel for Liz Truss this morning. I think with all of the lampooning that we’re going to see throughout the day, let’s not forget she’s a human being. She’s a woman who stepped up in politics to make her Party and her country a better place. She stepped down today. And it’s a tough time for the UK. They’ve lost the Queen, and you always need a good government and a good opposition to get good overall outcomes. But today I really feel for her.

BARR: Any takers on whether Boris Johnson will come back? No takers at all?

LEY: No takers at all.

CLARE: I wouldn’t rule anything in or out in British politics at the moment.

BARR: Okay. Back home, the cost of fruit and vegetables is forecast to rise sharply due to all the east coast flooding. Experts say customers can expect an 8 per cent hike in the price of fresh produce. That’s over the next six months. Adding, of course, to all the cost-of-living pressures that come as the Federal Government announces a $3 billion amount that’s going to be set aside for natural disaster recovery. This is going to hit people’s hip pocket, Jason. Everyone is going to be hit by this.

CLARE: Massive. It will hit everyone who goes to the supermarket. The first priority is people who’ve lost everything at the moment, people who’ve had their homes flooded and destroyed, people who are still isolated, being evacuated. Sussan, in your neck of the woods where the water is still rising. But you’re right, everybody who goes to the supermarket is going to feel this eventually.

I think the other point to mention here is that this is not over, that we’re in for a wet, and we’re told, a dangerous summer. People are talking about as many as 11 cyclones. And so, we’ve got to get ready for that and plan for that.

BARR: So, $3 billion. Is that going to be enough, Sussan?

LEY: We’ll watch where this money goes, Nat, and to make sure it goes to flood-affected communities. But remember, we already know before this that the cost of living is going to hit the average household by $2,000 more before Christmas. Before the election, Anthony Albanese promised that no-one would be left behind. We need to know that the Budget that comes down in a few days’ time delivers on that promise to leave no-one behind.

BARR: Yeah, you guys are in the hot seat now. You know, you said power prices are going to come down. They’re going up. It’s really difficult for you.

CLARE: People who have been hit the hardest are people on low incomes, the poorest of Aussies. That’s why the first thing we did was make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to increase the minimum wage. It’s gone up by over 5 per cent. We supported it; the Libs opposed it. They’re the sort of basic common-sense things that people are going to need – a little bit of extra money in their pocket when the cost of everything goes up.

BARR: Yeah, except fruit and veggies –

LEY: Cost of living is critical. Cost of living is everything at the moment. And that plan is a meaningful one I hope that people can rely on. But I’m not confident, given what’s come out of the Labor Party to date, that we actually have that plan in place that doesn’t leave people behind. When we see these escalating costs outstripping any wage increases and really worrying people – 35 per cent increases in power prices have been predicted. The businesses I visit say, “How can I actually pay these bills?” That’s what concerns me, and Christmas is a tough time, Nat.

BARR: Exactly. And fruit and veg have already eaten that up. That’s the problem. So, we’ll look forward to the mini-budget.

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has admitted to having an undisclosed relationship with a former bikie president while on a Parliamentary law enforcement committee. Greens Leader Adam Bandt asked Senator Thorpe to resign as the Party’s Deputy Senate Leader but is allowing her to continue to lead the party on Indigenous issues.

Jason, how did this happen, where Indigenous groups are saying she shouldn’t be leading the Party on Indigenous issues this morning?

CLARE: It’s a clear-cut conflict of interest. You can’t be on an inquiry investigating outlaw motorcycle gangs and be in a relationship with an outlaw motorcycle member, a bikie. It seems to me a no-brainer here that there is a massive conflict of interest.

BARR: How did Adam Bandt not know, Sussan Ley? He says he didn’t know, but people are saying they reported this to his office.

LEY: I think there are serious questions to answer. And as Jason has said, you can’t be receiving confidential briefings during the day about outlaw motorcycle gangs and be in bed with one of them at night. That’s not on. This is a woman who has disrespected the Senate, disowned the Australian flag, called the British nation colonisers after the death of Queen Elizabeth, and it goes on. As I understand it, there will be a censure motion moved in the Senate when we return. And, Jason, I hope your party supports it.

BARR: We have a problem with hacking, obviously. Another major company, Medibank – our Prime Minister is a Medibank customer – and we’ve got hackers this morning threatening to release everyone’s private information, this time not just personal details –

CLARE: Yeah, it’s a bit different this, isn’t it?

BARR: Health and medical information, private information. What’s the Government going to do about this?

CLARE: The first thing is you’ve got to get the Federal Police and ASD on the case. And I think you’ve got Clare O’Neil, the Home Affairs Minister, on a little later this morning to talk about that. So you’ve got law enforcement chasing these crooks down. It’s a little bit different to Optus where the door was effectively left open for the crooks to come in. We’re talking about serious crooks here.

The advice that we’ve got is that Medibank did the right thing – they alerted the Government and the agencies as soon as possible. But they thought that the crooks didn’t get this information. They did. And these are serious crooks threatening what Clare O’Neil described as a ‘dog act’ yesterday. And so, the work the Federal Police and ASD do to track these people down is very, very important.

LEY: It took a week. It took a week for the Minister to say something. And you’re right, Nat, the thought of someone’s health information, particularly mental health information that’s incredibly private, being out there. We don’t actually know how much information is there or whether it’s just personal, how much is medical and so on. So, I think the Government has been slow to react while respecting the process –

CLARE: Sussan, why are you so negative about everything?

LEY: I’m not negative at all, Jason.

CLARE: You are. You are. This is getting ridiculous. Every week, negative about everything. This should be an area of bipartisanship.

LEY: I’m holding the Government to account. Holding the Government to account.

CLARE: You’ve got Medibank contact us, they say, “We don’t think anything’s been stolen.” We say, “Okay, good work.” Then they come back –

LEY: And your Minister takes a week –

CLARE: No. Then they come back to us this week and say it has been stolen, “The crooks have contacted us and told us that they’re going to ransom this information.”

BARR: But should they have known, Jason?

CLARE: Medibank should have known. What I’m saying is Medibank contacted us last week and said nothing was stolen. Then the crooks contacted them this week and said, “Give us money or we’ll release it.”

LEY: Maybe – maybe –

CLARE: The police are on the case.

LEY: Maybe I’m a little bit negative because there’s $60 million in grant funding to address cyber concerns and support to organisations to be more robust when it comes to cybercrime that your government has frozen. They’re actually not proceeding with it.

CLARE: What? Are you saying the AFP are not up to the task? Are you saying that ASD aren’t up to the task?

LEY: This is a separate matter. No, I’m saying that your government has frozen $60 million in grants for cyber security, and that makes no sense at all.

CLARE: What I’m saying is there are legitimate reasons for us to fight about politics when you oppose, an increase in the minimum wage. But when we’ve got law enforcement fighting to protect the security of people’s data, that’s where an opposition would usually say, “Let’s hope that the AFP catch the crooks.”

BARR: Well, the other side of this, the Minister is coming on next and she’s saying that Australia’s cyber law policies are five years behind. So, there’s definitely two sides of this. We thank you for your views. Talk to you next week.

CLARE: Cheers.