Television interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 10 March 2023

FRIDAY, 10 MARCH 2023 

SUBJECTS: AUKUS, Hillsong Church

NATALIE BARR: More information on the AUKUS submarine deal has been revealed this morning, with Australia set to buy eight American and British made nuclear subs. The leaked plan is likely to cost Australian taxpayers billions of dollars. The defence investment will be the most significant Australia has made since World War II. Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. This deal will create more than 10,000 jobs, but the deal won’t be finalised until the 2030s. How is this going to benefit Australia, Jason?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G’day, Nat. The Prime Minister will announce all of the details on Tuesday morning, our time. He’ll be in San Diego with the US President and the Prime Minister of the UK, and he’ll set out all the details there. This is a big deal. It’s a big investment in our national security. We’ve got to make sure that we can defend ourselves, defend our country and our people, and that’s what this is about. But it also creates a new industry for Australia and will create, as you’ve just pointed out, thousands of jobs and a whole bunch of new businesses.

BARR: Yeah, Sussan, the other sub deal we did, those ones won’t be ready for 15 to 20 years. These will be ready, I think, in about ten. So, this is supposed to stem the gap. Should we have thought about maybe getting them done a bit earlier while your government was in power, do you think?

SUSSAN LEY: Well, Nat, let’s see what the announcement brings next week. But I agree with Jason, national security is above politics. I’m excited for the jobs, of course, and I’ll be listening to the announcement closely. AUKUS is a foundational national security pact for our country. It will set us up for decades to come. I was part of the Cabinet that announced AUKUS and that critical partnership between Australia, the US and the UK underpins this. And as I said, I’m excited for the jobs in Australia, the new industries, the new innovation, and let’s wait and see what is announced next week by the Prime Minister.

BARR: OK, moving on. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has accused the Hillsong Church and former leader Brian Houston of extensive financial fraud. He claimed some of the lavish spending would embarrass a Kardashian. Sussan, was it appropriate for Andrew Wilkie to walk into Parliament and use privilege to make those allegations?

LEY: Well, these allegations were, as you say, Nat, made under parliamentary privilege. And as a result of them, I’m sure the organisation will be investigated. But let me make it clear, these allegations are about the organisation, not about the people. It’s not a crime to be a person of faith in Australia, and I know Jason would agree with many people of faith in Western Sydney.

BARR: Yeah, Jason, they’re pretty strong allegations. Fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, that Cartier watches and Louis Vuitton bags and thousands of dollars’ worth of custom skateboards were ordered and the tax office was offered the files, but they weren’t acted on. That is a serious allegation.

CLARE: I agree with Sussan on this. I think the church, in the reporting on Sunrise this morning, has already recognised that they’ve made mistakes with governance and made apologies for that. But these are serious allegations. If you are a member of the congregation and you’ve made donations to the church, then you’d be legitimately worried about where your money has gone here. It’s important that they’re investigated by the charities watchdog, but also by the tax office, and ASIC and I think if I’m right from reading the stories in the paper this morning, that this is before the court at the moment as well.

BARR: Yeah. So, should the tax office have investigated it when they were offered the files Jason?

CLARE: I don’t know what investigation they did Nat, but from the nature of the allegations that have been put before the Parliament and the nature of the response from the church, it seems like the sort of thing that the tax office needs to take seriously.

BARR: Okay, thank you both. See you next week.