Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 7 July 2023






SUBJECTS: Robodebt Royal Commission report; Donald Trump Jr visa. 

NATALIE BARR: The long‑awaited Robodebt Royal Commission report will be released today with adverse findings expected to be delivered against up to 20 people. That could include former PM Scott Morrison, and former ministers, Stuart Robert, Alan Tudge, and Christian Porter, as well as some senior bureaucrats who were involved in the automated scheme. In the time it operated, the scheme illegally raised welfare debts against more than half a million Australians.

Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare, and Nationals’ Senator, Bridget McKenzie. Good morning to both of you. Bridget, if adverse findings are made against current and former Coalition MPs including a former Prime Minister, how should they be dealt with?

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Great to be with you, Nat. Obviously the Royal Commission’s being handed to the Governor‑General later on this morning, and we’ll wait to see what those findings are before commenting in detail, but I’m sure Jason will agree, as a former Cabinet Minister, and himself now as a Cabinet Minister, our first assumption of proposals being brought to Cabinet would be that they’re legal under Australian law, and that we need our public servants to be frank and fearless in giving us advice as ministers, so that we can make the very best decisions on behalf of the Australian people.

BARR: Yeah, because this was mathematically flawed, it was ruled unlawful; there were half a million victims. People took their own lives over this. Bridget, you must have some kind of view on what should happen. It’s pretty obvious that people did the wrong thing here. 

MCKENZIE: Well, Nat, in my experience it doesn’t pay for politicians to comment on legal proceedings, Integrity Commissions, or indeed Royal Commission findings until we actually see the outcomes. This was a comprehensive Royal Commission. We heard from former prime ministers, former ministers, senior public servants, and indeed the broader public on this particular issue, and I think the findings are going to be very fulsome and give us some, I hope, ways to ensure that this can’t happen again.

BARR: Jason, what do you expect out of the Robodebt Royal Commission report?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Nat, there’s a report in the papers today about a mum named Jennifer Miller, and her son, Rhys who committed suicide a couple of years ago. He was being chased for an $18,000 debt that he didn’t owe. I’m thinking about her, and I’m thinking about families like that today, before we even get to what the report says. 

There are a number of people who committed suicide, others who tried to take their own life, ended up in hospital, and they’re still on medication today. They’re the real‑life human consequences of what happened here. We’ll get the report in a couple of hours, and that will set out who did the wrong thing, but in all of that, let’s not forget the real‑life human tragedy here, and people like Jennifer Miller, who are still dealing with the loss of their son.

BARR: Exactly. And we’ll wait for that report as it comes out today. Moving on, the Home Affairs Minister has been forced to delete a tweet in which she attacked the son of former US President, Donald Trump. Clare O’Neil labelled Donald Trump Junior a “sore loser”, and a quote – “big baby who isn’t very popular” – unquote, after he postponed his speaking tour of Australia. 

Tour organisers claim Trump postponed his trip due to visa delays, which the government rejects. Jason, were those tweet by the Minister acceptable?

CLARE: Clare’s deleted the tweets. I think that’s the right thing to do. We don’t always get it right, and I think Clare’s recognised that, and that’s why she’s deleted the tweet. 

BARR: Should she apologise, Jason? 

CLARE: I don’t know if it’s about an apology. You know, we’ve all tweeted things that we might regret in the past, but rather than standing on your haunches and say, you know, “I did the right thing,” if you think, “Oh, probably shouldn’t have said that” – delete it. That’s the right thing to do. 

BARR: Bridget, was this a woke tweet?

MCKENZIE: Look, Nat, America is our most important ally. I think the Minister for Home Affairs needs to realise she’s the Minister of the Crown now, not running for student politics, and name‑calling senior people, potentially could be, you know, a future President’s son, name‑calling them in this sort of adolescent, juvenile way, does require apology. We have a serious relationship with the United States, and I found that quite juvenile. I don’t think deleting it is enough. She’s the Minister for Home Affairs now, not running for student politics. 

BARR: Jason, it sounds like she was called in to line by Penny Wong’s office, and others. Do you think she now should apologise? 

CLARE: I don’t know about that. I was in a meeting for four hours with Education Ministers yesterday and heard about this afterwards. But when I saw it, I thought, look, it’s the right thing to do to delete it, and that’s what’s happened.

BARR: Thank you very much, we’ll see you next week.




Media Contact: Nick Trainor 02 6277 7350