Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 1 March 2024


SUBJECTS: ASIO; Dunkley by-election; Prime Minister’s birthday

NATALIE BARR: Calls are growing this morning for our top spy agency to reveal the identity of the Australian politician who sold out our country to advance the interests of a foreign regime.

The head of ASIO declined to name the figure saying it was a historic matter, and the individual was, “No longer of security concern.” But that isn’t enough to satisfy former Treasurer, Joe Hockey. He wants the government to identify the culprit, saying it casts a shadow over the entire political class.

For more, let’s bring in Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.


SUSSAN LEY: Good morning.

BARR: Jason, do Australians deserve to know who the traitor is?

CLARE: G’day, Nat. This is not a game of Guess Who, this is serious. The boss of ASIO, the person who’s responsible for national security in this country, has made the decision that if he was to reveal the name, then it would undermine the work that ASIO does to keep us safe here.

He said in a statement yesterday that it would reveal sources and techniques to the country that was involved in this. I don’t think any of us want to undermine the national security of the country. I’m just glad that we’ve got a security agency that caught this and stopped all of this in its tracks.

BARR: Yeah, you’re right. I guess we know it’s not you two, because it was – they’re saying it’s a former politician, we don’t know man or woman, but Sussan, if you’re a former politician, this besmirches your character, doesn’t it?

SUSSAN LEY: Yes, he does, Nat. And Mike Burgess is a terrific Director‑General of ASIO, and he’s doing a good job.  But I agree with Joe Hockey; he does need to clear this up. It does cast this cloud over every single former politician, and you know, we need information. So I think he does need to clear this up.

We believe absolutely in keeping the community safe. In government we provided record funding and reforms around foreign espionage laws and counterintelligence, and we all, I think, are on a unity ticket about the importance of those things, but yes, he does need to clear this up.

BARR: Jason, Peter Dutton says he suspects it’s Labor, and they’re from New South Wales. Do you know, because that’s close to you, isn’t it?

CLARE: Just absolute rubbish, and typical of Peter Dutton, trying to point the finger. Yesterday he was making other allegations about Victoria which have been proved to be absolutely false as well.

There’s a lesson here; trust our National Security Agencies to get this right, they did here. Trust them when they say that this is about making sure that we don’t give other countries that want to do us harm any leg up here by revealing how we keep the country safe, and listen to the police. That’s the approach that we should be taking.

BARR: Okay. Let’s go on to something else that’s happening this weekend. Voters in the South East Melbourne seat of Dunkley will go to the polls tomorrow in what’s been called a high-stakes litmus test for the government.

An exclusive poll for the nightly newspapers shows Labor holds a 34 to 24 lead over the Libs while 26 per cent are undecided. Jason, how are you feeling, ’cause that’s quite a high undecided vote so far.

CLARE: Nat, I wish we weren’t having a byelection at all. I wish my friend Peta Murphy was still alive, I really do. Jodie Belyea, our candidate there, was a friend of Peta’s. I know she wants to be able to continue the work that Peta did, and I hope that the people of Dunkley put their trust in her tomorrow.

There’s a real choice. We are cutting taxes, the Liberal Party have nothing to offer here except for what we saw yesterday, which is really just a grubby, desperate scare campaign. The Australian people rejected all of that from the Liberal Party at the last election, and I hope the people of Dunkley reject it tomorrow.

BARR: Yeah, as they say a week’s a long time in politics, so the last election, I guess is a lifetime ago. Sussan, new internal Liberal polling shows you could secure a swing of around 5 per cent. That means it will be close. Are you expecting to win?

LEY: It’s going to be very tough, because the margin is 6 per cent, and that is high, Nat. But everyone in Dunkley, which includes the city of Frankston, should ask them, do you feel any better off today than you did when Anthony Albanese became Prime Minister? This byelection won’t change the government, but it can send the Prime Minister a really strong message about the cost of living, and how that’s hurting every single person in the electorate of Dunkley.

Now I’ve stood on the polling booth with Nathan Conroy. He’s a local champion, he’s got everyone’s back, and so many people recognise that he will be a fighter for their community if he’s elected tomorrow. He’s just someone who understands, completely gets it, comes from a background where he’s done it tough, too.

So, I really look forward to the people of Dunkley thinking about that, you know, “Do we feel any better off, do we think the country is in a better place?” Because from the responses they gave me on that polling booth the answer is, “Well, no, we don’t.” And there is a real opportunity to send Anthony Albanese a strong message.

CLARE: Sussan, if Peta was still alive today, she’d be disgusted with you and that tweet that you put out yesterday. Police have withdrawn the charges, and you should delete that tweet. All that shows is just how desperate you and the Liberal Party are and I think the people of Dunkley will see through that tomorrow.

BARR: Of course, we’re talking about the man arrested who was let go.

LEY: Jason, your Home Affairs – excuse me, Nat.

BARR: Yes, Sussan.

LEY: Yeah, I want to make this point, Nat, that Jason’s Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil, said every one of those individuals who has been let out, those hardened criminals should be locked up. It includes 37 sex offenders. As a woman, I am not taking a backward step on this, and I’m calling it out.

CLARE: Well, you should delete the tweet. This is a classic example of where the Liberal Party…

LEY: I’m not taking instructions from you, Jason.

CLARE: …should let the police do their job. And this is a classic example of why women aren’t joining the Liberal Party, and why they aren’t voting for the Liberal Party because of this sort of classic, desperate, grubby political scare campaign that we saw from the Liberal Party yesterday. They did it at the last election and this shows just how desperate they are again today.

LEY: Anyone who watched Question Time during this week and saw your hapless, hopeless Immigration Minister unable to demonstrate that even knows where these criminals are, what they’re doing, who’s monitoring them and whether the community is safe, would probably not agree with what you’ve just said, Jason.

CLARE: I don’t know, really, Sussan, you must wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and think, “After 25 years of being a Member of Parliament, is this what I’ve become, that I’m reduced to putting out tweets like this.” 

BARR: Okay. Let’s move on, shall we. We’ll finally finish on the Prime Minister’s birthday tomorrow, where we? He’s revealing he’ll return to Sydney to be with his family, rather than stay in Dunkley for that result. Jason, do you think that will hurt your chances, and what do you get the PM for his birthday present?

CLARE: Probably another South Sydney jersey, or something like that. I think he’s having dinner with Jodie and his son tomorrow, but Souths are playing Manly on Sunday, so I definitely know what he’ll be doing on the weekend; he’ll be cheering on Souths.

BARR: Yes, exactly. He’s not going to Vegas though.


BARR: Sussan, any birthday wishes for the PM?

LEY: Well, happy birthday to the PM, and the Treasurer; they share the same birthday.

BARR: Yeah.

LEY: Last week the Prime Minister caught up with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, so I’m looking forward to hearing which international pop star he might be seeing on his birthday, Nat.

BARR: Gee, politics is fun, isn’t it? Have a good weekend, everybody. We’ll see you next week.

CLARE: See ya later.