Transcript of doorstop interview, Istanbul
THU 26 APRIL 2012
Subject(s): Visit to Turkey; Peter Slipper; Health Services Union
PM: Yesterday I had the wonderful honour of attending Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli.
Today I’m focusing on the broader aspects of our bilateral relationship with Turkey, which is far broader than the cooperation that they give us to facilitate so many Australians and New Zealanders who want to come here and to see Gallipoli for themselves.
Today I will be here in Istanbul and then in Ankara. Here, of course, in Istanbul I will be undertaking two events before I go across to Ankara.
Those events will be as follows: this morning I will be meeting with His Holiness the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. He is a significant religious figure and particularly a significant religious figure for so many Australians.
I will be talking to him about inter-faith dialogue. He is also a man with a keen interest in environmental questions and the future of our planet and I will be speaking to him about those environmental issues.
I will then be inspecting an Austal Ferry here in Istanbul. This is a great Australian manufacturing success story.
And as I travel, I want to make sure we are bringing Australian manufacturing stories to the attention of our own nation and to the world.
There is a fashionable view that with manufacturing under pressure because of the high Australian dollar that we aren’t seeing success in manufacturing.
Here in Turkey, through the Austal Ferry, we can be very much making the point that there are success stories.
This is a company, high-end manufacturing, that has sold ten vessels to Turkey in recent years and has also had export success in Europe, the US and the Middle East.
I will then be flying to Ankara for a meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Gül. This is part of strengthening our bilateral relationship with Turkey.
We have a direct bilateral relationship and we are fellow members of the G20 and will host the G20 in sequence in 2014 and 2015.
So I will be sharing perspectives with Prime Minister Erdoğan about circumstances in the global economy and the outlook for the forthcoming G20.
I will also be thanking him for his strong and principled leadership on Syria where we remain deeply concerned by the ongoing violent and humanitarian crisis.
The Annan plan is the best hope for peace but the truth is it is hanging by a thread and it is being seriously undermined by ongoing violence in Syria. Syria must comply with its commitments under the plan.
Without a credible ceasefire UN peace monitors cannot do their work.
And so, if the Syrian Government continues to breach its obligations, Australia will support UN sanctions and an arms embargo. We have autonomous sanctions now and we will consider further autonomous sanctions in the future.
I’ll also be discussing with the Prime Minister, our shared concern about Iran’s nuclear program. We want to see a peaceful resolution of this.
We welcome the resumption of the P5+1 Talks. The ball is in Iran’s court and it must make meaningful and genuine commitments to meet international concerns about its nuclear program.
Finally of course, I will also be thanking both the Prime Minister and the President for Turkey’s strong commitment to Afghanistan, where like Australia, they have seen loss of life and I will be offering Australia’s condolences on that loss of life.
I’m happy to take some quick questions.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, on domestic matters, given Tony Windsor’s position on Peter Slipper do you now accept that it’s inevitable that Peter Slipper must stay stood aside pending the outcome of the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations as well and if he does are you confident you can maintain and deliver effective government with that setup?
PM: The best thing you can do in circumstances like this is to look to do what is right and based on the precedent of the Parliament. Not to try and invent rules as you go along but look to the history of the Parliament and what has been done in the past.
And when we look to the history of the Parliament, we can see a clear set of precedents where people have continued to function in their office while the subject of civil matters.
I believe Peter Slipper made the right decision in standing aside in relation to matters which potentially could result in criminal charges but let’s remember they are very categorically denied by Mr Slipper.
So this distinction has been made in the past, was made by the Howard Government, with circumstances like then Minister Malcolm Turnbull, being embroiled in the HIH litigation.
Indeed this distinction is being made by the Opposition even today with the position it’s taking in relation to one of its own South Australian Senators who is involved in civil proceedings.
So I think the best thing you can do in these circumstances is to look to the appropriate precedent and that’s what the appropriate precedent tells you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten has seemed not to set that distinction and has suggested that Mr Slipper is looking at his future. Is that a different position to yours, Prime Minister?
PM: I’ve been advised of Mr Shorten’s remarks, obviously he’s dealing with other matters today, and I think when you look at those remarks he does make the same distinction I’m making between criminal and civil matters.
JOURNALIST: What’s he alluding to when he says Mr Slipper may be making a decision in a couple of days?
PM: Well he indicated in his press statement that he hasn’t spoken directly to Mr Slipper.
JOURNALIST: Has Mr Slipper brought the office of the Speaker into disrepute?
PM: Mr Slipper, I believe, has made the right decision to step aside in relation to the matters that he has stepped aside for. He does contest these allegations and vigorously denied them.
Of course, I understand that there would be community concern as they watch this matter reported in the media and in the press, of course I understand that.
But I think people would also see that when allegations have been made, people need the opportunity to have both sides worked through, including Mr Slipper’s very direct denials of these allegations.
JOURNALIST: So the Government would oppose any motion to declare the Speakership vacant in relation to Mr Slipper?
PM: Look, I mean our position will be as I’ve outlined to you, that we think Mr Slipper has taken the right decision to stand aside in relation to the matters that he has identified as the ones he’s standing aside for and as to anything else, well I don’t understand how it is possible for the Opposition really, I mean you know they can be negative publicly, but I don’t understand how the Opposition can be consistent with its own actions in government and in Opposition to put a different view to the one that I’m putting.
And I would very directly refer you to the circumstances of their own South Australian Liberal Senator today where the Opposition has not at anytime suggested that he stand aside from the parliamentary positions he holds whilst he’s the subject of civil proceedings.
JOURNALIST: And what about Mr Windsor’s position that Mr Slipper has damaged the position as Speaker?
PM: Well, you know Mr Windsor’s comments are a matter for him.
JOURNALIST: Will you be seeking to talk to Mr Windsor and Mr Wilkie in the event they’re going to support any Opposition motion, (inaudible) like if Mr Slipper stands aside?
PM: I’m not going to deal with hypotheticals. I’ve got an important program here today for Australia’s relationship with Turkey and I’ll get about that program and then return to Australia.
JOURNALIST: Have you contacted any of the independents?
PM: No I have not.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of Bill Shorten’s decision to put HSU - Health Services Union - into administration?
PM: Well Mr Shorten has made a, has indicated today that the Government will seek to intervene in proceedings that are on foot before Fair Work Australia about the HSU.
I want Australian workers to have great trade unions; trade unions that serve their interests and that pursue those interests for people, you know, clearly and each and every day.
There are a series of proceedings on foot in relation to the HSU and I’m not going to comment on those but it is clear that there is continuing dysfunction within this union and because of that continuing dysfunction and its apparent inability therefore to properly service its members, the Government has taken the decision to intervene in these proceedings.
JOURNALIST: What’s changed Prime Minister, why are you acting now?
PM: Well we, these proceedings are on foot, they weren’t brought by the Government, the legal advice to us is that we can seek to have standing and intervene in these proceedings. So if you like there was a vehicle that we could use before Fair Work Australia.
JOURNALIST: Were you involved in the decision?
PM: Yes of course I was.
JOURNALIST: The HSU (inaudible)?
PM: Well you would expect a union that is dysfunctional to not like it when a government decides that they are going to intervene in proceedings and put that case.
I would remind that we are talking about parts of this union that are clearly dysfunctional and we’ll be making that point in the proceedings.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister would you be concerned that any of the current leadership of the HSU East Branch attempt to make a comeback?
PM: I’m not sure what you mean by that.
JOURNALIST: Like aren’t they (inaudible)?
PM: Well there’s a set of proceedings here on foot, there’s, you know, people who are bringing charges against each other within the union’s proceedings.
Nothing the Government has done today stops those matters coming to fruition. What the Government is seeking is the appointment of an administrator so we can be certain that this union is being conducted properly and in the interests of its members.
Okay I do have to go, thank you very much.