By Matt Keogh MP

17 June 2020


SUBJECTS: Branch stacking; State border closures; Australian Defence Industry

ASHLEIGH GILLON, HOST: Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, Labor’s Matt Keogh, I appreciate your time. As we saw there we’re seeing suggestions that Labor branch stacking could be a wider problem beyond Victoria. There are concerns being raised about New South Wales. Do you have any worries about branch stacking in your home state of WA? Could it be worth broadening the review to review the culture in states outside of Victoria?

MATT KEOGH MP: Well in Western Australia we undertook some significant rule changes probably a year ago, to make sure we didn’t have the problems of branch stacking in Western Australia because there was concern of that and we changed our rules to avoid cash payments for memberships as well as a number of other changes that were taken at that time, so I’m reasonably confident that to my own knowledge we don’t have that problem occurring as we’ve seen reported in other states happening in Western Australia.

GILLON – On the issue of Western Australia, you’ve said the Prime Minister should be keeping his nose out of WA in relation to the Federal Government Court intervention into the border dispute. You’ve even gone as far as labelling Scott Morrison a bully when it comes to this issue. You have a legal background – surely you have respect for the advice that’s been given to the Federal Government that the border closures are not lawful, that they are in fact unconstitutional?

KEOGH: Well that remains to be seen and it’s Clive Palmer of all people who has brought that action against the state of Western Australia but I think what everyone would have to agree is that Mark McGowan as the Premier of Western Australia has done a fantastic job managing the COVID-19 crisis for the people of Western Australia and we’re down to, I believe, two active cases in Western Australia. A large part of being able to manage that has been being able to manage the flow of people in and out of Western Australia.

The State Government has been very constructive in the way that it’s managed that. It’s still ensured that industry and business has been able to continue as much as possible by ensuring, in particular, our resources industry is being able to get on with the job of keeping the economy going as much as it can, not just for Western Australia but indeed the entire nation, and what we’ve seen now as a consequence of those great decisions is the economy is opening in Western Australia faster than it is in any other part of the country. Our restrictions have been lifted faster and that’s enabled businesses to start reopening and start getting into creating jobs and making sure those who lost their jobs or were stood down are able to get back to work.

So the decisions taken, including closing the border has been very positive. They’ve been very positively regarded by the people of Western Australia and it’s important during what is still a continuing health crisis across the nation, that we take all the appropriate steps. The last thing anyone in any business or any individual across Australia wants to see, is a second wave. So I think it’s important that the Western Australian Government continues to respond to the medical advice it is receiving, is taking prudent steps to make sure there’s no second wave in Western Australia and that ensures when businesses do reopen, that they’re able to stay open and they’re not put at further risk.

In the discussions I’ve been having with small businesses across the country, largely via video in my capacity as Shadow Minister Assisting for Small and Family Business, the biggest fear businesses have is a second wave and the other thing they’re concerned about is as they reopen is whether business actually returns, are people happy to come out, into their shops and engage with them? Now we’ve seen pretty positive steps around that but that is a concern and the environment of safety that’s created by having the strong border in Western Australia is a critical part of that for Western Australians.

Now for Scott Morrison to be standing over here in Canberra shouting at the Premier of Western Australia, shouting at the Premier of Queensland, shouting at other state leaders about “you should go and open your borders" – I don’t see Scott Morrison opening an international border by the way, because he knows that would be the wrong thing to do. Part of managing that is making sure there are proper requirements around who moves in and out of states. Now obviously those state borders are going to come down, in time, as is appropriate, and because the case load in different states is different, that’s going to happen in a different way in every state.

So I don’t see why, when Scott Morrison tries to talk up this unity around the national cabinet that he’s created, he then walks out of those meetings and starts bullying Premiers via the media and via press conferences. It’s not appropriate, he doesn’t need to do it, and what’s the most important thing is we keep people safe so we can enable these businesses to reopen in their own jurisdictions first and then we can look at how we reintegrate that across the federation.

GILLON: Well the local tourism sector is disagreeing; we’re seeing new analysis today that on average there are 42 jobs a day being lost every day that interstate visitors are banned so the economic imperative is getting them open ASAP. We are almost out of time; I do want to ask you about your portfolio, you’ve written a piece today about the need, post COVID, to look close to home for Defence Industry suppliers. You make the point in this article that is just 10% more of the defence industry spend wound up in Australia, rather than overseas, we’d see an extra $2 billion spent in our economy annually. If you were the Minister would you be focused on procuring a specific portion of suppliers from Australia? Is a protectionist stance what we need right now?

KEOGH: One of the key problems we’ve seen from this Government in managing the defence industry is they haven’t made any firm commitments at all about making sure proportions of the spend on major projects are actually happening in Australia. They’ve got a best endeavours clause with no actual requirement to provide a guarantee to Australian industry and crucially, it doesn’t see the necessary development of our sovereign capability here in Australia. All of the issues that have arisen through COVID-19 have shown, we need to have a stronger local manufacturing base here in Australia. The capacity to do that is presented through the defence industry. We’ve already got a lot of money being spent, and the Government needs to do more to ensure more of that is being spent here in Australia, developing those businesses and developing that supply chain locally. We’ve been very critical of the Government for not having firm requirements about delivering on that when it comes to future submarines, when it comes to future frigates, when it comes to a range of projects that this government is spending $200 billion on over the next decade.

GILLON: … But what would your requirement be?

KEOGH: This is what we are saying; the Government needs firm requirements that are enforceable against these large international companies that are providing these projects, to make sure they actually deliver on engaging small and medium businesses here in Australia. They need to come up with that and make sure that is in those contracts as a requirement. They’re going through a process of finalising contracts at the moment, for example with the future submarines, and they need to make it an enforceable requirement they impose.

We’re not the only ones in Government yet, these contracts will be finalised well before I might be lucky enough to become a relevant Minister in this area, but the Government needs to do the work, and as I pointed out in the piece I had in the paper today, just an additional 10 per cent would see $2 billion more going into the Australian economy every year. That could be supporting Australian manufacturing jobs, developing our sovereign capability here in Australia and we shouldn’t be missing out on that opportunity.

GILLON: Matt Keogh, I appreciate you joining us live from Canberra, Thank you

KEOGH: Great to be with you Ash.