THE TODAY SHOW
THURSDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s citizenship crisis.
DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Labor Leader, Bill Shorten joins us now. Good morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Deb.
KNIGHT: This is such a mess. What is wrong with what the PM has on the table. You demanded a solution and he has provided one, hasn't he?
SHORTEN: We have demanded a solution and we did make constructive progress. I'm optimistic we will get to an outcome which resolves this crisis. But there are two points which I and the Prime Minister currently disagree.
Labor wants a stronger test. I'm concerned that Mr Turnbull's first pass at trying to resolve the matter doesn't really enforce the High Court's interpretation of the Constitution. Australians want clarity. There is no point in us coming up with a solution in parliament which then doesn't pass muster in the courts, that is just causing chaos.
The other thing is that we want to resolve the matter more quickly than the Prime Minister. I don't doubt he wants to fix it but I think this has gone on long enough. Malcolm Turnbull's government is in crisis. We are prepared to be constructive but we would like to see it resolved more quickly and being true to the High Court and the Constitution, not some watered down version.
KNIGHT: Well, you say you want clarity but what is wrong with the 21 days? Isn't it more important to get this right than to rush it through?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, we have had years and months to get this right. It wasn't Labor who invented this crisis. To be honest -
KNIGHT: Ok, we all want a resolution on this. We are agreed on that, surely?
SHORTEN: We do, absolutely. Now Mr Turnbull said we can't resolve it when parliament returns on November 27th. He says we may need to recall parliament later in December. I don't think Australians should pay a single extra dollar to sort out this matter in the crisis in Mr Turnbull's government. We can do it in the allocated time of parliament. It doesn't need to be delayed.
But also, I've got to be clear here, all that we are asking for is that if your parents or grandparents are born overseas, that the parliamentarian takes reasonable steps to investigate and renounce any potential foreign citizenship. That's the High Court test. Mr Turnbull at this stage doesn't agree but I'm optimistic he will see the wisdom in what we say and we will get on with it.
This is a crisis which is stopping the Government getting on with its day job, and we do want to be constructive and we will be.
KNIGHT: Ok, so the term "reasonable steps" it sounds like you have doubts about some of your own MPs and Senators. Can you still guarantee that no Labor MP will be caught up in this?
SHORTEN: First of all, the term "reasonable steps" is not my language, it is that of the High Court. All I want to do is make sure that the Constitution is upheld. The High Court has looked at the matter of the eligibility of the MPs numerous times in the last 20 and 30 years, and the test was set out by the High Court most recently, two weeks ago.
KNIGHT: Can you guarantee that no Labor MPs or Senators will be caught up in this?.
SHORTEN: I am more than satisfied that Labor MPs, through our vetting process -
KNIGHT: Can you guarantee rather than more than satisfied?
SHORTEN: Yes, I am. Yes.
KNIGHT: Rolled gold?
SHORTEN: Yes, I am very confident. And what’s more is when you have to look at the track record, it has not been Labor and its ministers who have been the problem here.
KNIGHT: No, but there are questions over at least two Labor MPs. If you are so confident, why not just released the documents, provide the proof?
SHORTEN: Well, we will actually. We are the ones who said we should. But isn't it fair, Deb, that we have one rule for everyone? Why doesn't the Government at the same time as Labor put all the facts on the table, show the efforts. I believe in one rule for everyone.
KNIGHT: When will you provide those documents? When will you provide that the proof?
SHORTEN: As soon as I can get Malcolm to agree to put forward all of the facts. I mean I want to know - and it doesn't matter if you are Liberal, Labor or whatever, I want to know what efforts you have made to renounce foreign citizenship. It is as simple as that.
KNIGHT: You are not giving us a time-frame then. You are saying you are wanting open accountable government, you say you will provide the proof. Give us the time-frame. You are criticising the Government with their time-frame. What is your time frame on providing the documents?
SHORTEN: Friday, 1 December .
KNIGHT: Friday, 1 December?
KNIGHT: Alright, we will be marking that in our diary for when you will be providing that.
SHORTEN: Deb, so long as the Government ponys up at the same time. The Government want longer. They want to do it later in December and recall parliament.
KNIGHT: Why have a disclaimer. Just put the date and go with it?
SHORTEN: Because I actually think it should be one rule for everyone. We have been around this merry-go-round before. Mr Turnbull said Barnaby Joyce was not illegitimately sitting in parliament and he was. And then when the High Court made their decision, he said there were no more problems and then the Liberal President in the Senate put his hand up and Government ministers knew.
You'll forgive me for being a little sceptical about the Government because every day you open a newspaper, it seems the Turnbull Government has some new crisis. I am saying one rule for all. We can do it by 1 December and it should be a test - the MPs meet consistent with the law, nothing less.
KNIGHT: We will wait for provision of those documents on that date. Thank you for joining us, Bill Shorten.
SHORTEN: Good on you, Deb. Have a nice day