Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health | Minister for Sport

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Interview with Jon Faine - ABC Melbourne

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

E&OE…
                      
Topics: Russia’s Winter Olympics ban; Labor’s citizenship dishonesty; Milo Yiannopoulos; same sex marriage 
 

JON FAINE:

Greg Hunt, the Member for Flinders, is also the Minister for Sport in the Turnbull Government and the Minister for Health and joins me this morning from the national capital where Parliament is going through the last few days of activity for 2017. 

Greg Hunt, good morning to you. 

GREG HUNT:
Good morning, Jon.

JON FAINE:
Hard to know quite where to start. First of all, as Minister for Sport, what’s your response to the ban on Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in the next Olympics?

GREG HUNT:
I support it and we support it as a government. 

We have clean athletes in Australia, we support clean athletes around the world and Australia voted against Russian participation at the WADA, which is the World Anti-Doping Authority, meeting and that helped inform the decision of the International Olympic Committee. 

So I think it’s a tough decision, but I think it is absolutely the right decision to protect international sport and clean athletes everywhere. 

JON FAINE:
The reasons behind it are because basically the Russians cheat and they cheat systemically, not just individuals but throughout their entire structure and organisation of sport and yet we’re trusting Russia to run the World Cup soccer competition in a few years.  

GREG HUNT:
Well that decision was made by the nations that voted for the World Cup, but what I can say is the evidence that we have had through the World Anti-Doping Authority was clear, it was about systemic doping, inappropriate practices, and on our watch, on our time, we are not standing for that. 

And so our vote was clear and absolute and unequivocal and I think the right decision has been made by the IOC. So I applaud it and congratulate it. 

JON FAINE:
If they’re systematically manipulating the anti-doping rules for the Olympics, how can we trust them to run the World Cup?

GREG HUNT:
Well, they will have to provide appropriate evidence that their athletes in any sport are clean. The World Cup is coming and we are going and we’ll be there and that’s just a great tribute to our Socceroos. 

At the same time our Matildas are flourishing and they’re, I hope, on their way to being the world number one team. But, it’s up to Russia to make sure that their processes are clean for the Olympics, they were not and they have paid the price. 

JON FAINE:
Did you, I assume you didn’t go to the public address by Milo Yiannopoulos in the Parliament yesterday. 

GREG HUNT:
No I missed that one. I’m not sure who was there but it’s a fairly busy time here. 

JON FAINE:
Is that the only concern you have? Do you think he should even have been invited to address people within the precincts of the Parliament of Australia?

GREG HUNT:
Look, I think it was done by Senator Leyonhjelm. He’s an independent crossbench senator, that’s a matter for him. 

I don’t know much about this character. He seems to sort of run around in big sunglasses and with a shirt that’s open half way down the chest. So a lot of it seems like attention seeking, but really I don’t know much about this fellow. 

JON FAINE:

It creates dissent, it creates disturbances, it stirs up trouble within the Australian community. We’ve banned some people, including Holocaust deniers, from coming to visit Australia. Should he have been banned?

GREG HUNT:
I’m not aware that there was a case for banning. You can agree or disagree with people. So one of the elements of free speech is to be able to let them speak but to disagree where you disagree. 

Frankly, in his case, all I’ve seen are the sort of flashy, self-promoting pictures. So I don’t have much of a sense of him. 

JON FAINE:
For the record, I actually don’t believe in banning people, I believe in exposing their ideas for the shallowness that they in fact exhibit. But there you go, the questions are being asked this morning.  

GREG HUNT:
Well there you go. We have a mutual agreement on that point, which is exactly what I said in the Parliament last night on another topic. 

JON FAINE:
On dual citizenship, the issue has become even more clouded. The Labor Party, Tony Burke, on AM this morning saying that if the Liberal Party used their numbers to refer some of ours to the High Court, that would be appalling, it would be a misuse of the Parliament, I’m paraphrasing, but he also says there’s an even larger number of people on your side of ledger who have question marks over their eligibility and secrecy is not within the spirit of disclosure. 

GREG HUNT:
I think what’s happened here is exactly what you and I discussed in our last interview. 

Bill Shorten has been caught out as a constitutional fraud and a constitutional vandal. 

Where there have been questions about any of our representatives, they’ve referred themselves either to the High Court or they have resigned from the Parliament. All have done that, absolutely, clearly, without question. 

On the Labor side, what we now discover is that Mr Shorten was caught out plain lying. He said there were no questions, there were no doubts. We now have at least five ALP members whom we know were dual citizens at the time of the election, including David Feeney from Victoria. 

JON FAINE:
They’d taken what they say were reasonable steps to renounce. Is it a reasonable step to fill in the appropriate forms for renunciation and to send them off to Westminster?

GREG HUNT:
Well actually, the High Court was very strong on this. If you go to their judgement, they made it clear that reasonable steps weren’t just sending off a perfunctory letter, but taking and exhausting absolutely everything and that the reasonable steps defence only comes in if another country were actively thwarting your attempt to renounce. 

Now, the UK is not a difficult place to renounce and what we see is with people such as Susan Lamb in Queensland, Justine Keay in Tasmania, David Feeney, well known in Victoria, one of Mr Shorten’s long-time closest personal advisors, and Josh Wilson in Western Australia, as well as senator Gallagher in the ACT. They were all, all, citizens of a foreign country at the time of the election. 

JON FAINE:
So the Labor Party says people Arthur Sinodinos never provided evidence of the claimed renunciation of Greek citizenship. 

GREG HUNT:          
Look, where there have been any questions around our people being dual citizens, they’ve resigned or referred themselves. What Mr Shorten should do is adopt the same standard …

JON FAINE:
Well, if it’s good for one side it’s good for the other side and Mr Burke also this morning saying, well, secrecy is not consistent with the promised and claimed openness or transparency. You can’t have it both ways.

GREG HUNT:

There are two completely different standards here. 

One, we have referred every member who has had any question about their citizenship either to the High Court or they have resigned themselves. 

John Alexander outed himself. David Feeney did everything to hide the fact that there was a cloud. Now, maybe he did have a renunciation document that was mysteriously sent to the investment property that he forgot to declare, but the truth is Bill Shorten …

JON FAINE: 
No sorry, you know that’s nonsense. The investment property is actually a home they purchased to demolish and they purchased it years after he entered the Parliament. So that’s a furphy and you know that.

GREG HUNT:          

Which he forgot to declare. Look, the real point here is that Bill Shorten …

JON FAINE: 
That’s a cheap shot, Greg Hunt. What’s at stake here is whether the …

GREG HUNT:
Has deliberately lied, not once, twice, but on at least a dozen occasions. 

JON FAINE: 
What’s at stake here is now that the public …

GREG HUNT:          
There were clouds over his people and they knew it. They knew it.

JON FAINE:
The public want, we want to trust our members of Parliament, we desperately want this to be over. The only way for it to be over is for all the parties to recognise the only way to cauterise this is for every doubt to be removed, surely?

GREG HUNT:          
I agree, absolutely and that’s why every member of ours over whom there was an issue was either referred to the High Court or resigned. 

But the opposite here is there is clear evidence, clear absolute and unequivocal evidence, of five ALP members being foreign citizens at the time of nomination and they won’t do the right thing by the Constitution, they won’t do the right thing. 

And Mr Shorten didn’t just doubt, he didn’t vacillate, he flat out lied over and over and over. He said their vetting processes were fine.

There are no documents for David Feeney. So either their vetting processes weren’t fine or they knew that David Feeney was a foreign citizen. And so we’ve done the right thing, it’s time for them to do the right thing. 

But at the end of the day this is ultimately a matter of character and the Prime Minister made sure that our people took the steps themselves, the ALP under Bill Shorten are doing everything to run and hide from the Constitution but in the end the Constitution will catch you.

JON FAINE: 
Finally and briefly, if there is a by-election for instance in Batman, which is where there was just a by-election over very similar boundaries for Northcote for the State Parliament, do the Libs run dead and gift it to the Greens as you did in the Northcote state by-election?

GREG HUNT:          
Look, that would be a decision we’d make if there is a by-election and I know that Michael Kroger will have strong views on that. 

JON FAINE:
Would you encourage that strategy?

GREG HUNT:          
Well, I think that the ALP will have massive pressure on them, whether it’s in Batman, whether it’s in Fremantle from the Greens on both fronts, if it’s in Tasmania and if there is a by-election there there will be huge issues so there will be some very challenging moments for Bill Shorten. 

Not just in terms of the electoral issues, but the fundamental question of having been caught out as a fundamentally dishonest leader who doesn’t believe in and stand by the Constitution, and that’s a pretty grave situation for anybody aspiring to be the Prime Minister of Australia.

JON FAINE: 
Alright, and just before we move on, the same-sex marriage laws are making their way slowly through the House of Representatives. Should they be amended or left as the Senate decided them?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I believe that they’ll pass this week. I have said that I would support amendments to improve the protections for religious freedom. 

I wouldn’t support an amendment which would create two definitions of marriage. But at the end of the day I believe the bill will pass. We will put into place the will of the Australian people which was clear and overwhelming, but with appropriate protections.

JON FAINE: 
That puts you at odds then with both Christopher Pyne and various other senior people within your own Cabinet. You’re clearly you’re not of one mind on this are you?

GREG HUNT:          
Well, it is a free vote. That’s the point. It’s a genuine free vote. But what’s the commitment here? We’ll have same-sex marriage passed, I believe, this week. I say that very very confidently. 

It will be passed with religious protections. The exact shape and form of those people do have different views and that’s appropriate in a free vote. 

That’s the Parliament at its best and that’s the Australian people at their best where they had a national free vote, they expressed their views and things will be different after this week. There’ll be weddings every weekend …

JON FAINE: 
Alright, all the best for Christmas and the holiday season for you, Greg Hunt, on the assumption this is the last chance I get this year to have a chat to you. I look forward to speaking again in the New Year.

GREG HUNT:

Take care, Jon.

JON FAINE:
The Federal Member for Flinders, leading Victoria Member of the Turnbull Government, Minister for Health and Sport, Greg Hunt joining us there from Parliament House from the national capital. 

(ENDS)

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