4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 22 March 2022


SUBJECTSPaid Parental Leave; Senator Kimberley Kitching. 

 And every week we are joined by the Labor Member for Oxley. And former ALP State Secretary here in Queensland, Milton Dick - how are you Milton?

MILTON DICK, MEMBER FOR OXLEY: Very well for a Tuesday, Scott.

EMERSON: Tuesdays aren't a bad day, not Monday, one day off Wednesday-

DICK: It's hump day

EMERSON: [Inaudible]

DICK: As we head towards the election, we will be reviewing our policies and looking at all of them, putting them all on the table and we've already announced some of them, the Shadow Minister for financial services, Stephen Jones has also said today that there was no truth behind those media reports that we will be dumping the policy but I guess with this close to the election, we want to engage with all our stakeholders. There is an issue with superannuation for women. I understand that. And we'll be looking at all of these policies and close to the election. I guess we'll reveal all of our positions on paid parental leave, and also superannuation. 

EMERSON: But if Stephen Jones says there's no truth to it, like is that saying it is going to be a policy?

DICK: Well, that's what I've heard him say today. You know, we want to make sure that every policy we put forward is affordable, it's costed, and also making sure that the barriers that women face in the economy are dealt with. Obviously, we've already announced some pretty strong policies already and our biggest on-budget, commitment in childcare has already been put out into the marketplace, into the public arena, championed heavily by the Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth. And obviously, Anthony Albanese have been campaigning hard as all Labor members are, but close to the election, all our policies will be released and I'm looking forward to the election which will be in about 50 days time.

EMERSON: In about 50 days time, less than two months away for sure. Now let's turn to the issue of Senator Kimberley Kitching, we saw the sad farewell to her yesterday. A great speech by her husband, the eulogy given by Andrew Landeryou yesterday. Now, Anthony Albanese, he is pushing for an internal award, the Kimberley Kitching Human Rights Award, to be set up and also he said there will be an internal review of the complaints processes within Labor. Just tell me first up about this award.

DICK: Well, first of all, I was at the funeral yesterday and Kimberley and I went to university together as you know, she was a Brisbane girl and her parents Bill and Leigh Kitching and her brother Ben was at school with me as well. And Kimberley was an amazing individual. She was like, a good glass of champagne full of bubbles, effervescent. You never wanted that champagne to go empty and I helped her to join the Labor Party and encouraged her and was so pleased when she joined the Senate in 2015. And I was really moved by the speeches yesterday at her funeral, which was a beautiful Mass. And my condolences, of course, to her family and many friends across the political divide that were there. Anthony Albanese has written to the ALP National Executive today, which I think is a really fitting tribute to the work of Kimberley, to set up the Human Rights Award in recognition of her work. She was a fierce patriot, Scott, and someone who defended our democracy right across the globe, winning awards in her own right, she was pretty modest about that. But she was a fierce defender of freedom and liberty. And obviously, we're in consultation with her family and as long as they're acceptable and making sure that they're supportive. I'd be really pleased to see a new award for a party member who has demonstrated, I guess, that same commitment to advancement of human rights, both here in Australia across the globe, and it would be a prestigious award that we would award to an individual at our at our national conference every three years and I think it would be something she wouldn't probably ask for but I know as someone who knew her very well, I would be honoured to support that and see an individual recognised for her legacy as well.

EMERSON: Then what about this review of your internal complaints process?

DICK: Well, look, I always think we can do better. This has been a really tough term of Parliament as we've talked about many times on your program, anything we can do to improve the working conditions, the staff, members and senators. You know, I think it's a good thing. I've always been saying Scott that we all need to lift our game when it comes to the treatment and respect of each other. The fact that Kimberly had so much support and respect. I sat behind the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, I sat in front of a number of her Labor colleagues, including the Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O'Connor and Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney General. So, it was very heartening - and two rows behind was Senator Pauline Hanson. So, from across the divide, she was an enormously respected figure. And that was paid tribute yesterday, with I think some brilliant speeches by Bill Shorten, that really encapsulated her spirit, but also her short time in the Senate and what she achieved. Obviously it's a tragic loss for all of us in the Labor family, but it's a lesson and I'm going to take heart from, that you work across the political divide, that we probably need to do more to work collegiately there's a lot of, I guess, disquiet amongst the public because they see politicians squabbling and fighting, and I'm recommitting myself to do what I can to honor her legacy and encourage our friendships and you know, we work best when we work together. So, I think there'll be a lot of a lot of heartache still to go but you know, her legacy is one of something we should all be proud of.

EMERSON: I hear you saying that, you know, well from the University of Queensland when you study together, he got her into the Labor Party. Why shouldn't there be an investigation into the claims that she was bullied and under pressure from her Labor colleagues clearly, many of our allies and some former Labor MPs have said look, this is what we need an investigation. Anthony Albanese has ruled that out. Why not have an open investigation?

DICK: I'm not sure what an investigation would achieve Scott. And then I think the best things we could do would be to commit to everyone across the Parliament to lifting all our standards, not saying anyone is guilty here, but I think understanding that politics can be very brutal. It's a difficult game. You've been Minister and a Member of Parliament, you know how tough it can be. I don't think an inquiry necessarily would achieve the outcomes that some of her supporters are looking for my dealings with the leadership of the Labor Party and I'll go straight to with people like Penny Wong, Senator Kristina Keneally instead of the Katy Gallagher, my experience that they now are very capable and dedicated people that show me nothing but the greatest of respect and kindness. And I'm happy to say that on air and to your listeners.

EMERSON: But they're also - the three senators you mentioned, they were described by Kimberley Kitching as the 'Mean Girls'.

DICK: Well, that hasn't been my experience, Scott, and I'm not diminishing any of those claims, but I can only speak from what I've experienced, of course, being elected around the same time as Kimberley. They are fierce advocates for our cause and our movement and they are really respectful colleagues of mine.

EMERSON: And I guess the argument a lot of our listeners will be saying right now, if this was the Coalition Senator in these circumstances and complaints being made about the Morrison Government, accusations about how she was treated within the Coalition, though he's saying well, Labor would you manage a public investigation into that right now, and our Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong and Christina Keneally, Katie Gallagher would be leading the charge but now that it's Labor doing it, you saying oh, I don't know would solve this.

DICK: I don't think that's the case. Scott, you know, we need to de-politicize this and de-weaponise this.

EMERSON: Again, that's the argument is that that Labor's saying we need to de-politicise this, de-weaponise it, but they wouldn't be doing that. If it was the Coalition Senator involved. You know, that's just the nature of it.

DICK: Yeah, I mean, you know, I've listened to you know, what's happened inside the Coalition and I don't really think this is helpful to changing culture. And you know, I saw the way Julia Banks was treated. I saw the way that she was alleged bullying. I didn't see anyone from Labor saying there should be a massive investigation into that. I didn't see the Coalition, you know, taking action on that. You know, this is a former colleague of mine, the former member for Chisholm, who's been criticized by her own colleagues this way. I guess what I'm trying to say Scott, is we've all got better to do, we've all got- can improve our standards in Parliament, from where I sit and an inquiry won't necessarily assist with that. We've got to accept that politics is really robust. And difficult, and can be bruising, particularly on individuals. It's a really tough contest of ideas, where I sit, I want to pledge myself to improve my conduct and my standards, to make sure that I'm better engaged with all sides of politics. We need to be listening more, and we need to be listening to one another more so that we get the best outcomes for Australians. 

EMERSON: Alright, thank you for that Milton Dick. We'll talk again next week. Thanks. Scott.