Chris Bowen defends Rudd after Nicola Roxon's 'bastard' broadside




SUBJECTS: Labor, Don Randall, travel entitlements, Health Services Union.

17 OCTOBER 2013

TIM PALMER: The Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen says Mr Rudd deserves respect. He says it is up to the former prime minister to determine his own future.
Mr Bowen also turned his attention to the conduct of all parliamentarians after weeks of exposure of the questionable use of expenses.
Chris Bowen is open to an inquiry but is also demanding that Liberal MP Don Randall explain how his trip to Cairns could be justified as ;electorate business’ when it appears to have been about buying himself a house.
Mr Bowen's told Louise Yaxley that Labor is moving to deal with current issues.
CHRIS BOWEN: Well, look, I think that all former Labor leaders are deserving of respect. All former Labor leaders are deserving of a place in the party's history and they should be accorded the respect that the Labor Party has traditionally given to former leaders.
I think that applies to Julia Gillard and I think it applies to Kevin Rudd. And I think Kevin Rudd, it's a matter for Kevin Rudd as to how he chooses to make his contribution to the Labor Party and the nation going forward.
LOUISE YAXLEY: Clearly to say that it was an act of bastardry to get rid of him but he deserved it because he was a bastard doesn't show respect.
BOWEN: Well, again I'm telling you my approach which is that the Australian people are over a discussion about what happened over the last six years and interested in a discussion about the future. I think the Labor Party has a very fine tradition of respecting its former leaders and that should apply to former leaders from the last government as well.
YAXLEY: Is Nicola Roxon trashing that then?
BOWEN: Well, that's a matter for her. I'm telling you my approach and the front bench's approach which is to focus on policies and focus on the future.
YAXLEY: Do you expect that there's likely to be some form of inquiry? Do you want to see an inquiry into parliamentary entitlements given the string of revelations about MPs using entitlements in ways that the public is concerned about, the latest example being Don Randall's trip to Cairns?
BOWEN: Well, I think two things: I think firstly there is a case for changes here and if the Government wants to put forward sensible changes for better guidelines, for less grey area, then we'd look at that very sympathetically and in good spirit.
I think the current situation does not pass the common sense test and does not pass public test which is a fair and reasonable approach to entitlements.
Secondly, I think Mr Randall has a lot of questions to answer. He's not dealing with the issue. Simply saying it was official business and the Department of Finance paid it is simply not good enough. He owes the Australian people are much better explanation than that.
To claim parliamentary sittings in Melbourne is disingenuous. The Parliament hasn't sat in Melbourne since 1927. The claimed ‘electorate business’ in Cairns is problematic for him. I think he owes people a much better explanation than the one he's provided so far, and if he won't give it, Tony Abbott should.
YAXLEY: Is it just a case for Mr Randall or do you want to see a broader change to ensure that this sort of thing doesn't keep happening?
BOWEN: Well, as I say, we're seeing a pattern of behaviour here from Liberal MPs and so what we've said is that we would be happy to engage in a process which would lead to better guidelines so that these grey areas can't be exploited as we have seen them exploited, because it simply is not good enough. And for Mr Abbott to say that the system is not broken, I won't be changing it, I think shows he's out of touch with community expectations here.
YAXLEY: Some Labor MPs have also paid back money including Mark Dreyfus who was initially prosecuting the case for Labor and also Don Farrell. Is it a case that there are problems across the board?
BOWEN: Well, we've taken a very moderate and balanced approach to this. We've said that we think there's a case for reform. Now in the case of Mr Dreyfus, he acknowledged an error, apologised for it and paid it back, which he showed more good grace than the Liberal Party has done.
Mr Brandis and Mr Abbott saying well, the claims were legitimate but we'll pay them back anyway, I think it would have been much better if they'd taken the approach of Mark Dreyfus and said it was a mistake and apologised for it.
YAXLEY: Chris Bowen, finally as a senior Labor figure in New South Wales in the Labor Party, how do you feel about the former party president Michael Williamson pleading guilty to stealing from the Health Services Union?
BOWEN: Well, I think every Labor Party member regardless of being senior or not would be disgusted with what we've seen here, an abuse of trust. And this is somebody who let down his members, his party and his community. I think he'll be remembered as such.
YAXLEY: Why didn't anyone in Labor know what was going on or in the union movement?
BOWEN: Well, we've got a criminal prosecution hear and clearly he went to great steps to take the action he did and to cover his tracks. And he's now being dealt with under the full force of the law and that's how it should be dealt with.


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