SUBJECTS: Importance of the Central Coast to Labor, Robertson, border protection, asylum seekers, ICAC investigation into Central Coast State MPs.


CHRIS BOWEN: Well thanks for coming. I’m here in Gosford today. I’ve been thanking Deb O’Neill’s campaign team for their magnificent effort in the election campaign just past. Obviously the Australian people gave us a tick for some things and crosses for other things. One of the things we got ticks for around the country were our hard working local MPs. Clearly, Deb O’Neill fits that mould. The feedback to me throughout the electorate has been that Deb O’Neill has been a hard working individual who did her best to stand up for the Central Coast. And obviously, we would like to see Deb back representing the people of Robertson at some point in the future and its important today to come and thank her campaign team; also to say that the Central Coast will always be important to the Labor Party.

Obviously the people of Robertson and Dobell voted against us at the last election. Obviously, we hear that message, we respect the message that the people of Robertson and Dobell have given us but the people of the Central Coast, of Robertson and Dobell will continue to be important to us and will continue to hold the new Government to account.

Many people choose to retire here; my parents have chosen to retire here. Many people will be paying for the new Government’s paid parental leave scheme, self funded retires, part pensioners, superannuants, paying directly for Tony Abbott’s expensive and generous paid parental leave scheme. We’ll also be holding the new Government to account for the promises it made for the people of the Central Coast during the election campaign.

The other thing I want to deal with today is of course is the ongoing issue of the Government’s complete lack of transparency and disclosure when it comes to boat arrivals and turn back policy. Let’s be very clear, there is absolutely no operational reason for the new Minister for Immigration not to be upfront with the Australian people when a boat arrives and when a turn back is attempted. When a boat arrives the Australian people should be told about it; not a week later, not in a briefing but by a press release, clear and transparent. This can happen without any impact on operational tactics, it can happen after the boat has been taken to Christmas Island as has previously occurred.

Also, when a turn back is attempted the Australian people should be told. I saw David Shackleton the former Chief of Navy confirm this morning his view that an important indicator of the success or otherwise of the policy would be confidence in the Australian people. The Australian people can’t be confident unless they’re told about the policy, unless they’re told when a turn back is attempted.

Now clearly, all the previous advice to the previous Government was that when undertaking deterrence measures these should be done in a high profile way. So that people, whether they be in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran know that deterrence measures are underway. There is simply no excuse for not undertaking to be upfront with the Australian people.

I think what’s happening is that the new Government has worked out the turn backs are going to be harder than they thought – than they said they would be and therefore won’t be telling the Australian people when they’re attempted. This is a completely unacceptable lack of transparency.

Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Just in regards to the seat of Robertson. I suppose it was disappointing that it was decided on preference votes?

BOWEN: Look, I think Deb and her campaign team ran a strong campaign. It was close at the end of the day and there were a number of local factors obviously with a strong independent - we completely recognise and respect that. But as I say, the people of Central Coast and the people of Robertson will continue to be important to the Labor Party, I look forward to coming back as Shadow Treasurer over the next few years, working with the local community, working with the local Labor Party, developing positive plans for the future of the Central Coast.

We accept the message that the people of the Central Coast gave us on Saturday September 7th but we want to continue to work for the people of this area.

JOURNALIST: I suppose it also shows that this is a very winnable seat and maybe I suppose show your intentions on whether Deb’s going to run again and get someone in place early.

BOWEN: Well, look those are matters for the local Party and for the Party more generally but obviously, Deb O’Neill had one term in Parliament and we would like to see her back in Parliament representing the people of Robertson in the future.

JOURNALIST: In regards to an investigation in the Wyong Shire in regards to Karen McNamara’s, I suppose dealings in the ICAC...

BOWEN: Well let me say this. Clearly, this is a serious matter. I think Premier O’Farrell should come clean with the people of the Central Coast and with the people of NSW about what is going on here. And clearly he should be suspending his State MPs from his Liberal Party room while this investigation is underway.

In relation to the newly elected Federal MP, that’s a matter for Mr Abbott and for her to explain what’s going on there. I only know what I read in the newspaper but it’s important I think for the people of Dobell and I think the people of Australia, it’s important that they are very clear about her level of involvement in this investigation. That is entirely a matter for them to deal with. I’m not making any allegation about that. I only know what I’ve read in the newspaper. But it’s up to Mr Abbott to be transparent about the level of involvement of his new MP in this ICAC investigation.

JOURNALIST: It goes way back to the 2011 election and in regards to that, I mean David Harris was the Labor sitting member so I suppose disappointing to hear this come out now?

BOWEN: Well clearly this has been an investigation underway for some time and obviously as I say, I think its incumbent for all involved to be as transparent as possible, it would be necessary if there was involvement to be transparent before the Federal election, it’s clearly necessary to be transparent now.


Copyright 2007