SENATOR ANTHONY CHISHOLM
SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
THURSDAY 1 AUGUST 2019
Derryn Hinch: Senator Chisholm, Thank you for joining us.
Anthony Chisholm: Good to be with you.
Hinch: Now I got the impression you have had the first session of the new Parliament. As of tonight you go on the winter break. Am I right in saying the Government run seems to have got a bit of an easier run in the Senate this time?
Chisholm: Yeah I think the old saying that elections have consequences and I think that is the case with the Senate. There are not as many moving parts - as I’m sure you are well aware Derryn. We are certainly missing you in the Senate at this stage. If you think about the Senate an engine there are not as many moving parts. Not as many levers to push. For the Labor Party I think it has proven pretty tough, and the election I think and obviously we lost the election and the Government are running high at the moment, but the success we have had over the last six years of being able to block or stop some measures the government were pursuing and pursue accountability issues as well, we're not having the same success rate as previously.
Derryn Hinch: Talking about moving parts, you have a solid liaison between the Centre Alliance two and Jacquie Lambie so there are three. You have got the two Hanson’s on the other side and Cory Bernardi on the other side. But his vote is usually regarded as a Government vote anyway.
Chisholm: It is and the speculation is around how long Cory Bernardi will be a Senator. Things could get worse before they get better.
Hinch: I heard he has put his studio apartment in Canberra on the market. It looks like he will go. Of course the interesting thing is if Cory voting Bernardi goes, he was a renegade Liberal, so the Liberal’s will get to replace him not a Conservative.
Chisholm: A concerning thing from my point of view is the consequences of this, and we have seen it in some of the legislative votes around stage three of the tax cuts, and from an accountability point of view, where we could not get an enquiry into Minister Taylor and his dealings with the Department, and I think based on previous Senate, that would have got the support of the chamber because it was something that needed to be looked at. The Australian people would rightly be concerned about what is going on from a Senate point of view. I am hoping that the Labor Party can put a spotlight on it so people understand there are accountability issues that are not getting addressed, but also the Labor Party and others might not be a able to stop the harsh excesses of an arrogant Morrison government.
Hinch: You lost the election that you thought you would not. You thought you would be in Government and you are not. I thought I would be in the Senate, so I know exactly how you feel. Am I right in saying now you the have to regroup. Everything is on the table according to Albo. You have all of August to look at what you are going to keep and what you are going to get rid of.
Chisholm: The thing that Albo has said which I think is a good one, is we are going to hasten slowly. We have to learn lessons from the election campaign. I am part of the election review so I will play my role in that. From a Queensland point of view, and as a Queensland Labor Senator, we did not return a second Senator in Queensland. That is the first time since proportional representation came in we were reduced to one Senator for 70 years. So I think that shows you not only from a House of Reps point of view we went backwards there, but from the Senate point of view as well, it is a long way back before we can be confident….
Hinch: What do you think is wrong in Queensland? Adani, I did think, hurt you. I think what Brown did not help anyone with his caravan.
Chisholm: I think the Bob Brown effort was basically a criminal act against campaigning, to be honest. That did significant damage. Nobody likes being lectured to, but especially North and Central Queensland. There is no doubt Brown was a factor. We cannot blame Bob Brown the Labor Party was not as consistent on mining and coal as it could have been. It would be fair to say that the public saw us as a trying to sit on the fence and have a bob both ways. You cannot get away with that in political life.
Hinch: And not in the days of social media.
Chisholm: That’s right and to be frank nor should you. I think that the Labor Party have learnt their lessons and are learning their lessons from the election campaign. Obviously we need to ensure we are listening to those communities. I did a road trip from Brisbane to Townsville with the new Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers and we will continue to do that. I am confident Anthony Albanese will be the right leader. He is out there listening and is going to learn those lessons and I am confident he can put a program together that Queenslanders are going to warm to.
Hinch: I am fascinated by people who say how has he done in the first few weeks, how has he done here, how has he done there. The election is three years away. What happens in the next few months is small cheese.
Chisholm: The best example is what happened in the last three years, it was a rollercoaster, we had by-elections, we lost heaps of Senators and people thought we were absolutely the front runner for the election campaign, but it didn't happen. So things can change quickly. I think we are adjusting to life in Opposition. It is certainly a different vibe this time considering we were so close to winning, or thought we were so the close to winning last time. So I think the idea of Anthony Albanese saying we want to hold this Government to account, we are the Opposition, is the right place for us to be and I think we have got to get into a place where the Senate can be a much better tool that is used to hold the Government to account.
Hinch: How do you get used to the fact that you have had such a shock loss, because it was a shock loss, in the House of Representatives. Shadow Ministers thought they would be Ministers. I’m sure Tanya Plibersek thought she would be Deputy Prime Minister.
Chisholm: It’s a really good question and I have a unique perspective on this because in the previous life, I was State Secretary for the Labor Party of Queensland and Queensland is a boom - bust state with election campaigns, so I had some success but was on the end of a pretty big hiding. So I know what it's like to go through that and particularly when you really feel it personally. And there is no doubt there are members of the Caucus and members of the Shadow Ministry who feel that. But at the end of the day, we know we're here to represent people. They need a strong Labor Opposition and they are also hopeful for a Labor Government so we are not going to dwell, we're not going to drag our arse around, but it will take some time for people to come to terms with what happened.
Hinch: I know that feeling well. You talk about changing things in the Senate, or streamlining. I notice in the House of Reps Milton Dick has been pushing about Question Time there. Before he left, I had long conversations with President Stephen Parry because the three questions you get in Question Time, is, one question and two supplementary, but in the House of Reps you only get one that’s it. You may remember I always passed on my third question as a matter of principle. The Dorothy Dixors that’s what really gets you. Doesn’t matter who is in Government. And you get the Minister saying, I thank the Member for so and so for that question. You handed them the question. Could that be a streamlined?
Chisholm: Look no doubt and Milton, a good friend of mine who will do a great job in the Reps, I think the motivation for Milton is knowing the way politics is perceived in the community and he wants to be part of fixing that. Yes, he is a Labor Party Member but he wants to see that the perception of Question Time is received better back in our home State which is a worthwhile cause. The thing with the Senate, it is very formulaic in that everyone does the three questions apart from when you rebelled and I wish some other crossbench Senators would not ask the three questions sometimes, but I think it is very formulaic and some issues lend themselves to asking two supplementary questions and some don't. Maybe there needs to be a bit more...
Hinch: And the Dorothy Dixors always never do.
Chisholm: No, no they don’t. That's absolutely the case. They always end in, what is the alternatives?
Hinch: Are there any other alternatives?
Chisholm: Queue the scary music.
Hinch: I had a fascinating conversation with George Brandis when he was Leader of the Senate and I put up the idea, why could it not be that Liberal Party people - the Government - could ask questions of the Shadow Cabinet? They are only asking their own people so instead of Dorothy Dixors, you could ask genuine questions of your counterparts across the chamber but it is structured that way and it would be hard to change it, I imagine.
Chisholm: I think so and the challenge with the Senate is no one has a majority. So there is always a bit of argy-bargy. And getting everyone to agree and have consensus about what changes have been made to the process and structure has always been hard. But I think I could say we would be watching what happens with the House of Reps closely, and we wish them well obviously and if they were to make changes that might spur some effort in regards to the Senate also making changes the in public would welcome.
Hinch: I must say, in the early days of the Senate, if one more person said to me, we are much more collegiate here, I would scream. Good to talk to you, thank you for your time.