Sky News, AM Agenda with Laura Jayes

20 July 2023


Laura Jayes, Host: Joining me live now is Assistant Trade and Tourism Minister Tim Ayres. Tim, first of all, are you asking questions as to why Kathryn Campbell was appointed into this defence job when there was this Robodebt cloud hanging over her head in the first place?

Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Well, I'll tell you what, individual Ministers aren't wandering around asking individual questions about this, Laura. There has been a Royal Commission which has unveiled, in a serious and systematic way, what has happened here. This cruel and punitive policy and its implementation have been unveiled for everyone to see. And there is a careful and deliberate response from the government, as has been canvassed on your program and more broadly. There's a sealed section of the Commission's report that goes to referrals. The public service has appointed a team that is engaged with responding to the report in a careful and deliberate way. I saw the reports, the same as you did today, about one senior public servant who's been stood down without pay. This process is not going to be approached in a knee-jerk, political way. It is approached in a systematic kind of way.

Laura Jayes: No of course not. Can I just interject here for a moment, because we know where you stand on Robodebt. There was a Royal Commission and essentially that was the right thing to do, because look at the report. My question is about those processes - this happened under your government, that Kathryn Campbell, with this Robodebt cloud hanging over her, she was promoted into a defence job. She's being paid $900,000 a year. Aren't you asking questions? You don't have to ask them here, but are you asking them privately about how that can possibly happen?

Assistant Minister: Well, the Royal Commission was appointed by this government. It's conducted an authoritative, exhaustive investigation. I saw Scott Morrison sort of dismissed the findings of the Royal Commission that have been negative for him. I mean, this is a very substantial Royal Commission.

Laura Jayes: It is. It absolutely is. But Kathryn Campbell - Kathryn Campbell --

Assistant Minister: Appointments have been made there are --

Laura Jayes: -- was promoted under your government and she was vouched for by Greg Moriarty. Don't you have a problem with that?

Assistant Minister: There are serving public servants who have been the subject of adverse findings. There is a sealed section here. The public service leadership are working through a careful process. Now, it's appropriate, in my view, that the government waited to hear the Royal Commission's findings before we've acted. That's actually the right process here. It's the right process. Even when it's politically inconvenient, this is a government that's determined to treat the public service with respect, and to govern in a way that accords to the right processes to get the right outcome. And that's what's happened here. And we'll see this unfolding over the coming weeks and months.

Laura Jayes: I love that you raised process, because I want to talk about the process of the Commonwealth Games and how that palaver has unfolded over the last couple of years with Daniel Andrews. Surely this damages our reputation a bit.

Assistant Minister: Well, it's a decision that the Victorian Government has made. And they have had to have regard to making a decision that's in the public interest in terms of public finances. The Premier outlined - I was in New Zealand yesterday, but I watched the Premier outline the rationale for the decision. It is a very difficult decision.

Laura Jayes: Sure, but you're the Assistant Tourism and Trade Minister.

Assistant Minister: Mind you, I have to say I was in Wellington and Auckland --

Laura Jayes: Put your tourism hat on for a moment. Put your tourism hat on for a moment. Is this going to hurt us?

Assistant Minister: I'm not quibbling on the process question here, Laura, but I'm the Assistant Minister for Trade, not tourism. But I'm very happy to engage with the question. I was in Auckland and Wellington over the course of the last four or five days, representing Australia there at a series of the CPTPP meeting and then a series of joint meetings with the New Zealand Government. The sense of excitement about Australia and New Zealand together, hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup.

We have a proven track record here in Australia, in the region and around the world, for being a great place to visit, a great place to host events. Our cities and our regional cities have got excellent sporting infrastructure. I don't think this makes a dent in any of that. It is, of course, disappointing for athletes. It's disappointing for people who've, of course, put their heart and soul into planning around this event. I understand and share that sense of disappointment, and I'm sure the Victorian Government does, too.

Laura Jayes: Okay, my mistake so I'll let that segue slide. I'll see you soon, Tim Ayres. I appreciate it.

Assistant Minister: See you later. Bye.