PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 24665

Press Conference, Sydney

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/08/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24665

Subject(s): Speaker

Location: Sydney

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks for coming.

After a number of conversations with the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, over the last few weeks, today, Ms Bishop called me to let me know that she will be resigning to the Governor General from that particular position. What had become apparent, particularly over the last few days, is that the problem is not any particular individual – the problem is the entitlements system more generally.

Regrettably, notwithstanding the fairness of the rules that this Government put in place amongst other things to restrict family travel, to stop the use of first class overseas travel and to prevent the employment of immediate family members, there are still too many situations where Members of Parliament can do things which are inside entitlement but outside public expectations. So, it is very important that we have a system which is independent, which is accountable, which is transparent, and which is workable.

So, today, I announce there will be a fundamental review into members of parliaments’ entitlements. The review will be led by David Tune, the former head of the Department of Finance and Mr John Conde, the head of the Remuneration Tribunal. This will also be a very wide ranging review indeed. It won’t just be tinkering with the system. It will be start from first principles. It will provide us with a whole new system that the public can have confidence in.

I want the Australian people to have confidence that their members of parliament are decent people doing the right thing by them. I believe that in the vast majority of cases, for the vast majority of the time, that is exactly what the people have got: they have got people in the Parliament who are serving them to the best of their ability. Nevertheless it has become apparent over the last few weeks, particularly in recent days, that the system does need fundamental reform. That is exactly what there will be under this Government because the public deserve to be absolutely confident that the taxpayer’s money is not being abused.

QUESTION:

By saying that it’s not the individual but the system that’s broken [inaudible] Ms Bishop of abusing the system – because presumably other politicians [inaudible] the system in the same way?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously there has been quite a lot written about and broadcast recently – not just about Bronwyn Bishop but about quite a number of members of parliament who have done things which are inside the rules, or certainly arguably inside the rules but clearly outside of community expectations – and the important thing is that as soon as is possible we can ensure that the rules are such that if it is inside the rules it is something that the Australian people can generally feel comfortable with. So, I am not going to offer an observation beyond the observations that I have offered in recent times about any particular members travel expenses. I am not going to offer further observations about that. All I am going to say is that today, Bronwyn Bishop has done the right thing by the parliament, by the Government and by the people of Australia.

QUESTION:

If Ms Bishop hasn’t done anything wrong, why is she resigning? Can you just explain to us your logic?

PRIME MINISTER:

Plainly, it is important that the rules be fair and that is why today I am announcing that there will be a fundamental review of parliamentary entitlements to ensure that the public can have confidence that the taxpayers’ money which is being spent by MPs and on behalf of MPs have been fairly and properly spent. Now, I should point out that it is right and proper that we remember that members of parliament have duties that are much wider than merely governmental, merely parliamentary. We do have political duties as well and there needs to be a system which acknowledges that but plainly the system that we have is deficient and obviously the various examples that we have seen over recent weeks, including examples by the now former Speaker have been by and large within the rules but they’re not necessarily within community expectations and that is why this fundamental review – which won’t be tinkering, which will be reform – that’s why this fundamental review is necessary.

QUESTION:

You have been a great supporter of Bronwyn Bishop. Has she let you down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Today is not the day to offer an appreciation of Bronwyn Bishop’s long parliamentary career; her long career in public life. Obviously, Bronwyn Bishop is a friend of mine. I have a great deal of personal respect for Bronwyn Bishop, and without wanting to underplay the significance of some of the errors of judgment which she herself has conceded and apologised for, I think she has certainly done the right thing today.

QUESTION:

We have seen photos of you as a chauffer driver, driving her around. Has this been damaging to you and your government?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I want to do is to avoid a situation where members of parliament generally, where our system generally, is being in disrepute and that is why Bronwyn has done the right thing today by resigning from that position. The important thing to recognise is that this is not about any one particular individual; it’s about ensuring that the system is fair. Fair to members of Parliament but above all else, fair to the taxpayers who expect members of parliament to be working for them and not simply working for themselves.

QUESTION:

Ms Bishop refused to resign just a few days ago. What changed between then and today?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it was very important that we’re fair to people and what has become increasingly apparent as this matter has continued is that there is a significant disconnect between what is within the rules and what is within community expectations and that is why the important thing to do today is not simply the resignation of the Speaker, but the fact that there will be a root and branch review, there will be something which is not just tinkering but reform led by two people of great insight, expertise and integrity to ensure that the public can be confident – once and for all – that this system as is fair as any system of this type can be.

QUESTION:

Would you support MPs travelling in economy class now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think it depends, I think it depends, and this will be the kind of thing that will be looked at by the review.

QUESTION:

Do you have a timeline for this review?

PRIME MINISTER:

This will not be a ‘quickie’ review because there have been ‘quickie’ reviews in the past and they haven’t resulted in fundamental change. I should pay tribute to the Belcher Review which was commissioned by the former Government and which did bring forward some very significant recommendations, but nevertheless the Belcher Review was a little limited by the Terms of Reference and the widest possible terms of reference will be given to this review but obviously this review will draw, this, the Tune/Conde review will draw on the work of the Belcher Review.

QUESTION:

Did Ms Bishop admit to you that she thought she had done something wrong?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to go into the details of private conversations between myself and my friend and colleague, Bronwyn Bishop. No one who saw Bronwyn on television the other day could be under any doubt as to her remorse for what has happened. Now, plainly, what has happened – not just with Bronwyn but with quite a few people, on both sides of the fence – is that we have a situation where spending is arguably inside the rules but plainly outside of community expectations, and that’s what needs to be dealt with once and for all and that is why we need this fundamental root and branch review.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, will Finance be asked to investigate the relationship between Bronwyn Bishop’s office and My Jet?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, there is already a thorough review going on by the Department of Finance, a thorough assessment by the Department of Finance of all of the former Speaker’s use of entitlements going back a decade. That will go on, but will come to a conclusion as soon as possible but that would be quite separate from the David Tune/John Conde review that I have announced today.

QUESTION:

You said Mrs Bishop was being remorseful. How was her demeanour in the conversation you had with her when she actually resigned?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I am not going to go into my personal conversations. This is obviously been a very difficult day for Bronwyn Bishop. It has been a very difficult day for Bronwyn Bishop. I think we should respect the fact that it’s been a very difficult day for her. I think we should also be grateful that finally something has been done here that will resolve this vexed question of entitlements as far as is humanly possible once and for all.

QUESTION:

You mentioned that Ms Bishop was remorseful but there were criticisms over how long it actually took for her to say I am sorry. Should she have apologised earlier?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I am not going to sit in that sort of judgment of my friend and colleague. I am just not going to sit in judgment of a friend and colleague like that. The important thing is that at all times we act in ways that as far as is humanly possible lead to a greater respect for our system and I think Bronwyn standing down today, Bronwyn’s resignation today, will help to restore public respect, but as I have said repeatedly this afternoon this is not just about one person – it is about a system which notwithstanding reforms by the former government, notwithstanding reforms by this government, is obviously gravely in need of further reform and that is exactly what will happen as a result of the review that I have announced today.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 24665