24 Jul | '2023

Angie Bell MP
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education
Shadow Minister for Youth
Federal Member for Moncrieff



20 July 2023

Subjects: Commonwealth Games, Robodebt, the Voice


Why don’t we discuss this and other matters with our political panel and joining us today, Liberal MP and Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Angie Bell is back with us, welcome Angie.

From Darwin Luke Gosling, Labor Member for Solomon, welcome to you too Luke. Angie I can’t go passed you with the first question about Mayor Tate’s generous offer, would you support that, the movement or the return, I should say of the Commonwealth Games to the Gold Coast?

Thanks for that question. Firstly, can I say that Daniel Andrews’ decision to abandon the 2026 Commonwealth Games is a terrible outcome for our sporting community and for our international events reputation across the world.

I think it’s an absolute disgrace, and I have been on the phone to Mayor Tate and the Deputy Mayor this afternoon, talking to them about their position on this. You’re absolutely right when you said that the Mayor of a Gold Coast is willing to host as long as the Prime Minister is willing to move those funds to Southeast Queensland, but he has one small hurdle, which I would say is the Queensland Premier to get over.

Certainly the Gold Coast delivered a fantastic Commonwealth Games last time in 2018, sorry the last time we had…interrupted

Yeah, 18.

… It was 2018. We had a fantastic outcome from that with terrific legacy venues and accommodation as well here on the Gold Coast. So let’s not rule it out.

Fair enough, but Angie Bell was clear to you what the federal funding component was, because as best we can discern, there was no locked down or defined amount of federal money that was ever agreed with Victoria. So it’s a bit hypothetical, isn’t it?

Well, in terms of what the Gold Coast Mayor is looking at, it was about the ratepayers not having to pay for that. He said to me it was operational funding that he’d be looking for from the Federal Government, but, of course the Queensland Premier will have to be part of that conversation, and the last I’ve heard, she had ruled it out. They’ll have to fight it out between themselves.

Okay, well, I think we can say Luke Gosling, the Commonwealth Games are probably unlikely to end up in Darwin for a whole a whole lot of reasons. But do you think in the broad, Luke that there is an Australian responsibility to pick up the pieces from Victoria?

That seems to be the way that other Commonwealth nations view it. They’re not actually looking at the state of Victoria, per se, they’re directing the finger at Australia in the broad.

I just want to clarify that Darwin, the beautiful place that I represent, we’ve got a bit much on so we’re not putting our hand up to take that. But you know, I feel for the athletes really, I can understand why the Victorian Government has taken this decision. They’ve got a lot of growth there. They want to use their funds in ways that increase the great lifestyles in that in that state.

Let’s see perhaps if we can put some funds into making sure that the athletes are going to miss out on that opportunity in Victoria have opportunities to travel and to compete so that they can focus on the main game, which is Brisbane and the Olympics.

I mean, you’re noting the disappointment of the athletes, which is understandable there Luke, but what about the question of broken promises? I mean, governments enter into sovereign commitments, and I guess voters kind of expect them to see that through. Do you think this is a blow to the reputation of politics in delivering on its commitments?

I think that’s what governments do every day is make decisions based on changing circumstances. I think the Victorian Government’s made a sensible decision here but you know, that’s a great thing about democracy and in little whiles time the people of Victoria will get the judge to the overall government responses to various challenges.

There’s no doubt that the cost of living, housing in particular is a massive issue, and I’m sure funds that would have been going towards hosting that Commonwealth Games will be used effectively for the people of Victoria.

Yes, they’re not without some benefits in the redirection of those funds. Angie, Robodebt. Why don’t we move on to that? Looks like the cleanup or part of it is starting to emerge now with news that Catherine Campbell, the former Secretary has been suspended without pay.

Do you think that’s a valid decision that the current government and its advisors have made?

There’s unsealed sections and sealed sections as well in the report and so I wouldn’t really like to comment on what’s going on in terms of suspensions or criminal proceedings or any of those sorts of things, because it might upset those proceedings.

I will note that when the Coalition became aware of the problems with Robodebt, we put a stop to it. Then we made compensatory payments, $745 million, which was around about two years ago, and we apologised, and we continue to apologise to those Australians who were adversely affected by the Robodebt program.

We have undertaken actions to assist there, and that was, as I said, two years ago now.

Yep, sure. And then the Royal Commission Luke has come along that sort of kicked it further into or not down the road really, but further action is to be taken because of the Royal Commission. As what point do you think we should be given the details on who’s caught up in this and what lies ahead for them Luke Gosling?

Now obviously, as soon as it’s appropriate to do so there’s no doubt that the Royal Commission was needed. I think it’s a great credit to Bill Shorten in particular, who has really pursued this, this really cruel scheme and as a local Federal Member, here in Darwin, I had many people come into my office who were just in tears about, about debts they were told that they had and they didn’t in fact have then.

It’s a sad indictment on the former government frankly, but also on some public servants who were part of this scheme and perpetuated and the alleged actions of some public servants and some federal politicians during the time of Robodebt.

There needs to be some accountability and it would seem that due process needs to be taken, but it would be it would be evident that there’s been some individuals that the Royal Commission has said need to be accountable.

Angie, do you think, to pick up on Luke’s point, there is a role here to hold public servants to account in the Robodebt case to prevent it recurring, but also to make a statement about you know, the standards of independence that are required, that it is okay and it is expected of senior public servants to push back against things that are questionable or highly questionable in this case?

Look, certainly people should be held accountable for their actions, but Luke says on one hand, that it’s okay for the Victorian Government for example, to break a promise and on the other hand, it’s not okay for governments to make mistakes. So which one is in terms of how we deal with these very big issues?

Robodebt had terrible consequences on very many Australians and the former Coalition Government has apologised, the current Opposition has apologised for what has happened to many families, that we have made those payments to those families, that have been two years ago.

I think that Australians realise that Bill Shorten was simply after scalp in Stuart Robert, he politicised the whole thing. I’m not sure how much work he’s done on the NDIS in the 12 months that he’s been in that portfolio because every single question time that I’ve been seated in, all he’s talked about is Stuart Robert and Robodebt.

Well, I’m sure he’s tell us if he were here that he’s got a body of work underway on NDIS but let’s not go there.

Look at final one, just a check in on the development this week. Luke, I’ll start with you. We did see the official pamphlets for the Voice put out into the public domain and eventually they’ll make their way to letterboxes, have they changed anything? Changed anything in the feedback that you’re picking up as an MP.

We’re getting feedback. But we’re still some time away from the referendum. So as people are digesting what they’re reading, what they’re seeing, the conversations that they’re having. The feedback is coming in. It’s been it’s been pretty clear, I think that if you don’t know, just I don’t know, sort of resonates with some people. But, you know, I think when they read through the positiveness and the outcomes, the practical outcomes on the ground, particularly for people in areas of remote Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, the APY Lands, western New South Wales, when we talk about people in deep poverty, with a lack of hope. And I just think it’s a classic example when you have a member of the former Coalition Government comparing something that Dan Andrews is done about the Commonwealth Games with a scheme where people suicided because of the amount of money they thought they owed, and they lost hope.

Throughout this country we have First Nations people that have lost hope, we need better outcomes. We’re not reaching hardly any of those goals that we want to reach in closing the gap and with their advice, if we listen to their advice, we’ll do much better, we’ll get better outcomes on the ground. And that’s what I’m hearing is a great hope for that.

Well, let’s keep an eye on the numbers. What about where you are Angie Bell? Did the needle shift at all upon publication of those formal documents this week?

The feedback that I’ve received is that people still have questions that have not been answered, and the Prime Minister is dividing this country through this Voice referendum. At this point, the best he can hope for is 51-49, it’s even less than that now, its polling lower than that.

I think the best thing that could happen is that the referendum is pulled and that we legislate changes to deliver outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I mean, we spend $30 billion a year on Indigenous Affairs. How is the Voice going to close the gap? How, and what is it going to be? How, what, why and what else, is the typical questions that Australians have and they’re not getting answers?

We keep hearing those demands for the Prime Minister to pull it and take a different course although as recently as yesterday, he was adamant in an interview on Sydney radio that that would not be happening. We’re having a crack, he says but let’s see where it takes us.

Luke Gosling really appreciate you answering our call. today. I think you’re pretty short notice top and Angie Bell, as always appreciate you both. Thanks for sharing your views today.


Thank you.



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