NATALIE BARR: More now on our breaking news in the Australian Government has announced additional ADF personnel and aircraft will be deployed to the Middle East. The announcement comes as the US urges Israel to delay its ground offensive in Gaza to allow forces to be ready if the war spirals out of control. Australia will send two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and Defence Force members to the region, but only as a precautionary measure. Let's bring in Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, good morning to you. Clare, this is a significant commitment to the region. What does it actually mean now?
CLARE O’NEIL: Nat, the Defence Minister announced this morning that the Australian Government is sending two RAAF aircraft and associated personnel into the region. I think all of your viewers who are watching from home can see that there's a lot of volatility in the Middle East at the moment and we don't really know what's going to happen from week to week. So what we're trying to do is make sure that we're prepared for any contingency. So it's really going to be important to have those assets in the region in particular to help further Australians who might be stuck in conflicts way.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Jane, the Government says this is just a precautionary measure. They won't be boots on the ground. Do you support this?
JANE HUME: Absolutely. This is something that Peter Dutton called for about ten days ago, immediately after that terrible, horrific incident on the 7th of October. So it's something that, yes, the Coalition would support. Any demonstration of unequivocal support for Israel at this time is fundamentally important and of course support for Australians that are in the conflict zone is fundamental.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, moving on, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan has slammed a cartoon in the Herald Sun depicting her naked. Labelling it sexualised imagery. The picture references the famous story of the Emperor's new clothes and how the Premier was left exposed during this week's Commonwealth Games inquiry. The artist behind the cartoon, Mark Knight, has defended his work, saying a depiction like this is not exclusive to female pollies, he says he's drawn Dan Andrews naked back in 2021. He's drawn Tony Abbott in budgie smugglers, Peter Dutton wearing a loincloth. Clare, is this sexist?
CLARE O’NEIL: Oh, absolutely Nat, I just thought it was gross. Just juvenile, stupid, completely unfunny and really disrespectful. We've just got a woman Premier. She hasn't been in office for a month yet, and already someone's drawing cartoons of her naked. I just think it's completely unnecessary. I thought we'd left that thing, that sort of thing in the past, and I thought it was really disappointing.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, where is sexism and political mockery? Where's the line? What do you think about this?
JANE HUME: It's hard to say, particularly with satire. Was this in poor taste? Yes, probably. Was it funny? Not really. Was it tiresome? Absolutely and the reason why it's tiresome is because the conversation is all about sexism and not about Jacinta Allan's performance as an MP or as a Premier. She has been a key ally of Dan Andrews that has overseen the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games. That has made us a laughing stock on the international stage. We're in debt up to our eyeballs in Victoria, more debt than New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined and Jacinta Allan has been a key ally of the Premier during that period of time. She's been the infrastructure Minister when we've seen cancellations and blowouts of up to about half a billion dollars. That's what we should be talking about, not sexism in a cartoon. I think that this is a distraction.
NATALIE BARR: Okay. Finally, a new poll from the Australian Institute.
CLARE O’NEIL: I agree. The first bit of what Jane said there.
NATALIE BARR: Yes, sorry, go ahead.
CLARE O’NEIL: Sorry. Excuse me. Yeah.
NATALIE BARR: No. Do you want to finish what you were going to say?
CLARE O’NEIL: I just think it was great that Jane, you know, had something good to say there about sexism and, you know, actually agree to the extent that we should be talking about Jacinta Allan's record. She's done an amazing job getting started as Premier of our great state here. We're very proud of our State Government. I think she's going to do amazing things in the job and I just agree with Jane. Let's get on to the issues.
JANE HUME: Oh Clare we’re broke! Our state is broke, we are broke.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, the issues and the Commonwealth Games mess. I think that's obviously also something that’s to be investigated. Finally, this new poll, how about this from the Australia Institute. It's revealed that two thirds of people in this country believe corruption is common at a Federal Government level. I'm talking to two federal politicians. This does not bode well for you. More than 80% of respondents believe appointing friends and colleagues to a public role over more qualified applicants is corruption. Also, ladies? Allocating public money to marginal seats to win votes was corrupt behavior. Clare?
CLARE O’NEIL: Oh look, I think the results of that poll are really worrying, Nat and one of the most important things that we've got to protect here is Australia's democracy and if people don't feel they can trust in government, then, you know, Jane and I have got much bigger problems than arguing about the debt level in the state of Victoria. So what I'd just say is our government takes this really seriously. One of the reasons that one of our first things we did as a government was to set up the National Anti-Corruption Commission, precisely to tackle this, whether it's real corruption or just perceptions of corruption. Ultimately, the most important thing is Australians have got to trust their democracy and if we need to build new institutions to make sure that people feel that they can trust their decision makers, then we're totally up for it.
NATALIE BARR: So are both of you going to stop pork barrelling? Because that's what they're saying. They don't want it. They don't like it, Jane.
JANE HUME: Well, can I suggest that one person's pork barrel is often and let's say in the case of Clare, you know, that there was some money in the last federal election for tennis clubs.
NATALIE BARR: I’d be careful Jane, if you’re going to start throwing stones about pork barrelling.
JANE HUME: Advocating for a community grant for a tennis club like the Wheelers Hill Tennis Club or the Oakleigh Tennis Club, as Clare did at the last election, is that pork barrelling or is that representing the wishes of your community?
NATALIE BARR: What about car parks Jane?
JANE HUME: I would say that this is Senate Estimates week and I know the rest of the world doesn't look at Senate estimates, but this is where we uncover things like jobs for mates, appointments for people that aren't qualified for positions and that's exactly the kind of questions that we're asking this week of the Government, particularly around that appointment of a trade envoy to San Francisco for one of the Labor mates, specifically after this government walked in saying we were going to end jobs for mates. That we were going to end corruption in government. Well, is that corrupt? I don't know. But does it stink? Yeah, it does. It doesn't pass the pub test.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah. They also think pork barrelling stinks when you pour money into a seat to win it for the next election. So this could be a wake up call for all politicians. Clare, Jane’s naming names there.
CLARE O’NEIL: Well, I think Jane's working very hard in Senate estimates this week and, you know, it's good to see our Senators doing some real work. I love to see that. But I'd just say to Jane, look, I think we should stand strong jointly against corruption. You know, it's really important that Australians feel they can trust their politicians. I think we can all do better and the National Anti-Corruption Commission is going to make a huge difference. It's something Australians have called for, for a long time and it took our government to set it up and I'm proud of that.
NATALIE BARR: Okay. Thank you very much for both of your say there.