Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB, Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Federal Government Cabinet reshuffle, cyber security breaches
30 March 2021

Ben Fordham: Now once upon a time, I described Marise Payne as the invisible minister. Back then, she was in charge of Defence and we never really heard from her. But as I later pointed out, friends of ours in Defence did not have a problem with that, they liked the fact that she was more interested in getting the job done than boosting her profile, and as Foreign Affairs Minister, she has been outstanding. As we said in September last year, since taking on Foreign Affairs she's been a superstar, she's got guts, she's got drive, she's got gears. She knows when to give someone a spray and when to zip her lips, and that's what makes her a great Foreign Minister. Well now, Scott Morrison has given Marise Payne a new unofficial title, Prime Minister for Women. And when she stood up yesterday, she showed why the tag Prime Minister is not out of the question. I'm not sure how she feels about that. Marise Payne, is live on the line. Good morning to you, Minister.

Marise Payne: Good morning, Ben.

Ben Fordham: How does it feel to be the Prime Minister for Women?

Marise Payne: Well, it feels very important, very important opportunity to be able to work with Prime Minister Morrison for all Australian women. And particularly, to focus on those key issues of women's economic security, women's safety and women's leadership.

Ben Fordham: We've got another issue this morning in New South Wales Parliament, involving text messages allegedly sent between the Nationals MP, Michael Johnson, and a woman while he was in Parliament offering money for her to come to Parliament and engage in intimate activities with him in his office. It's just unbelievable that we wake up every single day with another scandal like this.

Marise Payne: It is completely, absolutely, utterly inappropriate, and it is deeply, deeply distressing for many of us who work and have an enormous respect for the roles that we've held for so many years. But, importantly, I think, for those who've experienced assault or harassment, it's much, much more disturbing to them, and they are the people we want to work for to make this better.

Ben Fordham: When you talk about those of us who have experienced assault or harassment, can I ask if you have Minister?

Marise Payne: Not really, Ben. No. But I know many people have across time - and not just in our workplace, of course. And while it is currently an absolute focus on our workplace, I know that in Australia and internationally, these issues have had to be addressed, and it is imperative that we do. And that's why we've taken some of the decisions we have around the independent review that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner will carry out into our cultures, and the safety or otherwise of our workplace; why we've put supports in place for staff who need to be able to disclose if they have had this experience and need to be supported in doing so.

Ben Fordham: There's a real feeling at the moment that a broom needs to go through the place - not just in the Liberal Party, but in other parties as well. And when you've got grubs and creeps, they need to be shown the door.

Marise Payne: Absolutely true, and this is not just limited to one side of politics - you're correct in saying that. And it doesn't give me any pleasure to say that either, that is just the reality of the situation we find ourselves in. And we, as parliamentarians, as I've said both publicly and in the Parliament, we as parliamentarians have to own the problems, and have to own the failings, and frankly, we must own the solutions, because if we don't, it won't change, and that's our obligation.

Ben Fordham: Are you comfortable sitting in a Liberal Party room with Andrew Laming? We know that he's on leave to receive some kind of training, and then he'll return to his salary of more than $200,000 a year. This is a man who has bullied women on Facebook - he was forced to apologise, then he laughed off the apology. He fat shamed an expert who pulled him up for getting into sculling competitions with teenage girls. And he sees nothing wrong with photographing a woman from behind without her knowledge while her underwear was showing. Are you comfortable sitting in the same party room as him?

Marise Payne: Well importantly, he has taken responsibility for his actions and there are two things that are happening as a result of that. The first is that he is, as you've said, Ben, taking time to do the sorts of training, and instruction, and awareness raising that, frankly, should have been in place before - and that is something that he has decided to do of his own volition, and he should. Secondly, he has indicated that he has taken a very serious decision to leave the parliament at the completion of this- of his term. He has been elected by the people of Bowman, they made that decision. He'll serve out his term and then he'll leave the parliament. I think that, that is a response to these behaviours. But importantly, I hope it shows to others who would seek to engage in this sort of activity, that it is completely unacceptable and that it must change.

Ben Fordham: Who needs to go to awareness training to be told not to take photos of women while they're bending over in their underwear is showing? I don't understand that. And you would also acknowledge that the Prime Minister has encouraged women in the Liberal Party to speak up about their concerns, make sure their voices are being heard. Some of those liberal women are saying, we do not want this person in our party room.

Marise Payne: I have heard those comments, Ben, and I understand why they would say that. I do think we need to acknowledge that it is a big decision to say you are going to leave the parliament, going to move on from the job, the career that you have chosen. It is also important to be able to say - to be the person who can say, I own these behaviours, these behaviours must change. Whether you think it should be necessary to do that or not is a conversation we could also have, as you just said. But to own the behaviours, to do something about it, and then to leave that workplace - which is what Dr Laming is going to do.

Ben Fordham: Yeah. I mean, he hasn't really owned it because when he was forced to apologise he was then laughing off the apology, and he still can't see a problem with taking those photographs.

But, let me ask you a question about these hacking incidents. We've now got Taylors Wines, Federal Parliament hacked over the weekend; the Nine Network, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Financial Review. Do you know the countries behind these attacks?

Marise Payne: Well I can say, Ben, that the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the Australian Signals Directorate are very aware of these incidents. And it is a very important and timely reminder to everybody, every corporate in Australia, every institution in Australia, to ensure that they and individuals, frankly, have appropriate security in place online. And the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Signals Directorate have a series of steps to take to protect ourselves online. I absolutely encourage all of your listeners to look at those and to make sure that they have them in place.

The ACSC is also available to assist to respond to this sort of malicious cyber activity. There's a long way to go before we are able to identify or attribute on these issues, and sometimes that is not actually possible. But importantly, it is up to us also to be protecting ourselves and I really encourage people to do that.

Ben Fordham: We appreciate your hard work and also for being available so regularly to talk to us. Marise Payne, thank you.

Marise Payne: Thanks very much, Ben.

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