Transcript of interview, Newcastle Customs House – Bronwyn Bishop
CONROY: Well, last night we saw Tony Abbott label Bronwyn Bishop using five thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money to go to a Liberal Party fundraiser “village gossip”. That demonstrates how out of touch the Prime Minister is over this whole affair. Does he genuinely think using taxpayers’ money to charter a helicopter to go to a Liberal Party fundraiser is merely gossip, rather than a serious, serious issue for this nation? What’s been very clear from this morning’s interventions from the Liberal Party is that they’re intent on protecting the Speaker, and Mr Abbott has to make a serious decision. Is he going to stand by his political mentor, Bronwyn Bishop, or is he going to stand with the vast number of Australians who are sick and disgusted by this entire affair, sick of people, of Liberal Party politicians, saying it’s okay to use five thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money to go to a Liberal Party fundraiser? So that’s the choice for Tony Abbott, does he stand by Bronwyn Bishop or does he stand with the Australian people? Happy to answer any questions.
JOURNALIST: So the fact that’s she paying the money back isn’t good enough?
CONROY: Absolutely not, because she still doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong. Bronwyn Bishop is paying back the money very begrudgingly, she’s saying that she did nothing wrong, she’s not apologising to the Australian people. And the real question is, if this hadn’t been caught, if this hadn’t been exposed, would she have paid the money back? Of course not. Look, this is a very serious affair, we’re demanding that Bronwyn Bishop release the form that she’s signed because that will get to the heart of the matter of whether she claimed that going to a Liberal Party fundraiser was part of her official purposes as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
JOURNALIST: How is the refusal to investigate consistent with the Slipper case?
CONROY: Well it certainly appears that the response from the Federal Police is inconsistent with past actions around Speakers. It was made very clear by the Department of Finance in 2013 that the so-called Minchin Protocol, where the Finance Department investigates alleged misuse of entitlements, does not apply when referrals are made directly to the Federal Police, which is what I have done. I have directly referred this entire matter regarding Bronwyn Bishop to the Federal Police. I firmly believe that the Federal Police should investigate. It’s the Federal Police’s responsibility to investigate supposed breaches of the Criminal Code. Is
anyone seriously suggesting that the Department of Finance should be investigating supposed criminal actions?
JOURNALIST: So you don’t have faith that they will investigate it properly?
CONROY: Well it’s not a matter of faith it’s about using the appropriate body. The Federal Police is there to investigate possible breaches of the Criminal Code, they should undertake the investigation. This is just being merely consistent with what occurred in 2013, where it was the AFP who investigated a similar issue rather than the Finance Department, and we’re merely arguing for consistency, that the Federal Police should investigate Bronwyn Bishop’s use of taxpayers’ money to go to a Liberal Party fundraiser.
JOURNALIST: Should she resign or step aside given Slipper did?
CONROY: I think as the days go by the Speaker’s position becomes increasingly untenable. I think she should consider resigning, and let’s not forget if she doesn’t consider resigning Tony Abbott should consider having a hard conversation with her about her position. Bronwyn Bishop was Tony Abbott’s ‘captain’s call’. Tony Abbott breached conventions to put Bronwyn Bishop in the Speaker’s Chair. He should have a serious conversation with her about whether this whole affair and her actions is adding to the dignity of Parliament or undermining Parliament, and I think she should seriously consider resigning.
JOURNALIST: She’s refusing to respond at the moment because an investigation is underway, what do you make of that?
CONROY: Well, firstly that’s incredibly inconsistent with what the Liberal Party is saying this morning that the Finance Department is investigating rather than the Federal Police. But, leaving aside all the investigations, this matter needs to be cleared up as quickly as possible and the easiest way of clearing it up is for Bronwyn Bishop to release the form that she would have had to have signed certifying the travel. Let’s see whether she did sign it, certifying that the travel to the Liberal Party fundraiser was part of her official duties as Speaker of the House of Representatives because that’s the nub of the matter and that’s what the Australian people want to know. Is she seriously claiming on that form that going to a Liberal Party fundraiser using five thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money was part of being Speaker of the House of Representatives? Tony Abbott set the standards on the performance of Speakers and the behaviours of Speakers. Does he seriously think this is village gossip? Tony Abbott needs to apply the same standards he applied when in Opposition and say to the Speaker that she needs to seriously consider resigning. If she has used taxpayers’ money to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser it clearly undermines the dignity of the Parliament and she should consider standing down. She should consider resigning. If she doesn’t, Tony Abbott, who let’s not forget put Bronwyn Bishop in the Speaker’s chair, needs to have a very hard conversation because if this goes on it increasingly demonstrates that the Liberal Party and Tony Abbott are out of touch with what every day Australians are thinking.