NICK CHAMPION: Morning. Over the last 12 months we've seen the shipbuilding workforce in South Australia constantly under pressure from redundancies. We've seen the closure of the car industry. We've seen a $210 million cut to South Australian schools and we now have a proposed $600 million cut to the GST allocation for South Australia. So what we've seen is a Liberal Government constantly on the attack against South Australia, against South Australian workers and communities. The only person who has consistently stood up against these cuts and attacks by the Federal Liberal Government is South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill. That's why it is important that the Turnbull Government listen to the South Australian Government, listen to its proposal for a national shipbuilding authority which would help coordinate the growth of the shipbuilding workforce, with the submarines and frigates coming down the line. It's more important than ever that we build a good white collar and blue collar workforce. We begin now to make sure there aren't skill shortages in two or three years’ time, to make sure South Australians have confidence to invest in the future and the economy. To make sure our national shipbuilding enterprise becomes a truly national, bipartisan and successful affair not just for the nation’s defence forces and navy but also for our defence exports. There's an opportunity here for Christopher Pyne and the Turnbull Government to back in the South Australian Premier on the national shipbuilding authority. To put it in South Australia and to begin that very important work that is outlined in the Government's own shipbuilding plan to make sure there are jobs, investment and a truly successful defence export industry in Australia.
JOURNALIST: It's not long now till the South Australian state election. As a South Australian Federal Labor MP how concerned are you that there may be a hung Parliament in the state and neither side may control the Parliament there?
CHAMPION: Hung parliaments are not an unusual circumstance in South Australia. We know that only Premier Weatherill has had the ability to skilfully work with such complex parliaments. The worst case scenario for South Australia is a shattered, divided and useless Liberal Party loses so many seats to the Xenophon Team that Mr Xenophon, a bit like the dog that chases the car and one day catches it becomes Premier of the State. Then we would have a L plate Premier or an L plate Opposition Leader, a man who exists for election campaigns, but as we know, doesn't necessarily like the process of governing or the need to make tough decisions. There is a threat of a hung parliament and an L plate Premier in Mr Xenophon. I would urge South Australians who has consistently stood up for South Australian jobs and interests, and that is Premier Jay Weatherill.
JOURNALIST: On the Barnaby issue, do you think the statement he makes to Parliament today, how broad do you think that should be? What should that canvas? Apparently it might just be canvassing the issues that are in today's papers that he misbehaved at a party in 2011. Do you think that his statement to Parliament needs to answer more questions than that?
CHAMPION: All parliamentarians understand the need to behave professionally. We are no different to many other professionals in the community, whether it be school principals or bank managers or the like. We've got to accommodate ourselves to professional standards when we are out in public. Clearly they are questions that any parliamentarian has to answer when these reports get made in the paper but the deeper issue is that we have a Prime Minister who is employing the Sargent Shultz defence. 'I know nothing, I see nothing'. We now have a situation where what is a private affair has spilled over into employment related matters in the Government. Has spilled over into the Ministerial Code of Conduct. There are varying media reports about what the Prime Minister and other Ministers knew and when. They can't just say that this is a National Party affair and that they have no role in it. This is a question about the integrity of the Government and its practices. Professional organisations around the country have increasingly high expectations of people who are in senior management roles. In Parliament that is also put on MPs. I can't employ my wife, not that I want to, but I can't. We expect that when something is written down in the Ministerial Code of Conduct that to be taken seriously and the Prime Minister to be accountable for that.
JOURNALIST: You're questioning this defence that when Vicki Campion was hired in Matt Canavan's office that the Prime Minister’s office saying she wasn't necessarily Barnaby's partner at the time?
CHAMPION: Clearly this goes to the Government integrity of its employment practices. We know that these are legitimate matters of public concern because there are very high expectations on the private sector now, there are very high expectations on workers and we know there are very high expectations on people who receive social security. So people have, I think, a reasonable expectation that when these things are written down in the Ministerial Code of Conduct that we don't get the Sargent Shultz defence from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Special Minister of State. They have the responsibility to account for these things, to explain these things. It's not just incumbent on Barnaby Joyce to make a statement today. The Government should be making a statement and then the public can make their judgements about this.
JOURNALIST: So is Labor now concerned that when the PM goes overseas next week that Barnaby will be the acting PM? That potentially Barnaby should not be in that role next week?
CHAMPION: I think there are Government members who are desperately back grounding the press, to avoid such a circumstance. This goes to the question of the integrity of the Government, to the coherence of the Government. They should be talking about jobs today. About shipbuilding jobs in South Australia. My constituents for people to focus on schools, jobs and hospitals and we can't do it while we have this national soap opera in the Government. The Government's got to account for what’s happened and have got to make some tough decisions.
JOURNALIST: Your colleague Mark Dreyfus should not be the acting PM next week and the issue needs to be dealt with this week. Do you agree that Barnaby should be dumped?
CHAMPION: I think that's been said by the Labor Opposition, but it has also been said by various Government members under the cloak of anonymity. So the real test is, and the Government knows that they can't go into next week or the week after, with this national soap opera and employing this Sargent Shultz defence where they say we knew nothing. I don't think they'll cop that.