Scott Morrison press conference
Peta Credlin questions Daniel Andrews at press conference
Former prime minister Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff turned Sky News After Dark host Peta Credlin has raised eyebrows in turning up to the daily Dan Andrews press conference to probe the Victorian premier on the hotel quarantine program.
Credlin has taken a keen interest in the inquiry since it finished last month, and turned up to the daily press conference on Friday and asked Andrews dozens of questions over 45 minutes about the mystery around the recruitment of security guards and concerns she had over the emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp revising his evidence about who he informed about the program.
As we reported yesterday, Victoria Police say they can’t access incoming call records for former police commissioner Graham Ashton for six vital minutes on the day the program was launched.
These records might reveal who told Ashton before the program was announced that private security would be used in the botched program.
Credlin first asked whether the inquiry had the powers it needed to get to the bottom of that. Andrews replied that the inquiry had not sought more powers from him.
Then Credlin asked whether he, and others including the head of his department and other ministers, would be willing to hand over their outgoing call records to the inquiry to see if they were the ones who called Ashton. Andrews replied that the inquiry had not sought this information.
One of the more interesting parts is that Credlin repeatedly referred to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, meaning the inquiry would need a warrant to get that data.
That is not correct. The mandatory data retention laws (passed by parliament in 2015 when she was CoS to Abbott) do not require law enforcement (i.e. Victoria Police) to obtain a warrant to get those records. It was a major debate around the passing of those laws at the time that a warrant requirement would be too burdensome for law enforcement.
The inquiry itself isn’t one of the listed agencies with powers under the data retention law, but Victoria police is and, as we reported, experts say Victoria police could use its powers to get those records, despite Telstra saying otherwise.
Mathias Cormann bows out
With the tax cuts through, the finance minister has said his farewell to politics. It was a genial speech. A couple of quick takeouts.
Of the current uncertain environment, Cormann said this was not a time for “fences”.
He said it would be tempting in the current climate to turn inwards, to “lose touch with the rest of the world” but he said this would be a recipe for falling behind.
He says Australia needs to remain an open trading nation, even if that’s tough.
He’s said of political life, what you stop is sometimes as important as what you achieve. Cormann says he was proud to stop Labor’s mining tax. Interestingly the carbon price doesn’t get a mention.
He’s said being finance minister involves “a lot of meetings in rooms without windows”. Of the postal survey on marriage equality, he says he was proud to achieve a resolution of that debate in a way that “kept the country together”.
Cormann reflects on his relationships with prime ministers. Tony Abbott worked very hard and gave him an opportunity to be finance minister.
Of Malcolm Turnbull (the pair were close and famously fell out when Cormann moved against him in 2018) he says he, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison “worked very hard to make him the most effective prime minister he could be”.
Of Morrison, he says the two are close. Conventional wisdom says otherwise, but Cormann says they are close even though they don’t always agree. He says they have had robust debates, and that’s how things should be.
He ends by saying he won’t be back, which is of course a Terminator reference.
Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, gives a gracious farewell. Cormann and Wong are close. Wong says Cormann is a formidable opponent and a trustworthy man.
She says they have never betrayed a confidence and that’s rare in politics.
She says they have been in conflict, but they have always worked too to de-escalate conflict.
She ends by telling the chamber Cormann is her friend and she will miss him.