Transcript by Senator the Hon Doug Cameron MP

Launch of 2013 National Homeless Persons’ Week – Sky News AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

Kieran Gilbert: Joining me is the Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Homelessness, Senator Doug Cameron. Senator Cameron, thanks very much for your time. I want to get your reaction to the ICAC report yesterday, you are – back in 2006, as we’ve reported before, did defend Ian Macdonald when his preselection was being challenged. In the wake of this ICAC report, do you – what’s your feeling on that now? How do you look back on that, do you regret it?

Doug Cameron: Well [with] hindsight, if you knew what was happening now, you would certainly not have supported Ian Macdonald. But in 2006, there were no allegations of any corrupt conduct, there was no allegations of any illegalities, and he was a senior minister in the Government. And he got support, as happens in political meetings both in the Labor Party and the Coalition, people sit down and look at whether people should get support.

Kieran Gilbert: How damaging is this to the Federal Labor Party’s chances at the upcoming election? You know New South Wales politics well, it’s done a lot of damage, do you think it’s going to hurt Kevin Rudd’s – his prospects going into the poll?

Doug Cameron: Well these are horrendous allegations, I said at the time that they rocked me to the core and I’m sure the Australian public, and the New South Wales public look at this with some horror, as I do. But I’m sure the public can distinguish between the conduct of people who are corrupt and the overall Labor Party. And the big issues that are before the public in the federal election are the NBN, education, health, it’s about a strong economy – these are the things I think the public will focus on.

Kieran Gilbert: So you don’t necessarily think it will hurt Mr Rudd’s prospects? The polling shows it’s turned around quite dramatically in New South Wales, but will this bring back to the fore the stench of what New South Wales voters have seen and experienced for the last couple of years?

Doug Cameron: Yes but this has got nothing to do with the Federal Labor Party, it’s got nothing to do with the Prime Minister, and I’m wondering if you will be asking business colleagues of the business people who have had these findings made against them, come on and justify their friendships and their relationships over many years. You see, you have friendships and you have relationships, but if people are corrupt, and people are hiding corruption, you don’t know that’s happening. And this is not an issue for the Federal Labor Party.

Kieran Gilbert: But how can you say it’s got nothing to do with Federal Labor when it – surely it’s a cultural issue, is it not, in New South Wales Labor – if Mr Rudd saw it necessary to have Federal intervention in that branch?

Doug Cameron: I’m talking about the horrific and terrible allegations and findings against those people in ICAC. That is not an issue that the Labor Party, federally, has any hand in. And the Prime Minister has taken strong steps to change the culture in the New South Wales branch, change the rules, made changes that would never have been thought possible only a couple of years ago. And he’s taken very strong, very decisive action.

Kieran Gilbert: Senator Cameron, you’re in Adelaide today with – in your capacity as Parliamentary Secretary for Homelessness, what’s the initiative that you’re facilitating today there?

Doug Cameron: Well I’m here to launch Homeless Persons’ Week – we still have over 100,000 Australians every night with no accommodation, nowhere to live. We’ve got people sleeping rough, we’ve got people [who are] what’s described as couch surfing, moving from house to house. We’ve got people in massively overcrowded houses. This is an issue that the Government is extremely concerned about and we are trying to deal with two big issues here, affordable housing for the future, and to get people who are rough sleeping and don’t have accommodation, to get them accommodation.

Kieran Gilbert: And Senator Cameron, the Prime Minister made quite an ambitious goal when he first came to office, is there any hope of meeting that? It’s always – politicians have great intentions, but it seems an intractable issue.

Doug Cameron: Well it’s a really tough issue, and you know, we have actually managed to reduce some of the rough sleeping. But it’s an ambitious target, reducing homelessness by half by 2020. We’re going to work hard to do that, we’ve got significant policy in place to deal with it.

The Coalition on the issue of housing and homelessness, they’ve got two sentences – they say housing is basically a matter for state governments and that they will work with state governments to reduce red tape. They don’t have a policy on what is one of the biggest issues facing many, many Australians in this country.

Kieran Gilbert: Senator Cameron, thanks for your time.

Doug Cameron: Good, thank you Kieran.