Transcript by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Opposition leader and women, Newspoll, Foodbank Report

Program: Sky News

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Earlier I spoke with another female Labor Minister, Labor’s Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins, and I asked her about these allegations some of her colleagues have been putting to Mr Abbott today. Have a listen. Julie Collins thank you for your time.

JULIE COLLINS: Pleasure, Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Do you think Tony Abbott is sexist?

JULIE COLLINS: I think the Australian public will make up their own mind, they’ll judge his actions both in the chamber and outside of it. Certainly I think that some of his behaviour that’s been on display in recent weeks and months has shown that he has an issue with capable women.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: What sort of behaviour are you referring to?

JULIE COLLINS: Well I’ve seen him turn his back on female ministers when they’re answering questions. There’s a photo in the media today about the way he behaved yesterday, I didn’t see that incident myself. But clearly I think the Australian public will make up their own mind about the way he behaves.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Have you ever personally felt that Mr Abbott was discriminating against you because of your gender?

JULIE COLLINS: Well as the Minister for the Status of Women I haven’t actually been asked a question by the Opposition, but certainly I’ve been at the dispatch box, I can’t say that there’s personally been anything that Mr Abbott has directed towards me, no. But I think that everybody in the chamber really does need to show more respect to the Speaker.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Speaking of the Deputy Speaker Anna Burke, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, she’s told Sky News today that she doesn’t feel like she’s being treated any differently by Mr Abbott just because she is a woman. Is this not just a distraction campaign from Labor?

JULIE COLLINS: I don’t think it’s that at all, I think, you know, people are asking us about Mr Abbott’s behaviour. I think it’s about Mr Abbott’s behaviour and the way that he’s been seen to behave in the chamber. Clearly I think people in the chamber do need to show more respect towards the Chair, and I think that if the Chair had been perhaps Harry Jenkins or male we may not see the same behaviour. But certainly Anna I think is a great Speaker, Deputy Speaker of the chamber and I think she’s doing a great job under difficult circumstances.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Is there anything really wrong though with Mr Abbott turning his chair away from the Speaker, because that’s something Kevin Rudd has done, it’s something Julia Gillard does on occasion?

JULIE COLLINS: I guess it depends on how it’s interpreted and whether or not it’s deliberate, and I’ll leave people to make up their own mind about that, but I’ve certainly seen it on display in the chamber.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: You said that you think Mr Abbott has a problem with capable women. His Chief of Staff is a woman. Does that really fit with the picture of Mr Abbott that Labor’s painting at the moment?

JULIE COLLINS: I don’t think Labor’s painting any picture of Mr Abbott, what we’re saying is that the Australian public will make up their own mind about his behaviour, the public are watching him very closely and he’s getting some scrutiny.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: On today’s polls do you think Julia Gillard has been given some more breathing room today with this Newspoll showing that Labor’s popularity is creeping upwards?

JULIE COLLINS: I think what we’ve seen in recent months of course has been a scare campaign. I think as people are dealing with the reality of the carbon price since 1 July we’re seeing a change in people’s views. They’re also seeing us as a government getting on with big reforms, we’re rolling the NBN rollout. Certainly my own home state of Tasmania we’re first off the rack with that and that’s been a great success in Tasmania to date and is going very well. We’ve seen the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We’re getting on with the big reforms, and it appears that people are starting to take notice of that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Right. So you think the leadership rumblings will stop as a result of these polls?

JULIE COLLINS: Oh look, we’re just going to get on with Government, we’re going to get on with the big reforms that are necessary, they’re great Labor reforms, we’ve been very committed to them over time, and of course we’ve got big reforms coming with Gonski and education funding.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: You’ve launched a report this morning about Australia’s food security, in particular access to food for vulnerable families around the country. What were the key findings of that report?

JULIE COLLINS: Well what that report is saying is that there’s still a great need in Australia in terms of providing people with nutritious meals. Foodbank, who launched the report today, are a great organisation who are doing a lot of work in our communities right across Australia, they’re leveraging support from a great lot of businesses across Australia, community organisations, volunteers, and of course the Government is a partner in that, and what they’re doing is providing food to community organisations who are then feeding vulnerable people in our community. What the report is showing of course is that there is still a need in local communities, and the Government has provided ongoing funding for Foodbank.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Does this report suggest though that more funding is needed? Is that really the solution here?

JULIE COLLINS: What the report is saying is that we need to look across the board, we need to look at other ways and means in which we can provide support. The Government’s been very serious about this. Since we came to office, emergency relief, which Foodbank is funded under, has almost doubled since we came to office. Foodbank is one of more than 700 organisations the Government funds across the country to provide support to vulnerable Australians. And of course we’ve provided payments, increased family payments, the schoolkids bonus to try and support low income families right across Australia.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Julie Collins, appreciate your time.

JULIE COLLINS: Thanks, Ashleigh.