29 February, 2024
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Interview Transcripts: Member for Kiama Gareth Ward; Port Botany protests; Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

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PRUE CAR, NSW LABOR DEPUTY LEADER: Prue Car, Deputy Labor Leader. Just a few comments about the ongoing chaos about the Member for Kiama. It’s been almost 24 hours since very serious charges were laid against the Member for Kiama and the people of New South Wales deserve an update from the Perrottet Government as to what action they are taking. Dominic Perrottet was quick to put out a statement saying that he was going to ask Mr. Ward to resign and that if he didn’t resign well then they would move to remove him from parliament. We don’t even know if that is the case yet. We’re hearing that might not even be the case and the people of New South Wales need to know what is Dominic Perrottet going to do to remove Gareth Ward from parliament. These are very serious charges laid against the Member for Kiama, and not compatible with the standing of members of parliament and the standard that we expect of elected members of parliament. We need the Premier to explain to the people of New South Wales what will happen. These are very serious charges laid against Gareth Ward, a former Minister of the Liberal Government and the people New South Wales need to know what is happening with his expulsion from the Parliament of New South Wales. These are very serious charges.

On top of that we also have an Education Minister who cannot even answer the question as to whether Mr. Ward should be banned from entering schools. If this was a teacher that had these charges laid against his or her, as a teacher in NSW schools, that person would be removed from NSW schools. No parent in NSW would think that this is acceptable. The Education Minister cannot even answer that question. I don’t think it passes any sort of pub test. These are very serious charges laid against Gareth Ward, and there are very serious questions and many questions that the Premier Dominic Perrottet and the acting Premier Paul Toole need to answer to the people of New South Wales.

Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: It might not pass the pub tests but isn’t actually the legal test more important, the legalities of the situation?

CAR: Well, everyone obviously is entitled to a presumption of innocence. But we’re talking about a higher standard that members of parliament have to be held to. I think we all agree that Gareth Ward must fight these charges as a private citizen, not as a member of parliament and Dominic Perrottet has to act swiftly as he promised to do yesterday to remove Gareth Ward from parliament. This does not pass the test of the standard that should be applied to members of parliament.

JOURNALIST: There are also concerns that he may not actually be able to be expelled or suspended in which case he might still be entitled to the salary. What do you say about that?

CAR: Well, the people in New South Wales deserve an explanation. The Government yesterday said they would expel him and now there’s suggestions that that’s only a suspension. If Mr. Ward is suspended from Parliament and can’t be expelled, well the people in New South Wales need to know why that is the case and why Dominic Perrottet would be sending him on a taxpayer funded holiday.

JOURNALIST: Parliament has no legal authority in this case. So if the court and the law is yet to find and prove the charges against him, is it indeed up to the parliament to suspend or expel him? I understand the precedent for this, it’s only ever been done a handful of times and not since the early 1900s. Is that an appropriate way forward?

CAR: All we’re asking for is for Dominic Perrottet to actually come good on his commitment yesterday to ask Mr. Ward to resign and if he didn’t resign to remove him from the parliament. We’re talking about the most serious of charges, sexual assault charges, one against a 17 year old male, these are very serious. I think every reasonable person in New South Wales wants to know, what is Dominic Perrottet doing about this? He promised yesterday, he would ask Gareth Ward to resign and if he did not resign that he would remove him from parliament. What is the update? What is happening with this?

JOURNALIST: Will Labor move a motion to either expel or suspend?

CAR: We’ve said that we would support motions to remove Mr. Ward from parliament. I think the people of New South Wales expect the Opposition to work with the government on that and we reserve our rights to take further actions. But we await advice from the government. If there is pressing advice to the government as to what can or cannot be done, the people of New South Wales deserve to know what that advice is.

JOURNALIST: Labor in the Upper House this morning, John Graham submitted an SO52 asking whether or not Mr. Ward had attended any schools in the past year, is there a concern that he has?

CAR: We’re concerned that if these same allegations or charges now, if the police had laid charges against a teacher working in a public school that that teacher would be removed. Now serious charges have been laid against Gareth Ward while he has been visiting local schools in his electorate. It’s very concerning that the Minister in charge of education in our state can’t even answer that question. And that’s why the people of New South Wales deserve to know has he been visiting local schools. I think it is completely reasonable that he not be allowed to go to schools while these charges are laid against him, serious sexual assault charges.

JOURNALIST: If the Leader of the House walks in today and does move a motion to suspend under standing orders will Labor support it?

CAR: We need to know what can be done to expel Gareth Ward from the parliament. That was what was promised yesterday.

JOURNALIST: He said remove not expel though.

CAR: The government promised to remove Gareth Ward from the Parliament, we need to know what is the advice that has been provided to government as to what can be done. Suspension would mean that Gareth Ward continues to receive a taxpayer funded salary. Basically, if he’s been suspended by the government, Dom Perrottet is sending Gareth Ward on a taxpayer funded holiday, which I don’t think any person in New South Wales would really find acceptable.

JOURNALIST: But if that is the motion that is moved, will you still support the suspension in parliament?

CAR: We want to see Gareth Ward removed from parliament. I think that’s what the people of New South Wales expect. That’s what Dominic Perrottet promised yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government may want to avoid a by-election?

CAR: I think if Dominic Perrottet has promised to remove Gareth Ward from Parliament, he’s going to have to face a by election and the people of Kiama will have to make a choice.

JOURNLIST: On another matter, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Laws – will Chris Minns commit to meeting with the Premier to work out a way to get this passed in an efficient manner? Because advocates are worried it’s going to take until Christmas at this rate.

CAR: My understanding is that the Labor team in the Legislative Council have given quite a considerable amount of Private Members time today as well so that this can be debated. It’s really on the government, they need to give some of their government time so that we can debate this bill expeditiously to get this resolved. I’m a supporter of voluntary assisted dying, I would personally like to see this done as a matter of priority. The government needs to commit to giving this the time it deserves, to get this debated now that it’s passefd the Lower House of parliament.

JOURNALIST: Just on a tweet that came from Chris Minns’ account today, it said, ‘The NSW Government is in absolute chaos, incompetent Ministers, senior MP’s speaking at anti-vax rallies and serious criminal allegations. This must end.’ In regards to those three last words why are you not moving a motion of no confidence in the government? If this must end, why  are the people in New South Wales being told that government’s a shambles but you have to deal with it because we’re not going to move a motion of no confidence?

CAR: The government is a shambles and we’re very concerned that the government is in chaos when there are serious issues that need to be delivered on for the people of New South Wales and the Premier needs to fix these. Gareth Ward was a Liberal Minister, Tanya Davies is a Liberal Parliamentary Secretary and these are matters for Premier Perrottet to resolve. But when it comes to the removal of Gareth Ward from parliament, we would support a motion in the parliament. But Premier Perrottet has to show some leadership on behalf of the people of New South Wales and get this government in order at a time that we desperately need it to lead.  

JOURNALIST: But why don’t you do it?

CAR: Well, it’s up to the Premier to resolve these issues in his own party room. We found out yesterday that Gareth Ward hasn’t even resigned from the Liberal Party. So Premier Perrottet must act to resolve these issues, we’ve got many members on the crossbench, we’ve got members going to anti vaccination rallies and now we’ve got a previous Liberal Minister for vulnerable children being charged with sexual assault. So these are heavy issues for Premier Perrottet to deal with and he must show some leadership on behalf of the people New South Wales.

JOURNALIST: When asked yesterday Chris said he didn’t believe that the Premier should return from his parental leave. Is that still your position today?

CAR: I think the Premier can do this from parental leave. We’re not calling on the Premier to come back from his parental leave, he can show some leadership. He’s got an acting Premier, he just needs to act decisively. He managed to put out a statement yesterday pretty swiftly, he just needs to come good on the promise he made yesterday to deal with Gareth Ward.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Acting Premier, he was jumping up and down yesterday saying that magistrates need to get tough on these protesters that have caused problems in Port Botany. It’s now emerged that the man who was up the poll yesterday, given bail was up another poll today. Are we being tough enough?

CAR: Well, I think that the people that have ground Sydney to a halt for two days in a row need to have the full force of the law thrown at them. It is unacceptable that working truck drivers and everyone associated with jobs to do with the port have had their businesses and lives completely uprooted because of these knuckleheads over the past couple of days.

JOURNALIST: Is the full force of the law good enough when the police gave him bail yesterday, he goes out and allegedly does exactly the same thing today?

CAR: He obviously needs to be dealt with, this is this is completely unacceptable what’s been happening at the port over the last couple of days.

JOURNALIST: What Standing Order would you expel Gareth Ward under? What part of the standing orders?

CAR: The people of New South Wales need the advice that has been provided to the government as to what can be done to remove Gareth Ward from parliament. Dominic Perrottet is the person that promised to remove Gareth Ward from Parliament yesterday. He put out a statement almost immediately saying he would ask Gareth Ward to resign and if he did not resign, they would move a motion to remove him from parliament. So the people of New South Wales need to know what is happening with that. Their premier promised them that yesterday.

JOURNALSIT: The issue is Standing Order 254, is the explosion standing order is for someone who’s guilty of conduct unworthy of a member parliament. What conduct is Gareth Ward Guilty of that’s unworthy of parliament?

CAR: The charges laid against Gareth Ward are very serious. I think everyone in New South Wales accepts and is worried about that. And the advice that’s been provided to government about what can be done to remove him is the advice that the people of New South Wales deserve to hear from their government.

Where are the government Ministers today, coming down here explaining to the people of New South Wales what they’re going to do about Gareth Ward? It shouldn’t be up to the Opposition. It was their member of parliament, their Minister, where is the Acting Premier? Where is the Treasurer? Where’s the Deputy Liberal leader? Where are the senior government Ministers explaining what are they going to do about an ex-liberal government Minister who is accused of child sexual assault and who they promised to remove from Parliament yesterday? They promised it, they’ve got to tell the people of New South Wales what are they going to do about this.

JOURNALIST: Should any MP charged with a criminal offence be removed from parliament? If not, what charges are serious enough to [inaudible]

CAR: We’re talking about offenses of the most serious nature. We’re talking about sexual assault, including that of a minor. I think any reasonable person would think that does not pass a test that should be applied to members of Parliament.

Thank you.

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