Release type: Transcript


Doorstop - Parliament House


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

JOURNALIST: Fatima Payman, do you think it's her last day in Parliament?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Look, I have no idea. It's up to Senator Payman, for her to make a decision in relation to her future. It's very unfortunate circumstances. But the federal parliamentary party, like other political parties, have their rules. I've been in the Parliament for more than 20 years and I have to comply with those obligations, as does every member of the federal parliamentary Labor Caucus. So, the future of Senator Payman is in her hands, and it's been an unfortunate situation, but ultimately, you know, it has to come to some resolution. But again, it's entirely up to her.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there are reports this morning that a reshuffle is perhaps imminent, and you might be headed for the exit before the next election.

O'CONNOR: Okay, so firstly, in terms of the reshuffle, journalists have to write something every day. Right? We understand that. Or they have to say something on TV every day, on radio every day. So, they invent things often. The amount of times a reshuffle's been predicted and not happened - I mean, if I had a dollar for every time a journalist predicts a reshuffle and it doesn't happen, I'd be a very wealthy person. So, it's up to the Prime Minister to consider a reshuffle.

But look, you know, we've been a very stable government. I can't remember, in my eight terms in this place, that I've seen a government in two years be such a stable government with such a stable ministry, well-performing, collegiate government. We are. And so again, it's within the remit of the Prime Minister to make that decision, and we'll see what happens in that regard. But I think people are performing well, working together. Again, after the nine years of chaos under the previous government, I think it's good to see stability and cohesion and collegiality. So, speculate away. But until the Prime Minister considers that issue, I think that's all it is, speculation.

In terms of my own future, I haven't made any decision about leaving this place. I love working in this portfolio, investing in skills in areas of demand, helping people get skills so they can have great jobs, helping businesses get the skills they need so that they can be prosperous businesses. You know, making sure that we have the skills to get to net zero, to ensure that we have a Future Made in Australia, to make sure that we build the houses we need. All of those things. I'm part of that and I feel very honoured and privileged to work in this portfolio. So, for all the speculation that's gone on - by the way, it's not the first term of Parliament for me that I've had speculation about me leaving. It's almost like if you keep predicting that one day I'll leave, of course, one day I will. But right now, no decision made. Very keen to continue my work in this portfolio. Working with my colleagues, working with, I think, a government focused on the main issues. This week, fantastic for taxpayers around Australia. 13.6 million getting a tax cut. $300 energy relief. They are the important things. But you guys want to keep speculating on the things that Australians don't care about, you know, we'll focus on the things that the Australians do care about.

JOURNALIST: Have you had any conversations with the Prime Minister about your --

O'CONNOR: I've had no conversations with any parliamentary colleague about my future and I've made no decisions about the prospects. Look, it is a big decision to make. I've had the great fortune of representing the electorate of Gorton for a long time, so I thank my constituents. It's a big decision to continue and it's a big decision to leave, because when you're really committing yourself, you have to commit yourself to a full three years and you have to really think about, are you in a position to do that? Well, at this point, all I can say is I feel honoured to be in the portfolio I'm in, to be a Cabinet Minister in a successful government. I feel very lucky, fortunate. And at some point before the election, I'll make a decision as to whether I continue as a candidate in the forthcoming election or not. But at this point, I've made no decision about leaving the Parliament. I love my job and I love what we're doing.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Fatima Payman was sort of planning to leave for the last month? Is that what the Prime Minister was suggesting?

O'CONNOR: Look, I can't surmise what the Prime Minister was suggesting. I have not been privy to conversations between the Prime Minister and Senator Payman. All I can say is the future of Senator Payman is in her hands and we're all obliged - we have obligations as a member - when you decide to be a candidate for the Labor Party, you know before you're elected, that you have obligations. And we also know I would not be the member for Gorton if I wasn't the Labor candidate. And Senator Payman would not be a Senator in the Australian Senate if she hadn't been a Labor candidate for the Australian Senate. So, if a person's honourable enough to take on the role of being a candidate for a political party then they also have to consider, well, should they be in the Senate if they're no longer part of that political party? If you want to stand on principle. Well, surely a principle is, if I'm only here because I was a member of the political party, if I leave the political party, should I be in the Parliament? That's something I think that all members and senators should contemplate, if they're making decisions to leave a political party.