Doorstop Interview at Parliament House

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH, STEPHEN JONES: Morning everyone. Well, it is the job of the Health Minister to advocate policies that are going to advance the health of the nation. 

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They do that inside of Cabinet, in their Party Room and in the broader community. Which is why it was so extraordinary yesterday that we had Sussan Ley - after only week into a debate - already bagging the idea of increasing the tobacco excise. We know that it works; we know that it has been a key contributor in reducing the rate of smoking and stopping kids taking up smoking over the years. So we now have this extraordinary situation where we have got a Health Minister who is advocating for a 15 per cent tax on fresh food yet bagging the idea of a tax which will stop people taking up smoking. It just doesn’t make any sense.

JOURNALIST: Just some thoughts on the Grand Mufti and the criticism yesterday from Josh Frydenberg?

JONES: Look, I don’t think that this is a time for political leaders, for community leaders, to be adding to levels of disunity and disharmony in the community. We know that for national security reasons, but we also know for creating the sort of country that we want to live in, that we have to bring communities together. I think that it is possible for us to stand up and say – those people who committed the acts we saw in Paris a couple of weeks ago, that is not only not Islam, it is just sub-human. We are able to say that at the same time as not causing further disharmony in the community. We need to bring the community together.

JOURNALIST: You are saying that but the Grand Mufti didn’t use words that strong in his initial statement. So you are backing his initial statement and what he has said so far?

JONES: No I’m not, I’m saying that it is incumbent on all political leaders to be saying things and doing things that are bringing people together and not leading to further disharmony within the community. I thought that some of the statements weren’t helpful; I think he clarified them, I thought that was helpful. But look, right now it is more important than ever for us to be ensuring that political leaders aren’t adding to disharmony. We don’t need to be fuelling disharmony, social isolation and the sorts of situations that lead people to do the terrible things that we saw in Paris.

JOURNALIST: Intelligence agencies have suggested that our best asset is the Islamic community in Australia. So would you suggest that Josh Frydenberg’s comments and others like it are making us less safe?

JONES: I agree with the Prime Minister on this one and I agree with Bill Shorten on this one. That is, that all of us need to be doing whatever we can to create more harmony within the community. Of course if there are elements within the Islamic community or other communities that are doing things which none of us would approve of, we need to have the sorts of networks and communication and relationships that are going to help our intelligence agencies to seek these people out.

JOURNALIST: Just the reports in Fairfax on the leadership coup and the lead up to it. Any thoughts on that?

JONES: We know that Malcolm Turnbull was incredibly ambitious in becoming Prime Minister, what we don’t know yet is whether he has also been incredibly dishonest. I think that Malcolm Turnbull needs to explain himself; I think that senior Liberals need to explain themselves. We are less than 12 months away from an election, we need to know the character of the man who is the Prime Minister of Australia.  

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