'Are you a buffoon?': Scott Morrison's awkward press moment

A journalist asks Scott Morrison if he is a 'buffoon' over his criticism of the NSW anti-corruption body. Source: ABC News

Video transcript

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

- One of the issues in this election, prime minister, is integrity. One of the commissioners of the New South Wales ICAC has said that those who describe the New South Wales ICAC as a kangaroo court are buffoons. You've described it as a kangaroo court. Are you a buffoon given his comment?

And a question for Premier Perrottet. You've obviously disagreed on that kangaroo court label for the New South Wales ICAC. I'd like you to tell us here today what's wrong with calling it a kangaroo court? Why is it not a kangaroo court?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I stand by everything I've said on this matter. I don't believe the New South Wales ICAC is the model that we should be following at a federal level. I've seen it come to-- and destroy people's reputations and careers before it's even made a finding. And I don't think that's good process, and I'm not alone in that. Chris Merritt, a very distinguished legal affairs writer with "The Australian," has written sharing my view about this. Even Stephen Conroy, a former Labor Federal Communications minister, has expressed sympathy with the views that I've had when it comes to what is the best way to go ahead.

Now I've also made this point, that the issues you're dealing with on integrity are different at a federal level than they are at a state level. Now at a state level, you're dealing with development consents, you're dealing with gaming, you're dealing with gambling and horse racing, and a range of other issues which are very different sets of issues and service delivery to what you're dealing with at a federal level. And the principal issues you're dealing with at a federal level are issues around taxation, competition policy. You're dealing with law enforcement integrity. You're dealing also with immigration decisions.

- But you're dealing with grants. You're dealing with property deals. You're dealing with a whole lot of money where there's the different systems of integrity.

SCOTT MORRISON: Now, the difference is this, that when it comes to issues of decisions made by the federal government, all the things I'm referring to, those decisions are made at arm's length by officials. And that's why the first phase of our Integrity Commission proposal has already been implemented. We have already done it with the transformation of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commission, in expanding its remit to the ACCC, to the ATO, and a range of other financial regulatory authorities. And that is important because they are the things that federal governments deal with. And we've already put $50 million in to support that.

Now the second tranche of our common--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

SCOTT MORRISON: Hang on now. David, you've asked a long question, and I'm giving you a very comprehensive answer. The second phase of our Integrity Commission, which is set out in our 347 pages of legislation, deals with the broader issues of criminality across the entire public service, the entire public service, the vast majority of which don't have any coercive powers in relation to the decisions that they take, which is another difference with-- between the federal and the state jurisdictions.

So my point is this. What may or may not work at a state level is not a guide to what should be done at a federal level. And I don't believe the New South Wales ICAC model is the right model for the federal jurisdiction. I have serious criticisms of the New South Wales ICAC model. I've never been a fan of how it's conducted itself. And I don't care if barristers, and lawyers, and others up there in Macquarie Street-- I don't mean in the Parliament, I mean sitting around in the barristers' chambers-- disagree with me. They agree with-- disagree with me all the time. I've never had much track with them over the course of my entire political career. I'll leave them to their [INAUDIBLE] and all the rest of it.

What I'll focus on is what I think is the right model for Australia. Because I don't intend, when we introduce our model, to get it wrong. I think the design of it has to be right. It's just not about having any integrity commission, one that is driven by populism, one that's just been driven by the latest thought bubble. I mean, Labor's policy is two pages. Ours is 347 pages of legislation. Anthony Albanese is just making it up.

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