Labor MP David Feeney, who is trying to fight off a strong challenge from the Greens in his inner-Melbourne seat of Batman, has a weekly spot on Sky News with political editor David Speers. With an election campaign underway, most politicians would consider that sort of platform gold, but the shadow minister’s interview yesterday was a strange reverse alchemy.
Feeney missed his regular slot with Speers last week following revelations that he’d failed to declare a $2.3 million investment property, as required under parliamentary rules. The mistake lasted for three years, and it subsequently emerged that Feeney owns four properties with his wife, a lawyer, lives outside his electorate in an apartment worth nearly $3 million and negatively gears the other houses.
Speers asked if his mistake was Labor’s biggest own goal of the campaign.
“I think unfortunately that is a trophy I managed to secure last week,” Feeney said, before proceeding to take the pressure off the Coalition over an argument about election promise costings.
Some watching Feeney’s performance considered that Speers added his scalp to the list of hapless politicians who’ve appeared on the show, including George “metadata is the envelope” Brandis and Christopher “I’m a fixer” Pyne.
Aside from the house, Feeney revealed he knew little about Labor’s major election promises, saying in his defence that “I’ve been distracted over the past few days”.
Speers attempted to quiz him on a range of ALP policies, including pensions and family payments.
“You haven’t got the Cabinet on today David, you’ve just got me,” Feeney said, unable to provide answers.
And the MP demanded the Coalition cost its own policies, Speers probed again on the $4.5 billion school kids bonus.
Feeney wasn’t sure what he was talking about, referring to the baby bonus instead.
“I refer you to the relevant shadow [minister]. I don’t have the answer,” Feeney said.
Here’s some of the exchange:
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 25, 2016
When it came to not declaring the $2.3 million property, despite having three years to do so, Feeney said it was “human error, just simply a failure.”
Speers wondered if people would find that “hard to swallow”.
“When people forget to register their car, they don’t forget they have a car,” Feeney said. “I never forgot I had a home.”
While taxpayers face fines and other penalties when they fail to declare assets to the government, Feeney said “all that mistake on my part created was three days of humiliation for me. Now that’s fair cop”.
Speers quoted the MP, asking him “Is it still your view that negative gearing is still, quote ‘a scheme for rich investors that reduces housing affordability’?”
The MP replied he was “completely supportive” of Labor’s plan to limit negative gearing and didn’t know whether his investment property was negatively geared when first asked about it because his wife looks after the family finances.
Speers moved in for the kill. So are you “then a rich investor making housing less affordable?”
“I think that would be the objective assessment of ah… that’s certainly the free character assessment I was getting last week,” Feeney said, going on to explain that 20 years ago he lived with his parents for a year, but now, he figured it would probably be five years.
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