ABC RN Drive (3)

17 August 2016


SUBJECT/S: Budget savings, Manus Island, Parliamentary pairing

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Joining me now is Senator Scott Ryan; he’s the Special Minister of State and the Minister Assisting the Cabinet Secretary, welcome.

SCOTT RYAN: Good evening Patricia.

KARVELAS: Also Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Minister for Finance, welcome to you too.


RYAN: G’day Jim.

KARVELAS: Now Jim before we get onto the issues of economics, now that’s how the day started – it started as an economics day -

CHALMERS: That seems like an age ago now.

KARVELAS: - it does – that’s the news cycle we live in. Can I get your response to those comments by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the closure of Manus Island detention centre – are you satisfied with that response? Clearly we’re going to see a sum of money, we couldn’t determine it, but he did say it would be substantial - being given to PNG – to try and help settle these asylum seekers after the closer of the Manus Island detention centre in PNG.

CHALMERS: Well it’s very difficult to respond in detail to the comments that Peter Dutton just made, having only heard from the Papuan New Guineans a short time ago about these plans. As you discovered in your interview with the minister, there isn’t a timeline, there isn’t a cost – all of those sorts of things - and we haven’t been, as far as I’m aware, briefed yet on the arrangement struck with Papua New Guinea. So until we get all of those kinds of details I am reluctant to comment.

KARVELAS: OK, fair enough, we’ll leave it there and I won’t go to you on it Scott, if you don’t mind because we’ve just had the Minister at length, and you’re probably glad anyway.

CHALMERS: I can hear you crossing out questions with your pen, Patricia!

KARVELAS: Well I did have a very substantial, long interview with the Minister. So Scott, let’s get to the economics, the Federal Government will be introducing an omnibus bill when Parliament resumes at the end of the month. It’s worth $6.5 billion in savings aimed at balancing the Budget – you can’t really expect Labor to agree wholesale to this – this is an attempt to wedge Labor isn’t it? Wouldn’t you quietly have gone to them and say ‘look here it is, this is what we‘re going to do here, we need you on board, let’s get the Budget under control?’

RYAN: Not at all Patricia. These are things that both sides announced during the election campaign – these are Labor policies, and when the Prime Minister said in his speech this afternoon that our job is to work with the Parliament that the people have voted for, and Bill Shorten said after the election said he want to work productively. What this bill contains is the things that the Labor Party and the Coalition agree on, the things that the Labor Party announced during the campaign that they were going to do, the things that Sam Dastyari said last Sunday on ABC TV, that the Labor Party would of course support the measures they announced during the election campaign. So, this is actually about trying to find some common ground.

KARVELAS: Well Jim, you’ve heard that – I heard you announce these savings during the election campaign - what’s the hold up? Surely, it’s pretty easy that you would support something that you already believe in anyway.

CHALMERS: I think it speaks volumes that you said to Scott ‘Hey, if you wanted to be bipartisan, shouldn’t you have had a yarn with the Opposition? And he said, ‘Not at all! Of course not.’ I think that really gets to the bottom of what happened today. Of course the position that we take in the Parliament will reflect and be consistent with the policies and the positions that we took to the Australian people.

Today was really about two things: it was confirmation that the so called ‘economic leadership’ that Malcolm Turnbull promised amounts to nothing more than a slogan without a strategy, taking money out of hospitals and giving it to big business, and asking Labor to clean up the mess they’ve made of the Budget.

If he was genuine about working together to fix the Budget, he would pick up the phone, he would consider our tax reforms, and he would not proceed with his Budget-busting $50 billion gift to big business.

RYAN: Jim there didn’t actually engage with the key question here Patricia.  These are things that the Labor Party announced during the campaign. A responsible government that’s trying to pass the necessary savings measures; we’ll try and find the common ground, we can argue about the tax cut, there will be a time and place for that, but these are the things that both of the major sides of politics had announced they were going to do, and we had a close election result, had the election been slightly different and Jim has been in office, he was going to do this, so this is actually an entirely responsible way.

Now when a party announces something, when they put out press releases, when they put out documents during a campaign, I think we should be able to take at face value that that is a policy that they support.

CHALMERS: I’m happy to tell you again Scott, what I just said a moment ago, that the position we take in the Parliament will be consistent with the position we took to the people. But it is not right to separate the $50 billion tax cut to big business from these considerations, because if you were serious and the Prime Minister was serious about fixing the Budget, you would not proceed with that. That was the biggest single new policy spend in the election.

KARVELAS: OK I’m intervening now, I’m Patricia Karvelas, RN Drive, this is the show, I’m mediating fellas! If I can get in there, I get your point, in fact I think even Scott Ryan just conceded your point, of course you can argue about the tax cut, you clearly don’t support the tax cut but this is stuff you do agree on, Jim Chalmers, this is clearly stuff you were in favour of.

CHALMERS: I’ve said our position will reflect what we took to the people – I’ve said that three times now. But the point I’m making is that if you’re fair dinkum about working across the aisle to fix the Budget, you wouldn’t proceed with that tax cut, you’d consider some of the proposals that we put on the table and probably most importantly, you would have actually picked up the phone and tried to talk to us about it. I think the fact that none of those three things are happening reveals that this is just a bit of a politically ploy, like it always is.

RYAN: We have a different approach, Patricia, and we have not supported the approach of Labor’s, which is to increase taxes; we don’t think investment busting taxes are actually going to help drive economic growth and jobs growth, and we were explicit about that in the Budget, we’ve been explicit about that for years. And indeed, the rationale behind the corporate tax cut is the same rationale that was underpinning the Henry Tax review that was bought out when Wayne Swan was Treasurer and it is –

CHALMERS: It wasn’t paid for by taking money out of hospitals and schools Scott.

RYAN: Well, Jim, that’s not true -

CHALMERS: The country can’t afford it now.

RYAN:  - Jim that’s not true. What the country can’t afford is your taxing agenda that will drive away investment that will ensure that a capital dependent country like we are is not internationally competitive for corporate investment. We need that investment - that’s what drives our growth.

KARVELAS: OK, just on to you, Jim Chalmers, do you think that this has to be passed because we have to avoid this risk to Australia’s AAA credit rating? Do you see it that way?

CHALMERS: The risk to the AAA credit rating is real and it’s very important because it flows through in our economy and it has impacts on ordinary working people. So, what happened with the AAA is that it was hard-won, under Labor all three ratings agencies: AAA. It’s at risk now because the Government has blown out debt by more than $100 billion, tripled the deficit since 2014 and has spending at GFC levels. We want to help fix the Government’s mess and we've put constructive proposals on the table. We’re prepared to play our part but we’re not prepared to smash Medicare or hospitals and schools just to give money, $50 billion, to multinational corporations.

KARVELAS: Alright if you’re just tuning in to RN Drive, quite a bit of politics tonight – the Manus Island detention centre’s closing down, we’ve spoken to the Immigration Minister and right now we’re talking with Jim Chalmers, he’s the Shadow Finance Minister, also Scott Ryan, he’s the Special Minister of State – the Special Minister – makes him sound special.

RYAN: My son loves it.

KARVELAS: I can imagine – the Special Minister of State – whatever that means, but we know what jobs you do. Scott, I want to change the conversation a bit, today the Prime Minister gave that big speech where he outlined these things but his first major address since the election was also derailed by those protestors – how did that happen? Do we have a bit of a security issue? They were right on stage with him.

RYAN: Well I know that the AFP said they were going to look at what happened. I was sitting there in the front row –

CHALMERS: You’re such a teacher’s pet Scott!  In the front –

KARVELAS: Have you ever been in the front row of a Bill Shorten address Jim?

CHALMERS:  - there he was, clapping away at every line!

RYAN: I’m sure Jim, you’ve been on Table 1 on more than one occasion; I wasn’t. But I noticed one of the organisers was interviewed this afternoon on television and they basically said they lied their way in – they lied about their names and they lied about who they represented to get into the room and look that’s disappointing that people, particularly radical left-wing protestors, rather than make their view known they seek to disrupt other people hearing views with which they disagree.

KARVELAS: OK, but let’s get to the substantive part of the issue which is that they’re pretty upset about immigration detention and I reckon quite a lot of people are upset about immigration detention, Scott Ryan, particularly after we saw the Nauru Files. This has becoming a really hot button issue for you. I know that the conventional wisdom has been that the Coalition wins when it’s tough on immigration detention, but there seems to be a substantial part of the community now who want some action to ensure that there aren’t abuses in detention centres.

RYAN: To be fair, I don’t think anyone wants abuses in detention centres.

KARVELAS: Well there is a view that the Government has been weak in their response to this.

RYAN: Well there are people out there who have constantly sought to undermine the policies that John Howard put in place, and now that we’ve put in place under this government again. They don’t like mandatory detention, they don’t like turn-backs, they don’t like Temporary Protection Visas. Labor agreed with those policies, implemented them, we had the disaster and now they support some of those policies on border protection.

Now these people have always been noisy and they’ve always sort and been explicit that they want the policies change. Now we don’t agree and I’m pretty sure the Australian public, particularly what they see in Europe, particularly when they see how divisive illegal immigration is in the United States at the moment, do not want that to happen to Australia.

KARVELAS: Alright we’ve only got a couple of minutes left because of how over time I went with the first interview, so I’m owning that everyone, but I am going to ask you once Scott and then on to you Jim on different issues if you don’t mind. Scott, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has vowed to move an amendment to overhaul Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act when Parliament resumes in two weeks – this is getting embarrassing now isn’t it? He’s now putting forward an amendment to try and get people to oppose Government policy.

RYAN: Well no the bill was in the Senate before the election, and I’ve always viewed it as a positive, that members of my party have freedom of conscience when you’re not a member of the Executive to vote according to their conscience and deal with issues the way they see fit.

KARVELAS: I know you’ve historically been very much in favour of free speech – will you be voting? Will you cross the floor?

RYAN: As a Minister I will not be but as I’ve said before, I viewed the time when the previous Prime Minister said we weren’t going to move on that as one of the more disappointing moments of my political career.

KARVELAS: And Jim Chalmers, just quickly on pairing, Labor seems to have changed its line today after going pretty hard yesterday via Tony Burke. Did Tony Burke over egg it?

CHALMERS: The point that everybody’s been making is if Malcolm Turnbull really had a workable majority than he shouldn’t need special arrangements. I think it’s just common sense for us to say we won’t be petty or irresponsible about it but we are not inclined to give special arrangements to a Prime Minister who says that everything’s fine, he’s got a workable majority and it’s all business as usual.

KARVELAS: OK well Scott Ryan, after the way you guys carried on during the Abbott Government, do you blame them?

RYAN: Well we didn’t get a very good public response when we did. I had a particular issue that in the Senate of course it was always different – there’s always been pairs – and as far as I know they’ve never broken down. I expressed my view at the time; Barnaby supported me actually in a discussion with senior colleagues and staff that that wasn’t the right approach to take.

KARVELAS: Do you oppose that approach under the ad-hoc *inaudible*?

RYAN: I disagreed but it didn’t impact me as I was a Senator, so it didn’t impact me because the pair stayed in the Senate, and I think if Labor take that approach they’ll find they’ll get the same public relation that we did at the time, and it wasn’t good.

KARVELAS: Just, Scott Ryan, the Government must be very upset about this Long Tan ceremony being cancelled?

RYAN: I think Dan Tehan summed it up well today when he said it was a kick in the guts and I think his press conference outlines the feelings of most people in the Parliament.

KARVELAS: I’m going to leave it there. I wish we had more time but I really appreciate you both for coming in. Thank you.