Subjects: Nauru asylum seekers; GST campaign; tax reform; Greens political party; Stuart Robert
PRESENTER: Anthony Albanese, Christopher Pyne, good morning gentlemen.
PYNE: Good morning Anthony, David and Will. Good to be with you.
PRESENTER: Now, guys, thanks for joining us again, we want a good clean fight today. It got a little bit chaotic last week and we were having trouble hearing, you both got so spirited.
But we want to kick off with what’s been one of the bigger stories of the last few days, which is the intervention by state Premier Daniel Andrews and also Jay Weatherill here in SA on the question of asylum seekers, where they’ve said that despite the High Court’s ruling last week upholding the validity or the constitutionality of offshore detention, the states have offered to house the asylum seekers who are here rather than sending them back to Nauru.
Are you comfortable with the position the government is taking on saying that they are still going to send them back to Nauru? And are you feeling any heat from your electorate over the issue?
PYNE: Well, David the first thing is of course anybody with a medical condition that requires them to stay in Australia will be appropriately looked after here in Australia. No one will be sent back to Nauru who is in a medical state that would preclude them from being sent back to Nauru.
So we’d need a warm heart, a big heart, but we also need a cool head. And we haven’t had any boat arrivals for two years. We put the people smugglers out of business, and I think the approach of Jay Weatherill and Daniel Andrews is, to put it mildly, muddle headed. Because we all know what will happen if the people smugglers think we’re open for business again.
The boats will be arriving; there will be thousands of asylum seekers. When we got elected there were 2000 children in detention under Labor. There are now less than 100. There were 50,000 illegal arrivals under the Rudd and Gillard Governments after the Howard Government had stopped them so yes, we’ve had two years under the Coalition where the boats have been stopped.
But the approach of Daniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill, while it might seem generous, would be a green light to the people smugglers that if they get children particularly to Australia, then they’ll be able to open up the door again. And that is not what we want. We don’t want deaths at sea. So yes, it’s a tough policy, but governments have to be cool headed. We can’t just react to an emotion.
PRESENTER: What about your position on this, Albo? You must have had some dark moments about this issue. There was the well documented stand which Bill Shorten took at the ALP National Conference where he effectively embraced Tony Abbott’s stop the boats mantra. Are you comfortable with the way Federal Labor is handling this?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of politics here. I think that anyone with an ounce of humanity wouldn’t be completely comfortable with this whole issue. I think I speak for Christopher there and yourself and your listeners.
This is a difficult issue. It’s one that we grappled with in government. It’s one where there aren’t any easy answers. I believe that you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity.
The Premiers across the board, I mean Christopher chose to name just the Labor Premiers but Premier Baird has had exactly the same position in my state of NSW, as Premier Andrews and Premier Weatherill has, as has Will Hodgman, the Premier of Tasmania.
And it’s not surprising that people, when they see the photos of those little babies on the front page of the paper want to have a humane response. And I might say that the government has said that they will examine the personal needs of those children and no one will be sent back to a dangerous position.
That is what they’ve said in the Parliament and I don’t believe that it’s possible that anyone could regard any children being in detention as a good thing. I think that’s the starting point. But there aren’t easy answers to this.
What we do know is that the people smugglers are an evil trade. They trade in people, literally. They see them as a commodity and we need to do much better than that and do everything we can so that trade is stopped, but also so people are treated with the respect and dignity that every individual is worthy of.
PRESENTER: Chris Pyne, we appear to now be living in a post-GST debate world. That being the case, does the path to delivering personal income tax cuts now come through the Australian Greens? Is that your focus now?
PYNE: Well, the Greens have reached out to the Government yesterday around tax reform which is more than the Labor Party has done and I welcome the Greens approach.
Now, under Richard DiNatale the Greens have been showing a great deal more interest in coming up with solutions to the issues that the country faces rather than simply playing politics.
The latest is to sideline Labor in the tax debate, so the Greens have said that they will talk to the Government about reform around superannuation or negative gearing or other areas of the tax act.
We haven’t agreed with anything that the Greens have proposed yet but we are happy to talk to them, whereas Labor simply says to the public, which I think they know is not right, Labor can keep taxing spending and borrowing.
I think the public think, goodness, we’ve been down that track before, it didn’t work last time, that’s why we elected the Liberals to fix it, at least the Greens are open to talking about it, but happily we’ve also gotten to the point where the case for the GST has not been made by the business community who wanted company tax cuts.
For me, my view personally is that any increase in the GST would be a very significant step because it falls heaviest on those who are least able to pay it and I’m all in favour of income tax cuts and company tax cuts but paying them out of a GST rise to me, rewards those with more and punishes those with less.
ALBANESE: My goodness, Christopher!
PRESENTER: Anthony Albanese, can the Federal Opposition afford to sit this out?
ALBANESE: I mean, my goodness. We’ve been having this debate including on this show for months now and every time it’s been raised before today Christopher has said oh yes, we want a debate but wouldn’t put any position at all on the GST. Now he’s finally acknowledged that it’s a regressive tax and that he’s opposed to an increase. So we have a breakthrough here.
PYNE: I never said that I was in favour of increasing the GST.
ALBANESE: He’s adopted Labor’s plan.
PYNE: You haven’t got a plan!
ALBANESE: And he can adopt Labor’s plan as well of our crackdown on the overgenerous superannuation concessions that are there, that are being abused essentially for tax evasion rather than for savings in retirement.
He created these loopholes but when they came into government in 2013, they immediately reversed the changes that Labor had on track to crack down on those superannuation changes and indeed took away the low income support for superannuation that Labor had in place. They could do that.
They could crack down on multinational tax evasion that Labor has very specific plans that we’ve put forward for, fully costed, through the Parliamentary Budget Office, so it is incredibly disingenuous for Christopher to say ‘Labor’s not engaged in this debate’ but somehow the Greens are. For goodness sake, Christopher. Sitting down with the Greens doing tax policy.
PYNE: It amazes me that the Greens are more sensible about tax reform than the Labor Party. I mean, Bill Shorten just says we can keep borrowing, we can keep taxing –
ALBANESE: We don’t say that at all.
PYNE: And they use the same dollar for savings over and over again like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s household budget.
ALBANESE: It wasn’t that funny the first time you used that line Christopher. If you keep using it, it won’t get better. People are Googling who Zsa Zsa Gabor is!
PRESENTER: Righto, no one’s Googling punch lines at the moment. You’re both off. Now listen, I need to ask you about the South Australian context because we have a premier here in South Australia who’s been amongst the more passionate and forefront advocates for an increase in the GST to make up for revenue shortfalls in the state.
Now, without revisiting history and talking about the money that was taken from the states, can I just get a sense from each of you, your position on whether the federal government has a role partnering with the states to make up for the revenue shortfall or whether this is entirely Jay Weatherill’s problem and it’s within his purview to solve it.
PYNE: Well, Jay Weatherill is an advocate for increasing the GST to 15%. I have to give Jay full marks for his honesty. I read his speech last week when he said we should stop demonising tax, and I thought that was a very courageous statement from a politician and he wants to spend that extra money that he raises on health and on education, and that’s a position which the public can determine whether they agree with over the course of the next couple of years.
The point that Malcolm made on Friday was that the States have got their own tax base and if they want to increase their revenue, then they can increase their own taxes rather than asking us to do it for them.
PRESENTER: Is that your position as well, Anthony Albanese, that it’s up to the states to solve this issue?
ALBANESE: What nonsense. This is an $80 billion cut from the Commonwealth to the states. So we can’t say that the Commonwealth have nothing to do with it, which is why we’ve put forward our plan of increased funding for education, and for schools.
PYNE: Where is the money coming from?
ALBANESE: You know where the money’s coming from. It’s been fully costed and approved by the Parliamentary Budget Office.
PYNE: Which you used before.
ALBANESE: Christopher, if you keep interrupting it won’t change the fact that this is fully costed. It has been through the Parliamentary Budget Office and ticked off.
PRESENTER: Hey guys, I want to change tack here, just quickly. Stuart Robert, is he still going to be in the ministry when we speak next week, Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well, the Prime Minister took immediate action to ask the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson to give us some advice on this matter.
And really, I will be waiting on Martin Parkinson’s report to the PM. That’s the appropriate thing to do. And honestly I think the public are much more interested in jobs and growth and what we’re going to do about the economy, which the Liberal Party is focused on, than these issues.
Labor spent all of December talking about Mal Brough and they went backwards in the polls, Labor.
PRESENTER: I think the public might be interested in today’s story though, Chris Pyne, which is that if Stuart Robert has run this line of defence, namely it was a private trip, he was there as a private individual.
The Australian is reporting this morning that he claimed $900 from the taxpayer on his way out of Australia to China to go to Sydney the night before he left. I mean, the public would be interested in that.
PYNE: He was probably working. That’s what Ministers do. They work. Now, he’ll answer that question at some stage today but he was probably working. I’m sure the public understand that when you’re travelling to China on a private trip as he says he was, and used a tourist visa and his personal passport, which has now become apparent, so Labor’s run into a dry gully there, that doesn’t mean the day before he wasn’t working. He was probably working in Sydney.
PRESENTER: I’m sure it’s going to dominate Question Time again today, as it has for the last two days. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for that.
ALBANESE: David, he reminds me of the parrot in the Dead Parrot sketch of Monty Python. This parrot is dead. It’s over, Christopher. Because the guidelines are very clear, which is that a minister cannot support the private interests of a company, they can’t say oh, I’m just doing this on a personal basis. They can’t.
The ministerial guidelines are very clear and Malcolm Turnbull is waiting until Parliament gets up before he sacks him, just as he waited for Mal Brough between Christmas and New Year, when he thought no one would notice.
PRESENTER: It’s a long time until Christmas, so he’s going to have to make up his mind sooner rather than later. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
PRESENTER: If he wasn’t nailed to the perch, he’d be pushing up the daisies according to Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.