SUBJECTS: Tax cuts; Malcolm Turnbull; Liberal division; Alek Sigley; Christian Porter’s tattoo; meditation.
DEB KNIGHT: It was their key election promise and now the Coalition’s tax cuts are almost a done deal. With crucial support from crossbench senators looking increasingly likely. But Labor is still refusing to pass the $158 billion package in full setting the stage for a showdown when the new Parliament resumes for the first time next week. Joining me now is the Government’s Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton and Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Fella’s good morning to you.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Morning Deb.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
KNIGHT: Now Peter, the Centre Alliance says the tax cuts could be over the line as early as today. Is it a done deal?
DUTTON: Well I hope it is and people want more money in their pockets. It would be a done deal if Albo breaks the news this morning and says the Labor Party is going to listen to the people and listen to the mandate that we received at the recent election and pass the tax cuts. If Labor support it in the Senate it is a done deal, people have more money in their pockets.
KNIGHT: What have you promised the Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie to get there?
DUTTON: Well I haven’t been part of those discussions but I think they accept from the comments I have seen reported that we clearly have a mandate. We went to the election this is our tax plan. We won an increased majority and Labor are still saying, even if they were elected tomorrow they would think about putting taxes back up. So Albo time to get on board.
KNIGHT: Are you going to make news for us Albo?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that it’s only Labor that is saying that we want every worker to get a tax cut this term. They did win the election. They didn’t win the one after. They didn’t win the election of 2024-25.
KNIGHT: But the tax cut package in full, was taken to the election. They won the election.
ALBANESE: Yes they won an election, Deb. They didn’t win elections for all time. The fact is, the economy is soft, what we’re saying is bring forward Stage Two, give every worker a tax cut. I reckon that some of your viewers, all those above $90,000 who are watching this will get a surprise that they get zero. Absolutely nothing out of the Government’s proposal this term. Nothing.
KNIGHT: But is this more about managing the divisions within your own party on this issue than giving voters what they voted for?
ALBANESE: What this is about is us being the responsible economic proposal. The Government is presiding over an economy that’s soft. We have seen interest rates cut after the election. After the election, the Reserve Bank has said that the economy has changed. It is a triumph of hope over economic reality.
KNIGHT: So no news from Labor this morning then?
ALBANESE: For the Government to say “we know exactly what the economy will need in 2025,” that is absurd frankly Deb, given that even since the election there has been a change, there has been a softening. We need stimulus now. That is what the Reserve Bank says. Labor is offering to work with the Government to deliver higher tax cuts sooner.
KNIGHT: Alright we will see what the Centre Alliance comes up with the deal with Jacqui Lambie as well. Now the wounds of the Government leadership turmoil have reopened quite bitterly. Peter, you were at the centre of all of this. In the middle of last year’s toppling of Malcolm Turnbull he questioned your eligibility to be Prime Minister or minister because of you receiving child care subsidies. You have been adamant that you’ve done nothing wrong in all of this, call it a rouse. If that’s the case, why have you now divested yourself, renounced any interest in the business?
DUTTON: Take a step back Deb to last August. Malcolm Turnbull at the time offered me the Deputy Leader position.
KNIGHT: Which he denies.
DUTTON: Well that is what happened. Now, he asked me to be a minister after I’d resigned on the Tuesday. So he didn’t have too many concerns about my s44 eligibility if he was asking me to be a minister, he doesn’t contest that part, he contests the deputy leadership element to it. But the fact is this was never an issue for me.
KNIGHT: So if it wasn’t an issue why have you renounced it?
DUTTON: Because the political play still continues on. So why give rise to it. I have two QC opinions that say there is no problem whatsoever. I have never received a dollar out of that trust. My wife’s business is her business. And the fact that my wife has been slurred repeatedly over the last couple of years, is upsetting to me and to my children, frankly, as well. I think that this draws a line under it and puts it beyond any doubt whatsoever so that the political players can’t continue.
KNIGHT: Albo Labor talked about this to the High Court, referring Peter to get it cleared up once and for all. Will you be taking any further action?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is, this is about them not about us. This is about their internals. This was a fight within the Liberal Party. And that fight and those divisions will continue. They are now a third term Government. They don’t like each other. They have lost a whole lot of talent from their team. And when Parliament resumes next week it really will be not just the A-team or the B-team but the C-team because they have lost Malcolm Turnbull, they have lost Julie Bishop, they have lost Christopher Pyne, they’ve lost a whole lot of talent from their team.
KNIGHT: Well speaking of, Christopher Pyne, your former sparring partner on this show, he has now got a new job, a consulting job on defence matters. It is a pretty clear breach, isn’t it here Peter, of the Ministerial Code of Conduct. You are supposed to wait 18 months before you can be consulting.
DUTTON: I think what it shows that if you are on The Today Show you can go onto bigger and better things.
KNIGHT: That’s clear obviously.
ALBANESE: Good distraction.
DUTTON: I don’t know anything about it other than what I have read in the paper and Christopher will answer those questions. There is a process in the Parliament where matters can be referred to a Privileges Committee. I am sure that Christopher would say that there is no conflict. But I don’t know any more than what I have read in the papers.
KNIGHT: Are you going to be looking at it closer?
ALBANESE: This isn’t a matter for Christopher Pyne, this is a matter for Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison is responsible for ensuring that the Ministerial Code of Conduct is fully applied. And he has to have a good look at this and see whether there is indeed a breach. If there is, then it should be fixed.
KNIGHT: Okay. Now the family of Australian student Alek Sigley who was missing in North Korea have grave concerns for his safety. Have you had any contact with the North Korean regime on this, is it clear at this stage whether or not he has been detained?
DUTTON: Well Deb, DFAT has been very clear that we will provide whatever assistance is required. But I think in particular in this case but like any of these consular cases we have to be very sensitive about what’s happening in the background and Australia will always stand up for our citizens and North Korea is obviously a very special case in many ways.
KNIGHT: We don’t have any diplomatic ties with them directly.
DUTTON: No, so we need to be cautious I think in terms of public comment and we’ll provide whatever support to people if they are in trouble, if indeed that is the case.
KNIGHT: So it is not clear yet what has occurred here?
DUTTON: I think they are still discussing, I think it is an issue for DFAT that they will progress no doubt. But I just don’t think it helps to publicly talk about what is a very sensitive point in the case.
KNIGHT: Now I want to end on a bit of fun as well. We heard that Christian Porter this week got a bit of ink, got a tattoo as part of a promise from the election win. He got the ‘Star Wars’ themed tattoo. Albo have you got any ink?
ALBANESE: I’ve got to say that looks like a spider to me.
KNIGHT: It’s a ‘Star Fighter’ apparently.
ALBANESE: That is a really ordinary tat.
KNIGHT: Have you got any ink?
ALBANESE: Well you’ll never find out, Deb.
KNIGHT: If you did get inked what would it be?
ALBANESE: Well you won’t find out. Could, well be a little rabbit or something.
KNIGHT: A little rabbit. Rabbit out of the hat.
ALBANESE: For the Bunnies.
KNIGHT: Oh the Bunnies, there you go. And I hear that you are into meditation as well Peter, so much for ink.
DUTTON: No ink for me. I am 48, averse to pain. I could get my children’s names but they have got quite long names and Rebecca would hurt by the time it got to B I would say.
KNIGHT: But meditation though?
DUTTON: Yes look, I have just recently taken up meditation. A couple of good mates of mine who have been very successful in sport and business swear by it. And I just think in long days you know where you are up at 4:30 and catching a 6:00am flight and you’re still going at 10:00 at a function that night. I find it clears the mind, it’s a very quick process during the day. Each to their own. But I think physical health and mental health particularly for blokes of my age, Albo is much older. And I think it’s important, for me it works pretty well.
ALBANESE: That wasn’t very zen that comment I’ve got to say.
KNIGHT: Exactly, not very enlightened. Well done, good on you guys. Thanks for joining us.
DUTTON: Thanks Deb.
ALBANESE: Good on you.