Transcript: Interview with Mark Parton 2CC



SUBJECT/S: ADF Parliamentary Exchange Program, State of the Australian economy; ChAFTA.

MARK PARTON: I have Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, on the line. Morning Zed.
PARTON: And we’ve also got Gai Brodtmann who is the Federal Member for Canberra on the line, from whereabouts exactly, Gai?
PARTON: What are you doing up there?
BRODTMANN: I’m part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Exchange Program and I’ve been up here since Tuesday, out in the field with the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment, and looking at what they’re doing in terms of patrolling, surveillance and intelligence gathering.
PARTON: So how long does that go on for?
BRODTMANN: I’m coming home today but I’ve been here for most of the week. This is the second one I’ve taken part in. The first was down at RAAF Base East Sale which was fantastic. I was down there for a week and saw what the Air Force get up to in terms of training air traffic controllers and pilots and others. And in exchange, we have ADF members come and spend a week with us when we’re in Parliament and it’s the third or fourth year I’ve taken part in that.
PARTON: Zed that sounds – straddling party lines – that sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?
SESELJA: Yeah these are actually a lot of fun and a great opportunity for Parliamentarians to really get to know the work that our Defence Forces do. I went out to Kapooka a few months ago and did a bit of basic training with the new recruits which was really good fun.
PARTON: Alright. Gai Brodtmann, when are you going to get your leader on song with the rest of the country on this China deal?
BRODTMANN: Well we’ve made our views clear on the China free trade agreement for some time. We support free trade. It’s good for jobs, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for prosperity, it’s good for growth. But we want to ensure that this free trade agreement is the best it can be to realise that potential. And we’re applying the appropriate scrutiny to it.
PARTON: Zed do you think that Bill Shorten’s hesitance to give his full support to this could risk the deal itself?
SESELJA: That’s the danger and that’s not what we want to see. Obviously there are tens of thousands of potential jobs in this. It would be wonderful for our economy, particularly the ACT economy which is the service sector, which this will open up to China. This is really irresponsible and it’s being run by the CMFEU and Bill Shorten is dancing to the tune. We’ve all seen the ads. The CMFEU is running a dishonest campaign, some would say it’s a xenophobic and racist campaign, and Bill Shorten is going for it and I think the chorus of Labor leaders who are now opposing Bill Shorten and saying this is too important for you to bring down, I think should give pause to the thought not just for Bill Shorten but for other hard heads in the Labor Party federally because if they help bring this down, if they block this, it will have serious consequences for our economy and it will be one of the biggest missed opportunities we’ve had in a long, long time.
PARTON: We had some not so good growth figures come out yesterday and certainly when we have a look at what’s going on in similar nations like Canada, you could be forgiven for believing that this country could be heading for a recession. Mathias Cormann and Joe Hockey say that’s not the case. But Zed, if it were the case, do you think they’d say it?
SESELJA: Well, look, I think they’re right. We’re not but there are challenges, there’s no doubt about it. If you look at the last two quarters I think it’s about 1.2 per cent between them which is pretty solid growth. We’ve seen jobs growth much, much faster in the last couple of years than we did say in the last year of the Labor government. So there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of complexity. Obviously the mining boom has come off. That’s having an impact on jobs and economic growth and that’s where opening up other parts of the economy through things like free trade agreements – we’ve done them with China, Japan and Korea – and the China one needs to be ratified. They open up other parts of the economy. They open up the services sector so we export a lot of minerals to places like China and we’ll continue to do so but actually exporting our services is the other great opportunity. That’s why it’s so important that we get the fundamentals right and we don’t play games with what are very, very serious issues for our economy. 
PARTON: Are you worried about the economic direction we’re headed in, Gai?
BRODTMANN: Mark this is the biggest quarterly decline in living standards since the GFC. We’ve got unemployment up, it’s the highest in 13 years. We’ve got below trend growth, we’ve got consumer sentiment down and we’ve got living standards that are in a state of decline under this government. And our concern is that this government seems to have no vision or strategy for addressing these issues. No agenda, no thread to the discussion about the economy. Last year the Treasurer was screaming that we’re in a state of emergency and this year we had a stimulus package from the Budget. So we’ve just got a government and a Treasurer that is all over the place in terms of how they see the economy and its economic reform agenda. There’s no thread, no vision, no theme, no strategy for achieving that vision.
SESELJA: I’ll give you some examples to counter that, Mark. Three free trade agreements, one of which the Labor Party is now trying to kill. Two billion dollars in cuts of red tape for business. Tax cuts for business, for small business in particular. We’ve also seen a trillion dollars in environmental approvals, over the objections of course of the Greens and sometimes the Labor Party. And we’re now trying to make that easier and they’re of course blocking us. We’re trying to make our construction industry more efficient so we can deliver infrastructure but of course we’re being blocked by the Labor Party and the Greens. So if you’re looking at an agenda, there are a range of measures that have been taken, that we are seeking to take to grow the economy. Some of those are being deliberately frustrated by our opponents. But that has been our absolute focus. Stimulating small business, stimulating trade, stimulating projects and if you’re serious about it Gai and the Labor Party – you wouldn’t be blocking the ABCC legislation, you wouldn’t be blocking our attempts to make it easier, harder, for Greens groups to sabotage major projects. This is what we’re on about and unfortunately there’s a coalition between the Labor Party and the Greens that seems very hostile.
PARTON: I got an email from Francis overnight regarding – well I didn’t know what it was about first up – he talks to me about in Colombia in the days of Pablo Escobar, who of course was a drug lord and who when he was of the belief that some of his henchmen were going to be found guilty of things, he tried to blow up court buildings and things and assassinate judges. And Francis says that sounds pretty much like the Royal Commission at the moment.
SESELJA: I’m not really sure what the link is there!
PARTON: Well I don’t think he’s talking about a genuine assassination. I guess what he’s saying is, he’s of the belief that there’s a fear from some that’s there going to be some adverse findings and so the powers that be are doing whatever they can to try and discredit the process.
SESELJA: Sorry I am with you now Mark. Look obviously we need to be careful about the exact link but clearly the smearing of Heydon, Justice Heydon, has been a disgrace. And obviously an attempt to try and cover up, what is very clear on the evidence, is that there are some serious instances of corruption, of stand over tactics, of in some cases criminal activity in construction and yet we’ve got the Labor Party trying to shut this Royal Commission down. I guess because they don’t like the findings but surely if you’re serious about looking after workers, you’d be really happy if some of the crooks, some of the bad eggs, were found out and dealt with.
BRODTMANN: Mark and Zed, we’ve made it clear from the start that we have zero tolerance for criminal and corrupt behaviour  -
SESELJA: All the actions are in the opposite direction, Gai.
BRODTMANN: And that it should be dealt with by the full force of the law and the police. Not this Royal Commission which is designed to smear its political opponents at a cost of $80 million to the taxpayer.
PARTON: Gai before I let you go, I know you want to get a quick plug in for Legacy badges. 
BRODTMANN: I do, Mark. I’m going to be at Woden tomorrow selling Legacy badges at 11 o’clock and I do encourage Canberrans to support this incredibly worthy cause. I know that people have been selling them all week and if you haven’t bought one yet, please buy one.
PARTON: Safe travels back to Canberra. Thanks Gai.
BRODTMANN: Thanks Mark.

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