Transcript: Sky News Lunchtime Agenda, Thursday, 21 May 2015



SUBJECT/S: Rohingya asylum seekers; Budget; Mining Tax; Iron Ore Inquiry

LAURA JAYES: We’ll now go to our political panel. Joining me now is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Gai Brodtmann and Liberal MP Angus Taylor. Angus Taylor I want to go to you first for your reaction to this story and look this is a very complex issue and there are no perfect answers here but what is Australia’s responsibility when you look at the situation unfolding in South East Asia at the moment?

ANGUS TAYLOR, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR HUME: Well Laura you’re right it is tragic, there’s no doubt about that. But the most important thing we can do here is stop the people smugglers. It was absolutely tragic to watch what those people smugglers have been prepared to do and we have from the start said that the key to do is to stop that, and certainly I think we’ve made good steps in that direction, but the other part of course is that we are making a humanitarian contribution to this problem in the sense that we are giving some money to Myanmar to address this issue. But ultimately, and as Scott Morrison says, there are a million people here and re-settlement will never be the full answer.

JAYES: As I said in my editorial though Angus Taylor, we know that the turn back the boats policy has been successful for Australia. I think both sides of politics agree no matter how uncomfortable that might be. But is this perhaps what we’re seeing unfold an unfortunate by-product of that success of Australia. Other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are looking at that and going ‘well it worked for Australia; it will work for us’. So if these people aren’t the responsibility of any country, you have a real big problem on your hands here don’t you.

TAYLOR: Well its’ not about whose responsibility they are it’s about how do we actually address the problem here. And ultimately the problem is we have people smugglers exploiting the tragic situation that these people are facing and we have to stop those people. We must stop those people smugglers. Now we’ve made good progress. To say that there’s a causal relationship between what’s happening here and us stopping the boats in Australia is drawing a long bow. But what we do need is to take the business model away and as I say, whilst these people smugglers think they can exploit these people they’ll keep trying to do it.

JAYES: Gai Brodtmann what’s your take on this? How do you think the Abbott Government’s policies has influenced what’s going on in South East Asia?

GAI BRODTMANN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE: We all acknowledge that this is a complex situation and it is a unique situation. There’s a unique set of circumstances around both the Rohingya as well as the Bangladeshis so it is complex and it is a unique situation. What Labor wants is for the government to support the region, to support the countries to come to a regional solution to work out the best humanitarian approach to this problem, not to use the back-drop of what is a crisis to engage in political point scoring and two to three word slogans.

JAYES: People that have eventually been taken ashore, they’ve done that on the proviso that international agencies will help in the re-settlement process, repatriation within 12 months. The US has said that they will take a number. The Prime Minister has ruled out taking any number of these migrants this morning. Gai Brodtmann do you think that Australia should take, whether it’s a thousand or a couple hundred of these migrants? Do you think we have a responsibility to do that?

BRODTMANN: As I said it’s a unique and complex situation. Each country is engaging on this issue with the UNHCR. I understand Richard Marles, the Shadow Immigration Minister, has been in Myanmar and is currently in Thailand talking to the communities about what the appropriate response is to this. I understand from the conversations he’s had, particularly with the Rohingya community, that they’ve got varying views on what the response should be in terms of resettlement, in terms of community engagement. So there are varying views on this issue and it really is up to those countries in the region to work with the UNHCR on the appropriate response.

JAYES: But what’s Labor’s view on this? Bill Shorten was very critical of the Prime Minister’s response this morning but he was reluctant to say what he would do. So what is the response? You can’t just put it off and say there’ll be a regional solution down the track?

BRODTMANN: This is a particular crisis situation and we should be working with the countries and the UNHCR and the relevant communities to come up with a response to this specific situation. This specific crisis. Not using it as a backdrop to engage in as I said two or three word slogans and political point scoring.

JAYES: Okay we will move on to other topics shortly. But Angus Taylor just finally to you on this, when we talk about a regional solution there’s a meeting at the end of May in Bangkok, what will Australia be putting forward and will this be a meeting that you hope has some concrete measures come out of it and what role do you expect Australia to play?

TAYLOR: Well I think we can talk about the lessons that we’ve learnt. There’s no three word slogan in saying that we have to bust the business model of the people smugglers. That is just common sense, it has worked. This is not political point scoring, this is very practical policy. It has worked. And of course the effectiveness of our policies is something that we think others should take a look at. These are very, very bad people. They are heinous and we have to stop them and that’s got to be at the heart of this solution.

JAYES: Okay I’ll put one more question to you then. The Prime Minister today said that these are people that need to come through the front door, not the back door. But the Abbott Government hasn’t increased its humanitarian intake - it’s still at 13,700 - so that front door is only open about that much.

TAYLOR: Laura we have actually increased the humanitarian intake in recent times. The generosity of our intake can increase of course as we get more control over our borders as we have done over the time that we’ve been in government -

JAYES: Is now the time to increase that number?

TAYLOR: Well -

JAYES: There’s been saving made in the Budget, the boats have stopped, not one boat in 18 months – so this would be the time to do it, wouldn’t it?

TAYLOR: We have increased it but we have a process here and it covers many different regions and many different countries and that process must maintain its integrity and it must be very ordered or else we will lose control of it as the Labor Party did when they were last in government.

JAYES: Okay Angus Taylor, Gai Brodtmann, stay with us -

BRODTMANN: Laura just before we go on from that, can I just say that not only has the government stalled the humanitarian intake but they’ve also cut aid to South East Asia by 40 per cent in the last Budget.

JAYES: Okay Gai Brodtmann you got the last word on that one. But we will have a quick break on lunchtime agenda. We’ll be back on Lunchtime Agenda to talk about other issues including is the carbon tax coming back and the Budget sell continues around the country.

Commercial Break

JAYES: Welcome back to the program. Angus Taylor and Gai Brodtmann join me on the program today and first I want to go to you. We saw Chris Bowen the Shadow Treasurer’s address yesterday. He says if the government wants to have an election and fight over superannuation, he says ‘bring it on’. Now I’m interested to hear what you think on this, is the government not touching super because it works politically or economically?

TAYLOR: Well economically Gai. Chris Bowen wants to raid every Australian’s piggy bank. You might say well that’s what you have to do when you’ve got a deficit but what you’ve got to remember about superannuation is that you’re supposed to be able to put it into your superannuation account – and it stays there of course, you can’t take it out until you’re retired or thereabouts – and if the government changes the rules there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. So Australians get very, very upset when changes are made. And rightly so because these are rules that are set up front, we put our money away and then Chris Bowen wants to change them. It’s unfair, it’s inappropriate and it will affect the integrity of the superannuation scheme if he does start meddling with those rules.

JAYES: Some of Australia’s leading economists though would disagree with you Angus Taylor. You’re touted as one of the best economic brains in the government so where does this differentiation come in? It seems that Joe Hockey was open to looking at some of these generous super concessions just two months ago.

TAYLOR: Well they should go back and try to remember why super was put in place in the first place. Super was put in place to encourage savings. Not there’s two parts to how super encourages savings. One is that it’s coercive, but I can also borrow money against the forced savings from superannuation so that doesn’t necessarily have a big impact. The most important part is the tax concessions and if you want to start changing the rules on tax concessions, if you want to take away tax concessions, it will reduce savings. And it will affect the original purpose of superannuation so if Chris Bowen wants to get rid of superannuation because he doesn’t think that savings are important any more then go ahead. But tax concessions are fundamental to the success of superannuation and he seems to have lost sight of that.

JAYES: Gai Brodtmann this is politically fraught for Labor. The government is trying to paint the Opposition as a high taxing party. How are you going to fight against that at the next election?

BRODTMANN: Laura just going back to Chris’ comments yesterday in terms of ‘bringing it on’ in a discussion about superannuation. Last year, as you know, our plan was to hold the government to account on its unfair Budget and we did that very well in terms of getting reversals on aged pensions and a range of other measures. This year it was all about coming up with ideas and so far we’ve come up with two very large ideas that will generate savings. The first is the idea on multinational tax, which I know has been discussed on this show extensively. The second is superannuation. And what we’re doing with superannuation is to make it sustainable and fair. I mean what we have at the moment is a system where 10 per cent of Australians are accessing up to 40 per cent of the tax concessions. There are very generous systems in place for the top end of town. The system that we’ve come up with is a system that is designed to be sustainable and fair in the long run. In a few years’ time the superannuation tax concessions are going to outweigh the spend on the aged pension and that’s not sustainable for Australia’s future.

JAYES: Okay I do want to address one other issue as well. The carbon tax, we heard from Chris Bowen on this yesterday but today this was Bill Shorten:

“If Tony Abbott is paying our taxes to large polluters to make them, to encourage them not to pollute as much carbon into the atmosphere as they’ve been doing, that means you’re paying a price on carbon. But what we’ve made very clear is we won't go back to the high fixed price system, we will not do that”
Bill Shorten, 21 May 2015

JAYES: So Gai Brodtmann a carbon tax will be implemented if the Labor Party is elected back into government, but how different from the one we saw last time, will it be?

BRODTMANN: Just going back to Bill’s comments on what he said preceding those comments. We do believe that climate change is real. We do believe that climate change is caused by humankind. And we do believe that we need a market based mechanism to ensure that emissions can be controlled. We have discussed the Emissions Trading Scheme that was outlined in Chris’ speech yesterday and his responses. We’re also looking at a range of other measures in response to climate change. And you’ve heard us in the past on the issue of the Renewable Energy Target and reviewing that, should we be elected. So we’re looking at a range of measures in response to climate change because it’s still an issue, it’s still an issue of great concern to many, many Australians.

JAYES: Angus Taylor I want to ask you now about the Budget sell, how’s it going down in your electorate this week?

TAYLOR: Look it’s going fantastically well -

JAYES: I thought you might say that.

TAYLOR: Well look the big idea here, not just an idea to tax people more, the big idea here is that if you want to stimulate the economy – do it through small businesses. It’s distributed, you don’t need to come up with big government programs like the Labor Party tried to and you know what, people get that Laura. They really get that. They get that out in regional areas; they get that in the cities. That is selling well because it should. It’s not just a plan to tax Australians more which as the year of big ideas unfolds it’s clear that taxing more is Labor’s big idea.

JAYES: In regional areas we’ve heard from the Nats that some are concerned, some families are concerned, that some parts of this Budget do discriminate against stay-at-home mums. Are you picking that up on the ground in your electorate?

TAYLOR: No I’m not. There’s always going to the occasional person whose not happy about that, but the vast majority of families certainly in my age group, both parents work at least part-time – the vast majority not all – and there’s a recognition that childcare is a really serious issue that is needs serious investment and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this Budget. So, you know the whole childcare measures have been extremely well received in my electorate. People understand how important they are.

JAYES: Gai Brodtmann just finally on iron ore. If Nick Xenophon does pursue this inquiry, Labor won’t support it? Bill Shorten seemed open to this just a couple of days ago.

BRODTMANN: Well we’re just wondering what the reasons for the inquiry are. I don’t know what the government’s position on it is anyway. We’ve had the Prime Minister last year - last week rather - intimating that there was going to be an inquiry, we’ve had a number of positions –

JAYES: Sorry to interrupt you there Gai we’re just going outside court.

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