Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Tim Shaw

SUBJECTS: Donations from Party leaders to their own political party; trade union movement and donations; jobs; apprentices and training

SHAW: A very good morning Canberra. Thanks for having your breakfast with me. This half hour you'll be having breakfast with Gai Brodtmann, Federal Member for Canberra, and Zed Seselja, ACT Liberal Senator and Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, joining me on the program for the first time in 2017. Can I just talk about something that seems to be in news? Politics and *plays chorus from Abba's Money, Money, Money*. So, can rich people run countries, and if they do should they make political donations, and if so should they declare them? One of the topics I'm talking about with my guests this morning. Gai Brodtmann, Member for Canberra and Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT. Gai, good morning.

BRODTMANN: Morning Tim from Norfolk Island. Good morning Zed.

SHAW: And good morning Zed Seselja, where are you this morning?

SESELJA: Good morning Tim, good morning Gai. I'm in Brisbane on my route to Biloela. 

SHAW: Biloela. Doing some great work as Assistant Minister. Gai and Zed do we really care whether leaders of countries make political donations to their own party? What's the problem here, Gai Brodtmann?

BRODTMANN: Well, we care if the Prime Minister leaves it to the 11th hour to declare what the donation is to the Party. As you know, Labor has made a number of announcements and commitments in terms of what we would do in terms of clamping down on foreign donations, in terms of increasing transparency of disclosure. Particularly the disclosure threshold, reducing that from $13,200 to $1,000; stricter standards for gifts; greater accountability for public funding; and greater enforcement and tougher penalties.

SHAW: Okay, the union movement of Australia. The Electrical Trades Union, good on them Gai. They've donated to The Greens, The Socialist Alliance; and they've donated to the Australian Labor Party. But, they haven't asked their members which political party they'd like their members’ funds to go to. Is that something Bill Shorten - with his links to the trade union movement - should union members be asked where their monthly dues are going in terms of political donations? What's your view on that, Gai?

BRODTMANN: The Labor Party was born of the labour movement, and there is a very, very strong connection between the Party and the union movement. It goes way back to our beginnings, so there is that strong connection, and people are aware of that strong connection. The fact that the union movement created the Labor Party.

SHAW: I understand that, but I'm interested in - and I'll get to you in a moment Zed - why Brendan O'Connor, the Opposition spokesperson on Employment, has said a flat no to the PaTH legislation which will get young Australians, including Canberrans, into internships and apprenticeships. Does the Labor left need to remind itself that it is the Party of the Australian worker and what's your view? Should Labor be backing the PaTH legislation? Michaelia Cash, Mathias Cormann want it to go through. What does Labor say, Gai?

BRODTMANN: I think that Labor has a lot to say on it, with Bill Shorten's address to the National Press Club this week. We're all about jobs, jobs, jobs, and most importantly about apprenticeships and training, and providing access for all Australians to skills throughout their working life. Not just at the beginning just after schooling, or in their twenties, it's right through their working life. Bill announced a number of significant developments to get more people in skills and training. Since this Government has been in power we've seen 128,000 apprenticeships shed, $2.5 billion cut from skills and training, we've seen Government expenditure from universities grow in real terms and yet it's fallen for TAFE. What I find of most concern is that capital infrastructure investment in skills and training facilities has fallen by 75%. So, Bill made a number of announcements to get on the mission for jobs, jobs, jobs here is Australia. In the last 12 months, we've seen apprenticeships fall by 10.5%. Bill announced a number of plans on this front, in terms of ensuring that there is a 10% apprenticeship component in major infrastructure projects, and also in Defence contracts. Bill also made the major announcement on the National Skills Summit, in a way channelling the Hawke Government and what it was doing on the Accord there.

SHAW: Okay, Zed Seselja. We know that we've got 30,000 apprenticeships and internships ready to go if we can get the PaTH legislation through. Bill Shorten said it nationally "jobs, jobs, and jobs". He wants a National Skills Summit, he wants to put people before politics. What's your reaction?

SESELJA: I'd like to correct something you said earlier there Tim, where you said Labor is the Party of the Australian worker. They once may have been, but - 

SHAW: Gai Brodtmann just said that, Gai Brodtmann said it. It's very foundation under that knowledge tree. It was the Party of - the great Australian Labor Party. 

SESELJA: I'm taking exception, because modern Labor doesn't seem to stand for that anymore and I'll give you a few examples, the PaTH program being one of them. This takes young people in particular, many of whom have been out of the workforce for some time - so they struggle to get back into the workforce - gives them that opportunity in a job, if they work hard, they do well, they may well end up with a job at the end of it and they'll also be paid their own employment benefits on top while they're doing that work experience. But also look at all the other policies - there is a really clear difference - look at policies on lower corporate lax, lower small business tax, small businesses who employ so many people. Bill Shorten has acknowledged that if you cut taxes for businesses they employ more people and wages go up. What do they do? They oppose them. Trade, very important for growing jobs and growing our economy. We're pursuing trade deals right around the world, the Labor Party are reverting to protectionism. The Labor Party's energy policy - where they want to more than double the renewal energy target and bring back a carbon tax - that's a job destroyer. Not only does it hit household budgets, it hits businesses who employ people. So, there is a very, very clear difference emerging Tim, between the job creating policies of the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull, and the alternative under Bill Shorten which would see jobs go because of higher energy prices, jobs would go because of uncompetitive tax rates, and jobs would go because they're not going to support good programs like PaTH and other programs which are all about supporting job seekers.

SHAW: Alright, Gai Brodtmann.

BRODTMANN: I'll just go back to the points I made before and the fact that under this Government we've seen the loss of 128,000 apprenticeships. We've seen $2.5 billion cut in skills and training. If this Government is serious about jobs and growth, then it needs to invest in people. It needs to invest in skills and training for people who are starting their careers, for people who are mid-careers, for people are in their 50's - and we've spoken about this before Tim -  people in their 50's who have lost their jobs and need to be trained up for the jobs of the future -

SESELJA: I'll give you some examples - 

BRODTMANN: If this Government is serious then these cuts would not have happened.

SHAW: Zed.

SESELJA: I'll give you some examples Tim, just in the ACT in terms of jobs. You know, we've seen in the last year increase in employment of 4,300. We've seen full-time employment increase by 3,300, part-time employment increasing by 900. The unemployment rate has come down. It is significantly lower than when we came into office, what Labor left us with. You know, our policies do create jobs. One of the things about Canberra - one thing absolutely - it's a Government town, it relies very much on the Government, but it's also a small business town and some of the incentives we've already put in place and we want to continue to build on are all about making it easier on small businesses. So the instant asset right-off - which encourages small businesses to invest so that they can grow their businesses - has been a great success, and if you talk to small businesses around Canberra, yeah we want to do more, and that's what we're trying to do with more small business tax cuts and getting rid of some of the red tape. But, if you look at it, even some of what we've out in place is starting to really pay dividends already.

SHAW: Yep, Gai Brodtmann, Bill Shorten said, "look I don't favour of the $10 million threshold for the tax cuts." He wants it at $2 million. I'll tell you who does, Chris Bowen. Chris Bowen and Tony Burke did fantastic negotiations with the Treasurer and Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister last year. The Treasurer applauded them for coming to the table and passing those Omnibus measures. Now you've run a small business Gai Brodtmann. You know how hard cash flow is. You know that tax bill comes in. And you know as a small businesswoman, to be able to employ locals in your business internships, and apprenticeships. Why won't Labor back right now, getting more Australians into jobs because you are the Australian Labor Party, founded on the support for workers? The sugar on the table - says Brendan O'Connor - isn’t enough? He wants about $17 an hour. But, Bill Shorten did tell us it was jobs, jobs, jobs. But, at the other side, his left guy from Melbourne is saying no to the PaTH legislation. Why is Labor saying no to getting Australians into jobs?

BRODTMANN: We're not, as I outlined. The conversation that Bill had at the Press Club the other day outlined our plan -

SHAW: Where's the detail?

BRODTMANN: For apprenticeships and skills and training. Where's the detail? The detail will be forthcoming. But I think he gave a pretty comprehensive overview of what our plan is. Particularly - 

SHAW: *Interjecting*

BRODTMANN: I really welcome the initiative to get 10% apprenticeships in major projects and also Defence contracts. I know from my conversations with people in the Defence industry, as well as Canberrans, and people throughout Australia, there is a real concern about the lack of apprenticeship opportunities - and we've discussed this before Tim, about what's going on in Canberra - 

SHAW: Can you tell your leader he's disconnected? He doesn't know what's going on. ACT Labor - 15 years in the business - $1 billion contract on the tram. Gai Brodtmann, there are 60 apprentices, there are 40 trainees from UNSW, and 10 graduates. Now that's already in the ACT Government. Andrew Barr’s Government has written that into the contract. Bill Shorten needs to talk to his own colleagues in the Labor states. So what he's announced in terms of Government contracts and minimum apprenticeships inclusion, it's already there. Labor's doing it, not only in the ACT but in other states. There was no detail in it Gai; I've got the 20 page speech. 19 pages of criticism of how lousy Turnbull is as a leader, and half a page on 'jobs, jobs, jobs', National Skills Summit, and importantly, putting people before politics. Zed Seselja, is Bill Shorten putting people ahead of politics?

SESELJA: Well, no. And look, it’s one thing to say, 'jobs, jobs, jobs', and repeat it. It's another thing to actually have a plan that delivers jobs. And, you know, we've seen what happened to jobs under Labor when they were last in office, massive increase in unemployment both here in Canberra and other parts of - 

BRODTMANN: What did you do with the public service?

SESELJA: Well, unemployment's lower under us than it was under you - 

BRODTMANN: Thousands of jobs were sacked, were gone.

SESELJA: Let's not forget that. I didn't interrupt you for a pretty long run here Gai - 

BRODTMANN: That's what the Liberal Government solution was when it comes to Canberra. Thousands of jobs when you got in this time, and in 1996 tens of thousands cut.

SESELJA: So Gai you've talked for 15 minutes, and now you're not even going to let me know finish. I think you're having a bad morning, and I think you're feeling it. So I think maybe you should just let me finish - 

BRODTMANN: I'm not having a bad morning.

SESELJA: And the point is this. That we've grown jobs here in the ACT, we've grown jobs nationally - as opposed to Labor who saw a massive increase in unemployment - but just as important as your previous record is what you're putting forward. You're putting forward policies that will make it harder for businesses to employ people, that will have greater protectionism which will mean less jobs because we have less trade. You are opposing things like PaTH. There is no policy that you've put forward that actually grows jobs and recognises that business creates jobs, and the best way to create jobs, therefore, is to encourage businesses to invest, to put in place conditions like lower tax and less red tape so that those businesses - small, medium and large - will employ people here in Canberra, and in fact, right around Australia. And that's the fundamental thing that Bill Shorten can't answer at the moment. And when you're going to slap on a big carbon tax and double the renewable energy target, that's going to kill jobs. That is absolutely going to kill jobs. And that is going to be a defining issue at this next election.

SHAW: You two are very welcome to - 

BRODTMANN: 35,000 full-time jobs were lost last year. That's the Government's position on jobs and growth.

SHAW: I am inviting you both to come along; I'd love you to come along, to the CIT apprenticeships Apprentice Link. It's on in Canberra at Fyshwick at CIT on Tuesday. I'm the MC of the event, I can't wait. We're trying to link apprenticeships here in Canberra to businesses here in Canberra. Gai and Zed can I applaud every one of those small businesses in Canberra that one the ACT Chief Ministers Export Awards 2016. Gai they were all small businesses. This country was built on the backbreaking work of men and women who built their small businesses, small farms, small shops, grocery stores. We need to do more for Australian small business Gai, because you and I both know, as former operators of small businesses that we can employ people when the incentives are there. Will Labor back the Prime Minister's call for those tax cuts in the May Budget? And that's instant relief for small business. Gai Brodtmann.

BRODTMANN: Are you talking about the $2 million versus $10 million issue?

SHAW: I mean it's got to be 10 because that’s where the real incentive - 

BRODTMANN: In terms of the corporate tax cut - the $10 million - we've made our views clear on this. There were reports this week that the economic benefit it’s going to deliver to the country is less than 1% over 10 years. The questions is, what modelling has the Government done, in terms of the benefit to the average Australian of that corporate tax cut? There was a report this week, less than 1% of GDP over 10 years - 

SHAW: Great question. That's a great question to Zed. 

SESELJA: Can I make a really serious point about these small businesses? This is not a partisan point, and Gai knows this, and I know Gai knows this because she does talk to a lot of these small businesses. Now you talk to a business who is turning over $2.5 million, $3 million, that doesn't make them wealthy. In fact, I've spoken to pharmacists and others, sometimes the turnover can be reasonably high, but the profit margin is not necessarily high, and that's true of many businesses. So if they're turning over $2.5 million, $3 million, $4 million, that might sound like a lot of money, but when you've got to pay a lot of staff out of that, and when most of that is just turnover coming in and just paying things out, they need a break. The best way to actually see them employ more people - those small businesses - is to actually give them a break. You know the 30% company tax rate for those, that's too high. They're not the same as a bank. They are much different. You know, if you want to carve out for the multi-billion dollar businesses, well fine, make that argument, but that's not all we're talking about right now, we're talking about businesses that are right here in Canberra, that are working hard, they've invested their own money, they've mortgaged their house, and because they're turning over $2.5 million that doesn't make them wealthy and I think they deserve a tax cut.

SHAW: Gai it's 24 degrees in Norfolk Island, you've reached your expected top temperature. I look forward to having you both back on the program. 31 degrees here in Canberra. Safe travels Gai and safe travels Zed. We'll talk to you again soon.

SESELJA: Thanks very much.

BRODTMANN: Thanks, and stay cool Canberra.