Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Mark Parton

SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for a 15 per cent GST on everything; Tony Abbott; Clive Palmer

MARK PARTON: I’ve been joined in the studio by Gai Brodtmann, who is the Federal Member for Canberra for the Australian Labor Party. Hello Gai.

GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Morning Mark.

PARTON: Oh hang on, where are you? You’re over there. There you go.

BRODTMANN: Morning Mark.

PARTON: Zed is obviously scared. He won’t front you in the studio. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT is on the line. G’day Zed.

ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR THE ACT: G’day Mark. G’day Gai.

BRODTMANN: Hi Zed.

PARTON: I said to Gai when she came in that ‘Zed’s not coming in, he’s scared of you’ and Zed, Gai said ‘nobody is scared of me!’ So here we are. This is the last one for the year.

BRODTMANN: The last one forever, Mark!

SESELJA: Yeah that’s right, our last one ever. We’re going to miss you!

BRODTMANN: We are.

PARTON: I’ll still be bouncing around doing some things on air here so you may find that we do it again at some stage. But I think it’s been really worthwhile having this access to you guys. Let’s get off that stuff and get onto what’s in the news cycle. Zed I know you’re a Tony man from way back but there must be a point where you wish he’d go away and be quiet?

SESELJA: Well look everyone is entitled to their opinion and certainly former Prime Ministers are entitled to their opinion and their opinion does get noticed. Tony will have his say on things and that’s part of a robust democracy.

PARTON: Is it helpful though?

SESELJA: Look I guess other people can be the judge of that. I’m not a commentator. In the end, you’ve got to look at what anyone says and try and judge it on the merits. There is a robust battle or debate going on at the moment, right around Australia and right around the Western world and around the world in general, about how we deal with Islamic extremism and what are some of the answers. People are grappling with it and Tony is making his contribution to that and I respect that.

PARTON: Gai?

BRODTMANN: Look it’s incredibly unhelpful and entirely inappropriate, particularly at this point in time. The intelligence agencies and the Indonesian Ambassador, from reports today, suggest that they agree. At this point in time we need to unite as a nation. We do not need to create an us and them. We do not need to be suggesting that one culture or religion is superior to another. We need to unite together, we need to work with the Muslim community as David Irvine the former head of ASIO has suggested. We need to work with the community and unite rather than divide -because if we divide Mark, then ISIS wins.

PARTON: Alright.

SESELJA: Can I respond to that just briefly Mark because I’m not going to go into all of the detail of the commentary but just to say this: I think there is a really important issue here about whether or not we do defend Western values or talk Australia down. I think that the Western project has been by and large a great success and something we should be very, very proud of. And there is a reason why people come from all over the world to come to Australia, to the United States, to Great Britain and to other countries because of the freedoms we enjoy. I don’t think we should shy away from that. I think we should be very proud of what we’ve got and not all cultures are lucky enough to have that.

PARTON: Okay. Let’s move on from there and get onto some other things. I had a fascinating chat with Pete Harrison the Palerang Mayor earlier about what he says is the diabolical situation facing councils right around Australia with budgets. And it seems state governments are exactly the same. We’re being told today that if things remain on track, state governments collectively will be in debt to the tune of $30 billion or something by 2030, it was crazy. It might have even been more than that - I just don’t have the numbers in front of me. Governments of all levels seem to be spending more than they’re getting in. What do we do to battle that?

BRODTMANN: Well you don’t start by cutting $80 billion in funding from education and health which is what this government has done. We’re going towards the conversation about the GST, Mark, and the conversation that’s being had now and that will be had tomorrow with the state and territory treasurers. The government has to come clean on what’s actually happening with the GST. Is this going to be our last Christmas without a GST on fresh food?

PARTON: Gai, it’s all well and good to say that but if you’re not raising the revenue and if we’re all against cutting, because you guys are all against cutting, how do you make the sums work out? How do you do it?

BRODTMANN: Well the government needs to come clean on its plans and it needs to come clean on what it wants to do with the GST. There’s been mixed messaging over the last couple of weeks on the GST. What is the situation? What are the government’s plans? And what are the government’s plans on compensation because again we’re getting mixed messaging on that.

PARTON: Zed?

SESELJA: I’ll respond. This so-called $80 billion cut is absolutely rubbish. Can I just say, we’re continuing to increase health and education spending significantly. But what we said was that the completely unrealistic projected growth in health and education that Labor had said they could do is simply unaffordable. It’s simply unaffordable, and unless you whack a massive new tax on and that could be any tax, you could whack up any tax, income tax, GST - you’re not going to be able to afford that and I don’t want to see massive new taxes in this country. I really don’t. I think we’re taxed certainly enough and I think too much in many cases. So we should be looking to lower the tax burden which means you have to get spending under control. States don’t always spend it efficiently and the Commonwealth hasn’t always spent its money efficiently. We have an extraordinarily large bill in a range of areas and in the end we have more of a spending problem than a revenue problem. But you’re right Mark in your comments, one way or another if you want to eventually get the budget into surplus, you either have to deal with spending or you have to deal with revenue or you have to seek to deal with both and that’s what we’ve got to do in this country, and particularly spending.

PARTON: Alright so no answers from Zed, not that we really expected any on possible GST direction. Because I think we really are just sounding people out at this stage and trying to find out what would be acceptable because from the Labor perspective, you don’t see it as acceptable at all for the GST to increase?

BRODTMANN: No and certainly not on fresh food.

PARTON: Wow. It’s going to be a fascinating couple of days. Can I mention Clive Palmer? And we shouldn’t laugh because it’s pretty serious what’s going on with all of his workers and everything else. Where does it go from here?

SESELJA: Well look I guess Clive Palmer might know and other people involved in his company might know. It’s obviously very concerning for those workers when there’s a potential for this business to go down. Look, I don’t know that he’s been the most positive contributor to politics.

PARTON: You serious?!

BRODTMANN: He’s hardly ever in the Chamber!

SESELJA: When it comes to his political fortunes, I think they are flagging. Because I think people have started to see that he’s not offering a lot. When it comes to the business - that is really a matter for him. But also at the moment, it’s also a matter for those families and I really hope that they aren’t sold down the river. I hope that those people will have jobs not just next week, but next month and next year because that’s obviously a terrible thing if a business goes down in those circumstances.

BRODTMANN: Just speaking about businesses going down – I’m sure all of your listeners as well as you Mark were very saddened to hear about Paragon yesterday - 51 workers losing their jobs just weeks away from Christmas. So it was dreadful news, really sad news. It’s a company that’s been around Canberra for a long time.

PARTON: It has and it’s been very successful and has led the way. And more than anything else, it’s just a sign of the changing way in which we do things, in the fact that desktop publishing is available for so many people. Businesses just have to change. And that’s not me criticising Paragon, it’s just that so many business sectors are facing these massive changes, aren’t they?

BRODTMANN: Yes, they are. We are in a state of transition and digitisation is definitely having an impact on businesses.

SESELJA: And 3D printing presents amazing opportunities, extraordinary opportunities, but obviously some serious adjustments. Now I’m not suggesting that’s the issue here with Paragon, I don’t know what it is, but there’s no doubt that if you look to the future, 3D printing is going to become huge. It’s really going to transform the way we do things and it will transform a lot of businesses along the way as well.

PARTON: Guys, we’re done.

BRODTMANN: Farewell Mark. It’s been wonderful. We’ve had some good times and some bad but thank you so much for the opportunity and I wish you all the best for the new venture.

PARTON: Thank you. Zed, have I had bad times with you or not?

SESELJA: Mate, I don’t think so. I think back to the A-Z of Canberra many years ago when you were on FM radio – it’s been really wonderful. I’m an admirer of yours and you’ve done some great things mate so I really wish you well in your new endeavors, I’m sure you’ll be really successful.

BRODTMANN: Absolutely.

PARTON: Thanks guys.