Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Gai to Zed with Tim Shaw

SUBJECT/S:National Energy Guarantee, Exploitation of foreign workers, ACT Labor pre-selection candidates, National Action Plan for Endometriosis, Winter comfort food.  

TIM SHAW, PRESENTER: G'day Canberra. It's so good to have your company and I know you love this segment. I love chatting to these two. Gai Brodtmann is the Federal Member for Canberra, Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence, and Senator Zed Seselja, ACT Liberal Senator and Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs, and Innovation. They're both on the line. Good morning, cold enough for you this morning?






SHAW: Alright, two things I want to ask you. Gai, if Bill Shorten is selected as the Prime Minister of Australia in the next federal election, do you back his target for 50 per cent renewable energy nationally?


BRODTMANN: Yes, I do absolutely. It's our policy. But let’s focus on the government of the day - a government that is in complete division over this issue of the Energy Security Board modelling. We've got states that are concerned that any agreement will be scuttled by the government. They're concerned about signing up to discussions that will be held next week. They've got reason to be concerned that any agreement will be scuttled, particularly with the performance of Tony Abbott yesterday suggesting he'll cross the floor. Also Craig Kelly, John Williams and Michelle Landry - all have questioned the modelling and so it's going to be interesting how this plays out. But the Turnbull Government’s in power now and they have to sort out this mess and they have to sort out the mess that is within their party.


SHAW: Thank you Gai. I didn't ask you that question. I asked you, if Bill Shorten was the next Prime Minister of Australia, do you support a 50 per cent renewable energy target for the people of Canberra that you represent?


BRODTMANN: I just answered that question, Tim. I said yes at the beginning. 


SHAW: Thank you. Zed Seselja, do you support the 100 per cent renewable energy target policy that the Canberra Liberals are still supporting? I had the Leader in here on Monday and he could not answer the question. Very simply, he says energy affordability and reliability. You're a Liberal Senator representing the people of the ACT. Do you support the Canberra Liberals 100 per cent renewable energy target?


SESELJA: Well I don’t support a 100 per cent target. Nationally, we've got the renewable target of 20 per cent, or a bit below 20 per cent was legislated. That's the target we support. We negotiated to make it lower but we had to negotiate with the Labor Party because it was going to be at 26 per cent and we got it down to 23 per cent. What I'm fundamentally interested in is keeping energy prices as low as possible and making energy as reliable as possible and, of course, we want to be good global citizens and meet our obligations. But that’s the work we're doing. It's about reliable energy and it's about affordable energy. We're seeing the beginnings of the turnaround. It is difficult. We absolutely understand the pressure on people's power bills but the discussion that's going on within the Coalition is all about how we best lower prices and make things more affordable. In Labor, the discussion is over more than double the renewable energy target and of course that will see prices sky rocket. Yes, we're having a discussion. Yes, there are differences of opinion about how we get there but our goal is very clear. We want to lower prices to make energy more affordable. Labor will be dragged further and further to the left by the Greens with higher and higher targets which will make prices ever higher.


SHAW: I understand what you've just told me Gai and Zed, and I respect your positions. Your electors are facing a $380 increase in their energy bills here in the ACT. They're the people that put you both into the job that you both have. Both of you are suggesting you don't support 100 per cent. That's clear. But your own Canberra Liberals, your colleagues, can't even get an energy policy straight here in the ACT and they want to be the next government here in the ACT. 380 bucks a year. And Gai, we've got problems now paying bills and you nationally want a 50 per cent energy target by 2030. Can you understand both Labor and Liberal voters are deserting, and that’s evident in the Longman by-elections where we saw energy reliable and affordable and neither party is delivering that on policy? Would you both agree with that?


BRODTMANN: We're being clear on our policy, Tim. In terms of what you just highlighted we've got a commitment to 50 per cent renewable by 2030. The concern that we have is the constant delay in the fact this government cannot get its act together in settling on these issues. Delays on this issue mean prolonged uncertainty for investors, prolonged uncertainty for jobs, prolonged uncertainty for energy prices. This government has got to get its act together, and the suggestion this week from those that are in the government - Tony Abbott, Craig Kelly, John Williams, Michelle Landry - is that we're far from achieving that. It's no wonder the states and territories are uncertain about signing up. No wonder they're uncertain because the government itself is uncertain about it, particularly in terms of the support for its plan.


SHAW: Zed?


SESELJA: Just a couple of points. You're absolutely right in terms of some of the pressures and that’s why we're doing all we can. If we look at some of the progress we have been making, the gas reservation policy and we've just seen gas prices come down, the pressure we've put on retailers has actually seen some competition amongst retailers where they are offering better deals. I know here in the ACT there was both Origin and ActewAGL offering 25 per cent discounts if people switched over to certain deals. So I'd encourage people to shop around but I absolutely take the point - the energy policy, as a nation, we haven’t gotten right. I think the preposterous of Green's answers has been a little too dominant and we don't want to make it more dominant. Although we both support a better environment, we absolutely need to make more progress and that's what the government is very much focussed on doing. We have made some progress but there is a long way to go.


SHAW: I know and it's tough policy for both of you, but you both want to be elected in the next federal election and there is anger in our local community here. Can I go to a very serious story - we've got people coming into our county, Gai Brodtmann, on 457 visas. Arrests took place, and raids, here in the ACT, woman that have been threatened with deportation, woman that have been trafficked into this country to work in the ACT sex industry. The Federal Police is a national jurisdiction. We've got the ACT police here. Do we need the right to be able to allow for the Australian Federal Police to investigate businesses? Not only here in the ACT, but all over Australia, to ensure that no one is being exploited whilst they are here in Australia on 457 visas. Gai Brodtmann?


BRODTMANN: Well you're right to be concerned because it is absolutely appalling hearing the stories of those women. We heard yesterday about the chef who was working in the restaurant who had been working 12 hour shifts, six days a week and not only working in those appalling conditions, but also being asked to pay his boss' tax bill!


SHAW: Incredible.


BRODTMANN: It's just appalling. I was in Melbourne yesterday at a cyber security conference, I was there speaking on a panel, and I was getting a taxi to the event, and the taxi driver turned to me and said "this is an issue that is far more widespread than people are talking about". He said "I know of many instances of this happening". So first up, we have to express we are absolutely appalled about this issue. It's good of you to raise this issue - we need to ensure significant civil penalties are applied for intentional systemic underpayment of these people.


SHAW: Zed, professionals coming in on 457 visas, we know the economic benefit it's had. We're not running the Stasi here. We don't want people banging down doors, but should we have similar reporting methodologies like Asian countries do, where foreigners on various visas have to report every 90 days and you can assess there: how are you feeling, is everything going good in your workplace. These five women have been exploited. They're Thai nationals. More importantly, they've been threatened with narrative along the lines of ‘you can't trust the police. You talk to the police and you'll be deported.’ I'm not pointing the finger at Dutton on this, but do we need federal police powers to look at investigating 457 visa holders in various Australian businesses? This is appalling and it's happening in your backyard.


SESELJA: There's no doubt that this kind of behaviour is absolutely disgraceful. So there are powers. In recent times under our government, the penalties for people who are underpaying workers or mistreating workers, I think in some cases the penalties have gone up tenfold. We take it very seriously, the Fair Work Ombudsman has gotten more powers, and Border Force has more powers when it comes to people on visas. We also remember when it came to 457s, we overhauled that particular system because in the past there were, under Bill Shorten's watch, people coming and working in McDonalds on 457 visas. We cracked down and made sure that it was about the genuine skills that we need rather than just bringing workers where Australians could be doing their job. We take these issues very seriously and where there is this type of exploitation, we have significantly toughened the penalties and we can really hit people with very significant penalties.


SHAW: I understand that. Zed, you've been concerned about a prospective Labor candidate by the name of John Falzone being photographed in a Lenin t-shirt. That shouldn't prohibit him from running for preselection for the seat of Canberra. 


SESELJA: It's in a Lenin t-shirt and it's in front of a Soviet flag. He's wearing Soviet insignia. I would just ask people to consider if it was a swastika behind him, how the reaction would be. Let’s remember what the Soviet regime, that he was celebrating the hundred years of in that picture, was actually was responsible for. It was one of the most evil regimes in history. Tens of millions of people were killed or repressed. I've been reading a booked called the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ and it talks about the repressions starting straight away, straight after the communist revolution. People celebrating this regime or laughing about it, it's not a laughing matter. You ask people who have come from that part of the world who escaped the Soviet Union and the absolute evil that was. It's a legitimate question for him to be asked. And as I say, if it was a candidate and they were in front of a swastika, what would be the reaction? Both were evil regimes responsible for tens of millions of deaths.


SHAW: Gai Brodtmann, the Labor party that you joined is not the Labor party we've been reading about the last couple of weeks. I've spoken to the ACT Secretary about the appalling slanging match in letters written to female members of the ALP. Are you confident that the federal committee is going to be able to oversee this, find and get to bottom of it, and that you, as a candidate for the pre selection for the seat of Bean, are not going to be subjected to the appalling behaviours of some? This is a small minority of Labor members that have been doing what they've been doing to disparage candidates in the preselection for the seat of Canberra. 


BRODTMANN: These smear sheets are deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. It's being investigated so I don't want to comment any further on it. The fact it's being investigated is a good thing.


SHAW: It is a very good thing. Can we give a big shout out to the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, Gai Brodtmann? What a great move and the work that you and the crossbench woman have done in relation to the National Action Plan for Endometriosis. How good is this?


BRODTMANN: It's a fantastic result and it's been a significant team effort. It shows what can be achieved by working in a bipartisan fashion for a greater good. Just last week the minister launched a National Action Plan. It's the culmination of 18 months of work between myself, Nicole Flint and Nola Marino, who are both in the Liberal Party.


SHAW: It's great work.


BRODTMANN: As well as hundreds of endometriosis sufferers and the endo community - the endo warriors we call them. It was a team effort coming together, working together, working out what that community wanted, articulating that very clearly and then achieving this fantastic result, which is the National Action Plan. This is funding to raise awareness about the issue, funding for research, funding to raise awareness amongst GPs because the diagnosis on this takes usually between five to ten years. For those who don't know, it is a disease where the lining of the womb grows outside the womb in other parts of the body. It affects one in ten women in Australia, about 700,000 that we know of, and it causes significant period pain. It means that women can't go to school, they can't go to work, and they have their opportunities significantly limited because this pain just overwhelms them. It results in significant interventions, hysterectomies for women in their twenties, and have a huge impact on their personal life, their professional life and their mental health. 


SHAW: It's great bipartisan achievement. Well done. 


BRODTMANN: It's a significant effort.


SHAW: Well done, Gai. And well done Zed. Just finally, Meegan Fitzharris's comfort food is lentil pumpkin soup. Alistair Coe is minestrone soup in Winter. Gai Brodtmann, your Winter comfort food and Zed Seselja, yours too? 


BRODTMANN: My Winter comfort food would probably be something slow cooked like beef burgundy or osso bucco or something slow cooked that's been in the oven for about three or four hours and usually with some pasta.


SHAW: And Zed Seselja?


SESELJA: If I'm cooking it'd be three hour cooked spaghetti bolognaise sauce and it has to be cooked for two or three hours then it's fantastic. Or if my wife is cooking, she does an amazing chicken, leek and cabbage pie which is fantastic.


SHAW: Eddie and I are available Saturday week and we'll be at both of your places for comfort food. To you both thank you for your time. Catch you soon.