Transcript: Sky News Lunchtime Agenda

SUBJECTS: LNP attack on the pension; national security; Philip Ruddock

DAVID LIPSON: Thanks for your company here on Lunchtime Agenda. Joining me now is David Coleman and Gai Brodtmann for our political panel here this afternoon. Thank you both for joining us. The government is giving part pensioners a $200 million funding boost through a change to the deeming rate. Now that’s the mechanism used to generate income for pension payments and benefits. David Coleman, of course we all want pensioners and part pensioners to have a better deal but why now at a time when it’s still pushing the need for budget restraint and also just a week after that leadership vote in the Liberal party?

DAVID COLEMAN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BANKS: Well I think David that this is an important recognition of the situation that part pensioners find themselves in. As you know when interest rates go down it’s great for people with mortgages but it’s not so great for people on fixed incomes, and this is the government acknowledging that those people who have saved and who have made a significant contribution to their retirement incomes do deserve some relief, especially in the environment of declining interest rates. So it’s good news for part pensioners and it will certainly be welcomed in the community.

LIPSON: Gai Brodtmann it’s only worth $3.20 per fortnight I think it is on average, it’s still an improvement though. Do you welcome that?

GAI BRODTMANN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE: Well we welcome any assistance provided to pensioners that will help them deal with changes in the market. But our view is that the focus should be on the millions of pensioners who are going to be affected by the government’s changes to the indexation rates to the pension which is going to see pensioners - millions of pensioners - $80 a week worse off over a decade. It’s also been condemned by ACOSS in terms of what are the priorities here? Should the focus be on these people who have got investments or should the focus be on millions of pensioners who –

LIPSON: David is that a fair criticism that the government is if you like giving pensioners $3.20 but then taking or trying to pass legislation that would see up to $80 taken from them?

COLEMAN: No not at all David. Let’s get real about what is proposed in the government’s plan for the aged pension. So what is proposed is that from 2018 well after the next election that pensions would increase by the rate of CPI. Increase by the rate of CPI. So that means however prices go up by in the shops, the pension goes up by just as much every six months. Now that is a change that we are proposing to take account for the fact that we have immense debt, more than $200 billion now heading towards two thirds of a trillion if we don’t act. And we think that that change is an appropriate and modest measure to help address this very difficult budget situation that we face. But the key point David is that pensions go up every six months by CPI which is the same amount that prices go up in the shops. 

LIPSON: Yeah what’s wrong with that Gai Brodtmann because why not just keep pace with inflation as it increase?

BRODTMANN: Well what it essentially means from the modelling that we’ve done is that pensioners are going to be $80 a week worse off over the next decade. So yes while it is an indexation rate it essentially means it’s the lesser of two indexation rates which will see them worse off.

LIPSON: Okay I’d like to turn to national security. We got a bit of a hint from the Prime Minister today and yesterday that he does it seems want to crack down on some of the areas where national security has been perhaps waning, where people have slipped through the net somewhat. This is what he said today:

“I’m not going to pre-empt the statement that I’ll be making next Monday but if you look for arguments sake at the history of the Martin Place murderer, at every step of the way our system gave him the benefit of the doubt. This was someone who really did bring nothing but discredit to himself and to our country. He frankly is a disgrace to everybody who came into contact with him and we need to ensure that the system is at least focused on Australia’s national interest as it is on the interests of people overseas who seek to come here”
Tony Abbott, 16 February, 2015

LIPSON: Gai Brodtmann I’ll start with you. Will Labor work in a bipartisan way when it comes to this?

BRODTMANN: Well we have worked in a constructive and bipartisan way so far on national security issues. We want to ensure that our national security agencies have the tools to be able to keep Australians safe. But it was only announced on YouTube last night by the Prime Minister; we’ll wait and see what the details are next week.

LIPSON: Can you shed any more light on this David Coleman? You were there with the Prime Minister when he made that statement.

COLEMAN: Sure. Well look obviously I don’t want to pre-empt what the Prime Minister’s going to say next week but what I would say is the fact that we face terrorism in Australia is a reality. I’m sitting now about one hundred metres from the Lindt Café. And we need to err on the side of protecting our citizens. There is in these areas always the debate about civil liberties and so on but wherever there are things we can sensibly do to protect our community, we should do so. And I know the PM’s very committed to doing that and I certainly support him 100 percent.

LIPSON: Your colleague Andrew Nikolic has written a piece in the Australian today where he pointed to countries like France, Britain and Canada who have tightened up laws and regulations. But they have huge problems, I mean I’m not saying that we don’t, but are they really the models that we want to be following particularly when you look to France for example?

COLEMAN: Well look I read Mr Nikolic’s article and I thought it was a very thoughtful and well researched piece. And again David I think we need to be looking at all options including how we address the issue of dual citizenship. What Mr Nikolic is advocating is a system where if someone commits an act of terrorism, their dual citizenship to Australia is revoked. Now the simple way of not getting yourself into that position, to not have your citizenship revoked, is don’t commit acts of terrorism. So I think Mr Nikolic makes some important arguments and I’m sure they will be taken into account in the coming weeks.

LIPSON: Indeed there are Gai Brodtmann as you know some laws, some treaties that we’re a part of when it comes to people being stateless. So if we’re talking about revoking citizenship, it could only be those with dual citizenship. We can’t tear up an Australian passport for a person who only has an Australian passport.

BRODTMANN: Just on that issue, let’s wait and see what the Prime Minister actually puts on the table, what he discusses next week. I think that we are constantly reminded of the volatility of the environment; we saw what happened in Copenhagen over the weekend and the fact that it echoes so much of what actually happened in Paris. It was chilling and we condemn that. But we will wait and see what the Prime Minister has to say next week; I understand it’s on Monday.

LIPSON: Yes on Monday. Okay I want to turn to Philip Ruddock. David Coleman what’s your view on his treatment? Some in your party believe that he’s been scapegoated after the result of the leadership ballot a week ago. What’s your position?

COLEMAN: Oh look this is a matter for the Prime Minister entirely. He chooses his ministerial team and the Whip’s team and it’s entirely appropriate for him to make those calls. Philip Ruddock as the Prime Minister said in his statement on Friday is a very deeply respected and revered member of our party and it’s appropriate to pay tribute to his service. Scott Buchholz, the incoming party Whip equally is a very well like and well respected person in the party room. This is a decision for the Prime Minister. He’s made that decision and that’s entirely appropriate.

LIPSON: Sure it is. But the Prime Minister has also inferred that he wasn’t as aware as he should have been that the backbench wasn’t entirely happy with him. Is that Philip Ruddock’s fault or is that his job to be passing that sort of information onto the Prime Minister as chief Whip?

COLEMAN: Oh look David I’m not aware of the precise interactions between Mr Ruddock and the Prime Minister but what I would say is that it’s the Prime Minister’s right to choose his team and that’s what he’s done and that’s appropriate.

LIPSON: It is the Prime Minister’s right to choose his team Gai Brodtmann. What is Labor’s position on Philip Ruddock being dumped and if you have an issue, why is that?

BRODTMANN: Well we were shocked, I was shocked and the community was shocked. I know that my Canberra community was shocked about it; I know that many Australians were shocked by the decision – the fact that it was so late on a Friday night. And it seemed to be a surprise to Philip Ruddock. This is a man who is the father of the Parliament. This is a man who is 72 years old, who has been in Parliament for 40 plus years. There’s not much that Philip Ruddock hasn’t seen. So I think that unfortunately this esteemed and respected parliamentarian and gentleman, an absolute gentleman, has become the fall guy for the Prime Minister’s inability to listen and consult with his backbench.

LIPSON: The PM claims he just wanted to renew his team. Yes Philip Ruddock is very well respected; yes he’s been here for more than four decades. But if you’re trying to renew the team, would he not be the obvious choice?

BRODTMANN: Well look it is his prerogative. Our systems are very different. Labor’s system of choosing the whip is very different to the Liberal and National party system. But essentially Philip Ruddock as an esteemed, respected individual - an Australian – has become the fall guy.

LIPSON: And it seems David Coleman that Tony Abbott is on something of a blitz this week of a number of electorates around the country. He was in yours earlier today. Is that welcome by MPs like you? Is that what Tony Abbott needs to do, be out there connecting with the community?

COLEMAN: Oh it’s very welcome David. Yesterday and today the PM’s been in my electorate. We had a morning tea for a hundred people yesterday which was fantastic and today at a local small business. So yeah it’s terrific to see the PM getting out and about and meeting with people in the community. And he’s certainly always well received in my electorate.

LIPSON: Okay we’re out of time. David Coleman and Gai Brodtmann thanks so much for joining us here on Lunchtime Agenda.

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