27 January 2015
Transcript - #2015002, 2015

In the role of: Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer [23 December 2014 - 20 September 2015]

Interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Drive

SUBJECTS: Knighthoods; Constitutional Reform; Childcare; the Budget

KARVELAS:

Right, now I'm going to bring them in – Kelly O'Dwyer and Jim Chalmers welcome to the first RN drive for the year – you're like my first people.

O'DWYER:

Well, we feel very, very honoured Patricia

KARVELAS:

Look, I'm glad and Jim…

CHALMERS:

This might be the only thing that Kelly and I agree on today Patricia we wish you well in your new job and we hope it goes great.

KARVELAS:

Thank you Jim but I think I can get you agreeing on a few more things – this is the thing – bipartisanship goes along way. Now let's start with this because it is really dominating news Kelly you are well aware of that – do you support the decision?

O'DWYER:

Well look, it's a decision that was made by the Prime Minister and it's the Prime Minister's decision, it's his alone to make. You know different people in that position perhaps would make different decisions and the truth is, you know, my view is, that I know is shared by Barnaby Joyce and perhaps others and many Australians that they would like to see Australian honours really given to eminent Australians, distinguished Australians, those who have done amazing things, not only for our local communities but also for our nation and sometimes their contribution can be international in scope so the decision has been made by the Prime Minister. I think on Australia Day we do have the capacity to honour eminent Australians and I think we have done that. I think that Rosie Batty for instance was a superb appointment as the Australian of the Year. With that appointment she has raised the very serious issue of domestic violence and I am very pleased that we are now able to have a serious discussion about

KARVELAS:

Absolutely but should she have been made a Dame then?

O'DWYER:

Well, look you know, in terms of the highest honours I'll leave that for other commentators to commentate on but I think that Rosemary Batty's appointment was one where we can actually have a serious conversation about domestic violence how that affects women and children. The Government has announced a package over four years of $100 million that will actually go towards practical measures to help women and children in situations of extreme violence and in situations of great vulnerability…

KARVELAS:

So let me take you back to the Knighthood because, look, I think we are all in furious agreement that Rosie Batty was a very good choice.

CHALMERS:

It was.

KARVELAS:

But let me take you back to these knighthoods so – you are saying in diplomatic language and I think your colleagues sort of said it in similar diplomatic language Kelly O'Dwyer, that if you were the PM, and I know it is a hypothetical but I want you to go there – you can

O'DWYER:

Gee I've only just been promoted to Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer…

KARVELAS:

Well a lot of us would be backing another female Prime Minister, there's nothing wrong with backing it. So if you were the Prime Minister you would not have awarded Prince Philip this Knighthood?

O'DWYER:

Well like I've said I think Australian Honours should go to eminent Australians – those who have made a distinguished contribution to Australia. And I think most Australians are in furious agreement about that but look, I don't want to be distracted by this particular issue because there are many things that I think we should be focused on this year, very serious issues that we face as a nation.

KARVELAS:

So are you frustrated that you have been distracted?

O'DWYER:

Well, well look,

KARVELAS:

Are you annoyed by this?

O'DWYER:

You know I'm not going to commentate on the commentary I'm not going to be distracted by it. I think that we should instead be focused on the issues that affect Australians, their lives and their futures. And you know let's start by talking about the fact that we need to reform our childcare system for instance to make sure that with childcare that we have affordable and flexible childcare that actually meets the needs of the 21st Century Australian family.

KARVELAS:

I'm going to press pause on that theme because I really want to go there in this conversation but not yet. First I want to get Jim Chalmers, who joins us from Brisbane who is the Parliamentary Secretary to Bill Shorten, on the Opposition Leader's call for a republic at this time. Now given at the moment what's on the agenda is constitutional reform to acknowledge indigenous Australians in the constitution and there is bipartisan support for that. Should that not be the focus right now? Is a republic really front and centre and necessary? I mean if we can't even nail the other thing which we've all promised to do why are we having the other discussion?

CHALMERS:

Well first things first Patricia, I mean, Kelly just joined a long line of Coalition MPs and Senators from the front bench, the back bench and in between who think that the Prime Minister's decision to award a Knighthood to Prince Philip is a laughable stinker of a decision. It makes him a figure of ridicule – shows that he is just diabolically out of touch it's a really divisive act on what should have been a unifying day – Australia Day. That's the first thing. When it comes to the republic, I agree that there are a lot of issues before us in federal politics and in the economics of daily life and key amongst those are things like the GP tax, coming GST hike, attacks on workers in the industrial relations system, there are a whole range of issues. But I think Bill Shorten is to be applauded. One for his advocacy of constitutional recognition of our indigenous people first of all but secondly, putting back on the agenda an Australian republic which is…

KARVELAS:

But we can't even get the Constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people sorted out and this has been going on for years why, why distract the issue now? I mean it muddies the waters. I can say that Tim Gartrell, the head of the Recognise movement, said to me some time ago that he was worried that the republic debate would actually do damage to the constitutional recognition debate for indigenous Australians. Is that not the priority?

CHALMERS:

Well Tim is well known to me and he is doing tremendous work when it comes to recognising our indigenous people when it comes to constitutional recognition. I agree that that is a really pressing priority – so does Bill Shorten I think it is important that we get that job done first of all. But I don't think that the conversation about constitutional change ends there. I think that there are other important issues republic being key among them because we do need to constantly think and rethink about what kind of country we are, what's our national identity and where people fit into that story. So I think Bill is to be commended I mean nobody could accuse Bill at any point of not focusing on the economics of ordinary daily life including the budget attacks on ordinary people in middle Australia but at the same time he is right to put this issue on the agenda as he campaigns for constitutional recognition of indigenous people as well.

KARVELAS:

It's 13 minutes past six on RN Drive you're with Patricia Karvelas taking you right through to 7:30 and I'm joined for my first political panel of the year by Dr Jim Chalmers, who's the Parliamentary Secretary to Bill Shorten, and Kelly O'Dwyer who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer – who are having, well you are actually politely debating it's very nice.

CHALMERS:

Always polite.

KARVELAS:

No fisticuffs yet I'm wondering, There is time still. The PM's address to the National Press Club is on Monday, Kelly O'Dwyer what can we expect?

O'DWYER:

Well we can expect that the Prime Minister will outline the vision for the country. The real need to make decisions about our economic future and why that is so important. I certainly know that I've had time to reflect over the Christmas period and into the New Year about the fact that I'm going to become a parent for the very first time this year so you know as much as I have always thought about future generations…

KARVELAS:

Kelly O'Dwyer is pregnant – people know this – if you don't know this Kelly O'Dwyer is…

CHALMERS:

Congratulations Kelly.

O'DWYER:

The point being is that…

KARVELAS:

You're pregnant too Jim.

CHALMERS:

Well Laura is.

O'DWYER:

Well congratulations… I didn't know that.

KARVELAS:

You both are – new babies being made as we speak.

O'DWYER:

I didn't want to sort of distract on…

CHALMERS:

Hopefully not as we speak…

KARVELAS:

Well you know, they're growing.

O'DWYER:

The point I was trying to make here is that it has given me time to reflect on the need that we have to actually be very forward looking and very responsible in the decisions that we make today effecting the lives of future generations of Australians and I think the Prime Minister will very much focus on that. Because to be a responsible Government you have to make decisions today that will impact the future and our economic prosperity is not guaranteed. Our economic prosperity only comes through having hard work determination and a commitment to economic reform. Now the first thing that we need to do is we need to repair the budget bottom line to repair the debt that was left to us by the previous Government, I mean Wayne Swan had an unenviable record of course of delivering deficit after deficit year after year and he left a trajectory of deficits…

CHALMERS:

You might want to mention the global financial crisis at some point Kelly I mean when you get a chance

O'DWYER:

That would… well I was still speaking, you will get a go Jim, you will get a go. The trajectory of deficits. Of course that would add up to more than $667 billion if no change was made. Now we've committed to economic reform. We're going to actually be taking over $170 billion off that right away through the decisions we've made. Now we are frustrated in the Senate by the Labor Party – who are blocking their own economic changes, their own changes that they committed to actually putting through, $5 billion worth – they are now blocking it because they're being obstructionist and I think that they're not thinking about those future generations because debt today is really the taxes of tomorrow and it will be paid for, but it will be paid for by our children, and if you want to talk about fairness, let's talk about intergenerational fairness. I think that the Prime Minister in his message to the nation will talk about the achievements that we've had to date in stopping the boats, in putting in place the infrastructure that we need to build the roads of the 21st Century, he'll also be talking about the fact that we have been able to implement serious reform but we need more to do on this front.

KARVELAS:

I've got some interesting feedback coming through and I've gotta say even though we are talking about all sorts of things were not only talking about the Knighthood they are all about the Knighthoods. It's clearly dominating the political debate – you can't get any way around it. Sue from Hobart says "I can't work out whether Tony Abbott is in a time warp or from another planet his political priorities, judgement and values are becoming more strange and erratic" - Kelly?

O'DWYER:

Well, look you know each person will have their own views on this as they will on a lot of other issues that are raised in public…

KARVELAS:

Isn't it an issue though increasingly on your side of politics that people are starting to thinks about it though – it's one thing for the people who've traditionally not liked the PM are thinking this but we are now seeing Liberal voters thinking this.

O'DWYER:

Well look I'm not going, as I said to you Patricia, I'm not going to comment on the commentary I'm focused on the issues that make a real difference to people's lives

KARVELAS:

But you were hoping that this year would start off a lot stronger than last year ended.

O'DWYER:

Well I…

KARVELAS:

Are you feeling worried so far?

O'DWYER:

I do think it is unfortunate that for the first 20 minutes of your programme we've been talking about this issue and that we are not actually talking about some of the economic reforms that are so vital and necessary. We're not talking about the fact that we need to reduce company tax in order to encourage…

CHALMERS:

Give Tony a call Kelly, Tony put it on the agenda…

O'DWYER:

… to encourage business to employ people that will help grow our economy and help us prosper. I think it is unfortunate that we are not having a discussion about that. I think it is unfortunate that we are not also having a discussion about the situation that we were left and how difficult….

KARVELAS:

Ok. Well let's move to one issue which is now on the agenda – the Productivity Commission is reviewing employment laws. Some people, particularly the trade union movement, are talking about Work Choices - a campaign has already begun. Jim isn't it fair enough that we review all laws? I mean isn't it standard practice that the Productivity Commission that gave birth if you like, to things like the NDIS which I know Labor is obviously strongly supported and began. Why shouldn't they have a look at the workplace laws?

CHALMERS:

I think every Australian worker sees this for what it is which is an opportunity for Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz and all of the Liberal Party nationally and at a state level to give a best possible opportunity to revive work choices, they've stated this process by...

KARVELAS:

I understand that they might do that – potentially, you never know as a result but at this stage where it is at its infancy it is a review. Shouldn't you give it at least the opportunity this is the eminent economic think tank in this country that you support - its got bipartisan support independent analysts, don't they have the right to look at the laws and come up with recommendations that then of cause political sides can have a debate about?

CHALMERS:

Well what they've done is open up the future of penalty rates, the minimum wage, allowances, work hours all sorts of issues that are crucial when it comes to the economics of daily life. The Prime Minister already - you say we shouldn't pre-empt these sorts of outcomes, the Prime Minister already has come out and said very clearly that he doesn't support penalty rates and that impacts on a whole range of people whether they work on the weekend or work shifts over night as my Mum did for many decades and so by saying, by the Prime Minister of this nation saying that he doesn't support penalty rates that pre-empts an outcome of this review and what it shows us is that this is just an exercise to get to a predetermined outcome, which is to recommend the return of Work Choices or something like it. It's one of the processes that they've set in place with a diabolical end point the other one is all of the noise that has been made over Christmas about a higher GST applied to more goods and services. These are the two processes that the Government has put in place and the end point won't be happy news for ordinary working people in middle Australia.

KARVELAS:

You're on RN Drive and I'm joined by Labor's Dr Jim Chalmers, Bill Shorten's Parliamentary Secretary and Kelly O'Dwyer the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer. Kelly – right of reply.

O'DWYER:

Well look, you know this is typical from Labor, we hear the scare campaign being mounted yet again. The Labor Party not being interested in actually looking at the facts. I mean they think nothing should change. Mind you that's Jim's view. That might be the view of some of his colleagues – it's not the view of all of his colleagues I might say. Andrew Leigh who is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Brendan O'Connor have both actually come out to say that it's fair enough to be able to actually review the laws as they stand. And the Government has made a very clear commitment to say well this is an independent report. We will look at what the report finds, we will then consider what recommendations we will accept or reject and we will then take that to the 2016 Federal Election for the people to decide.

KARVELAS:

Ok. I want to take you back to something you raised earlier and I pressed pause on you. I'm pressing un-pause on you now Kelly. I want to go back to childcare. Are we going to see this family paid parental leave childcare policy all turned into one big whiz bang announcement in the Budget?

O'DWYER:

Well look, obviously I can't predict…

KARVELAS:

Well you are the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer… you must have a hunch

O'DWYER:

I can't predict what will be in the Budget but certainly when you go out and talk to people about the issues that have a real impact on their lives, you hear time and time again that childcare and the accessibility and affordability of childcare is one of those areas. We know that it is very difficult often, for a second income earner to get back into the workforce if that is what they choose to do because of the accessibility and affordability of childcare, as well as the interaction of our tax and transfer system which provides a huge disincentive to that second income earner to return to work.

KARVELAS:

Would you like to start talking about the upcoming budget rather than the last year's budget? Would you like…

CHALMERS:

They still haven't passed the last one Patricia.

KARVELAS:

Well I'm wondering when you are going to put to bed that budget and start from scratch and say well now we are building towards a new one?

O'DWYER:

Well we are certainly building towards the new budget – there's no question about that but Labor have to acknowledge that they have been very obstructionist in the Senate. Budget reforms – most of which have been able to be delivered but some of which are actually sitting in the Senate at the moment, are being obstructed by the Labor Party for purely political ends. The Labor Party created of course the Budget problem that we now face as a nation and they have not been upfront with the Australian people in saying we created the problem and we are not prepared to put our shoulder to the wheel with the Government in helping to try and solve this issue and…

KARVELAS:

Jim Chalmers, on your side, are you willing to support a beefed up Paid Parental Leave Scheme?

CHALMERS:

Look…

KARVELAS:

One that includes superannuation one of the chief, one of the main critical points that was not included in Labor's Scheme.

CHALMERS:

Look I think we have a proud record when it comes to Paid Parental Leave. We introduced the first ever scheme in Australia which was long overdue. The point that Kelly makes about childcare or the various points she makes, are really, the problem with them is that the Government has taken a billion dollars out of childcare. My electorate of Rankin, just south of Brisbane, is the one most adversely affected in Queensland when it comes to their changes to the childcare benefit for example. We would have preferred that they didn't slug families in the childcare system. That's their starting point. They've now got this process in place and Scott Morrison is supposed to be the saviour of childcare – God help us. So I think people will be very weary whenever Kelly or any of her colleagues talk about childcare. They know the attacks that have been made on the childcare system in the first year of the Government and they also know, at the same time as they took a billion dollars out of childcare, they gave a $1.1 billion tax break to the biggest companies – the biggest multinational companies in our tax system. So I think a lot of what Kelly said sounds nice but at the end of the day you should look at their record and not what they say.

KARVELAS:

Well it will be very interesting to see how this all lands. Thank you so much to both of you for coming on my first programme on RN drive. Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Kelly O'Dwyer, and Labor's Jim Chalmers.