5 February 2015
Transcript - #2015004, 2015

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

Interview with Ross Greenwood, Money News, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Leadership; building a strong economy; foreign investment

GREENWOOD:

Clearly politics is very much in the news right now and the thing that we raised right at the beginning of the programme is: what happens if you can't fix the budget? We did also play a grab of the Prime Minister saying, well look, in the budget process, they don't want to really look at repairing the budget – trying to go and make the hard decisions, the Government, because clearly they don't want the families affected. But the real problem about this, as we know, is somebody has got to try and fix the budget. Somebody somewhere has got to make the hard yards, the hard decisions, to try and stop the country continuingly racking up more and more debt for the next 10 years. Now the point is, the problem in terms of the debt is not necessarily today but you let it go for 10 years and it becomes a big problem. And the country becomes more vulnerable to our external economic shocks. Well, one of the things that the Prime Minister did this week was he also talked about another aspect of it. He did talk about – as part of his whole reform on what he was going to do – he talked about little bits and pieces like what should happen with property as well. Now when he was talking about property he actually said that there would be a crackdown on illegal foreign buyers. This is something we've spoken about on this programme before and you might remember there was a Parliamentary Inquiry into this, that was headed by Kelly O'Dwyer, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer now, also the chair of the House of Representative's Economics Committee. Now Kelly O'Dwyer came out and slammed the Foreign Investment Review Board for really not doing enough. She's on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Kelly as always.

O'DWYER:

Great to be with you again Ross.

GREENWOOD:

Ok, first up leadership – where does it go with the Prime Minister?

O'DWYER:

Well, as I said today when I was doing my regular segment on Sky, it's going to be no surprise to anybody that I fully support the Prime Minister and, you know, I don't think it's particularly helpful to get into commentary on one's colleagues who are all valued and respected colleagues but we'll no doubt…

GREENWOOD:

Is that a line that's been put around by the way Kelly? I mean, I ask that because it seems to be the common line that comes out from politicians right now. Is that something you've made up yourself or is that something that's basically been on a sheet of paper handed to you?

O'DWYER:

No, it is actually something that is my very strong view. No doubt we will have a robust Party Room meeting but a lot of our Party Room meetings are robust and I would expect nothing less from my colleagues but we've got a really important job to do as you outlined in your opening statement. Debt will not be reduced, it will only increase, unless we actually bring about the structural reforms that we need to in order to put Australia, and our economy, in a position to be able to withstand a downturn in the global economic environment.

GREENWOOD:

Ok. Before we get to that point – because I do want to explore that with you. Just one last thing on leadership. I wanted to clear the air – Andrew Robb was talking about that and he came out with a similar line to what you just did earlier on today. What I really want to know, is a spill almost inevitable for the Prime Minister to get the genuine support and get everybody rallying behind him and therefore push on? Because you've obviously had Jeff Kennett say he believes change is almost inevitable – a senior Liberal of course. Is it one of these things where the Party really does need to refocus and reset and that means also making certain that the support is rock solid behind the Prime Minister?

O'DWYER:

Well as I said to you – you can ask me as many times as you like Ross, I'm not going to get into a commentary on the commentary. I'm just focused on the job that I have been elected to do. I'm focused on my job looking after my electorate and I'm focused on the job that I have been given by the Prime Minister as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, which is an important job because, as you said at the beginning of your programme, one of the key problems that we face as a nation is that we are spending too much, we are getting into ever increasing debt, we are not going to be able to withstand another Global Financial Crisis in the same way that we withstood the last one. Those shock absorbers that we had in place, including having money in the bank, no longer exist and they were inherited by the previous Coalition Government having money in the bank, making sure that we weren't going to be exposed when we had the Asian Financial Crisis, the Dot Com Bust and the most recent Global Financial Crisis, that no longer exists because the Labor Party have plunged us into debt. They increased spending and we are now borrowing over $110 million a day to pay for that debt and interest.

GREENWOOD:

Ok Kelly, my problem with all of that – and I agree entirely with everything you've just said. There's no dramas about that. You won't get any argument from most people listening to this programme right now. My problem is that politically, I don't believe the Government is in a position, politically, to fix the problem. I think the issue is that you are going to see numbers come out from the Reserve Bank tomorrow which are going to downgrade economic growth which is going to show the deficits are going to go on for much longer and right now because the politics all week – you've had a Queensland election this week, you've got polls that are weak, you've got the Prime Minister that clearly has got sniping from the backbench, you are not in the position to make tough calls in the Budget and/or get them through the Senate that will enable the Budget to be fixed. In other words the country is stuck.

O'DWYER:

Well the biggest problem at the moment in the Senate is the Labor Party. The Labor Party who plunged us into debt. The Labor Party who now refuse to be part of the solution. We have more than $30 billion worth of savings in the Senate right now that could be implemented. It's been opposed by the Labor Party. They're the blockers of the structural reform that needs to take place. What makes it even more unimaginable is the fact that about $5 billion of those savings that are in the Senate are savings that were announced by the previous Labor Government which they are now obstructing simply because they want to play the game of political wrecking.

GREENWOOD:

I've got to say I get that as well and we certainly had Chris Bowen and took him to task about that last week but the truth is that they are probably playing a pretty smart political game because if they simply do nothing they are likely to waltz into power next time. In which case they inherit the problem and then it's their problem to try and solve what, right now, is very difficult for the Coalition to solve. The questions is should the Coalition simply stick to its guns, create a hard budget and say this is the answer – you will not like this but this is the answer, this is the genuine answer to the problem because otherwise your job, your kids, your healthcare, your education in the long term is going to be compromised.

O'DWYER:

Certainly we have to explain why we need to embark upon structural reform and you're absolutely right – our children will ultimately pay the price in terms of lower living standards and in terms of having to fund the interest that is paid on the debt – the ever increasing interest – unless we start paying some of that debt back. Now that is going to constrain our choices as a country, it is going to impede our economy and once that happens it means that the ability to grow jobs is compromised. Now we actually need to be above partisan politics. We need to act in the national interest.

GREENWOOD:

What chance of that is there Kelly? I mean you can see where the Labor party is going I mean they're not…

O'DWYER:

Well they're irresponsible Ross and we have to call it out for what it is. It's irresponsible for the Labor Party to be behaving in this way. It is irresponsible and it is not going to advance our national interest in any way. They don't have a plan to actually fix this problem. We do have a plan. They should produce an alternative plan if they have an alternative vision for the country. So far they have produced nothing. The only comments that we have heard from Chris Bowen have been that he is interested in considering again the Carbon Tax, that he is going to continue on with big spending programmes, that the Mining Tax is still potentially on offer. This will not solve the political problems that we face today, in fact it is only going to make it worse.

GREENWOOD:

Before I let you go, I want to do one more thing and that is we spoke in the introduction about foreign buyers who come and acquire property here illegally and basically nothing has been done about them in the past. Do you believe now that the Government has got the will to try and crack down on that and that there is ultimately some sanction on those people who come and buy property here under illicit means?

O'DWYER:

Well the Government defiantly has the will. The Government has been examining very closely the report handed down by the House Standing Committee on Economics which, as you pointed out in you opening segment, was very critical of the role that the Foreign Investment Review Board had played. The fact that there had been no prosecutions during the entire time of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. Since 2006, not one court ordered divestment of illegally held property. Now that's not right. We know that there are people who flout the laws and we know that at the moment they are not being penalised in the appropriate way which means that people feel that they have no sanction upon them in flouting those laws. The Government does have the political will to act on this unlike the previous Labor Government and shortly the Government will be making announcements in relation to the response to the House Economics Committee.

GREENWOOD:

I think a lot of people would cheer about that as well. Kelly O'Dwyer is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and also the Chair of the House of Representatives Economics Committee she's great with her time with us. Kelly, many thanks for tonight.

O'DWYER:

Pleasure