18 July 2018
Transcript - #2018041, 2018

Interview with Raf Epstein, ABC 774 Pollie Graph

SUBJECTS: President Trump, income tax cuts, the Coalition’s plan for affordable and reliable energy, AEMO energy report, My Health Record

RAF EPSTEIN:

There is a lot going on with your politicians in Canberra, your income tax bills, your electricity bills, not say anything about the international implications of an American president who seems quite happy to accept the word of a Russian president who many observers believe lies about pretty much anything does that have any impact on us here in Australia? Your chance to ask questions of the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services and Women as well, Kelly O'Dwyer, and Linda Burney who is the Shadow Minister for Human Services and an ALP member for the seat of Barton in New South Wales, 1300 222 774.

Joining us, as she does occasionally, Linda Burney from the ALP's New South Wales branch. How are you going?

LINDA BURNEY:

I'm well Raf, I've got a couple of new titles.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Forgive me, what are they?

LINDA BURNEY:

I have been wonderfully appointed the Shadow Minister Preventing Family Violence and also the Acting Shadow Minister for Communities and Social Services.

RAF EPSTEIN:

And happy to acknowledge them. And Kelly O'Dwyer joins us as well the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, part of the Prime Minister's team, Kelly how are you going?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Raf and Linda.

LINDA BURNEY:

Hi Kelly, how are you?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good, little croaky voice today but that's okay, that's what happens when you have two very young children.

LINDA BURNEY:

I think you're remarkable.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I start with you Kelly O'Dwyer and, look, I know it's a bit harder if you're a minister but does it matter if an American president accepts Vladimir Putin's word rather than that of his intelligence agencies? Is there any implication for Australia in that Kelly O'Dwyer?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I don't really want to get into a commentary on the US president because I'm not sure that there is much profit in that. I think there are a lot of people who can provide a lot of commentary but what would say is I think where we need to have our focus is on the strength and importance of our alliance relationship between the United States and between Australia and it has stood the test of time, since 1951, and it will continue to, I think, grow from strength to strength.

RAF EPSTEIN:

So nothing the President can say will upset that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well when it relates to Australia there is no question – we will always ferociously defend Australia's national interest. The Prime Minister did that very recently when we make sure that the tariffs
that the US wanted to apply did not actually apply in Australia so that we could protect our markets and our jobs in this country. Now we could only do that because of the very strong relationship that we have the United States. Who people choose to vote for the United States is obviously a matter for them, our focus is very much on the strength of our relationship.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney is there an Australian concern in President Trump sort of doubting his own intelligence agencies?

LINDA BURNEY:

I very much agree with the comments that Kelly has made on this issue. Clearly we would ask questions of the Russian president in relation to the shooting down of the aircraft four years ago. I note and I say I note very much that in America the Republicans as well as it is the Democrats are asking questions of their president and I think it is a matter for America and the American electorate. I think what's very important is that we respect our relationship with America, we value it, as we do with other countries around the world, and that needs to be the business of our country – protecting bilateral relationships, trade and in terms of the politics we note them, we are cognisant of them  and we are also cognisant that questions are being asked within America of their president.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Okay, let's get onto our electricity bill and our income tax bill. Let's start with electricity. The traffic cop, I like to call AEMO – the Australian Energy Market Operator – the traffic cop for our energy network, I think that's fair. Interesting, they put out a big report this week and they are essentially saying that we will get Labor's renewable energy target with the Coalition's current policy. In that report, page 39, figure 13, says we will get half our electricity from renewables in the year 2030, we will get 50% of our electricity from things other than coal and gas in the year 2030. That is Labor's target and we will apparently get there without any change in current policies, that's even before Josh Frydenberg's National Energy Guarantee would be implemented. So Kelly O'Dwyer would you be happy with that outcome?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look they are forecasting ahead, it's not a prescription, but what we're very focused on is making sure that for all Australians out there who are battling with very high power bills, that we are delivering lower prices for those bills, making sure that when people switch on the lights they turn on, making sure when they want to turn on their heaters that they work, that we have got the reliable energy flow and that is in the focus of our Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg in putting together the National Energy Guarantee. We are completely agnostic in terms of which power source it might be, whether it might be coal, whether it might be renewables, so long as it can deliver on the objectives of lowering power bills, making sure we've got a reliable system and making sure that the markets can work properly and effectively and efficiently which is what will happen if we can get this agreed with the states.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Don't you think it's a little odd Kelly O'Dwyer that we get to Labor's goal with your policies.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I don't accept that that's what the report has said.

RAF EPSTEIN:

I can tell you that's what it says, I've looked and double checked and triple checked. That's what the report says.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we're completely focused not just on the inputs, which I know have been the absolute focus that the Labor Party have had with their very high renewable energy targets which of course don't take into account the fact that we actually need to have reliable baseload power such as continuing to have our coal-fired power stations delivering that reliable energy over a long period of time...(interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

But I think that's my point Kelly O'Dwyer, you're calling it an irresponsible target – we're getting there with your policies.

KELLY O’DWYER:

What we've said is we're going to make sure that under the National Energy Guarantee we've got a mix, we've got a mix, we're focused on the outputs. We're focused on making sure it will be reliable energy that is being delivered and making sure that we've got the right infrastructure in place which is what AEMO was also very focused on and we're delivering that. We're delivering that through our commitment for instance to the Snowy 2.0 which is a huge nation building piece of energy infrastructure which will deliver around about 5,000 jobs that we know will power up around about 500,000 homes. I mean these are some of the elements of our plan that we are delivering.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney same forecast, different question. If AEMO, who are completely neutral, if they think we're going to get your renewable energy target with the Coalition's policies it doesn't suggest that it makes much of a difference who's in charge.

LINDA BURNEY:

It makes an enormous difference, particularly on this issue and I very much respect what Kelly has said but I do think that the Government has its head in the sand when it comes to energy policy. There is not an energy policy, it is all over the place, Josh Frydenberg is trying to round up the states. The Labor Party's position is very much about renewables we have never said that coal was not part of the future of power within this country but when you have a look at, Raf, things internationally all the experts and everyone else is moving every other country is moving towards renewable energy because they can see that... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

But so are we.

LINDA BURNEY:

And so are we and our target of course is 50% renewable by 2030. The Snowy Hydro is, in my view, an exercise in scoping out things, it's not a reality and at the end of the day... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

But AEMO think actually that that sort of battery effectively storage through hydro is a crucial part of the solution.

LINDA BURNEY:

Well, I think, that that's probably right that there is also a number of other renewable sources that AEMO mentions in its report as well including pumped hydro and other mixed technologies. I think the most important thing, or one that very important things, to think about going forward is what Kelly has said and that's in terms of people's expectations and affordability, reliability and security which AEMO also highlights. But let's not pretend that the power prices are not increasing because they actually are and this has to be with an eye on reliable, secure power sources and also the environment as well which is why renewable energy is so important.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney from the ALP in New South Wales, a Shadow Minister in Bill Shorten's Shadow Cabinet, and Kelly O'Dwyer a crucial part of the Prime Minister's team as well and we are joined at 16 minutes past 5 by Helen in Westmeadows. What did you want to raise Helen?

CALLER:

Yes thank you for taking my call. I want to raise the concern I have in relation to infrastructure, in particular railway infrastructure. Now cast your minds back to 2010 when, although state government, the Labor Party promised $8 million for the redevelopment of Broadmeadows railway station and local area. That was sidetracked to Frankston who are again getting further funding to develop and improve and extend the railway line to Baxter and yet we in the northern suburbs are not being appropriately regarded and provided with decent infrastructure. The Broadmeadows railway station and several others along the... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

A nice safe Labor part, non-marginal seat territory.

CALLER:

It's a non-marginal seat, exactly. Unfortunately that means that being loyal to Labor gets you nothing and certainly the Liberal's aren't interested in trying to get votes from people in the area.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Let me stop you there Helen only because Linda Burney is not a Victorian Labor MP, I normally would go to Labor first, but Kelly O'Dwyer maybe if I can stretch that to this – that both sides Kelly O'Dwyer neglect people in safe seats and it especially matters in Labor seats where they don't have as much money.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I don't accept that people are neglected if they are in what is considered to be a safe seat because I like to believe there is anything that really is a safe seat. At the end of the day people can vote someone out irrespective of what the margin might be. But to Helen's broader point, I think she is right to focus on infrastructure in this state and I think she is absolutely right to focus on what's being delivered. Now, the Commonwealth Government provided an additional $7 billion to Victoria to build infrastructure that is so vitally needed and we've tried in the past for instance to commit money to the Victorian State Government around rail, particularly the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, we handed around about $830 million to the Andrew's Government. We said to them please commit this to the Melbourne Metro Rail Project to make it even better... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

That's just a bureaucratic right isn't it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

...and they said no. I mean they knocked it back, it's inconceivable to think of it but that's exactly what they did, so I think we do have to take the politics out of it Helen and I think you're right we need to focus on what is right.

RAF EPSTEIN:

You're just putting the politics back in to it, that fight over the Melbourne Metro Rail money is 100% a political fight.

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, I'm saying that we should take the politics out completely and simply say what is going to be right for Victorians. I mean it is right for Victorians for instance to have an airport rail link into the airport and that's $5 billion that we have committed to that.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Well hopefully the Prime Minister and the Premier will agree on the route and then agree on the funding for the airport rail but Linda Burney I'm sure you're familiar with that complaint – briefly if you're not in marginal seat (inaudible).

LINDA BURNEY:

I hear that complaint but at the end of the day all I can say is that Anthony Albanese, who is our Shadow Infrastructure Minister has been pointing out repeatedly where the Government has not spent its money that it had in the forward estimates on infrastructure projects. He has also announced a $600 million injection into the inland rail project which is important for all of the country and Bill Shorten at the Labor Party conference in New South Wales just recently announced a commitment to some funds towards the connection between the second airport and the city.

RAF EPSTEIN:

That's Sydney.

LINDA BURNEY:

As well as commuter car parks but obviously infrastructure is incredibly important. It is one of the highest priorities of the Labor Party both at the state and federal level and we need to remember that infrastructure is a combination of the various tiers of government.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney and Kelly O'Dwyer back in moment.

***Traffic break***

RAF EPSTEIN:

As one of the crucial financial ministers Kelly O'Dwyer can I put this text to you in the context of the income tax cuts that just recently passed the Parliament this is from Peter in Ballarat. "I would be interested in Miss O'Dwyer's comments about the CEO of Dominoes" – that's the pizza chain – "being the highest paid in Australia considering the company's atrocious recent history of fleecing workers. Also that executive remuneration grew 18% over the past 12 months while wages stagnate." So Kelly O'Dwyer I guess Peter wants to know what value is an income tax cut while executive wages seem to continue to rocket up?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I'm not quite sure of the link between the two but let me say this on executive remuneration, I agree with Peter, I'm pretty disgusted when I hear the sheer amount of money that somebody in a company is being paid to perform that particular role, particularly one, as you say, where there are some question marks around some of the practices involved.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Isn't the connection that people resent that happening when there's no wages growth?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well what we want is we want everyone to be able to get ahead and I think the idea of structural reform with our taxation system that would actually lead to the abolition of the 37 cent rate and would see 94 per cent of Australians paying no more than 32.5 cents in the dollar, I think most people would agree that that is good for aspiration, it's good for people who want to take on extra hours, it's good for people who want to actually get ahead and to provide for their families and it provides a much simpler tax system.

Now you're talking about someone who is being paid multi-millions of dollars and you're asking me the question is that a fair salary. I've got to say, if I was investing in that company, I'd query it. And I think more and more people who are investors in various different companies do query the remuneration packages that are in fact provided to top executives and frankly it is their right and they should.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney, can I just ask you, we've got these big round of by-elections two Saturdays from now. The Government has passed that significant income tax legislation. Do you think that's going to help them?

LINDA BURNEY:

Well, I guess we'll find out on the 28th, what I do note about the by-elections is that the Coalition are not contesting two of them, that being Perth and Fremantle, and contesting three. Obviously Labor is contesting all five by-elections.

RAF EPSTEIN:

You've got more to lose.

LINDA BURNEY:

Labor's position and what people are focusing on and what people are very much aware of with the tax changes is a $17 billion tax handout to the banks and something like $80 and $90 billion to very high income companies and we also know that what's cutting through is that phases two and three of the Government's tax cuts don't come in until 2022 and 2024 which is potentially two elections away, so I think people are not fools and I think they will understand that what is being proposed is not going to help them in the short term.

KELLY O'DWYER:

What I would say though Linda, they are legislated, our tax cuts, it's gone through both houses of Parliament, so when you say it might not happen it will only not happen if a Labor Government is elected and you decide to roll it back.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Kelly O'Dwyer, isn't that what happens, you change the government, you change the party, they change stuff?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I think this is where people need to be really clear. If they want $200 billion of additional taxes, vote Labor and you'll get it. If you don't want income tax relief, vote Labor and you won't have it.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I just ask you both a question, and I should say by the way, we're getting lots of texts, they're very impressed and happy to have a mild-mannered and considered a non-spiteful debate, so I'll just throw that in there because we've been doing really well. I just really want to know from both of you, I was away when those income tax cuts passed so I'm sort of even less familiar with the policy detail than I might normally be. Does anybody actually know, do you reckon the average person who is voting in one of those by-elections actually know what went through Parliament? Kelly O'Dwyer, do you think people even know what has happened?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I think if you're saying do people know how much tax they pay, I think perhaps people who earn a lot of money and perhaps aren't as affected, perhaps they don't but ordinary people have a pretty good understanding of how much money is going out the door and most of them realise that they work incredibly hard for that money and if you’re giving a very substantial portion to the taxman, which is me as Minister for Revenue, you want to know one... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

I'm asking a non-partisan question Kelly O'Dwyer, do you think people actually would know the numbers of how they might benefit from something that went through the Parliament three or four years ago. The first one has come in, the next one's 2022, the next one's 2024. How many people have got those numbers at the top of their head?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I think a lot of people perhaps wouldn't know specifically from year to year but they certainly understand that we are offering tax relief and the alternative is a tax increase.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney, do you think people are across those details?

LINDA BURNEY:

I think some people are certainly across those sort of details. I did a mobile office in Kingsgrove yesterday and I can assure you many of the older Australians that came and spoke to me understood the issues, but I do believe that people really do understand that part of this tax package is an enormous amount of money to very wealthy companies and individuals and that's going to affect provision of education and provision of hospitals and people certainly know that their wages are not improving and they certainly know that the utility bills coming in are not decreasing.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I just ask you both finally if you have decided to opt out of or opt into, it's opt in isn't it, My Health Record. Kelly O'Dwyer, would you think about opting out of that? Can you understand people's concerns about their data, their privacy?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I totally get that people want to know that their records will be properly protected, that their privacy will be properly protected, they want to know that the My Health Record system has gone through the highest levels of security and cyber-security standards, which is why it's good that we can reassure people that it has been tested by the Defence Department, the Australian Signals Directorate, and it's going to be overseen and monitored by the Australian Digital Health Agency. I personally think it's great to be able to have all your details for your own health needs and for your kids in one space where you'll be able to make sure...

RAF EPSTEIN:

You're not worried about your personal information?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well no, I'm very pleased to be part of the My Health Record and I actually think it will deliver, as many people have said, including at the head of the AMA, better outcomes for patients and at the end of the day that's what we all want.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Linda Burney, you got any concerns about your health record?

LINDA BURNEY:

I must say, it's interesting Raf that we're having this discussion because we were talking about in the office today. I'm still making up my mind on whether I'm going to stay in or opt out and I truly haven't decided and it is about that personal nature of records but I can see as Kelly has said the incredible advantages that this presents in terms of availability of records and anywhere in the world and the way in which we're moving electronically, but I just point out, and someone did this this morning on the ABC, one of the experts that spoke, that we can expect some sort of data breach and when you have a look at the record of robo debt and the Census and so forth, then you can see how these big systems can become corrupted or can actually break down and that does worry a lot of people.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Okay well Mark has called about that, I think from Frankston, what did you want to say Mark?

CALLER:

Yeah hi, I'm actually less concerned about data breaches. I'm more concerned about how are consumers being protected to ensure that the likes of the financial institutions or insurance companies don't force you to have to give them access to that data as part of their general terms and conditions on a 15 page... (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

So you're worried that an insurance company, bank, might say hey give me your My Health Record or I won't give you the best product?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well they can't Raf.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Kelly O'Dwyer, do you want to address that?

KELLY O'DWYER:

The short answer is there will be no use of My Health Record data for commercial or non-health- related purposes and insurance agencies absolutely will not have access to My Health Records.

RAF EPSTEIN:

I will leave it there, thanks to both of you, appreciate your time.