17 August 2016
Transcript - #2016044, 2016

Interview with Fran Kelly, ABC Radio National

SUBJECTS: Budget repair, Pairs in Parliament, Foreign investment

FRAN KELLY:

Earlier I spoke with the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Fran.

KELLY:

I’ll come to the issue of pairs in a moment but if we can go first to the Prime Minister’s speech to CEDA later today, he’ll announce that the Government will roll 21 separate measures that Labor has indicated at least some support for into a single Omnibus Bill, a $6.5 billion Bill. Now, you’ve tried for three years to get most of these measures through; is this a sign of desperation? All or nothing – is that the challenge to Labor?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

No, not at all. It’s simply the Prime Minister outlining our agenda to secure a strong economic future for all Australians. I think Australians have got a pretty low tolerance for party political games with our future and our children’s future and Labor who have indicated during the election that they support some of the savings measures that we have previously announced, need to now pass those measures in the Parliament. They won’t have one shred of credibility if they oppose savings measures that they relied upon in the election campaign.

KELLY:

Well Labor won’t be able to support each and every measure in the omnibus bill. Is this really about trying to box Labor into a corner so you can portray them, the Opposition, as the Budget wreckers though?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

These measures are measures that Labor counted upon during the election campaign when they were constructing their figures.

KELLY:

My recollection is, on one of them anyway, on the funding for ARENA that Labor was still sort of, you know, fudging that a little. It wasn’t clear.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

They fudged an awful lot. You know that they opposed a whole heap of things before the election and then quietly during the election they said that they would agree to it. Look, the Australian people are simply not going to put up with party political games any longer. They want us to govern in the national interest. They want us to govern to make sure that we can preserve a really positive future for our children and make sure that we can create the right economic environment that will create more and more jobs to keep our economy pumping.

KELLY:

I’ll go back to my first question. Is this strategy to get these measures through or to spread some of the blame if, indeed, Australia’s AAA credit rating is downgraded?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

We have said that we are very happy to work very constructively with anyone in the Senate or in the House on Budget repair. It is a critical national priority that we repair the Budget. Whether it’s Labor, whether it’s the Greens, whether it’s the crossbench, we will work with them in the national interest. We are simply saying that Labor has the ability to actually pass through these savings which will help to repair the Budget. They have already agreed that these were figures that they relied upon in the election campaign. They say they want to be constructive; they will have an opportunity to demonstrate that.

KELLY:

In the interest of Budget repair, obviously that is the driving force here. The Prime Minister will say in his speech today he’s prepared to reach over the aisle. In Budget repair, should the Government be looking at picking up some of Labor’s policies that didn’t seem to scare the horses in the election too much like negative gearing and capital gains changes? These could make significant improvements to the Budget.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

We took a very clear policy direction on that to the election and I think, for instance, around the negative gearing changes Labor did try and dress this up as a housing affordability problem. The only issue with that is that it was actually going to advantage very wealthy people who had the capacity to continue to negatively gear because they had other income available to them to do that. It was going to disadvantage average Australians, so no we are not going to pick up policies that have not been well thought through.

KELLY:

And if they don’t, if Labor and others block the Bill or won’t support some parts of this Omnibus Bill, what then?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

I am not going to enter into hypotheticals; we want Bill Shorten to be true to his word. We want him to be a man of his word when he says he wants to be constructive. If he is prepared to work constructively with us we embrace that.

KELLY:

You are listening to RN Breakfast our guest is Kelly O’Dwyer the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. Let’s go to that issue now, the issue of granting pairs or not.  The Opposition says that because the Prime Minister has declared his government has a clear working majority that they don’t have to get into a formal agreement on pairs. Is that fair enough, a working majority means you won’t need pairs?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Again this is a demonstration of party political games which I think the Australian people are frankly quite sick of. It would be turning around about 50 years of convention on its head.

KELLY:

Well hang on, except for the period of the Gillard hung Parliament where the Abbott-led Opposition did engage in some of these, as you say, party political games didn’t they?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well frankly I think the Australian people are very, very sick of party political games, they want our Parliament to work, they want the government to govern. They don’t want people playing petty games. I was very proud that the Turnbull government made the Parliament one of the most family friendly workplaces in our community with a number of changes that it made to the Parliament. We have a very diverse community, we want that diversity represented in the Parliament, we want more women in the Parliament. We want people who have parental responsibilities putting their hand up for the Parliament. Now for Labor to turn around and say where you have got family emergencies you are not going to be able to leave, I think they need to explain why they have made that decision.

KELLY:

Were you proud when you were sitting there in the Parliament and the Leader of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne famously denied Labor MP Michelle Rowland a pair in a similar situation, he eventually relented under pressure?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

My understanding is she was granted a pair…

KELLY:

Ultimately.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

and I would be the first person to say you should not play games with things like that.

KELLY:

Does this highlight the fact that the Government’s working majority is certainly a slender one and perhaps a vulnerable one?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well no it doesn’t, it doesn’t at all. This again is simply a political tactic of Bill Shorten to try and play the wrecking game before Parliament has even reconvened. I think it is very disappointing that his actions don’t seem to be matching his rhetoric on wanting to play a constructive role.

KELLY:

Minister, if I can go to another area in your portfolio now, the debate over foreign investment following the Ausgrid decision, the Chinese embassy in Canberra has released a statement saying Australia is showing clear protectionist tendencies and it goes on to say that the Ausgrid rejection will have a serious impact on enthusiasm of firms wanting to invest in Australia. Is that going to endanger the mission of Budget repair?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

It is our job as the Australian government to make sure that decisions are made in the national interest. We don’t apologise for that, every Australian government when it comes to foreign investment which we do welcome has to make decisions in the national interest. Now there will be times where decisions will be made and we will not allow foreign investment because it is contrary to the national interest. That has happened in previous governments, it has happened under our government. That is what the Australian people…

KELLY:

You are not concerned by these comments from the Chinese?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

I am not concerned about the Australian government acting in the national interest.

KELLY:

Kelly O’Dwyer thank you very much for joining us on breakfast.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Great pleasure, Fran.