25 August 2015
Transcript - #2015048, 2015

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

Interview with Peter van Onselen, PVO NewsHouse, Sky

SUBJECTS: Polls; market turmoil; foreign investment in residential real estate; women in Parliament

VAN ONSELEN:

Alright as promised on this day of market turmoil we are joined by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Kelly O'Dwyer, live from Melbourne. Thanks for your company.

O'DWYER:

Great pleasure Peter.

VAN ONSELEN:

We'll get to the market turmoil in a moment but political turmoil today's news poll an absolute shocker for the Government as well as the Prime Minister. A primary vote of just 38 per cent and a net satisfaction rating of minus 33 for Tony Abbott. How on earth are you going to pull yourselves back into the political contest when your leader is so unpopular?

O'DWYER:

Well Peter I know that the media commentariat are all obsessed by the polls but we're actually focused on doing the job at hand and that is providing good Government to the people of Australia. While you may want to talk about it and others in the commentariat may want to talk about it, frankly, I'd much rather talk about our economic policy, the policies that we have delivered, the Bill for instance – the foreign investment Bill – that we brought into the Parliament only last week which I was involved in. This is going to strengthen our foreign investment protections for the purchase of residential real estate, making sure that we're closing down loopholes for those people who are making illegal purchases…

VAN ONSELEN:

…Kelly O'Dwyer you know I'm going to have to get to that 'cause that's the only reason you agreed to come on the program…

O'DWYER:

That's true.

VAN ONSELEN:

…is to talk about that and we will. But let me put it another way then, what's wrong with the Australian public if the Government is delivering all these things you and other frontbenchers and backbenchers are like tellers. If you're doing so much and so much good, why is the public just not getting how good the Government is?

O'DWYER:

As you quite rightly know, polls go up, polls go down, and I'm not an expert on the polls. I'm focused on doing my job as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer…

VAN ONSELEN:

It's been eighteen months though.

O'DWYER:

It has been eighteen months and I expect there'll be more polls over the next twelve months before we get to the actual poll which is the Election Day and that is really the only poll that counts.

VAN ONSELEN:

Alright. Just quickly before we get to residential real estate as an issue, let me ask you about today's market volatility. The Prime Minister, from Thursday Island, has told people not to start hyperventilating about this. What is your message to people, a lot of people particularly self-funded retirees, who are looking at the markets and are reliant, not just on dividends, but they're concerned about slippage there, and it's not even good news when they think about what the reaction might be from the reserve bank because economic volatility will lead them to drop interest rates and of course that's a problem for people that are on incomes are reliant on, or fixed incomes in particular.

O'DWYER:

The point I would make is that this is not the first time that we have seen market corrections and what we're seeing in our market is what we're seeing in other markets around the world. The fundamentals of the Australian economy are very strong. This is the point that I think is most important for people to understand, our economy is strong, we are seeing businesses growing, we're seeing new employment coming through – more than 300,000 new jobs since we have come to Government, that's in contrast for instance to Labor that saw a loss of around about 200,000 jobs during their time in Government. We've got good, strong prudential regulators – which is critical to providing people with confidence as to their money – and we have huge opportunities for our businesses to grow. Our Government of course has delivered three free trade agreements during our short time in office which provides new markets to our businesses, which again, means new jobs that will grow our economy. The fundamentals are strong, there are corrections in the market that do occur, this is not unusual. I would simply say to those people who might be concerned: be confident in knowing that our economic position in this country is much stronger than that of many countries around the world.

VAN ONSELEN:

Alright, let's move onto foreign residential real estate investments. You're a market liberal Kelly O'Dwyer, how can you be at the forefront of restricting – 'cause that's what it is – restricting foreign investment in residential real estate in this country?

O'DWYER:

You're completely right to say that I'm a market liberal and that's why, under our foreign investment framework, we welcome foreign investment, we welcome the opportunity for foreigners to be able to grow our economy and we ask that when they do that – when it comes to residential real estate – that they are investing in new real estate, new homes, new units, new apartments that increases the stock available for people to purchase and rent. We do say that when it comes to existing homes, homes that are already built or apartments that are already built, units that are already built, that that shouldn't be available for non-resident foreign investors to purchase. That's been the rule for quite some time. The rule however though under the previous Labor Government, was not enforced…

VAN ONSELEN:

What was that? Why wasn't it enforced do you think?

O'DWYER:

Well, because they simply sat on their hands for six years, there was not one court enforced divestment – in fact there was not one divestment that occurred during that period of time…

VAN ONSELEN:

But why wouldn't they? This is what I find fascinating about it Kelly O'Dwyer, is that I just don't understand why they wouldn't want to go down that path. Yes I accept the fact that they've sat on their hands. Why do you think that is? The Government is more than happy to go down the path that you've been recommending now.

O'DWYER:

Well I think we saw great confusion under Labor's policy. In fact in 2008, when Chris Bowen was Assistant Treasurer, they made changes to the foreign investment framework that meant that we had non-resident foreign investors, we had those people who were here, sorry, we had foreign investors who were here on visas of twelve months or more who under the existing regime needed to provide notification to the Foreign Investment Review Board to be able to purchase an existing home – they just did away with that only a couple of days before Christmas. They did away with the need for those people to notify even though there was still in existence rules that said they could only purchase one home. Now how on earth can you enforce rules that people can only purchase one home in circumstances where you're not asking them to notify and you're not screening that investment? Now they made a huge mistake and I think a lot of people thought there was a 'free for all' that was available to people which is why only two years later they went back on those changes. But frankly by then I think most people would have said that the horse had bolted.

VAN ONSELEN:

We're right of time Kelly O'Dwyer but just very quickly if I can, you've been in favour of targets for Parliament for the Liberal Party for a while. The Prime Minister has said that he'll look at targets. Do they need to be hard targets in your view?

O'DWYER:

When you say hard targets, what do you mean by that?

VAN ONSELEN:

Like for example…

O'DWYER:

Forced targets?

VAN ONSELEN:

…A target with a clear percentage on it that you go for. Not a quota, but a target with an actual fixed goal I suppose. As opposed to a sort of broad target of let's try to have more women in Parliament.

O'DWYER:

I think we need to put a number on it and I think that's where the discussion is at. That we actually need to put a number on it because unless you put a number on it, you can't measure your progress and I think that it's important that we do measure our progress.

VAN ONSELEN:

I agree with that. Alright Kelly O'Dwyer we always appreciate you joining us. Appreciate your company on NewsDay.

O'DWYER:

Cheers.