23 October 2016
Transcript - #2016064, 2016

Interview with Patricia Karvelas, Sky News

SUBJECTS: ABCC; industrial relations; superannuation; personal income tax cuts; firearms legislation; paid parental leave; Kidman & Co; Gillian Triggs

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Welcome.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good to be with you Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Tony Abbott’s interventions hijacked the government’s agenda this week. It must be a very unwelcome distraction.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, this week in the Parliament, it was all about the Australian Building and Construction Commission. It was about getting our legislation through the Parliament and we have seen a number of crossbenchers announce that they are actually going to support the legislation despite the opposition of Labor, which is in complete contradiction to the Trade Union Royal Commission that said that we need to reestablish the ABCC in order to ensure that we have a tough cop on the beat and to ensure that building sites are no longer lawless and that we can construct buildings, apartments, dwellings, in this country –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I appreciate politically, you’re right. You’ve got One Nation on side now, you look very much likely to get your IR bills through. And yet still, you spent the week talking about Tony Abbott and guns. That can’t have been helpful.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I wasn’t talking about that, but I know –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But everyone was.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I know that there are lots of commentators who dissect absolutely everything that happens in Parliament, which is their job and their right but the point I would make is we actually want to make building buildings less expensive. It shouldn’t be more expensive because of union thugs and because of lawlessness on our construction sites. That will be stopped. We know that will be stopped with the reestablishment of the ABCC. That’s what the Government’s focused on.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I know you’re focused on it but you can be honest because everyone expects you to be –

KELLY O’DWYER:

I am always honest –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I’m not saying you’re being dishonest, I know you’re very passionate about the ABCC, but I’m saying on the issue of the fact you wanted to be talking about that, and that didn’t happen. That’s because of a range of reasons including the interventions of the previous Prime Minister.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I’ll leave the commentary to you and –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you find it unfortunate that that was the case?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look as I said, our focus as a Government was on the ABCC –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So you didn’t find it frustrating? Mitch Fifield says it was, you know, had better weeks.

KELLY O’DWYER:

My focus as a Minister was on making sure that over the two weeks we had in Parliament we got to deliver our personal income tax cuts, making sure that Australians, more than 3.1 million Australians, will actually benefit from that personal income tax cut from 1 July this year. That’s very significant. We’re changing the threshold from $80,000 to $87,000 which will affect, as I said, more than 3.1 million Australians and stop more than 500,000 Australians from moving into a higher tax bracket. These are all very good news stories which have been our focus.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

They are, but you can’t get much traction with them because of this distracting issue. Would you like to repeat last week?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, I think –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

As it went, is that the kind of week the government wants to be having?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think it’s fair to say that we have had better weeks, I think that it is fair to say that we have had better weeks. But in terms of individuals, their behaviour, they’re questions you really need to put to them.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Sure but do people need to think about the fact that every time they speak, not just Tony Abbott, but others, that they deprive the Government oxygen talking about the issues you think are important.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I think the Labor Party embarked upon a mission to try and actually distract from the ABCC agenda and they did that in pretty spectacular fashion by trying to suggest that somehow the Government wasn’t actually committed to Howard’s changes to firearm reform –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But the Government gave them the opening, they’re in opposition.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well no, the Turnbull Government has made it incredibly clear that there is no watering down of our firearms legislation. The Cabinet took a decision to make sure that there was an import ban on these specific firearms being brought into the country. It couldn’t be clearer than that and yet, this issue did run on.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just on a specific question on this – Peta Credlin writes today that the advisers often receive hundreds of emails a day and a CC’d note hardly constitutes "in full knowledge", which is the language that the Prime Minister used in the Parliament. Is a CC’d note in full knowledge?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I can’t speak for the operation of –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But do you consider that consulting an office?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Of the previous Prime Minister’s office but I think it’s fair to say they did have their finger on the pulse in terms of what was going on in the Government.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

OK. Alright, IR – you mentioned it, you want to be focusing on it. The former employment minister who is a backbencher now, Eric Abetz, has challenged Malcolm Turnbull to have the political will to support further workplace relations reform and says it should’ve been on the agenda at the election and it should be embraced now. Should there be more workplace relations reform?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think our agenda on workplace relations has been very, very significant. We were able to institute and get through both houses of Parliament the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal abolition, which actually helps small businesses. This was a very significant industrial relations reform. This was about the previous government trying to set the rates of pay for family operators of these small businesses. Completely outrageous. We were able to get rid of that. That is a big and significant win. We are bringing in the Australian Building and Construction Commission. If we can get our legislation through, which is looking very likely at the moment with the support of some of the crossbench, this will be a very significant reform. The Registered Organisations Bill as well, very significant.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

OK, but should IR reform end there or is Eric Abetz right that it should go further?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well with all policy areas, there is always a continual analysis as to whether or not you are doing everything that you should be doing in that particular area. But we have to be realistic that as a Government, there are certain agenda items which we have committed to doing and delivering on. And that obviously is our priority.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On superannuation reform, you’ve got a different deal that you’re putting forward. Do you expect to have it fully legislated by the end of the year?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well when you say it’s a different deal, we’ve made a tiny modification on what we actually announced in the Budget and what was taken to the election. It clears away any concerns that were previously articulated by the Labor Party –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And by your own side.

KELLY O’DWYER:

It has made it very easy for them to support these reforms. There is no hurdle, no barrier to their support now. We have already been in briefings with the Labor Party, we are looking to bring forward that legislation before the end of the year. We have released three separate tranches for stakeholder engagement and discussion and that will be introduced before the end of the year.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you expect it to clear the Senate as well? I know you expect it to pass the House of Reps, but to be fully legislated?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it would depend very much on whether Labor is going to continue to play these obstructionist games as we’ve seen. If they’re going to put the national interest ahead of their own political interest, then yes, there is no impediment to actually pass these –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Have you urged them in those briefings that you talk of to try and push this through by the end of the year, to see it completely cleared?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we obviously want to be able to give confidence to the Australian people about what the changes will be that are implemented. We’ve been very clear on what the Government policy is. The Labor Party didn’t have a superannuation policy going into the last election, they said you’re going to need to wait until after the election for us to announce what our superannuation policy is. We’re still waiting. It would be really good if they can clear it up.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On PPL, Labor has talked about 80,000 new mums across Australia that will be $12,000 worse off because of your reforms that are trying to deal with what has been previously called double-dipping but I see the language isn’t being used anymore. They say that they will have to go back to work early. 80,000 women. Do you think they’ll have to go to work early?

KELLY O’DWYER:

So the majority of Australian parents are actually not going to be affected by these changes and let’s be very clear –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

80,000 though, is a significant number.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Let’s be very clear on who will be impacted. Four percent of the highest income earners will be impacted. And why will they be impacted? Because the government is delivering a sustainable paid parental leave policy. We’ve said it’s important for everyone to be able to access, at a minimum, 18 weeks of full minimum pay for your paid parental leave. That’s everyone. But what we have said is that those people who are on higher incomes, who already receive very generous private employer contributions to their paid parental leave or who might be in the public sector who similarly have very generous schemes, that they are not able to claim both, where those schemes are beyond 18 weeks and above the minimum wage. Under Labor’s scheme, you would actually see somebody on $144,000 being able to claim up to $44,000 in paid parental leave. Now that just doesn’t seem right to us, we think it needs to be sustainable and fair right across the board.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

OK can you guarantee that none of these 80,000 women would be forced to rush back to work, leaving their newborns that you would think many would want to stay at home with? No all, but many.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well as somebody who is expecting their second child, I can say to you I think most parents who are actually having a child are not doing it for the money. Most parents are doing it because they actually like the idea of having a child –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It’s not the most lucrative business.

KELLY O’DWYER:

It tends not to be the world’s best financial decision. It tends to cost you quite a lot in the long term. But people are doing it because, of course, people have done it for generations and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do if that’s what you choose to do and you can do it. So I think most people actually look at the issue of raising a family very separate to whether or not they’re going to be receiving a Government payout.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On this Kidman & Co offer, there’s a new one on the table today, entirely Australian-owned. Is that a better deal? It doesn’t even have to go to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

KELLY O’DWYER:

The only interest the Government actually has in this matter, and let’s be very clear, is to see whether or not if there are foreigners investing in a very significant piece of whether it might be infrastructure, whether it might be land, whether it might be a company, whether or not it’s contrary to the Australian national interest. That is our interest. We’re not selling the asset, it’s not our asset, it’s being sold by someone else, who will make –

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But on principle, is full Australian ownership something you prefer?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I don’t have a view on that. I mean it is a decision for the person who is actually selling it. The Government’s role is simply to say whether or not somebody is actually qualified to be able to make the purchase and for foreign investors, they need to satisfy the Treasurer that their bid will not be contrary to Australia’s national interest.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just a final question before I let you go, there’s been a lot of talk about Gillian Triggs as the Human Rights Commission president. Do you have confidence in Gillian Triggs?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well Gillian Triggs was my former law lecturer many moons ago at Melbourne University. I think it’s very important that somebody in a very prominent position, as is the position that she currently holds, that they need to be very forthright, very honest. They need to be able to not be seen to be remotely partisan in their role because they need to be beyond politics.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think she seems partisan?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I’ll leave the commentary to others to make but obviously she expressed a number of views in the most recent Senate committee hearings and I think people will draw their own conclusions from that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Kelly O’Dwyer many thanks for your time.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Terrific.