27 February 2017
Transcript - #2017020, 2017

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Tony Abbott; RET; Immigration; Alex Vella; Labor’s Fair Work Commission hypocrisy

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning to you.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Ray.

HADLEY:

I’ve been thinking about it since very early this morning, about what you’re going to say to me about the 55-45 two-party preferred lead the Labor Party has over the Coalition. What are you going to say?

TREASURER:

Do you need me here for that?

HADLEY:

No, I just have been channelling you all morning so I just wanted to see whether I’m right or not.

TREASURER:

Ray, what the Government has to do is focus on the things that are of most concern to your listeners. I know that people in my electorate and right around the country, the major issue I believe, that they want us to focus on is how can we help them, through the growth of the economy and the things we do, to be able to earn more. That’s what I’m focused on, that’s what the Prime Minister is focused on, that is at the core of so much of the angst that I think is being felt out there in community, whether it’s in regional parts of the country, and there is a very good article in The Australian today that talks about the wage differential there, that’s why we’re relocating Government departments out to rural areas of the country and getting on with those things. So, look there’ll be lots of commentary on what I know you’re asking me about. But the Government cannot be distracted by personalities, and all that sort of stuff. We’ve just got to keep focusing on the job. The Budget’s in May and that’s what I’m going to do.

HADLEY:

This is not about personalities, Treasurer. It’s about, and I take everything on board you’re saying, but it is apparent to me that that’s the message you want to get out to the electorate. Based on Seven News polls, this is the worst one, the message is not getting through to the electorate. Now what you’ve got to do is convince the electorate of what you just said, and it’s not resonating with the electorate at the moment.

TREASURER:

That’s why I come on your programme every week, Ray.

HADLEY:

I know you do…

TREASURER:

… and the Budget will be an important part of that. That’s what we’re working towards right now, so we acknowledge the angst that is felt in regional areas and metropolitan areas, and the struggles people have with the affordability on any number of issues. We’ve been talking a lot about energy affordability lately, and we’ve been very appreciative of the support that we’ve had that as a Government we’re focusing on that issue practically. Forgetting all the ideological rubbish, and just working on the things that we think can provide greater energy stability. We’ve talked openly about coal-fired power stations, over the next 10 years, five of them will shut down and they have the generation capacity of over 8,000 megawatt hours. That’s roughly about half, as I understand it, and I’ll stand corrected by the energy experts, that’s about half of New South Wales on a peak day. Now, we can’t just go and shut these things down, and have nothing to replace it. That’s the problem we’re looking to solve, now we’re looking to solve the Budget mess Labor left us, still four years on.

HADLEY:

While you’re saying that, and you know, we’re hearing you, and you’re downplaying… you’re crying about the 50 per cent renewable energy loading that we’re talking about, you know, the Labor. You’ve still got 23.5 per cent.

TREASURER:

Yes I remember, I was in Cabinet, when it was decided, under Prime Minister Abbott.

HADLEY:

Now Prime Minister Abbott has suddenly woken to the fact that this is unachievable, and it can’t work, and he appears to be leading the chorus, despite the fact that you were there when he decided on 23.5 per cent.

TREASURER:

I remember the issues I raised at the time, Ray, as many others did as well.

HADLEY:

Good, would you raise them again now please with the current Prime Minister and say this is unachievable, Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Ray, when you put in laws around whether it’s this issue or any other issue, if you go in and put them in one day, and then you change them the next day, what do you think people who are investing are going to do, and thinking about the stability of Government policy? That’s called sovereign risk. That’s when people start pulling money out of the country, and people start losing their jobs. Now, a RET at where it’s currently sitting at 23.5 per cent, we had that discussion under Prime Minister Abbott. That’s what was put in place, if you go and change this every other Thursday then frankly you put people’s jobs at risk. What we’re focusing on is what happens post that RET scheme. That’s when you’ve got to ensure that you have the energy base load and capacity that’s sustainable. We’re focusing on the actual problem, others will raise… I mean we’re not saying it’s not a big issue. Of course it is. Energy costs are one of the biggest and most hardest things for businesses to deal with. That’s why we’re doing exactly what we’re doing. But once a policy is legislated, that’s what was discussed at the time. If we put the…

HADLEY:

But it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

TREASURER:

… if we change it every…

HADLEY:

But, Treasurer, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. You can’t argue that coal-fired power stations should, you know, you’re talking about five closing down, that’s because you’ve got a 23.5 per cent renewable target. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

TREASURER:

Ray, actually the reason they’re going to close down in the next ten years is that they reach their economic life, and they become too expensive to operate beyond that.

HADLEY:

Well, build a new one.

TREASURER:

Ray. As you know we’re very open to every single option.

HADLEY:

Build a new one.

TREASURER:

Ray, these are the issues that we work through, but what we need on the other side, of when these power stations get beyond their economic life, a) we’ve got to make sure they at least run that long, at least, run that long. And we need to get ourselves as much time on our energy base load security to ensure that down the track, when there will be a range of other energy sources, but one other thing the Prime Minister has been saying, and I agree is, when you’ve got all this alternative renewable energy, if you can’t store it, well it’s not that good to you on a day when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. So we’ve had all this ideology driving us towards these other energy sources, but no one has actually worked out, how do you capture it, and how do you store it. That is a key thing we have to solve, and that’s what the focus is on. A practical problem, that’s what the Government…

HADLEY:

Ok, well this you’re going to have to combat. This is typical of the emails, I could read hundreds of them if I needed to in the next week. Would you please offer some advice to Mr Morrison from an ex-Liberal voter? His peers need to stop their public flogging of Tony Abbott. His message in my opinion was correct, they should not shoot the messenger. If the likes of Mr Entsch and his fellow bed wetters, who broke the Liberal Party and forced a million of us to take our votes elsewhere. You see, your vote hasn’t gone to the Labor Party in the poll, it’s gone to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. That’s where it’s gone. That’s where the votes’ gone. It has gone to a conservative party who are more leaning to the right than your party is leaning at the moment under Malcolm Turnbull. That is the reality of it.

TREASURER:

And the reality is that there are parties in Australia that form Government’s and they have to run governments. Theresa May the UK Prime Minister said this a little while ago. She said she is not running a protest movement, she is running a Government. She is running a country. Mainstream parties are focussed on the difficult choices that you have to do to balance Budgets, deal with energy security…

HADLEY:

The reality is unless you start focussing on it you will be in Opposition come the next election or you will be in Coalition with One Nation who you are telling me can’t govern by themselves and they probably can’t. You will be in Coalition and it will be a Liberal National One Nation Coalition to govern – that is what it will be.

TREASURER:

We are focussed on being a Coalition Government that is ensuring that we drive the economy so all Australians can realise what they want to do. To do that you have got to have a job and to have a job you have got to have an economy that is growing. That is what we are focussed on.

HADLEY:

Let me say this to you. They are lining up and they have lined up all weekend: Mathias Cormann former supporter of Mr Abbott, Christopher Pyne with his ‘I’m a Fixer’ routine and now Mr Entsch and all others. The simple fact of the matter is this, in relation to Mr Abbott whether you agree with him or disagree with him – and many agree with him. I think you are better off ignoring what he is writing and saying because all you do is put the focus on him and not on you. That is free advice. If they keep doing it and they say we are doing it independently. We are not being told to do it by the Prime Minister. If he is in charge he says listen, you blokes and women, don’t react to this, shut up, hold the line, hold the company line and we will just plough forward. Let’s not react to it.

TREASURER:

What matters, Ray, at the end of the day is the policies that we have to put in place to achieve the things I have just said. Others have said that the issues that have been raised certainly weren’t pursued when we first came into government in the way that it has been represented but that is really immaterial now. What matters to people now is not who said or what they said and when they said it and to whoever. What matters is what we do and what we are doing, back end of last year, $22 billion of Budget improvements. We have big challenges for the Budget going into this next one. We have got a Labor Party who refuses to support sensible savings that gets welfare under control. All these other issues clouding over the Labor Party’s responsibility for demanding that Australians pay more for welfare while we are trying to get it under control, I think, is a shame but we are going to remain focussed on that task. That is what we are in the path to do over the next few weeks.

HADLEY:

  But if your colleagues didn’t respond to it there wouldn’t be a blue. There wouldn’t be a blue. I know what you are saying, there are things that are taking you down a path you don’t want to go down. If they don’t respond to it, they ignore it, you don’t go down that path.

TREASURER:

Well, Ray, they have made their points. I don’t think they were unreasonable points. If others want to raise issues in the way they did…

HADLEY:

Well, if I was a boss, and he is the boss, Turnbull, I would be telling them to pull their heads in and shut up.

TREASURER:

If you look at the policy, can I talk about one policy? Just briefly that was raised and this is in the area of immigration. Now, I don’t think, I know I have got my critics amongst your listeners but I don’t think anyone can disagree that I wasn’t soft on immigration, that I took the right approach on immigration. Immigration levels today are significantly below where they were at the end of the Howard Government and at one stage we hit 300,000 net overseas migration a year under the Rudd Government. Now, that figure today on the most recent estimate is around 180,000. The 457 visas there’s more than 10 per cent less people here on 457 visas today than under the Labor Government. Now, immigration is an important part of our country. I think your listeners understand that. When people come to make a contribution rather than take one we know that the outcome of that is really positive. You have thousands of listeners who that is their life story and we support that. You have got to get your immigration programme right, we’ve done that and we will continue to get it done right. I was part of that as Minister and I remain part of that as Treasurer.

HADLEY:

Just incidentally, I credited your colleague Peter Dutton with stopping Alex Vella from coming back from Malta, it was in fact you.

TREASURER:

Yes, it was. I had police protection at the time. That was a call frankly. Alex Vella had his visa renewed by the Labor Party. They renewed it. Can you believe that?

HADLEY:

Well, yes, I can. Have you seen what Annastacia Palaszczuk does with the CFMEU on a regular basis?

TREASURER:

I do. Under both Peter and I…

HADLEY:

And the bikies affiliated with the CFMEU in Queensland?

TREASURER:

No. That surprises me and you’re right but under Peter and I what we did was massively increase what are called the section 501 cancellations. That is cancelling people’s visas who are not of good character. Now, that dwarfs the number that happened under the Labor Party. They were just a visa factory for undesirables when they were just letting people with character issues just sail through and that included them renewing Alex Vella’s visa at a whimper. That was a disgrace.

HADLEY:

Ok, very quickly, Fair Work Commission, obviously Bill Shorten has to take ownership of the Fair Work Commission but today he will try to reverse the decision of the Fair Work Commission in relation to the reduction in penalty rates on a Sunday which is being applauded by most and he did say to Neil Mitchell in April last year that he would accept the Umpire’s decision if he were Prime Minister. Well, he is not Prime Minister so he can’t impact on it really but he can’t walk away from the promise he made to the electorate prior to the election talking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW last year. Surely.

TREASURER:

He is an absolute hypocrite. He will say whatever and do whatever and that is the problem with Bill Shorten. On this issue, as you say, he put the process in place. He set up the umpire and he picked the umpire. Over 500 pages of analysis and they have come to a finding and now he says he won’t support it. What’s next? He doesn’t like what the Reserve Bank decides on interest rates and he decides he wants to legislate to change that? He set up an independent umpire and the point about having an independent umpire is that these cases are decided on their merit and you abide by the Umpire’s decision. Now, that’s as true on this area as it is with the setting of interest rates which is an important policy lever which is exercised independently that gives our economy great stability. Now, Bill Shorten thinks he can just go around unpicking decisions of independent tribunals. Especially the ones he set up. Well, that is a joke. This bloke, if it is anybody’s decision, it’s his because he set up the whole process that led to the outcome.

HADLEY:

Alright, thanks for your time. We’ll talk next week.

TREASURER:

Good on you, Ray. Thanks.