14 March 2016
Transcript - #2016030, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Polls; rising level of consumer confidence in the economy; Barnaby Joyce; Labor’s rushed and reckless negative gearing policy to hit your home, hit the economy and hit rents; Senate voting reform; ABCC; same sex marriage, Clive Palmer; Queensland Nickel; Glenn Wheeler

RAY HADLEY:

The Treasurer Scott Morrison joins me every Monday. I think he is on the road on the way back to Canberra. Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning. Yes I am just down near Lake George, pulled over to the side.

HADLEY:

Beautiful.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you.

HADLEY:

Ok, thank you. We have got a Fairfax poll this morning published. You are back in a commanding position leading the opposition 53-47 on a two party preferred basis. There seems to be a lot being made – the Prime Minister a dip in his popularity but if you have a large advantage on a two party preferred and a large advantage over the opposition leader – 60 to 20 roughly that should not be a concern for anyone should it?

TREASURER:

The main figures the Prime Minister and I are most keenly focused on are the rising levels of consumer confidence in the economy. Since September of last year it is up around 9 per cent and that is one of the things that is really crucial to ensure the transition that is taking place in our economy continues. Householders, mums and dads are out there and participating in the economy – that's not to say things aren't tough, of course they are tough, but we are making the transition. The fact that consumer confidence and business confidence is up is something we have been looking to influence and we are very pleased about that.

HADLEY:

Now the other poll isn't so good – this is the Newspoll that was taken in New England. I don't know who they spoke to because I spoke to a few people in New England over the course of the weekend which flies in the face of what this says. But they say on preferences Tony Windsor can topple the Deputy PM. Firstly let's get back to the announcement he made which went on, and on, and on and on…

TREASURER:

It reminded me of another long press conference he participated in once…

HADLEY:

Well yes.

TREASURER:

With Rob Oakeshott.

HADLEY:

But the only good thing about this one which I believe went 70 minutes, and I took about 14 minutes before I gave into the agony of it all, was that at least he said in the opening two minutes what he was going to do as opposed to Mr Oakeshott who kept us hanging on for an eternity before he said he would support Julia Gillard. But you see I don't believe this poll published in The Australian with all due respect to them. I made quite a few phone calls to people in the area. They have described Mr Windsor's behaviour when they have come across him since leaving politics as bizarre. There are other accusations they are making about his behaviour that I can't share with you because of defamation laws but I don't understand where he is coming from. He meandered along for 70 minutes. He is a man who says he wants to protect the rich plains from mining but he is a man who has sold a farm for almost $4.7 million. He is a man who has bought west of Coonamble out toward Quambone where there is an interest in coal seam gas. He has bought farms out there. He seems to be a man of contradictions.

TREASURER:

Well I think that is true. I suppose that result on the weekend says to everybody up in New England that they can't take it for granted and Barnaby never would. I would back Barnaby one million per cent. He has a plan for his local community as he does for the country as part of the Coalition but you can never take anything for granted in politics. Barnaby never has. In this case he will have someone running against him who seems to be more driven by bitterness than a positive agenda and I don't think that is a reason to be back in public life. Barnaby, in his first term as a member of the House of Representatives, has shown he is a very good local member and I think people will see the results for that. But no one can ever be complacent in politics, Barnaby never will be and that is a good thing for his local constituents.

HADLEY:

Are you fearful we could have one lunatic going in Clive Palmer replaced by yet another lunatic in the lower house?

TREASURER:

Barnaby will be back as the Member for New England…

HADLEY:

Well I am not referring to Barnaby I am talking about the lunatic opposing him

TREASURER:

That's why I am saying I am not overly concerned about that because I know Barnaby will mount a very strong campaign and I am very confident he will be retuned as the Member for New England. My simple point is you can't take it for granted and Barnaby doesn't because Barnaby has a positive agenda for New England as he does the country.

HADLEY:

Ok there is much debate today about a list of questions posed to the opposition in relation to their proposals on negative gearing. Now I have watched replies this morning and to a certain extent it is hard to argue, that at least the opposition is proposing to do something, as deficient as it may be according to you.

TREASURER:

Well it is a Gumby of an idea. What they are basically saying to mum and dad..

HADLEY:

Hang on, it's a Gumby of an idea? Are you talking about the plasticine character that was on TV years ago?

TREASURER:

I think it hits the same levels of intellectual rigour because what they have done here Ray is first of all they don't understand who invests and uses negative gearing. They think it is all high end, top investors. It is mum and dad investors who are out there using property as a way to provide for their future. It is nurses, teachers, police officers in particularly – around 20 per cent of police officers are doing this and it is a way of supplementing their retirement incomes and providing a future for themselves. They just don't seem to get it that it is middle Australians who are actually engaged in this. The other thing they are doing on negative gearing is it doesn't just apply to abolishing it for existing property it applies to commercial property, to shares, to distributions potentially from partnerships. The list of questions we have put out today really puts it on the Labor Party to explain this madness they want to impose on the Australian people. They say it is about housing affordability but what is investing in a commercial property, a shop, or a small factory or something like that, got to do with housing affordability? It is just a tax grab from middle Australians.

HADLEY:

Budget, May 3 or May 10?

TREASURER:

Well May 10. I am working on a Budget for May 10.

HADLEY:

But would you be flexible enough to go May 3 if someone prevailed upon you to go on May 3?

TREASURER:

Well if we wanted to reorientate how the sun rises in the morning and all the rest of that we would have to adapt to that as well..

HADLEY:

No. You can't govern the sun coming up tomorrow morning as much as perhaps people who support you think you may well be able to but you can govern whether the Budget goes May 3 or May 10…

TREASURER:

The Budget is on May 10 and that is what I am preparing for and that is what we are hard at work doing.

HADLEY:

Ok. Now there is a story today that Ricky Muir in the upper house could try to blow up the Prime Minister's deal with the Greens on Senate voting reform by bringing on a vote on the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Now that is just all about self-preservation and good luck to him…

TREASURER:

It is. And it is a way of trying to avoid – I mean if they wanted to vote for the ABCC they could have done that but they kept voting against it. They think that having union corruption in the building industry is good for Australia. We don't and we think it is one of the things that will hold Australia back economically and already is that's why we want to see it back.

HADLEY:

How do you manage it if Ricky Muir tries to force debate on the ABCC, how do you manage that in reality? What do you do?

TREASURER:

We have been working with the Greens in the upper house to ensure we can go forward with this Senate reform voting bill and that is what we will be doing. Remember the Senate reform voting bill actually gets rid of this madness and chaos we have seen in the past where you have Senate voting whisperers taking your vote you think you have given to someone and giving it to someone else you have never heard of. Now that is not a good voting system and what we are proposing to do is change that. I think there is broad support in the Australian community to fix this. So we are going to fix it and we are going to have a bill in the Parliament to ensure that it can be fixed and those who are opposing it are doing it for I think very obvious reasons. I mean the Labor Party supported a report by what is called the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. That involved both Senators and House of Representative members and they got together after the last election and they said what happened in the Senate was a farce and we should change the voting system to what we are now proposing. Now Labor has run away from that because Sam Dastyari wants to play spiv politics in the Senate and we have the crossbenchers refusing it for obvious reasons. Well we think it is a reform that needs to happen before this next election and we will be pursuing it.

HADLEY:

Well they would be on a psychiatrist's couch if they went with it because it will basically be putting them out of work.

TREASURER:

And the reason they would think that is because they know they would not be able to get up under any other voting system that doesn't allow that sort of preference whispering. This doesn't advantage any one side of politics. It simply says that how you vote in the Senate, how you direct your preferences, is how they will be directed.

HADLEY:

I have had a couple of emails and calls about the plebiscite on same sex marriage and why it can't be held on the same day of the election, because of the cost blow-out that has been spoken about over the course of the weekend and again today. Now tell me if I am right or wrong in answering those emails – I said the platform of the government is a plebiscite. The platform of the opposition is a vote by parliamentarians, not by the public. So you can't have a plebiscite at the election because that is the platform of you being re-elected. Is that a fair analysis of it?

TREASURER:

That's right and that policy hasn't changed. It was a policy under Tony Abbott, it is a policy under Malcolm Turnbull that at the next election the people can decide if we have a plebiscite in the next term and it would be a compulsory attendance plebiscite and people will be able to have their say so no one's view is more important than anyone else's…

HADLEY:

So in other words you can't have a plebiscite on the same day that you are asking the electorate to support you because you want to have a plebiscite so to speak.

TREASURER:

Well that is the policy that we have Ray and it hasn't changed. There has been no movement there and people at the next election will have the opportunity to say well do they get to decide it or does Bill Shorten get to force it on the Parliament?

HADLEY:

Back to this other lunatic, Clive Palmer. The nickel refinery. We have now got the administrators putting the other 550 people off. He has done – I mean I don't know how we he can do this, how he can seize control again by inventing another company and taking it back off the administrators but I will leave that to ASIC to figure out but we thought on Thursday that he reemployed the 550 who were terminated on the basis the administrators couldn't control the company with Palmer taking over via a new entity but we are talking about 850 people in a place that can't afford to lose 8 jobs let alone 850 jobs. What do we do with this bloke?

TREASURER:

Where the Federal Government is focusing is we have put in about $2.4 million to assist those with transition if they are affected by that. Our first priority is to look after those people getting caught in the crossfire on this. That is why we have done that. Ewen Jones the local Member up there has just been totally focused on helping those people. We are also going ahead with important projects around Townsville. The ring road project I think it is called is about $160 million worth of infrastructure investment that is going on there. So there are things the Commonwealth can and is doing generally in that part of the world. Then of course there is the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund as well. But the issue is with Clive Palmer and the issues that obviously ASIC will look closely at and the Queensland Government is also looking at what their approvals will be. It is very much a matter for those guys to sort out. But I do feel for those workers. If they have to depend on Mr Palmer's word for a job well that is not good. We have got to try and remain positive in seeing how the plant can remain open and that is what I believe the Queensland Government will be looking to do and others are looking to do. But Mr Palmer has to stop playing games.

HADLEY:

I can't let you go without a comment on a dear friend of yours, Glen Wheeler who thankfully was at the Sharks game yesterday to see them demolish St George Illawarra but it is more important than Glenn returning to football. His family have been shattered by a decision by a local court in Sydney on Friday. The best we can do with a 60 year old woman affected by drugs who changed the course of his life, his wife's life and his children's life, the best we can do is give her a seven month suspended sentence because she needs help. And this sticks in my craw – she has only been banned from holding a licence for three years - Glenn has a life sentence - and a two year good behaviour bond. I am hoping, and I will be appealing to the NSW Government today to appeal this dreadful decision – but it again comes to the crux of the matter I have been talking about for years and I know it is not the domain of the federal government but it is the lack of punishment for people who have broken the law and ruined lives as this woman has ruined the life of Glenn Wheeler.

TREASURER:

Well you are absolutely right and all power to your arm in seeking support for that appeal. It really did send shock waves through the Shire last week when we learnt about that decision. Everyone felt it terribly. It was a real brave face – I saw Glenn down there yesterday at Shark Park and it was a great result - brilliant. And Glenn was just so pumped up by the support he got from the crowd as well and that was tremendous. But at the same time people were just shaking their heads with what happened with this. Honestly you are right. And it is not just Glenn who gets the life sentence on this – it is also the family and they are doing just incredibly well. The strength I have seen in that family is a credit to Glenn and the whole team. We wish them well and continue to pray for Glenn. It was great to see the improvement in his condition yesterday as well. I saw him when we were together at that last function. Even since then Ray, and I am sure you know, he has really improved since then and was so excited to be there yesterday. He was kissing every person he could come across actually…

HADLEY:

He loves kissing everyone.

TREASURER:

I got a big lip-full from him and it was really great to see him and the Sharks really turned it on for him and that was great as well.

HADLEY:

Ok. Thanks for your time, we will talk again next week.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray.