1 August 2016
Transcript - #2016090, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

Subjects: Cabinet; United Nations Secretary General position; Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory; Herbert election result; Ewen Jones; national security talks; greyhound racing ban in NSW; interest rates.

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer Scott Morrison joins me most Mondays. We are back in full swing now and he is with me in the studio again this morning. Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

G’day Ray.

HADLEY:

Now, let’s just go through it for the benefit of my listeners; we had Cabinet meet, the Prime Minister make an announcement after meeting – what happened in Cabinet? Let’s take it through blow by blow if you wouldn’t mind for the benefit of those people, like me, who want to know what Julie said, what you said, what Dutton said, what others said. What happened?

TREASURER:

Very ambitious of you to put that question, Ray.

HADLEY:

Well, you can’t stop me from trying.

TREASURER:

We are not doing a continuous call on the Cabinet meeting – so, sorry about that.

HADLEY:

You could make things up. You could make it up and say well...

TREASURER:

Plenty of people do, Ray, and they write about it so…

HADLEY:

…well, let me encapsulate what happened. Well, I am guilty of doing that, gilding the lily from time to time. And look, it is no secret, on a serious matter both you and Peter Dutton made it quite clear to me last week that you would be arguing against any support for the former Prime Minister.

TREASURER:

Well, my position is public and so I stand by my position on that. Look, frankly, the most important issue in Australia at the moment is not Kevin – never was, never is going to be. What really matters are the issues the Government spent most of its time, in fact almost all of its time dealing with last week. That was issues around the economy and of course we had to address the issues of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission. The Government is just getting on with the business and we have got a big legislative agenda where we need to bring in as the Parliament comes in at the end of this year. The Government is very focused on the work that we have to do and we said we would get on with. The Government is not focussed on Kevin.

HADLEY:

Now, I would say this to you. That people would be very careful of having private conversations via Wickr or email conversations with Kevin in the future given that you have private conversations and then when it doesn’t go his way he tops you straight off.

TREASURER:

Well, he produced some correspondence where he alleges any number of things. What I do know is that the Prime Minister had expressed his reservations and opposition to this in his strongest possible terms in May. So, I don’t think the outcome should have been a surprise.

HADLEY:

Now, Barnaby Joyce seemed to suggest yesterday or over the weekend that Cabinet actually came to a decision on Thursday. This despite reports Cabinet was split on the issue. But, how can I couch this, was the Prime Minister of the same mind on Thursday as he was back in May?

TREASURER:

Yes.

HADLEY:

Ok.

TREASURER:

The Prime Minister’s view hadn’t changed and this is important. He had reservations, he had expressed them to Mr Rudd at the time in May and he acted consistent with what he said in May.

HADLEY:

Just in terms of ministerially, when the Department supports something is that at the direction of the Minister or is that an independent decision. How does that work? In Foreign Affairs, I mean.

TREASURER:

Well, in any area Departments will give you advice, Departments will comment on things but the Government runs the Government – not Departments and the Departments are there to implement the Government’s policies and the Governments decisions and that is certainly how I have always run the portfolios I have been responsible for and I have always found the public service very professional in implementing the decisions and policies of the Government.

HADLEY:

I think that, and yourself and Dutton are very key to the Government – you are the future of the Coalition. You are younger men in very senior positions of course in Cabinet. I think that you brought, let’s be honest, you copped a fair bit of flack, from me included, over what happened in relation to the former Prime Minister but I think to a certain extent, you in particular, re-established yourself as a mover and shaker by being so forthright last week in your conversation with me and many others about your position on Kevin Rudd. I mean you could have squibbed it.

TREASURER:

Ray, you have known me for a while now through these regular chats. I’ll say what I think, I will take actions that I think are in the best interest of the country and are consistent with my views and beliefs. Look, Peter does the same thing and the Cabinet does as well. The Cabinet is united around the agenda we have going forward. It is the Labor Party’s job to be divided over Kevin Rudd and they still are. The Cabinet and the Government more broadly are focussed on what we said we were going to do for the Australian people at this election and we are getting on with that and it is a big agenda. I mean, Ray, we have got the tax legislation we need to bring in, there is the NBN which over the course of this term will be largely completed. There is a very big infrastructure program which Paul Fletcher and Darren Chester are getting on with, particularly with Western Sydney Airport and everything we are doing around that. The NDIS will come into a whole new phase of delivery over the next three years and of course we have got a massive challenge around the Budget and in ensuring that we get it back towards balance as we are projecting. There is no shortage of things for us into do. We are focussed on that and that is what we are going to do.

HADLEY:

Would you agree with the summation I put to you previously and I defend you quite often, people say, he is not…

TREASURER:

I give you a bit too much work to do on that front Ray I am afraid.

HADLEY:

Not feverishly, only just sometimes – sometimes I say yeah you are right. I have found in interviewing people both at a state and federal level over the years when you become Treasurer as opposed to Immigrating Minister you have got to be far more measured.

TREASURER:

That’s true.

HADLEY:

There can’t be that sort of shoot from the hip type stuff that we can see because it can impact, particularly in your portfolio as Treasurer, on markets.

TREASURER:

Well, of course it can. All roles have different responsibilities. Barnaby is now the Deputy Prime Minister…

HADLEY:

And he is more measured.

TREASURER:

Look it goes with the responsibility.

HADLEY:

Although, he is still a bit mad.

TREASURER:

No, not at all and the relationship that Malcolm has been able to form with Barnaby I think has been a very important one. Ray, we bat well right across the Cabinet and whether it is Julie Bishop who is without a doubt an outstanding Foreign Minister and she has been a tremendous Deputy Leader and continues to be in the Party…

HADLEY:

Who got beaten in the Party Room.

TREASURER:

Look, she did her job. She put forward the recommendation which you would expect a Foreign Minister to do and she enjoys enthusiastic support from everyone. She is a star as Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader.

HADLEY:

I want to take this issue up and we need an investigation into what happened in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.

TREASURER:

Yes.

HADLEY:

And this all came about after I started reading about the Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin being appointed and in this judgment, and I know you have heard me talk about it before about this 54 year old indigenous man raping a 14 year old girl who was promised to him as a four year old. His Honour keeps talking about the fact that we have got in the Northern Territory, we have got Indigenous law and Northern Territory law. I am not, I don’t want to understate the things that have happened to those young man but it appears to me that anyone – even the Chief Justice in the Northern Territory operates on the basis that there are two laws. There is one law and there is another law. One is for Indigenous people, one is for Northern Territorians who are non-indigenous and he makes that point all the way through. Then in summing up in sentencing this fellow and I won’t reveal the details again, they are too horrific, the rape and the way he treated this 14 year old girl, he gives him a month in jail as Chief Justice. Now, I am not being critical of his judgment although I guess I am – but what I am saying to you is it is a different place. I would hate to be the Royal Commissioner moving into these murky waters.

TREASURER:

I think this is, it is a different place and it is important that you have people pursuing these matters through the Royal Commission who understand them well. The Royal Commission has been very much targeted at what is occurring in the Northern Territory and there were calls to make it broader and I think the Prime Minister has rightly resisted those calls to ensure that it is very focused on what needs to be done in terms of what happened in that facility and the broader issues that relate to the system in the Northern Territory. So, I think that has been a positive move from the Prime Minister. He did move swiftly to put this in place but then he did resist the calls, I think wisely, not to have this into everything under the sun right across the country. Now, that does have the support of Mr Mundine, it does have the support of Indigenous leaders to have this Royal Commission and there are other issues that have continued to be consulted upon and as recently as Garma up there in the Northern Territory at the moment. The Prime Minister has kept his ear well to the ground on this and has been working very carefully and constructively both with Indigenous communities but also I think addressing the practical things that just really have to get addressed.

[Traffic update]

HADLEY:

Now, we spoke last week briefly about Cathy O’Toole and Ewen Jones in Herbert and you were the one who suggested that this was headed to other areas. It is now confirmed that she wins by 37. What is the next step in terms of going to the Court of Disputed Returns?

TREASURER:

Well, the LNP, the Liberal National Party in Queensland, is obviously looking over the various opportunities there are as to whether this matter can be brought to the Court of Disputed Returns and they will make a decision about that. I think they have over just 40 days or thereabouts after the declaration of that poll to make any application. So, they will work through those issues and then obviously it is a matter for the Court if they choose to take that step. So, that is where that sits, Ray, and there are a range of questions that have been raised whether it is about defence force personnel and their access to be able to submit their ballots or in other areas as well I understand. So, look, that will take its course but we have really, Ewen Jones has been an outstanding Member for Herbert and we are very, we feel for Ewen today. Ewen and I are good mates. We spend most of our time actually talking about North Queensland and the Sharks and we have enjoyed a lot of good times talking about Rugby League so I feel for him and his family at the moment. He has served his community really, really well and I want to pay a real tribute to Ewen and his family and look, we will see whether it is over once the LNP has considered whether they are going to make an application to the Court of Disputed Returns.

HADLEY:

And we broadcast into Townsville. It is about soldiers on deployment in South Australia from the Lavarack Barracks and it is also about some patients at the Townsville Hospital denied the opportunity to vote – so we will leave that to the Court.

TREASURER:

Yes.

HADLEY:

We are hearing today the head of the CIA will come to Australia for talks on National Security. Who is involved with that? Cabinet or just the Prime Minister and a couple of senior people?

TREASURER:

Well, these things are normally dealt with by the principle ministers who are in this area which is the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice and the Prime Minister and others.  I am a member of the National Security Committee of Cabinet as is Peter Dutton and a number of others. So, look these are part of what is an ongoing engagement with the major security agencies around the world. One of the reasons we have been able to be as effective as we have and I think we have been, relatively speaking around the world, is we work so closely with everyone else. Intelligence, sharing of information, coordinated effort, ensuring you are working with communities closely and constructively where there is great risk – that is what keeps Australians safe, Ray. You just have to maintain it all of the time. We have increased our investment in our intelligence agencies significantly in the last term and we will continue that level of investment. You just have got to be ever vigilant.

HADLEY:

We spoke last week about the greyhound matter in NSW and the Nationals are meeting this morning and Troy Grant is under pressure from people within his own Party to back down on the decision. My colleague Alan Jones, as I mentioned at the top of the show, joined the chorus of objections this morning having read the document, as I did, a week or two back. I rarely talk to Alan about such matters but I congratulated him this morning on the stand he has taken. Have you had a chance, you said you were going to be talking perhaps to some people in NSW given that you are a NSW MP in the Federal Government. Have you had a chance to have a yarn to anyone about this?

TREASURER:

Oh look, yes, we have chats with our state colleagues but ultimately this is a matter for them to determine and go through their processes. Look, I am sure they will be listening carefully, Ray, and looking at the issues that they have got in front of them. But look, as a Federal Treasurer, I have got my plate full with balancing the Budget and the many other things we have got to deal with. Where I work constructively with the states is on issues of trying to make sure their economies are performing more strongly than they are now. But in NSW, Mike Baird and Gladys are doing a terrific job on that front. They are really the stand out leader on the economy around the country.

HADLEY:

Well, there is no doubt about that but this is a $335 million industry they are going to close down in under one year.

TREASURER:

Sure, and there are relevant issues there. So, others who know a lot more about the greyhound industry than me, I am not going to claim to be an expert on that, Ray, you have a long history with it and a keen and deep understanding of it.

HADLEY:

And as I’ve said before, there are bad people in every industry, or sport, and what you do it get rid of the bad people and leave decent people to get on with their lives. Just one final thing, I’ll have another crack here. Reserve Bank meeting tomorrow – what will they do?

TREASURER:

Well it’s an independent reserve bank but let me make this point….

HADLEY:

Go on please do…

TREASURER:

Let me make this point, we’re in an environment Ray, where we’ve got low inflation, low interest rates, low wages growth and low levels of business investment. This is a really big challenge for the country, and that’s just not true in Australia, it’s true all around the world. I mean the United States didn’t move their rates, and that was based on the fact that they are very similar. I mean their growth rate was just over one per cent for the year to June. So, we’re in this phase, we’ve got big economic challenges and Australia is not immune from that, despite the fact that we’re doing better than most countries in the world. So I have no doubt that Glenn Stevens, this will be one of his last meetings as the Governor, is keenly focused on that. He’s also looking at things about what’s happening in the real estate markets around the country. There’s a report by Bis Shrapnel today which shows that we’re moving into an oversupply in all states, I understand other than New South Wales, particularly in the apartment markets and things like that so real estate you know, it’s not a common experience around the country and so you might do something in Sydney but that could have a catastrophic effect in Perth of Hobart.

HADLEY:

Anecdotally I mean the golf club I play at is in that hub here the North-Western rail line will be. You can’t believe the number of firstly, units being built, townhouses being built, and they try to accommodate in the Rouse Hill type thing; where they graduate out to 450/500 meter house blocks but you know they’re putting high rise in there because it’s next to the station at Bella Vista or somewhere else.

TREASURER:

They are planned.

HADLEY:

They are better planned and the other thing that’s happening a lot of over 50 over 55 developments for the aging population. But just in that little area I’m talking about, that little pocket, there are four building companies that have gone belly up. Because what they do, they have a certain amount of finance, then the banks says well you sell another 20 of those and we’ll lend you a bit more money, and they’re not selling them. And all a sudden what hit me was those words over supply. And it appeared to me just as a layman, I can’t believe in north-western Sydney the amount of building, and I’m saying where are these people going to come from to live here? Where do they come? And we’re talking about million dollar homes in Rouse Hill and Kellyville.

TREASURER:

Well look there has been an undersupply for many years, and the market is catching up with that…

HADLEY:

You think it might have (inaudible) it the other way…

TREASURER:

Well certainly that’s what Bis is suggesting today, but not everywhere Ray, not everywhere. But we cannot take our economy for granted that’s why Steven Ciobo today he’s heading up to Indonesia he’s going to be pursuing an export trade agreement with Indonesia, making sure that we can continue to trade with the rest of the world Ray. I know people have concerns about those trade issues but think about what the alternative would be if those opportunities to sell our products and services overseas weren’t there. I mean I know our economy has gone through a lot of change and there’s been a lot of industries that used to be around 30 years ago, are not as strong as they are today. But there’s a lot of new industries employing people as well. And that is coming from those trade agreements that we’ve put in place, particularly in places like China, Japan and South Korea hopefully now Indonesia.

HADLEY:

You’re back on Monday, the world has returned to normal. We’ll talk next Monday.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray.