31 October 2016
Transcript - #2016156, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Stronger borders; CFMEU video threat to Bill Shorten; ABC; paid parental leave; Kidman & Co; Cashless Debit Card.

HADLEY:

Good morning Treasurer.

TREASURER:

G’day Ray. It’s good to be with you.

HADLEY:

It’s good to be with you. Now, I guess the story that everyone is waiting to hear from you, your former portfolio, the Government has proposed banning all asylum seekers who try to come here by boat even from ever setting foot in the country. Now, this was announced by the Prime Minister in light of comments that were passed in July of 2013 by the then Prime Minister basically promising to do exactly the same thing.

TREASURER:

That’s exactly it. Bill Shorten has already blinked. In this area of policy people smugglers look to see whether the Government blinks and Bill Shorten has demonstrated, we have heard nothing from him, as I understand, in the last 24 hours, and that betrays the position. When you are in these roles, I have served in this role, Peter Dutton is serving in this role, there is no time for blinking. You need to know what you stand for and you need to know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it which is exactly what this Government has done under two Ministers and Bill Shorten has demonstrated that the Labor Party is completely and totally vexed by this issue. They are paralysed by it. Tanya Plibersek is out there running the lines for the Labor Party on this issue. That tells you all you need to know about Bill Shorten’s bottle when it comes to this issue. He is a weak leader, he is a weak leader on this issue and he is showing he is being stood over by the unions and he won’t stand up to them either. This bloke is weak.

HADLEY:

The left wing of the Labor Party has already enunciated it through Tanya Plibersek and Craig Emerson, the former politician, on Sky News last night. You get it through the Lower House on numbers, one number, then it gets to the Senate, if Labor still continue to blink on all of this obviously Pauline Hanson votes with you, I guess Leyonhjelm votes with you, I guess Day votes with you but then Xenophon becomes very, very important along with Hinch I suppose?

TREASURER:

Unless the Xenophon Party votes for things that are going to be decided by the crossbench because the Greens and the Labor Party are not voting for the Government well, without Team Xenophon, the Xenophon Party’s support those bills don’t pass.

HADLEY:

Well, I would say it won’t pass then because Xenophon certainly wouldn’t go for that Bill I wouldn’t think.

TREASURER:

The Labor Party is being asked to legislate their articulated policy before the 2013 election. That is what they are being asked to do and the fact that they are tying themselves in knots tells everybody what they need to know about the Labor Party on this issue which we have always known and it is just another example of Bill Shorten’s weakness.

HADLEY:

Well, if they do vote for it and you get what you want where do these people then go? I heard you talking about the USA or New Zealand but you would have to wait till the election is over if there were a deal would be done there with the outgoing president.

TREASURER:

We have been seeking resettlement options for these people for some time. The point is when they are resettled in other countries that that doesn’t provide the opportunity for a round trip back to Australia and what this legislation does is places a bar on them being able to enter Australia and access Australia’s visa system. Now, there remains the normal, humanitarian, ministerial intervention that is available to the Minister which the Minister has exercised on occasion. Peter Dutton has done that, I did that previously so there are safeguards here. This is a codification of the policy and the Labor Party have shown us once again that on this issue they just haven’t got it.

HADLEY:

Maybe they haven’t got it because of what has been revealed today in The Australian newspaper. You have heard it, let’s play it for everybody else.

[Union clip plays]

HADLEY:

Just confirmation as far as I am concerned certainly in Queensland and to a lesser extent the CFMEU in Victoria control the politicians. Mr Andrews and Ms Palaszczuk don’t do too much without checking with the CFMEU.

TREASURER:

We have certainly seen that. The CFMEU were going to shut down a building site in Adelaide because they wouldn’t fly the CFMEU flag from the crane. Now, we have got the CFMEU flag flying from the crane of the Labor Party and this is how that show runs. Once again, Bill Shorten is demonstrating his weakness in not being able to stand up to the CFMEU. This is why he won’t support changes to the ABCC. This is the Leader of the Labor Party who described being on the CFMEU side as being on the side of the angels. I suggested in parliament that those angels might be more like the Hell’s Angels rather than the good angels when it comes to what side of the argument you want to be on in this instance. They are costing Australians jobs with their militant behaviour on building sites all across the country. Thirty per cent more than what it is costing to develop projects and that doesn’t matter whether it is a hospital or a road or a bridge or a school or any of these things, the CFMEU and other militant unions are costing Australians jobs and they are costing taxpayers money and Bill Shorten won’t say boo to them. He is completely intimidated by the CFMEU and if he wants to demonstrate otherwise vote for the ABCC to be restored.

HADLEY:

Just on the unions still. They appear to have a strangle hold over the ABC, as opposed to the ABCC. They have come up with a pay deal that delivers a $500 cash payment in addition to an annual 2 per cent pay rise, back-pay, seven days of domestic violence leave, I don’t know who for either the person who perpetrates it or is on the receiving end, an increase in maternity and spousal leave. You would think it must breach public sector policy. What does the new boss do about it?

TREASURER:

The Public Service Commissioner has told the ABC that this is not consistent with the Commonwealth Government’s negotiating arrangements on these issues. What I find strange about this Ray is that every time we tell the ABC to tighten its belt they say that Peppa Pig has got to go off air but when it comes to these sorts of arrangements they seem to be able to find the money. I find that passing strange and all Government agencies need to work within the guidelines that are set by the Commonwealth. SBS complies with these rules so why the ABC would think they are on some other wicket is puzzling to me but it is important that all agencies live within their means and to do that they need to sit within the guidelines that have been clearly set out and the Public Service Commissioner has made that point fairly clear to the ABC.

HADLEY:

Just back to Nick Xenophon briefly. Changes to paid parental leave, is that now in trouble because Xenophon says he gave an election commitment not to touch the scheme and he doesn’t want to go back on that? Where does that leave paid parental leave and the changes you are talking about?

TREASURER:

Well, there are around $6 billion worth of social service savings of which this is one of them. I will be meeting with Senator Xenophon this week and it is important that we make these savings because if we don’t make these savings future generations will be paying more taxes for the benefits that people are currently receiving today. Taxing tomorrow for what people want to have today. We have to live within our means and I will be working with Senator Xenophon and the other crossbenchers to ensure that we can get expenditure under control because if we don’t we all know that Australians will pay in higher debt or higher deficits or higher taxes. So, that’s the task I am working on with Senator Xenophon. He has raised some issues in terms of South Australia and we are happy to work through those but if we don’t do it Ray then the debt rises. When we came into Government we were borrowing $3 billion a week, we have got that down now to $1.4 billion and it needs to go down lower but it won’t go down lower if the Parliament does not pass bills that restore the Budget.

HADLEY:

Last Monday we spoke about you having two bidders for the Kidman properties and now it is back to one – they have withdrawn and congratulated Gina Rinehart in increasing her bid. It does involve a minority Chinese partner. Does that make your life any more difficult because before it was a no brainer. The Foreign Investment Review Board had an Australian group wanting to buy an Australian asset and now you have got 65 per cent Australian and 30-odd per cent Chinese. Does that make an impact on your decisions?

TREASURER:

That bid will now come before FIRB and they will provide some advice and I will make a decision. But it is important to understand it is the Kidman family who are selling this property not the Government.

HADLEY:

I know, you say that all the time but at the end of the day you have got the red pen with a tick or a cross.

TREASURER:

I understand that Ray, I know that some listeners, because they have rung my office often after some of these discussions, so I thought I would be really clear about it. The Kidman family decides who they are going to sell it to. The Government then makes a decision if there is any foreign investment that is part of that arrangement. Even in the event, let’s say, that this arrangement was approved, Gina Rinehart ultimately becomes the owner of the Kidman Empire. She cannot then go and sell that to any other foreign interest without it coming back under all the same rules and some of the calls we got over the course of the last week there was some confusion about that. If someone is selling Australian land of this size to foreign interests then it must come before the Foreign Investment Review Board then ultimately for a decision of the Treasurer. We will work through those issues in the weeks ahead and come to a decision on this. I knocked it back twice before under the previous arrangements. We will look at this one carefully but it is important that we get investment into Australian agriculture, jobs in Australian agriculture depend on this investment and the fact that we had these two bids that’s good but the full Australian owned bid has decided not to proceed, that is their decision and we will deal with the live bids that are there.

HADLEY:

We spoke about this cashless welfare card last week. There is now talk since we spoke about it being expanded. Now, Christian Porter was greatly concerned when I spoke to him, off air about the anomalies I found in this card.

TREASURER:

That was the BasicsCard, this is the Cashless Welfare Card. That is a different type of card and it is a…

HADLEY:

Is it open to abuse? In other words what we were talking about was someone where they could only buy food or necessities of life going in there, spending $150, $200 then returning the goods and the only way you could get the money back was cash from the retail business. Does this card allow then to reenergise the card?

TREASURER:

My advice is this card is more sophisticated…

HADLEY:

So are the crooks Minister.

TREASURER:

Well, that is true and they will try and get around it. But my understanding is this card is more technologically advanced, potentially allowing crediting back on that card rather than getting cash back and that is certainly what we would hope to see. What is really great about this cashless welfare card is that it is seeing a reduction of alcoholism, a reduction in gambling, we are seeing a reduction even in robberies and things like this. This trial is working and that is a good thing, a very good thing.

HADLEY:

So, the BasicsCard is, for people who didn’t hear our conversation I should inform you, was for people who have shown in the past they can’t handle the cash. So, they are directed towards food outlets, necessities they can’t gamble with, they can’t buy grog with it. Would the Cashless Welfare Card have the same limitations on it or not?

TREASURER:

Well, it is even stronger. It quarantines 80 per cent of the welfare, the other one is only 50 per cent. So, it is a more advanced program and the technology is better and we are trailing it in Ceduna and I think Kununurra is the other place we are trailing it and those trials are proceeding really well. The Prime Minister, I understand is there in Ceduna looking at it first-hand. There is the potential to take this more broadly. So far the results are very promising.

HADLEY:

I just had a caller, he is gone now, but he is a disability support pensioner from Lang Cove in Sydney. He said, “I am on the DSP, why can’t I go and buy a bit of grog every now again when I am on the pension?”

TREASURER:

Well, this is a targeted scheme at the moment which is looking at quite significantly disadvantaged communities which have a real problem with alcoholism and gambling and it is not just Indigenous communities.

HADLEY:

So wouldn’t in the end people who go down and buy a couple of bottles of wine or a couple of bottles of beer off their pension or something like that…

TREASURER:

And it won’t necessarily be involved looking at every single form of welfare payment. It might be targeted more towards some welfare payments than others. At the moment it is a trial in two places. The good news is even on issues like homelessness, calls on homelessness services in these communities have substantively reduced over the course of this trial being in place. So, we are going to try things where they work we will make them better and we will broaden their implementation and where they don’t work, well, that is what a pilot is about, you give something a crack and if it doesn’t work you go and try something else. As you say Ray, whether it is in welfare or immigration or taxation those who want to get around the system are always going to try and keep ahead and that is why we need to be up to the mark on that.

HADLEY:

Alright we will talk next week. Thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray. Good to be with you.