Sky AM Agenda on 1 August


KIERAN GILBERT:

Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda. With me now is the Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Liberal frontbencher Senator Mitch Fifield. Good morning to you both. I want to start with Andrew, on this issue of the South Australian premier being tapped on the shoulder. Another example of the faceless men telling the elected Parliamentarians who should be leader.

ANDREW LEIGH:

Well Kieran this is obviously a matter for the South Australian Labor Party – that Parliamentary team and Mike Rann will make a decision about what they think is best for South Australia. But I think the important thing to remember here is that Mitch is going to tell all kinds of stories about politics and political games and so on. We’re not focussed on that. We’re focussed on actually delivering outcomes, getting good policy result. It’s not clear to me that the modern Liberal Party has had a good policy suggestion since Malcolm Turnbull was last leader. Whereas at the same time, you’ve got Labor focussed on climate change, on building better schools, on improving our hospitals – those long-term important reforms.

GILBERT:

Andrew it’s not a good look for the Labor brand, is it? To have another group – a union leader, the treasurer of South Australia going to the incumbent – someone who’s been in the job for nine years, as Premier, 17 years as the Labor leader – and saying ‘OK, shuffle on.’

LEIGH:

Kieran these aren’t decisions for me, these are decisions my South Australian Labor colleagues will make...

GILBERT:

But it’s a bad look, isn’t it, for the Labor brand? Because there’s already a perception out there that this is what Labor does to its leaders.

LEIGH:

Look leadership are never clean things on any side of politics. My South Australian colleagues will make this decision, but the important thing that we’re doing at a federal level is focussing on those long-term reforms. Looking at the long-game, looking at the big reforms that will make a difference to Australia.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, some of those sources from South Australia have apparently suggested that they were worried that Mike Rann was going to ‘do a Howard,’ referring to your former leader. So the Liberal Party doesn’t really have the greatest track record, certainly not at the federal level, of managing these transitions either.

FIFIELD:

Look I don’t think there’s ever been a head of government who has looked for an opportunity to leave office. They tend to like to stay for as long as they possibly can. But Labor is making the same mistake in South Australia that they’ve made federally. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Mike Rann or Jay Weatherill as leader at state level, or federally whether it’s Kevin Rudd, Simon Crean, Julia Gillard, Stephen Smith or anyone else. Changing leaders won’t solve the problem that Labor has. Labor’s problem is bad policy. What they need to do is change their policies. Whether it be state or federal, they need to start focussing on cost of living issues. We’ve heard today that there will be $200 million extra which Australians will have to pay simply to take their rubbish to the tip as a result of the carbon tax. The problem isn’t so much leaders, it’s policy. Labor are foisting policies on the Australian public that they don’t want. They’re foisting policies on the public which will increase cost of living pressures. What Labor need to do is to start putting themselves in the shoes of the average Australian. They’re struggling. They need to change tack.

GILBERT:

We’ll get onto the carbon tax a bit later in a bit more detail. Andrew Leigh I want to ask you, though, about the first boat arrival under the Malaysia deal. There are still uncertainties around this. The accommodation arrangements -  apparently there’s some delay there which could cause a blowout in the time for processing the first group of asylum seekers to arrive since the deal was finalised. Also the immigration officials telling us that it could take longer for the first group as they get the mechanics in place. Why has the Government not been able to be a bit firmer on this? It’s been months in the making and still we hear delay after delay.



LEIGH:

Well Kieran everything you do takes a little longer the first time. But it’s important to remember that this is a historic regional agreement. It stems from the Bali process in March, where countries throughout the region agreed that we have a global problem – 43 million internally displaced people, 15 million refugees around the world. So we’ve got to find a regional solution to a global problem, and that’s what this is about. We’re taking an extra 4000 refugees, boosting that humanitarian intake by the biggest amount since the early 1990s. I’m extremely proud of that. And we’re sending a clear message to people smugglers, saying, ‘if you come to Australia, if you put people on boats to Australia, then they will go back to Malaysia.’ And we’re doing that because we don’t want to see infants and kids injured.



GILBERT:

We’ve got a comment of the Prime Minister – she was asked about this issue this morning on the ABC.

JULIA GILLARD (file footage):

There will be pre-assessment procedures. Then there will be returns to Malaysia. We are in the first phase of this – this is the first boat. So those returns will take some time. When the system is up and in full operation those returns will happen in 72 hours.



GILBERT:

There’s nothing to say, though, that this is going to stop the boats just yet. If you look at the signs initially, they’re not good, are they? 54 people have arrived, the quotas 800. What happens when you hit 800? You’re back to square one.



LEIGH:

Well Kieran, our hope is that we don’t get 800. We’re sending a very clear signal throughout the region – don’t come to Australia. If you put children on a boat to Australia as we saw with the Christmas Island tragedy – there was the death of a two-month-old infant in that tragedy – we’re trying to ensure that people smugglers do not send vulnerable people to Australia. That’s a humanitarian message we’re getting out there, as long as with the humanitarian message that Australia can be generous. We can take another 4000 refugees.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, this plan is in its early stages. As I mentioned, 54 people have arrived on this first boat, but the numbers do seem to be down on last year, and that’s even before the Government had finalised the deal. So the Coalition might have egg on its face if the boats do slow and indeed stop?



FIFIELD:

This policy is already a fizzer. Since it was first announced, there have been 621 arrivals. We’ve got the boat in addition that’s arrived overnight. This policy isn’t working, and apart from its efficacy, this is bad policy. Labor always said that they wouldn’t embrace any solution that didn’t have the sign off from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This policy does not have that sign off. We’ve said all along that the solution is to adopt the policies that we had when we were in office which stopped the boats. Pick up the phone to the President of Nauru. Set up the processing centre in Nauru. Reintroduce temporary protection visas. These are the solutions. They’ve worked before. They’d work again. It’s pride that is preventing this Government from introducing those policies. We’ve heard time and again the Government say that they want to break the people smugglers’ business model. Well, the business model that the people smugglers have is a direct result of the policies of this Government. They have given the people smugglers the product which they have been selling. The way to stop the boats is to reintroduce the policies of the Howard Government.

GILBERT:

Andrew Leigh, for years the Labor Party was critical of the Coalition for being too tough, too hard. Yet now you’re putting in what is arguably an even tougher policy. This could get messy, couldn’t it? If the AFP is forced to push people onto planes if they say they don’t want to get on and the AFP has to use force. This could all get very, very ugly.

LEIGH:

Kieran, this isn’t a voluntary return arrangement, it is true that people will be compulsorily returned, but I have confidence in the AFP doing their job. They have great expertise in doing things with an absolute minimum of fuss. But it’s important to recognise what this is. This is groundbreaking policy, working with the UNHCR who have said that if this is successful, this regional model could well be a model for other regions in the world. To pretend that asylum seekers are a specifically Australian problem is just missing the big picture here.

GILBERT:

OK let’s move onto another issue – David Cameron endorsing the Government’s carbon price at the weekend. He described it as a bold move, Senator Fifield, adding momentum to world efforts. This is a fellow conservative; this is the Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That’s a bit embarrassing for the conservatives in Australia, is it not?

FIFIELD:

I’m much more concerned about what the Australian public thinks than I am about foreign heads of Government. Sure, there’s always a bit of backslapping between heads of government in Western democracies. But I think what Julia Gillard should be focussed on much more is what the Australian public are telling her, and what they’re saying is that they don’t want to pay more for their goods. They don’t want to pay more for electricity. Sure, we can talk about David Cameron – I’ll raise you a John Della Bosca and a Morris Iemma. Two Labor figures, two substantial Labor figures, who actually care about jobs for Australians, who actually care about cost of living pressures. I think Julia Gillard should be paying far more heed to those people, those sensible people in her own party than she is to foreign leaders.

GILBERT:

Do you respect the opinion of David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister?



FIFIELD:

David Cameron is responsible to the voters of Great Britain and the Parliament of Great Britain. What he does is a matter for him. But we, as Members of the Australian Parliament, are responsible to the Australian Parliament and the Australian public. That’s what I’m concerned about – their cost of living pressures, their standard of living – and that’s what Julia Gillard should be concerned about too.

GILBERT:

Let’s hear the Prime Minister’s comment on David Cameron’s weekend endorsement.



JULIA GILLARD (file footage):

Looking at the letter from the UK Prime Minister, it’s another piece of evidence in a mountain pile as high as Mount Everest that nations around the world are acting and we can’t afford to be left behind.

GILBERT:

Andrew Leigh, the Opposition Leader has described this as Labor embracing a bit of cultural cringe. He says he has a great respect for Britain but I don’t think everything being done in Britain should necessarily be slavishly copied here in Australia. That’s fair enough isn’t it?

LEIGH:

Kieran, there are two kinds of conservatives around the world. There are the kinds that are concerned – that believe in markets, that believe in the power of price signals. That’s the British, that’s the New Zealand conservatives and it was John Howard when he was last in office. And then you have the opportunitists – that’s the Tea Party Republicans at the moment willing to let the US renege on its debt and its Tony Abbott who hasn’t come up with a serious policy idea and has walked away from what scientists and economists have clearly told us, that a price on carbon is the best way of dealing with this problem.



GILBERT:

Well Tony Abbott has gone on a holiday. This was, Senator Fifield, after he accused the Prime Minister of not wearing out her shoe leather just last week. The timing – obviously everyone is entitled to a holiday, Mr Abbott has certainly earned that right – but the timing is not the best is it? After last week having a go at the Prime Minister for hiding, now he’s gone off to Europe.



FIFIELD:

Well I don’t think anyone can accuse Tony Abbott of hiding. He has been in all parts of the country, putting the case against the carbon tax. I can’t remember a federal parliamentary leader who has been as accessible as Tony or who has been as ceaseless as Tony. I think he’s entitled to have a short holiday with his family. Good luck to him.



GILBERT:

Yes, he’s certainly earned it, hasn’t he Andrew?



LEIGH:

Look Kieran I don’t speak on people’s holidays, but Tony Abbott has certainly not been accessible. Without being on a Liberal Party members’ special email list, you didn’t get an invite to one of his forums. He’s been going around spreading mistruths. Firstly suggesting that petrol would rise, and then suggesting rampant price rising elsewhere. We know in fact that the price rise will be 0.7%, that’s a third of the impact of the GST. These are going to be very modest price impacts, and 9 out of 10 households will receive assistance. This is an important reform and the great thing about markets is you can do it slowly, you allow the transitions to move through the economy. This used to be bipartisan in Australia. Both sides of Australian politics used to believe in the power of markets. Floating the dollar, liberalising the trade system, enterprise bargaining, all of these are reforms that were supported by both sides of politics. And pricing carbon used to be one of those market based reforms….

GILBERT:




Senator Fifield just one last question on an area of your responsibility. The $6 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme – apparently it’s going to be trialled in Victoria. Do you welcome the progress on this?

FIFIELD:



The Productivity Commission are due to report today, to hand that very important Review to the Government. There is no doubt that the system of support for Australians with disability is broken. It’s a frayed patchwork. Australians with disability and their families do deserve a much better deal. The Government needs to release this report immediately. They do have, sadly, a bit of a track record of sitting on Productivity Commission Reports. They’re still sitting on the Aged Care Report. They need to release this Report today so that we can consider it, and also so that the Australian community can consider it. There is a better deal that is needed for Australians with disability and this is an important step along that road.

GILBERT:

Senator Mitch Fifield thank you for that. And Andrew Leigh, appreciate it.

(Thanks to MF for transcribing.)

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Stay in touch

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter

Search



8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au