Breaking Politics with Tim Lester

Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
8 July 2013

TOPICS:                                Red tape, asylum seekers, election date

Tim Lester:                          Kelly O’Dwyer, Andrew Leigh, welcome into Breaking Politics. Kelly, you’re in Sydney today doing your own Skype there. Thank you for coming on and I gather you’re there as part of the presentation of the Coalition’s ‘Red Tape’ policy. Tell us, how severe is the Government red tape problem such that it needs you and others to develop a new policy on it?

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  Well it’s incredibly severe, Tim. We have seen the Government announce that it was going to get rid of one new piece of regulation for every new piece of regulation that it brought in. In fact, it’s done the complete opposite; it’s brought in more than 21,000 new pieces of regulation since 2007. This has a very significant and severe impact not only on business but also on a lot of not-for-profit organisations. It’s making it more difficult for people to do the job that they need to do in helping grow their business and serve our community. So we’ve put together a policy document that’s going to cut a billion dollars of red tape and regulation. It’s been done in conjunction with not-for-profits and business. We’ve consulted right round the country for the last 18 months and I think you’ll be quite excited by the document we release today.

Tim Lester:                          Andrew Leigh, is there really one billion dollars a year in government red tape to-

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  One billion!

Tim Lester:                          -one billion, ‘b’ ‘n’, to be saved, and what’s that say about current government management if there really is that inefficiency in the system?

Andrew Leigh:                  Well Tim, I’m sceptical, personally, but I’m always open to new ideas. I think it’s really important in politics that you should take new ideas wherever they come from. One of the things we’ve done in government is to simplify a number of processes. So, payroll tax reporting is now standardised, we’ve worked on standardising occupational health and safety laws across states, we’ve got the Business Name Register, which ended the farcical situation where you had to register a business in every separate state and territory. But if there’s good ideas the Coalition has, then we as a Government will welcome them.

Tim Lester:                          So you say business red tape has been on the decline under Labor?

Andrew Leigh:                  We’ve worked very cooperatively with states and territories on this. Much of what you find in regulation is that different tiers of government need to work together and you also need to very careful of simplistic sloganeering around number of pieces of regulation; I don’t think anyone would say we should get rid of regulations that require pool fences, for example, good regulations that prevent corporate excess. In fact one of the arguments as to the global financial crisis was that at its heart deregulation went too far in the United States. So you want clever regulation. It’s not a question of just looking at quantities.

Tim Lester:                          Kelly O’Dwyer, do you accept that Labor has in fact made some significant gains in streamlining regulation? Or don’t you see it that way?

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  No, not at all, in fact, far from it. There has been an exponential increase of unnecessary red tape and regulation. If Labor was actually in touch with business and in touch with their not-for-profit organisations in their local communities, they would know this. They would know this because they would have heard the message that has been very strongly and loudly delivered by business and not-for-profits and it is saying that they are being strangled. The burden of red tape and regulation is coming at a serious impost on them and it is costing jobs, it is costing certainty and it is actually costing in dollar terms, which means that ultimately everybody pays the price.

Tim Lester:                          Kelly O’Dwyer, hasn’t the Indonesian President in his comments about avoiding unilateral action laid bare the fact that the Coalition’s tow-back policy either won’t work or if it will it will be a big foreign policy negative?

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  No, far from it. I think what we heard from the Indonesian President was that there needs to be consultation amongst the region. This was something that Alexander set up when we were in government during the previous Coalition Government – the Bali Process – that is an ongoing process. That is simply what the Indonesian President has committed to in this instance. But it is not enough to simply do that and do that alone, you need to also have a strong set of comprehensive policies to try and undo the damage that has been done by this current Government under Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister when he dismantled the very effective border protection process that was in place prior to the 2007 election.

Tim Lester:                          Andrew Leigh, why isn’t it possible to do what Scott Morrison, the Opposition Spokesperson on Immigration argues and do a tow-back that simply takes boats, incoming boats, back through international waters but not actually into Indonesian waters? What stops us from doing that?

Andrew Leigh:                  Well Tim, we know the dangers with tow-backs; they’re risky for asylum seekers who will simply scuttle their boats as Admiral Chris Barrie has pointed out; they’re risky for naval personnel whose lives would then be put at risk jumping into the sea to rescue asylum seekers; and now it’s very clear that this is a policy that is utterly unacceptable to Indonesia. I disagree with some of what Kelly had to say, but I do think she hit the nail on the head when she spoke about the regional process. That’s what we’ve worked on as co-chairs – Australia and Indonesia – of the Bali Process and that was what the Malaysian Agreement was about, unfortunately scuttled in the Parliament by the Coalition and the Greens. That the aim of the Malaysian Agreement was to have-

[Kelly O’Dwyer:                Well Andrew that’s not true. You never put it to a vote]

Andrew Leigh:                  - a regional approach starting with Malaysia, a country which said yes rather than the Coalition’s tow-back policy, to which Indonesia says no.

Tim Lester:                          Kelly O’Dwyer, you want to make a comment on what became of the so-called Malaysian solution?

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  Well I think it’s a fairly important point that Andrew does gloss over and that is that the Government never actually put the policy to the Parliament. The reason it didn’t put the policy to the Parliament is because many of its own members did not support the legislation that the Government was bringing in. Now, it is very clear that we have a very serious issue. We have more than 45,000 people who have arrived, unauthorised by boat since the Government dismantled the policy in August of 2008. Now they need to take responsibility for that. They can’t simply talk again about another talk-fest. They need to actually do the things that need to be done in order to put in place an effective policy outcome. Now we have told them consistently what needs to be done. They have refused to listen to that advice and unfortunately the boats keep coming.

Tim Lester:                          Kelly O’Dwyer and Andrew Leigh, I’d like to get before you go your latest views on our election date and when it’s going to be held. Kelly, what’s wrong with Kevin Rudd doing, as Prime Ministers except Julia Gillard have all done before him, and choosing an election date that is as late as he likes provided it’s in line with the Constitution?

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  Well look, it’s very clear that the Australian people want their say. The Australian people want certainty around the election date and business as recently as only last week have said that the instability, the uncertainty is killing confidence, it’s having a direct impact on business which has a direct impact on jobs. If Kevin Rudd was truly sincere in wanting to get Australia back on track, he would tell us when the election date was going to be. He would be able to then at that point restore some degree of confidence and the Australian people would have an opportunity to have their say.

Tim Lester:                          Andrew Leigh, isn’t there a danger that, given Australians, right or wrong, have grown so used to the idea of September 14 now right through the year, that what we’re going to have is some kind of, a bit of a backlash with Kevin Rudd seeming to fiddle with an election date for purely political ends?

Andrew Leigh:                  I don’t think so, Tim. I think you put it nicely before when you said that this is entirely in accord with the Constitution and I think Australians recognise that. I think Australians are far less concerned, quite frankly, with election dates and nasty negative politics than they are with positive solutions. If we take a bit of time to get the National Plan for School Improvement nailed down, and so we’ve got more and more states and territories on board, then we lay the foundation for Australia’s future prosperity. Because beyond the current mining boom we’re going to have to make sure we have young Australians leaving school with the skills to do jobs that don’t even exist yet. And so getting education right is fundamentally our best economic policy.

Tim Lester:                          Andrew Leigh, Kelly O’Dwyer, thank you for your time, Kelly particularly without a tripod on your Skype device. That is a tremendous effort, thank you for coming in.

Kelly O’Dwyer:                  Thanks Tim, thanks Andrew

Andrew Leigh:                  You’ll win an amateur Walkley for that Kelly

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