SKY NEWS AGENDA
WEDNESDAY, 29 AUGUST 2018
SUBJECTS: Tony Abbott, Closing the Gap, Wentworth polling, ASIC investigation into Stuart Robert.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Given think it's fair to say in the past we haven't utilized the capacity of Australian prime ministers as well as we should, like the Americans have done for years with their presidents, why is this not a good move to put the prime minister – young former prime minister's energy into something constructive?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: I don't think anyone doubts Tony Abbott's energy. The question is whether that’ll be followed up with measures that actually help close the gaps. As you remember from earlier this year, the latest Closing the Gap report now sees Australia not on track to meet most of those Closing the Gap indicators. And as Richard Marles has pointed out, significant cuts to funding of Indigenous programs are one of the reasons why we're not closer to closing those gaps. I would like to see Tony Abbott energy's more productively utilized. I've been as disappointed, as have many Australians, at the way in which he's comported himself since stepping down as prime minister. But just visiting is going to be enough. We actually need the Morrison Government to step up and act.
GILBERT: He's already got a number of ideas, including in education - he wants to focus on greater attendance rates and even talking about possible penalties for Indigenous parents who children aren't showing up at school. Do we have to think outside of the box here in order to get some progress? Because he's quite right that the best start is to ensure a good education.
LEIGH: Attendance matters. As Woody Allen says, 90 per cent of life is just showing up. But I'm not sure a big stick is appropriate in this instance. I don't think the history of Indigenous affairs would lead you to think that we need more big sticks in Indigenous affairs. We need to be working in partnership with local communities, listening to them, and many Indigenous Australians are still reeling from the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government's rejection of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
GILBERT: Let's look at the Wentworth polling from Reach-TEL, commissioned by the Australia Institute. A big focus on the support for renewable energy and climate action. This Wentworth poll, though, is - I guess your seat would be similar - very progressive in terms of environmental action but do those seats, yours and Wentworth, really reflect the broader the broader view of the mainstream in this country?
LEIGH: No seat perfectly reflects Australia, but I think it does give us a little window into one of the interesting developments that we've seen over recent years in the Liberal Party. The real battle in the Liberal Party now, for the heart and soul of the party, is whether it's a party of economic liberalism - a party of Menzies - or whether it's more like a Tea Party. And while that schism is tearing the Liberal Party apart, you see the anger among many people in Wentworth who don't believe we should walk away from commitments that we made in Paris on climate change. Who believe we need to save the Great Barrier Reef. People who would like to see more renewables jobs, who’d like to see sensible economic policy grounded in-
GUILBERT: But people are also struggling with power prices, as we heard from Peter Strong from the Council of Small Business just before the break. This is a very real pressure, not just for individuals but tens of thousands of small businesses - hundreds of thousands of small businesses.
LEIGH: Absolutely. It is not an either-or. The renewables investment strike has meant that we've got higher power prices than we would have done if we'd gotten more wind and solar into the system. Those investors need certainty, a point that Malcolm Turnbull made very articulately. We also know that unchecked climate change has a massive economic cost. One University of Melbourne study said it could be the equivalent of the Great Depression occurring every year by the end of the century. So this is a serious economic issue, not just an environmental challenge.
GILBERT: Onto a few other issues and Stuart Robert is the new Assistant Treasurer, your opposite number now. I know previously you had concerns about his business interests. He says that's all been dealt with a couple of years ago, that he's basically served his time in the sin bin and he’s right to return to the executive. Do you accept that on face value?
LEIGH: Well, I’ve written to ASIC to find out what's happened to the investigation that they said they were conducting into Mr Robert's family businesses. It is important that somebody in this position be above reproach, that their matters dealing with companies-
GILBERT: So you see you still got questions to answer on his personal business interests?
LEIGH: I think Australians need to know what the result of the ASIC investigation is. And that's important, Kieran, because we have this week in court-
GILBERT: That related to the fact that his father was a director of one of his family companies, is that right?
LEIGH: That was certainly according to the news reports. The environment, which I think is useful to understand Kieran, is we have a lot of phoenix activity going on in Australia. Dodgy directors burning firms, people being signed up as directors without their knowledge. One case in court at the moment has a whole lot of people being ripped off. Labor's phoenixing policy would crack down on that through a director identification number with 100 point identity check. Yet the government's not going ahead at this stage of the director identification number – a lot of talk, no action. They're not willing to take the significant steps that are being recommended to crack down on dodgy phoenix activity. So if they're going slow on dodgy phoenix directors, then we need to make sure we know why.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, we’ll talk to you soon. Appreciate it.
LEIGH: Thanks Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra