One of the highlights of this parliamentary year has been joining Waleed Aly on RN Drive for our regular political panel. Before he heads off for new adventures, I joined him one last time to talk about the government's recent policy backflips on the UN Climate Fund, the GP tax and the upcoming deficit in the mid-year budget update. Here's the transcript:
RN DRIVE WITH WALEED ALY
WEDNESDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: UN climate fund; foreign aid spending; Tony Abbott’s GP tax; MYEFO
WALEED ALY: So it's 11 minutes past 6. Josh Frydenberg is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and he joins me along with Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Sadly he's only on the phone today, but I'm sure he'll be no less pugnacious for that fact. Thanks for coming in, or being on the phone, guys, good to have you with us.
JOSH FRYDENBERG, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Nice to be with you, Waleed.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good to be here, Waleed.
ALY: [On the UN Climate Fund] First we were not going to contribute; now we are.
JULIE BISHOP, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I have been tasked by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce today at this meeting that Australia will pledge a contribution of 200 million Australian dollars over four years to the Green Climate Fund.
ALY: Yes, that was Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. As you can hear there, there was much applause and merriment and much confusion because the government had previously told us this was impossible, it was a bad idea, it was a Bob Brown sort of an idea to contribute to a climate change fund of this sort; and all of a sudden $200 million. Why the change of heart, Josh? This is an outrage.
FRYDENBERG: Well this is a good outcome isn't it? Here we are...
ALY: It was a bad outcome a couple of weeks ago.
In his hunt for announcements to distract from the disastrous budget, Joe Hockey has today released a series of half-baked ideas about multinational tax. That's not the basis for good public policy.
THOUGHT BUBBLES NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD TAX POLICY
Joe Hockey's announcement of 'new' multinational tax measures shows just how out of his depth the Treasurer is when it comes to making companies pay their fair share.
The proposal Mr Hockey has floated today comes with no details and no dollar figure attached.
At a time when he is crowing about every dollar ripped from the pockets of pensioners, families and university students, Mr Hockey cannot say how much new tax revenue he expects to make by pursuing international firms.
With the federal government's mini-budget due within days, it is increasingly clear that Joe Hockey is going to have to find new savings to make up for a big increase in the deficit. He's already hit the states hard this year with budget cuts - will he do it again?
HOW MUCH MORE WILL HOCKEY HOOK IN FROM THE STATES?
Joe Hockey must set the states straight on whether he plans to yank more funding from their books to fill the growing hole in his upcoming mini-budget.
Several of the biggest states – including New South Wales and Queensland – have their own budget updates due before the end of the year.
Back in May, the Treasurer ripped $80 billion in health and education funding from the states with absolutely no warning.
This across-the-board cutback blew a huge hole in their finances, in some cases forcing the states back to the drawing board only weeks after they had handed down their own budgets.
The Treasurer is urgently casting about for new savings for replace his unfair GP tax and higher education changes, all of which are rightly being blocked by the Parliament.
Which side of politics owns the Eureka legend?
An after-dinner debate for the conference on “Eureka’s significance, then and now”
Australian National University
3 December 2014
My thanks to John Moloney for his introduction, Dave Headon for organising tonight’s debate, and the gathered historians for being here on this, the 160th anniversary of Eureka. Let me pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land and their elders past and present.
I want to particularly thank my three parliamentary colleagues: Nick Champion, Michael McCormack and Lucy Wicks. We don't do enough in parliament that is bipartisan. These three parliamentary colleagues are people who enjoy talking about the role of history in our national conversation, and recognise that history isn't just the stories gone by, it is part of the golden threads that link the past to what we do in the future.
The government has ended the Parliamentary year with its budget in a real mess. In this op-ed for the Daily Telegraph, I've looked ahead to the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement to encourage Joe Hockey and his colleagues to find a better, fairer way.
Meritocracy at risk of becoming a mate-ocracy, Daily Telegraph, 5 December
Early last year, Joe Hockey pledged: "We'll deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that." For the eighth time, he committed that an incoming Coalition government would never preside over a budget in deficit. Every Coalition budget, Mr Hockey pledged, would be a surplus budget.
Fast forward a year, and the only thing in surplus is red ink. When the Coalition came to office, the Charter of Budget Honesty laid out the state of the books. This year's budget deficit was forecast to be $24 billion.
So much for paying down debt. By the time Mr Hockey had delivered his first budget, he'd pushed this year's deficit up to $30 billion. Now, most informed sources have it blowing out still further when the mini-Budget is released in a few weeks.
Why is the deficit rising? Part of the answer is that Mr Hockey can't resist looking after his mates. A billion dollars to multinationals, a tax break for people with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts, and soon you're talking real money.
DEAR HOCKEY: GET YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER
Joe Hockey’s hypocrisy appears to know no bounds, as he lectures European leaders about cracking down on corporate tax avoidance while re-opening $1.1 billion in loopholes here in Australia.
The Treasurer has reportedly written to the European Union’s tax commissioner urging him to tighten rules that allow profit shifting and lead to erosion of the national tax base.
Yet while Mr Hockey attempts to throw his weight around in Europe, back in Australia he could not be taking a lighter touch on multinational profit shifting.
Yesterday it looked as though we'd get to decide on the future of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission once and for all. Today, the government has backed away from putting it to a vote. This uncertainty is bad for the charity sector and has gone on long enough.
ALARMED ANDREWS RUNS AWAY FROM ACNC FIGHT
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has beaten a retreat from putting his plan to abolish the charities commission to a vote in the parliament, leaving not-for-profits in limbo again heading into Christmas.
Yesterday Minster Andrews finally allowed for debate on the bill to abolish the charities commission, 253 days after it was first introduced to the House of Representatives.
The debate was scheduled to continue today, but the government has now pulled its bill again and will not bring it to a vote before Parliament rises for the year.
Yesterday the government finally brought the bill to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission forward for debate. I kicked things off for the Opposition by explaining exactly why we need to keep this important, effective agency.
Speech: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Repeal Bill (No.1) 2014
House of Representatives
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the Government’s plan to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is an insult to the good work of the charitable sector, and to all Australians who want accountability and transparency when it comes to their generous donations.”
What the charities commission does
Let me start with a story of great concern. It is about some scammers who set up charities with names such as Friends of the Disabled Children's Task Force, Friends of the Underprivileged Children's Task Force, and Chronic Constructive Pulmonary Disease of Australia Incorporated. Australians, inspired by a deep sense of generosity, donated more than $1 million to them. It turned out that there was not much evidence of the money going to the disadvantaged or needy, and those charities have now been shut down.
All scammers are dodgy, but I have always regarded charity scammers as a particular form of low-life. Other scammers exploit greed or lust or ignorance, but charity scammers prey on our goodwill; they take that great Aussie tradition of wanting to help the vulnerable, and they use it to line their own pockets.
Speech at the opening of the Eugene Anchugov Chinese art exhibition
Parliament House, Canberra
3 December 2014
I acknowledge Philip Ruddock and other members of parliament, Eugene Anchugov, David Fang and Kevin Lui.
Thank you for bringing this extraordinary exhibition to the Great Hall.
When I was in Beijing recently I took some time to enjoy the street-life.
I found myself looking on as a bystander to an unusual calligraphy lesson.
Using water from a small plastic bucket, two men were taking turns painting characters on the pavement squares with a long handled brush.
The brush was about three feet long, so they could paint directly onto the pavement without crouching or bending.
It was in no way clear who was the master and who was the pupil.
The Abbott Government has decided to use the last two days of parliament for the year to debate abolishing the charities commission. That's an appalling message to send the not-for-profit sector as they're gearing up to help hundreds of thousands of Australian families out over Christmas.
CHARITIES COMMISSION KERFUFFLE AN EMBARRASSMENT FOR ANDREWS
The Abbott Government’s plans to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission are in a shambles, as the government will this afternoon attempt to rush through a pointless bill which cannot pass the Senate.
Exactly one year ago, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews stood up in the parliament and committed to sending the charities commission to the chopping block.