Fairfax TV with Tim Lester

This morning I spoke with Tim Lester and Senator Nash on Fairfax TV. You can listen here:


Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
21 May 2013

TOPICS:                Marriage Equality, baby bonus, negative gearing.

Tim Lester:          Senator Fiona Nash, Andrew Leigh, welcome back here to Breaking Politics.

Andrew Leigh: It’s good to be here.

Tim Lester:          Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd now says he supports same sex marriage, inspired partly by an unnamed political staffer who he had coffee with and turned out to be gay, and wants to marry. Andrew Leigh, is Mr Rudd right?

Andrew Leigh: I believe he is, Tim. I understand that there are deeply held views on both sides of this debate in the community, and I’ve had hundreds of email exchanges, phone conversations, discussions in my electorate office, about the issue. But fundamentally I do believe that attitudes are shifting, and they’re shifting much faster than they did on big issues such racial equality and gender equality. Just recently we’ve seen conservative leaders in the UK and New Zealand move same sex marriage through their parliaments, not because they thought it was an issue of the left, but actually because they thought – in David Cameron’s words – that as a conservative, they should be a supporter of same sex marriage. So I think that there’s a case from liberalism and even conservatism that supports a change like this.

Tim Lester:          Fiona Nash, your views on what Kevin Rudd has had to say?

Fiona Nash:        Well it’s interesting, isn’t it, that he should change his view and make a point of it at this time of the cycle. I think that people will rightly think is it really just a straightforward change of mind or are there any other motives behind Kevin Rudd coming out and changing his view on same sex marriage. But with the Labor Government at the moment every day is a new day, you never know what is going to happen around the corner.

Tim Lester:          So what motive do you think Mr Rudd might have?

Fiona Nash:        Well look, who would know? It may be very genuine, he may have just had an epiphany of a change of mind, it may well be to raise his own profile again, who would know. He’s certainly done that in the past and maybe it is a profile raising exercise, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Tim Lester:          What about your view, Senator, on the question of same sex marriage? What do you believe should happen?

Fiona Nash:        Well I support the status quo, that marriage is obviously between a man and a woman. I certainly understand that there are many people who have a different view on this, I’ve spoken to many of them. But at the end of the day it is the Coalition’s view that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that hasn’t changed.

Tim Lester:          Kevin Rudd tells a story of a simple change of a point of view, of having a coffee with a gay man, a gay political staffer that he knows here in Canberra. Isn’t his case an argument for at least a conscience vote, or don’t you see it that way?

Fiona Nash:        Certainly within the Coalition we haven’t seen a need to date for a conscience vote, we are supportive of the current situation. Kevin Rudd is entitled to his own view, he’s entitled to change his mind on his position of course. Our view in the Coalition hasn’t changed, and that’s where we stand at this point in time.

Tim Lester:          And Andrew Leigh, your views on the fact one, no doubt you oppose the lack of a conscience vote on the Liberal side of politics. But there are plenty on your side of politics who speak exactly as Fiona Nash does on this issue, don’t they?

Andrew Leigh: Absolutely Tim. I think there are people of good heart on both sides of this debate and I would certainly include Fiona in that. I do think, though, that it’s a bit cute to overplay Kevin’s views. I think Mr Rudd could change the name of his cat and somebody would find an angle on that which would have something to do with national politics. Fundamentally this is a backbencher expressing his change in views, and I think the way that he’s found that one story has affected him reminded me of the Washington State legislator, who voted against same sex marriage and then a few years later left the parliament, and one year her daughter came home for Christmas and said that she was gay. And the legislator just broke down in tears because she knew that she had voted against her daughter being able to marry, and that she could never go back and reverse that vote.

Tim Lester:          Fiona Nash, a big search on now inside the Coalition for the cuts that would balance an Abbott government’s budget, ultimately. Has the time come to end the tax break that 1.2 million Australians claim on their investment properties, the one we know as negative gearing?

Fiona Nash:        Well, certainly we are going to have to have a look at everything from one end to the other because of the disaster financial state that Labor has got this country into. We’re now looking at $257 billion of gross debt, and the economic mismanagement is just extraordinary. So obviously if we’re fortunate enough to win government we’re going to have to look at everything. But in terms of negative gearing, in 2005 the Productivity Commission looked at this, it was determined at the time that it was appropriate for negative gearing to be part of the taxation system. Certainly within the Coalition the view has always been supportive of negative gearing, and at this stage certainly that position hasn’t changed. And interesting to know, I think it was around 1985 that Paul Keating got rid of it, rents went through the roof and I think in 1987 the Labor Party reversed that decision to get rid of negative gearing. So there are going to be a lot of things that need to be considered down the track to try and get the country back on track, out of this economic mess that the Labor government has got us into.

Tim Lester:          Ok, and you personally though support the continuation of negative gearing?

Fiona Nash:        Well at this stage I see no reason to change my mind, I have supported it in the past as the Coalition have. But as I say, we are going to have to look everything when and if we are fortunate enough to get into government, we’re going to have to try and look at everything to fix this mess so the country can actually get back on its feet. I think the Australian people understand the very dire situation that the country economically now is in.

Tim Lester:          Andrew Leigh, would it be worth the government revisiting the question of negative gearing or no?

Andrew Leigh: Well Tim, come September I think Australians are going to face a pretty clear choice. They’re going to face a choice between a Labor Party that has put responsible taxes on carbon pollution and on the mining sector, and a Coalition that has promised to rip those taxes away to give tax breaks to big miners and big polluters. And that’s the reason that we’re having this conversation over Coalition costings, not because there is a budget crisis – it’s quite clear that Australia’s debt level is at 10%, very modest by international standards, and responsible to get us through the financial crisis. But it’s also clear that because the Coalition wants to give these big tax cuts, because they want to put in place this very expensive, very unfair parental leave scheme – maybe $12 billion – that they then need to start, as Fiona has said, considering all the options. Putting everything on the table, raising GST, cutting pensions, cutting income support, getting rid of negative gearing for people who just bought a house last year and thought that that was an investment property that they could rely on. This is a scary world indeed when these Coalition cuts come into force, which they would if Mr Abbott were to become Prime Minister.

Tim Lester:          So you personally support the retention of negative gearing as it is?

Andrew Leigh: Negative gearing is in accord with our tax system, which allows people to deduct certain expenses when they’re claiming income. Certainly what we’ve done at the moment is to make a series of responsible savings: we’ve done things like removing the baby bonus, and that is in accord with $180 billion of savings we’ve made on payments we thought were unfair or outdated, like the dependent spouse tax offset. We get attacked on these every single time by the Coalition, but the point is when Australians go into the ballot box on September 14, they’ll be choosing between Labor’s investments and the Coalition’s cuts.

Tim Lester:          Fiona Nash, was the baby bonus good policy? And is it now good policy to get rid of it?

Fiona Nash:        Well certainly there have been discussions around the baby bonus over the years, but at this point in time the Coalition will ensure that as we go down the track towards an election people are very aware what we’re going to have in place for families. Now there’s been some discussion around the baby bonus, obviously there’ve been discussions around changes to the Family Tax Benefit Part A that the government is now talking about, but at the end of the day we are looking at an economic disaster in this nation, we’re looking at the gross debts reported in the budget going out to $370 billion over the forward estimates. We cannot let this economic situation continue, we’re now paying a billion dollars a month in interest because of this Labor government. Those are the sorts of things people in Australia want fixed, and they want us to make sure that we get this country back on track.

Tim Lester:          Ok, but under that, those tough choices that you talk about, one of them that Joe Hockey at least looks like supporting is the abolition – the total abolition – of the baby bonus. Do you back Mr Hockey doing that?

Fiona Nash:        Well look I support Joe Hockey, and what he’s trying to do to get the country back on its feet. I think there’s absolutely no doubt about that we’ve seen this Labor government just run rampant with this economy, they’ve got no idea how to manage the economy. We’ve got Australian people right across the nation trying to balance their household budgets, trying to do the right thing, and at the same time looking at a Labor government that is particularly irresponsible and looking at a gross debt at over $370 billion over the forward estimates.

Tim Lester:          What do you say to stay at home mums who look at the generosity of the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme and the removal of a relatively small payment that would have gone to them when they had a child, how is that equitable?

Fiona Nash:        We are certainly aware of the stay at home mums and the wonderful jobs that they do, I was indeed a stay at home mum for many years. Certainly it will become very apparent in the time running up to the election that we will indeed be looking at those stay at home mums and making sure that they have the support they need.

Tim Lester:          Senator Fiona Nash we know you’ve got a plane to catch from Hobart so we’ll let you be, thank you for joining us this morning. Andrew Leigh, appreciate you coming into the studio.

Andrew Leigh: Thanks Tim, thanks Fiona.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.