Breaking Politics with Tim Lester - Transcript

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

TOPICS                                 No confidence motion, live odds, Private Health Insurance Rebate, foreign aid.

Tim Lester:                          Senator Fiona Nash and Andrew Leigh, welcome back to Breaking Politics. Fiona Nash, what happened to the Opposition’s no confidence motion in the Government?

Fiona Nash:                        Well certainly there’s been some discussion around that in the past, but what is really interesting I think we have no confidence in the Government, the big question of course is whether or not the independents, the cross benchers still have confidence in the Government. And I think even more importantly Tim, out there in the community there is no confidence in the Government. And really, when I’m moving around regional communities the thing that is most clear, most apparent, is this lack of confidence in the Government and in the future. So, there’s been a real slow-down, if you like, a real lack of investment, a real lack spend, and particularly in our regional communities, we’re seeing an almost grinding halt happening out in these regional communities.

Tim Lester:                          Ok, so the community’s confidence will be well and truly tested on September 14th and you might be right about no confidence then but, for now, Tony Abbott had said that he would test it on the floor of Parliament, isn’t it the case that he wouldn’t get the support on the cross-benches he needs to make the motion fly?

Fiona Nash:                        Oh well that’s obviously a matter for the Leader on whether or not there would be support. You know, we’d have to wait and see whether a no confidence motion goes ahead, but that’s a matter for the leader. At the moment I’m focussing on being out there in the communities and I can certainly tell you, out there there’s no confidence in this Government.

Tim Lester:                          The sports advertising for gambling in sports…

Andrew Leigh: Can I just quickly respond on the confidence thing, Tim? It is striking to see a no confidence motion fail for lack of confidence by the people who are going to move it. But there’s a broader issue too, which is that the Coalition, I think, is playing a dangerous game on talking down confidence in Australia. You can see this actually in some of the consumer confidence surveys which are split out by partisanship, and you can see the confidence in the economy among Coalition supporters falling substantially. That’s a dangerous game. The Australian economy is actually performing very strongly by international standards and if you look back over the last couple of decades we’re doing very well; low debt load, good unemployment by international standards, strong growth. You’ve got to be careful about trash-talking the Australian economy; it’s a dangerous game.

Fiona Nash:                        It’s not talking down confidence though, it’s just talking about the facts of the feeling out there in the community, of the perceptions of people out there in the community and there is this continued move from the Government to say, “compared to the rest of the world”. We’ve got countries around this world that are basket cases that you’re comparing us to. That is not a good comparison. So it’s not about the Coalition talking down confidence, trying to create that impression, it’s actually a fact. We’re just reflecting what people out there in the community are thinking.

Andrew Leigh: I think that your leader is doing more than that, Fiona. I mean I certainly notice…

Fiona Nash:                        Well you’re entitled to you opinion

Andrew Leigh: But we’ve had the greatest downturn since the Global Financial Crisis [Great Depression] hit Australia and we’ve come through that remarkably well thanks to the resilience of the Australian economy. I think it is a dangerous game to start, for example, talking up the impact of a carbon price which was CPI impact of 0.7 per cent, very small impact on prices. Or the mining tax, which has not caused towns to be wiped off the map, it has not caused the sort of economic devastation that the Opposition Leader said it would. I think it’s better to talk about the optimism of the Australian people, the resilience of the Australian economy. Then the debate can be about policy, not about just trash talking Australia, which is the game, I think, some members of your party have played.

Tim Lester:                          Let’s perhaps move on to the advertising question, sports advertising question, because it’s an important one to put to you both I think. Andrew Leigh, perhaps first you, there are many who think Julia Gillard has not gone far enough by simply addressing live odds advertising in sporting events and not taking on the bigger issue of gambling advertising anytime in children’s hours. What do you say?

Andrew Leigh: Well Tim, like Fiona, I’m regularly out in the community talking to people about the issue and the strongest feeling that comes back to me is the feeling that live odds are frustrating people. They don’t like watching a game with their kids where live odds are coming on. The measure the Prime Minister announced on Sunday does ensure that from the moment the players run out onto the footy field until the moment the game is over people won’t see live odds. That’s true if the game’s being broadcast in children’s hours, it’s also true if a child is staying up until 10pm to watch a footy game with mum or dad. So in that sense this is a stronger proposal than a proposal that simply cauterize children’s hours.

Tim Lester:                          Fiona Nash, are you able to comfortably sit and watch gambling ads of other sorts in children television hours and go, “that’s ok” or do you think we should have gone further than Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy have gone?

Fiona Nash:                        Well I think it’s certainly a welcome step in the right direction but our view in the Coalition is very much, this is a particular issue where the outcome has to meet community expectations. Now, we will look very closely to the response from the community as to what the Government has said will now be in place. Whether or not it needs to go further we will very much judge on what the community feedback is, and if the community feedback is that, no, that doesn’t go far enough, of course we’ll take that into account. We’ll be monitoring very closely.

Tim Lester:                          Which is a wait and see approach, I guess. You don’t yet feel you’ve got enough feedback from the community to go, “this is the way my community wants us to go”?

Fiona Nash:                        Well I think it’s just a very common sense and practical way to go forward. We’ve seen a first step from the Government here. It’s been a welcome first step, but what we need to make sure is that the community out there are happy with that being far enough. Now, I suspect there are going to be a lot of people in our community who think that doesn’t go far enough. Our job in the Coalition is to now watch and monitor that, have a look at what the community feedback is, and if it needs to go further, if it needs to be stronger, then we need to take that very seriously.

Andrew Leigh: Sometimes governments, I think, have to lead these debates too and I guess I was worried a couple of weeks ago when Mr Abbott said he would back the industry code. We’ve decided to go further than that. We’ve decided to take a significant step that goes ahead of the industry and I think that was the right thing to do.

Fiona Nash:                        Can I just clarify that though, that Tony Abbott certainly was talking about this issue a lot and he was saying about backing the code, but he very much was saying that if necessary, he would come in and make sure that the proper safeguards were there so I don’t think it’s fair on Tony Abbott to just say he would back the code. He meant much further than that saying that if it was necessary, he was prepared to go further.

Tim Lester:                          On the question of Coalition plans, the Government is now planning to slash 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate over four years saving about $700 million. We’re told in this morning’s press, if you believe it, that the Coalition now supports the cuts to the Private Health Insurance Rebate. Are we seeing a pattern here, Fiona Nash, of the Coalition quietly allowing the Government to cut in to old Howard Government plans among others, to save yourselves heavy lifting when you’re confronted with budget number one next year assuming you win?

Fiona Nash:                        Well that’s something as a party room we’re yet to consider but I think the pattern is very strongly the realisation out there in the community that the Coalition understands that we have to fix this economic mess that the Government has got the nation into. Now, if we are fortunate enough to get into government after the 14th of September there is going to be a huge mess to fix so we’re being absolutely consistent in saying the priority has to be getting this country economically back on its feet. We’ve got a $257 billion gross debt, we’ve got very little to show in this nation as people just say to me all the time, for all of the money for all the borrowing that this Government has done, what is there to show for it?

Tim Lester:                          So if the Baby Bonus, the Private Health Insurance Rebate and the like have to go, so be it?

Fiona Nash:                        No, not at all. I’m saying that we’re having to consider very carefully all of the legislation that is before us in terms of the ramifications for the nation. We just can’t keep going on this willy-nilly spending spree that this Labor Government has invoked and expect this country to be economically sustainable. So we’re just being sensible and applying common sense to how we have to look at future economic management.

Tim Lester:                          A last question for you both. Bill Gates in town today has been reasonably restrained so far in his comments on our foreign aid cuts, that is, the Government twice in a row, two budgets in a row now pushing back the goal of reaching half of one per cent of gross national income spent on foreign aid. He’s being pretty forgiving of Australia welshing on what was a pretty clear undertaking under Kevin Rudd isn’t he, Andrew Leigh?

Andrew Leigh: Not at all, Tim. He is looking around the world and looking at Australia being a stand-out country for having substantially increased foreign aid now to $5.7 billion: the highest level as a share of GDP in a quarter of a century. That’s an important increase to foreign aid at a time when other countries are cutting their foreign aid budgets. He would like Australia to spend more on foreign aid I’m sure, but he looks around the world and sees a country that is increasing its generosity to the world’s poorest people. And you’ve got to look around the world on issues, whether it’s looking at debt as a share of GDP or whether it’s looking at foreign aid as a share of GDP. All of these issues require a global perspective.

Tim Lester:                          Ok, Fiona Nash, has the Government moved too slowly to that benchmark that Kevin Rudd promised to meet or is the Government right to slow down our reaching that goal?

Fiona Nash:                        I think we have to recognise that as a developed nation, we do have a responsibility to help those other nations that do require our assistance. There’s no doubt about that and I think in the past there has been fairly bipartisan support to how we approach our foreign assistance. But we do need to balance that with what we can and can’t do, what is appropriate and certainly our domestic needs here at home. So, it’s very much a balancing act and we certainly are continuing to contribute to that global task.

Tim Lester:                          And the Government’s balance is the right one?

Fiona Nash:                        Well certainly we need to make sure that we have the assistance there that is necessary. We do have to be prudent on occasion across a range of areas where we’re looking at our financial expenditure but I think certainly that there has been in the past, a bipartisan approach to how we look at assisting those developing nations.

Tim Lester:                          Fiona Nash, Andrew Leigh, thank you for coming back in to Breaking Politics. Nice to have you both in the studio!

Andrew Leigh: Absolutely, thanks Tim. Thanks Fiona.

Fiona Nash:                        Thanks Tim

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