TRANSCRIPT OF ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FRASER
ABC NEWS24 INTERVIEW
14 AUGUST 2013
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Preferences, PEFO and budget honesty, Trade Training Centres.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But now joining me to discuss the day's events Labor member for Fraser Andrew Leigh. We were expected to be joined by the Liberals Senate
candidate in the ACT Zed Seselja but he is not here. Andrew Leigh, welcome. We will start with Labor so far refusing to agree to the Liberals'
demands that it preference the Greens last at the Federal election. For the first time Tony Abbott will preference Labor over the Greens. The move
mostly harms the Greens chances in their first and only lower house seat of Melbourne.
ADAM BANDT: The reality is that people are able to allocate their own preferences. In Melbourne, I think there will be a lot of people from across the political
spectrum, including those who are aligned to the Liberal Party who won't be happy with Tony Abbott directing them to send their preferences to a
TONY ABBOTT: Frankly, I say to Mr Rudd, this is a test of your leadership. Are you man enough to say to the Greens I am going to say to the Greens I am going to
put you last?
LYNDAL CURTIS: Andrew, the floor is yours this afternoon. Is there a chance that the move by the Opposition will actually help the Labor Party?
ANDREW LEIGH: First, I am sorry that Zed Seselja is not here. I would have enjoyed the debate with him today and certainly Gary Humphries I don't think would ever
have stood you up like this. So, it is a disappointment there. The Liberal Party gave Adam Bandt his seat there last time by virtue of directing
preferences to him. So, by taking that away I think Cath Bowtell has a strong showing. I think Cath Bowtell is a great candidate and would make a
great member for Melbourne.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Labor is under pressure in other seats, particularly inner city seats. There is a seat of Batman in Melbourne and even Anthony Albanese's seat and
Tanya Plibersek's seat of Sydney. Do you think David Feeney in Batman and Mr Albanese and Ms Plibersek will be breathing a little bit of a sigh of
relief at this announcement?
ANDREW LEIGH: Certainly I think it has electoral outcomes in some of those seats and better informed pundits than me will look at that. I would be very happy to run
on our environmental record, our small-G green record for this election. The world's biggest network of marine parks and an historic price on carbon
pollution and finally sorting out the Murray Darling Basin mess after more than a century of mucking around. It is hard to find a term in the Federal
Parliament where we have passed as much good environmental reform as this one.
LYDNAL CURTIS: Labor Party people, including Anthony Albanese, have been critical of the Greens. Mr Albanese called them parasitic. Chris Bowen says the Labor
Party shouldn't ever have another agreement of the sort it had in the last parliament. Did the Labor Party err, having the formal agreement it had
with the Greens in order to get back into Government because the Greens weren't ever going to support the Liberal Party were they?
ANDREW LEIGH: I think they were very special circumstances and it is very hard to see them being repeated again. Mr Bowen is right when he says we shouldn't
strike that sort of formal agreement in the future.
LYNDAL CURTIS: There are seats where you need Greens support to win aren't there?
ANDREW LEIGH: We certainly get preferences from Greens voters and I, in my own electorate last time, got a range of preferences from Greens supporters. I think
they recognise that Labor has a great track record in environmental reform, in areas like social justice, on the question, for example, of same sex
marriage where Mr Abbott thinks it is a fashion. My own view is that love never goes out of fashion.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The Labor Party always trumpets the last parliament because of the amount of legislation that got passed, because of the things that were done. Is
there a perception that this parliament, at the very least, was a very bitter battle and that people wouldn't like to see a minority Government again?
ANDREW LEIGH: I think there was, Laura Tingle has used the phrase ‘scratchiness’ to describe the national conversation and that nicely sums up some of the
conversation on the last three years. Almost inevitable I think of tight numbers in the parliament of Mr Abbott choosing to focus almost purely on
the negative over that period. But we got an extraordinary amount of stuff done. You look at the reform record of the last parliament and it stacks up
so well. Things like DisabilityCare passing the parliament. A profits-based mining tax replacing the old royalties tax which didn't make much sense
to anyone. Getting the seat on the UN Security Council - it didn't go through the parliament but it is an amazing step forward for Australia.
LYNDAL CURTIS: I want to ask you a question about the ACT. The Greens are running a Senate candidate. Been lots of attempts to effectively unseat the Senate
spot that usually goes to the Liberals. Is there enough, do you believe, of a solid Liberal vote in the ACT to keep that seat with the Liberals and
anyone who attempts to get it will fail?
ANDREW LEIGH: I think Mr Seselja is clearly favourite in this race but Simon Sheikh will have the best shot of any Greens candidate who has run in the last ecade.
Mr Seselja won a controversial pre-selection against Gary Humphries who wanted to serve another term in the parliament. That will disenchant a
lot of ACT voters. Also, Simon Sheikh is a pretty seasoned grass roots performer and has been very much out and about in the electorate. He has
good chance but he is the underdog.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The release of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook has done little to abate the vow over costings. The Opposition says the budget
numbers are still too volatile even though they match the economic statement of a fortnight ago, fuelling Government claims the Opposition's
hiding its plans to cut jobs and services.
JOE HOCKEY: The figures that came out yesterday clearly indicate that there is an enormous amount of potential volatility in the numbers. We are not going to do
what Labor does and make rash promises.
PENNY WONG: We won't do what Labor does and make forecasts that could vary. Let's remember why this statement is put out, it is because Peter Costello set up
the honesty and I pay him credit for that. It is a good thing and it means that the election campaign is there and the public and parties know
precisely what the Budget position is.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Andrew, you're an economist. The pre-election economic and fiscal outlook had in it what the Treasury said were confidence intervals around
forecasts saying there was part of the forecasts they were 70% confident about and showing a larger range that they could be more confident
about. Should those things about be part of every Budget that a Government delivers. Do they help people in understanding that forecasts are just
ANDREW LEIGH: I think they are. When I was on the House of Representatives economics committee, the Reserve Bank began publishing confidence intervals
around their forecasts and I was urging them to do that with all their forecasts. It reminds us, like weather forecasting, economic forecasting is not
a perfect science. But the numbers are out now, the Coalition has lost their last remaining fig leaf and it is time for them to start bringing out those
policies. The sooner they do that the better, then we can have a contest about ideas rather than the Coalition running this Campbell Newman
approach of a secret commission of cuts.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But the Coalition says it has put a range of policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office. Will the Government accept the costings from the PBO if
the Opposition puts them out?
ANDREW LEIGH: Absolutely we will. What the Australian people expect is a full suite of policies from the Coalition. They haven't gotten that to date. They have dribs
and drabs. They have claims about savings. For example, when Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey released their company tax cut, they claimed that they
had previously announced savings that would pay for it. It just wasn't true. They had announced savings which were completely gobbled up by
their tax cut for big miners and polluters leaving the company tax cut entirely unfunded. It is not good for democracy if the Australian people can't
judge properly costed policies. If all they have from Mr Abbott is attack lines and secret plans rather than being honest about what he will do.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Although, the Coalition raises the Labor Party in 2007, when it was Opposition released its costings the day before the election. Both sides have
had problems in this area haven't they?
ANDREW LEIGH: But it has never been more important for the Opposition to come forward and the reason for that is they have spent the last three years saying yes to
every special interest but no to every reasonable saving. Having said no, for example, to our saving on fringe benefits tax for cars, saying you need
to produce evidence if you want to claim a tax deduction on using your car for business use. That is nearly $2 billion that they have to find in
reduced services or increased taxes. It is why we are asking reasonable questions about whether they will continue the Better Schools reforms and
whether they will cut from hospitals or cut more public servants or consider raising the GST.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Cut more public servants than effectively the Government has done by proposing - imposing successive efficiency dividends?
ANDREW LEIGH: We expect that to be met first and foremost through non-staffing reductions. They have been in the senior levels of the public service where the
growth has been five times as fast as the more junior levels. We are concerned about an imbalance there. The Coalition will just cut across the
board, two-year hiring freeze and at least 12,000 gone but maybe up to 20,000 or more.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Would it be easier for the public service to look at non-staff cost cutting if you hadn't imposed what have been successive efficiency dividends over
the last few years?
ANDREW LEIGH: The efficiency dividend has been tough on public service agencies, there is no denying that and I hear that when I am speaking with my
constituents around town. What that points to is we're well beyond cutting through fat. The Coalition, if they were to cut these 12,000 jobs would be
cutting deep into bone. They would be stripping away services that Australian families rely on and the expectation that Australian families have
that they will have a country where they can go to a family assistance office, where they can get help overseas if they have an emergency, where
they will get assistance with a Medicare claim and where public servants will do great management of programs. All that is at threat if you strip away
and attack the public service as the Coalition look like doing.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The PM Kevin Rudd began talking about the need to skill young people when he was Opposition Leader in 2007. It is a theme he has returned to
in the second week of the campaign, hoping to remind voters of his record in the top job the first time around.
KEVIN RUDD: One of the first undertakings I gave way back then as Leader of the Opposition was to build trades training centres across Australia. It is part of
building the country's future. These things don't just appear out of thin air and they are here because Governments decided to make them happen.
That is why across the nation today we are announcing that the total number of trades training centres that we are having nationally will now rise
to more than 500.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Today he has announced 137 new trades training centres at a cost per centre of $1.1 million. The only problem is that the trade training
centres that built over the last six years have cost on average about $3.4 million. The public will never see 137 trade training centres at the
rice tag of $200 million.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Do you accept and I spoke to Bill Shorten about this earlier, that the project that was started in 2007 is not yet completed, it was a 10-year program
but as Christopher Pyne says, you're behind in the schedule?
ANDREW LEIGH: Those Trade Training Centres are rolling out across the country and they are delivering amazing results for kids. I ever been into some of the
centres where you can see children staying at school, who might have otherwise dropped out but for trades training centres and also students
having the opportunity to dip a toe in the water of a trade, to try a bit of hospitality, carpentry and metal work without signing up for a full
apprenticeship. They are getting the skills for the future within that context of school where they can also get great science, literacy and numeracy
skills at the same time.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Is the aim to ever the people who do that move onto apprenticeships because there have been problems particularly with completion rates for
apprenticeships, people taking them up and failing to complete them up and failing to complete them?
ANDREW LEIGH: Some will and some won't but this is absolutely a way of reducing that problem of apprenticeship completion because students can try a trade
while they are at school. They don't have to commit entirely and I think we get a better fit. There will always better fit. There will always be students
that move around with different education programs. You might have done a bit yourself in your studies. I know I did. Certainly those Trade
Training Centres I think are part of building an education system for the future and they are at risk if the Coalition is elected. They aren't fans of
Trade Training Centres, just as they're not fans of the Better Schools reforms.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The Coalition Governments in the past have been fans of apprenticeships haven't they?
ANDREW LEIGH: Apprenticeships are fine and well but Trade Training Centres fill an important gap. If you look at how to get the high wage, high skill jobs in the
future it will be through investing in education right now. With an economic in transition, more than ever before you need to invest in education.
That is not just schools and universities, it is also getting trades training right. We need the education system to get better and we need the
infrastructure, the NBN, the roads, rails and ports that we have historically invested in.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Andrew Leigh thanks for your time.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks Lyndal.
Interview on ABC24 Capital Hill - 14 August 2013
On 14 August 2013, I spoke with Lyndal Curtis about Trade Training Centres, Labor's historic environmental reforms, and the risks to Canberra posed by Coalition cuts. Alas, Zed Seselja was to have joined the conversation, but withdrew at the last minute.
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