ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
MONDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Medivac bill; IPSOS poll; Labor’s plans to help small business.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: To talk about this and other issues, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Dr Andrew Leigh joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Michael.
ROWLAND: Looking at this IPSOS poll first, has the Labor Party pulled the wrong reign here on asylum seekers?
LEIGH: Michael, I haven't commented on opinion polls in my nearly nine years in politics. And in my six years as an academic before that I wrote papers arguing that polls get too much attention. I’d be the last person to think that that ought to be our guiding star. Labor is focused on the big issues, on the stagnant wages, stagnant living standards and the fact that debt is going up while we're seeing living standards flatlining. They are the big issues for us.
ROWLAND: So the narrowest gap in six months, a four point drop in the Labor Party's primary vote does not concern you at all
LEIGH: We'd like to see the issues that matters to the Australian people implemented. Australians want the findings of the Hayne Royal Commission put into legislation. We would like to see parliament sit, not 10 days over 8 months, but sitting as the time that it takes in order to get the Hayne recommendations done. As you mentioned before, we will be grilling the government on this $500 million given to a company with headquarters in a shack on Kangaroo Island. It certainly smells a bit fishy to me.
ROWLAND: Ok, we’ll get to that. Basically, you are talking about issues of concern to Australians. Are you confident therefore on the back of this poll that Australians share the Labor Party's view that a bit of compassion should be injected in the asylum seeker debate?
LEIGH: There’s no contradiction between being compassionate to people who need medical treatment and being firm with the protection of our borders. That’s why the motion that passed the House last week made very clear that it only applied to the current cohort on Manus and Nauru and therefore should have no impact on people's decision to come to Australia.
ROWLAND: Ok, the Attorney-General Christian Porter says full proper process was followed in the awarding of that more than $400 million contract to Paladin Solutions for the offshore security on Manus Island. Is that something you believe happened?
LEIGH: It certainly looks pretty dodgy at the moment. We will be investigating the details of how the contract was awarded and why it went to a company which appeared to not have the sorts of underpinnings you would expect if you were giving half a billion dollars of our money - and that's what taxpayers dollars are - to a company of this kind. We have had net debt double under this government, so you’ve got to ask yourself at each moment why are they so profligate when it comes to spending all of this money. Why are we now seeing debt twice the level it was when the government came to office?
ROWLAND: On another issue, you’ve been strongly pushing this bill which will give small businesses much greater incentive to take big business to court as a way of not having to pay costs if they lose and it appears, Andrew Leigh, that the government is likely to support that bill when it gets to the floor of the house. So, a victory of sorts?
LEIGH: It would be good news for small business if the government finally did the right thing. Labor took this policy to the 2016 election, developed by Michelle Rowland and myself. We have been advocating strongly for it, while the Coalition has been finding against it. Access to Justice for Small Business allows small business at start of a court case to apply for a ‘no adverse costs’ order, meaning if they lose they’ll pay their own lawyers but they won’t be bankrupted by expensive QCs on the other side. The small business ombudsman backs it. The small business peak body backs it. We’ve had Nationals members Barnaby Joyce, Llew O’Brien, Andrew Broad and Keith Pitt coming out in favour of it. If Scott Morrison backs it, it won’t be because he actually believes in small business. It’ll be because he’s a desperate Prime Minister who will to do anything to maintain his hold on power. Just as he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a banking royal commission after the banks had supported it, that too seems to be the case with access to justice for small business. He just can't get the big economic calls right, Michael.
ROWLAND: We will see how that plays out this week. Andrew leigh, thank you for joining us on News Breakfast.
LEIGH: Thanks, Michael.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra