201412.08

Transcript – Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News


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Monday, 8 December 2014

E&OE………………………………………………

Subjects: Polls, Budget, Paid Parental Leave, child care, United Nations climate summit, crowdsourcing, Harper Competition Review, Financial System Inquiry .

KIERAN GILBERT:

Good morning and welcome to the program. Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to take a battering in the opinion polls.

Labor is ahead 52/48 on a two party basis in today’s IPSOS survey, but it’s the Prime Minister’s personal approval which is most concerning for the Coalition.

The opinion poll has looked at a number of leadership attributes and the PM – trailing Bill Shorten on most of them.

Let’s go to our panel this morning: the Small Business Minister Bruce Billson and also Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland.

Bruce Billson, this has got to be a worry for the Coalition on the issue of competence and trustworthiness. Tony Abbott’s as low as Julia Gillard was when she was Prime Minister at her worst.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I had a quick glance at the report you are drawing from and I wouldnot have have thought Labor would get too much comfort out of it at all.

We are facing an enormous challenge in repairing the budget and getting on with our program, running headlong into Labor trumpeting its own obstructionist characteristics.

The economy matters – strong agenda – Coalition is strongly in front there, I’m far more optimistic about the future and the team’s prospects than you have characterised Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Prime Minister’s own approval in terms of trustworthiness as I say, it’s on 36, that’s down to similar ballpark to what Julia Gillard faced at her worst as Prime Minister and on competence even again, trailing Bill Shorten by a long way, that’s not any source of concern to you?

MINISTER BILLSON:

On practical action, we are the only ones with a plan. As we read in the authoritative account of the Rudd Gillard Rudd years, not even Bill Shorten’s own people trusted him because he was always assuring them of support before knifing them in the back.

On trustworthiness, I do not think anyone seriously thinks Bill Shorten is the epitome of quality of trustworthiness. Contrast that with the Government: a clear agenda, a program to get the budget repaired.

We said we would abolish the Carbon Tax, that is what we have done. We said we would stop the boats, that is what we have done. Getting the infrastructure going. These are crucial changes that will set our nation up for the future. That is what counts.

I’m all about the steak Kieran, not about the sizzle and the steak is there to be worked on and to be nurtured and that is what our focus is.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let’s look at Labor’s position in this poll.

Michelle Rowland, are you encouraged by it even though your primary vote is still in the 30’s?

MICHELLE ROWLAND:

Kieran, I don’t see anything surprising in these poll results considering what I hear in the electorate and around the country. The fact is that this is a Government that said it will be a Government of no surprises and no excuses and I think the Minister’s response to your questioning says it all.

Here he is, still blaming Labor, still saying it is everyone’s fault other than his own Government for the mess they have gotten themselves in to. A dysfunctional group of people, backbenchers leaking left, right and centre, senior ministers, even the Deputy Leader of his own Party being told that she needs a chaperone to go to an international conference.

The response from the Minister says it all. This is a Government that is not going to improve its own standing in the community as long as it has this trust deficit and the trust deficit stops and starts with the Prime Minister himself.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Foreign Minister has told the Australian Financial Review Bruce Billson, that the PM wasn’t going to send any minister to the climate talks in Peru, the UN talks. That she “requested and was refused so I requested again”. Very honest and blunt assessment from Julie Bishop as to her dealings with the Prime Minister. Were you surprised by that?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No, here we are talking about collaboration amongst the Cabinet. A minister puts forward a proposal, first assessment the Prime Minister arrives at a different conclusion, the minister provides further information and it is all systems go.

That is about hard work. That is about the action that is required in a responsible Government. It is not hysteria and hyperbole, which is all we get from Labor.

That is a perfectly natural interaction between Cabinet ministers when there is much to do. A lot of work on our plate, a lot of activity to implement, an action plan that we need to get on with and that seems perfectly reasonable interaction, not dissimilar from interactions I have if I make a point to the Prime Minister.

He is very interested in my views and if I need to provide more information that is exactly what we do.

That is an adult way of engaging in a collegiate, collaborative Government and that is what we have.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Yeah sure, that makes sense, but you don’t always divulge it to a national newspaper.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I’m not here to give you a commentary on scuttlebutt and chatter that is in the media. We have got an awful lot of work to do to repair the mess that we inherited from Labor, to implement our plan, the only plan we have, the only political party that has a plan to restore the budget, to improve our prospects for the future and to deal with the harm and adverse consequences of six appalling years of the Rudd Gillard Rudd Government. That is the real work, that is what people are on about and that is our focus.

As for a bit of gossip and chatter, we have got too much work to do. We had the Murray Financial System Inquiry released yesterday, I have got a crowd source funding discussion paper today, Harper competition review implementing our unfair contract commitment, getting enterprise energised, that is far more important and a greater priority for our electorate.

KIERAN GILBERT:

I want to get through a couple of those issues in just a moment. First, Michelle Rowland, on this issue of the climate talks, the Foreign Minister is attending as is the Trade Minister, so despite the internals, the reality is, and the Prime Minister made this point this morning, they are taking it seriously with two Cabinet ministers attending those talks this week.

MICHELLE ROWLAND:

The first point to make Kieran is that the adults are not in charge here. This is a group of people masquerading as a Government, which says its most senior woman and in fact its only woman in Cabinet, cannot go to these talks unless she has a chaperone. And you talk about having senior Cabinet ministers there; this is about climate change, why isn’t the Environment Minister going, of all people? I wouldn’t mind if the three of them went, but the fact is the Environment Minister is not going.

I think if you want to have a discussion about the adults being in charge and scuttlebutt and getting on with the plan, the reality is that this Government can talk all it likes but it clearly shows that this Government is dysfunctional and is not operating to any plan.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Okay Bruce Billson, let’s look at this crowdsourcing issue. For those that aren’t familiar with it it’s basically for start-up companies to create funds, investors providing funds in return for equity, that’s basically what you’re talking about isn’t it? And are there any implications out of the Murray Review for that space, because your critics are saying that a number of start-ups are leaving the country because this has been a bit slow.

MINISTER BILLSON:

This is why we need to change the entrepreneurial ecosystem, to make sure that this is the best place to start and grow a business. One of the obstacles that start-ups face is access to capital.

In terms of going to banks we know it is a challenge for small business to get debt funding through some banks, particularly as a start-up where you have no business performance record to show and that is the kind of comfort that conservative banks want. Murray pointed to a consolidation around the large banks, so that challenge has got more difficult rather than less difficult.

So an alternative source of funding is crowd funding, where equity can be sought from a range of investors, relatively modest sums of money, to get that first start business off the ground with the resources that it needs.

We need a right sized and reasonable regulatory environment to support that. That is an innovation that we are pursuing.

Another example of it is getting on with the job and putting the toolkit there for the engine room of the economy to grow jobs after we saw 519,000 jobs lost in small business under Labor.

This is part of our positive action agenda.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But has it all been a bit slow?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is not as if this is the only thing that is going on, what has happened in this space is that we have been highlighting to the banks that they have been doing quite well out of small business finance, that there is a need for improved competition.

There is other work going on in terms of franchising reform, red tape reduction, encouragement for employee share ownership schemes. All these things are happening.

That is our positive agenda. That is what people are looking for.

And as I talk to entrepreneurs and small business men and women, they are going to be the drivers of wealth and job creation into the future.

We need to make sure we provide all the support we can after six years where Labor seemed completely indifferent to small business and that has carried on – a whole year without one question to me about small business from Labor, Kieran. But we have got work to do and we are getting on with it.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Michelle Rowland, on the issue of the Murray Review, it seems that Chris Bowen is open to some of the recommendations, that Labor is open to talking on this?

MICHELLE ROWLAND:

Australia’s banking and financial services sector has been characterised by certainty. It has also been characterised by good prudential standards and we in Labor are very keen to ensure that continues and we will be considering the recommendations of this report very carefully, but if I can just go to two of the points that the Minister just made.

Your question was very pertinent on whether or not this was happening too slowly. The reality is, as I go around incubators in the IT and innovation sector, they have been highly critical of this Government for being all talk before the election. They have been sitting on a report that came out in May into crowdsourcing and only now we see them apparently getting on with a plan. This is all talk.

The second point that I’ll make which goes to the first about sitting on reports. We have news just over the weekend about the Prime Minister’s apparently signature Paid Parental Leave Scheme going to be restructured. Now, this Government chose not to have tabled in the Parliament, even though it received it in October, the Productivity Commission’s final report into its childcare review. Far from getting on with the job and enabling these things to be scrutinised and actually implemented, this is a Government that was big on talk before the election, and when it comes to actually doing the business, it doesn’t.

KIERAN GILBERT:

On the PPL Bruce Billson, this has been a long drama hasn’t it for Tony Abbott? He’s been saying it’s his signature policy but he’s watered it down already and saying he’s going to water it down again next year. Wouldn’t it be better just to scrap it and start again?

MICHELLE ROWLAND:

This is a signature policy that we’ve taken to two elections. It has been a fundamental point of difference between what the Coalition believes is the best way of supporting families with their shared ambitions of a family but also looking for economic security.

We have taken two policies to two consecutive elections, the same program, the same commitment. We can’t help but observe that it is not going to pass through the Senate. We have been consulting, we have been engaging and we think a package that sees a serious Paid Parental Leave Scheme complimented by improvements in childcare arrangements is the way forward.

That’s listening, that’s collaboration, that’s consultation and we want to get on with it so we are keen to implement these changes to make sure the benefits that are available to women employees in Government departments and in big corporates is also available to women that choose a career in small and medium enterprises so it’s as much about equity as it is about participation, the productivity of our country and supporting families with dual goals of having a family and also looking for economic security.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Michelle Rowland, on this issue, is this not just another example of the difficulties of dealing with the Senate that isn’t going to agree with the Government on every occasion and other governments, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, in the past have been through difficult periods like the Howard Government and Mr Abbott this morning referred to the Thatcher and Reagan governments as well, as governments that have polled badly, administrations that have polled badly, only to turn around when it counts?

MICHELLE ROWLAND:

I’ll leave that sort of commentary to good people such as yourselves, but I can tell you this: this is a Prime Minister who apparently has a signature policy, and we still heard that phrase just now from the Minister, such a signature policy that he is willing to walk away from it.

Let’s look at the whole story of Tony Abbott and Paid Parental Leave, the timeline of this. It started off with Paid Parental Leave “over my dead body” said Tony Abbott. “Tony, you’ve got a problem with women”, oh, here’s an unaffordable $20 billion dollar Paid Parental Leave Scheme. “Tony, it’s not affordable enough”, oh, we’ll cut it, we’ll make amendments to it. Even at International Women’s Day and other events where I attended where the Prime Minister spoke earlier this year, he would use words such as “Look, I am such a zealot because I am a convert to this. The greatest zealots are the converts.” He is so converted he is now willing to so-called restructure the system, we don’t even know what’s in the supposed package but what I do know is that a billion dollars has been ripped out of childcare under this Government’s watch.

What I do know is that women’s pay equity is going backwards under this Government, so I’ll have no talk about this so-called matter of it being a signature policy and going to equity in the workplace because coming from this Government it’s absolute rubbish.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Okay. Bruce Billson, your response to that as we wrap up?

MINISTER BILLSON:

There wasn’t much there except a whole lot of noise and a direct personal attack on the Prime Minister.

What we know is Labor has left an anaemic Paid Parental Leave Scheme that does not respect the fact that people’s mortgages don’t default to minimum wage levels, it doesn’t provide any superannuation.

These are shortcomings in the Paid Parental Leave Scheme that need to be addressed and there are also issues in childcare to make sure it is affordable and accessible. Both of those measures, companion measures, will encourage women participation in the workforce if that is their goal, and to support those dual and important objectives of a family and economic security.

This is smart, sensible policy; all we have heard is more obstruction and noise from Labor.

Labor this year have not come up with a single positive constructive policy proposition.

It has all been about noise and carrying on and obstruction and resistance and they are trumpeting that as success, that’s doing nothing to help put this economy and country back on track.

So it improves its prospects for the future, you can be surefooted about those opportunities and there can be economic security and prosperity spread more broadly in our community. That is what we are on about and I will let Labor go on with their noise and the shrillness and the carry on which seems to be all we get out of Labor under Bill Shorten’s leadership.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Bruce Billson, Michelle Rowland, thank you.