2 September 2014
Transcript - #2014027, 2014

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News AM Agenda

GILBERT:

Thanks for your company this morning. An Australian military transport plane has reportedly had a near miss in Iraq. NewsCorp papers report this morning that a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft had been delivering aid to the besieged town of Amirli in Northern Iraq when it narrowly escaped heavy machine gun fire from the Sunni extremists. The Prime Minister was asked about this report on Radio 2GB this morning.

ABBOTT:

I have no advice to that effect. I've seen the report in the paper and yes, they were flying into an active combat zone, so there might well have been fire in the area. But I'm not advised that they came under direct fire themselves.

I have no advice to that effect. I've seen the report in the paper and yes, they were flying into an active combat zone, so there-

GILBERT:

For more discussion this morning, Brendan O’Connor Labor front bencher  and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo. I guess, Steve Ciobo, whether or not it did or didn't happen, it very likely could have happened and just is a reminder of the sort of risks that our military are going to face there, even if they are providing humanitarian assistance.

CIOBO:

Look, absolutely. I mean, it's a war zones are dangerous, obviously. We know that our best and brightest, in terms of the men and women of our military, are doing Australia proud, but they face constant dangers. The sad reality from all this, though, Kieran, is that although we're focused in terms of our humanitarian effort, the fact remains that the threat that's posed by radicalized Islamists in that part of the world unfortunately extends all the way down through an arc into Southeast Asia. Of course, we've actually got men and possibly women who actually are Australians who are fighting alongside terrorists in that part of the world. It's a real concern to not only to me, but indeed to the government.

GILBERT:

The Prime Minister said he hadn't had confirmation, or hadn't had that report or advice to him, Brendan O’Connor, but the journalist in question, Ian McPhedran, a very respected defense correspondent with NewsCorp-

O’CONNOR:

Yes, he is.

GILBERT:

Who is reporting this today -

O’CONNOR:

As Steve said, it's a harsh reminder of the dangers that can confront Australian personnel, whether they're there for humanitarian purposes or for whatever purpose. So I think that's something that I think should come to everybody, the challenge that confronts Australia and others in such areas of the world. In the end, I think we've had to make a decision. Of course, the opposition has supported the government in responding the way it has.

GILBERT:

Yesterday, in this studio actually, the Iraqi Ambassador told David Spears that he thought the government should provide the arms, via Baghdad, via the central government and than have it distributed to where it's needed. Rather than directly to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The Prime Minister yesterday said that the Iraqis were entirely on board with our approach. Can you explain that discrepancy for us?

CIOBO:

Well, no. Look, I can't. To be blunt, I mean, that's taken at pay grades above mine frankly, Kieran. Ultimately, what we want to do is make sure that we provide the support that's going to to make a meaningful impact on the ground. We're doing it as part of a collaborative effort by the United States and others in relation to making sure that we provide the kind of weapons that they need to help repel radicalized Islamists. From my perspective, ultimately we'll see how effective that is. This is a real dangerous situation. It is effectively the creation of a terrorist army that we've seen take place in Iraq and in parts of Syria. We need to remain vigilant about this threat.

GILBERT:

Does Labor have any concerns that yesterday, the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia had some doubts as to the manner in which the military hardware was being provided to his country? Specifically the fact that it was directly being provided to the Kurdish forces?

O’CONNOR:

I heard the comments made. The opposition relies upon the briefings from the government. The thing about this particular conflict, as has already been said, is that it's very different from the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The international community are in support of it. It's legitimate, it's legal, and it's primarily humanitarian. For that reason, the Labor Party supports the government in the action so far.

GILBERT:

Let's move on to the prospect of Vladimir Putin being disinvited to the G20. The Foreign Minister, according to the Australian Financial Review this morning, is going to use a NATO summit this week to lobby other G20 countries. What's the prospect of Putin having his invite cancelled?

CIOBO:

You know, this a tragic situation in the sense that we saw Australians that were killed, of course, in MH17. The tragedy of that, in terms of Australian loss of life, but also others, in terms of the Netherlands and other countries, weighs heavily on our minds. Ultimately, it's very clear that Russia was behind the downing of that airline. We also know that Russia is being very aggressive with respect to the Ukraine. We want to make sure that we take a good, long look at this. A lot of Australians would be affronted by Vladimir Putin's efforts.

But look, this isn't solely a decision for the Australian government. It's the G20, it's all of the 20 nations around the world that are looking at this. Ultimately, there's a collective decision to be made here. We, of course, will canvass the views of other world leaders in relation to that. As a government, we certainly understand that a lot of Australians feel very raw about this, and we're very sensitive to that.

GILBERT:

The opposition leader made some comments on this issue this morning. Let's have a listen to Bill Shorten on that.

SHORTEN:

I understand that the G20 is an international event. It's not a simple matter of just saying yes or no to Putin. I don't want to meet Putin. I've got no time for what he's done, but that I get that the government has got to work through the issues. Am I 100 per cent about this matter? No, but I'm 90 per cent about what I think about Putin and whether or not he should come to Australia.

GILBERT:

Bill Shorten on that matter this morning. Brendan O’Connor, Labor clearly doesn't want Putin here but concedes that you've got to go through the international diplomacy to make that happen.

O’CONNOR:

Yeah. It's the meeting of the top 20 economies around the world. There's a collegiate decision-making process that has to take place. But clearly, given the conduct of Mr Putin and his government in relation to the tragedy of the Malaysian carrier that went down with so many Australians on board, and others, we want to send the strongest possible message. I think Bill Shorten has outlined that. That we want to see sanctions increased. That we want to see a very strong message sent by the international community. Therefore, we support the government in ensuring that he gets the message. That is, Mr Putin gets the message. I think one way to do that, of course, was for that meeting not to involve Mr Putin.

GILBERT:

Gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break on AM Agenda. When we return, we're going to look at domestic politics. The ongoing debate around the budget and its various measures. Stay with us.

This is AM Agenda. Thanks for your company with me this morning. Steve Ciobo and Brendan O’Connor. Gentlemen, I want to look to domestic politics now. This issue of the super guarantee. This morning, Bill Shorten, at his news conference, made some comments in basically saying that the Treasurer has now got all the power to decide when and if people get an increase in the Superannuation rates. I'll play that comment for you in a moment but first, Steve Ciobo, is that true? Is the government planning to delay the increase in the Superannuation Guarantee further?

CIOBO:

Not beyond what we've announced, but let's be clear on what this legislation is about. This legislation is actually the repeal of the Mining Tax. Something that we took to the last election, something that we have a clear mandate from the Australian people on. It really is at the epicentre of Labor's failed economic management of this country. The Mining Tax had about $16 or $17 billion of expenditure associated with it, and it raised half of one percent of the forecast revenues.

GILBERT:

Sure, but why should the Treasurer have the power to decide himself when people get as super increase? Why shouldn't it be legislated? Because there is a change here in this bill now.

CIOBO:

You know, Kieran, the reality is in this Parliament that we've got to deal with a Senate crossbench. I think it's important that we have certainty for business. I think it's important that businesses understand well in advance of time about what's going to be taking place, and that those provisions will provide business certainty, but it's only one aspect. The much more important aspect of this is our attempts to repeal the Mining Tax to make Australia competitive. To start breaking away from Labor's foul track record, where we're borrowing a billion dollars a month just to pay the interest on the debt that Labor accumulated.

GILBERT:

Can you give a commitment the government won't push back beyond 2022 the super guarantee increase?

CIOBO:

The legislation is about trying to achieve the repeal of the mining ax. We're having conversations-

GILBERT:

You can't give that can you, because why else would you put that in the bill?

CIOBO:

You're asking me to predict what the Parliament is going to do. What I'm saying to you is that what we want to do is one: provide business certainty and two: actually repeal the Mining Tax, something that we said we'd do before the election and which the Labor Party keeps blocking on this on.

GILBERT:

Sure. If you want certainty for business, why not legislate the increase? Just simply legislate the increase? Okay, it's going to go there, 12 percent by 2022, as you said before the election?

CIOBO:

Because we're having conversation with the Senate.

GILBERT:

You need more savings.

CIOBO:

About whether or not we can repeal the Mining Tax. We have a mandate to do that. The Labor Party keep blocking us in our attempts. The Labor Party want to ensure that $16 or $17 billion of expenditures stays there. I can't predict what the Parliament is going to do, but what I can say is that we want to provide business certainty, and we want the Mining Tax gone.

GILBERT:

All right. Let's play you a little bit of what Bill Shorten had to say on this issue this morning.

SHORTEN:

This is a massive election promise breach. I've got with me a quote that Tony Abbott said a year ago today. He said, and I quote, "I expect people to be very harsh a new government that doesn't keep its commitments."

GILBERT:

Now, Bill Shorten on that issue this morning. Brendan O’Connor, Steve Ciobo makes the point that if you're going to get rid of the mining ax, you've got to get rid of some of the things that it's going to fund surely the government is within its rights to look at other areas to make savings.

O’CONNOR:

Well, a year ago today, just before the election, the Prime Minister, I think for the 14th time made clear that he was not going to attach the increases to superannuation for 8 million Australian workers. This bill, introduced yesterday, in fact by Steven, without even a second reading speech, I might add, will actually effectively delay these superannuation payments to possibly 2034, 20 years. A generation of workers losing tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in super.

Of all the promises that have been broken, I have to say this equals the very worst. I think the government has to change its position, because otherwise this is a smash and grab. Stealing, effectively out of the pockets of workers, money that they were told they would have prior to the election. A huge broken promise by the Prime Minister and today's the anniversary of the last time he said that.

GILBERT:

But they're not making any change to the inaudible

O’CONNOR:

They're delaying. They said before the election that they would support the then Labor government's position on having the 12 percent arrived at 2019. Then after the election, they said they were going to delay it a year. Now they have the possibility, through the Treasurer's own actions and antics, to delay this to 2034. This is a huge theft by the government into the pockets of over eight million Australian workers. It is something that the government should not continue. It's another outrageous lie by the Prime Minister.

GILBERT:

Okay. Well, Steve Ciobo, you can respond.

CIOBO:

Brendan is just being ridiculous. The fact is that there is nothing that's changed at this point in time. What we've got is legislation that's trying to put through the Mining Tax, and we're trying to provide business certainty.

O’CONNOR:

- certainty for eight million workers.

CIOBO:

Labor is massively overcooking the egg on this. He's running around saying there's going to be no super. Let's be clear. Labor is saying, "No Superannuation increase until 2034." Preposterous, absolutely rubbish, completely false, untrue. What we're trying to do is put in place a framework that enables us to repeal the Mining Tax. Frankly, if Labor actually manned up and got out of the way and stopped repealing something that the electorate never voted for that would be a better outcome...

O’CONNOR:

Kieran, the Liberals have never voted for superannuation. Never..

GILBERT:

Well, you could have a delay in it. You're saying there won't be any increase. That's not what Labor's saying. Labor is saying you could delay the increase to 12 percent by-

O’CONNOR:

GILBERT:

By 15 years. Is that true or not?

CIOBO:

The legislation is about trying to provide business certainty by saying we don't have to keep coming back to the Parliament every time. That's what this is about saying we don't want to have back to the parliament everytime…

GILBERT:

Why don't you just legislate the increases, then?

CIOBO:

Because the bill that we're putting through at the moment is a bill to repeal the Mining Tax. We want the Mining Tax gone. We've got a mandate for it. It's got $16 or $17 billion of borrowed money associated with it, and the Labor Party should get out of the way on this particular issue.

O’CONNOR:

Kieran, we had the spectacle yesterday of Steven himself as Parliamentary Secretary moving the second reading bill without even giving a speech to explain the intent of the legislation. I mean, it's a shambles. This government is dysfunctional and dishonest. It has stolen, effectively, money from workers. It promised before the election, the Prime Minister promised on this day a year ago, that there would be no change to that Superannuation increase over that period. And now, this impact will be the greatest economic impact, if it was allowed to proceed on Australian workers than anything inside the budget.

GILBERT:

Do you accept that the government had the mandate to remove the Mining Tax, and if they can't-

O’CONNOR:

But they promised. They gave assurance…

GILBERT:

Find savings elsewhere, surely they've got to find them somewhere, don't they?

O’CONNOR:

They put the gun to the head to eight million workers, effectively, that they promised they would not touch. Remember, this party, the Liberal Party, has never once ever supported super for workers in this country. Not once. But the Prime Minister said he was going to commit to this and honour this deal, and yesterday's legislation enables the Treasurer to push this back so that a whole generation of workers will not be receiving this money, if the Treasurer has his way.

GILBERT:

I guess the question comes down to why should the Treasurer have the power entirely within his portfolio? Why not have the Parliament decide?

O’CONNOR:

Who would trust him, honestly?

CIOBO:

Because, Kieran, what we're going to see is that once again, the Labor Party is being Chicken Little; running around saying eight and a half million workers are going to be robbed. I mean, for goodness' sake…

O’CONNOR:

Why not honour your promise?

CIOBO:

Why doesn't the Labor Party actually mature up a little bit?

O’CONNOR:

Just honour the election process.

CIOBO:

Why don't they stop running the mother of all scare campaigns? Why don't they actually focus on what we're trying to do here, which is repeal the Mining Tax.

O’CONNOR:

Smash and grab.

CIOBO:

That isn't raising any revenue. That's actually costing $16 or $17 billion. We've got a mandate to repeal it. The only people that are preventing at the moment is the Australian Labor Party. So I’d say to Labor: grow up, stop being alarmists, actually recognize that we're trying to provide better certainty not only for businesses, but for workers. Because at the end of the day, that Superannuation Guarantee, especially for minimum wage earners, is paid by business for workers. So in that respect, providing certainly to them and not having to come back to the Parliament each time is going to make a difference.

GILBERT:

And if some promises have to be amended, they have to be amended.

CIOBO:

Absolutely not. That's not what part of our focus is.

O’CONNOR:

You've just done that.

CIOBO:

What we're trying to do, as I said, is put in place a framework that provides certainty to business. We can't rely on the Australian Labor Party to respect our mandate.

O’CONNOR:

Eight million workers will miss out as a result.

CIOBO:

We can't rely on the crossbench, and so we need to make sure that we take maximum-

GILBERT:

I guess Labor has got to also accept some accountability. If they've got the mandate to remove the Mining Tax, they're going to have to find savings somewhere. You're blocking everything.

O’CONNOR:

This is the Treasurer who said, well let me explain-

GILBERT:

You're blocking everything, including the savings you put up yourself.

O’CONNOR:

Let's explain the Treasurer's position. He said this tax was no good because it doesn't collect revenue. Now it's saying because he's repealing something that was not collecting revenue, he's got to steal money from workers? It doesn't make any sense. You can't on one hand argue that the tax does not collect revenue.

CIOBO:

What are you talking about, stealing money off workers?

O’CONNOR:

But on the other, move back the superannuation dates, which will deprive a generation of workers-

GILBERT:

This worked for the dole, a story. Front page of, not the work for the, the wait for the dole. The front page of The Australian, Patricia Karvelas reporting that unemployed people under 30 would face a shorter wait for the NewStart Allowance. Is there a concession in government that you're not going to get that six month wait through, that you'll have to amend that?

CIOBO:

We continue to have mature conversations with the crossbench. We can't have them with the Australian Labor Party for exactly the reasons that people have seen this morning. Brendan's hyperventilating, going in red in the face, and saying how money's being stolen off workers. It's completely false, it's completely rubbish. What we're trying to do is negotiate in a mature way with the crossbench to try to bring about the structural reform this country needs to make it sustainable. We can't continue borrowing a billion dollars a month just to pay the interest on the debt that Labor accumulated. We need to make change. We can make small changes now, or we'll have to make very severe changes down the track…

GILBERT:

Is there a concession in the government that the six months proposal unveiled in the budget is not going to fly?

CIOBO:

You know, we're going to continue having conversations with the crossbench, Kieran.

O’CONNOR:

The answer is yes.

CIOBO:

I think it's unrealistic to expect that we'd be providing commentary on every single idea that's floated by some person or the other. What we want to do is make sure we secure passage of the last few remaining structural reforms that we're attempting to make in the budget. We want to do that with the support of the crossbench because frankly, the Australian Labor Party will sacrifice the national interest in the name of short term political populism and short term political opportunism by Bill Shorten and his Labor colleagues.

GILBERT:

If the government can get this deal through, obviously Labor is not going to compromise at all on it. Why should the people wait?

O’CONNOR:

We didn't believe that people under the age of 30 who look for work each day, every day, every week, every month  for those six months, receive no support. That's the end of mutual obligation. For that reason, we couldn't support that. I'm not surprised the crossbenchers don't support it either. That's why the government will have to backflip. I mean, it's as silly and as absurd as the 40 job applications that had to put in every month, which they've also backflipped on. Bad policy doesn't survive.

GILBERT:

All right, gentlemen, thank you. Brendan O’Connor, Steve Ciobo. Have a good day. A quick break on AM Agenda, back in just a moment.