22 September 2014
Transcript - #2014031, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC NewsRadio

BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, good morning.

CIOBO:

Good morning.

BENSON:

This is going to be quite a different Parliament that you're going to today, where there were civilian guards previously, there will be armed Federal Police. The Ministerial wing will be isolated, passes restricted. Quite maybe an oppressive feeling.

CIOBO:

Well I'm not sure it will be… I would describe it as being oppressive. Certainly there's a changed climate with the increase in the threat level and reports of there being chatter around Parliament House, but look, Marius, I'm not sure on the other level that it's changed all that much. We've known that Australia has been a target for terrorists for a long time. We've had intelligence sources that work with our intelligence agencies who’ve indicated that there has been unfortunately, a threat in Australia for a long period of time now. We go right back to threats against Australians, which ultimately climaxed with the Bali bombings, even pre-Iraq war. So, we know that it's been around for some time, and unfortunately, measures taken at Parliament house reflect the risk today.

BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, the approach politically on security issues is pretty much bipartisan, a different approach on economic issues. The budget has been highly partisan, the debate on it. Are you now in a mood for new compromises from the Government side?

CIOBO:

Well, the Government remains committed to try to bring about the reforms that we believe are in Australia's long term interest. The fact is that we cannot continue with the kind of the policy approach that Labor had which saw us borrowing huge amounts of money and running very large deficits. So we remain...

BENSON:

To bring it to the specifics that are under discussion now. Is the Government, as is being reported, now prepared to drop, for example, some of the proposed changes to pensions?

CIOBO:

Well Marius, as you’ve indicated, that we remain committed to try to bring about reform. We've outlined reforms that we believe to be in Australia's long term national economic interest, and therefore in the interest of all Australians. Ultimately, the shape and form of any compromises that might be reached, we'll have to see. We continue discussions with responsible cross-party Senators. We continue discussions with the opposition. The opposition, unfortunately have dealt themselves out of most of this. They haven't been willing to engage constructively with the Government to put the national interests first. We want to make sure that reform goes through.

BENSON:

Can I take you to some of those specific measures? Say unemployment measures, where the under 30s would be, under your proposal, receive no dole for six months, is that now being abandoned?

CIOBO:

You're asking me to comment on specific discussions and specific measures. I'm not in a position to do that. Clearly, the Government has outlined the reforms that we would like to see move through the Parliament. They are in the national interest. They are part of making Australia live in a sustainable way. Now I'm not going to provide a running commentary on which measures are in and which measures are out. We've indicated what we would like. We'll continue discussing in a constructive way though with the crossbench Senators and others about these initiatives, because we do, of course, want to get reform through.

BENSON:

Okay, taking the specific measures out of the consideration, what about the general proposition that the measure that the measurers… suggest that the Government is prepared to compromise on a total of about $9 billion dollars. You're dealing with a budget of what? $400 billion dollars? Is that a price worth paying to get things through the Senate?

CIOBO:

I've seen that report and all I can really say in response to that report is don’t believe everything you read.

BENSON:

What? Is $9 billion wrong?

CIOBO:

Well, as I've said, I've seen the report. I wouldn’t believe every aspect of the reports that have been published, but that doesn't in any way, compromise the fact that we, of course, are willing to negotiate in a mature and constructive way with the cross-bench, but certainly in response to that particular report, as I said, I wouldn’t believe everything you read.

BENSON:

Let me ask you about economic reforms in general that any government when it comes to any election wants to ask the voters if they think they're better off than they were when that government was elected, economically specifically. In terms of wages at the moment, wages are flat or going down. Things are getting worse on your watch.

CIOBO:

Well, Marius, it's simply a factor of there being a lag effect between when policies are put in place and when they take effect. The notion that in some way, the decision taken today has immediate effect, of course, is not the case.

BENSON:

You've been there 12 months.

CIOBO:

Look, and yes, we have been here 12 months, but the fact is that the policy framework that's been put in place by the previous Labor Government who were in power for six years, who completely changed industrial relation policy, and completely changed a large number of economic variables, has a long term lag effect. We can't undo all of Labor's damage in 12 months. I know that people would like us to, but unfortunately it takes longer than that. What’s more, we're, in some respects, trying to fight this issue with one hand tied behind our back, because the Labor Party continues to ignore the mandate that we've been provided by the Australian people in terms of the economic reforms we're trying to put through to Parliament.

BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, thank you very much.

CIOBO:

It's a pleasure.