SUBJECT/S:  Boat turn-backs; Public funding.

TIM WEBSTER: Before we get on to donating to political party election campaigns, I was really impressed with your comments about turn back the boats and saying look, you know it should be part of a tool kit and when you’re talking about something like that everything should be a part of a tool kit and you guys should try and be and I know it’s hard bipartisan as you can.

SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: Absolutely, and every tool in that kit that is contributing towards the current success in stopping the boats should be retained in my view. Look, it is true that regional processing set-up by the former Labor Government is the major contributor to the success we’ve had in recent times to stop that flow of boats.  But it’s all about the messaging to the criminal people smugglers. If you remove any part of that kit then you do risk sending the wrong signals. And to those who are concerned about turning boats back, those who see it as an inhumane concept, I simply say, well we are not turning the boats back because they are not coming and we don’t want them to come. There are better ways of dealing with the refugee problem. We don’t want people taking that very risky boat ride and we don’t want to send the signals to the people smugglers in any way, that there is a new opportunity or renewed opportunity for them.

WEBSTER: Yeah, … I’ve been saying to Mark Lister, it’s not just a problem for us it’s a massive international problem refugees and then you’ve got 800 people perishing at sea and it’s a big thing to deal with but 

FITZGIBBON:  [Interrupts] but every politician wants the same thing here. We don’t want money going into the pockets of people smugglers, we don’t want people jumping the que over others who are suffering in refugee camps, we certainly don’t want people dying at sea.  So we need to work together to come up with bipartisan solutions. I think together we have put in place a framework which is working - I say it together because as I said, the regional solution is the major contributor and that was an initiative of the former Labor Government. So within a sense we have worked together.  Let’s keep working together to ensure we have continued success. Let’s start looking more at how we work with the international community to stop the flow of people in the first place. In other words, lift out efforts in countries where all these problems exist.

WEBSTER: Oh yeah, now this idea of funding election campaigns and I spoke to Richo, I like talking to Richo he is another really clear figure and he said, and he is probably quite right, if the tax payers had to fund it would be far too expensive. Kerry Schott actually chaired a panel which you would know into the idea here in our State and concluded, look too expensive and possibly even unconstitutional. And you know the Labor Party has had donations from the unions for years and the Liberals from big business but then it gets murky doesn’t it when you talk about who is donating and why, so my idea was well, why not publically funded so can we come up with another model.   

FITZGIBBON: Well it is a complex area and I wouldn’t challenge Richo, he knows this stuff very well

WEBSTER: [Interrupts] backwards

FITZGIBBON: …but what we don’t want is the equivalent of a nuclear arms race in the form of a spending arms race. I’ve always found it a little bit crazy you know I raise $10,000 my opponent raises $10,000 and we are back to square one in a sense aren’t we?  So there are methods for capping the amount of money that is spent. I think currently, at the last federal election, the major political parties would have spent I suspect around $40 million each.  So you would have concluded then there is $80 million out of the tax payer’s purse and we didn’t get to the minor parties or independents. It’s not an insignificant amount of money but do we need to be spending $80 million to share with the community what are the key messages of the major parties or indeed the minor parties for that matter?  So there are all sorts of hybrid models you could apply and there are many of them around the world.  But I think there is a basic principal that we don’t want to be like the United States. We don’t want to open election to high office only to those who can afford to pay and we don’t want adverse influence from big corporations or wealthy people on our politicians.

WEBSTER:  Yeah, so, you touched on it there, and I have been saying it too maybe the model is to have less funding, and I mean I was half  joking when I said at least we wouldn’t see some of those dopey ads we see on television and hear on radio, maybe we fund campaigns with less money?  There’s an option.

FITZGIBBON: You have hit on something there Tim, I am sure owners of radio stations and television stations might not be so keen on

WEBSTER:  Yeah, they might not be too thrilled with me no [laughs]

FITZGIBBON: … spending less money on their networks. But we don’t need to be spending squillions of dollars worth of money on campaigns, particularly given the power of social media now, and indeed the capacity of people to raise money in small amounts from a much greater number of people. So you know you might be looking at a hybrid where you have got a level of public funding but also a capacity, as is the case in New South Wales now actually at the State level, there is still the capacity to raise money, but only very small amounts.  Of course Obama, famously in his first election raised a lot of money by securing small amounts from a lot of people.


FITZGIBBON:  I am not the expert here, this is very complex. Many a committee and expert has looked at this issue.  But what I don’t like is the idea of us just burying our head in the sand and sailing on the way we have been going.  By the way, I think that politics in Australia, particularly at the Federal level, is very, very clean.  I think there is very little evidence of corruption.  But, whether we like it or not, when people are tipping big dollars into the coffers of the political parties they do so with an expectation that they will be listened to and I am not sure that is a healthy thing for our democracy.

WEBSTER:  No it’s not and I’ve made the point and I don’t think the Americans are ever going to go away from it now, I think Hillary Clinton has raised this extraordinary amount of money, in just a few months, I think it is something like 45 or 50 million dollars.  So it is all well and good to say anyone can be the President of the United States, that may be true but you have got to have a stack of money to do it.

FITZGIBBON: Oh absolutely and we do not want to go down that path. It is true that more often than not we follow them in just about everything we do with a lag effect of about 10 years.  I don’t want that to happen. I want us to have a strong and healthy democracy that anyone can participate in and I do believe that it is time that we had another look at our model and I think that an over emphases on a requirement or a need to rely on big corporate funding is an unhealthy one.

WEBSTER: I agree with you, thanks for your time, good to talk to you.

FITZGIBBON: Ok, pleasure.   



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