Transcript - Sky News Interview - Wednesday 31 May

SUBJECTS: One Nation; Duncan Lewis comments, Budget, Gonski funding, Coalition Agreement


DAVID SPEERS: Now we will bring in our team, Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon and Craig Laundy. Their titles should appear there on the screen. Thank you both very much for joining us this afternoon. I just want to start with what must be a little bit of relief for the Government Craig Laundy – the threat from One Nation.  [inaudible] on a lot of Budget Bills this morning was we are not going to vote for these unless you slash the ABC funding by $600 million.  This was Brian Burston -  he said we will reject all bills associated with the Budget, as well as the media changes, if the broadcaster’s $1 billion a year funding was not cut by $600 million over the forward estimates.  He was upset about the broadcaster’s unfair treatment of One Nation but just this afternoon, in the last hour, Pauline Hanson has issued this – slashing ABC funding will not be the most crucial component of ensuring One Nation’s support for the Government’s Budget – the people want One Nation to deal with all legislation on its merits and the Government’s Budget will be no different. Whew. That’s a relief? You do need them.

CRAIG LAUNDY:  Well another example that they are the Rock of Gibraltar – One Nation. Rock steady.  Steady as you go.

DAVID SPEERS:  It is quite a shift I suppose in the course of a day.  Did someone have a quiet word?

LAUNDY:  I don’t know. I think you just play each ball on its merits.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Surely the real concern here is at some point at least, One Nation thought there was enough flexibility in the Government, enough  - that the Government may have agreed.

CRAIG LAUNDY:  Joel you are deadset, talk about over-reach.  You are on a different pitch.  What are you doing?

SPEERS:  Before we get into too much biffo we should point out the two of you are on the same team – the ties.  But that may not be where the unity ends today – what do you think about this whole issue: the link between refugees and terrorism.  Duncan Lewis the ASIO boss clarified the comments he made to Pauline Hanson the other night in Senate Estimates.  Do you think the comments he made the other night weren’t entirely accurate or detailed enough?  Craig Laundy, what did make of it?

LAUNDY:  Look I am glad they are out there talking, I mean you look – and now I am going to jump from one to the other here.  You look at Commissioner Colvin today.  He used a line, and it is the best explanation, this is best explanation I have heard from a senior policing or intelligence officer and I wrote it down.  The desire to lurch to an absolute whereas the world that ASIO and the AFP work in is far more nuanced than that.  That was the answer to one of the general questions.  The problem is unbelievably nuanced and you have got commentators and Members of Parliament and the broader community thinking that there are absolute solutions. Where do you draw the line?

SPEERS:  But wasn’t Duncan Lewis guilty of an absolute as well when he answered Pauline Hanson by saying there was no evidence of a connection between refugees and terrorism?

LAUNDY:  But how far back do you want to go David? 

SPEERS:  Two or three years?

LAUNDY: No we are talking about first and second generation.  Commissioner Colvin, again today, said the overwhelming majority are first and second generation Australian born.  Now how are we going to know, 30, 40 years on that this problem would materialise today?

SPEERS:  But we are not talking 30 – 40 years.  We are talking about Man Haron Monis We are talking about Haider We are talking about people who have come in, who have become refugees relatively recently .

FITZGIBBON:  I have enormous respect for Duncan Lewis, I worked with him when I was Defence Minister – I will back absolutely what he said.  Which person is most likely to be radicalised – someone who has fled persecution and understands the challenges of that environment or someone who was born in Sydney but has been marginalised for some reason.  Which one do you think is most vulnerable to radicalisation?  I think it is the second, the latter.  I think that is what Duncan Lewis was saying.  Pauline Hanson was clearly trying to stir community concern by suggesting that if you come in as a refugee you are more likely to be a terrorist and I thought Duncan Lewis gave the appropriate and accurate answer.

SPEERS: What, on Thursday night do you think? You don’t think he should have said:  look there are clearly some cases where refugees -

FITZGIBBON: Yes, he could have said it was possible for a refugee to become a terrorist -

SPEERS:  There is overwhelming  - .

FITZGIBBON:  There is no link to suggest they are more likely –

SPEERS:  Which is the point he made today.  Surely you do need to be careful or you are seen to be hiding something, sweeping it under the bed?

FITZGIBBON: I think Duncan Lewis was trying to, at least I hope he was trying, not to give fear to Pauline Hanson -

SPEERS: I am sure that was what he was doing. 

FITZGIBBON: To strike fear in the community -

LAUNDY: ASIO and the AFP are actively engaging in the front lines with community and community leaders.  That valuable intelligence in those communities, and the reason they keep asking for social cohesion – working together, no us and them, just us.  Unless you build that cooperation because the most valuable intelligence quite often comes from the community and that is the reality of it. 

SPEERS:  But back to this point, you need to be accurate don’t you? You need to show that ASIO is - 

FITZGIBBON: And imagine if Duncan in someway said – yeah, yeah we have got evidence of that link – and what would the media have done with that? I mean these are difficult questions to be asked, when you are the boss of ASIO, asked in front of the television cameras – you must understand you have got to be pretty careful.

SPEERS: Let me ask both of you what would you say to the question - is there a link between refugees and terrorism?  Craig Laundy what answer would you give?

LAUNDY: I would say that the problem is extremely complex and you cannot draw absolutes out of it.  You can’t. 

SPEERS:  That is not a bad answer.

LAUNDY:  Each case you have got to look at on its merits.  You have got to understand the contributing factors.  The key is that we learn.  Duncan and Commissioner Colvin, they have stopped 12 attacks.  12 imminent attacks.  Their systems are obviously working.  We need to support what they are saying.  And what they are saying is that they need to actively engage broadly in the wider community.  They need to build those relationships.

SPEERS:  But you didn’t say what he said – that there is no evidence of a connection?

FITZGIBBON: What we are talking about is not a causal link.  The point I made is that someone fleeing radical Islam for example is not likely to turn terrorist on behalf of radical Islam.  I think he is talking about the causal link and again he could have said it was possible for a refugee to become a terrorist but it is just as likely, more likely, that someone born here in Australia to become a terrorist.

SPEERS:  Just away from the ASIO boss.  The debate that we have seen over the last week over the call out powers, whether Defence should be brought in early, I am just keen, particularly as a former Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, what are your thoughts on when Defence should be brought in.

FITZGIBBON:  I listened very carefully to watch Andrew Hastie had to say on your program and I agree with him.  As I said to you last week, I don’t want to reflect in any way on the capacity of the police, they are too well trained and I respect them and have confidence in them but I believe the options should be there.  I do believe if there are any barriers to the capacity of whoever is in charge to calling in TAG East the special forces then those hurdles  - if the barrier is there – the barrier should be lowered.  The opportunity should be there.

SPEERS:  Andrew Colvin’s point today was a good one too.  I mean the Lindt café siege was different situation but most terrorist situations sadly are over in 10 or 15 minutes.  Mass killing.  And to call in Defence requires a bit more time than that.

FITZGIBBON:   True but TAG East is in South West of Sydney for example and the SAS are on the fringes of Perth so they are not always remote from the incident.  Now if it was in Melbourne or Brisbane they would be different circumstances but obviously the police are the first option but why not have the capacity to call others in if you believe it is going to be helpful.

SPEERS: Let’s get into this Budget debate which is still going on about who is fair and what’s unfair and whether the Government is protecting millionaires at the expense of the workers and so on. In fact here was a little of Chris Bowen putting his question to the Prime Minister this afternoon.

BOWEN: Prime Minister, how many Australians earning $60,000 will have to pay more tax so that the Prime Minister can give a single millionaire a tax cut of $16,400?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: He left the parents of disabled children without the certainty of knowing that their kids will be looked after in the future. We are addressing it and making sure it’s paid for. He should stop the politics and get on with the job of being responsible for defending the most vulnerable people in Australia. That’s what we are doing 

SPEERS: Now Craig Laundy, the Labor Party’s main concern is that you’re taking the Deficit Levy off those earning more than $180 grand a year. Why are you taking it off?

LAUNDY: We’re not taking it off. It finishes. That’s how it was legislated.

SPEERS: You could keep it though.

LAUNDY: We have a conscious decision that 47.5 cents in the dollar as the top marginal tax rate keeping in mind in the top 3 per cent of tax payers pay 30 per cent of the overall tax taken in this country. Our system is progressive. Always has been since the 1900s, since Federation. That’s where the equity lies. It’s the same argument on the Medicare Levy because it applies progressively.

SPEERS: But you have had it at 49 per cent. The last three years you’ve been happy to have it 49 per cent.

LAUNDY: We put a Bill in place at the time in the 2014 Budget with an end date on it and the Opposition opposed this originally and ended up voting for it but didn’t think it was a good idea originally. They changed their tune and they have subsequently changed their tune again.

SPEERS: But you called it the Deficit Levy we are still in deficit and quite significantly so why is it going?

LAUNDY: David we have also given tax cuts to those in the second to middle tax breaks taking it from 80 to $87,000 and kept 500,000 middle income earners, we are insistent that where we can, we want to lower tax.

SPEERS: So on Labor’s point though. Someone on $50-60 grand they have none of that and now they are going to have to pay more.

LAUNDY: They also get lower tax rates to start with. If you are on 60 grand, you pay $11,000 in tax. The millionaire you are talking about pays $444,000 that’s the progressive nature of our tax system.

SPEERS: That has always been the case, what has your Government done for them?

LAUNDY: That’s right and it’s fair.

SPEERS: For someone on 50-60 grand they didn’t get a tax cut and now they are getting a tax increase.

LAUNDY: We let them keep the tax free threshold at $18,200 when we got rid of the carbon tax when it should have gone down to $6000. I know the tax free threshold unlike the Shadow Treasurer.

FITZGIBBON: It was a Labor initiative right?

LAUNDY: Well no, yes. The tax was up but we got rid of the tax and we kept the tax free threshold Joel.

FITZGIBBON: Do you really want wages growth not keeping pace with inflation. Do you really want to have that?

LAUNDY: Well that was a discussion we are talking about tax cuts.

SPEERS: Well the Government’s point about the top rate being 49.5 per cent, Paul Keating says wow, that is way too high.

FITZGIBBON: He wouldn’t have it there David. But that is the Budgetary environment, the economic environment which we face. No matter how hard Craig tries, you can’t justify getting rid of the Deficit Levy at the top and raising taxes for people down the bottom. If he would have been listening in Question Time he would have heard Jenny Macklin talking about effective marginal tax rates for women below average incomes at 100 per cent. 100 per cent effective marginal tax rate and they want to claim it’s a fair Budget?

SPEERS: To Craig’s point, Labor was all over the shop on this Deficit Levy when it first came in and now you are adamant that it has to stay. Labor originally was happy for the Medicare Levy to help fund the NDIS and now you’re not so sure. It’s hardly consistent.

FITZGIBBON: Every decision is taken on the content of the environment of the day. Craig loves to go back, but they have been in Government for four years now David. Debt and deficit that’s all they spoke about prior to the election and you never hear them talk about it anymore.

LAUNDY: We’ll be back in surplus by 2021.

FITZGIBBON: Yeah, yeah I have seen some of those assumptions Craig. Look the priorities are all wrong, they must know that. I saw the Prime Minister doubling down on his position on CEDA this morning. It’s just crazy stuff. The polls are telling the story and people know this is an unfair budget and an unfair approach. They will continue to mark the Government down.

SPEERS: On school funding too, Labor keeps saying funding is being cut. We have a graph we were showing earlier we might bring up from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

LAUNDY: Let me guess, it’s going up.

SPEERS: School funding goes up.

FITZGIBBON: It’s kindergarten mathematics David. Every year school funding goes up. Imagine if it didn’t there is a thing called inflation for a start school populations grow so it has go up. So yes it will go up. It won’t go up as far as the Gonski review demanded.

SPEERS: It’s not being cut.

FITZGIBBON: It’s being cut.

SPEERS: But you said it’s going up?

LAUNDY: Joel please you’re sounding like the kindergarten mathematician.

FITZGIBBON: The Gonski Budget model we left in place, you’d get an additional $22 billion over the decade.

SPEERS: But do you agree, compared to last year’s budget, funding is going up?

FITZGIBBON: There will be $22 billion less than what would have been the case if they hadn’t changed our model.

SPEERS: You just said it is going up.

FITZGIBBON: School education funding is going up every year but it is being cut from what Gonski demanded was needed to give our schools the capacity to give our children every chance in life.

LAUNDY: Gonski didn’t demand any of that Joel, you came up with a platform. He demanded needs based funding an you came up with 27 different deals. He demanded needs-based funding and you came up with 27, you bastardised it and we are fixing it up.

FITZGIBBON: Do you want me to get the abacus out?

LAUNDY: Kindergarten maths.

SPEERS: It might be a cut on what would have happened had you won the 2013 election and 2016 election and still gone with the plans you announced back in Government, but that is a long time ago, more than two elections ago.

LAUNDY: Plus, the hand grenade in it was the forward estimates, the way we budget in this country you have the budget year plus three years out, they put all of the spending outside those four years in year five and six and wouldn’t answer the questions and like the NDIS said, oh it’s funded.

FITZGIBBON: If you look at the outcomes of your budget strategy compared to ours over four years, you’re taxing model raises a few hundred million more, but over ten years, ours raises $4 billion more. We have shown you how you can deal with the budget deficit while remaining fair to the constituents.

LAUNDY: We are back in surplus by 2021 mate. We are back in surplus by 2021.

SPEERS: Let me finish on this one for you Joel Fitzgibbon. You’re still keen on the details of the Coalition Agreement that was struck between Malcolm Turnbull when he became Prime Minister, was it Warren Truss or Barnaby Joyce?

FITZGIBBON: I’m most interested in what they have done after Malcolm Turnbull executed Tony Abbott because you will recall Barnaby protested very loudly and didn’t like it and then suddenly…

SPEERS: You’re wanting to take this all the way to the Federal Court.

FITZGIBBON: I am in the Federal Court this week. I took action under Freedom of Information. Government lined the lawyers up using your money taxpayers money. We were frustrated in the AAT. It was my lawyers’ advice that we should skip it and go straight to the Federal Court and Malcolm Turnbull is spending big money paying lawyers to deny the Australian people a copy of that document.

SPEERS: What do you reckon is in there?

FITZGIBBON: Why did Barnaby Joyce protest at having Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister but the day later he said, that’s okay now, we have a new Coalition Agreement. So the Australian people are entitled to know, what deals were done, remembering the Labor Party is the biggest party in the Parliament. Malcolm Turnbull only governs because of an arrangement he has with the Nationals. It’s fundamental to our democracy that people should be able to know what is in that arrangement and I will keep fighting on the communities behalf. We will secure that document.

SPEERS: Would you have any problems with it being made public Craig Laundy?

LAUNDY: I don’t know a lot about the history and the precedent. I don’t know what is in it. Joel’s obsession with Barnaby can continue and he can see how it goes. The reality is that we are out there governing day in day out and focussing things that matter and I think this one is inside the belt.

FITZGIBBON: David just quickly, let them argue this is not a document of Government, but it is a document of the political parties, therefore not FOIable. If it is a document of a political party, why is the taxpayer spending probably hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more, keeping it hidden. It’s just outrageous.

SPEERS: We’ll see where it goes in the court. Joel Fitzgibbon and Craig Laundy.

LAUNDY: So outraged. Go Joel and go the Blues

SPEERS: Go the Blues indeed, I’m sure not everyone agrees with that sentiment, but thank you though, we’ll see how they go tonight.  


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.