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ABC News Breakfast -

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ABC2 NEWS BREAKFAST

Interview with Virginia Trioli

FRIDAY, 6 February 2009

SUBJECTS: Economic Stimulus Package

TRIOLI: One person that would be hoping that the package is passed by Senators as soon as possible
is the Federal Small Business Craig Emerson and he joins us now from Canberra. Minister good
morning.

EMERSON: Good morning Virginia.

TRIOLI: Minister we've heard loud and clear from the Nationals and then the Liberal Senator this
morning. They're not going to pass this. They're going to vote it down as it is now next week so
what do you do now?

EMERSON: Well it's ironic isn't it? They want to have a lot of time to scrutinise it and then vote
against it. They already decided they were going to vote against it before they scrutinised it so I
don't quite get that. We'll push ahead with the package. It's very important for the employment of
Australians, for the future of Australia, that we get this package through and we get it through
without undue delay.

TRIOLI: Now how confident are you that you can do some sort of business with either Senator Nick
Xenophon or Steve Fielding or the Greens? What's happening behind the scenes with discussions
there?

EMERSON: It's early days yet but I would be very disappointed as I think all Australians would be
if any of those Senators stood between Australia getting this much needed stimulus in the wake of
the worst recession since the Great Depression and that package going forward. They would have to
explain that and look I'm quietly confident that when they have a bit of a look at it, they started
last night with Ken Henry the Treasury Secretary strongly endorsing the package then, you know, the
right position will prevail. We're absolutely sure that the Coalition is going to oppose it. They
call it a poor quality spend and I think that's a very bad reflection by them on the Australian
people, that the Australian people won't spend this wisely. I think it's an insult to the
Australian people and I would call on the Coalition to think again but our hopes now lie really
with the Greens and Senator Xenophon and also Senator Fielding.

TRIOLI: So you say you're quietly confident. Does that mean it will get through with some sort of
changes, some sort of amendment?

EMERSON: Look I don't know. The truth is I don't know. It's up to those Senators. There was a long
discussion last night - strong endorsement from Ken Henry the Secretary of the Treasury. And what's
the position of Julie Bishop? I mean she's the Dusty Springfield of Australian politics. She says
sit and wait and here she is (sings) "Wishin, and hopin and prayin and thinking". Honestly she
should be replaced as Shadow Treasurer and we see that Peter Costello now is positioning. I'm in
line of sight with Peter Costello in the Parliament and there is this procession of admirers going
up to Peter and going "oh great interview today on ABC, great interview on Lateline......

TRIOLI: ....oh you just love this re-emergence of Peter Costello don't you? This is manna from
heaven.

EMERSON: My understanding Virginia is that he gave a very strong speech in the party room and after
that speech was given the decision was taken to oppose the package. The question is who is the real
Leader of the Opposition here: the not-so-retiring Peter Costello or Malcolm Turnbull who has just
been told what to do by Peter Costello?

TRIOLI: Well, we'll leave aside Dusty Springfield who by the way had a very long and successful
career......

EMERSON: It might be quite different from Julie Bishop's I suspect.

TRIOLI: Well, time will tell. But look let's be frank here: all of this could have been avoided if
you'd only done the one thing Malcolm Turnbull has been calling for for months which is a little
bit of bipartisan consultation? If you'd have brought him into the tent. If you'd talk to him and
got some of his ideas hey presto you would have had your package through?

EMERSON: No that's not right. Absolutely not right with respect Virginia because Malcolm Turnbull
has occupied every position. When we announce an initiative, in this case comprehensive bank
guarantees, he says I absolutely support it, it's the right thing to do. Within a couple of days he
says it's a major policy blunder. When we announced the first stimulus package he says "that's the
way to go' and within a couple of days he was criticising each and every component of it. So,
Malcolm Turnbull is taking an each way bet at every opportunity so later he could look back and say
'I got that right, I got that right'. Well, if you've got every possible position you are always
able to look back and say I said that at that time. They are very very confused about what needs to
be done. Julie Bishop says nothing needs to be done; we just sit on our hands. Malcolm Turnbull
says there needs to be a stimulus package but not as big as Labor's. Yet they've got a
superannuation proposal there that the Commonwealth pay the superannuation obligations of small
businesses which over four years would be more than $40 billion which is bigger than our own
package, just that one measure. So what's the point in sitting down with a bloke who is putting his
personal interest each and every time ahead of the national interest?

TRIOLI: Just finally and in your portfolio specifically Minister Emerson, today in Canberra, a
number of organisations in town for the Prime Minister's forum discussing the implementation of
this package if it was to go through. Peter Strong from the Council of Small Business said his main
concern about this package, and he wants it to go through, but his main concern is implementation.
Now if you're lucky enough to get it through in one form or another, that's the challenge as to how
you get this money out. How you get it out efficiently and how it doesn't get locked up in some
bureaucratic process?

EMERSON: Look yeah we do. What we need to do is get the money out quickly. There are lots of
tradespeople who were fully employed even a few months ago who are waiting for this package. This
is a tradies plan. This is a plan for Australia's tradesmen and tradeswomen. All of those who work
on schools, work on installing insulation that Joe Hockey and others have criticised. The public
housing, 20,000 public housing dwellings, that's ready to go. The tradies are ready to do it.
What's standing between that work and the Government is the Coalition who are just saying well
we'll sit on our hands wishin' and hopin' and prayin'. Now that's not good enough.

TRIOLI: Craig Emerson I'm at least relieved you didn't sing it this time.

EMERSON: I could, one more time.

TRIOLI: No go away. Thanks for joining us this morning.

EMERSON: Thanks very much Virginia.