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Early Agenda -

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ASHLEIGH GILLON: Welcome back to AM Agenda. Joining me here in the studio, the Labor Senator Mark
Arbib and the Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield.

Good morning to you both.

MARK ARBIB: Good morning.

MITCH FIFIELD: Good morning.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Senator Fifield let's start with you. We'll get you to respond to what Chris Evans
just had to say in that interview about the migration levels and needs for cuts. Would the
opposition like that to go further in the May Budget?

MITCH FIFIELD: Well, this is a review that we're been calling from since last year. I remember
Malcolm Turnbull being on the Allan Jones program asking for a review, Sharman Stone has been
consistent in saying that this needs to be reviewed in light of rising unemployment and a slower
economy so it's good that it has been reviewed. It should have happened before hand, but the
message that this sends is that the government is strongly of the belief that unemployment is going
to increase significantly. Now, we don't know just how high it's going to go, the government hasn't
been clear with us and with the Australian public and that's what the government needs to do is to
actually share all the information with us. Tell the Australian people just how high they think
unemployment is going to go.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Mark Arbib?

MARK ARBIB: Well, we've already seen the Treasurer predictions 7 per cent that's all we can go by,
you'll see the next lot of predictions come out with the May Budget so we have to wait for that.
But in terms of unemployment, obviously this is the main focus of the government fighting
unemployment. Today we heard from the minister, he's pulling one lever to restrict skilled
immigration, it's a sensible decision it's a moderate decision to actually ensure that Australians
get access to work. But it's not the only thing we're doing, the main focus obviously is the
stimulus package, $42 billion being rolled out, you've seen the first stimulus payments start going
out into the community, emergency payments just to get that money into the shops so people can keep
employees at work. But the next round starts rolling out almost immediately and that's
infrastructure, two thirds of the stimulus package is actually in infrastructure that means we are
going to be building rail lines, roads, schools and this is going to keep ...

MITCH FIFIELD: No new roads, no new rail lines just black spots.

MARK ARBIB: ... this is going to keep people in employed.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Senator Arbib, can I just ask you the minister pointed out clearly that these
migration level changes have been a direct result of the economic downturn trying to protect jobs.
If the government is willing to reconsider and rework policies like that, why won't it similarly be
open to reworking ETS policy, IR laws, looking at unfair dismissal claims and things like that as
well?

MARK ARBIB: Yes we think we have got the balance right, in terms of our work laws, we're providing
flexibilities for employers at the same time providing fairness for employees. In terms of climate
change we found a balance right in the middle and you have to remember we're getting attacked by
business on one side and green groups on the other side because we found a balance and these are
long term problems that we need to fix. Climate change is something that is not going to go away
and the economic costs of not dealing with climate change now will be felt for decades and
generations to come we are doing a responsible thing on climate change. In terms of WorkChoices, we
went into the last election and we said we would take action to get rid of WorkChoices and the
Australians voted for it. We are doing what we promised to do, the Coalition once again reverting
the form going back to WorkChoices.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Senator Fifield let's look at a couple of those points, ETS and IR. Firstly on the
IR is the opposition any clearer as to whether it will vote against the fair work bill if the
government ignores its amendments?

MITCH FIFIELD: Our position is crystal clear; the government is putting forward an industrial
relations package which will lead to increased unemployment. What we've put forward are six points
which we think will lead to a situation where this bill, this legislation will destroy fewer jobs
than will be the case.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: And you'll vote against that bill if those six points are ignored?

MITCH FIFIELD: I'm strongly of the view that if the government isn't reasonable, if the government
doesn't negotiate and they're showing no sign of negotiating, if they don't amend their package
along the lines that we have suggested, then it would be irresponsible to support legislation which
would destroy jobs.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well you seem to be taking a bit of a tougher stance on this than the opposition
leader Malcolm Turnbull.

MITCH FIFIELD: No no, I think that we all very much on the same page, we recognise that this
legislation is going to ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So you're expecting Malcolm Turnbull to vote against this package?

MITCH FIFIELD: ... we recognise this legislation is going to destroy jobs, what we're putting forward
with our six point amendment plan, are measures which will see this legislation destroy fewer jobs
than would otherwise be the case. I think Mark is onto something when he says that they've achieved
balance, they sure have on the one hand they've got a stimulus package which is supposedly going to
underpin employment, on the other hand whatever benefit might come from that stimulus package is
going to be completely counteracted by their industrial relations legislation and by their ETS
policy, so they're right they've got the balance. One lot of policies completely ...

MARK ARBIB: Come on.

MITCH FIFIELD: ... completely counteracts the other policies.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Mark Arbib's giggling here we need to let him have a say, I can tell [inaudible].

MARK ARBIB: Well, we've heard it first right here, WorkChoices is not dead, WorkChoices is back.
Mitch has said it right now they're going to vote against the legislation, it doesn't matter about
what we do, they're voting against it because in the end they are reverting to form, it's in their
DNA its something they believe in, Mitch has been calling out for it for months. Let's get back to
WorkChoices, when Peter Costello was asked what is your solution to the global recession, what
would you do differently, all he could come up with was going back to WorkChoices and we're hearing
it here again. So I say in this debate we will see the ...

MITCH FIFIELD: No no, not at all not at all, it's complete misrepresentation of our position,
complete misrepresentation.

MARK ARBIB: ... we will see the true colours of the Liberal party, you've posted today, you've put up
the flag now let's see if Malcolm follows it.

MITCH FIFIELD: Complete misrepresentation.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: It does seem like this stance, there has been quite a turn around. Malcolm
Turnbull seemed to acknowledge just a few months ago that the government had a mandate even in
terms of these unfair dismissal laws which now the opposition seems so firmly against.

MITCH FIFIELD: Look, we will let Labor's legislation through if they make these six amendments.
It's not an unreasonable thing, now Julia Gillard said that she is happy ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But these changes were flagged before the last election yes?

MITCH FIFIELD: Julia Gillard said that she's happy to negotiate as long as we agree with her, now
that's not negotiation. We've said that we will let this legislation through if these six very
modest, very reasonable amendments are made. We think that they make a lot of sense, it's going to
stop unions exercising too much power, it's going to deny unions the right to just barge into any
workplace, it's going to deny unions the right to look at non union members records and I think
Steve Fielding was spot on when he said that this legislation basically allows for union cops to
storm into workplaces. Now we don't think that is reasonable, even the Australian industry group
who are hardly big fans and supporters of the opposition in recent times, even they are saying that
this legislation is going too far, the government should pull it back to what they said at the
election. This legislation goes well beyond what the government undertook at the last election and
that's all we are asking for is for the government to be reasonable, for the government to
negotiate and for the government to look at the six points in which we're putting forward. That's
not an embrace of WorkChoices, what that is, is holding the government to account and saying to the
government, actually look at what you committed to at the election and not more.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: I just want to ask about the emission trading scheme, this is another big issue
that we are going to see more on of course in the next few weeks. But Malcolm Turnbull over the
weekend signalled that the opposition will vote against this, it doesn't really come as a surprise
but it now seems very unlikely the governments going to get this through, the Greens also saying
they'd rather vote against this ETS than for what they say is a flawed ETS?

MARK ARBIB: There is still a long way to go and we've got some Senate enquiries to have to go
through so there is a process in place but it is going to be difficult there is no doubt about it
and it's going to take a lot of negotiations.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: It almost seems impossible at this stage Mark.

MARK ARBIB: No well it's not impossible, there is a lot of negotiations to get through and we'll be
talking constructively to the Greens and obviously to the Independents. But on emissions trading
scheme, Malcolm Turnbull used to be a true believer on emissions trading scheme. When he was at the
last election running for Wentworth he was ETS, ETS it's the centrepiece of fighting climate
change. Now, given the pressure he's been under in his own caucus he's folded. I mean Mitch, you've
had a you, Peter Costello ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Is Malcolm Turnbull trying to prove he's a real Liberal as one of the newspapers
suggested on the weekend?

MARK ARBIB: ... you got a big victory Mitch you've got a big victory.

MITCH FIFIELD: Malcolm supported an ETS when he was environment minister he's still supports an
ETS. But he wants to see an ETS which gets it right, there's no need to have a mad rush it can wait
until 2012 and Malcolm wants to see a situation where we have a set of policies which actually
achieved the stated objective of reducing green house emissions that's what we want to do and if
you can reduce green house emissions by more than the government is intending to and do it at less
cost to the economy then why wouldn't you look at that, and that's what Malcolm's putting forward.
An ETS isn't the entire answer but it's part of the answer, Malcolm's put forward some other
measures in his green carbon initiative which will also see further reductions but the important
thing is not to get an ETS, the important thing is to get it right and that's what we think the
government should be doing. Take the time to get it right.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Some analysts and commentators suggested that Malcolm Turnbull's toughening up his
stance on ER, on the ETS all in the leadership context that Peter Costello sitting up on the back
bench with these very strong views and Malcolm Turnbull's trying to appear as strong if not
stronger to try to counteract that. This weekend we saw a poll in one of the weekend newspapers
showing that 28 out of 66 Liberal MPs are backing Mr Costello compared with only 21 expressing
their support for Mr Turnbull. Is it that the sort of idea that you have of numbers in the party at
the moment?

MITCH FIFIELD: That's ridiculous, we're no-one is looking at anything of that nature at all,
Malcolm is the leader and he was elected in the ballot, end of story.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well it's not really end of story Mitch Fifield, I know you'd like it to be the
end of the story but the speculation is continuing it's getting tiresome for all of us we'd all
agree but it is something that seems to be destabilising the party and when you have so many people
openly expressing their support for Mr Costello to journalists, ringing them around for an opinion
poll, it's not a good sign.

MITCH FIFIELD: Well, I never take part in pop quizzes or journalistic surveys, but we've got the
clear situation where as was indicated the day after the election, Peter Costello wasn't available
for the leadership, that's been confirmed at two subsequent leadership ballots, it remains the
case. Malcolm is our leader he's doing the job of keeping Kevin Rudd to account, he's doing the job
of keeping the focus on employment, he's doing the jobs of making clear that Labor have policies in
the ETS and industrial relations which are going to see jobs destroyed. We don't think jobs should
be destroyed, we think that government should revisit ETS, they should revisit their industrial
relations policy and take steps to make sure in this economic environment we do everything we can
to support jobs.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Mark Arbib, Labor's campaign technicians preparing to go to the next election
against Peter Costello over Malcolm Turnbull?

MARK ARBIB: No not all. I mean Malcolm Turnbull is a leader, that's who we're facing and that's who
we're preparing for in terms of it. In the end to me and I think to most people in the Labor party,
it doesn't matter whether it's Peter Costello, it doesn't matter whether it's Malcolm Turnbull ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, if it doesn't matter then why did the Prime Minister the Deputy Prime
Minister, the Finance Minister make such an attempt at targeting Peter Costello last week in
Question Time?

MARK ARBIB: Well, what I'm talking about is policy because in the end the policies are the same
between both men. I mean, Peter Costello supports WorkChoices now Malcolm Turnbull supports
WorkChoices. Peter Costello says we shouldn't act on climate change now Malcolm Turnbull says we
shouldn't act on climate change. Both the same positions, in end it's the ideology that's the
problem in the Liberal party. It's their policies that are the problem and until they get back to
actually finding solutions to the problems going forward, then really there's not going to be a
change. So It's doesn't matter whether it's Malcolm Turnbull or Peter Costello they're both the
same in my books and I mean from Mitch's perspective there is a huge, huge debate going on in the
Liberal party caucus and the reason why Malcolm Turnbull is moving further to the right pushing
aside his views on climate change, pushing aside his views on WorkChoices, is because he's a total
opportunist, he's worried about his short term political survival rather than the national interest
and that's a fact, we know it, you can't deny it and certainly that's what we're seeing day by day
...

MITCH FIFIELD: I deny it. I deny it.

MARK ARBIB: Are you one of the 28 who supported Costello?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: I don't think Mitch is going to get into this on the program. Unfortunately for us
we did see both Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull at a shop in Queensland yesterday to launch
respective campaigns for the Queensland election this weekend. Mitch Fifield how reflective will
that result be on the federal state of politics at the moment?

MITCH FIFIELD: Well, it's a long term Labor government, the predominant factors in the campaign are
state, it's a government that's run out of ideas, it's a government that can't even manage a clean
up of an oil spill.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So if Lawrence Bidwell does win this we are not going to see Malcolm Turnbull's
saying "this is a reflection on Kevin Rudd's leadership"?

MITCH FIFIELD: Look, it's predominantly going to be determined on state factors but at the same
time this is Kevin Rudd's home state, it's Wayne Swan's home state so you would think that Kevin
Rudd and Wayne Swan would give a bit of a lift to the Queensland Labor party, that there'd be a bit
of home town support for Kevin and Wayne's team. So although it will, predominantly on state
factors I would be pretty disappointed if I was a Queensland Prime Minister with a Queensland
Treasurer, to have a bad result there I think I'd take that to heart.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Mark Arbib what's your take on that?

MARK ARBIB: Well, Mitch is right it is going to be predominantly on state issues and that's what
the campaign is being fought on, I mean the only time you've seen Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull
has been at the campaign launch and that's just usual that the federal leaders turn up to launches,
they haven't been involved in the campaigns otherwise. The truth is and the polling is showing that
this is going to be an extremely close election, at the moment Lawrence Springborg and the LMP are
in front, so we are going to see a big swing to the Coalition there's no doubt now about that, the
Coalition is going to pick up a number of seats. Whether they pick up enough to win is the
question, Queensland is experiencing the full brunt of the global recession, their major exports to
China and India and obviously Japan have pretty much fallen through the floor, they're suffering at
the end of the mining boom and it's a very difficult election. This is a long term government
asking for a fifth successive term it is always going to be hard. But in the end, where this
campaign is going now is back onto jobs, because on one side you've got Anna Bligh the Premier
who's saying she will create one hundred thousand jobs, stimulate the economy, building
infrastructure ...

MITCH FIFIELD: Where are they going to come from?

MARK ARBIB: And Lawrence Springborg cut into a thousand jobs.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay we are running out of time just finally though those nude photographs we saw
of Pauline Hanson or perhaps not Pauline Hanson, she's now denying those photographs of her were
splashed over newspapers and the news all weekend, she's now looking at her legal options. David
Oldfield said something interesting though yesterday, he said that these sorts of photos could
actually help her campaign, portray her as a victim. Mark Arbib you're seen to be one of the
campaign gurus behind Labor's election win last year, is this something that I mean, as a woman it
seems like this is ridiculous that no woman would want these sorts of photos and wouldn't think
they would help her campaign at all, but what's your take on it?

MARK ARBIB: Yeah I would doubt that very much that she or someone in her campaign would do that, I
think this is something that really is unfortunate no-one likes to see it. I didn't like seeing it
on the front page of the paper and I'm sure she doesn't like seeing it either. She's got a family
and hopefully this will just go away and people can get back to the real issues of the campaign.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Mitch Fifield final word?

MITCH FIFIELD: I don't like anything that draws attention to Pauline Hanson, she was a negative and
destructive influence in federal parliament and I'd hope that she enjoys no success in this
election.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay Senators Mitch Fifield and Mark Arbib thanks for your time again.

MARK ARBIB: Thanks.

MITCH FIFIELD: Thankyou.