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Early Agenda -

View in ParlView

AM Agenda

9 September 2009

Kieran Gilbert: Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda. One government in Australia in recent times
has been slammed, ridiculed more than any other. Criticised as wasteful, incompetent and sometimes
worse, falling from scandal to scandal, it's widely been written off even though it's, well over a
year until that state's next election. Coming up on the program I'm going to be speaking to that
state's premier, the New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees. First though, on AM Agenda, our regular
Wednesday panel, good morning to Liberal MP, Liberal frontbencher Scott Morrison and Labor
Parliamentary Secretary Jason Clare. Gentlemen, good to see you both.

Jason Clare: Good morning, Kieran.

Scott Morrison: Good day, Kieran.

Kieran Gilbert: First of all, I want to ask you about the entitlements issue. It came to the fore
yesterday with the Auditor General report. Jason, is this long overdue the fact that the
government's doing this review into entitlements across the board?

Jason Clare: Well, I think there was an original review in 2001-02, 03-04 and then this. This
report shows that the system needs to fixed. The one big problem is that it's not clear for a lot
of Members of Parliament who want to make sure they do the right thing. They find the rules complex
and inconsistent. They want a clearer system. Scott said this before and I agree with you, mate,
that they set the rules, and we will work with them. Make them as clear as we possibly can and
that's what the government said it would do yesterday. So I think everyone will think that's a good

Kieran Gilbert: not everyone though. There are some MPs in your caucus apparently who were
complaining about it, in marginal seats saying they-you know, why get rid of this, we are in
government, we need it to be really ...

Jason Clare: The key concern that Members have is they've got questions about how the system works.
It's too complicated. You want to make sure that you are doing the right thing. The thing that will
get the Rudd government re-elected is not flyers in the letterbox, it's good policy. It's making
sure that we avoid a recession and keep people in work and that's the priority and the focus of the

Kieran Gilbert: Did this blow out under the Howard government? Did increased to a $150 000 a year
in terms of printing entitlements, and the Rudd government's halved it.

Scott Morrison: Well, all of these things are always done on a bipartisan basis whether in
government or opposition and the Coalition's working with the government on this and Jason and I
are new MPs. We want to make sure the rules are clear. We understand what we can and cannot do and
I know talking to colleagues on both sides of the chamber, everyone wants to do the right thing by
the entitlements and by the rules. The rule's been changed, we'll abide by those rules and I think
that's what the public expects.

Kieran Gilbert: Well, you don't want a situation arising where there is an incremental increase in
entitlements rather than the salary and the scrutiny decreases like in the United Kingdom where
people were using their entitlements for moats around castles.

Scott Morrison: Well, as I've said before, and I don't think we have a moat problem here but I
think it's important that people understand what the rules are and that there are clear
instructions about what can be done and what can't be done, and I think everybody is in good faith
wants to comply with those, has complied with them, wants to comply with them and you know, we'll
get on with the new rules.

Kieran Gilbert: You think everyone has?

Jason Clare: Yeah, I think so. People want certainty, they want clarity.

Kieran Gilbert: Across the board, there are no sort of, you know, bad eggs anyway in the place.

Jason Clare: Well, you know, the key issue here is making sure the rules here are simple and easy
to understand. That was MPs were talking about yesterday. Make sure that the rules are simple and
clear to understand and then you can abide by them.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay, women in combat. Greg Combet, the Defence Personnel Minister is suggesting
that women should take on frontline duties. Scott, your thoughts?

Scott Morrison: I think this is an incredibly serious issue, and I don't think you rush in to a
decision like this and I am a little concerned at the government's haste on this matter. I mean,
taking that decision has major operational implications and they need to be worked through. The
Defence Forces need to be listened to. There are very few countries around the world who do this. I
mean Israel is one of them but I don't think we are about to compare our situation to Israel. A
good colleague of mine, Stuart Robert has been, I mean he's the only person who served in the
infantry in the frontline and you know, he made some comments about this this morning and he says
this is-he's been out there, he knows what it's like. You don't take these decisions lightly. They
should proceed extremely cautiously and I certainly don't think there's any place for any agendas
in this debate. This is about national security. It's not about any other agenda and so it's
important that we focus on what's best for national security, not any political agenda.

Kieran Gilbert: Jason, your thoughts? It is a controversial issue and women, you know, across our
society now are accepted in every other job.

Jason Clare: Oh that's right, and look I agree with Scott that it's one you consult the military
on. It's an important decision to make but the fact is that only 13 per cent of the ADF are women
at the moment and I'm reflecting on the New South Wales Police Force, 26 per cent of the population
there are women, a very serious and dangerous job. Women at the moment do about 92 per cent of the
tasks in the ADF and I think what the Minister is talking about here is making sure we look at
physical capacity for the job. There are some tasks that women are prohibited from doing at the
moment. Let's make sure that the decisions are based on operational decisions like the one Scott's
talking about, but also let's have a good look at physical capacity.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay. We are just a few days away now from September 11. Of course it brings those
terrible thoughts back. Every year and today we are seeing on the front page of the Fairfax Press,
reports of problems with our port security, people with criminal records who pose a terrorist or
organised crime risk are able to work on our ports. What's going on here? I mean this is a number
of years after that first attack, Jason?

Jason Clare: Yeah, two days until the eighth anniversary of September 11. Ports security and the
security of all of our installations, airports and so forth are just as important today that we get
right as they were back then.

Kieran Gilbert: But how come we-how come there is this hole in the security?

Jason Clare: Well, this comes out of a report that was commissioned when we came to government. The
Howard government initiated action in 2003. They setup a port security regime in 2003. When we came
to government, we said we have a good look at it. A report is now-has now been sent out for
consultation with industry stakeholders, the people who run the ports as well as all of the
government's security organisations. That concludes at the end of the year, but you are right, this
is very important. It's important that the government gets it right. That's why we commissioned
this review.

Scott Morrison: Well, reviews are one thing, but since the government's come to office, they've cut
the budget by $17 million to border protection. The only thing they actually have done is change
the name. They went out there and changed all of the names on the dogs that walk around the
airports and put new badges on them and new caps and new hats. That's been the government's focus
in terms of changing letterhead in border protection, not actually looking at these issues. Now my
electorate, I have a lot of people who work at Sydney Airport and one of the issues that's been
raised with me by people who work on planes is that the fact that Sydney Airport, for example, we
don't have a separate secure parking lot for those who go on planes other than what QANTAS provides
for their employees, but for other airlines, they go in a public car park on the other side of the
airport and they get on the bus, they ride to the plane like everyone else and you know, we've
raised these issues and we are very concerned about them and the government's changing letterhead
on departments.

Jason Clare: Did you do anything about them in government?

Scott Morrison: Mate, look, these were issues that have been raised by me as being a MP in the last
twelve months. I raised those with your government and as yet, I haven't had any response.

Kieran Gilbert: And the government's been in now for nearly two years, Jason, and there is so long
they government can keep saying, well, Howard government didn't do this.

Jason Clare: No, but the government didn't sit back and say we'll just let things go the way they
are. For the current government you look at what's going on ...

Kieran Gilbert: Two years, two years is a fair wack of time.

Jason Clare: ... then you have to do a proper review of these things.

Scott Morrison: Yeah, but you cut the budget, Jason, and the only change you've made is the change
the department's name. I just don't think that's enough.

Jason Clare: I understand that this review will show is that there are major problems with the
system, with the regime that was setup by the Howard government. Let's get it right. Don't sit back
and do nothing. Let's make sure we get it right.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay. On the issue of stimulus, we've got two inquiries now, Senate Inquiries going
to take place, one next week, a short one day hearing that's going to be speaking to Ken Henry and
Glenn Stevens. Scott Morrison, first to you. Ken Henry is going to endorse the government's policy
on this. There is really no doubt about that. He was the architect of it. Are you-what are you
hoping to achieve out of this?

Scott Morrison: Well, this inquiry has been raised. We've been talking about the need for the
government to stop, look and listen on their stimulus spending. It is clear that you increase, you
know, the fuel into the economy, if you like, you keep the junk food in the economy's diet, then
that's going to have pressure on interest rates. Now that's understood but we need to get
underneath what's happening with this spending. I mean everyday we have another example,
particularly the Julia Gillard Memorial School Halls program of further abuse. We've got meeting in
Abbotsford tonight of parents who are going to say, look, give the two-$2.5 million back because we
don't want to knock down a perfectly good building and build another one just because Julia Gillard
says so, and they are going to say, look, we don't actually want this. You rejected what we wanted
to do with that money, now you are going to force this on us. They need to not just listen to
what's going to come out of this inquiry, but they need to listen to principals who are saying that
we don't want a library for one student and they need to listen to parents who are saying we don't
want you to knock down a building that's perfectly good.

Kieran Gilbert: You know as well as I do the numbers are remarkable in terms of, you know, the
context of the rest of the world. Australia's economy holding up very very well. That's the
government's point, that the facts are there. You look at the business sentiments up, GDP positive.

Scott Morrison: It's a very good point, Kieran.

Kieran Gilbert: So, the broader picture is very bright.

Jason Clare: It's a very good point.

Scott Morrison: Let me make this point. All of those economies Wayne Swan's been with over the last
few days. All of them ran stimulus programs. Every single one of them and all of them are still in
trouble. We did the same thing as them and they can hardly bring out as the one thing that serves
our economy.

Jason Clare: Can I make one point and that is you don't stop taking antibiotics when you are
starting to feel a bit better. You've got to finish the script, and the doctor's orders are these.
Treasuries say, if you pull the stimulus then unemployment goes up. That's the simple consequence
of that. In order to keep the economy running with unemployment static, you've got to create 20 000
jobs a month. Now that means the economy has got to run at about three per cent growth. We are not
there yet and that includes the stimulus. You pull the stimulus, unemployment ratchets up. It's as
simple as that. What Scott's saying is he wants unemployment higher.

Scott Morrison: No, I'm sorry. I want interest rates not to go up and the government's saying that
no economists, no economists is agreeing with our position. Well, Warwick Mckibbin agrees with our
position on reining in the stimulus.

Jason Clare: You've got one.

Scott Morrison: He's on the Reserve Bank board, mate.

Jason Clare: You've got one.

Scott Morrison: So he's a pretty important person to listen to on interest rates.

Jason Clare: Well, let's see what Glenn Stevens says.

Kieran Gilbert: Let's hear from both of you on one final issue before we speak to the New South
Wales Premier, the health. Medicare reforms that the government's trying to put in place today.
There's a bit of back down from Nicola Roxon in terms of increasing the IVF rebates, not on a
cataract surgery issue. Is she going to move on this? It sounds like the Opposition is going to
block this measure in the Senate?

Jason Clare: Well, we'll have to see what the Opposition are going to do. The Opposition have said
in the first place they are going to support this because there are important savings that need to
be made to the Budget. I'm hopeful that we are going to see some sensible action from the
Opposition there. I think we've come to a good decision on the IVF. So far I think it's a sensitive
issue for my mate here, so let's see what happens in the Senate today.

Scott Morrison: Look, I welcome what the government's doing on IVF subject to what we hear this
morning in the briefing. I mean Sandra Dill from ACCESS who has been very involved in these
negotiations seems happy but we know Peter Dutton has done a great job on forcing change in this
area has-we'll get his briefing this morning and once we've heard that then we'll be in a much
better position to make a decision, but the government has backed down on the IVF and we said at
the time that this was a heartless measure. It was a rushed measure, they were listening to the
wrong people and I'm please to see that there seems to be some movement on that because we
campaigned very hard on that issue.

Kieran Gilbert: But there is still a stumbling block on agreement, on the cataract surgery, I mean
there are suggestions that the patients could be out of pocket $400 a pop. This is-that's a lot of
money for an important piece of surgery.

Jason Clare: This is a surgery that once was quite rare and took a long time. Medicine has moved
on. It now takes a shorter period of time do to that surgery. It's interesting that the fees that
ophthalmologists charge have gone up by 47 per cent over the last five years.

Kieran Gilbert: So they are gouging the system.

Jason Clare: Well, under this new regime, under this new system, the new proposed fees, an
ophthalmologist performs four of these a day, over the course of a year will still earn about half
a million dollars. For the more detailed, more complicated types of cataract surgeries, we are
still talking to the industry about the type of fee that would be appropriate.

Scott Morrison: I'm concerned that the government pursues this debate as a doctor bashing exercise
and trying-and that they are gouging and all the rest. But I mean this is about cataract surgery.
The same issues that we are raising with cataract surgery we raise with IVF, the government should

Jason Clare: It's about saving half a billion dollars in the Budget.

Kieran Gilbert: Alright, we are going to pause there. We'll catch you next week, Gentlemen. I'm
going to speak to the New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees after the break, but for the moment,
guys, thanks and we'll see you next week.

Scott Morrison: Good luck with Nathan.

Kieran Gilbert: Thank you.

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