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Early Agenda -

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AM Agenda

28 October 2009

KIERAN GILBERT: Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda. 78 asylum seekers remain in limbo this
morning on board an Australian customs vessel off the coast of an Indonesian province after more
than 10 days at seas. The local Indonesian Governor says his islands should not be a dumping ground
for other countries. Is the Indonesian Solution failing for the government? Joining me this morning
to discuss this and the other matters of the day, the government's Parliamentary Secretary for
Employment and the Shadow Minister for Small Business Scott Morrison and Jason Clare, gentlemen
good morning to you.

SCOTT MORRISON: I've been, I've replaced Ciobo.

JASON CLARE: We've got it the other way around.

KIERAN GILBERT: Oh sorry, have I just ...

JASON CLARE: (inaudible) in the wrong position.

SCOTT MORRISON: That's right.

KIERAN GILBERT: Oh I've stuffed that completely.

JASON CLARE: It's a promotion for him, he's ...

KIERAN GILBERT: Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare, Shadow Housing Minister, I
should say, Scott Morrison ...

SCOTT MORRISON: No worries, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: The auto cue is playing up.

SCOTT MORRISON: Not a problem.

KIERAN GILBERT: Jason, let me ask you first of all, on a serious note the, this solution, you know,
it does seem to be, becoming a bit of a debacle, the 78 asylum seekers at sea for more than 10 days
now.

JASON CLARE: It's, this situation pretty unique and very complicated because these asylum seekers
were identified not in Australian waters, not in Indonesian waters either. You made the point this
morning in that safety and rescue zone Australia was asked to come to the aid, to come to the
rescue of a boat that was in distress by the Indonesians which we did. Indonesia didn't have an
obligation to take the asylum seekers but have decided to do so, that still stands. Now, where
we're at the moment is the Australian government and the Indonesian government, their officials
working out the disembarkation of those people at that port. Now, it's complicated and unique
because it's not Australian or Indonesian waters, so you're not going to see this situation come up
all the time but the point to make here is that the solution to dealing with these challenges is
working with out neighbours, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and working with the problem at it's
source, which is in this case Sri Lanka. You've got 240 - 250,000 refugees in a refugee camp in Sri
Lanka; Australia has made the point very strongly to Sri Lanka that those people need to be
resettled. Last week we saw I think 4 to 6,000 people resettled out of those camps, that's a start
but there is still a long way to go. Sri Lankan government has won the war, they've got to win the
peace here as well and that means making sure there is a place in Sri Lanka for everyone including
the Tamil population.

KIERAN GILBERT: Scott, is it fair to say, as Jason has said and indeed as the Foreign Minister has
said again this morning that this is a one-off case because of where these people were intercepted
in international waters, the Indonesian rescue zone as it's called, but they're saying it's not
going to happen on a regular basis because it wasn't in either Indonesian or Australian waters?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, the government doesn't know that. The government has an excuse for every
boat. We've got 45 boats, 2069 people, they're coming to Australian, they're wanting to come to
Australia, the government has softened the boarder protection laws, that's why they're coming to
Australia. We've got these asylum seekers literally out at sea, literally out at sea as is the
government's policy, its complete chaos. Now, what we've been asking Question Time all week though
is what did the Prime Minister know? When did he know it? And he's had a complete memory lapse,
it's all gone. We've asked him to come back into the House and explain to us again, well when did
you know? Well I just don't know, I can't remember, lots of things are going on it's a very fluid
environment and that's not good enough. The Prime Minister has to answer these questions in the
House today and he needs to be accountable for why his boarder protection policies have clearly
failed. The other point I was make, there is no Indonesian Solution, we shouldn't describe it as an
Indonesian Solution because there is not solution in it and the people who know that better than
anyone are the 78 asylum seekers sitting out at sea.

KIERAN GILBERT: Jason, the government has repeatedly said that it wants to work with regional
partners, the Prime Minister was at the inauguration of the President last week and so on, but it
doesn't seem to be working, as much as you want to cooperate and as much as people are saying it's
bad weather and so on that's stopping this boat from docking the Governor says he doesn't want his
islands to be treated as a dumping ground. It sounds like its much more complex than is being
portrayed?

JASON CLARE: First point is, it is working and you see the evidence of the work between Indonesia
and Australia over long period of time and it was under the Howard government ...

SCOTT MORRISON: On what criteria?

JASON CLARE: ... well under this criteria, the arrest and prosecution of people smugglers in
Indonesia ...

SCOTT MORRISON: How many boats?

JASON CLARE: ... that happened through the AFP and Indonesian officials working together ...

SCOTT MORRISON: That's not the measures, Jason.

JASON CLARE: The second measure would have to be the number of boats that are intercepted and
stopped before they ever set to sea, something like 80 boats in the last 12 months ...

SCOTT MORRISON: So not how many actually get here?

JASON CLARE: Well, unfortunately under the Howard government ...

SCOTT MORRISON: That's (inaudible) politics.

JASON CLARE: ...a lot of boats ended up on Australia's shore and people walking around on the sand ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Under the Howard government we went to zero.

JASON CLARE: Well, well ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Zero mate, zero.

JASON CLARE: I think that might've been because ...

SCOTT MORRISON: That was our policy.

JASON CLARE: The Taliban were over thrown

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh, right, okay so it was ...

JASON CLARE: it had something to do with Taliban.

SCOTT MORRISON: It was push factors then, its push factors now, we took it to zero the Australian
people know it ...

JASON CLARE: As I said ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... policy in chaos.

JASON CLARE: As I said last week and I'll make the point again a war in Sri Lanka has ended in the
6 months when wars like this end people tend to flee, the same thing happened at the end of the
Vietnam War. Now, no one blamed the Fraser government for that, it is the same situation now and
can I make this point about the ...

KIERAN GILBERT: I want to ask you about the conditions though at the detention centres because, you
know, the Labor Opposition when you were in Opposition were very critical of children being kept in
detention, now we're seeing images of some of the Indonesian detention centres that are quite
appalling, what will the government say if children end up behind razor wire in Indonesia? How can
you just say it's a matter for them when the Prime Minister has got on the phone and asked them to
take these people?

JASON CLARE: My understanding this morning is that the people that are on this boat, once they're
disembarked, that there will be an opportunity for the children and for the women to be housed in
alternative accommodation. I think, and the government believes, that it's important that the
conditions in those detention centres in Indonesia is as good as possible, that's why the Howard
government funded the development and support for detention centres. This detention centre was
built by the Howard government that's why we fund the UNHCR to make sure that the detention, the
processing and the resettlement of these people meets international standards, that's the right
thing to do, it's the approach that was taken by both governments, both political persuasions.

KIERAN GILBERT: And it was, it was established by the Howard government so the idea that it's this
solution created by the Rudd government to fund processing in Indonesia is a fallacy.

SCOTT MORRISON: Look, we built Christmas Island and the Labor Party called it a white elephant, we
had a solution in the Pacific and we put funds in to that ...

JASON CLARE: Why did you build Christmas Island?

SCOTT MORRISON: ... and people were put there and they were dealt with humanely. So, look the
government's policy is in chaos, I think that's clear, they're throwing around this hope of a
Indonesian solution which is not coming off and what happens to those asylum seekers and how
they're treated in Indonesia is on Kevin Rudd's watch and he'll need to be accountable.

KIERAN GILBERT: I'm going to move on, I want to, there's a number of other issues I want to get to
today. Emissions trading debate continuing today, or starting for the second time. It could be the
trigger for the double dissolution election, comes as the Prime Minister's asked by the Danish
Prime Minister to be one of his supports in the Copenhagen negotiations. Is that going to be a help
or a hindrance for Kevin Rudd? Has it raised expectations for what can be achieved by him and the
Copenhagen Summit?

JASON CLARE: Well I think it shows that Australia can have an influence over international
negotiations. There's been this argument by the Liberal Party that Australia doesn't matter when it
comes to negotiations at an international level. I think this proves that that's not correct and
that Kevin Rudd and the Australian government will have an important role at Copenhagen. Tony
Abbott made the same point in an article that he wrote last week where he said Australia acting
today passing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help the negotiations at Copenhagen.

KIERAN GILBERT: But has it raised the stakes for Kevin Rudd? Does he have more ownership of it now?

JASON CLARE: Well, I think Australia understands that we are the hottest and the driest country in
the world, we have a big stake in a success at Copenhagen, that's why we need to make sure that the
world acts.

KIERAN GILBERT: The negotiations continues, Scott, on the emissions trading scheme, you want
agriculture excluded from that scheme ...

SCOTT MORRISON: That's right.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... Do you think that the government will do that, it looks like they will.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, look we're not going to provide a running commentary on the negotiations
obviously but if there is a change to how agriculture is treated it will be because the Coalition
championed it, it will be because the Liberal Party has raised these matters strongly arguing for
agriculture to be excluded. I remember on this program just a few weeks ago when Tony Burke was on
how I said Tony you could remove agriculture today from this scheme, now, we're in negotiations
now. But going in to this Copenhagen Summit we've given the government support for their targets
and we gave that to them some time ago. We are negotiating on the ETS whether Kevin Rudd gets a
warm fuzzy feeling about getting a cuddle at a conference from the Chair is frankly, you know, you
know, I know he's more interested in these things than, than other matters but I and clearly I
don't think it makes much difference ...

JASON CLARE: Can I just point there, Kieran. Irrespective of what happens at Copenhagen we know
that we're going to be living in a world where carbon is constrained in the future and business
understands that as well, they want to know the rules about how it will work so they can make long
term decisions for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. That's why the legislation we're debating today is
so important. Australia wants us to act, they don't want more delay, business wants the laws passed
this year and hopefully, a bit of good faith both parties working together we can get there
interests of Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, let's take a break, well after the break we'll look at the cost of the
Governor General's trip to Africa earlier in the year, stay with us.

Welcome back to AM Agenda with me the Shadow Minister for Housing Scott Morrison and Labor's
Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare. Gentlemen I want to look at the cost of the
Governor General's trip to Africa a few months ago. Scott, $700.000.

SCOTT MORRISON: A lot of money.

KIERAN GILBERT: What's your reaction to that?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it's a lot of money and the question really is has, what role has the Prime
Minister had in approving that expenditure or directing, you know, where the Governor General might
go. I think they're questions for the Prime Minister they're not questions for the Governor
General. We want to know whether the Prime Minister is using these things as a way of sponsoring
his own application to be Secretary General of the UN and the Security Council bid that he's go in
play and all of these things are wrapped up together. Prime Minister needs to focus more on what
our challenges are here, he has a border protection crisis which is underway at present, he needs
to focus on getting solutions there and stop try and pretend that he's some, some leading Security
Council United Nations figure.

KIERAN GILBERT: It's a lot of money, $700,000.

JASON CLARE: Kieran, I'm pretty sure that the Governor General isn't the first Governor General to
travel overseas. All Governor General's will travel and their obligation, their responsibility is
to travel and act representing the nation's interests. Now, I'm sure that one of this issues that
Governor raised, that the Governor raised was the issue of the UN Security Council but among many
others. Their responsibility and their role is to make sure that they're representing Australia in
our national interest that means trade and that means jobs and in that respect this is no different
to previous Governor Generals who travel the world representing Australia's interests.

KIERAN GILBERT: Scott, the Governor General's office is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying 'a
visit of this complexity is without precedent, 10 countries, 18 days and over 80 official
engagements. The program was demanding there were no days off'.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it was a very hectic schedule, I mean we all know the Prime Minister, you
know, sets very hectic schedules for people and I think what he's done here is that's what he's
done here with the Governor General. And the question is, you know, of what expense? Did he approve
that expense? And you know, I think the original estimate for the trip as it was first envisaged
was significantly less, I think 90 per cent less and the fact that it's blown out to a trip of this
proportion, I think, is more about fanning the Prime Minister's ego and his own aspirations rather
than, you know, Australia's national interests and our long term interests.

JASON CLARE: I think that diminishes the Governor General and her commitment and passion to the
role. She works very, very hard both in representing the country overseas and here in Australia. We
know that she's always visiting rural and remote communities ...

SCOTT MORRISON: I agree, Jason.

JASON CLARE: ... She is a great Governor General, very passionate about the work that she does ...

SCOTT MORRISON: I don't, I don't disagree.

JASON CLARE: ... and we want to make sure that we're not politicising this, she works hard to
represent our country and we should be very proud of her.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, the issue of urban planning, the Prime Minister made a few comments last
night to the Business Council of Australia, suggesting that the federal government could be bound
to benchmarks in terms of standards of city planning around the country. Let's recap a little bit
of what Mr Rudd had to say.

KEVIN RUDD: "We are serious about the business of how we go about the long term reform of the
planning of our major cities. This planning has not been done comprehensively well across
Australia's largest cities."

KIERAN GILBERT: Jason, the Prime Minister suggesting that federal funding could be tied to just
what the states and local governments do on this. Is it about time that that happened?

JASON CLARE: Yeah, this is very important stuff. Cities are the engine room of our economy. Most of
us live in cities; cities are where most of GDP is generated from and if our cities don't work
properly then the economy suffers as a consequence. And that's why the federal government needs to
be involved in the operation of our cities making sure that they work well. If they're more
productive then the economy is going to be stronger as a consequence. I was critical of the last
government when I was working in the transport sector I was critical of the last government because
the only things that they would fund in cities would be freight related projects. So, projects like
the M7 is they were a freight road or freight lines through our city areas. If we're going to make
sure cities work better then we need to be funding things like passenger rail and passenger roads
because if you can get to work quicker, if you can deliver things quicker the economy will be more
productive and as a consequence the economy will be stronger. So, this is good stuff, this is where
we need to be heading.

KIERAN GILBERT: It should've happened sooner though, shouldn't it?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I'm glad the Prime Minister's taken up our suggestions, I mean, I've been
saying this for more than a year as has Malcolm Turnbull as has the Coalition, I mean, our policy
has been that the billions of dollars that the federal government has been spending and handing out
to the states should've demanded something in return and it should've, I mean we've got a national
affordable housing agreement, it was signed last year, it's worth more than $6 billion and it
doesn't require the state governments to release one block of land. So, it's fine for the Prime
Minister to give the speech and to go out there and make all these (inaudible) but is a very
important issue and I share Jason's view about cities and these things, we both have a strong
interest in this but the Prime Minister has just spent 10s of billions of dollars on housing and
various other initiatives with the states, and local government I should stress, and asked for
nothing in return. So, he's had the opportunity to put what he said in place for the last 2 years
and has done nothing on it. So, I think at the moment, you know, we'll have to judge him on his
form going forward but there's 10s of billions of dollars of wasted opportunities already in his
past.

KIERAN GILBERT: 35 million people in Australia by 2050, that's the forecast, have we left our run
too late, Jason?

JASON CLARE: Well, the job of government is never done; you've got to meet the challenges that
confront you. The Intergenerational Report that will come out soon will show that the population is
going to rise at a great level; I think that's a 60 per cent increase between now and the middle of
this century. It's going to create enormous challenges for the city that Scott and I both live in
with the population of Sydney expected to expand from 4 million to 7 million, our roads are already
congested. Congestion on our road system across Australia costs the economy now about $16 billion
in wasted money that's not produced because people are sitting with their foot on the break instead
of the accelerator, that's two per cent of GDP. So, I think that it's a good thing for government
to be acting on this. You can't just leave it to the states, don't, you can't just leave it to
local government. The federal government needs to be involved, that's what we're doing.

SCOTT MORRISON: But you can't confuse them, the Business Council released their report this week,
only 14 per cent of all the money we're spending on stimulus projects is going into economic
infrastructure. The sort of projects that Jason was just talking about only 14 per cent so, I mean,
the freight challenge for example, now it's an important challenge, I mean, if we do nothing on our
freight challenge it's going to cost the economy $1.5 billion every year. So, infrastructure's
important but critically economic infrastructure's important and I don't know how school halls fit
into that frame.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, well that's a debate for another day ...

SCOTT MORRISON: (inaudible) sure.

KIERAN GILBERT: ...another day on the school halls. I want to look at the issue of rebates for
cataract surgery, this a blow up that's happened in the Senate about the moves by the government to
halve the Medicare rebate for cataract surgery. What's going on here? I mean, it looks like now
according to reports the patients will have to pay the full fee of around $600 an operation, that
unacceptable isn't it?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it is unacceptable and we've sort to engage the government on this issue.
There were a range of measures that first came in with this bill, IVF which is another one we've
talked about on this program and the government conceded some changes here but they've been very
bloody minded about this one and we've sort to engage them and they've said take it or leave it and
as a result we'll be voting against it ...

KIERAN GILBERT: But now ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... to disallow the regulations.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... now there's no rebate now because, because of the move apparently the patients
will get no rebates, $600 out of their pockets.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well I don't understand how you can throw around $24 billion in cash and then take
away people's opportunity to get cataract surgery. The government has to explain that (inaudible)
it's in their policy ...

KIERAN GILBERT: But they say that ophthalmologists are gouging the system ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh it's all the doctors, it's, you know, the doctors are the bad guys and they'll
demonise them and they're the problem and all the rest of it. At the end of the day what people
looking for cataract surgery knows is the government's looking to halve their rebate.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Jason?

JASON CLARE: Well, I think the important point is technology is meant that this is a simpler
procedure than it has been in the past, it can be done quicker. The government believes that the
savings from that should be passed on to taxpayers rather than to ophthalmologists, we're talking
about a lot of money here, about $100 million, that's the sort of money that can be used to fund
things like a new breast cancer drug that the government wants to fund or to fund more rural
doctors as part of our rural doctor package. It's important to fiscally responsible about this sort
of stuff. All of the saving measures we've put up to the Senate , although the Opposition talk
about being fiscally responsible, they've knocked back the luxury car tax, the alcopop tax and now
this, and now this savings measure ...

SCOTT MORRISON: You shouldn't spend $24 billion just throwing it around to ...

JASON CLARE: ... And by ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... so I mean, you know, that's why you're chasing your tail.

JASON CLARE: And by doing that

SCOTT MORRISON: ... on the budget.

JASON CLARE: ... we've stopped the economy going into recession and we've ....

SCOTT MORRISON: ... oh that's right.

JASON CLARE: saves 10s of thousands of jobs all around Australia ...

SCOTT MORRISON: yeah, yeah it was all ...

JASON CLARE: If we took your approach, Scott ...

SCOTT MORRISON: It was all Saint Kevin.

JASON CLARE: We would be in recession right now. So I'm very ...

SCOTT MORRISON: All Saint Kevin.

JASON CLARE: ... glad to have a debate about the money we've spent ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Sure.

JASON CLARE: ... because the decisions this government made stopped Australia going into recession.

KIERAN GILBERT: The inflation figure's due out today as well which will be interesting to see what,
what it comes up with, particularly in the context of the analysts suggesting a rate rise on
Melbourne Cup day as we all go down to the TAB to put on a bet.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I, we've already had one rate rise, we're going to see more rate rises and
what Glenn Stevens has said pretty carefully I think is that he's looking now at the timetable for
the delivery of all of these projects and while payments may have been made to the state most of
these projects are not yet underway so the money is now yet really flowing in the economy and as
these projects blow out, I mean, only one in 10 of the houses that were suppose to be built by now
have been built. And that's, and we got the same things is the schools building program and as
these programs delay they're going to put more pressure in the wrong end of the cycle and the
Reserve Bank will look at that and they will take the action if the government doesn't take the
action on, Glenn Stevens will and that will mean higher rates.

JASON CLARE: Well, that's not correct ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it is.

JASON CLARE: The stimulus has peaked; the stimulus peaked in the middle of this year ...

SCOTT MORRISON: the spending's peaked has it?

JASON CLARE: ... the stimulus has been peaks ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Has the spending peaked?

JASON CLARE: .... and begins to taper away over the course ...

SCOTT MORRISON: No.

JASON CLARE: ... of the next 12 months. That's exactly the same as happening with monetary policy
now. Monetary policy and its expansionary setting has peaked and will taper back to neutral levels
as the economy recovers ...

SCOTT MORRISON: I'm sure that will be great comfort ....

JASON CLARE: ... so both fiscal policy and monetary policy ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... for people with interest rates.

JASON CLARE: Well, I'll tell you what, you can't pay the mortgages without a job and if we took
your approach there'd be 10s of thousands of people without a job ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, look lets look at our approach. ...

JASON CLARE: ... trying ...

SCOTT MORRISON: in New ...

JASON CLARE: ... trying to pay their mortgage.

SCOTT MORRISON: In New Zealand they had a lower stimulus and they've been able to keep interest
rates low ...

JASON CLARE: What's unemployment in New Zealand at the moment, Scott?

SCOTT MORRISON: ... interest rates will remain in New Zealand because the government didn't go and
spend and they don't have the debt ...

JASON CLARE: Last month ...

SCOTT MORRISON: that they're saddled with for the next 20 years ...

JASON CLARE: last month unemployment in New Zealand went from 5 to 6 in one jump. 10s of thousands
of people in New Zealand lost their jobs, you're asking us to do the same thing here and it's not
on.

KIERAN GILBERT: One last issue, one close to your heart, Jason, in particular the, the forgotten
Australians, the apology for the half a million estimated Australians who were placed in state care
between the 20s and the 1970s.

JASON CLARE: Yeah, this is a good thing and it really important thing and I'm so glad that both
sides of Parliament can come together on this. I, when I was selected as a candidate two years ago
to run for Parliament I met with a woman called Leonie Sheedy and she told me the story of this
young girl that had been separated from her family at the age of three and hadn't seen her brother
again until she was turned 40 and all of the abuse and neglect that she suffered at an orphanage at
the age of 15, she was told to go out into the world and look after herself, that young girl was
Leonie, she set up an organisation 10 years ago to support these people and it led to a Senate
inquiry that argued for an apology, finally this government and the Opposition can come together
and make sure that we deliver on that apology. It's the start of helping to heal bad wounds that
were caused to people over a long period of time.

KIERAN GILBERT: It's something the rest of us, I suppose just take for granted when you come from a
strong family ...

JASON CLARE: Well, Kieran here's an example ...

KIERAN GILBERT: ... to not have that sort of support.

JASON CLARE: grab a photograph of yourself at the age of two and rip it up and throw it is the bin
and see if you can do that and you'll understand the trauma that young people go through without a
family.

SCOTT MORRISON: Yeah, I think that's right and I commend Jason and all the other member's of
Parliament and Steve Irons yesterday gave an incredibly moving tribute and speech in the house,
Steven himself was one of those who went through this process personally. So with the support of
Jason and other members' right across, it was one of those times in the Parliament when I think we
can all feel, you know, particularly good about something we're doing. There are many other
opportunities for us to feel like that I know but on this commendations are deserved.

KIERAN GILBERT: Absolutely, Steve irons gave a great speech yesterday. Scott Morrison Jason Clare,
appreciate your time.

JASON CLARE: Thanks, Kieran.

SCOTT MORRISON: Thanks, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: That's all for this edition of AM Agenda.

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