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Lunchtime Agenda -

View in ParlView



19 JULY 2010

Subjects: Federal Election; Climate Change; WorkChoices; Polls

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me on Lunchtime Agenda the federal Financial Services Minister and ALP
Campaign Spokesman, Chris Bowen.

Chris Bowen, thanks for your time.

CHRIS BOWEN: Pleasure Kieran.

GILBERT: A deal with the Greens. How comprehensive is this deal? Is it every seat?

BOWEN: It's a comprehensive arrangement which reflects the fact that the Greens have recognised
that, I think, that the Labor Party is the party which believes that climate change is real and is
the progressive party, in terms of taking the nation forward.

Some seats are better left to local negotiation between the various campaign teams and more details
will be released in due course.

GILBERT: How many seats are you talking about? Just a handful?

BOWEN: No, it's a substantial number of seats but there's more details to be released in due
course. This covers a substantial number of seats across the country and also, of course, covers
the Senate. But at the end of the day I think...

GILBERT: But it's a big boost for you though, because they've been polling in double-digits; today
it was 12 per cent in the Newspoll.

BOWEN: I think preferences will be important in key seats - in key marginal seats - across the
country. This election will be no different to previous elections in that result, and of course, in
that regard, we're asking everybody to 'Vote 1 Labor'; but if they do vote 1 for the Greens, we're
asking them to give the Labor Party their second preference and there are no surprises there.

Bob Brown is right; at the end of the day, it is a decision for individuals, because people have a
choice as to who will be the Prime Minister on the 22nd of August: Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott. If
they want Tony Abbott to be the Prime Minister, they can vote accordingly; if they want Julia
Gillard to continue to take Australia forward, then not only their first preference but their
second preference is will be particularly important for those Greens voters.

GILBERT: Does this deal include the seat of Melbourne?

BOWEN: Those details will be released in due course. Of course in Melbourne, I must say, the Greens
traditionally come second; so their preferences don't get distributed. It's the Liberal Party
preferences which get distributed traditionally and will be, should the Labor Party not get more
than 50 per cent of the vote and the Greens would come second.

GILBERT: So what would the implications be in Melbourne, because isn't it the two main candidates
are Labor and the Greens?

BOWEN: That's right, so therefore as I say, it would mainly come down to Liberal Party's
preferences if Cath Bowtell - who's a very good candidate - wasn't able to secure 50 per cent of
the vote.

GILBERT: So, it shouldn't have any implications there really?

BOWEN: Well, Greens preferences, if they come second as they have in the past, would not be
distributed under that arrangement.

GILBERT: Are you comfortable with the Greens having the balance of power in the Senate? Because
this basically guarantees that.

BOWEN: Well, the Greens have always for a long time now, held a substantial role in the Senate; and
the Greens are a Party who have a very clear policy objective but also a party that you can sit
down and discuss policies with; we've done that over the past three years. We'll be out campaigning
for every last seat ourselves; but in the event that the Greens held the balance of power then, of
course, we'd work in that arrangement.

GILBERT: This is at a time when Julia Gillard, if successful at the election, will be building -
seeking to build - a consensus on the emissions trading scheme. So building a consensus in the
Senate would mean, necessarily a shift to the left on that.

BOWEN: Well, no I'm not going to start pre-empting policy decisions - over and above what we
announce in the campaign - and let's not get carried away with ourselves as to who's going to hold
what seat in the Senate. Of course if the Greens held the balance of power then we'd discuss those
policy matters with them; just as over the last 3 years we discussed things with them and Senator
Fielding and Senator Xenophon, and from time to time the Liberal National parties.

GILBERT: To get them on board, you'd have to have a greener ETS wouldn't you?

BOWEN: Well, look Kieran we'll be making further announcements about our climate change policy over
the course of the campaign. We've said that we believe in a price on carbon, the Prime Minister's
made that very clear. She's also said that we need to bring the community with us. As opposed to
Tony Abbott who says that 'climate change is crap', who tells school kids 'it was warmer in Jesus'
time than it is now so there's nothing to worry about'. We do have quite a different approach.

GILBERT: On the Newspoll today, the primary vote over 40 - in fact it's at 42 per cent according to
the Newspoll; with Julia Gillard's approval very strong and in preferred Prime Minister stakes
she's got a lead. Don't tell me you don't look at the polls, we know you do. That's got to be

BOWEN: Well, we do look at the polls; of course we do. We also looked at the poll last night, which
showed a very tight result: the Galaxy Poll. And I think we're going to see more of these; I hazard
a guess we might see a poll day between now and August 21. They're going to go up; they're going to
go down. I think it will be tight. You're right...

GILBERT: But you're the favourites. Do you concede that you're the favourites?

BOWEN: No I don't...

GILBERT: When you look at those numbers for Julia Gillard...

BOWEN: No, I don't accept that. I think this election will go down to the wire. We saw a poll last
night which showed it 50-50. You're going to see some polls which vary from that, but I think this
is day three of the election campaign Kieran and it's too early to be assigning favourites status
to anybody.

You're right that Julia Gillard has a very high approval rating. I think that reflects the way and
the vision that she's putting forward, to move Australia forward. I also think though, that this
reflects a real concern about the cuts Tony Abbott would make: in health, in education in
particular; the difference of approach that Tony Abbott has on things like superannuation. Taking
Australia backwards in so many areas compared to our approach, which is building on progress and
taking us forward.

GILBERT: But you're running a scare campaign on the WorkChoices legislation, or the Fair Work Act.
Tony Abbott today signed a pact that he wouldn't change - he said he won't change it in this next
term if he's successful. You're just running a scare campaign?

BOWEN: Well Tony Abbott's adopted three positions on this, just today. Just today. And I think that
that reflects that he doesn't really believe what he's saying and he's not to be trusted. He's been
a WorkChoices warrior. He's been - up until today - like those Japanese soldiers still fighting
World War Two in the 1970s on the Pacific Islands, arguing that WorkChoices wasn't dead, and saying
that we need to continue it.

GILBERT: He said it's dead, it's buried, it's cremated. How much more does he have to say?

BOWEN: Yeah, until today. Can this be taken seriously? This is the famous gospel truth man who
said, 'you can't take what I say as gospel truth'. He has been a warrior for WorkChoices. He said
that WorkChoices was the greatest achievement of the Howard Government. He said that WorkChoices
was important for the economic future.

GILBERT: You're pointing to things he has said in the past. Today he said it's cremated, there'll
be no change to the Fair Work Act in the next three years.

BOWEN: He said no change to the legislation, and even if we take that at face value - which I don't
- but even if we did accept that; he said there might be changes to regulation. Now it's important,
Kieran, to know what you can change by regulation under the Fair Work Act, and you can change quite
a bit: you could change the way that unfair dismissal works, for example you could remove the
obligation for employers have any protection on unfair dismissal; you could deal with minimum wages
through changes to regulation. So you can do quite a bit to the Fair Work Act through regulation.

Senator Abetz says that they'll tweak the regulations. Mr Abbott, this morning, said he can't rule
out any changes to any workplace relations legislation, but WorkChoices is dead he now says, up
until five minutes to midnight. Up until the beginning of the election campaign that he believes in
WorkChoices going forward, that it was the greatest achievement of the Howard Government.

This is a man with form. This is a man who gave a rolled gold solid guarantee about the Medicare
Safety Net and then after the election walked away from it; so he's got form.

GILBERT: You're not going to believe anything he says in this campaign and continue to run a scare
campaign. Are you hoping to have the same sort of resonance on this issue as you did last time?
Obviously you hope you will?

BOWEN: We'll be pointing out, Kieran, in a perfectly legitimate fashion, that we abolished
WorkChoices; we've introduced a much fairer new system; and that the Liberal Party...

GILBERT: It's interesting for a party that's moving forward, that you keep looking back.

BOWEN: Well this is one of several issues in this election campaign. WorkChoices, as will health,
as will be education, as will be economic management; they're all important issues, but we're
pointing out the difference here.

We actually, to our core, believe in a fair industrial relations system. Mr Abbott, to his core,
believes in WorkChoices. Now either he is saying I'm walking away from a lifetime of belief, I'm
walking away from everything I've said over the course of the Howard Government and everything I've
said for the last three years - including as leader of the Liberal Party; or he has had his 'road
to Damascus' conversion at five minutes to midnight.

I think the Australia people are entitled to be a little cynical about that.

GILBERT: Well, we'll be chatting many times throughout the next five weeks. Thanks for this
afternoon Chris Bowen.

BOWEN: Pleasure Kieran.