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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


4 October, 2009



'MEET THE PRESS' PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: 'Welcome to 'Meet the Press'. Recovery seems to be the
buzz word with the Australian economy continuing to surprise. That's good news for the Treasurer
who received a pat on the back from none other than the Reserve Bank Board who backed the stimulus
and the timetable.

RESERVE BANK GOVERNOR GLENN STEVENS: (Monday) We've come through this well and we're in recovery
and it's important these measures are wound back over time but they are on track to be so.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Better than expected news on the budget, the debt and deficit smaller than

FEDERAL TREASURER WAYNE SWAN: (Tuesday) The truth is stimulus has kept customers coming through the
doors of business, and that's been very important. That has meant more Australians in jobs and less
Australians collecting unemployment benefits.

PAUL BONGIORNO: By week's end, Malcolm Turnbull decided it was time to read the riot act to his
fractious opposition, putting his leadership on the line.

OPPOSITION LEADER MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Thursday) I am committed to effective action on climate change
and I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Liberal frontbencher Scott Morrison is a guest. Later, the rising tide of boat
people with the Federal Government's chief adviser on refugees, Bruce Baird. What the nation's
papers are reporting this Sunday October 4. The 'Sun' reports "Shock defeat for Peter Dutton".
Senior Liberal Peter Dutton lost the preselection battle for the safe Gold Coast seat of McPherson
despite strong backing for Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard. The panel went for a local and a woman
Karen Andrews. He says he will not recontest his marginal seat of Dickson and is considering
options. The Sumatra earthquake features in all the News Limited papers. 40 Australians are still
unaccounted for. Up to 4,000 are feared buried and the death toll of 1,100 is expected to rise.
Welcome to the program, Shadow Minister Scott Morrison. Good morning.


PAUL BONGIORNO: That report that Malcolm Turner is telling colleagues he will quit if he doesn't
get his way on climate change and the coalition won't win the election, is that a surprise to you?

SCOTT MORRISON: It's not true. Malcolm never said he will quit. He's committed to the issues before
us, particularly the issue of taking action to reduce carbon emissions. We have a rugby league
Grand Final today. They say in rugby league, "The egg and bacon principle - the chicken is involved
but the pig's committed." Malcolm is absolutely committed.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Colleagues have made this up?

SCOTT MORRISON: I think there's a lot of theatrics that are going on at the moment - a lot of
colourful reporting, but at the end of the day, the issue in front of us is what we do to respond
to climate change and the action we take. The debate is about the action - not about a religious
debate of climate change, but the action. That's what the Government's bill is talking about and we
have a very different view of what that action should be and the Government's bill - that is what
Malcolm is seeking to engage with.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you believe Malcolm Turnbull will be there to lead you to the next election?

SCOTT MORRISON: Of course I do. Malcolm is committed to this issue. This will be the most
significant change to our economy, let alone our environment, since federation. It is important the
Coalition and Liberal Party are there on the field, engaging with the Government to negotiate
amendments and put forward why we think it has problems. We need to negotiate for the sake of
business, jobs, the economy and the environment. Now, we're on the field, Malcolm is on the field,
taking us on the field and it's important we get on the field with him.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We want to come back to some of those issues. The news that Peter Dutton failed in
his bid to win pre-selection for the safe seat of McPherson, do you think that Malcolm Turnbull
should do what John Howard did for the climate change sceptic as it turns out and intervene for Mr
Peter Dutton?

SCOTT MORRISON: Peter is an outstanding performer and a key member of our team. It's important we
have people of his calibre in our Parliament. This matter will be dealt with by the organisation, I
understand - a matter for them, not the parliamentary party. Peter is considering his options and
I'm sure the LNP will be working with Peter and others to see what takes place, but he is an
outstanding member of our team and I would like to see him continue to be a member of that team in
whatever form that needs to take.

PAUL BONGIORNO: I suppose some may wonder why Peter is leaving his seat of Dickson. He's been the
member now for three terms - if anyone will win it, it will be him.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, Peter is someone I think with a big future on our side of politics. Politics
is always a function of what opportunities present themselves at any given time and the requirement
for McPherson presented such an opportunity and Peter made a decision at that time. He's an
outstanding performer and I sincerely hope we will see more of Peter in our Parliament and on our
side of politics.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The Government had this take on Malcolm Turnbull's climate policy ultimatum to his
party room.

LEADER OF THE HOUSE ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is pretty clear that Malcolm Turnbull has lost control in
his own party room. He's reached a point whereby he's had to put his leadership on the line.

PAUL BONGIORNO: As I say, we want to talk about the ETS a little more, but in terms of control of
the party room, do you think it's time for the federal parliamentary Liberal Party to take a rebel
like Wilson Tuckey in hand? He's no longer merely having a debate over climate change but actually
undermining the leader saying you could do with a better leader, he's not leading well. Now, when
Labor had a maverick from WA - I think Campbell was his name - they banned him from the Labor Party
meetings. Do you think it's time for some discipline to be enforced?

SCOTT MORRISON: I will let Wilson be accountable for his own behaviour and actions, but the
Government - they've been massive hypocrites on these issues a few weeks ago. The Prime Minister
commended rightly Brendan Nelson on what he did in bringing our party to the table on the apology.
Malcolm Turnbull is doing that for action on climate change. The Prime Minister should be
supporting him because Malcolm Turnbull is the only leader in this country today who is having to
take heat and fight actively and take action on climate change. The Prime Minister is not doing
that - he's seeking to undermine someone who wants to do the right thing on climate change. I think
the Government should change the rhetoric and support someone trying to do the right thing rather
than play politics, which has been Labor's entire position on this all the way through.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Isn't it a sign of weakness in the parliamentary Liberal Party if they don't take
action on Wilson Tuckey?

SCOTT MORRISON: I think there's a view that diversity in politics is a bad thing, I don't think
that's the case. Undermining the leader...there's things on the issue here. I think Wilson in the
past has been spoken to by colleagues about behaviour in the party room, I suspect they'll do so
again, I will let Wilson speak for himself - he seems to be enthusiastic in doing so.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel: housing prices on the rebound and
interest rates in the balance and the birthday girl of the week was the Deputy Prime Minister Julia
Gillard, thrilled when school children shaved at least a decade off her age.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD: (Wednesday) How dangerous a question is that, "How old do you
think I am?" 36 and 34, they did well!

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on 'Meet the Press' with Shadow Minister Scott Morrison and welcome to the
panel Michelle Grattan from the 'Age' and Peter Hartcher from the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. The
Reserve Bank Board meets Tuesday and some economists think it will begin to ratchet up interest
rates. It will be the first movement in 19 months and coincides with the Government winding back
the first home owners' boost, but house prices are back on the boil.

SCOTT MORRISON: Interest rates are unusually low, so that means that we do have some work to do at
some point to head towards normal before we get a build-up of problems that we would get if we keep
them really low for too long.

PANEL: Well, Mr Scott Morrison, as you heard from the Governor, we face a build-up of problems with
our rates going up, therefore you would support rates rising in this climate?

SCOTT MORRISON: I don't. I think keeping interest rates low is the most important thing we can do
for the economy at the moment. You have a choice between two ways - the Government keeps spending,
or keep interest rates low - you can't have both. With the First Home Owners Grant now winding down
- we supported the initiative all the way through - it is important the interest rates remain low.
The Governor says that rates are low, by historical levels. That is true within Australia but
internationally, only Mexico, Poland, Iceland have higher interest rates than us, so I don't
support this view that interest rates should necessarily go up any higher than they need to or at

PANEL: So the Reserve Bank Governor is wrong and the Reserve Bank Governor has said that unless
rates go up speedily, we face a bubble in housing prices, where there is an unsustainable
escalation in prices and a housing bubble put the US in recession, if I could remind you. You would
support those consequences?

SCOTT MORRISON: It's not a housing governor and the...Governor has been clear. He's talking about a
supply bottle neck. We need to build 160,000 homes every year to match population growth. We're
building less than 140,000. We have a 200,000 backlog in homes on top of that. The Reserve Bank
Governor is rightly saying we need to deal with supply issues, all these issues in relation to
demand and what drives speculative bodies etc, is not the issue. The issue is supply, not demand.

PANEL: So you'll support the bank selectively, on housing policy but not monetary policy, their
main job?

SCOTT MORRISON: I think keeping interest rates low is important for the economy. I think there is a
risk that the Governor may seek to raise rates to control house prices. I think if that happens,
it's bad for everybody - small business and everyone. The best thing to do to ensure we get the
right outcome for houses is to build more houses - we get rid of the land supply issues and
planning controls. The Reserve Bank has said this week it's not about speculative bubbles but
bottlenecks to be cleared by State governments.

PANEL: Mr Scott Morrison, we've had good economic figures recently. Do you think the Government is
still trying to get to an election before the budget, or do you think that with the better figures
that sort of threat surely has diminished?

SCOTT MORRISON: I don't know what the Prime Minister is doing in terms of an election. I think he
will have his own political strategy on that that will govern his decisions, not policy issues.

PANEL: If there happens to be an early election, would the Opposition's policy be to shave the
various spending programs that are still in operation? Your whole argument has been that the
stimulus should be wound back, so would you be saying to people if we won we would wind back those
programs quickly?

SCOTT MORRISON: The Coalition has form on economic management and fiscal responsibility. It was the
Coalition that paid back $96 billion of debt.

PANEL: Sure, but what would your policy be?

SCOTT MORRISON: It's always our approach to be fiscally responsible.

PANEL: You would say you'd wind back?

SCOTT MORRISON: Our form is to manage budgets - to keep them in surplus, to get them back to
surplus to pay off debt. What we're saying about the stimulus is, with the economy performing like
it is, it's not performing like the rest of the world. We're performing better, we went in better,
so if the Government is keeping spending the way they are they will force up interest rates. The
Governor said this week that increasing Government spending at a time when our economy is going
strong adds pressure to interest rates. That's what we're faced with.

PANEL: Now, this week we heard a lot about budget outcomes. The final budget outcome for the latest
fiscal year and yet the political news in the media, the message from your political party was all
about Malcolm Turnbull's leadership. Do you think it's a smart idea to blot out the debate on debt
and deficit so you can have an internal argument about the party's leadership?

SCOTT MORRISON: I think that is a question for others who may be raising those issues in the public
domain. What Malcolm Turnbull has been talking about is jobs, what I've been talking about this
week is interest rates, what Joe Hockey has been talking about is the biggest deficit we've seen in
this country. I think they are the right issues and that's the issues we're facing.

PANEL: As you know, Malcolm Turnbull put his leadership on the table. That was his decision, and as
you know, once leadership is in the air you can't talk about anything else.

SCOTT MORRISON: There's a lot of pressure on this issue. I think Malcolm has stepped up and shown
the leadership expected of him.

PANEL: But isn't a lot of this futile? Because while Malcolm Turnbull is trying to cut a deal on
the ETS, many people would say on your side of politics that in the end it's not going to be
possible - the gap is just going to be too great between the Government and the Coalition on this
issue, so you will end up with nothing.

SCOTT MORRISON: I think the important and hard work of an Opposition to put up amendments to
schemes such as this and negotiate them through the Parliament, that's our job - what we're doing,
what Malcolm is committed to and what I'm committed to with him.

PAUL BONGIORNO: This week the Coalition - the Opposition - again raised the issue of the rising
tide of boat people and the Shadow Minister laid the blame fairly and squarely at the Rudd

SCOTT MORRISON: How can they do that? I mean, there is all sorts of disruption, you know, in other
parts of the world, like Afghanistan and of course Sri Lanka where these people are coming from. I
think there always has been. The push factors are not new. I don't think the Coalition needs to
prove to anyone about our credentials on border protection. Since the last election, there have
been weakenings that have sent signals overseas and as a result that has significantly contributed
to what's happened over the last two years or so, and particularly since August of last year. The
Government has made one change since they came in - to change the logo on the beagles that run
around the airports. That was apparently a big deal - they've changed letterhead. Now it's border
protection. I don't think that is changing people's lives at risk put on the boats.

PANEL: The implication of what you're saying is that you would go back to Howard government
policies or certainly much tougher ones?

SCOTT MORRISON: I don't think, as I said, we will outline our policies before the election, but I
think the Coalition's form on this issue is understood by the Australian people. We've asked for an
inquiry to flesh out the issues. That is what Malcolm asked for. I strongly support that and I
think that should help us understand why the wrong message is getting to people and people's lives
are put at risk.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you for being with us, Scott Morrison. Coming up, your predecessor in the
seat of Cook, now the chair of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, Bruce Baird. And a
cartoonist saw the parallel between the unpopularity of the new Vegemite and Malcolm Turnbull.
"You're a close third for the preferred PM behind the new Vegemite."

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on 'Meet the Press'. There's a rising tide of boat people. Four boatloads of
asylum seekers arrived in three days last week. More than 1,500 people have arrived on 30
unauthorised boats so far this year. The Opposition, as we saw, sniffs an opportunity. Since August
last year when the Rudd government started to soften and change the border protection arrangements
which had served us so well, we've had over 1,800 unauthorised arrivals. And they are coming at an
accelerating pace. And welcome back to the program, Chair of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory
Council, Bruce Baird. Good morning.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Now, we have a rising tide. Have the softer laws contributed in your view?

BRUCE BAIRD: I don't believe so. It's an experience that's been echoed around the world, increased
numbers - particularly to Europe, and if you look at the two initiatives that have been taken in
recent days, one was reversing the onus of proof, so the department has to show once someone has
cleared their security health requirements and identity, why they should be kept in detention
centres. That was part of the problem before - that people would be there for years and secondly
there was no need to pay back the cost of detention for those who were kept in for some years.
Often people would come out and they'd have a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars when they
were trying to establish their new life in Australia. If they've been found to be refugees, don't
we want to give them all the help we can in establishing their new life?

PAUL BONGIORNO: So you could argue there that the softening has been very much at the edges?

BRUCE BAIRD: I believe so. I mean, it's the type of thing that we should have done in Government,
basically. And of course most people arrive by air who are claiming asylum, so the symbolism of
people arriving by boat needs to be considered in its overall context. Our numbers are minuscule
compared to what happens in Europe.

PANEL: Just on the Opposition's attack this last week, Sharman Stone the spokeswoman has been
making allegations that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in fact is corrupt
and that they've been taking bribes in various places around the region. What do you know of this
and do you think that's a well-founded allegation or wild, over the top?

BRUCE BAIRD: Well, certainly I have not had any credible evidence that that is the case. UNHCR does
a terrific job looking across the board at refugees in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia - I
think it is unfortunate to undermine the particularly important role that they carry out, so I
think we should be supporting UNHCR in their work. We of course take a lot of refugees. That was
established under the previous government. We take in 13,500 a year of refugees and humanitarian
visa applicants. That's very high in world comparison. We do a good job in that area and we should
continue to work with UNHCR.

PANEL: On the whole boat people issue, what, if any, changes do you think the Government should be
making to its policy? Do you think this problem of increasing numbers, anything should be done and
what should the Opposition's policy be? Should it try to be bipartisan, or have a different policy?

BRUCE BAIRD: Well, I mean, there's certainly been a lot of comment made from the Opposition on the
changes to immigration law, but I don't think they're getting any traction on it. I think the
community changed their opinion on it and I think being constructive on the issue is important. How
do we stop big numbers coming by boat, risking their lives? I think perhaps we should be looking at
some of the detention centres or refugee centres in Asia, particularly in Indonesia - what we can
do to perhaps take more from that area, processing there, and obviously that they're continuing to
work the authorities and government officials in those countries, but it should be the focus on
offshore. Let's see what we can do to minimise the numbers coming across, especially by boat and
putting their lives at risk.

PANEL: We heard a few minutes ago Malcolm Turnbull expressing concern at what he described as the
softening of government policy on this. Do you think Mr Malcolm Turnbull has developed a new-found
interest in this subject or do you think he's trying to change the subject?

BRUCE BAIRD: Well, look, he has been consistently in the past very positive on the issue of
refugees, so I listen to that and I think there's a little bit of politics coming in there. And
there is a residual number in the community who think strong border protection is the way to go. I
think the community shifted, and it's about the humanitarian concern for genuine refugees. If not
genuine, then by all means send them back, but let's process them properly and have an effective
policy. I think the changes the Government made were appropriate, as were the changes made by the
previous Government towards the end of their term.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Can I ask you about the Liberal Party? We've had two members past and present for
the same seat here. Would you like to see more turn-over in the NSW Liberal Party? Do you think a
few people should follow your example and leave while they're on top and give newcomers a go?

BRUCE BAIRD: Whether I left while I was on top is another question, Michelle, but an example of
myself and Scott, I mean, I'm not 67. We have a fresh young guy, full of enthusiasm and energy.
People in the electorate are saying to me what a great job he is doing.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: You would like to see it elsewhere?

BRUCE BAIRD: We've got a whole number we can outline. You know who the names are - people who say,
"I've had a good time. It's good. I contributed but now time for a new person."

PANEL: Have you had a chat to Philip and Bronwyn?

BRUCE BAIRD: Philip and Bronwyn and Wilson would be high on the agenda. Wilson is older than I am
and Bronwyn is the same age as me and Philip, so I think it's important.

PAUL BONGIORNO: On another of your interests, the treatment of foreign students - Indian students
particularly in Australia. This seems to be a bleeding issue where Australia is getting bad
publicity and business seems to be going elsewhere. As Australia's third biggest export, do you
think this has done irreparable damage for Australia's brand for foreign students or this is a
recoverable position?

BRUCE BAIRD: It hasn't been helpful. Our brand has been damaged significantly in India. You only
have to see the bad coverage we've had, but it's a combination. Agents are ripping students off,
offering incentives to get people here. Colleges that have not been effectively monitored and
audited, setting up business, teaching inadequate standard of courses, being approved for several
hundred and having 1,200, 1,600 people there, not checking whether people are there, students who
are working nearly full-time, and of course colleges falling over and not enough coverage for the
student. People are concerned. Students are not well treated in many cases. It's mainly the
vocational end, not the tertiary end, but we need to do something. It's an important industry,
worth $15.3 billion at the moment. But the numbers have gone up. In 2005, we had 250,000 students
in the country. We have 475,000 now. It's an important industry. It needs to be protected.

PANEL: Have you so far come up with surprising findings in your inquiry?

BRUCE BAIRD: I think it's more that now we have a whole lot of colleges that people would tell you
are basically rorting the system, and being shonks and yet there's been no significant attempt to
close them down, that's surprised me. Victoria is now moving with rapid audits. I think everyone is
now waking up and moving. We've all been bemused by how much money it's made, but the problems are
now emerging.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us, Bruce Baird. Thank you to our panel,
Michelle Grattan and Peter Hartcher. A transcript of this will be on the web. Until next week,