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Early Agenda -

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AM Agenda

03 June 2009

Kieran Gilbert: Welcome back to AM Agenda. Joining me here in the Canberra Studio are our regular
Wednesday panel, Labor MP Jason Clare, Liberal frontbencher Scott Morrison. Good to see you both.

Scott Morrison: Good Morning.

Kieran Gilbert: If the numbers are positive, Scott, when the National Accounts are out at 11:30,
that's got to be good for morale, doesn't it? If Australia can avoid a technical recession?

Scott Morrison: Well, the Coalition will welcome any good numbers on the economy, but one thing
that won't change the day is $315 billion worth of debt. All sorts of other numbers may change the
day and we welcome any improvement, but the one thing that doesn't change the day is the level of
debt ...

Kieran Gilbert: But doesn't it show the government's , the government's efforts at stimulus
spending and so on has worked.

Scott Morrison: Well, you just had Simon Crean in here talking about improvement in trade
performance, so unless the cash stimulus payments paid to those overseas led to the increase to our
exports, then I think the government would be very premature to be claiming any great success on
the back of their exports, success for the cash splash. I think what we'll see today hopefully is
some good news. Of course we welcome good news and it's not surprising because we went into this
situation the best of all nations, so we should be doing well. We should be doing very well. We've
said all along and particularly most recently that the government's own Budget papers were only
forecasting a half a per cent decline in GDP. Now that's significantly better than the one point
five per cent decline back in the 90s and over three per cent decline in the 80s. Now the
government likes to make a big noise and song about the worst economic crisis since the Depression.
Well, in Australia, that has not been forecast.

Kieran Gilbert: That's a fair point, isn't it? When you look at the data, especially if it's a
positive number today, has this been the recession that we didn't have to have? That you've talked
up?

Jason Clare: If it is, it'll be a recession forced upon us by the world. Let's remember that this
is a global economic recession. This is a recession that has hit every single major advanced
economy in the world. This thing is more contagious than the swine flu and we are not immune. You
know, the fact is that if you look at the Budget papers it shows that if this government did
nothing, there would be 200 000 extra people unemployed and the recession would be four times
deeper than what's been forecast in the Budget papers. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The
results come out at 11:30 today. What we do know is people are doing it tough in my area. People
are doing it tough in your area

Scott Morrison: That's true.

Jason Clare: Government can't afford to sit on the sidelines it's got to act.

Kieran Gilbert: So basically Australia's in recession anyway regardless of what the numbers come
up. A lot of economists are saying, you know, unemployment's up, we had a period of contraction so
effectively regardless of what the number says, Australia is in recession.

Jason Clare: Well, Australia is doing it very very tough, just like every country in the world's
doing it tough, and if government sat on the sidelines and waited for a number, it'd be doing the
wrong thing. You've got to act fast and early, and Kieran, have a look at the data that's come out
over the last week.

Kieran Gilbert: it was fast and early and it was a lot of money ...

Scott Morrison: And a massive amount of debt, Kieran.

Kieran Gilbert: ... and as you've been saying, it's a huge amount of debt.

Jason Clare: And it is working.

Scott Morrison: What about the deficit?

Jason Clare: Have a look at the-the retail figures are up, the housing figures are up, the trade
figures are up. All of the evidence suggests ...

Scott Morrison: The cash splash reduced the trade surplus.

Jason Clare: that if we didn't do anything, 200 000 extra people would be unemployed. Now Scott
will talk about debt and deficit. He won't tell you that his party would borrow $275 billion.

Scott Morrison: We would have been borrowing less and we wouldn't have spent as much and there's a
key difference here, there's a very important difference here. The Prime Minister has come into the
Parliament almost everyday and he has said that the private sector, Australian business have been
in retreat, that they've been running away from the fight. Now I think that's a very arrogant and
very offensive thing to say to Australian business, particularly when we see the results and the
trade figures from yesterday where it's actually been the private sector, Australian business going
out there, winning contracts, winning business, because it's Australian business that is going to
take us out of this economic downturn whether it's a technical recession or not, it's business
that's going to get us out of it. The government want's you to think that it's all them. They have
this messiah complex going into this recession ...

Jason Clare: Mate, mate.

Scott Morrison: ... and the other point I make is this, is that you said that we are not immune.
Well, the Howard government built up a pretty big immunity to these sorts of things. You inherited
a very clean shop and as a result we are in a much better situation to do with this crisis. Had we
inherited-had you inherited $96 billion worth of debt then we would have been looking at the
recession like the 90s and the 80s.

Jason Clare: Mate, you blokes are going around quoting Herbert Hoover, you're saying that Herbert
Hoover's the solution to this quoting his evils of debt. This is the bloke who was more responsible
for the Great Depression than anybody else.

Scott Morrison: You're reaching, you're reaching (inaudible)

Jason Clare: That's what their Shadow Finance Minister said, Helen Coonan quoting Herbert Hoover.
You know, this is the bloke who thought ...

Scott Morrison: That's another one of those (inaudible)

Jason Clare: ... the solution to the Great Depression was to do nothing. Even Scott doesn't believe
that.

Scott Morrison: And the Coalition doesn't believe that, the Coalition doesn't believe that.

Jason Clare: The Coalition believes, spend $275 billion, that's what they believe.

Kieran Gilbert: It is wafer thin, isn't it? The difference between, at the end of the day, I mean,
you talking-you running TV ads and the whole issue on debts and deficit, but the difference at the
end of the day is wafer thin.

Scott Morrison: Look, for a start, as Joe Hockey said, for just a start, we wouldn't have spent as
much on the stimulus package, just for a start, but we also wouldn't have talked down the economy
back after the last election. We wouldn't have talked up inflation; we wouldn't have put interest
rates-put pressure on interest rates to force them up just when the economy needed to grow. There
would've been a lot of different things the Coalition would have done in government which would
mean the debt would be lower.

Kieran Gilbert: Yes, okay. We'll see the numbers at 11:30. On another issue ...

Jason Clare: Stay tuned because in The Punch on Monday we've got another debate going on this very
issue.

Kieran Gilbert: I look forward to seeing it. On the Joel Fitzgibbon issue. He's had a couple of
things, indiscretions when it comes to, you know, not disclosing gifts, trips to China. This latest
one, accommodation last year in Brisbane at a footy game, State of Origin, quite timely, ahead of
today's match.

Jason Clare: Go the Blues, go the Blues.

Scott Morrison: We are in agreement. It's a wild agreement.

Kieran Gilbert: It's a unity ticket, all three of us. I want to ask you, this is the latest
indiscretion. Simon Crean sat here just before the break he's defending Joel Fitzgibbon, but how
many more of these can he endure, and can the government endure?

Jason Clare: Well, Kieran, I think you got it right about an hour ago that it's not a hanging
offence. There would be no one that is more disappointed in this than Joel.

Kieran Gilbert: Not on its own, but as a, you know, at the end of a series of these things. On its
own, it's not ...

Jason Clare: Sure.

Kieran Gilbert: ... but when you've got a collective of them.

Jason Clare: We all try and get these things right and if you go and have a look at the pecuniary
declarations over the last twelve months, you'll find there's a lot of senior Liberal Party members
who have made the same mistake, who made late declarations about their pecuniary interest. Go back
to two years ago, you'll find Joe Hockey, when he was a Minister, failed to declare a family trust.
Now I don't remember John Howard sacking Joe Hockey for failing to declare a family trust.

Scott Morrison: There's a pattern of behaviour here, Jason. I think that's the difference. You
know, once, twice, but you know, this is a pattern of behaviour. It's like, I promise I won't do it
again, I promise I won't be unfaithful again, and Kevin Rudd keeps just letting him off. Joel
Fitzgibbon is the Felix the Cat of Australian politics. He has more lives with this Prime Minister,
and we all know why the Prime Minister wants to support Joel Fitzgibbon in your own caucus room.
He's a key figure in the Prime Minister's support base and Labor mates' culture is taking over here
and that's not in the national interest. He's got to step up.

Kieran Gilbert: I think probably the key figure in the Prime Minister's support base is the 65 per
cent approval rating at the moment, but in terms of Joel Fitzgibbon, he said that he paid for it
himself. In this particular case. I mean, can you really expect the Prime Minister to sack him on
something where he paid for it and the company reimbursed him without his knowledge.

Scott Morrison: Well, it's also the issue of the tick. He went over there for the threshold.

Kieran Gilbert: But it's fairly innocuous, isn't it?

Scott Morrison: This is the Minister for Defence. He's not a humble Member of the Parliament like
Jason and I, further down the rung. This is the Minister for Defence, and so I think that
significantly raises the bar on these issues and where there is a proven pattern of behaviour ...

Kieran Gilbert: This is innocuous though, this last one, I mean, surely ...

Scott Morrison: Now look, it's just another cut. I mean, individual cuts these things don't, you
know, may or may not be what people think they are but as a series of cuts, this shows that this
Minister is out of control. He's not on top of his brief and if he can't ...

Jason Clare: He's not on top of his brief?

Scott Morrison: If he can't get across his disclosure statements then we are trusting this guy with
one of the biggest Budgets in this government.

Jason Clare: What did you think of the White Paper?

Scott Morrison: Well, mate. He's in charge of one of the biggest Budgets in the government.

Jason Clare: No criticism at all of the substantial matter. He's rolling out the biggest reform to
Defence, the biggest injection in spending in Defence.

Scott Morrison: No, no. I know what the soldiers think about getting paid, I know what the soldiers
think about his handling of the pay crisis and handling of the financial affairs of the soldiers.

Jason Clare: No criticism at all. They want to have a spray over here on the sides but when the big
matter, big issues come to be debated ...

Scott Morrison: He's irresponsible.

Jason Clare: ... no criticism at all. It's a bit like ETS. You know, they want to have a debate on
the side but no criticism ...

Scott Morrison: No, we are going to have a debate in the middle.

Jason Clare: ... on the substance of the issue.

Scott Morrison: We are going to have a debate in the middle.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay, gentlemen.

Jason Clare: You're going to have a debate in your party room on this.

Scott Morrison: Absolutely in the middle.

Kieran Gilbert: Let's move to the ETS issue. That was a nice segue, let's move to it. It is a
struggle, isn't it? For the Coalition, I mean on the Emission Trading Scheme, you guys are pretty
much split down the middle, aren't you? The Nationals aren't going to back it.

Scott Morrison: We are not split on the issue of the government's ETS. I mean we're ...

Kieran Gilbert: The government's ETS.

Scott Morrison: We believe the government's ETS is going to export emissions and cut jobs and
that's the Bill that's on the table today.

Kieran Gilbert: But you and the people in Cook in your electorate and Wentworth in Sydney, they
want you-presumably think most people would want Emission's Trading Scheme, but Barnaby Joyce and
Ron Bosworth of the Nationals, they are not going to support any of-anything?

Scott Morrison: The debate today is on government's emissions audio cuts off for us to take
actions in relation to addressing reducing carbon emissions and in January I've said-last week we
put out a policy which will see 200 million tons of carbon emission cut through green carbon and
green depreciation so the Coalition's committed to action on these issues. What we are debating
today is the government's action. Now the government wants to say there is only one train leaving
the station in terms of reducing emissions, it's their CPRS. You take it or you leave it. They want
to turn it into a black and white religious debate. We are saying there're massive problems with
this scheme. We are going to vote against it and we are going to argue against it in the chamber
today and our reasons will be there.

Kieran Gilbert: What Scott said there is pretty true in terms of, you know, the government's
approach on the CPRS and particularly, you know, I've spoken many people in the government on this
and constantly referring to support outside the Parliament for this, but really it's irrelevant if
you haven't got the support in the chamber just behind us here in the Senate, because you are not
going to get this through the Parliament.

Jason Clare: Well, when Malcolm Turnbull hands his cards in and walks away from the table we're
going to have to negotiate with the cross benchers. There's only one thing that's changed in the
last week since we've talked about that, about this, and that is that the National Party have made
it very clear they will not vote for an emissions trading scheme in any form under any
circumstances.

Scott Morrison: That's not the point.

Jason Clare: What's clear now, is that there's only one party in this Parliament that's capable
introducing and commissioning an ETS, and that's the Labor Party.

Scott Morrison: No, that's not true.

Jason Clare: Malcolm Turnbull is just trying to create excuses so his leadership doesn't come under
threat and change his position constantly. Next week we'll find out he's a Monarchist, he will do
anything it takes to protect his leadership.

Scott Morrison: Oh mate. You've trotted out that line I don't know how many times, but mate, at the
end of the day, Malcolm's position on this has been clear, he wants to see emissions cut. Now he
said just-he just said on Sunday itself that he believes that, you know, the idea of a price on
carbon isn't inevitable and we're working through the process. He said quite clearly you've got a
major piece of legislation coming down in the US. That is going to set the scene for all of these
issues. Now the only reason the Prime Minister wants to get his ETS in place because he want's to
trodden off to Copenhagen and put it down as a part of his application to be UN Secretary General.
It's all about vanity, it's all about politics, it isn't about cutting emissions and protecting
jobs.

Jason Clare: Two years ago, they were saying Barack Obama was a terrorist, now he's the messiah.

Scott Morrison: Oh, Jason.

Jason Clare: Now he's the messiah.

Scott Morrison: Gees, he's going low today. For goodness sake.

Jason Clare: Give me a break. Give me a break.

Kieran Gilbert: But in terms of the government's approach, Jason. I mean, really, you're going to
hit a dead end, aren't you? Are you willing-Do you think the government is willing to-I mean you
are going to have a double dissolution trigger at some point.

Jason Clare: I ask a question about this last week.

Kieran Gilbert: Would the people of your electorate care about this enough?

Jason Clare: I ask a question about this last week and we didn't get an answer. We know the Liberal
Party is going to vote against this when it comes to a head this week. Will the Liberal Party vote
against this twice?

Scott Morrison: Are you going to support our amendment? That's the key issue. That's what's in
front of the chamber today.

Kieran Gilbert: I can answer that for you, they won't.

Scott Morrison: So they are not going to support an amendment which says we should be taking into
account what's happening in the US, we should be working out what the cost of the economy is going
to be if we go in it alone and go Robinson Crusoe. This is information that the government thinks
is completely unhelpful and unnecessary to make a decision. So you are going to reject that. You
are going to force it through and you'll rush to an early election.

Jason Clare: We? Like Most Australians?

Scott Morrison: Create your trigger, and avoid putting in a Budget next year.

Kieran Gilbert: We've got 20 seconds left.

Jason Clare: The business community thinks that we need to act and we need to pass this legislation
through. That's what the business community's saying. That's what the people of Australia are
saying ...

Scott Morrison: So who draws all the detail and the rest? It's not the Bill.

Jason Clare: ... and we need to wait and see whether they are going to vote against it twice.

Kieran Gilbert: Alright, gentlemen. Good to see you both. Thanks, and that's all for this edition
of AM Agenda.