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captioned by Ai-Media I'm David Speers. Our top stories this hour, while Parliament sits here in Canberra, one MP notably not there in question time, Craig Thomson finally facing court in Melbourne on an upgraded 154 fraud related charges. Meanwhile, a political stoush is brewing after the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader called on the Northern Territory to reinstate alcohol restrictions and a major earthquake hits off the Solomon Islands, an earlier tsunami warning has been cancelled, three villages though have been destroyed. All right, sorry about the technical problem here this afternoon. We will address that. Welcome to the program. As Parliament sat again here in Canberra today, there was one notable absence from Question Time, even though Labor MPs were enjoying an addition on the floor on the house, the former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke was in the chamber and that lifted a lot of the spirits. But Craig Thomson wasn't there. The former Labor MP now sitting on the cross bench was today in fact sitting in a courtroom in Melbourne where he is facing an upgraded 154 fraud related charges. Now, some of them are quite trifeling, a number of purchases of packets of cigarettes at a petrol station for about $12.50 a pop, but some of them are much more serious, more than $2,000 in one month alone spent on escorts, it is alleged, using his union credit card. Craig Thomson has been bailed to reappear in court on May 22. He emerged this afternoon, as you can see there, with his wife by his side and was again protesting his innocence. It is AFL grand final with all of you guys here. Look, what was disappointing about today was of course that we became clear that not only was last Thursday wrongly done by the police, but after 18 months in relation to investigating this matter, we still - they still don't even have witnesses that they are able to produce for us in terms of some of these issues that are here. Craig Thomson will be back in Parliament here tomorrow complaining there, as you can see, that the police don't have their case ready without witnesses to name at least today. He will be back in court towards the end of May. As if the optics of one former Labor MP in court wasn't bad enough for the Government, the other former NSW minister, Eddie Abede who is facing corruption charges is facing charges as well. He named a number of Labor mates who have enjoyed free accommodation at his luxury ski village in NSW, amongst them the Environment Minister Tony Burke and also the Communications Minister and now leader of the Senate for the Government, Stephen Conroy. I don't think I've ever had a cup of coffee with him. I don't think I've ever had dinner with him. I don't think I've ever had lunch with him. The invitation to me came through Tony Burke. They are incredibly serious allegations. What's been the subject of discussion with respect to me over the last 24 hours has nothing to do with those allegations. But obviously you'd rather not be part of it. We will be discussing those allegations and how damaging this is for Federal Labor now that a couple of senior ministers have been dragged in to not the corruption side of things, but certainly into receiving some benefit from Eddie Abede. Meanwhile, in Parliament itself, the two leaders Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, actually came together in another show of unity today, this time over indigenous disadvantaged, the Prime Minister was making her annual Closing the Gap speech, talking about areas of disadvantage that the Government is trying to close over the coming 20 years. Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader gave truly - well, excellent speeches this morning here in Parliament on this subject. There has been some progress in some areas when it comes to Closing the Gap but setbacks elsewhere, both have also united in calling on the Northern Territory Government, the country Liberal paert Government there to reinstate alcohol bans. These indigenous children have a better chance at life than their parents did. But the cruel reality is they are still not expected to live as long as nonindigenous children. Despite the work of Government. Some targets like life expectancy will be enormous ly challenging to meet, even with almost two decades still to run. The Prime Minister delivered the dark assessment in the annual Closing the Gap address of the six targets, the Government is on track to meet just one. Access to early childhood education to all fourlds in remote communities. I'm -- all four year olds in remote communities. I'm proud to say we got it done. This target is on track and will be met on schedule. Improvements are being made but the Prime Minister conceded school and work attendance is falling behind and reading and writing standards are also declining. I cannot conceal that these literacy and numeracy results are a source of personal disappointment. I do welcome the Prime Minister's frank admission that in at least some areas, there has been regress as well as progress. Closing the Gap is a long-term bipartisan target and Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are both taking a tough line on alcohol restriction. I have a real fear that the rivers of grog that reap such havoc amongst indigenous communities are starting to flow once again. I share the Prime Minister's concern about actions in the Northern Territory in respect of the Banned Drinker Register. I note that this was an initiative of the former Howard Government, particularly sponsored by the former minister Mr Mal Brough and it should be preserved. Tony Abbott has shown he is willing to confront his State conservative colleagues over grog bans. Julia Gillard has asked the Northern Territory to reinstate the Banned Drinker Register if it doesn't, the Government can and has indicated it will, intervene. I do have the power, through our stronger futures legislation, to make sure that those alcohol management plans meet the highest standards and I will certainly make sure they do. And we will have that full interview with the minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, coming up a little later this hour. In the meantime, let's go to the news desk because there has been a lot of focus on the last few hours about the tsunami warning in our region. What is the latest there? It has. It's a major 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit just a few hours ago off the Solomon Islands. The Pacific tsunami warning centre had issued a Sean so Sean warning over a wide areas of islands in the south Pacific but that has now been cancelled. However, New Zealand civil defence says a watch is still in place until a full assessment has been made. The quake struck at a depth of around 30km near the Santa Cruz islands and about 600km from Honiara. Authorities say three villages in the Solomon Islands have been destroyed. But there have been no reports as yet of damage or large waves elsewhere throughout the region. There has been a series of after shocks in the local region ranging from between magnitude 5.6 to 6.4. Andrew Tuper says the tsunami threats to Australia was small. From our point of view, as I said, the tsunami has been the main thing and as you mentioned, there have been warnings right around the basin. For Australia, we always assessed that there was no need for a warning. That the size of the wave and the energy, which is the graphic behind me if you can see that, was not going to seriously affect us. We have been verify that with observations from our boys around - in various ports and also some deep ocean ports that have been installed. And the reason that the advice from the international centre in the Pacific has been cancelled is simply because the serious parts of that wave has already passed the affected countries. So there was certainly reason for warning and there was some national warnings issued in those regions but that has now passed. We also spoke to the national director of world vision in the solmons, Andrew Cadford. Yes, just the earthquake happened at about 12.30 p.m. local time and world vision , we have an office in the affected area, a place called Lata, and probably within about five or 10 minutes from the earthquake, our staff observed some heavy flooding, it actually covered the low lining run way fairly quickly and affected what we have just had reported as communities at the edge of the runway and a small section of the Lata township and the more recent reports is the neighbouring province, which is called Macuira. The good news is that we have not had any loss of life confirmed. But there has been definitely affects from the earthquake. So Lata has about 20,000 people. The immediate four villages that we have reports of being affected and flooded has a population of 781. So that is about the group affected at this stage. But because there is some affects happen anything other provinces, the next neighbouring province has a population of about 44,000. But it is, of course, particular communities that can be affected by these things. South Australian MP Ian Hunter says Australia will start to look like the deep south on the issue of gay marriage as more countries around the world adopt same sex laws. Mr Hunter, who travelled to Spain last year to marry his long time partner, fears Australia could become the last major English speaking nation to hold out against gay marriage. A same-sex marriage bill has passed its first hurdle in the British house of comons and Mr Hunter says that should send a strong message to our Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has launched an attack on Waitangi Day. It came not long after he attended the traditional dawn ceremony commemorating the country's national day. Normally Waitangi Day is a politics free zone, normally all of that political mud slinging happens in the days leading up to today, but not this year, the Prime Minister John Key chose his invite only breakfast speech this morning to cause some flame buoyant, negative headline seekers, that are holding back the treaty settlement process. It has caused a rift here among some. The activist who battled to escort him on yesterday, says it is a disappointing speech and that it is not protestors that are causing the headlines in New Zealand, it is bad Government policies. But with the politics aside now, hopefully the celebrations and commemorations do continue here at Waitangi, a protest march which happens every year has just gone past me, that heads up to the treaty grounds for symbolic attendance at the flag pole and from there, the day continues. Now to sport and Australia is trying to wrap up its one day series against the West Indies in Canberra today. The hosts are batting first. Shane Watson lit up Manuka Oval in his return to the national side belting a half century off just 52 balls. Just a really timely reminder. Aaron Finch was travelling nicely until he was caught behind on 38. Tomorrow's forecast:

Tomorrow's forecast: David, that is the latest news, sport and weather, back to you in Canberra. Thanks so much and we will get an update too shortly on the latest information we have on that tsunami and earthquake off the Solomon Islands. We will be talking to the Minister for Climate Change and industry and innovation, Greg Combet, some industry concerns there, in particular, BHP Billiton has this afternoon confirmed more job losses at its Olympic Dam mine.

mine. P Pdie Obeid Welcome back, you're watching PM Agenda. Well, despite the scandals that have been surrounding Labor and former Labor MPs, the Government wants to focus on policy in this election year and we are going to focus a bit on policy as well, after all, that is what really matters when we all go to cast our ballots. Now, in particular, the Government next month is going to be releasing an industry and innovation policy. It comes as a lot of manufacturers and others in the industry are struggling with that high Australian dollar that just won't go down it seems, stuck around $1.04, $1.05 US cents. What does it mean for those manufacturers and what can the Government really do about it? It is causing job losses and we have seen today further evidence of that. BHP Billiton has announced more job losses at its Olympic Dam uranium mine. It is expected to be around 100, the company wasn't confirming the number today. To look at this and some other issues, I spoke a while ago to the minister for industry and climate change, Greg Combet. Thank you for your time. There are a lot of industries struggling with the high dollar at the moment. What is the Government doing to help them? Well, the figures thing is to keep things in perspective, that is that the economy is growing at around 3%, certainly better than many other advanced economies. We have got relatively low unemployment, inflation under control, interest rates have been coming down, tens of billions of investment coming from the private sector, so things are pretty strong given the international circumstances...But this is tough. I concede that of course with the high value of the Australian dollar, many businesses are feeling it and particularly in manufacturing and so we are working with industry to try to address some of those pressures. But we are committed of course to a floating dollar and open trade economy, the thing is finding the ways in which industry can become more competitive. You are going to be putting out an industry and innovation plan within weeks, I suppose, next month I think it is due. What are the sort of things you're looking at without giving the game away? Are you looking at man dating big investors to spend a certain amount on Australian goods? Obviously I won't be too specific but we are particularly concerned to ensure that Australian businesses and Australian manufacturers and Australian workers get the best possible opportunities in the large projects that are being undertaken in the economy. We will have some things to say about that. But the other thing that's important, going back to your first question, the pressures being felt by the high dollar, Australian businesses will have to become more productive, more competitive, business models that were structured on the basis of Australian 80 cents to the US dollar aren't going to work any more. They have to change. The Government is doing a lot to invest in skills and infrastructure to lift productivity. But we also need, I think, to improve our innovation performance and the statement will be addressing that. In particular, by finding ways to bring our best minds in research and universities together with the best minds in business. But governments have talked about this sort of thing for years, for decades, about linking research with industry. What are you going to do that's different? I'm not a talker, I'm a doer but you will have to wait until the statement comes out. I've had a lot of experience in the real economy and particularly in industrial sectors and know the pressures that are being felt and have spent a good time of time with businesses in the manufacturing industry and other industries over the last year or two, talking the issues through and looking for ways that we can really make a difference. I think we will have a good package. When you said earlier you want to give Australian workers better opportunities when it comes to what you will require of big investors in Australia, will that in any way cause concern amongst our trading partners and amongst those investors who don't want to be tied down to having to hire a certain number of Australians or purchase a certain amount of Australian goods? No, no, no. I said before that we remain committed to open trading economy and Labor is. Labor pioneered that. Bob Hawke is in Parliament House today and of course he and Paul Keating pioneered many of the reforms that Australians have benefitted from over the last 30 years. Labor still is in that tradition. We are certainly not protection ists but we always look for ways to ensure that Australian businesses and Australian workers are going to be able to benefit from the investments that are being made and that is one thing we will address in the statement. One of the other factors making life hard for some manufacturers is the carbon tax. Now, a maker of soda ash last month let off 60 workers t did blame amongst other things the carbon tax. Do you concede that it is hurting some? Well, in relation to that particular company, the company later retracted its statement about the impact of the carbon price, it is important to note and it is also important to note that that is one of the businesses that received about 94.5% of the carbon liability in free permits. The effect of that is that for a $340 tonne of product from that business, the carbon price impact is about $1.20 a tonne. So you need to keep it in perspective and $1.20 a tonne is equivalent to a 0.3% appreciation in the Australian dollar. So there is no surprise that they retracted that comment once the facts came out. Okay, but to be clear though, you don't think this is hurting manufacturers at all? Look, it is doing its job. I made the remark in Parliament today that in the electricity market, the official figures from the national electricity market show that emissions have fallen in the first six months of the carbon price by 8.6% compared to the same period last year. That 7.5 million tonnes less pollution going into the atmosphere. The carbon price is working. In the manufacturing sector, it is driving businesses towards greater energy efficiency and of course a lot of the carbon price revenue is being used in the form of grants that are competitively sought by business to make productivity improve, to make energy efficiency improvements and really they are quite dramatic improvements. Abattoirs quite successfully are competing for grants and the evidence is when they cover their decomposition ponds and capture the methane from the decomposition of the biological waste, they can generate their own electricity, sell their electricity and quite dramatically cut their liabilities. There are a lot of small bnsds that can't do income like that and can't access these grants. This is an extra burden for them. For small businesses, to go back to what we are funding out of the carbon price revenue, it is helping fund an instant asset write-off for businesses with a turn over of less than $2 million, they can use that instantly write-off 100% of the cost, to invest in energy efficiency equipment or energy savings and you have got to bear in mind that for a small business, only about 2% of its costs are electricity costs and a 10%...Not in small business though. The average position, that is from the small business association and the Australian industry group, it is their figure, a 10% increase in electricity prices from carbon pricing is at 0.2% increase in costs. The Coalition...It's a position that is manageable. The Coalition are still making this their number one priority. They have promised to get rid of it. Should they win the election, do you agree this will be a referendum on the election, on the carbon tax? The carbon tax has settled in, the carbon price has settled in. It is proving to be environmentally effective as we said it would be. It is economically responsible and perfectly manageable just as we said it was. We have done it in a socially equitable way and ensuring there are tax cuts, pension increaseses and the like. It is working and I think you'd have to effect, all of the hype in the lead-up to its introduction the sting has gone out of that. So if Tony Abbott does become Prime Minister and go to Parliament to try to repeal it, will Labor vote against that? Absolutely. We believe in this policy. It is the right policy measure and it will allow us to link up with efforts internationally to tackle the issue of climate change. What is Tony Abbott going to do about that? Scientists have been telling us there will be more intense and more frequent weather events, we are see that internationally, what is he going to do about it? Do you think our number one trading partner, China, which is introducing a carbon price into its economy is going to sit there and look at a more wealthy country like ours and think we can do nothing about it? Tony Abbott's position is ridiculous. It is pure politics and it won't stand. He will not repeal it. Let me just move on to the scandal that has surrounded the former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid, he has been for a corruption hearing on allegations in relation to mining investments. We now know that Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke, two of your ministerial colleagues, enjoyed free accommodation at Eddie Obeid's ski chalais. Were you surprised to hear that? Not surprised and not positively or negatively. They have done nothing wrong, Tony Burke and Stephen Conroy. So I don't think it is appropriate to cast dispersions on them for that. They were offered that opportunity and they took it up. There is nothing - it doesn't break any rules. There is no wrongdoing. No, it doesn't break any rules but tell us something about the Labor culture or - because for most of us, an offer of a free weekend at a pretty writscy ski lodge doesn't come along too often. Do you get offers likes this too often? I have to concede I haven't had one and if you have had one David, you can put it on the table. I certainly haven't. Tony Burke is saying today we are not close mates or anything and then how does it work? Do your colleagues in the caucus say "Stay at my ski...I Don't think that particular instance is the issue that is really on show here. What is going on is a pretty ugly business and without making prejudicial findings about any individuals, the fact of the matter is that anyone in the Labor Party or the Labor movement, with any sense of decency and Labor values will be disgusted by the evidence that is coming out and the culture that exists in the NSW Labor Party and part of it. It is going to have to be cleaned up. But it does tell us something about the Labor culture as well, doesn't it? I just made that observation and it is going to have to be cleaned up. A lot of people will require a lot of determination to act on this and ensure that Labor demonstrates and acts and individuals act in the Labor movement and the Labor Party in a way consistent with our values. What you are seeing on show, that is not Labor values. Is it going to hurt you though nonetheless, particularly in NSW in this election? It is not particularly helpful, I think that is self-evident and I'm quite shocked and disgusted by it and I will contribute as much as I can to ensure that that culture is cleaned up. Thank you. Thanks David. Greg Combet, the Minister for Climate Change and industry. Well, we will be discussing this further after the break. The Eddie Obeid claims that a number of senior Labor ministers stayed at his ski lodge, is that going to hurt Federal Labor or what does it tell us about the culture plus we will have a look at how Parliament went today, a shift in opposition tactics all right evident at the start of this parliamentary year. Stay with us.

with us. P You're watching PM Agenda. Time for another check of the news headlines. What is the up-to-date information we have on that tsunami? The up-to-date information David, a major 7.9 earthquake with reports of three villages now being flattened in the Solomon Islands. The quake generated a wave just under 1m reached parts of the Solomons, before an alert was lifted. However, a watch is still in place until a full assessment has been made. The quake struck at a depth of around 30km near the Santa Cruz islands and about 600km from Honiara. Authorities say the three affected villages in the Solomon Islands have been destroyed. But there have been no reports of damage elsewhere throughout the region. It's been a series of after shocks in the local region ranging from between magnitude 5.6 to 6.4. Senior meetologists from the Sky Weather channel, Dick Whitaker, has the latest details. Earlier this afternoon a major earthquake, 7.9 in intensity near the Solomon Islands to the north-east of Australia and this did trigger tsunami warnings around the local area. It has now been ascertained by the Pacific joint tsunami warning centre that no tsunami has been generated now outside the general area and the actual watch and warning has been finalitesed for the Pacific. So that is good news but there may well have been some damage done up around the Solomon Islands area just close to the earthquake area itself. It was an undersea earthquake, 7.9 in intensity and that normally is quite big enough to produce a tsunami. If it has done so, it has been fairly localised and all of the watchers and warnings have been finalised for the Pacific area. The Northern Territory's acting Chief Minister says Jenny Macklin is up for a fight if she plans to impose a Banned Drinker Register in the NT. Cristiano Ronaldo has also questioned why Tony Abbott is supporting the policy -- Robyn Lambley. It started with the Closing the Gap report into the health of indigenous Australia and it has quickly become a debate over the state of the Territory. The Northern Territory acting Chief Minister Robyn Lambley has warned indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin to stay out of Territory politics and warned her against imposing a Banned Drinker Register. I'm not fearful of that, I mean, if they try, they might be in for a fight. Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott can have their opinion on whether or not a Banned Drinker Register should operate in the Northern Territory. But we are the Government of the Northern Territory and we will make that decision. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are misinformed. Jenny Macklin I think is full of wind. She can do whatever she likes at the end of the day she is out of touch what is going on in the Northern Territory. Meanwhile, the Northern Territory's opposition who were the architects of the social policy while in Government, say they welcome today's calls. I really welcome the calls today for the Banned Drinker Register to be reinstated because of the harm it is doing to individuals who are chronic alcoholics, to be back on the grog, but also the harm it is doing to our community. Politics aside, this report is about the state of the health of indigenous Australians and the social justice commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people say while there is some good indicators today, more work needs to be done. While we see improvement, it is a time now to actually increase the effort, it is not the time to take the foot off the pedal. Mr Gooda has called for a new focus on justice reinvestment to keep young endingnous people out of gals. In fact, he says there needs to be another two Closing the Gap measures, just to tackle this area. NSW mining laws may be changed following explosive evidence aired at the State's corruption commission. It is comg whether the family of former State Labor power broker Eddie Obeid benefitted from coal mining licences in the Bilong valley. His soning too the stand today denying that the family knew that the value of the property purchased in the valley was going to increase. He was unable to explain how confidential maps of the area were found in his office. And in sport, former sdon captain Tim Watson says he is -- Essendon captain Tim Watson says he is disappointed. Watson had this to say on SEN radio this morning. I was angered by this story because I was thinking about the gullibility of people that are in charge of a football club and I understand the naivety of players, because that is what they are, they comt into the system, they are like cattle, they get told that this is what they need to do, their training regimes, all of that type of thing and if a supplement was there and they would be of course thinking okay, if the club has given their sanction, then this is okay. Es-Essendon trained today with security manning the gate. Tomorrow's forecast briefly. David, I will be back with another update at the top of the hour. Look forward to it. Thank you very much. Let's bring in our panel. Joining us this afternoon here in Canberra, Andrew Probin and Mark Kenny. I want to pick up on this Eddie Obeid thing about this time yesterday, he was before that corruption hearing naming names who had used his ski chalais for free, and it included a couple of senior cabinet ministers in the Gillard Government, Tony Burke and Steven conry. We have heard both of them saying they did nothing wrong and technically it doesn't look like they did. But is it a bad look and how significant?Of course it is a bad look. Politically it is a bit like sharing a spoon with a man with a plague, isn't it. So it is going to - it is just about proximity and this is the last thing that this Government needed and although technically they might not have dub anything wrong, it goes to this -- done anything wrong, it goes to this whole vibe that it is a mates deal...This is the thing. Because yes, Eddie Obeid at the time wasn't accused of what he is now accused of. But still, so you know, you can't say they could have foreseen what we have now had alleged in the corruption hearing, but Mark, both of them weren't close mates apparently with Eddie Obeid, and yet he is making available a ski chalais that is apparently worth $1400 a night to stay there. It seems a bit weird. Nice dibs on $1400 a night. It does seem a bit weird. As you say, hindsight is a fine thing, they didn't know what was going to be eventually found out or what is alleged about Eddie Obeid but surely it would have been passing strange that a fellow minister, a fellow colleague in the Labor Party has such wealth at his DLA. Now, in the case of -- at his disposal. In the case of Conroy who has come along after Tony Burke...We should spell that out. He says he wasn't aware that it was Eddie Obeid's pad until he got there, so Tony Burke has rung him up, said "We have got a spare room, come down and have a weekend". That raises other questions. There is no talk of money, let's be clear of that. There is no talk of money changing hands and that is one of the problems. The suggestion that this is a sort of gift of extraordinary proportions and I think as Andrew said, the vibe of this is not good at a couple of levels. Being associated with Eddie Obeid at the moment is not a good thing and everything that represents about what was going on in the worse aspects of the NSW branch of the Labor Party and there is also just the sort of - this is not normal for most people, you know, to have friends who have such wealth and such facilities at their disposal to just sort of hand around. And for an elected MP, let alone the minister, but at the time MPs or I guess Shadow Ministers they would have been presumably at the time, certainly in the case of Stephen Conroy, you've got to think about what gifts you accept. You've got to be very careful about that stuff. That is one of the lessons of this. It's a lesson that people seem to need to learn from time to time when one of these things comes up. And that is true. Look, Stephen Conroy, anyone who sees him around this place, knows that he is a very keen skier. He loves it. Absolutely loves it. And he is a snow boarder. You have to get that right. Anyone who knows him knows that detail. I clearly don't know him. But that's right, he loves going to the snow. So I'm not at all surprised that he jumps at the idea of when a colleague says...Even the decision to suddenly put this on the register today, or yesterday, whenever it happened, it is all a bit strange, like if there is nothing wrong, why stick it on the register. It's the paranoia and also it is mixed with this - their own feeling that perhaps it was a bit...The point about it is that this was a personal gift obtained in the sense in their personal capacity and their nonofficial capacity and so the rules say it doesn't need to be on the register. That was the decision that they made to put it on the register. I understand that. But I think it is defensible to say once this thing becomes a matter of some controversy associated with Eddie Obeid and they feel they need to answer questions about it, it is part of what they say is full disclosure and I don't think you can criticise them for then sort of providing as much information as they can. We can't sort of have it both ways. There is that issue and also Craig Thomson appearing before court in Melbourne today. He has bailed as we mentioned earlier to reappear on May 22. A number of charges increased to 154. But the opposition didn't go after either of these issues, in Parliament at least, to embarrass the Government and 12 months ago they would have gone - or not even 12 months ago, but last year, the opposition would have spent all of Question Time trying to embarrass...Last year the very first question would have been to the Prime Minister asking her about what other ministers have had some involvement with Eddie Obeid.You've just given the idea for tomorrow. It won't happen tomorrow because there has been a marked change. I know we are only 10 days in but it's pretty evident, isn't it? It is evident and this whole focus on the economy, on fiscal policy, on Labor's record, on promises to achieve a surplus and not being able to do it now and so forth, it is a more cerebral thing that they are pursuing at the moment than they have in the past. This information before would have had the opposition side angled deep in saliva...Let's remember they tried to do this in the last week of Parliament last year. You might remember that they started with Tony Abbott had a book launch and it was already rather silly but he was trying to be more statesman like, but by Thursday, he couldn't help himself and he accused the Prime Minister of being a criminal. So he kind of ruined it. But let's see if he can get to the end of this week without doing anything. There was a moment that could have gone that way today, there was a tweet from Anthony Albanese suggesting that Tony Abbott had been gestured to by his Chief of Staff who sits in the observers box near where Tony Abbott sits gesturing to him to simmer down and not to the interject. Obviously it is part of a strategy but it will take some discipline on the part of, particularly Tony Abbott...And on a leash perhaps and get the pull back that he is. But the main ush oou though, they were pursuing today was over broadly this argument of where the Government revenues are down, as the Government keeps telling us, in trying to excuse the broken pledge on returning the budget to surplus or whether they are in fact up as the opposition says. It gets into a somewhat technical argument about tax to GDP ratio and whether it is lower or higher, whether we are collecting more or less tax than the Howard Government was. Who is right or wrong on this? I think you are going to have to get some experts in. But traditionally speaking, you would not include the borrowings, my understanding is that way. Which is what the opposition says should be included. And if you include the borrowings, then the tax to GDP is much higher than what it was in the Howard Government and, of course, the Labor Party's boast is that they are lower. And you've got Doug Cameron saying "Well, why should that be a boast" but that's another issue. So it is about this 200 billion or whatever it, in borrowings, we should include that, because that is a tax on our future, that is what was being said to the...But the political strategy here is really to address that argument that Labor's come up with quite recently, the Prime Minister was talking about it at the National Press Club in her big opening address the other day, that revenue is down as a proportion of activity in the economy, that there is some structural change and that's what has made it much harder and the opposition is really about casting doubt on that whole argument, about refuting it because they see it as Labor's escape hatch in relation to...Labor has got, in a sense, a very good economic tale to tell because are they comparing Australia to... in a broader economic sense and you had this with 9 argument in recent days between Steven and Joe Hockey where on various measures, Australia is doing very well. He is saying if you better it, then give 500 bucks to a charity. As it happens, in half an hour, we will be talking to a couple of economists about some of these issues and the tax to GDP ratio. We will have to wrap this up though. Good to talk you to you both. After the break, we will look at the Closing the Gap update that was tabled today and the speeches from both leaders. We will be talking to the minister for indigenous affairs Jenny Macklin about what progress is being made to tackle indigenous disadvantaged.

disadvantaged. P Well, the Prime Minister today tabled the latest Closing the Gap report. This is a 20 year effort to try to tackle indigenous disadvantage. There has been some progress in some areas over the last 12 months, setbacks in others, but interestingly both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott in his reply put a lot of pressure on the Northern Territory Government to reinstate alcohol bans in remote communities. Have a look. Today, I call on the country Liberal Party to reinstate the Banned Drinker Register immediately. I call on the Liberal National Party to exercise stream caution in reviewing remote community alcohol restrictions in Queensland too. And I share the Prime Minister's concern about actions in the Northern Territory in respect of the Banned Drinker Register. And I note that this was an initiative of the former Howard Government, particularly sponsored by the former minister Mr Mal Brough and it should be preserved. Well, David Tommer is a former federal Coalition MP, now Health Minister, he rejects as the Territory Government does, any move to reinstate the Banned Drinker Register. Here is what he said in response. Yeah, like I say, we won't be reinstating it. We went to the election with a strong commitment to get rid of the Banned Drinker Register. We won the election. We have a man date - we had a man date to get rid of it. We have got rid of it and unlike the Labor Party, we are not in the business of breaking election commitments. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are misinformed. The fact is the Banned Drinker Register never worked. It was a complete failure and it cost a lot of money. I think it is far better that we redirect those resources into programs that will actually make a difference. Well, for more on this and what the Closing the Gap report shows about tackling indigenous disadvantage, I spoke to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin. Thank you for your time. There's been progress in some areas, some setbacks in others. Overall, are you happy with where we are at in Closing the Gap? I'm certainly very pleased that we have met our first target and that is to make sure that every four-year-old in remote Australia can get access to a preschool or kinder. Of course now we have to make sure they go every day. But they can't go if there isn't a kinderto go to. Any stats on whether they are going or not? I don't have them here. But what I do know is we set this target to make sure they had access and the good news is that target will be met this year. I think it demonstrates, when you really set a clear agenda for Aboriginal affairs and invest the money where it is needed in preschool, in health, making sure people have got jobs, then you can make a difference. When it comes to literacy and numeracy, once they are in school and particularly getting into the more senior years, there has been less progress, what is going on there? We had some progress early on and then as the Prime Minister said today it has slipped back, which is very disappointing. I think that really demonstrates you've got to be determined for the long haul, as you know, we are going to implement a whole new school improvement program. Peter Garrett will make sure that there are indigenous loadings so that we continue to pursue Closing the Gap in literacy and numeracy. Investing in the schools and teachers is great, but again, it is about turning up at school, isn't it? It is both. You have to acknowledge all the time that of course the kids need to go to school every day and I'm the number one advocate for getting kids to school every day. That is exactly what we are doing in the Northern Territory. We are introducing the school enrol meant and attendance measure, never been done before by any previous Government, and these are measures that are both supportive of parents and also making sure that parents do the right thing by their kids and get them to school every day. When it comes to Closing the Gap, one of the things that - I guess everyone looks to life expectancy. Now, we have seen a bit of slippage on this issue as well. For men, the life expectancy gap is now 11.5 years, nearly 10 years now for women. The Prime Minister said the target is going to be enormously challenging to meet. Why is this? Partly because the nonindigenous life expectancy keeps improving as well which of course is a good thing. So both indigenous and nonindigenous life expectancy is improving. But to close the gap, of course we have to do so much more in health, education, housing, employment, all of those issues affect life expectancy. One of the good news stories in today's report is for infant mortality. Mortality of children under the age of five. Children are being born more healthy as a result of better anti natal care, making sure that children get their check-ups when they are little, that mum and dad get the parenting education that they need. These programs and the desire of course by parents to see their kids grow up healthy and strong is really paying off. The Prime Minister also used the speech today to call on the Northern Territory to reinstate hits Banned Drinker Register. The Northern Territory Government which came to office last year promising to get rid of this is today saying we are not going to reinstate it and you've got no power to force us to. What action can the Commonwealth take here? Well, in the first instance, we are calling on the Territory Government to do the right thing, to do the right thing by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. They have already said no to that. They need to have another think about it rather than just have a knee-jerk reaction because the evidence is it was helping, it is the case that alcohol devastateds the lives of Aboriginal people. It is terrible for women and children and the level of violence that we see in too many communities and it is not just in the Northern Territory. It is also Queensland where they are talking about watering down the alcohol management plans. We have got to have the safety of women and children uppermost in our minds. The Territory Government clearly doesn't think the Banned Drinker Register is or has worked in the past. So what can you do to force their hand here? Well, we are calling on them to change their minds, to have another think about it, to look at the evidence. What we are also doing is introducing minimal standards for alcohol management plans with a clear focus on the safety of families and particularly women and children and I do have the power, through our stronger futures legislation, to make sure that those alcohol management plans meet the highest standards and I will certainly make sure they do. The Commonwealth does have more power when it comes to overriding Territory laws than States. Would you go down that path? We do have very extensive powers and I certainly will use them to make sure that alcohol is not hurting Aboriginal people in the way that it has in the past. So in the first instance, I'm calling on the Territory Government to rethink this issue about the Banned Drinker Register and the alcohol and other drug courts which they also got rid of. Both of these measures were helpful. Both of them should be reinstated. Jenny Macklin, the indigenous affairs minister talking to us a little earlier. After the break, PM Agenda continues. We are going to be talking to our panel of economists about a number of issues. Is the economy slowing or speeding up? The Reserve Bank kept rates on hold yesterday but some pretty soft data on the retail front today. Plus the British decision in the British Parliament to allow same-sex marriage, we will be crossing to London on that one. Stay with us. Live Captioning by Ai-Media