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It's 4:00pm in Canberra, 1:00pm in Perth. I'm David Speers. Welcome to PM Agenda. Our top stories - embattled minister Stuart Robert says he did not act inappropriately as Labor pursues another scalp from the Abbott Government. Sky News has been told the minister travelled to China on a tourist visa. Labor says he breached ministerial standards by helping a private company on the trip. Telstra services returning to normal - the latest on the outage shortly. And Australian researchers unveil details of a bionic spine. We'll speak to the lead researcher about the breakthrough and how it may help all sorts of problems from depression through to se zurs as well. Parliament has again been dominated this afternoon with questions from Labor over Stuart Robert, the Human Resources Minister. But it relates to his previous role as the assistant Defence Minister back in 2014 when he made what he says was a personal visit to China. Sky News understands, and has been told, that he did actually travel on a tourist visa. But we've seen images of him attending a signing ceremony beeb the Chinese-owned -- between the Chinese of owned MinMetals and Australia's Nimrod. The matter is being investigated by the head of the Prime Minister's Department. More from Tom Connell. The Chinese new year welcomed at Parliament House. Minister Stuart Robert might be wishing he never made a trip to China in 2014. Mr Robert was on approved leave and attended in a private capacity. Minister, is this accurate?I am confident I have not acted inapt appropriately. And -- inappropriately. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, this matter has been referred to the highest public servant in the land. Labor's questions for now are still unanswered, including why Stuart Robert met with a Chinese minister when he was on leave for a private trip.Did the minister meet with China's minister as a private citizen?Let me thank the member for my question and I refer to my previous statement.And what Stuart Robert put on his visa application for the trip in which he attended the signing of a business deal including close friend and Liberal Party donor, Paul Marks.Did the passenger visa reflect the statement he just made in a personal capacity?I think the member for my question and with great respect I refer to my previous answer.Sky News understands Stuart Robert travelling on a tourist visa. But Labor is pressing Malcolm Turnbull to take further action.Why is the minister stillen on your front bench and why won't you enforce your own standards.This matter arose yesterday, immediately I referred it to the Secretary from the Department of Cabinet.The Prime Minister will be keen to get on with his preferred agenda of innovation, including the plan to privatise the payment plan for med Kay. Labor -- Medicare. Labor says it could cost jobs at call centres. Every day, most Australians, I'm sure all honourable members here, are using their smart phones to transact business online.The contract would be a lucrative, responsible for more than $50 billion in payments annually. Plenty of companies are putting their hands up, including Telstra, making today's national outage affecting Telstra phones across the country poorly timed. More on Telstra shortly. On Stuart Robert, given that he was actually able to get on his feet and answer a question, the Speaker having allowed a question through to him this afternoon unlike yesterday, he will now face a lot more questions because once he's given an answer in parliament on it, free game, Labor can keep asking questions on it as they did and they will. His answer is though hiding behind the Martin Parkinson inquiry. Sky News has been told that he did enter on a tourist visa. But that's certainly something that Labor wants confirmed from the minister himself. Did he alert foreign affairs or anyone about his meeting with the assistant Chinese minister that he met there as well. Back onto Telstra, its services are slowly being restored after this massive mobile network outage. Let's hear from the company, live now.Unfortunately, this had a flow-on consequence and it led to massive congestion across the rest of the nodes. I can now happily say we have restored services to all of our customers, so our first and most important priority was making sure voice traffic, data traffic and across all of our customer base was restored as quickly as possible. I can say that that's now happened. Absolutely apologise right across our customer base. This is an embarrassing human error. It is not OK. We do not like causing that level of inconvenience to our customers, and we are working very quickly right now to figure out how with -- we can provide some free data to our customers to make up for the inconvenience caused today. inconvenience (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
We will do a full investigation and we make sure we understand with precision the details and appropriate measures will be taken when that work is completed.For business customers where this affected their business, will there be any compensation to them?We'll certainly speak to our business customers and we'll be open to make sure our customers don't suffer anymore inconvenience.It sounds like you you're taking this -- you are taking this quite seriously now but some responses on Twitter were quite lighthearted. And joked about it. Do you think that was appropriate?I can't say I haven't focused on Twitter...These are from Telstra people.All I can say is we did take this very seriously and have done everything we can do all day.An example of one of those on Twitter from the Telstra account, "No, we just flicked off one of the switches for a bit of fun", with a smiley face. Do you think the customers would have seen the joke in that?No. I can't say I can see the joke in that either. Will you be looking at your media team for responses? They were hard for us to get hold on and those responses made on Twitter. Is that appropriate?We use social media very proactively. It is a very important part of what we do to keep our customers informed. By its very nature it probably encourages a more lighthearted stone. In light of how sear -- tone. In light of how serious this was, maybe was not so great. But we wouldn't want to discourage people from using social media when it is such an important mode of communication.Can you explain to us as a layman what a node is, how that malfunctions and why it has caused such a huge effect.Well, as I began to say we have 10 of these nodes across the company. I won't get too much into the technical detail of how they work. But basically, they are a piece of equipment that we normally... They run in pools. So that enables us to be able to manage traffic and connections for both voice and data around the whole country across the pooled environments. So normally, we could take down three or four of those nodes and, you know, do work on them, fix them up, and it would have no impact. But on this occasion, as I mentioned, the correct procedure was, unfortunately, not followed and the flow-on consequences you can see. Was it done deliberately? Have you been able to cancel that out... Look, I think, this has only happened at lunchtimetoday. All of our focus has been getting our service restored for our customers. We'll do a very fulsome inquiry. We will get to the bottom of what's happened.To understand this node thing, is it in a building, is it a piece of equipment that went off? Do you know what I mean? Is it a piece of equipment that malfunctioned...It is a piece of equipment...Where was it? In Sydney or somewhere else?It is a piece of equipment that has a software Lay layer attach -- software layer attached to it as well. It is a little bit complicated. We're still getting to the precise details. Normally, it would not be afen issue. It is just the -- an issue. It is the human issue that has caused the issue here.Do you know the scope of the people affected, how many regions, how many customers?We're still looking into that. The main focus is doing what we can to return our customers to their services.Do you have any information, in every state?It's been intermittent and it's been different depending on whether you were originally registered on the node or not at the time that this incident occurred. So it's... We're still working through precision around the detail exactly the impact. I'm afraid I have to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much. Bye, bye. Well, there you go, Kate McKenzie from Telstra walking off with questions still going there. But she has apologised for what she called there an 'embarrassing human error' a problem with the node. There are 10 of these nodes. They'll investigate further on called this. A fairly important bit of equipment obviously. They will offer some free data to customers to make amends for what's been a huge disruption across the network today. Obviously this one has a way to go. Services are, importantly, now restored to all customers. It has taken them some hours to restore all of that. Let me bring in our business editor Daggar-Nickson -- James Daggar-Nickson, not specifically on this. But did Telstra shares move at all?Those pesky nodes. We have seen a negative reaction in Telstra's share price but I suspect it's not really to do with the network outage that we had today. Rather, that they've been caught up in this broader share market sell-off.Just looking at the AXS now, it is down 2. 9%, nearly 3%, it might have a late rally... Unlikely.This is one of the worst results in quite a while.It has been a shocker on the market, which is no big surprise. This is being replicated from what we saw on both Europe and Wall Street overnight. At the heart of the issue is very much the financial stocks, particularly the banks. The big four, ANZ, CBA, woop, -- Westpac, the NAB, are all down four, or 5%. Heavy selling between the four big banks. That was replicated in the US and the Europe. The question people are asking is, "Why?" It does not come down to domestic issues, but fears, growing fears, of another banking crisis. A lot of those fears very much coming out of Europe as well as the US. The main reason being, and this does impact our banks as well, whether or not they're going to have to increase the amount of capital that they hold to help ward off from any other future systemic shocks such as we saw in the GST. On top of that, you have ongoing concerns about a lack of global growth. In Europe in particular, you have the issue of a bail-in. The idea that it's not going to be the taxpayers and the governments that will have to bail-out any of the European banks, rather, it will be the investors that take the hit. We're seeing a little bit of a re-pricing of the banks on that front. That, at the moment, is flowing into our own banks. Interestingly, it comes ahead of CBA releasing their interim results tomorrow. They're the only one of the big four banks to do so. So, that will be a bit of a bell weather and many people holding their breath on what they'll show tomorrow.Alright. Let's hope it is better news tomorrow. Dairg dairg dairg, thank you very -- James Daggar-Nickson, thank you very much for that. Let's go to some other news right now with Helen Dalley in the News centre. Good afternoon to you, Helen. Good afternoon to you, David. Well, an 11-year-old boy has appeared in court charged with murdering a man during a fatal brawl in the Perth CBD. He's one of four people charged over the incident in which a man was stabbed to death during Australia Day celebrations. Sky News Perth reporter Danica de Giorgio has more. The boy has made a brief appearance here at the Perth Children's Court charged with murdering a man last month. He appeared via video link from the Banksia Hill Detention Centre. He did appear quite nervous. His father was sitting next to him, although the charge against him was not read out. A 26-year-old man was stabbed to death during a brawl at the esplanade bus station early on January 27. He was taken to hospital but died soon after. Witnesses say up to 20 people had been involved in the fight beforehand and bricks were being thrown. The boy is one of four charged - that includes two 19-year-old men, along with another, whose name has been suppressed. The 11-year-old will apply for bail during his next court appearance. The court has heard his bail conditions need to be considered first, as well as a suitable place for him to stay. A man close to the victim's family was in court. He says parents need to do more.I'm very sad for all this, you know. A young 11-year-old boy roaming the street at 3 o'clock in the morning and all that with knives and all that feuding going on. Something has to be done.The boy will face court again later this month. The mother of a tadler allegedly murdered at her Victorian home says she had planned to break up with her partner the day before the child went missing. Peta-Ann Francis gave evidence at his committal hearing in mill dra today, telling the -- Mildura today, telling the court she wanted to leave John Torney, the man accused of killing 2-year-old Nikki Francis-Coslovich. The court also heard the toddler's mother and partner had smoked marijuana on the morning of the child's death. The country's largest Islamic school is set to close after the Federal Government pulled more than $19 million worth of funding. Work is now under way to find places for the more than 2,000 students in Western Sydney. After accusations of non-compliance and dodgy deals at a board level, the Federal Government decided enough was enough.This is a departmental decision that has been taken that says, "No, this school does not live up to the high standards we expect."A nine-month investigation into Malek Fahd culminating in the decision to pull $19 million of funding on the spot. The board of this school is made up of friends and relatives and acquaintances of the chairman.The chairman was removed from the board late just year against his will. He says the issues at the school are complex.So there are lots of conflicts of interest situation within the school.The focus now just what to do with 2,600 students at three Western Sydney campuses. With nearly three-quarters of the school's budget reliant on government funding. Already, contingency plans are being drawn up for when Malek Fahd shuts its gates. The State Government trying to find places in nearby schools for its many students. To some breaking news and Queensland Police have confirmed a body has been found inside a burntout house in the Brisbane suburb of Sherwood. Emergency crews were called to the home at about 1:30 this afternoon but it is not clear yet what started the fire. Northern Territory Police say they fear a bikie war in Darwin is escalating. Officers have conducted dramatic raids, seizing weapons an drugs after -- and drugs after shots were earlier fired at a Rebel's clubhouse. Matt Cunningham has more details. Police believe the escalating violence is the result of a falling out between rival bikie gangs. There were dramatic scenes when four armed police swooped on a property in Palmerston. It is believed alleged -- an alleged gunman fled the property before police arrived. Darwin has long been a stronghold for the Hell's Angel's gang before the Rebels moved in. Police have not been able to rule out this is a turf dispute between the two gangs. A look around the nation weather forecast tomorrow - a record-breaking heat wave continues in the west. Thunderstorms in the north-east tropics, with a few showers over the eastern seaboard. David, I'll be back with more news shortly. But, back to you. We'll see you then, Helen. Thank you very much for that. After the break, one of the interesting stories here in Canberra today - a report in the Western Australian newspaper that the government is considering outsourcing all sorts of payments, Medicare, veteran payments. The government has denied it today. In fact, they've talked up the process. But there are concerns that Labor has been expressing about privacy issues particularly when it comes to Medicare and your personal health data. We'll talk to the Shadow Minister Catherine King right after this.

Now, this there's no doubt when it comes to your Medicare payments, your pharmaceutical benefits, receipts that you might receive, age care, veteran payments everyone would like to receive them much faster than they currently do. But the idea being contemplated by the government here, outsourcing these payments to the private sector, does raise some concerns about privacy, certainly for the Opposition. We saw in question time this afternoon, Labor asking the Government for some more details on exactly what it's considering. Won't this mean that the electronic health data of Australians, such as Medicare information, could be sold to a foreign company?What the Government wants to do is investigate areas where we can actually use technology to benefit the payment of health systems.ened the problem we have is those opposite are so addicted to quill and ink, they actually want to keep us back in a paper-based environment.Robot bt ro robot there, the -- Stuart Robert, Human Resources Minister, actually answering a pfrt question there. With me now -- portfolio. But with with -- but with me now is Catherine King. The government wants to digitise information to make it more consumer friendly. Back in 2010 we had the failed commission of audit and this was first touted then. It has been pretty quiet since then. Now it looks like the Government has been going out, commissioning the work, to make the business case having already potentially decided to do this. I a few worries about this. The first is this is highly sensitive data, and we'll be saying the Government wants to put the items that people expend more Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme into the hands of a company where it currently sits in the government's hands. We look at that issue in terms of fraud, usage. We desperately try to match that data with hospital data because it is a powerful tool for public policy. It is entirely right that we need to make sure we continue to reform the system. We don't think privatisation is the way to go with this at all. I think it will cost the government more. There are some real issues with privacy.Is it possible, though, to separate the payment from the service so that you're not actually disclosing whether, you know, a patient had been to see a psychiatrist or what service they'd actually received but simply the amount of money they're going to receive being privatised?It is pretty difficult to do that. There are some 6,000 Medicare items, with different repads for each -- rebates for each. It is a complex system. It seems to be the government is looking for a way to make some money out of this. It would be a very lucrative business to come into it. We think it is too sensitive for the government to play around in this space. There is the issue of some 1,400 jobs of people currently employed during the this task. This data should stay in government hands.Could you not have a private operator signing confidentialitity clauses, garntsing there is no way -- guaranteeing there is no way that information is released.Frankly, we've seen this in Defence Health. I think there is no guarantees at all you could protect people's privacy in this space. I would not at all be confident that the government could do so. I think the government could rule this out. It floated the idea in 2014. We thought there was no way they could possibly do this. But they clearly have been going around behind the scenes pretty busily, they're putting out requests for quotation to build the business case. To actually do this. The Department of Health official stated that. It is a little more than stating we're going to digitise things. If the issue is around what's happening with the IT systems...Just on that, that's what the Prime Minister and the Health Minister today have been focused on. Their answers have only going to digitising the transactions? Could that happen within the Government department?As far as I understand, that quork has already been pretty substance,ly -- work has already been pretty substantially under way. Most people now don't go into a Medicare office. They get electronic transfers. A lot of that work started under us. If the issue the IT area is not keeping up, build the business case to invest in that.This has long been a problem...Of course.The computer system is outdated. It needs an upgrade.Certainly people are, and the government is right, people are using handheld devices, for their private health insurance claims and for the capacity to do that through the mygov website as well. That's a separate argument. This is an argument the government seems to be saying they want to flog it off, use it as a money to get...That saying they want to flog it off,
use it as a money to get...That investment, which both sides agree needs ha, we're talking about a -- happen, we're talking needs ha, we're talking about a --
happen, we're talking with the a pretty expensive process. Some of the numbers talked about are up to a billion dollars.The government needs to convince that's what it wants to do. Let's have a proper discussion. We started a process about how do you build the business case internally to improve the systems within human services. We did a lot work on that space. The government has dropped the ball on that. We think this data is too sensitive. We think it is doing a good job currently. We've had a great payment system from Medicare, pharmaceutical benefits. They are talking about the aged care system as well. We think it shouldn't be a matter about for profit but it should be about the best interests of patients to make sure they get the best system they get.One of the companies according to a report in The Western Australian who may be interested in this contract would be Australia Post, which is still a government entity, it hasn't been privatised yet. Would that be OK?We already have a Government entity looking after it, so why would we get another government entity to do it, which is some costs associated with that. I think the government should rule this out. I think this, in the long run, will cost the government more if they go down this pathway. Catherine King the Shadow Health Minister, thanks for joining us this ampl.Good to talk to you. Coming up, we'll look at a medical breakthrough from Australian researchers, a bionic spine. We'll talk to the lead researcher down in Melbourne. Would you -- first, the latest headlines. Labor has called on the Prime Minister to reach a verdict on the future of Human Resources Minister Stuart Robert. During today's Question Time it was revealed Mr Robert did not request nor did he receive embassy assistance during his controversial trip to China in 2014. Sky News understands he travelled on a personal tourist visa on the trip to Beijing in 2014. Mr Robert says he is confident he did not act inappropriately during the private visit. Telstra says all services have been stroreed after a outage -- restored after the outage which affected 2G, 3G and 4G. It was caused by human error with repairs to a malfunctioning node. The issue of possible compensation has been raised. An 11-year-old boy has appeared before Perth's Children's Court charged with the murder of a man during an Australia Day brawl. The 26-year-old victim died the day after being stabbed at a Perth trags. -- station. The child who cannot be named is the fourth person to be arrested in the case. He is set to return to court by the end of the mon after appearing via video link. The government has withdrawn millions of dollars in funding for Australia's largest Islamic school say anything it failed to address concerns about how the money was spent. The Malek Fahd school in Sydney's far west received $19 million in financial aid last year but funding was pulled following a 9-month investigation into its management. Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the school did not live up to the high standards expected of all schools. The school is now at risk of closure with more than 2,600 schools. More signs of life in the top floor of a building that collapsed in a Taiwan earthquake. Authorities say around 7 people are waiting to be rescued. The 16-storey complex fell following a 6.7 magnitude quake in the country's south. Four people were pulled from the debris, including an 8-year-old, who was trapped for more than 62 hours. More than 100 people are still believed to be buried inside. And a brief And a brief look at tomorrow's weather round the country. Record-breaking heat wave continues in the west, thunderstorms in the tropics up north, and in the west, thunderstorms in the
tropics up north, and a tropics up north, and a few issues across the eastern seaboard. David, I'll be back after the top of the hours with more news. Back to you. Helen, thank you, we will see you then. We've heard a lot lately about the need to encourage innovation and for Australia to be a clever country, well, today, a fine example of an extraordinary breakthrough by Australian researchers that could actually help paralysed patients walk again. These researchers are at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. They've dropped a procedure to implant a device about the size of a paper clip into the brain, which would communicate with the spine and help someone walk again. I spoke to the Professor about this breakthrough a little earlier. Nicholas thank you for joining us this afternoon. How does, in simple terms, a bionic spine actually work?Great question. What we're developing is like what the cochlear implant has done for hearing loss, we're making a device that has the same to do for movement disorders. We've developing a technology that could be implanted through the blood stream. When it's over the part of the brain we're interested in, it can record neural information or thoughts. Using these thoughts we've been able to decode and translate these into information that can be understand by wheelchairs or exo-skeletons or prosthetic limbs.You implant 3cm in length through the jugular artery into the blood stream until it actually arrives where it needs to in your head?That's right. Yes, so we deliver it to the region of interest. In thiscation, for paralysis, it'll be the motor cortex.When you say it's esen,ly driven by thoughts, is that the same as how you and I would think of moving a limb or making a movement, or will a new thought process actually be required here? It's a bit of both, great question. So when you and I think, we will generate activity in our brains, and this information will pass through the spinal cord to the limb that we're trying to control. A lot of patients with paralysis, their spinal cord has been damaged and the information they're sending doesn't get through. So we've developed a technology where we can pick up the information they're generating in the same way that you or I are generating this information, and then just bypass these damaged nerves to control external equipment. There'll be some training that's required, as you indicated, and the degree of training obviously depends on the patient. And how is the actual message delivered from the implant to the spine? How is that actually transmitted?So, we're bypassing the spine completely. We're taking information directly from the brain and relaying it into a mechanical device. So regardless of where your spinal...How do you actually relay the message? How is it relayed? Using electrodes that are mounting on the stent. We can gather the information and they will pass along the jugular vein, along the vessels that we imflanted it in -- implanted it in to an external wireless power and through to the transmission site.It is gul transmitted through the vein that the message will be delivered?Yes. You've already trialled this on sheep, I understand. How did that go?Very well, very well. We've had a huge amount of success. The procedure is very safe and we've shown that the information that we can extract is as good as, if not better, than the invasive technology that is require open-brain surgery. And how many people will actually be taking part in the trial?Yes, so the trial we're hoping will be begin in the latter half of next year, about 2017. We're aiming to start re-Crowning about three patient -- recruiting about three patients in the middle of next year.What are you particularly looking for?So people with paralysis. These are people that obviously have spinal cord injuries or have suffered from a stroke. They'll obviously need to be committed and enthusiastic participants. We're only just starting to investigate what are the people that we would need.And best case scenario - if this works, if the trial goes well, I mean, what can people with that sort of paralysis hope for at the end of all of this? What sort of function would you like to see made available for them through this technology?Well, ideally, we'd be able to get them, sort of, walking around in an exo-skeleton. It would give them mobility and independence using prosthetic limbs or a wheelchair, or even controlling computers directly with their thoughts. The second step from this, given there is a large network of vessels in the brain, we can access a very large region of the brain and a lot of nureg logical disorder -- neurological disorders can be treated, potentially, through this device. In you have Parkinson's tremor, for example, deep brain stimulation may be able to suppress the tremor. You may be able to use the device to suppress seizures. It is possible that deep vein stimulation for treating depression or treating post-traumatic stress disorder could also be treated by a minimally invasive device such as ours.You're talking about a huge variety of happencations in what you've just listed there. We'll follow how this progresses and wish you very well with this whole project. Thank you very much us for joining us Dr Opie.Thank you. Thanks for your time.It is extraordinary that sort of breakthrough. We'll see how that progresses over the, well, months and years to come, no doubt. We'll take a quick break and back to what's been happening here in Canberra this week. Paul Kelly and Peter Hartcher will be along.

You're watching PM Agenda. Time to bring in our panel this afternoon. Parnell parch, the political -- Peter Hartcher, the political editor with the Sydney Morning Herald and Paul kel -- Paul Kelly, Editor at Large. I want to start first with Stuart Robert, the Human Resources Minister. Last year we saw Mal Brough having to make that walk of shame and say, "No further comment. I refer to miprevious answer -- my previous answer." Stuart Robert is going a similar way himself. Do you think he can survive?It is the walk of shame I suppose if you have something to be ashamed of or the walk of high integrity if your standards are intact. But consulting the Bible on this particular subject, which is the Code of scan ministerial -- Ministerial Standards, the section entitledKty, it is pretty -- equity, it is pretty clear-cut. What we saw from Robert in Question Time is the visit was in a private capacity, it was all about being in a capacity.What do the standards stay?Section 2.8, "Ministers will not provide advice or assistance to any enterprise other than in a disinterested manner as may be required in their official capacity as a ministers." We know we wasn't in an official capacity.Who knows if he provided advice but assistance, he did appear to provide assistance. He was photographed...He was giving the p a erns poo of at least official -- he was given the appearance of official impara -- impramtur.

Martin pash kin son, the -- Parkinson is supposed to be reviewing and providing advice to Malcolm Turnbull. Unless he is a very slow leader, I think the conclusion must already be pretty clear to him.You think he's breached the standards.Seems pretty clear-cut to me.What about, Peter, if another ministers visits a business, ta take happy snaps, they use those images to say, "We had such and such here." And, "Isn't it great?" Aren't they providing assistance inadvertently? Some ministers go to great lengths to provide assistance of that sort to companies. The Trade Minister, whenever he travels takes #00, 200, 400 business people with him. They're going to use those images. However, as the code says, as we've just read, that's in his official capacity, disinterested capacity, capacity, that is with no private interests or satisfying no particular friend or personal interest in their mine material capacity --their material ministerial capacity. We know from what Stuart Robert said today in Question Time, he was on private leave.Paul Kelly isn't some random friend they're helping. Yes, they're friends obviously but he is a Liberal Party donor to the tune of $2 million and he is someone who owns companies where Stuart Robert showns some shares apparently as well. How much trouble do you think he is?I don't think there is any doubt at all that he's in significant difficulty here. The wording of the ministerial code as Peter has just pointed out is pretty watertite. It seems to leave very little wriggle room as Stuart Robert is concerned. I think the interesting feature about this is the way Malcolm Turnbull processes these issues. The Prime Minister is outsourcing this to Martin Parkinson. He's asking Martin Parkinson to give advice on thchl well, as a prudent public servant, it is very hard to imagine that Martin Parkinson will give advice that gives a clean bill of health to Stuart Robert. Martin Parkinson will raise the problems associated with that. I think then, Malcolm Turnbull will have very little room to move. Essentially as prime minister, he wants, I think, to distance himself from some of these decisions about integrity, to be seen to be acting on advice. That's well and good, but essentially at the end of the day, I think public servants giving advice on these issues, on these ministerial codes, are going to be pretty strict about the advice they give and that's going to be difficult for the ministers. I think it is really interesting today that robot robot bt ro robot -- Stuart Robert couldn't defend himself in the parliament. But he looked weak, pathetic, defensive and, of course, in that sense, he failed completely to offer any cogent defence of himself whatsoever. So, yes, we're still waiting to find all the facts. They haven't all been put on the table, but I do think at this point he's in serious trouble.That, potentially, could add another vacancy for the reshuffle of the front bench that the prime minister has got to do at some point too. He's waiting to see what Warren Truss does as National's leader and Deputy Leader. Now to questions on tax. We have seen the government back away on the GST option. Where do you think they are now likely to go with tax reform, which has been talked about now for so long?Well, I'll tell you the first point to make here, David. They think it's going to be easy from this point on that the GST was this terrible bogey, terrible demon, we just get rid of the GST and things become a lot easier. It won't be easier, it's become difficult. Two things will happen - the government will put together a more modest tax package based on looking at the ill lum naycs of concession -- ill lun nation of con -- ill lumuminations on negative gearing, and workplace de-Ducks. The relative remuneration from this will be relatively small, it's been estimated at $10 billion. But that assumes some pretty tough decisions, some of which will hurt middle Australia. The extent of personal income tax and company tax cuts they can bring down with that amount will be very, very limited indeed. I think we are looking at a much more modest package and I think there'll be significant problems for the government in putting this package tot. The other -- together. The other thing that will happen is Malcolm Turnbull will start putting pressures on the states. Essentially, we need to have a debate about improving the quality of state taxation. Of course, the states will be alarmed with the elimination of the GST - meaning, they're not going to get any easy break in terms of health and education spending. So I think there are quite a lot of political problems still on the table for the Turnbull Government.And, Peter, with all of these other options, negative gearing - we know the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O'Dwyer, both have issues with that. None of these options are easily routes?Yes, because they've abandoned ambitious reform it doesn't mean that unambitious reform is easy. It will require a bit of pluck. They're the three leading categories of where particular tax concessions will be squeezed to pay for a larger, more general tax concession. In the 15% GST option it would have raised net of compensation for people on welfare, would have freed up about $24 billion to pay for tax cuts elsewhere. With the plan B set of tax concessions to be squeezed, which is what the government is planning to do, that will give them about $10 billion to play with, as Paul said. That will allow them to give a very small hair cut to marginal tax rates...Only returning bracket creep for a year or two, at best?It will be tokenistic essentially. In the government were concerned with getting its best economic bang, it would all be putting into a company tax cut, which accrue to the workers not the owners.A tough political sell.The political difficulty is you're going to take concessions away from superannuants and give it all to company taxes? No. They'll come up with a political solution which gaves a wafer-thin tax cut across the board. It won't be without difficulty as Paul said but that's what they're left with.We'll see sooner rather than later. Finally on the reshuffle option. What's the word on Warren Truss? Is anyone the wiser as to whether he's staying or going? No-one seems to know?He seems very calm and unperturbed. The entire government is waiting on him to declare his intentions so they can replenish the front bench and get on with government. Nobody seems to know.No. Paul, any insights on what's going to happen there?It's the National Party. I think we'll wait for the decision. (LAUGHS)
OK. On that note, we'll wrap it up and talk to you both again a little later in the week. We're going to talk US politics in the next hour. We've seen since the Iowa caucus fascinating debate amongst the Republicans. Their next primary is New Hampshire tomorrow our time. Fireworks in not just the Republicans but the Democrats as well - Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. We'll get right into that after this. Captions by Ericsson Access Services.