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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 15 February 2012



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Transcript ­ Sky News AM Agenda ­ Wednesday 15 February 2012 

15 February 2012 in Media

To watch this interview, please click here.

KIERAN GILBERT:

With me now, Labor frontbencher Richard Marles and Liberal MP Jamie Briggs. Gentlemen, good morning to you

both.

RICHARD MARLES:

Morning.

JAMIE BRIGGS:

Morning Kieran.

GILBERT:

Richard, first to you now. You heard what Rob Oakeshott had to say. The risk of changing leadership, for

legislation, for the reforms like the carbon tax, this is something the Gillard camp will argue, isn't it — against

changing to Kevin Rudd? If you change you create the uncertainty. No guarantee the independents will follow

you, so you risk all those reforms?

MARLES:

There's not going to be a change. Julia Gillard is going to take us to the next election. Frankly, I really do think

that there is an obsession by the media about this, and obviously by our opponents. But, the fact of the matter is

that the caucus is completely behind Julia Gillard. And you know, the future is going to prove all of this. She will

lead us to the next election. She is a very good Prime Minister who is dealing with very difficult issues. And I think

the Australian people with all this sideshow that's going on are now seeing that what we've got in our Prime

Minister is a very tough woman who is prepared to ignore all of that sideshow and actually deal with the issues,

like carbon price, like the national broadband, like the patchwork economy, the kind of issues which are

challenging Australia. She's going to lead us to the election, so frankly it's an academic question.

GILBERT:

You say that the caucus is totally behind her, but that's not right is it? It's not totally behind her?

MARLES:

The caucus is totally behind her. I mean, there are a couple of rogue elements where, you know, you're seeing

something, some voices in the press, you never see names attached to it. But, the fact of the matter is that the

caucus is overwhelmingly supporting Julia Gillard and she will be our Prime Minister going into the next election.

And I think when history looks back at this moment, they won't be talking about all the leadership stuff which is

being talked about in the media at the moment. They'll be talking about all the big reforms that this Government is

doing right now like putting a price on carbon; like rolling out the national broadband network; like improving the

skills of our community so that we can meet the enormous challenges that Australia faces through the global

economic crisis, but has produced the economy which is the envy of the world.

GILBERT:

What about this report today and last night by Laurie Oakes and the Herald today; internal polling, that the Prime

Minister say she can't specifically recollect, but apparently was being handed out to other MPs at the time.

Doesn't that raise questions as to when she got on board with that coup?

MARLES:

Well, we can rake over those events. And frankly, this line that we are seeing in relation to the internal polling

beggars belief. You know that the events of that night took the caucus by surprise, it certainly took me by

surprise. I think most significantly, it took the media by surprise. The notion that there was this grand conspiracy

which was rolling out for weeks beforehand beggars belief. But look, Kieran, I understand there is historic interest

in when Julia Gillard made the decision she made in relation to the challenge. And sure, the history books will

look at all that. But frankly, we are focused on the issue of today which is governing this country. And I am much

more interested in looking at how we save the jobs of Alcoa workers in Geelong than the events of what

happened on Australia Day.

GILBERT:

Jamie Briggs, despite the talk and all of this focus on Labor internal tensions, the issue — the reality is they're still

getting measures — significant measures through the Parliament and today the private health insurance means

test is going to pass the Parliament. So they're still getting significant support through this House.

BRIGGS:

Well look, I feel for Richard on these sorts of days. It's very hard to be an MP and defend the indefensible. I

mean, we just heard, I mean, Richard's got children and we just heard one of the great fairy tales of the

Australian Parliament that there's full support from the caucus for Julia Gillard. I mean, that is just fundamentally

not true. I mean, we're reading article after article, briefing after briefing about what's going on. And I think what's

happening is a lot of the Labor MPs are becoming increasingly nervous about the litany of lies, the litany of

untruths. We're seeing another one this morning with the private health insurance rebate which was a direct

promise at the 2007 election that they wouldn't change this — they're going to change it again. Andrew Wilkie's

seen the Prime Minister break an agreement just weeks ago. We know about the carbon tax lie. This Prime

Minister is out of time. Her lies, her deceit is catching up with her, and we're seeing now, sort of a Germany and

France, early part of 1940, we're just waiting for the sort of, first shot in the battle to begin. At the end of the day

though, what should happen this time is it shouldn't be the faceless men who decide who the leader of the

country is; it should be the Australian people. If they change leaders, and when they change leaders there should

be an election.

GILBERT:

On the private health though, on that — the means testing of the rebate, you said it's a broken promise. But they

took it to the 2010 election.

BRIGGS:

No they didn't; there was no mention in their health policy of this in the 2010 election.

MARLES:

Oh. We did take it to the 2010 election.

BRIGGS:

This was a direct broken promise after the 2007 election. No mention in the 2010 health policy that they wanted

to do this. This is another great Labor fib. It's not quite as big as the carbon tax lie, but it is another great Labor

fib.

GILBERT:

But I thought you would, you'd back this initiative? You know, you’ve argued for less government intervention.

BRIGGS:

No, no, no…

GILBERT:

This is removing government involvement.

BRIGGS:

No. What I argue for is government being in the right place. Now the Government's in the right place here

because what this does is take pressure off the public health system. So you know, the great claim that the Labor

Party make about apprentices paying the rebate for rich Australians — if you earn over $80,000, according to

Richard's party now you're rich — is that it puts more pressure on those apprentices to actually get the services

from the public health system. We know that because what will happen is that the people who can afford to do

this, who don't necessarily need to have their private health insurance will withdraw from the market as this price

goes up. And that's going to put more pressure on the public health system. So the people that these people

purport to represent will be the ones affected the most, right. So we say this is really bad policy and will have a

big effect on the public health system. You'll have the states with their hands out again for more money to pick up

the slack at the public health system area. But at the end of the day…

GILBERT:

Is…

BRIGGS:

…it's just more deceit; it's just more lies; it's just more Labor Party not telling the truth to the Australian people.

GILBERT:

Is an individual rich on $80,000 a year?

MARLES:

I don't think an individual's necessarily rich on $80,000 a year. But look, Kieran…

GILBERT:

So why should they lose the rebate?

MARLES:

Well firstly, you don't lose it entirely on $80,000 a year. A family has got to be earning more than a quarter of a

million dollars a year before they…

BRIGGS:

No, no, no, that's not true.

MARLES:

No, well it is right.

BRIGGS:

No, no, no (inaudible).

MARLES:

A family needs to be earning more than a quarter of a million dollars to be losing this entirely. And I think it is

completely reasonable that we have a situation where low and middle income earners are not subsidising the

health insurance of those who are earning more than a quarter of a million dollars.

And the idea that families who are earning more than a quarter of a million dollars are suddenly going to invade

the public health system beggars belief.

But here's the thing, Kieran. Right now, there are two teams on the field, but only one of them is actually trying to

balance the books. We will never see the Liberal Party stop promising Australian taxpayers money. You're more

likely to try and stop a feeding shark.

And so what we've now got with the Liberal Party, with their promises, is a $70 billion black hole. I mean, that is…

BRIGGS:

It's just not true.

MARLES:

That is right.

BRIGGS:

It's just not true.

MARLES:

That is the same cost of the entire New South Wales and South Australian budgets. I mean, what is their plan, to

turn the lights out in Adelaide and Sydney? I mean, they are not balancing the books, they are not making any

hard decisions and the real question for Jamie is if they were to win government, would they be repealing this

measure?

GILBERT:

Well, that's a question I think the Liberal leadership is going to detail later in the day, as far as I understand it. It

would be surprising if they did commit the Opposition Leader to revoking this because of the savings challenge

before the Coalition.

BRIGGS:

Well, we make this very clear. We'll be back in surplus. We in government delivered nine out of eleven surpluses.

The Labor Party hasn't delivered a surplus in Wyatt Roy's lifetime. We know, I mean, this talk…

MARLES:

You're not amassing a surplus for a decade.

BRIGGS:

…this talk of Labor surpluses is a joke. I mean, they came in with $20 billion in the bank and $70 billion in the

Future Fund. We're now $140 billion in net debt, $300 billion in gross, which is what you service, right, that's

actually what you service…

MARLES:

... appropriate, when a crisis happens.

BRIGGS:

…so yeah, of course, it did, and of course, it reduced revenues because there was pressures.

MARLES:

... (inaudible) low unemployment, compared to the rest of the world.

BRIGGS:

Yeah, but, mate, just because we're sick and the rest are sicker doesn't make us any better.

MARLES:

We've got the economy which is the envy of the world.

BRIGGS:

And the fact is, no, no, no, the fact is we now have a substantial debt which has to be serviced because of the

Labor Party's spending, not because of revenue...

MARLES:

And that's why we're making the hard decisions.

GILBERT:

So it makes it difficult to revoke a measure like this, isn't it, because this is worth over two and a half, or about

two and a half billion dollars over the next four years, this measure. It's substantial.

BRIGGS:

We will make the hard decisions. We will make the hard decisions. We'll make the hard decisions. And, well,

look, I'm not the Leader, I'm not the Health spokesman and they will talk about this later in the day, but we will

make the hard decisions. We will be back in surplus. That is our commitment. We have done it before. We will do

it again.

GILBERT:

Business is saying that the Government needs to act on red tape and on productivity measures linked to wage

growth, that there is risks of wage inflation. It's not from one business representative. It's from several...

MARLES:

(Inaudible).

BRIGGS:

Everyone else's fault. It's all everyone else's fault. It's everyone else's fault. It's not the IR system. It's not

productivity. It's everyone else's fault, isn't it?

MARLES:

Well, I reckon that's really rich coming from Jamie to be talking about this issue. I mean, after the productivity

boom of the Hawke and Keating years, with Jamie…

BRIGGS:

... genuine reforms, I agree.

MARLES:

Well, with Jamie working for John Howard, the Howard government went out, hunted down productivity and they

murdered it.

MARLES:

It was flat-lining when we took over. There was no investment in infrastructure, skills were something that they

thought the Chinese should be doing and they had an industrial relations system which set workers and bosses

at each other's throats.

BRIGGS:

Unlike now...

MARLES:

Now, we've got…

BRIGGS:

Now BHP's on a week-long strike.

MARLES:

Oh, please. The — we actually have a fair industrial relations system now, where these guys…

MARLES:

…well — where these guys complain about employers and employees reaching agreements between each other,

but we've got record investment in infrastructure and we're actually investing in the nation's skills. Now, we're

building up productivity. And this argument that suddenly we're being cast in red tape is ridiculous. I mean, I —

look at…

BRIGGS:

President of Toyota, Marius Kloppers, the head of BHP, the Financial Review front page again today, the

Business Council of Australia...

MARLES:

You look at the Financial Review…

GILBERT:

Yeah, let's hear Richard and I'll come back to Jamie.

MARLES:

…you know, you look at the Financial Review, and there's a quote from a business operator who has I think a

bathroom furnishing business, which talks about the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the carbon price. I mean,

there is not a single form associated with either of those measures that that employer would need to fill out. The

idea that…

BRIGGS:

... electricity costs won't go up?

MARLES:

Well, we can talk about…

BRIGGS:

…treasury modelling (inaudible) treasury modelling…

MARLES:

…we can talk about the economics of his business model, in terms of the carbon price and his ability to flow that

on, and what we're doing to households to deal with that and…

GILBERT:

But in terms of red tape, you're saying there's no red tape?

MARLES:

There's no — there is not a single form that that particular person needs [indistinct]…

GILBERT:

So why then this chorus of talk about cost pressures and red tape that we're seeing from the new head of the

AIG, from the head of CSL, the — as Jamie said, BHP, Toyota. There is — there seems to be a chorus of call for

action on productivity. And do you think there's no room for improvement on reviewing the Fair Work legislation?

MARLES:

Well, what I think we've got is legislation which actually encourages employers and employees to work together

and that's the best way you get labour productivity. And I think that when you look at the measures that the

Government has been undertaking, in terms of productivity, investing in infrastructure, investing in skills — let's

remember that under the Howard government, we saw ten interest rate rises in a row. And what was being

quoted in those decisions was the bottlenecks on the economy associated with infrastructure and skills. We're

dealing with that.

GILBERT:

Well, Jamie, the Opposition Leader has said he's going to scrap the — well, not scrap it, but reinstate the

Building and Construction Commission…

BRIGGS:

Absolutely.

GILBERT:

…among a number of — a few measures on IR, but not much. I spoke to Peter Reith, a couple of weeks ago. He

says that the Mr Abbott needs to go further. Do you agree with Mr Reith?

BRIGGS:

What we've said is we'll have a Productivity Commission review. That's what these guys should do. They should

have a genuine review to their Act, instead of just a hand-picked group of people to tell them what they want to

hear. What you're hearing from Richard and Bill Shorten and I mean, Bill's busy today writing speeches, I'm sure,

preparing for just in case eventualities. But, you know, what you hear from them when they're talking about their

portfolio area is it's always everyone else's fault. It's got nothing to do with the carbon tax and the big electricity

price increase that has come in at business. It's got nothing to do with their industrial relations system, even

though the president of Toyota, a Japanese businessman that — everyone knows in this country Japanese

businessmen never get involved in domestic debates — extraordinary intervention. The head of BHP is out there

saying the same thing. You've got a week-long strike, up in Queensland. This system is causing a huge problem.

The BCA says the same thing, the new head of the AIG.

GILBERT:

So shouldn't the Liberal Party...

MARLES:

... and bring back WorkChoices, Jamie?

BRIGGS:

No. This is a poor and — it's just a pathetic attempt to try and drag a genuine debate into sort of the, you know,

the old politics of scaring people, like they did in 2007. What we genuinely need to have is an IR policy which is

addressing the productivity challenge that our country has.

GILBERT:

But should the Liberal Party...

BRIGGS:

Everyone is saying — every canary in every pet shop around the country…

GILBERT:

Should the…

BRIGGS:

…is saying that exact same thing.

GILBERT:

Should your party get on the front foot a bit more then?

BRIGGS:

I think we have been.

GILBERT:

…given that…

BRIGGS:

I think Tony made a very good speech, three weeks ago, at the Press Club, where he made it very clear that this

is a real problem and that our framework for the economy going into government will be that the government is

where it should be and that we have to have productivity measures which help us take advantages of the Asian

century, the developing opportunities we have in our region.

GILBERT:

Okay.

BRIGGS:

And what that is not is tying our country in red tape…

GILBERT:

All right.

BRIGGS:

…tying our country to a carbon tax, which is way and above what the rest of world is doing.

GILBERT:

We're almost out of time. Just quickly, Richard, any final thoughts? We've got about 30 seconds.

MARLES:

Well, I think when people hear Jamie Briggs saying that we need to have a review of our IR system based on

productivity changes…

BRIGGS:

What's wrong with the Productivity Commission?

MARLES:

…they know that is code for cutting wages and conditions.

BRIGGS:

It's pathetic.

GILBERT:

Okay, let's wrap it up there, gentlemen, on that very bipartisan note, Jamie Briggs and Richard Marles.