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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 1 February 2012

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Transcript ­ Sky News AM Agenda ­ Wednesday 1 February 2012 

01 February 2012 in Media

To watch this interview, please click here.


Joining me on the program now from Melbourne, Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus. From the Sky News Centre,

we've got Liberal MP Jamie Briggs. Gentlemen, good morning to you and welcome.


Morning Kieran.


Morning Kieran.


Let me just start with Tony Abbott's speech, Mark, if I can. Labor is critical of Tony Abbott as being Dr No. Well,

he wasn't yesterday, was he, outlining a positive vision?


I didn't hear much of a positive vision yesterday. What I heard was Tony Abbott walking away from tax cuts and

you'd have to say Julie Bishop sounded embarrassed when she was trying to defend what her leader did

yesterday. He walked away from tax cuts that he promised as late as November last year and what we've now

got is, as you've just said, a new form of political promise. We've got in the case of the tax cuts that they're "in

prospect", according to Abbott, by the end of a first Coalition term, which would make them about five years away

and as for Labor policies like the National Disability Insurance Scheme or the matter of doing something about

dental care for ordinary Australians, they are an "aspiration" now and it sounds to be a bit like Tony Abbott's

revisiting the non-core promise of John Howard. That's what that speech sounded like yesterday.


Isn't Tony Abbott establishing an argument that a government needs to live within its means?


This is a government that lives within its means. It's a government that has taken the hard decisions, that have

steered us through the worse financial crisis that the world has seen in 75 years. We've created over 700,000

jobs in the first four years of Labor Government. That's more than the Howard Government in its last four years

and we're a government that's committed to jobs. We're a government that is committed to taking tough

economic decisions and the suggestion that this is a government that in any way isn't doing that, is just plain

wrong. We'll be returning the budget to surplus in 2012/13 and we'll be continuing to take decisions that build jobs

in the Australian economy and…








…Australia from the consequences of the Global Financial Crisis.


Let's go to Jamie Briggs. I want to ask you about that message from Tony Abbott. It was a positive message. But

also what it [inaudible] manage expectations in terms of any future Coalition government, what it can deliver. With

the tax cuts though, did he confuse the message a bit?


Not at all. I mean you've just heard sort of a - like a comedy hour appearance from Mark Dreyfus, trying to defend

the Labor Party, suggesting that they've lived within their means. We're $135 billion in debt, in net debt, after -

when the Labor Government got to power in 2007 we were $20 billion in surplus. We've had the Labor Party

promise three days before an election that there will be no carbon tax under a government that I lead, from a

Prime Minister and also a Treasurer, break that promise immediately afterwards. We've seen promise after

promise. Andrew Wilkie's the last person to be let down by this Prime Minister, who she just blatantly lied to

about what she'd like to do. What Tony Abbott is doing is taking people into his trust and saying that our

framework is that government should do no more than is required, well no more than what people cannot do for

themselves and that's what we're going to focus on. We're going to get the things that Government should do

right. We're not going to over-promise. We're going to tell people the truth. If there is not money there to deliver

tax cuts, we're not going to put the budget into massive deficit and massive debt, at a time when we see what the

consequences of massive debt and massive deficit are all around the world. Now, Mark Dreyfus and the Labor

Party can live in their fairyland and they can have their knife fight in public with Simon Crean, going after Kevin

Rudd yesterday and who knows what else will happen today? But what we're going to do is present an agenda

about how we actually want to take the country forward in an honest and open way at the same time as being

able to promise things which we plan to deliver. Not just a promise to win an election, to foist it over the

Australian public and try and win an election. Actually deliver when we get elected.


Mark, the Prime Minister obviously wants to focus on the economy today. You can respond to a bit of that - I'll

give you the opportunity to respond to what Jamie had to say as well. But I want to put this in the context of a

Prime Minister today trying to argue her case on the economy, but the leadership issue is a distraction. Jamie

made reference to it there. Kevin Rudd today is going to be on the campaign trail in Brisbane. That's got to be

frustrating to the Prime Minister as a distraction.


Of course Jamie made reference to leadership questions. Of course Jamie made reference to anything other

than looking at the hard statistics. Things like the fact that interest rates are lower now than when Labor came to

office. Taxes are lower now than when Labor came to office and without putting in context the net debt that he's

just given as a figure, but without saying that net debt in Australia is going to peak at around 8 per cent,

compared to net debt in the OECD countries averaging at around 90 per cent, with countries like Greece in the

order of 140 or 160 per cent. That's the context. Jamie and other Liberal Party members, and indeed Tony Abbott

yesterday, don't want to talk about the fact that 700,000 plus jobs have been created since Labor came to office

and that by comparison over 30 million jobs lost in the developed countries of the world, with millions of people

now out of work in North America and in Western Europe. That's the context and that's the comparison and that's

why there's been praise…


Okay. What about Kevin Rudd on the campaign trail then today providing a distraction for the Prime Minister?

That does not help, does it? It must be frustrating to her and to other supporters of her, like yourself?


I don't think it's a distraction at all. Kevin Rudd is a frontbencher in the Federal Labor Government and is doing

what frontbenchers in Federal Labor governments do, which is to support State Government seeking re-election.

Many of the frontbench are going to be going to Queensland in the coming weeks, all of us. Everyone in the

Labor Party throughout Australia is doing what Labor people do…


Putting YouTube up, a YouTube video of himself up in Chinatown New Year’s celebrations. That's not what every

frontbencher does.


Kevin lives in Queensland. He's a frontbencher in the Federal Government from Queensland. I don't make

anything of it whatsoever and I won't be distracted by the kind of speculation that's appearing in the press, or the

kind of speculation that's being fed by Jamie Briggs or that Liberal Party people want to feed. What's important is

getting on with the job Kieran and Jamie knows it. What's important is doing the right thing and taking the tough

decisions for the Australian economy.


Tony Abbott is still less popular, despite all the talk on the Government side. He is still less popular than the

Prime Minister, in terms of the latest approval rating the news poll.


I just love Mark's, you know, it's everyone else's fault but ours. I mean I wonder whether Mark agrees with Simon

Crean. Is Kevin Rudd a prima donna? A simple question. I mean that was the character assessment that one

senior frontbencher gave of the Foreign Minister yesterday. Mark, do you agree? Is Kevin Rudd a prima donna?


I'm not going to answer Jamie's questions. I'm interested in talking about the economy and about the decisions…


Alright. So what was Simon Crean doing?


…that we're going to take and about governing Australia, because that's why we're in government.


Let's move on then. I want to talk about the Health Services Union, I’ve got to cross to the United States get an

update on the Florida primary in the republican race. Let's talk about the Health Services Union Chief. She was

asked last night by Chris Uhlmann on the ABC whether or not she thought there'd been government interference

in the Fair Work Australia investigation into the Health Services Union. This is what she had to say.

[excerpt from interview]


I have no evidence of that. But the question I ask is why has it taken so long?


Do you suspect it?


I suspect it.

[end of excerpt]


Mark Dreyfus, you've got that there from Kathy Jackson. It's, other people suspect it as well. It's been alluded to

by the Opposition. It's not a good look three years on.


Oh and the key to that statement was "I have no evidence for that" and in my former profession as a lawyer,

when people said "I have no evidence for that", that's where it stops. People should lay off independent public

servants that are going about their job, doing their duty. This is an independent statutory agency and when it's

finished its investigation and makes its report public, that's the time for comment on it, not this sort of speculation

and not raising suspicions when there is no basis for doing so.


As Mark said Jamie, it is an independent statutory authority. They should be - should they not be given a chance

to do their job independently?


Well look. Kathy Jackson is hardly a Liberal. She's hardly been a supporter of Tony Abbott and our side of

politics. I think what she's doing is truth telling and it's some pretty hard questions for the Prime Minister to

answer today. She's got to answer what the Government knows about any influence that Kathy Jackson was

suggesting last night. The other issue that Julia Gillard is going to have to answer today is the accusation in the

National Indigenous Times that more senior people in her office were involved in the fracas last Thursday. A

pretty substantial accusation today and I think Julia Gillard has got some pretty solid questions that she's going to

have to answer before she gives her speech this afternoon.


Alright gentlemen, we've run out of time. Jamie - Mark, if you want a quick response you can. We do have 30

seconds or so.


Where it begins and ends, with Kathy Jackson's statement is her saying there is no evidence and that's where

press speculation ought to stop and everybody else ought to stop. These are independent public servants doing

their job. They should be allowed to get on with it. Thanks Kieran.