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Transcript of Television Interview with Laura Jayes: Sky Lunchtime Agenda: 13 June 2014: Protests against change of language from 'occupied' to 'disputed'; Abbott's North American trip; welfare changes

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SUBJECT/S: Protests against change of language from ‘occupied’ to ‘disputed’; Abbott’s North American trip; welfare changes.

LAURA JAYES: Joining me now on the program is Liberal MP Peter Hendy from Canberra and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Alannah MacTiernan from Perth. Thanks so much for joining me today. Alannah MacTiernan first to you, do support this change from ‘occupied’ to ‘disputed’ in terms of Israel?

ALANNAH MACTIERNAN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Look I think it’s been a very provocative move, and it comes after a statement by the Foreign Minister about the legality of the settlements in Israel so it’s just really, I think, been putting a stick in a hornet’s nest and has been very unproductive, I think, for the very considerable Islamic communities in Australia and of course, as we now know, the impact that this is going to have on overseas trade. I’m a bit surprised Barnaby just says ‘It’s above my pay scale’. He is a Cabinet Minister and he obviously has to be really tuned into those issues that are going to needlessly undermine our trade potential.

JAYES: Is it worth pointing out here that Julia Gillard wanted to vote against giving Palestine observer status when she was Prime Minister so there’d be some in your party that would perhaps agree moving to this stance.

MACTIERNAN: I think the important thing to note is that the Labor government did make a decision not to vote against that, to take the middle road which was abstaining, so certainly the position of Labor has been look we’ve got to be an honest broker here, in the middle. This idea that we can do those two very provocative things and that not have a consequence is really quite silly. Of course it’s going to have a consequence, and of course it was done for a reason, and I think the impact that we see now with so many foreign governments, our trade partners, expressing real dismay about this change in direction has to be addressed.

JAYES: Peter Hendy, this would directly affect your constituents, wouldn’t it? Are you concerned?

PETER HENDY: Look I think the bottom line is the government hasn’t changed its position vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinian territories. There’s no change in our approach to the Middle East issue with to those two bodies of people, that we want to see a two state solution, and yes we’ve changed the use of some judgemental language and that’s what we’ve said…

JAYES: And that’s what these Islamic nations seem to be concerned about though.

HENDY: Well they have, to the extent that - look I haven’t talked to anybody myself. I am the Chairman of the Parliamentary Group for United Arab Emirates. No one’s raised this issue with me. I think the bottom line is we haven’t changed our views on Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We want to see an amicable two state solution. I think that any judgemental language that might get in the way of that shouldn’t be used if we can avoid it.

JAYES: Do you think this change of language needs to go back to ‘occupied’ if it does start to affect trade? Is it really worth it?

HENDY: Well I have a bit of experience working in the Middle East. I used to work and live in the Middle East in Bahrain. We’ve just done a trade deal with Bahrain which is a good thing, that the Agriculture Minister was just referring to in his recent interview. I think that there are always issues, there are always argy-bargy about words and stuff like that, but the bottom line is Australia is non-judgemental in this. We want to deal with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I think as a good world citizen we’re doing that, we’re dealing with them both fairly. In fact I want to mention we’re increasing foreign aid to the Palestinian territories. This coming year it will be $56.5million which is the largest ever amount of money that’s been actually given to the Palestinian territories.

JAYES: Alright well now I want to look at the Prime Minister’s North America trip. Alannah MacTiernan do you give Tony Abbott points for diplomacy given that him and Barack Obama don’t see eye to eye on everything.

MACTIERNAN: Well, you know, I don’t think there’s anything exceptional. But what really does have to be noted is the fact that this big issue of climate change couldn’t be addressed in their joint press statement because quite clearly we are totally out of step with the United States. I mean, Tony Abbott’s fantasy that somehow or other his policy, which is we’ll ask some fossil fuel burners to reduce their emissions and pay them if they do is the same as Barack Obama’s very strong policy, which is mandating very substantial cuts in carbon and punishing you if you don’t do it. To equate that they are the same is complete and utter nonsense. Now he’s found one playmate…

JAYES: I just want to go to Peter Hendy. Peter, when he’s been overseas, and he made these comments in recent days, he says, ‘The fuel excise is already acting as a carbon price signal to improve energy efficiency’, but how is that so, how is it a price signal when the money’s going into building better roads?

HENDY: Well I saw that report from the ABC. It is an anonymous report on the meeting that was not attended by the ABC but between the President and the Prime Minister, so I’m not quite sure how accurate it is. What I do know is that the fuel indexation decision that we made in the budget was indeed about funding road expenditure in Australia, so that’s what it’s for. It’s not a carbon tax, it is what it is. It’s going towards funding road expenditure that is really important, in fact in my electorate today, I won’t bore the general public about this but Eden-Monaro got a $50million road promise and this is a down payment for the changes that have been announced in the budget.

JAYES: Okay just quickly Patrick McClure is going to recommend a fairer welfare system. Labor says that is just code for cuts. Can you guarantee there won’t be more cuts to the welfare system?

HENDY: Well, look, I don’t know. I haven’t seen, I can’t really comment on what Patrick McClure is putting forward. Patrick McClure is a substantial Australian, he is a really, he’s a guru in the wealth area and I’ll be really interested to see what he has to say about welfare into the future because we should be listening to people like him.

JAYES: Okay, Alannah MacTiernan, Ken Henry recommended a simpler system as well. One payment, for example, with supplements linked to that. Is that something Labor would support?

MACTIERNAN: Well Labor has always been active in reviewing our payment system, but I think the fundamental issue we’ve got to deal with here is this budget austerity that has been imposed…

JAYES: Well sure but do you agree that the welfare system needs to be simpler?

MACTIERNAN: always there has to be a culture of continuous improvement. No one disputes that, and Labor during its time introduced many reforms to entitlements, and many of them, interestingly, resisted by Tony Abbott on the basis that they constituted class warfare. But we always accept that there needs to be a constant review so that we don’t have unintended consequences, and Labor has supported principles like work-for-the-dole. We’re not anti-reform, but what we are totally opposed to is a budget that disproportionately affects those people that are the low-income earners in this country and a lot of these people that are going to be negatively affected are out there every day working, families that are going to lost Family Tax Benefit B that are now being targeted by Mr Abbott.

JAYES: Okay Alannah MacTiernan and Peter Hendy thanks very much for joining me on the program today.