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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Padstow, Sydney: 10 April 2016: Road Safety Remuneration System; ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill; Royal Commission into banking industry; Panama Papers revelations; Tony Abbott; WA GST allocation



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PRIME MINISTER

THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

10 April 2016

TRANSCRIPT

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Joint Doorstop, Prime Minister and Minister for Employment Padstow, Sydney

Well ladies and gentlemen we’re here with Pauline and the other owner-drivers and their families with Michaelia Cash the Employment Minister, David Coleman the local member for Banks and we’re here today to stand up for family businesses, for small businesses, for the owner-drivers of Australia. Tens of thousands of family businesses. Now let me tell you that our economic plan to ensure that we continue to successfully transition to the new economy of the 21st century depends upon small and medium businesses. It depends on their enterprise, their courage to mortgage their homes, to borrow money, to invest in equipment, to really have a go.

They are in every respect the engine room of the Australian economy. That's where the jobs growth is to be found, that’s where the innovation is to be found. Now what we have seen is this RSRT, this tribunal established by the Labor Party, established by Bill Shorten, has produced an order which will drive owner-drivers out of business. It will make them uncompetitive with other larger businesses. It is designed entirely and was designed entirely by Mr Shorten when he was in government to advantage the Transport Workers Union.

It was a piece of legislation that has had nothing to do with safety, everything to do with getting small businesses, self-employed people, the enterprising family businesses of Australia off the roads. Now they've made that order and we are seeking to get it revoked.

We’ll have to do that through legislation. As you know we’re bringing the Parliament back early to deal with the ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill and once they are dealt with we will seek to get a bill passed to ensure that that order is set aside until next year. But, what we’re committing to today and this is the most important point, we will, if we are re-elected, abolish the RSRT. It is not a tribunal that does anything effective to do with safety, it undermines owner operators, it undermines small business, it undermines family businesses. Two reports have investigated it and each of them has recommended that it be abolished.

We’re going to carry that out, it will be abolished if the Turnbull Government is re-elected at the election this year.

Michaelia?

MINISTER CASH:

Thank you Prime Minister and again, to the owner drivers who are with us today, the mum and dads of Australia who have mortgaged their homes to buy these vehicles that we see behind us, who in many cases work with their sons and their daughters to do the right thing by Australians and ensure that our product is delivered in a manner in which we as Australians can afford it, again, we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with you to abolish this tribunal.

We've heard today of one owner driver here who’s already gone out of business. We've also heard from a family business of 70 years, which is going to potentially go out of business. That is not the type of government that we operate. We want to see owner drivers stay in business.

In relation to the safety element of this tribunal, as the Prime Minister has said, it was always put together under the guise of safety, a deal done between Bill Shorten and Tony Sheldon to bolster the numbers of the TWU.

This government and all of the owner drivers here today, we recognise the paramount importance of safety. We want to see the mums and dads and their kids come home safely each night and that is why I am also going to announce that the $4 million that we will save each year as a government from the abolition of the RSRT will be given over to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

This is the appropriate body to deal with the safety issues in the transport industry in Australia. This body will continue to work closely with state and territory governments, whom as we know regulate safety on our roads, to ensure that the safety mechanisms that we have in the trucking industry are the best that we can have. We will work with industry to work out what further practical measures we can put in place to ensure safety.

But again we will abolish this tribunal if we are given the honour of governing this country and in the event that the Parliament returns we have stated we will delay the implementation of this order. We currently do not have the numbers to abolish the tribunal, but I believe that we can get the numbers to delay the order. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the mum and dads of Australia who do the right thing by all of us and we will not let you down.

PRIME MINISTER:

Pauline, do you want to talk about this from your perspective and your family’s perspective?

PAULINE KEARNEY:

I’d first like to thank you Prime Minister and Michaelia Cash for coming here today and supporting us. Very much appreciated.

MICHAELIA CASH:

Thank you.

PAULINE KEARNEY:

We welcome the announcement that's just been made, it’s from the heart. We need to save these owner-drivers and this family businesses. This is not about safety, my husband and I both drive, we have 20 years experience, both of us. We can't see how us getting out of our truck and putting an employee who may have no experience is going to be safer.

It has nothing to do with safety. We have to get this abolished. We just do.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thanks Pauline and the commitment of you and your family and all these other family businesses here today and tens of thousands of them around Australia, believe me, our economic security, the jobs of all of our children and grandchildren depend upon enterprising families like yours and we're backing you.

PAULINE KEARNEY:

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Now are there any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull some of your colleagues are supporting Labor's call to have a royal commission into the baking industry. Do you agree?

PRIME MINISTER:

You actually asked whether they’re supporting a royal commission into the baking industry.

JOURNALIST:

Banking.

PRIME MINISTER:

Banking industry, right. Bill Shorten's call for a royal commission into the banking industry is just another distraction, just a thought bubble of his, to respond to the news of the week. Let's be quite clear, let's be quite clear. The banking industry, the financial services sector, is heavily regulated. There is already ASIC, which has all of the powers of a royal commission and much more. It has all of the powers to enquire of a royal commission but it’s got the powers to prosecute and to take action, which it is doing.

It has many current actions on the books at the moment. It has banned people from in the industry, it has enacted fines, it is a very active regulator.

In addition to that you have the prudential regulation authority, APRA, and it also has powers equal to a royal commission and indeed greater.

So as I said in my speech at the Westpac event earlier last week, a few days ago, the critical thing here is that the high standards of putting the customer first, of ensuring that the trust of the community is justified, that requires leadership from senior bank managers and they are providing that leadership and they will provide more.

But they have a very strong, we have a very strong regulatory structure to do that. Now what Mr Shorten is really trying to do of course is to distract attention from the government's commitment to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission as a tough cop on the construction industry beat.

The issue with lawlessness and the construction sector, as we all know, is very real. Two thirds of all industrial disputes in Australia are in the construction sector and 70% of them actually are in one state, in Victoria. That’s the efforts of the CFMEU.

Now, the ABCC is a vital element in ensuring that that industry complies with the law and of course it's a huge employer, a very big part of the economy. That's what he is seeking to distract from.

JOURNALIST:

But Prime Minister, what about the royal commission into union corruption? Why isn't the Coalition supporting that and not criminal offences in the banking sector?

PRIME MINISTER:

The big difference is that there is already a regulator, in fact there are several regulators in charge of the banking and financial services sector. There is ASIC that I mentioned, there’s APRA and the Reserve Bank of Australia has regulatory functions as well.

But you already have a strong powerful regulator there, monitoring that industry and taking action. Now what we had in the building and constructing sectors we also had a strong regulator there, the ABCC, and what the Labor Party did was abolish it. And they abolished it at the behest of the CFMEU just like they are trying to put these men and women out of business at the behest of the Transport Workers Union.

JOURNALIST:

Just one more Prime Minister, Dom Vukovic from the ABC, I just want to know about Tasmania. The Liberal Party there has recommended that Senator Richard Colbeck be preselected well behind Senator Eric Abetz. Does that annoy you at all and what does that outcome have to say perhaps about your relationship with the Liberals in Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Liberal Party is a grassroots political organisation and decisions about preselections are taken by the members in a grassroots and democratic way.

JOURNALIST:

Just following the Panama Papers revelations, can you explain why the government hasn't acted on the commitments it made at the Brisbane G20 to require the disclosure of beneficial owners?

PRIME MINISTER

Can I tell you our government is taking stronger action than any of our predecessors to crack down on tax evasion, tax avoidance, multinational tax avoidance. I want to make this point very, very clearly. This is a critical point.

Labor talks about this issue. There was a bill that we introduced at the end of last year to give the ATO much stronger powers to crack down on multinational tax avoidance.

And do you know, the Labor Party voted against it? We got it through the Senate with the support of the Greens. Scott Morrison negotiated that deal with the Greens to get it through.

So Labor's track record, whether in government or opposition, on stamping out multinational tax avoidance and ensuring that everybody pays their tax is very, very shameful indeed.

JOURNALIST:

Have you found a formal role for Tony Abbott, or do you have one in mind for the upcoming election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Every member and every candidate will be working hard to win their seat and obviously ministers have a national role. But can I just say to you that the issue that we're talking about today, and I’d encourage you to pay...to consider, rather than politics and personalities, is the lives and livelihoods the businesses of the men and women that are standing with us here today.

Their family businesses are under threat because of a Labor Party policy, a Labor Party tribunal, that was part of a stitch up with the Transport Workers Union and has produced this order, which will in due course put so many family businesses out of business. Now that's an extraordinary thing to witness and that is why we are committed to abolishing that tribunal and preventing as quickly as we can that order going into place.

JOURNALIST:

Just in relation to lives at risk, yesterday the big news was allegations were made, claims by Lebanese authorities, that Channel Nine had paid for a botched kidnapping in the country. Can you give us a bit more information about what the government knows about the reporting crew that’s there and what sort of updates have occurred since then about that and are they coming back home any time soon?

PRIME MINISTER:

I've obviously been in very close discussions with the Foreign Minister about that.

The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has spoken to the Lebanese Foreign Minister about it. Our consular officials are in in touch with the journalists and the crew who are in detention or in prison in Lebanon and we are seeking through the usual diplomatic channels to ensure that they are kept safe and will be able to return.

But you have to understand that in situations like this often the less I say the better it is for the people that are at risk, or are in these difficult circumstances overseas.

JOURNALIST:

Can you just let us know has there been any further discussion since Ms Bishop made a statement yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

She has spoken to the Foreign Minister of Lebanon.

JOURNALIST:

Yesterday you said no fistful of dollars would be handed out yet today you announced almost $500 million for Western Australia, does your government have a problem with mixed messages?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Western Australia has had a very raw deal out of the GST allocation formula. I think everyone understands that. And what we’re doing is ensuring, as we did last year, that there is a balance brought back into it.

Michaela is a distinguished West Australian perhaps she can speak about that further.

MINISTER CASH:

Again as West Australian Senators, my team are very disappointed with the outcome of the GST redistribution. 30 cents in the dollar is what we get back. That is not sustainable.

I am very proud to work with a government and a Prime Minister that recognises that the formula is unfair, that recognizes that Western Australia does get a raw deal, and has allocated us an additional half a billion dollars to invest in infrastructure so again, raw deal for Western Australians but working with the Prime Minister we’ve been able to make some inroads by way of infrastructure investment.

JOURNALIST:

Shouldn't Western Australia have been more careful with the money they raised to the mining boom?

PRIME MINISTER:

You have to remember that Western Australia’s mining boom did result in a very big increase in state revenues, and that is one of the reasons why the GST formula has resulted in the state receiving such a low share of the GST as a percentage. You’ve also got to remember that the way the formula works, is that it’s backward looking.

So the revenue spike - if you like - was some years ago now, but they are still dealing with the consequences of that in terms of GST allocation.

Finally, I’ll just make this observation, in order for those big revenues to occur for those big projects to be built, for the royalties to be delivered, the state of Western Australia has had to make massive investments in infrastructure.

This is a question of or an issue of dealing fairly with Western Australia, we have done so in a way that does not prejudice the other states that does not disturb the allocation of GST.

We believe this is an equitable way of ensuring that the distribution of the GST in effect, the net consequence, is that Western Australia is not worse off than it would have been in 2014/15.

Thank you all very much.

ends