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Transcript of interview with Patricia Karvelas: Sky News: 21 August 2016: same-sex marriage plebiscite; Ausgrid; superannuation; innovation portfolio; 45th parliament



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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science

TRANSCRIPT

21 August 2016

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA KARVELAS KARVELAS, SKY NEWS

E&OE…

Topics: Same-sex marriage plebiscite, Ausgrid, superannuation, innovation portfolio, 45th Parliament

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Greg Hunt, welcome to the program.

GREG HUNT:

Pleasure.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Why did the Prime Minister raise expectations that the same-sex marriage plebiscite would happen this year?

GREG HUNT:

Look, his goal and our goal has always been to do this as early as possible and practical. And that's what we're doing, we're seeking to do this at the earliest possible time. No decisions have been made, no consideration yet before Cabinet or the Party Room and we'll do that in due course.

But this is something that I think is important. I think it's an issue that matters. But I think that the idea of giving the Australian people a say is a really profoundly significant step. And I hope that the Opposition will join us, because the public gave us a mandate and indeed 70 per cent of the Australian people would like this. And we trust them and I hope that Mr Shorten reverses his position and trusts the public.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, on a couple of issues, should money go towards a yes and a no campaign? Taxpayer money?

GREG HUNT:

We haven't had that discussion yet…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But what do you think?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I'll reserve that, respectfully, and I understand the nature of your question, but I'll respectfully reserve that for my colleagues. But our approach here is to make sure that we have a genuine plebiscite, all Australians having the capacity to have a say.

And the overwhelming majority of Australians would like to have a say. I think that's a very important part of our democratic process and why the Labor Party doesn't trust the Australian people, for the life of me I don't understand.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, but on the other issue of the question- a question was in the Sunday Telegraph, in the national News Corp papers today. You're saying no decisions have been made.

A few people don't like that question, groups have said that they're concerned about that question. Does that mean that there's still a negotiation about the framing of that question now?

GREG HUNT:

The Cabinet and the Party Room will determine the final shape and form and timing of the plebiscite, but essentially it boils down to whether or not we will have same-sex marriage in Australia.

You can cut it this way or that way, but at the end of the day the question to be put to the Australian people, for the Australian people and by the Australian people, is will we or won't we have same-sex marriage in Australia.

And we can worry about this or that, but at the end of the day it's a very straightforward issue and it's a matter for the Australian people, and I think we should celebrate that and, goodness me, you know, Ireland could manage it, why Mr Shorten thinks that Ireland…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well I suppose we don't have to change our Constitution to achieve this.

GREG HUNT:

But he's running the argument that we can't trust Australians to have a civilised debate. I mean, you and I are allowed to have that debate, but what Mr Shorten says is that ordinary Australians can't have that debate because he thinks you can't trust the bloke in the pub.

Well I do think you can trust the bloke in the pub and I do think you can trust people right around this country. I mean, how come we're allowed to do this, but other people aren't?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Alright. Just on Ausgrid, Treasurer Scott Morrison has confirmed the Ausgrid sale to Chinese buyers has been now formally rejected. Now Mike Baird says, and I'll quote him, my frustration is that this should have been determined much earlier. Does he make a valid point?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I again respect his views, but this was determined on the basis of national security as the material came through…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But did you waste his time? Did you waste their Government's time?

GREG HUNT:

Well they're going through a process and I imagine they will re-present, and Mr Baird, Premier Baird has said that he intends to re-present a different proposal or with different proponents.

This was a national security decision and indeed the Labor Party made a very analogous decision back in 2012, I think it was March of 2012 on Huawei…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I know, look, I'm not asking you a question about the decision and I accept that on national security grounds that this is the advice, I'm not questioning you on that. I'm talking about the process and whether the process itself needs change. Because, you know, this is our biggest state.

There's high stakes here to their Budget, to their prosperity. Shouldn't they be able to be given a better guide earlier on so they can get this whole process not so derailed?

GREG HUNT:

Well they had to determine who was their preferred tenderer, and then they put that to the Commonwealth. And that was done in a fairly efficient manner. So until there was an actual proposal with an actual proponent before the Foreign Investment Review Board, there was nothing to determine, so…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And you think it works fine, no change is necessary, no review over the process?

GREG HUNT:

The vast bulk of foreign investments are approved and should be approved.

From time to time there is a unique issue. We saw that with Huawei, which was the telecommunications bid for assisting with the construction of the NBN under Labor, and I remember Bob Carr, I think it was on the 7:30 Report in about May of 2012, standing up for Australia's right to make decisions on national security.

Now he's got a different view at this point in time about the principle, let alone fact - odd - but the principle that Labor enunciated in government and the process that Labor followed is exactly the sort of thing that we're doing, and I think it works well.

Foreign investment is good for this country. I believe in it deeply and passionately, but similarly you have to be able to put a national security filter over certain issues.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, on superannuation - various reports, one that the $500,000 cap on non-concessional super contributions might be raised to $750,000. Or according to The Australian over the weekend, even a million dollars. Isn't that a significant departure from the policy you took to the electorate?

GREG HUNT:

Well the first thing is that we haven't changed our policy. There's consultation going on, but there hasn't been a change (inaudible)…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But a million is not 500,000.

GREG HUNT:

...again through the Cabinet or the Party Room. I can say that - there has been no change in policy.

Appropriately, there is consultation. You know, I'm aware that many people have their concerns, and they have a right to be heard and it’s appropriate of us...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But do you get to a point where changes...

GREG HUNT:

...to consult, but no change in policy at this point.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Okay, but do you get to a point where changes - if it goes up to a million - is so different to what was originally taken to the electorate that effectively you've broken a promise? I mean, a million dollars is not $500,000.

GREG HUNT:

Look, I again respect the question, however my point is there hasn't been a change in policy...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But there clearly is going to be.

GREG HUNT:

...and I certainly wouldn't speculate on any potential change in policy. What's our big, overriding task here? Our big task is to make the savings that allow us to have a national budget which means that we can deliver the same and better services to the next generation.

If we don't do this, if we don't look at the overarching budget, then the next generation simply will not have the quality of services and the quality of economy and the job opportunities that the current generation has.

That's the powerful reason behind all of these steps. Never, they're never popular to be able to make savings in a budgetary context in almost any (inaudible). But that's the test of a really committed government.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So what do you say to your backbenchers then? Be prepared to not get what you want, because we need to make significant savings?

GREG HUNT:

These things are always a dialogue and a discussion and a negotiation...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But would that be a message that you would want to...

GREG HUNT:

...and we always have to be able to get things through the Parliament. Of course right now we did what we thought was the right thing; we took the $6.5 billion that the Labor Party presented to the Australian people as a saving only six weeks ago, and we bundled that up and we've offered that to the Parliament, and we hope the Labor Party will recognise that this is a national task, but also this was their pledge.

So that's the example of what we're doing. The big context for allowing us to provide services of equal or better quality to future generations by making the Budget sustainable.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I want to get to your portfolio. I spoke to a lot of MPs, backbenchers, people during the election campaign who said that that idea of disruption, the new economy was very, very unsettling for a lot

of people, and that perhaps some of these votes we've seen, the One Nation Party for instance, Nick Xenophon's Team, is a reaction to that message not going down very well. Now this is now your portfolio area. Do you acknowledge that that message sunk?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I won't go into the past. Innovation matters immensely because 60 per cent of our productivity comes from...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I know it matters, but I'm asking you how it's received by people.

GREG HUNT:

Well I'm explaining to you what I'm doing, and that is to make the point that this portfolio, Industry and Innovation and Science is about job security, I repeat, job security and job creation and it's about existing or old firms such as 100-year-old Dulux, such as BlueScope, such as Nyrstar in Port Pirie where I visited the lead smelter which has been dramatically transformed. You know, I visited only a few days ago.

So I'm saying that innovation is about existing jobs and job security and job creation and it matters right across the country.

Forty-five per cent of Australia's firms - from coffee roasters to mechanics to small mining services firms, are engaging in innovation. At the end of the day, if you want to stay in business and get better and stronger and create more jobs, you need to do new things in new ways.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You might be right, but that doesn't mean everyone feels comfortable with it, does it?

GREG HUNT:

That's why I think it's very, very important that as a government and as a responsible person in this space, I'm saying this is about job security, whether it's in...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So does that mean you're going out... This is a specific question - and you see your task as re-framing this discussion, as re-explaining what that means? Putting it back on track?

GREG HUNT:

What I'm doing is explaining it in terms of what it means for Australians from all walks of life. Why I visited places like Melbourne Garages or food businesses as well as financial ...

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But are you telling voters there's nothing to be afraid of here? Is that your message?

GREG HUNT:

What I am saying is that there is immense opportunity for job creation, whether it is in something as simple as an air conditioning and heating firm. I visited the NGroup in Dromana only a week and a half ago. They're doing their own testing of new equipment. They're selling to the local area and they're increasing the number of jobs.

So this is a smart group of local businesspeople, men and women who are creating jobs by doing air conditioning in a new way. So this is something that matters right around the country.

In other words, innovation is about small firms, medium firms and large firms. It's not just about inner city new start-ups. They matter, they have a huge opportunity to create jobs, but it's about the best chance of giving job security to people right across the country.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you are re-badging the message, the one that we originally heard when Malcolm Turnbull took over does not sound like the one you're giving me here. You're saying job security is at the centre of this message on innovation.

GREG HUNT:

Look, on my very first statement about the portfolio I went to Questacon the day after I was sworn in, Questacon is the science centre…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You just wanted to hang out there.

GREG HUNT:

Is it great.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: It is good.

GREG HUNT:

Everybody should go to Questacon, and you don't have to be a kid to go there, you can be a big kid and simply love science. But the message I gave there deliberately, consciously, having thought it through was, industry, innovation and science, at its heart is about the jobs of today, the jobs of tomorrow and the jobs of the future. But above all else it's about the combination of job security and job growth.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally on pairing, it's been a big issue throughout the week. Tony Burke sparked it off. Are you worried that the Prime Minister won't be able to go to APEC in Peru if there isn't a pairing arrangement for him?

GREG HUNT:

Well this is a question for the Labor Party.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But I ask specifically, is that the first kind of test for you? You think the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister should be paired for that?

GREG HUNT:

There are a series of questions for the Labor Party. Would they prevent the Prime Minister of Australia from representing Australia at APEC? Will they prevent the Foreign Minister from attending an international climate change conference? Will they prevent a parent from a critical family issue such as a funeral or visiting a mother or a father?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you're urging them not to go down the road of payback? Because they've been burnt by your side of politics.

GREG HUNT:

I think there is a lot of mythology here…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I watched it.

GREG HUNT:

We were very…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I'm happy to have this out with you, you were not reasonable.

GREG HUNT:

I think we were very reasonable…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You really think you were reasonable?

GREG HUNT:

There are some points where there are disagreements and things, and Christopher has said that there may have been certain decisions…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But you're saying you were reasonable, he even conceded you weren't that reasonable at the time.

GREG HUNT:

I think you will find that we were incredibly reasonable. But, if Mr Shorten thinks that the Prime Minister shouldn't attend APEC, that the Prime Minister shouldn't attend the G20, that the Prime Minister of Australia shouldn't be able to attend the next equivalent of a Paris conference on climate change then, that doesn't feel like a very responsible position or a very fit and proper approach to being an Opposition Leader.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Greg Hunt, many thanks for your time.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much.

(ENDS)