Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop: 21 August 2009: the Government's failure to invest in water infrastructure; campaign finance reform; the Coalition; Rebiya Kadeer.



Download PDFDownload PDF

Fri, 21st August 2009

Turnbull Doorstop - The Government’s failure to invest in water infrastructure, campaign finance reform, the Coalition, Rebiya Kadeer

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

E&OE

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, you have just heard me talk about water, the big issue facing South Australians, and the colossal neglect by the Rudd Labor Government of water management in Australia.

In 2007 we did what people had said was too hard for more than a century. We put the management of the water of the Murray-Darling Basin under federal control and we allocated $10 billion to re-plumb rural Australia so we could produce more food and fibre with less water and have a lot more water for the environment - billions of litres of water savings. All would benefit South Australia because you are at the end of the River Murray; you are at the end of the system. So the more environmental water there is in the system, the greater the benefits for South Australia.

That vision has been abandoned by Kevin Rudd. We left him with the legislative tools and we left him with the money. And he hasn’t done anything with it. And I pledge that when we return to government we will pick up those tools and get back to work and complete the vision of water management in the national interest that we set out in 2007 and which Kevin Rudd has so tragically and recklessly abandoned.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, Isobel Redmond has pledged that if she gets into government she will ban this kind of function whereby business people can pay to have access to cabinet ministers or shadow ministers, so would effectively outlaw this kind of event today, this kind of fundraiser. What do you make of it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I have been a passionate supporter of campaign finance reform for many years, long before I was in Federal Parliament in fact. I believe that we need to reform our campaign finance laws. It has to be done nationally to be effective, plainly, and it will clearly need the support of the Labor Government.

If they are fair dinkum then they should get behind reforms which will… and Isobel and I have a lot of common ground. I haven’t been through all of her proposal but I will tell you what my views are and they are the same views I’ve had for seven years or so and it’s this: that I believe that political parties should only be able to raise donations from individuals who are on the electoral roll, human beings who are registered to vote - so no union donations, no corporate donations - and there

should be an annual cap. That’s my view. I’ve held that for many years, long before I went into Parliament, and I think as time goes on…

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, that is a debateable point, whether it is a couple of thousand dollars or $5,000 or $1,500 - that’s something people can debate about but the critical thing…

QUESTION:

So this kind of function you think would be okay?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, this function was $135 a head, so I don’t think you would have a cap that would cut that out.

QUESTION:

But the wider forum, Mr Turnbull [inaudible] isn’t there a hint of hypocrisy that you’re happy to take their money today but perhaps not in six months?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Absolutely not. Look we on the Conservative side of politics are at an enormous disadvantage, in terms of fundraising, to Labor. Unless you want Australia to become a one party state, the Liberal Party and the National Party have got to keep on raising money to stay competitive with Labor. Now Labor has an enormous financial advantage in terms of fundraising because they get 100 per cent of the enormous cash flow from the trade union movement - they give nothing to the Liberals or the Nationals - and they also get at least half, often more, of the corporate dollar as well, and that’s particularly because they’re in government in so many places around Australia - everywhere except Western Australia.

So the reality is that from our point of view, while we would like to see the rules change and while we have supported change to the rules - as I say, I’ve been consistent about this for many years and argued for it in many forums - we need to keep raising money to stay competitive. The worst thing that can happen to Australia is that we end up with a Labor Party that is completely unassailable because of their huge financial dominance in terms of election funding.

QUESTION:

What do you make of the Rann Government’s resistance to establishing a register of lobbyists in South Australia and also its resistance to an ICAC? Do you think there are any motivations behind that position?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look a register of lobbyists is a good idea and we’ve got that now at the federal level, and I see Senator Minchin supported that today, and it’s certainly something that has a lot of merit for it. As to an ICAC, I’m not going to buy into the debate here in South Australia. Corruption is an enormous issue and there are arguments, you’ll find people in the police and the law enforcement area who will argue very strongly for a specialised anti-corruption body, and other people who will say that you should simply put more resources behind the existing police agencies. I can certainly say that in many countries and in many jurisdictions ICACs have proved to be very effective, but it’s obviously got to be well resourced, it’s got to be genuinely independent and set up with the powers that enables it to do its job.

QUESTION:

Do you think the Rann Government has something to hide though in its resistance to a register’s lobby, a lobby of registers, a register of lobbyists and an ICAC? Are they trying to hide something?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You really should address those questions to Isobel Redmond. I just simply say that if you want to get to the very core of this issue of confidence in the integrity of the campaign finance system then the type of reform that I’ve been advocating for many years and that Isobel has been talking about where you limit donations to contributions from individuals on the electoral roll with an annual cap and it’s very transparent. Get rid of the big money from the unions and big companies. That would make an enormous difference.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, the Nationals’ AGM this weekend, one of the motions is that they will… they’re looking to pass a motion to ensure the Nationals vote against an ETS. Does that signify that the Coalition will be split on this issue?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, as I said yesterday, the Liberals and the Nationals are in Coalition and have been for many decades, and will remain so I’m sure for many decades to come. From time to time, particularly when we’re in Opposition, we do take a different approach on particular issues, as we did on wheat for example. It’s very rare - as Barnaby Joyce said not so long ago, we vote together 99.99 per cent of the time.

Now, we will work together as a Coalition. We will seek to reach a common agreement, common position, on the ETS, but if we can’t do that it may be that the Nationals will vote differently to the Liberals. It’s no different to the situation on wheat.

QUESTION:

The Nationals also have…are lining up candidates for a couple of three-cornered contests in WA - one in Wilson Tuckey’s seat. Do you see that as a provocative move or is it…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’m not going to run a commentary on that. Again, three-cornered contests are not unknown.

QUESTION:

Would it be unhelpful if one of them ran against Wilson Tuckey?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’m not going to bite on that one, thanks.

QUESTION:

Leader, another network question for you: Philip Ruddock has suggested it was a bad idea to issue a visa to the Uighur leader that recently visited Australia. Do you concur with that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I am not going to express an opinion on whether or not a visa should have been given to Rebiya Kadeer and I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to as the Leader - it’s fine for Philip; Philip is very experienced and knows a lot about national security and he can express that view - but as the Leader of the Opposition I don’t want to make this issue a partisan issue.

The reality is the Government and the Government alone has access to all of the national security information and advice to make an informed opinion. So, you know, Stephen Smith and Kevin Rudd - they have all of the information and advice in front of them. So they have got to make that decision and I’m not going to argue the toss with them about Rebiya Kadeer being granted a visa at that particular time.

QUESTION:

Are you happy to see her here nevertheless?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I will just repeat what I said. The real issue is not the question of that grant of a visa. The real issue is that we have seen a dramatic deterioration in the relationship between Australia and China. And that is a matter of real concern. It’s not just one particular incident. The relationship has been mishandled by the Rudd Government and it’s a problem. And Julie spoke about it, as you would have heard, in the lunch. And Kevin Rudd held himself out as a great China expert and the truth of the matter is that our relations with China are progressing much worse, or not progressing as well as they were when John Howard was Prime Minister.

Okay, thank you.