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Budget 2018: Transcript of interview with Patricia Karvelas: ABC National Wrap: 20 May 2018: tax cuts; upcoming by-elections; Labor's environment agenda; the Republican movement; Labor's priority for a voice to Parliament



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THE HON TONY BURKE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR WATSON

E&OE TRANSCRIPT TELEVISION INTERVIEW ABC NATIONAL WRAP SUNDAY, 20 MAY 2018

SUBJECT/S: Tax cuts, upcoming by-elections, Labor’s environment agenda, the Republican movement, Labor’s priority for a voice to Parliament

PATRICIA KARVELAS (HOST): I'm joined now by Labor frontbencher Tony Burke. TONY BURKE welcome to National Wrap.

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Good evening.

KARVELAS: The draft laws to legislate the government's tax cuts are listed for debate on Tuesday. Will you oppose them even though they allow lower and middle income people to get a tax cut next year? That's what the first tranche allows. Will you still oppose them?

BURKE: We will confirm our position at caucus on Tuesday morning but we'll be adopting the position that was outlined by Bill Shorten in his Budget Reply which is the tax cuts which begin on the 1st of July have our support. They've got the support of the Government and they should go straight through. There are a series of other measures that go all the way through to seven years later. In the first instance on that, we've been saying to the Government they've got to provide the individual costings on those and somehow the response from the Treasurer is he can tell us how much they add up to but he can't tell us what each one's worth. It's ridiculous for a Parliament to be asked to make decisions with without being given the information.

KARVELAS: But there is some pressure on Labor here too if you want those lower and middle income people to receive that tax cut next year, there is a sense of urgency around it. So are you prepared to try and push for that to make sure that that does happen given the government has given a global cost for this and they say that year by year estimates are unreliable?

BURKE: A year ago they told us even within 12 months that unless we voted for a tax increase the NDIS would be under pressure and wouldn’t be properly funded and 12 months later they say that's not the case. We've got the information we need to be able to make a decision about a tax cut that begins in a month and a half's time and we are ready to vote for that right now. If the Government thinks that they can say to the Australian people you're not getting a tax cut because the Government's determined to give something else they can't tell you how much it will cost and it will happen seven years later, if they want to try to put pressure on us with that argument good luck to them.

KARVELAS: Labor has complained about the delay in setting the by-election dates but isn't that a bit rich given how long Labor argued these people were eligible to sit in the Parliament when they clearly weren't?

BURKE: I've publicly praised the Speaker for the other by-elections when he's called them the resignations have come in or the information has come in and he has always made the decision very quickly, the by elections being called within the briefest possible time and that is to make sure that people are represented again in the Australian Parliament. I don't understand why we're getting a delay this time. It's not the way the Speaker's made the previous decisions that I've praised him for. He said that he would consult with party leaders and I don't know if Malcolm Turnbull is trying to make this happen more slowly but when a by-election comes up the ordinary thing to do and under this Speaker we've got evidence of this is that they get called quickly.

KARVELAS: Is it true you've drawn up a hit list of 14 Coalition MPs you think failed the Government's test on or rather the test that's been set by the High Court for dual citizenship?

BURKE: It's a bit different to that. The Attorney General Christian Porter went out with a pretty big overreach in terms of listing a series of people who he said now fell afoul of the High Court decision and Mark Dreyfus simply said if you want to set the standard that the Attorney Generals just described these are the people who would then have a problem. And what I think happened was Christian Porter the Attorney General only looked at the Labor column and if I run this extreme argument I can have a big list of people who I can say are in trouble without actually checking that the same rules that he was then proposing would create a problem even for Scott Morrison.

KARVELAS: So you won't be pushing for more by- elections this week? Is that the kind of shenanigans we can expect in the Parliament?

BURKE: I don't think there'll be a lot of that. There has been a problem that we've pointed to at different points in time for Jason Falinski but I don't think there's any prospect that the Government's going to be making a referral to the High Court or that he'll be taking it taking on a by-election on his own behalf. So I suspect that for this term we're now at the end of that particular process. We know once that High Court decision came down even though our individual members hadn't been referred to the High Court it was very clear from the decision that we had three members on our on our side Rebekha Sharkie from the cross bench where it had direct implications for them and all of the people concerned took action within a couple of hours.

KARVELAS: There is a grassroots campaign ahead of Labor's national conference in July, I know you can't wait. It's led by the Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) and they want to create a Federal Environment Protection Agency, basically a regulator that could be a decision maker for approvals rather than the minister. Now if you become the minister that means essentially that this body would have the approval rights. Are you comfortable with that?

BURKE: There's good and bad in the proposal and I'm still consulting and working through it. If you work on the basis that the advice that comes from the department would be pretty similar to what an independent agency would give then I suspect you'd had something where the approvals and the conditions would be slightly weaker than a number of approvals that I was responsible for and probably stronger than some of the ones that have happened under the Coalition Government. There's one advantage of it. It does allow an environment minister the freedom to be able to publicly advocate for something. One of the problems with having that power is you get asked legitimate questions from people do you support this proposal that proposal, you've asked me those questions on your radio program as well, with respect to the Adani proposal and if you're going to be the decision maker you can't prejudge it. And so therefore the mining minister can come out saying what jobs they support in a program, a transport minister can, a tourism minister can say things, economic ministers can comment and the environment minister can't be involved as a public advocate from the environmental perspective. So there are some advantages in it but there are some powers that you lose on the way through. So there's a fair bit of consultation still going on. I don't necessarily think it's a bad proposal I'm just not completely signed up as to whether or not we'll take that step.

KARVELAS: Greens MP Adam Bandt says there may be the numbers in Federal Parliament to pass a bill, Susan Ley’s Bill on banning the live export trade. Do you think the numbers are there?

BURKE: If the bill was brought on I suspect the numbers are there for it to be carried.

KARVELAS: But you can't bring it on?

BURKE: But you can’t bring it on at the moment. So to sort of summarise the procedural issues, you only need a majority to get a bill through but you need 76 votes,

an absolute majority, to bring it on for debate in the first place unless you're the Government. So you work on the basis the Government won't be bringing this on for debate or for a vote. Therefore we would need 76. I think what that probably means is that if we win the by-elections then there is a very high prospect that this law will be passed later in the year. But if we don't win the by-elections then I think it will be very difficult for it to ever be passed during this term.

KARVELAS: Did you watch the royal wedding?

BURKE: I mean, if you want an example of politicians being out of touch I'm afraid on the royal wedding, it does not get more guilty than this. I was having dinner at a friend's place and my phone buzzed and of all things it was the Guardian News app telling me that the wedding was happening at that moment. I did know it was coming up but I didn't even realise it was on at that moment I'm afraid.

KARVELAS: A little out of touch. Is a republic now further away than ever after that wedding?

BURKE: I don't believe so because I don't think the republic has ever been about the royal family. I think the Republic has always been about us.

KARVELAS: It is about popularity though, when they're popular it obviously makes a Republic harder to stop doesn't it?

BURKE: I'm not convinced by that. You know the royal family is tremendously popular in the United States and it's never made a difference to them as to whether they actually thought they should somehow come back and change their head of state. Goodwill towards the royal family I think is quite a different issue. When you've had strong advocacy in the Australian Parliament from a Prime Minister and we had that with Paul Keating, then you had a real shift in the community on this issue and the community came in behind it very strongly. Even the opposition from the then Liberal leaders started to take a bit of a step back.

Prime Ministers since then haven't advocated for that particular issue with the same zeal they've pursued other issues but now we've got the person who was the head of the Republican movement back then as Prime Minister. He doesn't want to push it. At the moment we've got an Opposition Leader in Bill Shorten who is wanting to advance it but does say I think quite responsibly there is another constitutional change that we need to make first and that's the voice to the to the Parliament in responding to the Uluru declaration. So I don't think the wedding takes things further away. We've got a way to go before we get back to where we were on the republic. But ultimately it will be a debate and a decision about who we are as Australians, not what we think of another family on the other side of the world.

KARVELAS: Tony Burke many thanks for your time tonight.

BURKE: Great to be back.

ENDS

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