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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 20 June 2007: productivity; politicians' pay; Vasta police investigation; Crosby Textor business ad campaign.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer


SUBJECT: Productivity; politicians’ pay; Vasta police investigation; Crosby Textor business ad campaign;

SWAN: What we saw in the House yesterday was a Government desperately trying to cover up the decline in their long term structural productivity growth performance and it was not a pretty sight because you see, a decline in productivity over the long term threatens future living standards. It means that inflation and interest rates will be higher than they otherwise would be and in the end that impacts upon family budgets.

So this Government can blather. It can cover up all it likes, but the truth is a long term structural decline in our productivity means lower living standards and we are not going to drop off this debate. We welcome the debate and we’ll be out there debating this core issue right through to the election, because their failure to invest in education and training, innovation, modern infrastructure, threatens our future prosperity and goes to the core of the living standards of the Australian people.

Now I notice there’s some commentary today about an OECD report. That OECD report does not talk about Australian productivity performance. It does not talk about that at all. Some conclusions have been reached in some sections of the media today that imply that it does. Well, it doesn’t. Because as Glenn Stevens has said, there is a problem with our productive performance. If we don’t fix it, inflation and interest rates will be higher than they otherwise would have been. And I think it’s fair to say that if there’s to be a fifth interest rate rise, it will be partly caused by a poor productivity performance in this economy.

Journalist: Is Labor’s rhetoric on sticking up for the average worker undermined by the fact that Labor MP’s are happily accepting a pay rise that most average workers would say is exorbitant?

SWAN: Well, what the Labor Party has always argued for is an independent umpire, and the independent umpire is delivering this.

That’s something that this Government is denying, through its extreme industrial relations policy, average Australian workers. So we’ll always fight for average Australian

workers. We’ll also fight for the fact that we shouldn’t be setting our own pay levels. We don’t think that’s right.

Journalist: Is there a perception problem though?

SWAN: I’m sure that’s the case. I think it will stick in the craw of many Australians when they see that increase. But the only way to do these things is to have an independent body doing them. That won’t in any way diminish our fight for wage justice for Australian workers who are being attacked by Mr Howard’s extreme industrial relations legislation.

Journalist: (inaudible)

SWAN: We’ve said right from the beginning that business is free to run a campaign like anyone else in the Australian community. It’s a free world and I think I’ve said that at the doors here on many occasions. But if the campaign is to be run by Crosby Textor there will be a big question mark about its independence, its credibility and its responsibility. Because Crosby Textor have been at the heart of Liberal Party politics, and all of the shenanigans that John Howard has been up to, over the last decade.

So if there’s going to be a campaign which will be in effect written and authorised by Crosby Textor then that may pose a problem for its independence. But the business community is free to spend their money however they like as long as it’s authorised by the people that give it, and it’s all out there and fully disclosed and I guess it will be fully disclosed if Crosby Textor are running the campaign.

I share the concerns of some in the business community that are quoted in the paper this morning about the independence of the campaign, but at the end of the day that’s entirely a matter for them.

I do know however what the Government would be saying if there was an ACTU campaign that was run by Labor Party pollsters or Labor Party advertising agencies. They would be howling at the moon about it.

Journalist: The ACTU is run by members of the Labor Party?

SWAN: No, the ACTU runs its own campaign separate from the Labor Party. We don’t run their campaign. We run our own campaign.

Journalist: Do you welcome Mr Vasta’s repayment of $24,000?

SWAN: There’s clearly a smell about what’s going on in the Queensland Liberal Party and I think a cancer at the heart of the Queensland Liberal Party. There’s a police investigation into this - not only Mr Vasta but other members and also members of the organisational wing.

Journalist: (inaudible)

SWAN: There would need to be a full explanation about this from the authorities. I don’t think we ought to take Mr Vasta’s word for it, but there is a police investigation up there.

I think it stinks to high heaven - what’s been going on in the Queensland Liberal Party in recent times - and I don’t think we’ve seen the conclusion of this matter yet.

Journalist: Do you think Mr Vasta should be pressured to resign over this?

SWAN: Look, he’s entitled to the benefit of the doubt. There’s a full Federal Police investigation into the matters there, but there’s clearly a cancer at the heart of the Queensland Liberal Party. That’s been expressed by many people and it surrounds many of its members. We will wait until we see the results of the independent investigation.

Journalist: Why did Kevin Rudd’s office say that that document was stolen when he actually left it……?

SWAN: Well the document went missing and I’m sure they had a variety of views as to how it went missing. I don’t know the detailed circumstances.

Journalist: Are you supporting Peter Andren’s plan that your 6.7 percent pay increase be disallowed?

SWAN: No. I just said that we support the independence of the tribunal in this matter. Politicians should not be setting their own pay levels. That’s something I’ve supported all of my political life. For myself personally, I didn’t come into politics for money and if we were paid less I’d still be here.

Journalist: Should Kevin Rudd’s office be a little bit more cautious before levelling accusations of people stealing……?

SWAN: An item went missing. I don’t know what the circumstances of the rest of it were.

Journalist: He was caught on camera that very day admitting to leaving something behind, obviously that document and then that night saying it had been stolen.

SWAN: Well, when a document goes missing in a highly charged atmosphere, I think that’s entirely natural.

Journalist: I know that you’ve admired the independence of your pay but I’m just wondering ………….

SWAN: I don’t admire it. I support it as a principle, not only for politicians but I also support it as a principle for Australian workers.

Journalist: But what about in terms of workers - they only get a 2.5 percent increase whereas you get a 6.7. I’m just wondering if you personally think this … … ?

SWAN: I think it’s personally important that we have an independent tribunal setting our pay and I don’t comment on it when it doesn’t go up or when it goes up. It’s independent and that’s the way it should be.

ENDS Wed 20 June 07

Contact Matthew Coghlan: 0415 098050