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Transcript of interview with John Mackenzie: Radio 4CA Cairns: visit to Cairns; Liberal candidates for Leichhardt; fishing industry, small business; Investing in Our Schools programme; tax.



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Thu, 27th August 2009 TURNBULL INTERVIEW WITH JOHN MACKENZIE (RADIO 4CA CAIRNS) - VISIT TO CAIRNS, LIBERAL CANDIDATES FOR LEICHHARDT, FISHING INDUSTRY, SMALL BUSINESS....

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

Subjects: Visit to Cairns; Liberal candidates for Leichhardt; fishing industry; small business; Investing in Our Schools programme; tax.

E&OE

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Malcolm Turnbull, quickly, well I’ve got to say this; we’ve had a glut of Liberal members up here. Joe Hockey was here yesterday, Tony Abbott has been here for a few days, actually at Aurukun - he’s got to be highly commended for that, I think it’s a wonderful thing to do. And I wish a lot of his colleagues would do the same thing, come and live up here in North Queensland, go to an aboriginal community and live at the coal face for a few days. You’re here today - what’s going on?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I’ve just been down at HMAS Cairns, the naval base there, and particularly meeting with the Commander and ship’s company of the HMAS Wollongong, thanking them for the great work they and all their colleagues are doing in keeping our borders secure. And they showed us round the ship, which is obviously one of the Armidale Class Patrol Boats, a very, very impressive vessel, and showed us how they do a boarding exercise, so we launched one of the RHIBs, the boarding vessels, and went through all the exercise, and it was very, very impressive. I must say, I really appreciated the time with them and the opportunity to thank them for the great work they do for Australia.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Now let’s get into the local nitty-gritty. Is Warren Entsch to make a comeback?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, it would be great if he did. He was a fantastic member, and he’d be a fantastic member again if he chooses to re-enter the fray.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Well there’s a lot of hinting going on. Do you know anything more than the rest of us?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, my understanding is that Warren’s thinking pretty seriously about it - as you know he decided not to run again for personal reasons, because, you know, family reasons…

JOHN MACKENZIE:

He wanted to be with his son.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah, and that’s, you know, apparently he’s now in a position where he could go back into the political fray, and he really was an outstanding advocate for North Queensland. You see, North Queensland needs, it needs effective, charismatic, colourful, persuasive representatives in the Federal Parliament. Regardless of your political affiliation, you need somebody who really stands out and can make a compelling argument, and Warren was able to do that, and Jim Turnour, I’m afraid, doesn’t.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

As Joe Hockey said yesterday, the thing about Entsch that we’ll always remember was he was his own man, he would stand, whatever the issue was, if he believed in it, regardless of directives from his leader, he would stand up and say it, and sometimes very unfashionably, I suppose. But we loved him up here for that because he was such an individual. Joe Hockey made the point yesterday, you do that in the Labor Party, you’re out on your neck.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Oh, totally. Well this is the thing, you see, the Labor Party is like a machine, and that’s why so many of their members of parliament are almost interchangeable. They come out of the same background, typically trade unions or working in political offices, they have a very limited range of life experience, and it is a very disciplined, homogenous type of machine. Now that has some advantages obviously, but from our point of view, from the Liberal side, we have a wide range of people with very different life’s experiences, they’re much more individualistic, much more independently-minded, and particularly for an area like North Queensland, and Cairns in particular, you need somebody who is prepared to buck orthodoxy, buck received wisdom, and stand up for their community above all, and can cut through.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

He’ll have a battle on his hands with Turnour. Turnour has done quite well, but it’ll be a very interesting one, tussle, if indeed if he does decide to run. Now we’re taking calls for the Opposition Leader now. Malcolm’s Turnbull is in studio, you can call him now: 40311846. And Bill is on the line. Bill you’re talking to Malcolm Turnbull.

CALLER:

Yeah, hi Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Hey Bill, how you doing?

CALLER:

Yeah, good. I’m almost a lone fisherman.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

A lone fisherman…

CALLER:

Well, the little fishery that I work between Cairns and Port Douglas, I’m the last local that lives here that works that fishery, and I’ve been run out of business - well, the fishermen have all left through overregulation of our industries, and I’m not far off being forced to get out of it because of all these issues we’re trying to deal with, Malcolm, and yet we have one of the biggest fishery per capita of any nation in the world, and yet we have the most underfished fishery, and all these claims of overfishing that is just totally unsubstantiated, and yet these other countries, it’s such an important part of their whole economy, and I’m trying to say why aren’t we turning these industries back on that create an economic wealth that flows on right through the whole economy?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

So you think you could be fishing at a much higher level of take, and do so sustainably than you are at the moment?

CALLER:

Yes, well the problem we have because of all these restrictions we’re having to wastefully discard a lot of product because of some sort of silly regulation, and that’s what’s so wrong, that we catch this product and because it’s a fraction too big or a fraction too small or the wrong species, because of some regulation we can’t bring it in and utilise it. That’s really, really silly and…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Tell me, how do you run your fishing, what do you do?

CALLER:

I’m a commercial trawler operator. I have a little boat, my boat’s less than ten metres.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Really, yeah.

CALLER:

But what I specialise in is breed stock for aquaculture.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay.

CALLER:

And here’s another thing, that this little business I run, and all I’ve had is two orders all year.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

And what species are you mostly focused on for aquaculture?

CALLER:

The species is Penaeus monodon. It’s locally called a leader prawn. These are gigantic prawns. These prawns are from nine inches to thirteen inches in length, but they’re very rare, but in this area…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

What’s that again, Penaeus?

CALLER:

Penaeus. It’s called Penaeus monodon.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay. A leader prawn, okay.

CALLER:

It used to be the biggest farmed prawn in the world.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah. And where is it farmed, Jim?

CALLER:

It’s Bill, sorry.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Bill, sorry. I beg your pardon.

CALLER:

It’s farmed all over the east coast.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Right, but you said it’s aquaculture, Bill. Where is it actually farmed?

CALLER:

Well the farms, I catch the wild stock out of the ocean and I intend to do a hatchery, but the thing is the government regulations are killing this industry, besides the commercial fishing industry where we should be opening these industries up not running them down by regulation.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay.

CALLER:

I mean, like two days I had a talk with Kim Anderson. You know, they’ve just spent a couple of million dollars building a [inaudible] facility in Cairns, and now Kim is having to go and find another job because they’ve got no money to pay the staff to be in place.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay, well…

CALLER:

We’re not employing people. See, we should be turning these industries on, not turning them off.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

OK. Well Bill, look, I’m sorry I misheard you, by the way, I’m labouring with the flu at the moment, so my hearing isn’t as good as it would be. I’m a bit stuffed up. But look, if you, it would be good to have a further chat to you about that. Do you use the internet? Email and everything? If you send me an email - you can go to my website or just send it to malcolm.turnbull.mp@aph.gov.au and anyone that’s listening can always reach me that way and just put your number in there and I’ll give you a call and we can have a further chat about it. I’m meeting with some people from the tourism sector and indeed with interests in the fishing industry later today here in Cairns. When Warren Entsch was the member, I used to get an earful about this regularly, both earfuls actually. So it would be good to catch up with you.

CALLER:

Thanks very much Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay, thanks Bill. Good to talk to you.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

We’re taking calls for Malcolm Turnbull in studio now. If there’s a point you’d like to make or a question you’d like to put by all means do - 4031 1846.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Now Malcolm Turnbull is in the studio, the Opposition Leader, federal Opposition Leader. Alison is on the line out at Trinity Beach. Alison, you’re talking to Malcolm.

CALLER:

Hi Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Hi Alison.

CALLER:

My question is first home owners grant. New Zealand people can come over. They’ve already had three or four houses in New Zealand. They come over and they get the $21,000 first home owners grant.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Really, okay. So they’re only a first home owner in Australia?

CALLER:

Exactly.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay. I wasn’t aware that that was feasible. I’ll certainly have a word to Scott Morrison, the Shadow Housing Minister and follow that up.

CALLER:

… New Zealand person say we love Australia. We’re never going back. The Government is so good to us over here.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Let’s kick it around a bit, Alison. We were just with John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, the new New Zealand Prime Minister I should say. He’s only recently been elected. Very, very impressive young guy. Terrific background in international business. Smart as paint. And one of the issues that New Zealand has to face, of course, is that so many of their talented people do up and leave, and a very large percentage of their university graduates actually live and work overseas. And I guess what’s their loss is our gain so maybe it’s a good idea that we’re enticing New Zealanders over to Australia.

CALLER:

It’s okay if they pay tax.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well if they work they should pay tax.

CALLER:

They don’t, and they’re still getting the first home owners grant because it’s their first home in Australia and I own a business…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

They would struggle, being fair about it, they would struggle if they got a first home owners grant and then they go and borrow money from a bank to buy the house, they’d have to have some income, the bank wouldn’t lend them money if they didn’t have any income.

CALLER:

But if they’re cashed up, they don’t have to borrow. They just get the money for free because it’s their first home in Australia. And I own a business and all I ever do is pay tax and our accounting fees are $30,000 over a couple of years and I’ve paid more than $300,000 in tax. We have to pay so much just to know how much tax we have to pay.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Alison, this is a…

CALLER:

We are really, really suffering.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I have to say…

CALLER:

Money just goes free to everyone but the small business people and everyone is on the verge of nervous breakdowns because all they get are tax bills.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Alison can I say to you the level of regulation and the difficulty of complying with tax and other regulatory government requirements on small business is far too high…

CALLER:

Far too high.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We’ve been having jobs forums around Australia talking to small business and this is the most frequent concern - small business people like yourself saying I just want the Government to get off my back and stop making it so hard for me to get on and do my job and employ people.

CALLER:

And another thing that really upsets me is public servants - they work and then they leave and they get a big cash pay out just to leave. Us in small business - all we do is pay, pay, pay. We get nothing. We don’t get a handshake at the end of our business life. I hear so many public servants going out with $300,000 pay outs to leave, told yes, we’ll pay you out and we want you to finish work for the Government.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Alison, there is no doubt that small business is the engine room of the economy and that’s why I can assure you from our point of view in the Liberal Party we are absolutely focused on supporting and defending small business. Small business is being neglected under the Labor Government and we really need to get the

emphasis back on you and other small business people like you because you’re the ones that are doing the hard yards and creating the jobs that Australia needs.

CALLER:

And as for the stimulus package, our business should have got jobs. All the shed building work at schools went to Townsville and none of us Cairns people got a look in.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I hear what you say. That is a very widespread complaint, that local tradespeople did not get the business. It’s interesting, you know, when we were in Government we had a smaller program supporting infrastructure in schools called Investing in Our Schools and it was very different, and it sort of underlines the difference between our philosophy and Labor’s because we believe government’s job is to enable people to do their best. Labor obviously believes that government knows best.

Now, when we were in government, our Investing in Our Schools program reached out to the parents and citizens in school communities and said, okay, ‘what do you want to do? What’s your dream? Do you have a building you want to build? A new playground? A shade cloth? What is your big idea?’ And the schools would work it all up. They’d get their plans together. They might get some contributions from the school communities. They might get some of the mums and dads who are tradespeople to kick in some labour and then they would come back to the Government and say, well, can you help us out, can we have some money and we would help them out. But the difference was, of course, it was driven by the local community from the grassroots instead of being imposed from the top down, which of course is what you’re getting with Gillard’s, this $14 billion with so many Julia Gillard Memorial Assembly Halls.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

I’ve got to move on. We’ve got a queue up here. Thank you, Alison, on the line there at Trinity Beach. Taking calls for the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

Next on the line is Robert at Bayview Heights. Robert, you’re talking to Malcolm Turnbull.

CALLER:

Okay, thank you. Good morning, Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good morning, Robert.

CALLER:

Do you realise how hypocritical the Australian Government and the Australian people are with regard to killing of whales by the Japanese?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well tell me a bit more.

CALLER:

Okay. Up in the Torres Strait area and out on some protected green areas, green protection areas, Aborigines are killing by the dozens turtles and dugongs. We hear daily reports from people who go to various islands in the green area, protected green area, and see Aboriginal and islander people killing dugongs and turtles.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

But they’re killing them for their own consumption presumably.

CALLER:

Well, that’s what the Japanese say about the whales that they kill too. Don’t the Japanese say that it’s traditional?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well they do but, look, I understand…

CALLER:

A different tradition is it? What’s traditional from Japan is different than traditional from Torres Strait.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay, you’ve got to let me finish. I’m not across this and I’m really glad you’ve raised it with me so I’ll follow it up. I understand Joe Hockey, this was raised with Joe yesterday so we can look into this and I’m really glad you drew my attention to it. But there is, for example - I know a fair bit about the whaling situation globally because I was the Environment Minister in the Howard Government and I obviously had that whaling commission responsibility for Australia - there are provisions, for example, in the Northern Hemisphere for Inuit communities, you know, these are the native communities in Alaska, for example, to be able to take a certain number of whales as part of their traditional rights. And that can be controversial too because people argue about how many they’re taking and the circumstances in which they are being taken. So I’m glad you have raised that and I will certainly look into it.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

I’m going to have to leave you there. We’re starting to run out of time and this is where people get a little bit put out because we do run out of time but we have to move on quickly. That talkback number - 4031 1846.

John’s on the line at Manunda. John, you’re talking to the Opposition Leader.

CALLER:

Yes, good afternoon John and Mr Turnbull.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Hey, how are you?

CALLER:

Not too bad thanks. Young Robert, the previous caller, took most of the sting out of my call but, first of all, congratulations on surviving the utegate affair…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Thank you.

CALLER:

…at this stage. Yeah look, I’ve personally seen the killing of these turtles and that sort of stuff mate and it’s…maybe it’s traditional and I think it should be done away with. [Inaudible] recently something that upset me about the Danes and they kill porpoises up in the Danish areas. This has got to stop. This traditional bullshit has got to be finished with and done. You know, you can buy food nowadays, there’s no need to go on with this. People are trying to save porpoises in some areas and turtles and then they’re released and killed by Aboriginals at Yarrabah, goodness knows what else. So when you’re prime minister, have a look at this and see if you can do something about it.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay, I’ll look into it long before I’m prime minister I can assure you - we’ll get on to it straight away.

CALLER:

I’ve been on to Peter Garrett about a few things and have not had one reply so I don’t think much of him.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well you will, as I mentioned earlier if you shoot me an email I’ll get back to you on it but I’ll follow it up anyway, but that’s something I’m very interested in.

CALLER:

Okay, I’ll send you a few photos too.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Alright John, thank you.

On the line Peter in Cairns. Peter, you’re talking to Malcolm Turnbull.

CALLER:

Good afternoon, Malcolm, how are you?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good thank you.

CALLER:

My main concern is tax. People who want to work overtime like myself, or people who want to work a second job, get absolutely hammered in the tax department. And I mean, we’re giving up our leisure time to go and work the extra hours to get the extra money and we get absolutely smashed in tax. I mean, the money eventually is going to go back into the economy one way or another because we’re working the overtime to try and get ahead or to make our life easier. Why do we have to pay such a heavy penalty in tax? We’re being penalised for doing just extra work.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, that’s how the tax system works. It’s a progressive tax system in the sense that as your income gets higher there is a higher rate of tax paid. So that’s the way the tax system works. When we were in government we sought always to bring the level of tax down so that we could encourage incentive and also encourage people to do exactly what you’re doing, to get out and get ahead, because the more of people’s earnings they can keep in their pocket the more incentivised they’re going to be to get out and have a go.

CALLER:

But is there any way, like sure tax just on their normal base salary or whatever it is but if you want to do overtime, surely we should be able to pay a lesser amount of tax, still pay some tax but a lesser amount than what we are currently paying?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, I understand what you’re saying but the way the system has always worked is that people pay… the more money they earn the more tax they pay. And you have a series of tax rates which get higher as your income increases. So what of course happens is that if you find yourself doing extra overtime and you move out of the 30 per cent tax bracket into the next one, you are then obviously going to be paying a larger share of what you’ve earned in tax.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

We’re going to have to leave it there I’m sorry Peter, and we’re starting to run out of time drastically here. I’m sad about this because we’ve had such a limited time. We’ve got other callers wanting to talk to you, particularly on carbon trading but, sadly, we haven’t got the time to devote to it so it will have to be next time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Okay, delighted.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

You’re out of town pretty soon or what are you doing the rest of the day?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I’m meeting with a tourism roundtable, talking about issues relating to the tourism industry here. And there is also some discussion about the issue we discussed right at the outset about protected areas in terms of the Coral Sea and the

debate about that. You know the Pew foundation in the United States has been making some arguments for more protected areas, so we’re discussing all of those issues. And then we’re meeting with the Cape York Partnership later in the day and then also having a larger event in the evening for the Liberal Party and its supporters to just keep on meeting lots of people.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

And I’m sure you would much rather be in bed trying to get rid of that flu.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think the beautiful weather in North Queensland will cure me.

JOHN MACKENZIE:

Good to talk to you and thanks for your time in the studio today. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.