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Opposition Leader discusses interest rates; economy; Bill of Rights; Fair Work Bill; second Sydney airport; and Julia Gillard.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH

3 December 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP INTERVIEW WITH RAY HADLEY RADIO 2GB, SYDNEY

Subjects: Interest rates; economy; Bill of Rights; Fair Work Bill; second Sydney Airport; Julia Gillard.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………...

HADLEY:

Malcolm, g’day.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

G’day Ray.

HADLEY:

Nice to talk to you. Now the Reserve Bank, down to 4.25 per cent the official cash rate, the lowest level in six years. I note that NAB, the first to say ‘right we’ll pass on the full interest rate cut.’ Others have been a little hesitant, aren’t passing it on. What’s the rationale behind them doing that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

They’re saying that their costs have gone up, their wholesale funding costs have gone up and that’s why they can’t pass it on. But Ray I have said all year they should pass on these rate cuts in full. And they particularly should do it now. The taxpayer, all of us are providing them with enormous support through guarantees both at the retail deposit level and at the wholesale funding level. Now they have been given enormous help from the taxpayer and they should pass these rate cuts on in full. No ifs, no buts, pass it on.

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HADLEY:

Now when the Government said look, we’re going to guarantee bank deposits, could there have been a condition placed on that that you’ve got to toe the line in relation to likely rate cuts from the Reserve Bank in the future or is that not feasible?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the Government can impose any conditions it likes. So it’s perfectly feasible. I am really surprised that the banks are not passing on this rate cut in full. I’m particularly concerned that several of them are not passing it on in full, as we know, to homebuyers, and Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan have been completely wishy washy in what they have said. They’ve talked about ‘maximum pass through’ and ‘as much as you reasonably can.’ I mean, it’s pathetic. They need an unequivocal message from the Government: pass it all on.

I am really concerned Ray though about how little of these rate cuts have been passed on the business borrowers. Because we focus on homebuyers and that’s fair enough, but it is the businesses, particularly small and medium businesses who are borrowing money, making investments, hiring people, trying to keep their businesses going. And if they’re not getting a break on their interest expense it makes it very hard for them to keep doing, keep turning the engine of the economy.

HADLEY:

There are reports today that some of those people to whom you refer are still paying double figures.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well indeed, that’s right. And this is an issue we have raised in parliament and we don’t get a peep out of the Government. It seems to be just one way traffic with them and the banks.

HADLEY:

Gee the self funded retirees have copped a hammering. I know that we’re all happy about the 4.25 per cent if we’re not a self funded retiree but their nest egg is diminished because of what has happened globally and here in Australia. And what is left they’re not getting much out of it. It’s just a hammering for them.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

They are, they’re doing it very tough and obviously the fall in interest rates reduces their interest income but the hammering the stock market has had has hit everybody’s superannuation funds.

HADLEY:

The national accounts figures due to be released today, they’re expecting to show Australia’s economic growth to have dropped below two per cent over the last year.

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What does that mean to mums and dads out there listening at the moment, in real terms?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Ray it means - let’s see what the numbers are firstly - but assuming growth is slowing and that’s what everyone expects it to be, that will mean less business activity, it will mean more unemployment. That is why we keep on saying the three top priorities of the Government should be jobs, jobs, jobs. They don’t talk about jobs very much, they particularly don’t talk about the 2.1 million jobs created during the 11 and a half years of the Coalition government.

And when you remind them that unemployment was over eight per cent when Labor went out of office in ’96 and was only a little bit over four per cent when Labor came in this time they get extremely agitated. So the record of the Coalition in government was all about creating jobs and bringing unemployment down to historic lows. Now Labor has got to match that record.

HADLEY:

The bill of rights, they’re talking about it being a step closer today. I mean we’re facing significant unemployment, offices, factories are cutting people on a daily basis. They’re saying that people across the nation are expected to be consulted from next week. What in everyday terms does a bill of rights mean to me and the people who are listening to this programme?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Ray let me just say this about human rights and bills of rights that seek to protect rights, freedom of speech and all of those great, important human rights. In my life I have stood up for rights, particularly freedom of speech and you may remember the Spy Catcher case when I took on the British Government on behalf of a bloke who wanted to write a book and was trying to be silenced. So I’m very committed to freedoms and protecting them.

I do have concerns about putting a bill of rights in a constitution and this is why; you and I and all of your listeners would agree with the general proposition for example that every citizen should have the equal protection of the law. So we say righto, let’s write that down like that. But then what does it actually mean? And it can mean almost anything. It could mean for example that a court might say the Aboriginal Legal Service shouldn’t exist because it gives Aborigines greater than equal protection of the law. Or it could go the other way.

And the problem with generally worded guarantees of human rights in constitutional documents is that they give extraordinary legislative power to the courts. Now I’ve got nothing against courts, I’ve spent a lot of time in them, but judges are not elected. The good thing about politicians is if you don’t like what they’re doing you can boot them out, and they’re accountable. And so the real question when you talk about bills of rights is how much authority do you want to give to the judiciary to make laws versus the parliament? And that’s really where the debate should be.

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HADLEY:

Do you think Kevin Rudd feels the way you do, that the people we elect both federally and in state parliaments should be the ones making the laws and they shouldn’t be put in jeopardy by a judge who has a lifetime tenure?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I don’t know where Kevin Rudd sits on this. You know the views I’ve just expressed are not…most people on my side of politics, on the Liberal side of politics would agree with what I have said but not everyone of course. I know George Brandis, our shadow Attorney-General has said that. But you know on the Labor side Bob Carr has said essentially the same thing, and if you take Frank Brennan, the Jesuit priest, Father Brennan has been a very vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and redressing the disadvantage of the Aborigines in Australia. Father Brennan has expressed great reservations, again for the same reasons I have expressed.

HADLEY:

I think I’m asking a question Mr Turnbull whether this is the most important and pressing matter that we have to deal with at the moment and is it there to deflect our attention away from other matters.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it could be. Mr Rudd, Kevin may come from Queensland, Ray, but his political style is very much Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees. He has learnt all of his political style from New South Wales and his handlers are essentially out of that school. And you know what they do, it’s all about the politics of mass distraction, they make an announcement, get a headline and then never follow up. And that’s why our state, New South Wales is in the very dire state it’s in.

HADLEY:

Well we did have a rather prominent Queensland Labor Party identity in New South Wales until more recently advising the aforementioned premiers of course until he was sent packing back from whence he came.

Work Choices, you flagged some amendments to Labor’s new industrial relations laws which will replace Work Choices. You’ve accepted the electorate has spoken on that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes.

HADLEY:

Can I tell you I’ve been talking to some mates of mine in the building game, you know how the unions were terrified, and workers in general were terrified, either legitimately or illegitimately about Work Choices? I’ve got some mates in the

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building game who are absolutely terrified about what they might confront. I mean I’m talking about blokes who employ half a dozen people to people who employ hundreds of contractors on a daily basis. They’re concerned and I mean I’m not equipped to answer them about whether they should be concerned but I guess we listened to the concerns of the unions and the workers, are we going to ignore the concerns of those who employ those people?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Ray I think everyone is entitled to be concerned about this is and this is why - we have said we heard what the electorate said last year and Work Choices is dead. But at the moment I said that, in the same breath I said we reserve the right to move amendments in the Senate after the Senate committee does its full investigation of the Bill, in order to improve the Bill’s operation and without seeking to frustrate what the Government’s election policy actually was.

Now let me just say there is a lot of material in this Bill which many people, including many people on our side of politics and many people in business are concerned about, which was simply not in Labor’s election policy. I’ll give you one very clear example; if you look at Labor’s very detailed ‘Forward with Fairness’ document of August 2007 it states on page 23 that the right of entry laws will not be changed, they’ll be maintained in their existing form. They have been dramatically changed. So Julia Gillard has reneged on her commitment and they’ve changed the laws so that, for example, a union official could go onto a workplace and demand to inspect and take copies of the employment records of any employee, regardless of whether they’re a member of the union or whether they’ve given their consent to have their records copied.

Now I think many people were unhappy with WorkChoices - we accept that and we’ve heard that message loud and clear - but how many Australians would like the idea of a union official being able to go onto their workplace, photocopy their employment records with their confidential information in it and then take it off back to the union head office? What do you think Ray?

HADLEY:

Well I share the concerns of the blokes I’ve spoken to in the building industry. I mean there’s a story that I got yesterday from a mate of mine who’s - and I can’t identify him, but he’s working in Sydney building a rather large…well…it’s not a factory but it’s a large warehouse - and he said….I said; ‘what are you up to?’ he said; ‘oh I’m back at work tomorrow.’ I said; ‘what do you mean back at work?’ he said; ‘oh four times a year,’ he said; ‘they down tools from last Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.’ And he said that happens four times a year. But by arrangement with the union, and they want to increase that, and he said; ‘that means my other trades, who maybe sole traders, can’t enter the worksite from last Friday until today.’ And he said; ‘it’s going to get worse.’ He said; ‘the bloke might as well pack up and just go and live in a tent somewhere because it’s just impossible and becomes more impossible.’

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MALCOLM TURNBULL:

See this is the real, the heavy responsibility that is on Mr Rudd and Julia Gillard because we’ve got an economy that is certainly slowing - we know that - jobs, jobs, jobs should be the top three priorities and they will be held accountable if the changes they’re proposing - in whatever form they’re finally enacted by the Parliament - you know, reduce opportunities for employment and add to unemployment because that will be very cold comfort.

Now they have said their proposals will actually increase employment and increase productivity. There’s a lot of scepticism about that. But again, this matter has to be looked at very carefully, in a very detailed way by the Senate Committee - that is what the Senate is there for - and I’d encourage people listening to us today to have a look at the Bill, read up the commentary on it and make submissions to that Senate Committee. It’s going to be very important to have a very detailed analysis of this. There will be hundreds of amendments to the Bill, many of which will be proposed by the Government in fact. So it’s got to be gone through very, very carefully because there are a lot of jobs at stake.

HADLEY:

I wish there was someone from western Sydney, south western Sydney or north western Sydney that had a fair say in a Federal Government because your memory could go back as far as mine to when people at Luddenham and Badgerys Creek, their lives were put on hold when a former Labor Government was going to build a second airport there and people moved out, they sold, then their lives were dislocated and of course we now have an announcement coming from Anthony Albanese that there’ll be no second airport at Badgerys Creek - and we’ve known that for quite some time.

But why are they dirty on the south west and north west? They alarmed people in Camden, they alarmed people at Richmond and surrounding areas and say; ‘oh we’re going to look at those two areas now.’ I mean we can’t get the state government to build damn rail link to the north west, so I mean how are they going to get the people who maybe working out there or landing there back into the city, because there’s no rail link there per say?

There’s a single line rail link to Richmond, and that’s all there is. And then if we go to the south west the people of Camden will be terrified. And then we throw it into the mix, oh we’ll build it at Newcastle somewhere; we’ll build at Canberra and put a very fast train.

I mean I’m 54 and won’t live to see it obviously because I’ll have to be 94 by the time it happens, but why do they keep scaring people in the west, the north west and south west of Sydney with this nonsense about the second airport?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Ray it’s getting back to that point I made - Kevin is from Queensland but his political style is from New South Wales Labor and it’s all about distraction. Look, as I think we know, people have been talking about and looking at ideas for a second

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airport for Sydney for long before you and I were borne, for 62 years I read in one of the papers today. And you know my colleague Warren Truss…..

HADLEY:

….before they even had planes…..

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

….they had a few planes then….

HADLEY:

….not many….

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah in any event, maybe they didn’t need to have the runways so long in those days, but Ray I was talking to Warren Truss this morning, you know who was the Transport Minister in the previous government and is Leader of the Nationals, and you know Warren was just saying, look, this is a very difficult problem, it’s gone around and around for years and you’ve got to be very sceptical about Labor’s motives for raising that. Again, you know, Kevin’s from Queensland; political style New South Wales Labor.

HADLEY:

Okay. Now one final thing; Julie Bishop who put the target on her?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Julie is putting the target on Wayne Swan - although Swany hangs the target up on himself most days anyway - but look, I think Julie’s doing a great job Ray.

HADLEY:

It was interesting to see that gesture made towards Julia Gillard, the clawing, the cat, you know and it’s been reported essentially as being a cat fight and I mean that Seinfeld program, no man likes anything better than a cat fight between two women. It wasn’t all that complimentary of Julie Bishop, I’ve got to say, the pictures that appeared there and you’d like to think that someone who is the Shadow Treasurer and the Deputy might be a little above all of that in the House?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well let me just say; Julia Gillard, I reckon, spends most of her time working out really savage, vicious insults to fling at Julie Bishop in Question Time.

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HADLEY:

She’s got to stop biting then? Because if she keeps reacting like she did, Julia, the consummate politician that she is, and performer in Parliament, will keep dishing it up?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah but Ray you say Julia’s a consummate politician, she certainly is extremely….very nasty….

HADLEY:

…she’s out of the Paul Keating mould, she’s a female Paul Keating in terms of attacking?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s not a title I think anyone would want to aspire to, frankly. But she is very vicious and insulting towards Julie Bishop in the House. I think it’s demeaning of the House and I think it’s really inappropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister behaving in that vicious way.

But I just say this; I wish she’d spend less time rehearsing the insults and more time focusing on her job. I mean computers in schools; Kevin Rudd promised there’d be one computer on every desk for upper secondary students, now we know it’s going to be one for every two desks, oh and by the way, the cost is going to be nearly twice as much, an $800 million blow out.

I reckon if she spent less time rehearsing the nasty lines about Julie Bishop in front of the mirror and more time focussing on her job we’d get some better outcomes in terms of the Government.

HADLEY:

Did we find out where her boyfriend is, the person who is now best equipped to deal with men’s health; the hairdresser turned hair product salesman, who apparently is doing neither at the moment? I mean look nepotism is alive and well, you know everywhere, not just in politics. But to appoint someone, and he might be a decent fellow, I don’t know him, but his expertise lies in cutting someone’s hair and selling shampoo, not in men’s health I would have thought?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah well I don’t know him either so I couldn’t really comment Ray. I just feel Julia Gillard should be focussing on her jobs. I mean she’s got her schools…..

HADLEY:

…Well, would you appoint a mate of yours to men’s health if he was a hairdresser come hairdresser salesman?

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MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look, I know a few hairdressers, I don’t know that I’d be appointing them for that role. I don’t think any of the ones I know would seek to take it on. But you know, look again, one of the things I try to stay, I do stay right out of is making adverse comments about other politicians partners, you know husbands, wives, you know…..

HADLEY:

And I appreciate that, I appreciate that but sometimes you’ve got to be flushed out because if someone appoints someone , inappropriately, to a men’s health forum, the Government appoints them, well someone has got to say something about it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it’s really up to the Minister Nicola Roxon and for the gentleman concerned to make the case for their qualifications. But it’s not something…I’m really focussed on the issues, Julie Bishop is focussed on the issues and that’s what Julia Gillard should get focussed on, instead of the personal abuse.

HADLEY:

I have a feeling sometime between now and the next election you might get down and dirty…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well we’ll see Ray.

HADLEY:

I’m sure you will. Thanks for your time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Thanks Ray.

[ends]