Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
CALD Communities benefit from $1 million White Ribbon funding announcement

Download PDFDownload PDF




Subjects: Indonesia Relationship, Public Service Cuts, Debt Ceiling

Kieran Gilbert: Matt you’ve seen the response from the Prime Minister and the Government, I suppose from your perspective it’s a pretty reasonable response or do you think he needs to go further Mr Abbott in trying to show contrition to Jakarta?

Matt Thistlethwaite: I think it is a reasonable response and what we need to do now is focus on cooperation with Indonesia. The ties that bind us are the important thing moving into the future, so if I was the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop I’d prioritise getting up to Indonesia to see Marty Natalegawa and to work on cooperation and areas where we can cooperate be it in security intelligence gathering, in trade, in investment and in other areas. I think ours is an enduring relationship with Indonesia, we will be able to get over this, but the focus now needs to be on cooperation.

Gilbert: Will the Prime Minister have to go further on this? We spoke to Andrew Wilkie about this, about Obama making an express commitment to the Germans that they would stop that practice of tapping the leadership’s phone as we saw with the Merkel incident.

Scott Ryan: We heard from the Prime Minister yesterday and you played a clip from him just earlier this morning where he made it clear again the priority he places on this most critical relationship in our region, and also that he won’t say, and this Government won’t say or do anything that causes any harm to that relationship, but it’s long standing practice that these matters are not commented on publically by governments of both persuasions in Australia, and that is a practice that he and this Government will be sticking to.

Gilbert: It was a bit of an understatement though from Tony Abbott when he said we’ve got a really good relationship with Indonesia but today is not a good day in that relationship… that is quite an understatement isn’t it?

Ryan: I think he qualified it slightly but I think he was being honest.

Gilbert: It’s a really bad day isn’t it? It’s potentially catastrophic according to the former Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

Ryan: Well Bob Carr is known to hyperbole, that’s your characterisation Kieran and the Prime Minister was stating as you…

Gilbert: Alexander Downer had similar sentiments though.

Ryan: Well Alexander Downer is a private citizen now and Alexander Downer stood by this long standing tradition that these matters were not commented upon publically by the Government of the day. I note that yesterday John Faulkner, one of Labor’s Defence Ministers also did not comment, and that is a tradition that is a long standing practice to which the Prime Minister has recommitted himself.

Gilbert: Do you think Prime Minister Abbott is going to have to go further and give a commitment to end this sort of practice as Obama did with the Chancellor Merkel case?

Thistlethwaite: I think what the Prime Minister needs to do is emphasise cooperation. As I said I think he should seriously consider going to Indonesia meeting with the President and emphasising the ties that bind us. We’ve had an enduring relationship with Indonesia, it’s capable of getting over this. There’s no point sugar coating it, this has been a difficult day for the relationship, but we can overcome it and that’s through cooperation. We proved in government that we can overcome issues cooperatively with Indonesia. The visa on arrival issue with Iranians that were becoming a problem in boat arrivals, Bob Carr got on a plane went to Indonesia and managed to negotiate a workable agreement with

the Indonesians. There’s proof there that we can repair this relationship and it will endure into the future.

Gilbert: Well Tony Abbott has been making that a big priority as you know. He said he wants a Jakarta focused foreign policy, unfortunately at the moment, it’s for all the wrong reasons but you can hardly question his commitment to this relationship, it was his first visit, he’s been there a few times already, it’s hard to make it any more of a priority and this was under the Labor Government watch wasn’t it?

Thistlethwaite: But the megaphone diplomacy during the election campaign, the rhetoric and the sloganeering particularly around the boat policy and the problems that that resulted in for the Government when they came to office can’t be underestimated.

Gilbert: This is a problem that emanated from the Labor Government watch though, is that a point that needs to be factored in here?

Thistlethwaite: What’s important is cooperation and under Labor in Government we emphasised cooperation and I’ve given you the example of Bob Carr going to Indonesia and working cooperatively with the Indonesian Government and that’s what the future has got to be about.

Gilbert: I want to ask Scott Ryan about this point because that suggestion has been made to me buy various people including Nick Xenophon… he was saying the Government needs to try and put some distance between it and this row over spying and highlight that it was the Rudd Labor Government back in ’09.

Ryan: One of the ways we show respect for friendships with our critical neighbours is by actually not conducting them through the media. Now Matt there was trying to get a bit of partisan advantage out of this, but let’s go right back to the first Kevin Rudd Prime Ministership, we had the saga over the Oceanic Viking, we had the live cattle exports disaster which was a real problem for our relationship with Indonesia. Prime Minister Abbott made it clear all along that this was his priority, he went there, it was his first visit, it was his first meeting, and we are showing respect for that relationship and we are continuing to strengthen that relationship as the Prime Minister has said and we will continue to do that by conducting diplomacy in the way it should be…

Gilbert: I want to turn my attention and our viewers’ attention now to the public service cuts. The Coalition had promised 12,000 through natural attrition.

Reports today in the Financial Review suggesting that you will review that number given that various previous commitments from Labor will probably see a number exceeding 14,000 removed from the public service… is this something you will have to backflip on?

Ryan: Well this is something the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann outlined yesterday Labor’s secret plan to sack 14,500 public servants but not fund the redundancies has left a lot of agencies in a bit of a financial hole, they didn’t have the resources, but at the same time Labor was being so hypocritical running around accusing the Coalition of its plans, yet its secret plans were even greater.

Gilbert: So will you scrap this 12,000 cut because that would mean well over 20,000 public servants cut, how will you fulfil your promises if you don’t have a public service?

Ryan: I think Senator Cormann said that they’ve become aware of this and this is an issue that they are actually having to work through. It’s one of the mini financial messes that Labor left for the incoming Coalition Government.

Gilbert: Is this some hypocrisy from Labor that you’ve been critical of public service cuts from the Coalition and yet as the Government’s pointed out from your previous commitment some 14,000 plus public servants to go.

Thistlethwaite: Well this was all disclosed prior to the election. We announced efficiency dividends over the last couple of years and they were announced in the proper course, they were disclosed to the public through the budget through the mid-year economic fiscal update and through the pre-election fiscal update. What’s incumbent on the Government now is to release the figures to release the mid-year economic fiscal update so we all know the true state and nature of the budget. You’ve undertaken further tax breaks for the rich through the super system, again going to have a big impost on the budget, it’s going to make it much more difficult for them to meet their commitments prior to the election. You need to come clean Scott with the Australian people, what’s the delay, MYEFO is due to be released, just release it, come clean with the Australian public.

Ryan: This is the problem with Labor. They made announcements about efficiency dividids, they were never achieved…

Thistlethwaite: At least they were all announced… they were all announced there in the budget for everyone to see you’re hiding things.

Ryan: Matt’s just summed up Labor’s problem, we make announcements but we don’t actually achieve them.

Gilbert: In terms of the economic update, why is Labor so hell-bent on having this week? I remember Peter Costello over many years would have it well into December on occasions, it’s not always in November. Why has Labor got this bee in your bonnet over when the mid-year update is?

Thistlethwaite: Because the parliament is being asked to make an important decision on lifting the debt ceiling, that’s a decision that affects not only this generation of Australians, but potentially future generations, and when important fiscal decisions like that are being made it is incumbent on the Government to release all of the relevant information so that MPs can make an informed decision. That’s all we’re asking the Government to release the information so that MPs can represent their constituencies and make an informed decision.

Ryan: The Treasury comes before Senate Estimates Committees tomorrow and Thursday and the Treasury can be asked questions in the full glare of the public spotlight. For Matt to be talking about raising the debt ceiling as being a problem is the ultimate in hypocrisy given we are cleaning up Labor’s debt mess.

Thistlethwaite: Well what’s the problem with the Treasurer releasing it to the parliament? He is accountable to the parliament through the people.

Gilbert: If the Treasury Secretary is going to do it anyway through a different forum, why not release it to the parliament?

Ryan: The doc that’s released by the Treasurer and the Finance Minister, the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook has got a timetable to be released and it will be released according to that timetable, that’s the law we passed to clean up Labor’s last budget mess.

Gilbert: Gentlemen, We’ve got to go.