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Transcript of interview with Natarsha Belling: Channel 10 Morning News: 24 June 2011: Anniversary of Gillard Government; passage of Budget bills; Immigration; NBN

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PW 120/11 24 June 2011




BELLING: For our political debate we’re joined this morning by Finance Minister Penny Wong, in our Adelaide studio, and Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop in Canberra. Thanks so much for joining us both this morning.

WONG: Good morning to you, Natarsha.

BISHOP: Good morning.

WONG: And to you, Julie.

BELLING: Senator Wong, if I can start with you. Given how badly Labor is travelling in the polls - and gosh, Julia Gillard is under the pump - was it such a good idea to get rid of Kevin Rudd?

WONG: Look there’s always a lot of commentary on these sorts of days. But I’m actually less interested in the commentary than what we’re doing. I’m focused on the announcement we made yesterday, a major breakthrough in terms of a National Broadband Network, delivering faster broadband across Australia, delivering better health services, better education services to Australians. I’m far more focused on ensuring that we continue to talk about the carbon price, talk about why we need to act on climate change. And of course, rolling out the investment in education and skills that Julia Gillard announced in the budget. These are the big issues that we’re focused on.

BELLING: Senator Wong, if I could just interrupt there for a moment. You said that you’re focused now on what the Gillard Government is doing. Our political reporter Amanda Hart said going into being Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said she would address three key issues, being the mining tax, asylum seekers and climate change. Some may say she hasn’t addressed one issue.


WONG: I don’t agree with that. I think the point here is that these are really big issues. Nobody would suggest that climate change is not a tough reform. I mean we’ve seen three opposition leaders come and go, primarily on that issue. We know that it’s a very big reform. But that doesn’t mean we should put it in the too hard basket.

This is the thing about Julia, she is extraordinarily hard working, she’s intelligent, she’s highly competent. And she’s, importantly, determined to do what’s right for the nation’s future, even if the going is tough. We know the going is tough at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep our eyes very firmly fixed on the things that have to be done to build a stronger economy in the future, and a better future for our children.

BELLING: Julie Bishop, if I can now ask you, Mr Abbott was claiming this morning that this constant leadership tension between Julia Gillard and, I guess, even Kevin Rudd is hurting ordinary Australians.

BISHOP: Well, the Gillard Government has defined itself as untrustworthy, and incompetent. Untrustworthy, because Julia Gillard is only Prime Minister today because she betrayed Kevin Rudd, after promising she wouldn’t challenge him for the leadership, and she did, and then she betrayed the Australian people when she promised there would be no carbon tax under the government she led and she’s now trying to introduce one.

The government’s also seen as incompetent because Julia Gillard set three benchmarks for taking Kevin Rudd’s job. She said she’d fix the mining tax, she’d fix the climate change issue, and the asylum seeker issue, and twelve months later, she’s fixed none of them. So she gets an F for fail on all of those issues. And the incompetence extends even further, today we hear that the solar panel scheme introduced by the government has all the hallmarks of the disastrous pink batts system. So this government can’t get anything right, and what was a bad government under Kevin Rudd is even worse under Julia Gillard, and the tension between the two people at the top of this government is causing great difficulties for Australia. It’s not in Australia’s national interest to have the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister refusing to speak to each other, they can’t stand each other, and the people who suffer from that are the Australian public.

BELLING: Ms Bishop, you’re talking there about the Australian public, and Mr Abbott was talking about ordinary Australians. Why did Mr Abbott this week cave in on the budget cuts to family benefits that he initially rallied against, claiming it was class warfare?

BISHOP: We’re deeply concerned about the state of the budget. This government claims it is going to return the budget to surplus, but in its four consecutive budgets all the government has done is run up a cumulative deficit of $150 billion. Now the budget’s in strife, and that’s through the government’s mismanagement and wasteful spending. And, we can’t govern from Opposition, all we can do is promise the Australian people that we will do better, and that we will deliver on strong economic management, which is what this country needs. The cost of living is increasing, people are deeply concerned, there’s a lack of confidence in the Australian business and consumer community, and that’s because they don’t trust this government to run our economy properly.


BELLING: Senator Wong, normally at this time you’re debating with Scott Morrison, why is the shadow immigration minister in Malaysia and not the Foreign Minister finalising details of your Malaysia solution proposal?

WONG: Well Natarsha, the shadow minister is in Malaysia because he’s engaging in a political stunt, a bit of political theatre overseas. By his own admission, he won’t change his mind, no matter what he sees, and I understand he’s actually not meeting anybody with any seniority in the Malaysian government, or at an official level. It’s regrettable that he chooses to take a political debate overseas. That’s generally not the convention in the national interest. Overseas we generally leave our domestic political debate behind and Mr Morrison is obviously not interested in ensuring he watches the national interest when he’s abroad.

But there’s a broader issue here, which also goes to what you said. The question you asked Julie about family tax benefits - I mean, what we see is that the Opposition is interested in a lot of stunts, but not necessarily in conviction politics. Mr Abbott styles himself as a conviction politician, yet he argues against the family tax benefits, as you said, saying this was class warfare, the reforms that the government was introducing. He argues for a plebiscite saying he wants people to have a vote. But then he says, actually, he wouldn’t pay any attention, no matter what the result, because his position is clear. And then we see Scott Morrison saying ‘I’m going to Malaysia, but I don’t care what I see, I’ve still got a view’. I mean, the consistent theme here, is an Opposition focused on stunts and theatre, not on what’s good policy.

BELLING: Ms Bishop, finally this morning, Telstra has now signed up, and Optus has signed up also to the controversial NBN. Is the Coalition really going to destroy the NBN if you do win the next election, because we’re then in the difficult predicament of paying out possible compensation if deals have already been signed?

BISHOP: Natarsha, this massive government monopoly means that taxpayers are not going to get value for money. It means consumers will not get cheaper broadband, and it means that we’re not getting the benefits of competition, particularly competition between technologies. Part of this deal that the Government has done with Telstra means that Telstra is prevented from promoting wireless as a competing technology, for the next 20 years.

So if wireless technology advances and becomes a much more attractive product for the Australian people, Telstra is prevented from providing it to its customers, and I think that’s an extraordinary outcome, because of course the world is going towards more mobility, not less. And so we’re now going to be stuck with a $50 billion - and that’s the conservative estimate - $50 billion government monopoly that will be out of date before we know it, and consumers aren’t going to get the benefit of it. And I think the reflection of the public’s concern about this was the Telstra share price yesterday.

BELLING: I’m sorry we’ve run out of time, thanks both for joining us, Senator Penny Wong and Julie Bishop.

BISHOP: You too.

WONG: Thanks very much, Natarsha. ENDS