Q And A


Electronic Media Monitoring Service 


09-02-2015 09:32 PM



Parl No.


Channel Name



09-02-2015 09:32 PM


Panellists: Alan Jones, Influential Radio Broadcaster; Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Development; Chris Bowen, Shadow Treasurer; Heather Ridout, Businesswoman & RBA board member; and Corinne Grant, Comedian & Writer.


09-02-2015 10:42 PM

Cover date

2015-02-09 21:32:00

Citation Id








BOWEN, Chris, MP

RIDOUT, Heather


Open Item 

Parent Program URL


Text online


Media Deleted


System Id


Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document

Q And A -

View in ParlView

TONY JONES: Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I'm Tony Jones. Joining us tonight: the chair of Australian Super and Reserve Bank board member, Heather Ridout; Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs; Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen; Australia's most influential broadcaster Alan Jones; and comedian and writer Corinne Grant. Please welcome our panel.

Thank you. And if you've got a live question, join the Twitter conversation. Add @qanda to help us find it. Well, Tony Abbott led the Liberals to a resounding victory less than 18 months ago but today 39 of his own party voted for a change of leadership. Tony Abbott is still in the top job. Many believe the clock is ticking. Our first question tonight comes from Nathan Brogden.


NATHAN BRODGEN: Thank you, Tony. In light of today's Liberal Party room result, is there really any hope for Tony Abbott? How can he claim that they are any different from Labor when the numbers clearly show a split down the middle?

TONY JONES: Alan Jones, start with you.

ALAN JONES: Well, I think Tony Abbott won as well as he might have expected to win today. Look, I think Tony Abbott - much of this has been dressed up as a bit of a soap opera in a way. The media got hold of it. I'm not too sure the headlines were accurate representation of what was going on. Abbott’s got a very difficult job because the elephant in the room, as Heather would know, is the advice that the Reserve Bank board gave to the Cabinet this week, that the debt is enormous: $110 million a day to pay the interest on the Labor debt and to keep the country running. This is borrowed money, $110 million. Now, Abbott has got himself into trouble because he has tried to do what I suppose no-one else has done, and The Australian editorial said this today, some fiscal rectitude - awful words - but it means how do we retire this debt or do we just automatically go on spending the way we are and pretend that the kids of tomorrow are going to pay for the people of today?

TONY JONES: Alan, is that a sort of "look over here" tactic, because the question was specifically about Tony Abbott, whether

ALAN JONES: Well, Tony Abbott will survive. In my opinion, there is no question. Malcolm, I guess, everyone knew was the alternative today. They said there was no candidate. Malcolm was the candidate. He got 39 votes. I can't envisage a circumstance where he would get more and the grassroots out there are very, very disturbed about one or two unknown people putting forward the spill motion and then rallying the troops around, witness the consequences of the Labor fiasco, which Chris would know all about. I mean Rudd and Gillard and Rudd and it destroyed the Government and destroyed the party and it's something that the Labor Party won't entertain ever again and the Liberal Party aren't happy about that. So, yes, I mean, Abbott will lead the team to the next election, in my opinion, and the one thing about Abbott is, he has always been underestimated. He was underestimated when he won the leadership against Turnbull by one vote, he was underestimated when they said Rudd was here for 10 years and Rudd went and Gillard went and Rudd went again. He has always been underestimated and he is always up for a fight and he will prove a very, very formidable opponent and I think the Labor Party know that.

TONY JONES: Just very briefly, before we move on from you, Alan, why are so many of your colleagues, if I can call them that, over at Sky TV referring to him as a dead man walking?

ALAN JONES: Well, I have no idea. You’d have to ask them. I mean, I suppose that’s convenient affirmation of their own rather misguided view. I mean we had headlines during the week that Malcolm Turnbull would be the Prime Minister by Wednesday. I mean, I don't know where all that came from and that's not likely to happen. But, yes, I mean, basically, I’m sorry but many people in the media of the left. Abbot - this is a bit of an ideological war. Abbott represents the other side of the political spectrum and he has never been forgiven for winning the leadership to start with. He’s never been forgiven for beating Rudd and Gillard and co, and now he’s not been forgiven for saying, well, look, I’m sorry, we’re all going to have to tighten our belts a bit here because we are hopelessly - we’re in a mess. When the Reserve Bank says, the Governor says, $110 million a day interest plus running the country. That's an awful lot of dough.

TONY JONES: All right, Chris Bowen wants to get in. Try to remember the question when you respond to that.

CHRIS BOWEN: I will. He didn’t actually say that. That was a leak which was subsequently shown to be not correct, Alan, and it was also an abuse of the office of the Reserve Bank by the Treasurer but we can deal with that separately. To answer Nathan’s question, can the Prime Minister survive? No, I don't think he can. This is a fatal result for him for a number of reasons. One, he bound his ministers and his parliamentary secretaries and his whips to vote for him. That means that two-thirds of his backbench voted against him, if you assume every minister, parliamentary secretary and whip did what they were asked to do and they’re all saying they did.

ALAN JONES: So Malcolm voted for Tony, did he?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, he says he did. He says he did. That means two-thirds of the back bench voted against Tony Abbott.

ALAN JONES: The sun’ll come up in the West.

CHRIS BOWEN: Alan, this is not morning radio. Other people get a go. So, the other reason this is fatal for Tony Abbott, I think, Alan, you know, fair enough, raises Labor's leadership changes. We've learnt our lesson. The Liberals have not learnt our lesson. I've been a member of the Labor Party for 27 years, in parliament for ten years, I've never seen the Labor Party so united. We changed our rules so that a leader can’t be easily removed, correctly, and we've changed our culture and Tony Abbott promised us so much more. He promised to be different. He promised the adults would be in charge. Calm, stable, methodical government. We all know the rhetoric. We all know the lines. And what has been delivered, like in so many other areas, including the budget, including the economy, has fallen so far short of the expectations that Tony Abbott raised. The Australian people are entitled to judge him on the standards that he set and he has failed those standards.

TONY JONES: Okay, Jamie Briggs.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, I mean, Chris, unfortunately, puts the sins of the Labor Party on us. We he had a secret ballot party today and therefore no one--

CHRIS BOWEN: Was it our fault? Was it our fault you had a secret ballot?

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, no. Well, you don't understand what a secret ballot is in the Labor Party because you get told how to vote.

ALAN JONES: It’s not morning, Chris, let him have his chance.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s right. The - we had a secret ballot. People were entitled to vote how they wanted to vote. No one was compelled to vote in any way. So let's just correct the Labor Party misconception of their own standard and Chris does know about leadership challenges. He sat in the Cabinet while he undermined a Prime Minister. So he is quite aware about how to do that. The reality is it is a difficult political situation for the Government but Tony Abbott is by far the best person to lead the party. There are colleagues who are concerned and what he did today, I thought, particularly after the ballot, was address the concerns of colleagues. The policy challenges we face are quite significant. Alan makes some very important points about the financial situation we were left and we've got to continue to address those. Chris Bowen himself, a month ago, in The Australian newspaper said if Labor is elected next time, they will either to have cut services or raise taxes. That's the reality of the choices that whoever is in government has got. Now, we have not been perfect. We recognise that. However, changing the leader is not the way to get the political problems sorted. What we are going to do is have a much better effort at communicating the challenges and what we think are the solutions and that is the outcome from today.

TONY JONES: So how does a Prime Minister survive when 40% of his MPs vote against his leadership, because history will tell you that's very unlikely.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, look, history is written constantly, Tony.

TONY JONES: Survival.

JAMIE BRIGGS: And Alan makes a good point. Tony Abbott is a fighter and he will continue to fight away at what are important policy challenges. This is not about any individual person. This is about our country. That’s why we...

TONY JONES: Well, it was about the individual person today. That's the whole point about this.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, no, no, no. It was - no, it wasn’t.

TONY JONES: That's why those 39 MPs...

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, it wasn’t. I disagree. No, the...

TONY JONES: ...voted for a spill.


TONY JONES: Those who spoke...


TONY JONES: ...spoke specifically about Tony Abbott's leadership.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, no, what it is is about the political challenges we have. There is a lot of warmth for a person who took us from a very divided party in 2009, dragged the party together, all but defeated a first-term Government in 2010, led us to Government in 2013. There is a lot of good will for Tony to do well. There are MPs that are concerned, there is no question. You can't deny the reality. However, what this morning allowed people to do was express that concern, have the discussion in the party room afterward and now we move on together to face the policy challenges.

TONY JONES: All right. We’ve got quite a few questions to get to. I'll hear from the other two panellists. Corinne Grant?

CORINNE GRANT: Yeah, I reckon he is screwed. I can't see him lasting another 18 months and I don't agree that it's like all of these forces from outside that are attacking poor Tony and it's their fault. Tony has done this to himself. He has got something like 28% approval rating with the public and that comes around because he keeps breaking promises that he says he’s not going to break. He keeps saying he’s going to change and he doesn’t change. If he was a boyfriend, you would have dumped him months ago, you know. Why would you hang out with him for another 18 months? I would like to know who the informal vote was though. I’ve got a feeling the informal vote was done by Kevin Rudd, just sneaking in there and going, “I’m Kevin and I’m here to help.”

TONY JONES: Heather Ridout?

HEATHER RIDOUT: Look, I think it’s whatever happens with Tony Abbott, the big issue that worries me is that an observer, a business person, just hopefully a good citizen, is that I think Australian has been drifting for a long time. We've had really destabilised leadership in Australia now for six, seven years. You know, if you haven't got solid, strong, consistent, credible, trustworthy leadership, you don't have much, and we’ve got some pretty major economic challenges to face in this country. We’re trying to make a big transition from when we all knew what was driving the Australian economy, our big resources boom, et cetera, and now we've got to find a new business model and that requires a leader who can carve out a direction for us so you know, your kids and young people and pensioners and retirees have an idea about what Australia is going to look like in 10, 15 years time and that takes leadership.

TONY JONES: So do you see evidence that Tony Abbott is that leader?

HEATHER RIDOUT: Well, I don't. I don’t see at the moment and I haven't seen it for some time. It's not just Tony Abbott. I think we've had some problems with leadership in this country and, therefore, we've had all this change of leadership, and destabilisation is a very bad thing and if you have it in a company, you know, if your boss is - you have a different boss every year, it's not really great to work there either. So my view is that we need credible, trust worthy leadership, leadership that can set out a plan for Australia, not just about solving short-term crises or solving short-term political issues, we need people with some big ideas about putting a new business model in place for this country which, you know, really builds us into the 21st century strengths that we do have here and so that's what I want and Tony Abbott, I hope he can do it, because none of us want another change of leadership. We don’t need it, you know.

ALAN JONES: Tony, the risk here today though, surely is that people have panicked, as they do on both political sides, and if we start running the country according to polls, then the kind of discipline and tough decisions that have to be taken will not be taken. Now, we have to remember after the Godwin Grech affair with Malcolm Turnbull, the two-party preferred was 59 to 41. Tony Abbott has never got anywhere near that. What we’re seeing today here are...

TONY JONES: So are you saying at the time the Liberals panicked and got rid of a leader?

ALAN JONES: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying now people are concerned because they are in marginal seats and they see the polls and they worry about the short term, rather than the long term. Heather is right. In the long term, we have major, major problems. Wayne Swan said the deficit that he would hand over to Hockey was 18 billion. It came in at 47 billion. If we keep going the way we are and make no change, the Commission of Audit said we have to make $70 billion worth of savings. Someone has got to decide where that comes from. Now, if I just take my own self here, I think it's ludicrous that someone like me can go to a public hospital for nothing. I mean yet we have this - the metaphor of all of this really is the Medicare thing. In New Zealand they have a co-payment of $30. We are whinging here about $5 or $7. We pay $36 co-payment for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but the notion that someone like you and me can go to a public hospital for nothing is farcical. The notion that someone like me should be getting concessions - I pay 48 cents in the dollar tax but if I put my super in, I pay 15. I get a 33 cents in the dollar concession. Superannuation concessions are costing the Government $49 billion a year. If someone is in a $3 million home with $100,000 in the bank they get the full aged pension. Now, someone along the line has got to say, look, in an ideal world, that would be terrific, but we ain’t in an ideal world.

HEATHER RIDOUT: But you know, Alan, we haven’t had - we do not have the credible leadership to be able to get people to make those decisions. If I were Tony Abbott, the first person I would be knocking on the door of Bill Shorten because the Government is responsible for trying to drive bipartisanship around these big revenue-spending issues, which we've got to get decisions on, to solve your problem, but it's not the only problem we've got. We've got this big long-term view as well.

TONY JONES: Okay. We are going to come back to this. Heather. I don't mean to interrupt you.

HEATHER RIDOUT: No, that’s all right.

TONY JONES: We’ve got a question that sort of does leads us into that direction too. It's from Jeremy Kurucz.


JEREMY KURUCZ: The Prime Minister remarked earlier today that, "Good government starts today." My question to the panel is, in light of this comment, what type of government has the Prime Minister been conducting up to this point?

TONY JONES: Yeah, Corinne?

CORINNE GRANT: A fairly shambolic one that’s been run by a dude who keeps saying he’s making captain calls. Like, I don’t know.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, actually, Julia Gillard was the person who came up with captain call, Corrine. Didn’t you write speeches for her?

CORINNE GRANT: Well, then that’s even sadder then, that Tony Abbott is stealing lines from a former Prime Minister. I wouldn't be going around flogging that, if I were you. But he’s also said...

JAMIE BRIGGS: But didn’t you write speeches for Julia Gillard?

CORINNE GRANT: He also said that he was moving forward as well.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Yeah, I thought you did. Yeah.

CORINNE GRANT: So, you know.

TONY JONES: Jamie Briggs, let me bring you in on that question. It’s a pretty obvious one. When the PM said...


TONY JONES: ..."Good government starts today," what about yesterday, the day before, in fact the last 18 months?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Look, we have done a lot of good things in the first 12 months. There has been no question that we've achieved much of what we said we would set out to achieve. The policy challenges are great. However, when it comes to balancing the Budget, there are no easy choices and it is the reality that we face a Senate which is much more difficult than it has been for a very long time. The Labor Party has put itself outside the policy discussion. They are voting in fact for a $25 billion - against $25 billion of their own savings from their last budget. That's how ridiculous their position has become. So we have to negotiate with a group of Independents who have got quite diverse views on how to move the country forward. Now, they’re entitled to those views, they were elected, but it is not easy to necessarily get everyone on the same park.

TONY JONES: So, Jamie, can I just interrupt you there because today in a way, he tried to explain what was going to happen with the good government. Tony Abbott said, "We’re not going to pick - buy fights with the Senate that we can't win." Does that mean you’re going to drop some of these tough reform plans, some of these tough changes around Medicare and deregulation of universities because the Senate opposes them, because that's the opposite of what Alan Jones here just suggested?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Sure. Well, what we’re going to have to do is be realistic about what we can achieve. What we found last year...

TONY JONES: Well, let's just stick with those two. You know, putting a price point on a visit to the doctor, it’s going to be opposed in the Senate. It has been all along. Are you going to drop it?

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, what we've said is we’re going to talk to the medical community further and Sussan Ley, as the new Health Minister, is engaging in consultation about how it is we can make Medicare sustainable. The reality is we all support Medicare, but if we don't make decisions today to ensure that the next generation can access it, then we’ll have a problem down the road.

TONY JONES: So, just confirm this: you’re not going to drop the plan to increase the price of a visit to the doctor?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Tony, I always take compliments and promotions from you, but I'm not the Health Minister. I’m a member of the...

TONY JONES: No, but you're here to talk on behalf of the Government.


TONY JONES: We just heard what Tony Abbott said today?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, sure. Well, then I would batedly wait for Sussan Ley's announcements about our next steps forward but the overall policy outcome is the same. We want Medicare to be sustained for the future so people who need access to healthcare can get it and that's the reality and as far as the higher education changes, Christopher Pyne is working with the Independents to make these important reforms. Nearly all the vice-chancellors support these reforms. It’s quite remarkable to get all the vice-chancellors on the one--

TONY JONES: But the Senate - again, I come back to the point, the Senate has said, no, we won't support these reforms and you can't get the numbers to make that happen.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Sure. Well, Christopher is a very persuasive South Australian and he will continue to persuade...

TONY JONES: He seems to have done quite well on submarines.

ALAN JONES: Tony, Heather made the point that the first door she’d be knocking on would be Bill Shorten’s. Now, Chris can answer this. Bill Shorten said today, I think in the Parliament or outside the Parliament, right, that's it. There’ll be no cuts to Medicare. This is under Labor. No cuts to Medicare. There’ll be none of this higher charges for university fees and there was something else he said. Oh, no change to aged pensions. Now, when someone is in a $3 million home with $100,000 in the bank and gets an aged person, doesn't someone in the Labor Party have to say, listen, I think a few people might have their hand in the till here and they’ve got to take it out. Somewhere there’s got to be a sensible decision about the fact that the entitlement mentality in the community has got to end for people who can afford to look after themselves. We need an independent Australia, not a dependent Australia. But they’ve announced in the last two weeks they’ll reintroduce a carbon tax and mining tax. Holy Nelly, where are we going? Where are we going? I don’t know.

TONY JONES: Chris Bowen.

CHRIS BOWEN: To answer the original question of what have we had up until now, it’s a very good question. This has not been good Government, but I will deal with the issues that have been raised. Jamie, you know, thinks he is clever when he says, "Oh, Chris Bowen says the next Labor Government’s going to have to have spending cuts.” Well, I know...

JAMIE BRIGGS: You said it, Chris. I’m just quoting your words, mate.

CHRIS BOWEN: I know honesty before an election is a novelty for you, Jamie, but we are not going to play the sort of game that you played, the Tony Abbott/Joe Hockey game of Santa Claus economics, Magic Pudding economics. Everything will be fine. Just elect us. We can get back to surplus. That’s what they did.

JAMIE BRIGGS: What the six years of...

CHRIS BOWEN: That’s what they did.

JAMIE BRIGGS: The six years of deficits you delivered.

CHRIS BOWEN: That's what you did, Jamie. You said...

JAMIE BRIGGS: No. No. What you did...

CHRIS BOWEN: ...and your leader and your Treasurer said we can get back to surplus with no tax rises and no spending cuts over and above those that we’ve announced. Now, what we say...

JAMIE BRIGGS: When did you last deliver a surplus, Chris?

CHRIS BOWEN: What we say is that the best way back to surplus is economic growth but we do recognise difficult decisions are necessary and we will be honest about them before the election. This is why Tony Abbott is in so much trouble, because he was so fundamentally dishonest before the election. He said it would all be easy. He said that there was no problem in Australia that couldn't be fixed about a change of government. He said there would be an adrenaline rush to the Australian economy. Consumer confidence is 16% lower than it was at election time, because it's not so easy as he thought and he was fundamentally dishonest. The approach we are taking is that we want to win a mandate at the next election but we want to win a mandate to do things, to do good things for Australia, an alternative vision for the nation underpinned by detailed policies and that's what we’ll be providing at the next election. We won't be rolling up in a little ball and saying everything’s fine, just elect us, everything will be okay. I think Australians are over that sort of old style politics. It doesn’t make any sense.

ALAN JONES: Tony, I was a sports coach and there is a golden rule in sport. You look at the scoreboard. The Labor Party haven't produced a surplus since 1989 and the Keating Government - the Keating Government and then the Rudd Government and then the Gillard Government and then the Rudd Government ran up aggregate deficits of $350 billion. Costello ran up aggregate surpluses of $300 billion and provided $34 billion in tax cuts. In the first five years of the Rudd-Gillard Government, their deficits aggregated $190 billion. Now, if you were a punter and you went out there and said, well, what are the odds of Labor being able to do it any differently and they haven't had a surplus since 1989, you would be 100 to 1. You’d be a rank outsider, mate.

CHRIS BOWEN: And Joe Hockey will never bring...

ALAN JONES: You’d be a rank outsider.

CHRIS BOWEN: And Joe Hockey will never bring down a Budget surplus as Treasurer. That's a fact.

TONY JONES: Jamie Briggs, while you've got that grin on your face, it suggests you have got a very strong advocate con the panel. Can I just put to you something that that strong advocate just said. Rich people shouldn’t get access to hospitals free of charge. Rich people should not get subsidies on their massive superannuation schemes, tax subsidies. Do you agree?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, we’re having a good, comprehensive look at the tax system and...

TONY JONES: Yeah, but do you agree with those points.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, I think...

TONY JONES: It’s about your personal opinion.

ALAN JONES: Just say yes, Jamie.

CORINNE GRANT: Who’s running the Government?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, when you have a systematic, considered look at the tax system, you should do it with all the system on the table.

TONY JONES: But do you agree with those points?

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, I think what we should do is have a good, systematic look at the system to make we’ve got...

CORINNE GRANT: You’ve been there for 18 months.

TONY JONES: No, but actually this really is about your opinion. It’s not about whether you can personally change the policy.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, Terrific, Tony, but I'm a member of an executive of a government and we are working through this and we will come out with a comprehensive response. Joe Hockey and Josh Frydenberg are undertaking the review. Alan is right, though, to raise the issue about superannuation. Of course it is a very large revenue issue and if you are not looking at that, then you're not actually genuinely having a review of the system.

TONY JONES: So we can confirm that that will be on the Government’s agenda to look at closely, because these incentives for rich people to keep their money in superannuation are costing the budget huge amounts. I mean, billions.

ALAN JONES: Fifty billion. Fifty billion. And the welfare bill this year will be 6.1% higher than it was last year which is, what, three times the inflation rate? I mean, our expenditure this year will be 3% of GDP greater than the revenue. Now, people out here run a household budget. If you said to them, well, hang on, your expenditure is going to be 3% greater than your revenue, you’d think, hello, I’m in trouble, and if you’re in trouble you cut back on expenditure. You can't go on taxing people.

TONY JONES: Well, Alan, it actually sounds like Jamie Briggs agrees with you.

ALAN JONES: I hope so. Well done, Tony. Well done.

TONY JONES: Jones and Jones on fire. All right. Let’s go to our next question. It’s from Matteo Barbariol.


MATTEO BARBARIOL: Alan Jones, would you support Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister if he were to moderate his support for any increase cost to carbon emission and if he supported a broadening of the burden of Budget repair to include taxes on global corporations operating in Australia?

ALAN JONES: I sort of didn't catch all of that question. You’ve got such a, if I might say it, a gentle voice.

TONY JONES: I have got it in writing, so I can repeat it. Would you support Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister if he were to moderate his support for an increased cost to carbon emissions and if he were to support a broadening of the burden of budget repair to include taxes on global corporations operating in Australia?

ALAN JONES: Well, firstly, I think it's incumbent upon us all, as happens in America - I mean, when there’s an American election, it doesn’t matter who wins, they say, "We support the President." I think it's incumbent upon us all to support the Prime Minister, whomever that Prime Minister might be. We hope, and I think generally speaking, all of them have the best interests of the country at heart. The trouble is they come unstuck when they start to make decisions not based on the national interest but based on sexual interest or based on pressure groups or, as we are seeing now, based on polls. Malcolm Turnbull has not got a very flash record in relation to carbon taxes and all the rest of it. He did cross the floor in 2010 and voted with the Labor Party against his own party. He did say he would not want to lead a Liberal Party that had a view about carbon emissions different from his own, and he lost the leadership previously as a result of his stance by not consulting his party. Now, if Malcolm were to become Prime Minister, one could only hope that his views would change. But I know this man sitting here would be at pains, I don't think, to remind Malcolm of his previous positions and he would be tying himself in knots getting himself out of those positions. So Malcolm has got a lot of ground to make up if he were to become Prime Minister. In terms of revenue and broadening the base, then we have to have a sophisticated debate about, I think, the GST, because the GST is one tax which has merit simply because we can avoid it legally. That is, if you want to drive a Mercedes Benz car and I want to drive a Holden, you’ll pay more tax than I do. If Corinne wants to wear pearls around her neck and your wife doesn't, we’ll she’ll pay more tax that you do. If you want to eat at home, I want to eat out, you’ll pay more tax than I do. Now, we got into a knot way back with Meg Lees and everybody when we created all sorts of exemptions to the GST but there has to be some instrument which is going to raise revenue and Malcolm Turnbull is economically sophisticated. One can only hope he can understand the problem as it exists: massive debt that’s got to be retired. If we keep going the way we are, we are running into a debt of $600 and something billion dollars. So I come back to my first point. Whomever is the Prime Minister you would hope - Labor, Liberal - the nation will get behind them as the Americans get behind their President.

CHRIS BOWEN: That’s a novel concept, Alan. After the Rudd-Gillard years, that’s a novel concept coming from you.

ALAN JONES: Well, the Rudd-Gillard years were disastrous.

CHRIS BOWEN: Coming from you.

ALAN JONES: Let’s face it, they just...

CHRIS BOWEN: That is a very novel concept coming from you.

ALAN JONES: Kevin Rudd's expenditure was three times per capita greater than Gough Whitlam’s and the laughed at poor old Gough Whitlam. Three times higher per capita than Gough Whitlam’s. I repeat, they ran up $190 billion in deficit in the first five years.

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. Alan, we’re having a bit of a sidebar argument but I’m going to let Chris Bowen respond briefly.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I was just pointing out that after some of the things Alan Jones has said about previous Prime Ministers, it's a bit rich to say every Australian should support the Prime Minister of the party.

ALAN JONES: Well, you didn't support your two.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, after...

TONY JONES: I tell you what, Chris, we will come back to that issue. I’m going to stick with the big economic issue for a moment. We’ll come back to that. This is actually Alan Jones was pointing to earlier did lead us in a way to this question. It's from Sarah Kendell.


SARAH KENDELL: Today's spill vote was arguably a culmination of the Coalition's consistent poor polling since the release of the last Budget. While most voters accept government revenue will suffer long-term structural problems as the mining boom recedes and the population ages, neither party has put forward a coherent plan to tackle these problems that voters accept as fair. I would like to ask the panel what issues they think should be addressed in the coming budget to pave a path to surplus and restore the Coalition some credibility with voters.

TONY JONES: We’ll start with Heather Ridout.

HEATHER RIDOUT: Well, look, I think the issue is we have to - we’re in a situation where our economy has been driven by a very strong super cycle in our resources area and we have to move to another model. As part of that transition, we are seeing a collapse in revenues and Alan is right, we’re growing a deficit, but that's partly because we're collecting about two percentage points of GDP every year less in revenue and that is a real problem and that's why over the medium term we need to take a really good look at our tax system and how we’re going to raise revenue. In the immediate term, we have to get investment going in other industries, non-mining industries. This is a very big challenge. Business has got to have the confidence to invest. It’s got to have the demand to invest and this, I think, is a big challenge for the Budget and if I were Tony Abbott drafting this Budget, I’d be having a look at things like accelerated depreciation that brings forward business investment, really structuring that environment. For small business, you can cop very complex issues for small business but, in my experience, they like simple things and they like it about cash. So the old write off schemes are really good. Accelerated write off of computers, all these things. You reduce the cost. You give it to them fast. They get on with it. Then I think you need to look at areas which do have short and medium-term paybacks, like skills and education and the final thing, and I'm passionate about this and Jamie and I have been talking about it, is infrastructure. I'm chair of a wonderful fund that has a lot of money to spend on infrastructure. We already spend a lot of it in Australia. This appalling decision in Queensland to not recycle assets is a very, very sad thing but even so, governments can borrow at very, very low rates to fund infrastructure. So we’re in a great position. We've got big funds want to put the money in, big international funds, and the Government has already been out there on this but I think what it needs - I mean, Tony Abbott, you can't look back. He’s got to look forward and he’s got to convince all of you, not the doctors, not accountants, he has got to convince you, as voters, as citizens, that he has got the idea for you, but there are things we can do that will make a real difference over a very short period of time, and then we have to have a plan for the future. We have a tax plan. I was a member of that panel. But we do need a very detailed re-look at the GST and not just looking at the base and the rate. We need to look at the effect of e-commerce on it. We need to look at the financial services area. A whole lot of stuff.

TONY JONES: Heather, does it depress you that both sides of politics, including the Prime Minister just recently, have effectively ruled out increasing or broadening the rate, broadening the GST?

HEATHER RIDOUT: Look, honestly, yeah, well it does because I think you have to consider it. If you look at the research on tax and I did, it's regarded as the most efficient tax in the OECD. Now, Alan makes a comment that if I want to wear a string of pearls I can do it and someone doesn't but that's because I can afford. My husband bought me a lovely string of pearls. GST is a very regressive tax. So you have to figure that out and you have to consider compensation, with is what we did last time. But when you do tax reform, not every measure has to be fair. The package has to be fair. If you apply the equity measure to everything, you’ll never get anything done. But this is the sort of sensible discussion, town hall discussion, we all need to have as citizens and figure it out and it can be done and there is a lot of great work and research being done in Australia around this fact. But, you know, if I hear more of the squabbling and rubbish, I feel like I’ve been years wanting to form the Normal People's Party and I'm really getting close to it. Really getting close.

TONY JONES: Jamie Briggs, how hard is it going to be to reform the tax system when you can't touch the GST, for example? And, by the way, on the broader question, Tony Abbott today seemed to be indicating that maybe the last budget went too far, was too radical for Australians?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, what we are going to focus on in the next Budget is the first issue, if you want to address your spending, is to not make new spending commitments. So there’ll be a real focus on the Government to improve the programs that we've got already. We want to look at small business particularly and we're looking at a small business tax cut as part of our Budget and a package of measures to create jobs in small business, so they’re a big focus of the Government to look at ways that we can really boot the engine of our economy and small business. As far as the GST is concerned, the issue really gets to the behaviour of the states and the Labor Party. The reality is it's very easy to run a scare campaign on tax. The Labor Party did it when John Howard and Peter Costello took the GST to the election in 1998. They won the election and the Labor Party still voted against the package.

TONY JONES: Yes, but isn’t that...

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, no. No, no, hang on. Hang on, Tony. let me explain.

TONY JONES: Isn’t that - isn’t that - no, but isn't that - it is a fundamental point that you're making, though, isn't it, because John Howard actually had the courage to go to an election with a GST tax, the first one we've ever had. It's very hard to imagine your government or any government, frankly, doing that again, particularly going to the electorate and saying to them, you need to raise the GST or broaden the base so we can pay for everything that you want governments to give you?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Sure. Well, the second point I was intending to make is that the GST is a tax that goes straight to the states. They are the beneficiaries of any change to the GST. They need to make the case and argue for why they would do it. There’s three Labor Premiers now across the country. They've got very difficult issues. South Australia, my home State, has got the biggest debt in our history, bigger than when the State Bank was broke. The South Australian Government can't pay for ongoing services without borrowing more money. They need to be, the states, the players in this that come to the Federal Government and say, "We really need to have a good hard look at this."

TONY JONES: Are you admitting, in fact, that you can't lead? You have to wait for someone to lead you in that direction?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, Tony, you're the commentator, I'm the participant. What I'm saying is that there is, in the end, you cannot go out on your own on this debate because the Labor Party has shown itself uninterested in having a normal debate and the political risk of discussing these issues without the people who will benefit from it demanding it in the first place make it, in essence, political suicide to open up.

TONY JONES: Okay. I’m just going to go briefly, Alan, on that point and then I want to hear from Chris Bowen.

ALAN JONES: Well, Tony, I don't want to sort of be - issue an apologue here, but I feel a bit sorry for politicians in this because everyone speaks in generalities and blame politicians because they're not doing this, they’re not doing the other. I didn't hear a word from business, for example, when these massive debts were being run up. They are absolutely invertebrate and yet suddenly they're saying, "Well, government must retire this debt. It's too great." Now, we’ve got $1.3 trillion in superannuation funds. Heather--

HEATHER RIDOUT: 1.4, actually. 1.4.

ALAN JONES: 1.4 trillion dollars.

HEATHER RIDOUT: Bigger than the Australian economy.

ALAN JONES: Now, okay, the obligation is to invest that in such a way that every superannuant gets the best possible return.

HEATHER RIDOUT: That’s right.

ALAN JONES: But if you said, look, in the national interest there is at least a percentage that should be put into infrastructure in Australia. In other words, a percentage of that - you’d mandate a percentage of these funds to be used. Now, infrastructure is central to productivity. We currently have a bond rate of about two and a bit percent. Governments have got an opportunity to borrow for infrastructure cheaper than they’ve ever got. We have to be saying, business, commentators, the community, families, to Government, we’ve got these ideas and we've got to give them some ideas.

HEATHER RIDOUT: But you know, Alan...

ALAN JONES: If you ask the captain - sorry, Heather. But if you ask the captain and the vice captain in a team to make all the runs, the team will eventually be beaten. Everyone has got to pull their weight and make some runs here and that includes the wider community, the situation is that serious.

HEATHER RIDOUT: But, I mean...

TONY JONES: Corinne - actually, I would like just to quickly bring in some of our other panellists. Corinne, are you listening to this discussion?

CORINNE GRANT: Yes, I am. I’m waiting - Alan has brought out so many numbers now, I'm waiting for somebody to yell out "Bingo!" I would like to see, in the coming year, the rhetoric change. I'm tired of hearing that we've got a culture of lifters and leaners and the leaners always seem to be the people with the disability, the long-term unemployed, domestic violence victims who want legal advice, the environment, that we've got - when I think that some of the leaners may be at the other end of the scale. There are billions upon billions of dollars that we give to mining magnates like Gina Rinehart, billions of dollars, and yet we're asking poor people - we're asking poor people to fund whatever it is that the Government wants to do. I just think that's kind of morally bankrupt.

TONY JONES: Chris Bowen, just to bring you in on - I will get a quick answer from you, if I can, on the issue of the GST because it's clear that unless both parties were to agree, it will never happen?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, we don't see the case for broadening the base or increasing the rate. We think that that is fundamentally not the right way to go about it. I support a proper, sensible tax reform. I've said things about the tax reform debate. We’ll be constructive and proactive. We’ll actually be participating in the tax reform debate very proactively, putting forward ideas, but they’ll be ideas based on our values and our principles.

ALAN JONES: Can you share some with us?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, we’ll be putting them out, Alan. You’ll have plenty - if you have me on your show...

ALAN JONES: I’ll give you an hour. I’ll give you an hour.

CHRIS BOWEN: ...on your show in the morning, I’m more than happy to talk about them when we announce them.

ALAN JONES: I’ll give you as much time as you like.

CHRIS BOWEN: More than happy. I’m more than happy.

TONY JONES: Can I just ask a quick question though? You were in government for two terms. Why didn't you do something about the huge amounts of money that rich people get in subsidies on superannuation?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, we did. We did and this government has reversed this them. I mean, I have to correct you. I have to correct you, Tony. We did make the superannuation tax system fairer because what we said if you that if you’re a low income earner, you get zero tax concession on your superannuation. That is fundamentally unfair. So we brought in a low income earners superannuation contribution and we made it fairer at the top end. Joe Hockey has reversed those changes. He’s reversed our changes and this goes to the point. There is more than one way of budget repair. Alan talks about, you know, the need for budget repair.

TONY JONES: Alan Jones was talking about $50 billion in subsidies.

CHRIS BOWEN: Yeah, well...

TONY JONES: How much did you rein in?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, it was - obviously it was - we regarded it as a modest and fair change and even that modes and fair change, Joe Hockey says, oh, no, that’s too much. I'm pulling it back. High income earners deserve a higher tax.

JAMIE BRIGGS: (Indistinct)

CHRIS BOWEN: But, he did. It is a fact, Jamie. Your Treasurer has reversed our changes. That is a statement of fact.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, what you...

CHRIS BOWEN: We made them. You’ve reversed them.

JAMIE BRIGGS: What you actually did with superannuation policy was make small business pay a higher tax. You didn’t actually do anything.

CHRIS BOWEN: What are you talking about?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, you did. You lifted the rate of compulsory contribution.

CHRIS BOWEN: Yeah, and we made the tax treatment...

JAMIE BRIGGS: Yeah, that’s what you did.

CHRIS BOWEN: ...for higher income earners fairer.

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, no, you made other people pay for your...

CHRIS BOWEN: We made the...

JAMIE BRIGGS: You made other people pay, Chris.

HEATHER RIDOUT: (Indistinct) surcharges.

JAMIE BRIGGS: That’s what Labor Party is very good at, borrowing other people's money and spending other people's money. That's what you did with superannuation.

CHRIS BOWEN: And what you've done - and what you’ve done is reverse very sensible and fair changes to make the tax treatment of superannuation a bit fairer. While you talk about a budget emergency, you are giving taxpayers’ money back to high income earners on their superannuation. That goes to the very core of the fatal flaw in your narrative. The fatal flaw.

ALAN JONES: $350 billion accumulated deficits.


ALAN JONES: Margaret Thatcher said socialism is when you run out of other people's money. Other people’s money.

TONY JONES: Okay, it’s time to move on. The next question is a video. It is from John Hamparsum from Breeza, New South Wales.


JOHN HAMPARSUM: Hi. I’m a second generation farmer from the Liverpool Plains and I'm standing on 6 foot deep black soil, some of the most fertile soils in all of Australia. Twenty metres below me are some of the most productive water aquifers in Australia and two and a half kilometres behind me now, our State Government has just approved the biggest coal mine - open-cut coal mine - in New South Wales, the Shenhua Watermark coal mine. The mine will be 35 square kilometres or equivalent to 4620 football fields in size, right in the middle of some of the most productive farming land in the world. Please tell me why this particular coalmine is more important than producing food and fibre for the world, forever?

TONY JONES: Okay. I mean, logically I should go to Alan Jones but I’m going to go to Heather Ridout first. Should mining interests be allowed to override farming interests?

HEATHER RIDOUT: I don't think that's the right question. I think we have to...

TONY JONES: That's his question more or less?

HEATHER RIDOUT: Well, yes, but I think the question is, at the moment, the coal industry, the coal prices are very low. We have much more potential in the food industry. I think we have an obligation to preserve these pristine farming lands in Australia, not just for now, but for future generations. I can't see the sense in us putting a huge coal mine and destroying that land, or not even destroying it but endangering that land and the aquifers, to dig out coal, the price of which has fallen so much and which, you know, on any measure, we should not regard that as other than the - you know, I mean it's not a long-term energy option for the world unless we can make it cleaner. So, I mean, we need to be very proud and very protective of our virgin primary producing land and we have loads of opportunities there economically and I have great sympathy with people who don't want that mine to go ahead.

TONY JONES: Alan Jones?

ALAN JONES: Well, Tony, we don't have five hours. The picture you saw is correct and, in my opinion, an absolute disgrace. The bigger disgrace is that government have done nothing. But that is replicated all over Australia. If you take the Galilee Basin, where everyone has got their finger in it, nine mines on the Galilee Basin will use more than two and a half times Sydney Harbour’s water in one year, will dewater 400 bores, which are used for farms and irrigation and remove the water entitlement to the two town of of Alpha and Jericho. If you go to where I was born in Acland, where they've wiped out that community and the Government of Queensland said there would be no Acland Stage 3, well, before Christmas they approved Acland Stage 3. It will take nine billion litres from the Great Artesian Basin in a year. That's a litre for every person on the planet. It will reduce the aquifer by 47 metres. 47 metres. Now, the picture you saw there was of the Liverpool Plains. This is soil that you could eat. An approval has been given for a Chinese outfit Shenhua, who’ve bought up farms all over the place, to mine the size of the mine in lingo that we would understand in the old-fashioned terminology, is 3,500 acres. Can you imagine it? These farmers are defenceless. Now, the argument being, well, everyone is in debt. Everyone has made these points here tonight. Mining will get us out of trouble. Well, it didn't get Campbell Newman out of trouble. The mining invasion didn’t solve - didn’t produce jobs. He promised unemployment at 4%. It’s at 6.6%. He promised to reduce the debt. The debt has gone up. Mining hasn't solved problem. Australia-wide, there are only about 240,000 jobs in mining and they fly in and they fly out. The picture you saw there is all over Australia. Now, there has to be recognition. The prime agricultural land has got to be fenced off. This stuff lasts for 15 years and then you have got an industrial wasteland. The notion of co-existence is a nonsense and that is only prospered by those who are the proponents and where there are, Tony - where there are, quote, unquote, environmental impact statements, can you believe it that they are written by the proponent and when I spoke at Cecil Plains in relation to Arrow Energy and coal seam gas, the environmental impact statement weighed 27 kilos and the farmers were given a month to respond. Five million acres. The argument was there were going to be 40,000 coal seam gas wells on the Darling Downs and this one project, Arrow Energy, would use 22 billion litres of water a year. I mean this stuff has got to stop. Neither government has done anything about it. But, however, let's be honest, the Labor Party aren’t in government. It's not their responsibility now, Jamie. This is really hard-nosed stuff and the buck rests in Canberra.

TONY JONES: Okay, Jamie Briggs, can I just make the point that this is a message that was heard right through Queensland and we know what happened during the Queensland...

JAMIE BRIGGS: Because Alan was on the radio every day in the lead up to the election.

TONY JONES: And he will probably be every day on the radio in New South Wales during the New South Wales election and that was in New South Wales. So what's your response?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, and it is a State Government issue ultimately but, you know...

ALAN JONES: Sorry, Jamie, no, no, no, no, no. The Federal Government has to sign off on it.

JAMIE BRIGGS: That's true. That’s what I was about to...

ALAN JONES: The Federal Government has to sign off on it. It's not a State Government issue. They can go mad but you can stop them going mad.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, Alan is right that we do have environmental approval procedures. Well, legislative requirements federally and they are rigorous. The challenge that Alan doesn't believe you can meet, but ultimately for legislators you must try to, is to get the co-existence right. Ultimately coal is a very important export for our country and if you go to India, where I was a month ago as part of our trade delegation, where you've got 600 million people moving from poverty into the middle class, you have to fire the economy somehow and coal is still one of the major base load assets and I'm Australian Super, which Heather is the chair of, would have investments in coal companies.


ALAN JONES: We don't disagree with that, we’re arguing where.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Sure and, look, it’s a - at the risk of disagreeing with Alan, because apparently we always have to agree with Alan, according to some, this is an issue which is difficult to get - well, we’re always told we have to agree with you. I mean, that’s the...

TONY JONES: Who told you that?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, the ABC usually.

TONY JONES: That wasn't on your talking points tonight, was it, by any chance, please agree with Alan Jones?

JAMIE BRIGGS: The only talking points I got is a Corinne Grant article she wrote in 2013 that she was sick of talking about leadership spills, so I thought that was useful coming in but.

CORINNE GRANT: Well, I mean, that’s your fault, isn’t it?

TONY JONES: I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll just interrupt interrupt everyone just for a moment because...

JAMIE BRIGGS: No, in 2013, Corinne.

CORINNE GRANT: I know. I was sick of then. I’m still sick of it now.

TONY JONES: We have got another question on this subject.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Oh, that’s good.

TONY JONES: We’ve got another question on this subject. It’s from Brett Farmer. We’ll just go to Brett and then we’ll hear from the rest of the panel.


BRETT FARMER: Hi. Mike Baird in New South Wales says that we absolutely want CSG. Luke Foley says the science isn't it in. We know that AGL made substantial donations to the ALP and the Liberal Party whilst they were seeking drilling licences. AGL has since proved that they can't run these mines safely and within the law. Now, if terrorists poisoned our water we’d be outraged and rightfully so. How is it that we convince Macquarie Street that this threat to public health must be banned before our clean, fresh drinking water is poisoned forever?

TONY JONES: Macquarie Street being the New South Wales Government in this case. Corinne Grant, let’s start with you?

CORINNE GRANT: The whole CSG thing is horrific, and if anyone has watched any of the documentaries on it where people go out there and set water on fire, where there’s gas just bubbling up out of their farmland, we’re talking about land being degraded. We’re talking about generations of people who have been on the land who are seeing it being degraded. We’re talking about environmental impact which is just irreversible and I think that a lot of Australians are really feeling the impact of that and realising how horrific it is, but we've done this before. You know, I don't think there is an Indigenous person in this country who isn't sitting there going, "Yeah, we've been through this." And I’m hoping that maybe, as a country, we can start having some empathy for what we've done to Indigenous people as well, because we are seeing it now and we’re feeling it as well and maybe that’s a way that we can come together.

ALAN JONES: Barry O'Farrell said before the last election - that caller, I think - that picture you saw, I think, was from Gloucester. I think that person has come from Gloucester to be here tonight, I imagine, because I think I’ve seen you before. But Barry O'Farrell said there will be no coal seam gas mining and no mining of any kind over the water table. He said no ifs. No buts. That's what he said. Well, if you go to the Cataract Dam not far out of Sydney, which is a source of Sydney's water supply, there is an Indian company down there mining nine long wall mines within spitting distance of the Cataract Dam. Those Gloucester people are living 400 metres from coal seam gas wells which, three times in the last month, have been found to toxify the water around it. Now, how many times do you have to fail your licence condition before the licence is revoked? I have just said to politicians, well, would you like to live with a coal seam gas well and an open-cut mine at Gloucester in fertile Manning River Valley, where there are dairy farms? Would you like to live 400m from one of these things? Oh, no. Well, if you’re a politician, why are you asking other people to live there, which is what they are.

TONY JONES: Alan, can I interrupt just for a moment?


TONY JONES: We know what a huge issue this became in the Queensland election and, in effect, how you drove that issue in Queensland and it is one of the factors that led to the downfall of Campbell Newman. So are you going to do the same thing in New South Wales?

ALAN JONES: Well, I think all you can do, Tony - I don't do it for that purpose but, I mean, people - I broadcast to 77 stations across the country and people write to me, just like those people there. They are desperate. They write to government and they don't answer. They take absolutely no notice. You say to the leaders, well, would you like to live at Forbesdale in Gloucester which is 400m? It's only 8 years ago that the Government of New South Wales advertised, "Retire. Beautiful place”. They did all these pictures and brochures, Forbesdale. So people sold out in Sydney and thought this is lovely, living in this beautiful pastoral land and they go up there and now they have coal seam gas wells 400m from them and an open-cut coal mine. Now, there’s a golden rule, the pub rule here is would you like to live there? If not, stop asking other people to. I'm not opposed to coal mining or coal seam gas wells. I'm simply saying there is a place where they can be and where they can't be. So, Tony, to answer your question, if these poor people are suffering and get no redress or if the Barry O'Farrell commitment in New South Wales is not honoured, well, they've got to face the consequences

TONY JONES: And the consequences are, in your opinion?

ALAN JONES: Well, I don’t know. People will vote. Queensland proved that people are not stupid. They are not going to be run over and they’re not going to be lied to. So when someone says there will be no mining in water catchments and there is, people say, "Oh, hello, I’ve got ways I can deal with that. I’ve got a modest right. I’ve got at pencil and a piece of paper and I exercise that modest right."

TONY JONES: Chris Bowen? Luke Foley sounds like he might be about to shift on this, so I'm wondering is the Labor Party generally shifting on this?

CHRIS BOWEN: I very much understand the concerns of you and your community. I know the area well and these are very important parts of our State and our nation, both in terms of agricultural production and natural beauty. They’re magnificent places. So I completely understand and sympathise with your concerns. If it's within our power, we need to find a way, as a nation, to try and get a community support and consensus around extracting this resource because it can be of benefit for our nation. It has been in the United States. They have had a revival in their manufacturing, partly because of how they have treated similar sorts of issues. Different but similar sorts of issues, and I've been to places, for example, in Queensland, where coal seam gas is extracted and I've seen how the operation works and they've found a way through. Now, it's not going to work everywhere but, wherever possible, the powers that be need to try and find a way to deal with those community concerns so that the nation, all of us -manufacturing is going to run out of gas if we're not careful in Australia. The manufacturing sector is facing real squeezes when it comes to gas. Now, that’s a very complex issue and just simply taking more out of the ground isn't the solution. There are all sorts of issues. A third of our expected economic growth over the next 12 months is going to come from increasing resources exports. A lot of it is liquefied natural gas, a very different issue, but it gives you some sort of idea of just how important it is in our economy. So we need to find a way of working together to deal with these issues.

ALAN JONES: Tony, Chris says just then - and, Chris, I don’t agree it’s a complex issue, gas shortages. No it’s not. We've given licences to foreign companies. The licence is to get the stuff and export it. The export price is infinitely higher than what they can get on the domestic market, so they export the lot of it and the domestic market has to wait. Now, most sensible countries in the world have an expert gas retention policy, whereby you get the licence to drill for the gas but a certain percentage of it is kept for domestic consumption. No government has yet introduced a gas reservation policy, which is what we ought to do.

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m just going to quickly go to Jamie Briggs. I just want an answer on that particular point. Why isn't the Federal Government doing that? Why not keep a reserve in Australia, as other countries do?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Look, you can but you, in effect, pay high prices but that's what you're doing. You’re saying that, well, firstly the company will either take a lower price for the gas that they sell domestically.

ALAN JONES: Of course it will. Yes, precisely.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Or they’ll lift the price to match the international price. So that is, in effect, if you intervene in the market in that sense, they are the...

TONY JONES: So your inclination, as a government, is not to intervene in the market? Briefly, is that correct?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, no government has intervened in the market to do this. So we have...

TONY JONES: Well, no government in Australia, you mean?


ALAN JONES: Well, you intervene everywhere else.


TONY JONES: Okay. Well, we do have one last question that we get to. It's from Kavita Krishnan.


KAVITA KRISHNAN: Thanks, Tony. I've been a friend of Myuran Sukumaran since I was 16 years old.

TONY JONES: Sorry, we just need you to start again. I’m sorry about that. Go ahead.

KAVITA KRISHNAN: I've been a friend of Myuran Sukumaran since I was 16 years old. Everyone who knows him is absolutely devastated by what is about to happen.

TONY JONES: Sorry, we have a microphone problem. We’re just going to get another one to you and you're right now. You can start again. I'm sorry about that. So it's from Kavita Krishnan. Your question.

KAVITA KRISHNAN: So, I've been a friend of Myuran Sukumaran, one of the two Australian men on death row in Bali, since I was 16 years old. Everyone who knows him is absolutely devastated by what is about to happen. I have a statement that I would like to read which Myu sent through his brother. This is what he says, "I acknowledge more than anyone that I've made mistakes and that I'm not a perfect person, but I've learned a lot in prison and am grateful to the Indonesian justice system and to the prison guards for allowing me to achieve all that I have for myself and for the other prisoners," which I have witnessed. That’s not in his statement. “Andrew and I have not the same people we were ten years ago but who is really? We did commit a serious crime and deserve punishment but we have also paid a great deal for our crimes, as have our families. Please allow us to stay in prison and live". Sorry. “Our families should not have to suffer more."

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: Do you want me to read that?

KAVITA KRISHNAN: Mm. “Our families should not have to suffer more for our mistakes." And I'm just a friend. My question for the panel is this: why kill the rehabilitated? Why...

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why kill the rehabilitated? Why kill the person who is a positive influence on those around them, a person who is doing good? Why kill my friend, Myu?

TONY JONES: Thank you. Bravely done. Corinne, I’d like to start with you.

CORINNE GRANT: I just think it’s a travesty that the death penalty exists anywhere in the world. I just do not agree with killing people as a punishment for anything, and these two guys, they have rehabilitated themselves and they have done really extraordinary work in that prison as well helping other prisoners who are in there, especially Myuran with his artwork and that kind of thing, and I think we are destroying two lives who had a lot to give. I know they did bad things in the past but they had a lot to give. It just seems like a terrible waste and it doesn't deter anyone from smuggling drugs anyway, so it's bloody pointless.

TONY JONES: Alan Jones?

ALAN JONES: Well, what can you say? It's barbaric, absolutely barbaric, and if we had a death penalty here, Lindy Chamberlain would be dead and she was innocent. I find it just incomprehensible that these people can't yield to pleas for clemency. They will say, "Oh, well, it's our system." Well, it might be but they are our people and to think you are going to - you justify punishment by murder, statutory murder, means quite frankly that the barbarians are at the gate and someone has to get on the phone to this bloke Widodo and simply say, "Well, you do what you like, but we gave you a billion dollars when you were hit by the tsunami. We gave you a billion dollars. At every turn we've tried to assist you people. But remember one thing, there is that poor man, Mr Rush, in Townsville most probably watching this program and he thought his son was going to head to Bali. He didn't know anything about it so he went to the Federal Police and he said, "My boy is up to something. Can you stop him from going?" Instead of preventing these people from going, they gave all the information to the Indonesian police and virtually said to them, "Do with them what you will." Well, this is what they’re going to do now. The argument was, oh, well, we’ll catch them all and we’ll find who the big boys. Well, they found none of the big boys because Myuran has said, Sukumaran, I cannot speak because they will kill my family. That's why he can’t tell you who the big boys are. So what have we got in return for the noble behaviour of the Federal Police: two dead Australians? It is a shame on the Indonesian system but a pronounced shame on the Federal Police system.

TONY JONES: Okay, Chris Bowen?

CHRIS BOWEN: We have found plenty to disagree with each other on about tonight, as you’d expect, and you've found something I think we could unite on. You are right in everything you say. These young men could be role models for rehabilitation.


CHRIS BOWEN: They could be educators of what not to do and how not to make mistakes early in your life because they’ve rehabilitated ourselves. It is stomach-churning. It is terrible. Both sides of Parliament are united. The Government is doing what they can and with our support. Hope is slim but where there is life, there is hope, but hope is slim. We have to be realistic about it. All we can do is agree with you and send our thoughts and our prayers for what is a terrible, terrible situation where human life appears to be about to be taken from these two young men.

TONY JONES: Jamie Briggs, is that really all that can be done, send prayers and thoughts and keep quiet pressure on the Indonesian Government or should our Government do something more proactive in the way that Alan Jones is suggesting?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, look, Chris is right. I mean, this is an issue which both sides of politics are absolutely in agreement on. The Prime Minister has spoken to the Indonesian Government. The Foreign Minister continues to speak to the Indonesian Government. Ultimately they are a sovereign country and we respect our sovereignty. We have to respect theirs. We don't at all agree with the barbaric act that they are considering undertaking as punishment. Corinne is right. The death penalty exists in certain states of the United States of America for murder, but murders still happen. It doesn't act as a deterrent, and we, you know, will continue to pressure through the Prime Minister and Julie Bishop as much as we possibly can, until the very last moment to try to overturn what is a barbaric punishment.

KAVITA KRISHNAN: My question is also, it was also that, what we and a lot of people that I talk to feel - I know it may not have complete support, but this is what I feel, that if the previous Government acted swiftly, you know, we were thinking policy-wise, if they acted so swiftly to ban live exports to Indonesia when it was a significant trading partner then as well and it was on the principle of animal rights, why aren't we doing more when here this is a principle of human rights? Australia sponsored and voted in the United Nations resolution against the death penalty.

TONY JONES: Okay. I'm just going to say that we’re over time. I’m quickly going to go back to Alan Jones. Is there realistically anything the Government can do? It’s all very well to use your sort of influence to make these argument but really, in truth, is there anything that could be done?

ALAN JONES: Well, I think the point that the questioner has made is very, very valid. When it came to animal rights, we were indignant and jumping up and down and issuing all sorts of platitudinous comments. These are human rights and, yes, if you're talking about sanctions, let's be honest, yeah, well, why not? Someone has got to do some tough talking. This can't go on and we should speak on behalf, not just of the Australians but every person who is there. We’re not just fighting for these two people. The notion - this barbaric notion - that you murder people because the statute says so has got to be addressed. It is a major international issue.

TONY JONES: Okay. Heather, we’ve got just a moment to go to you and the question has been raised as one of sanctions as a way of ratcheting up pressure

HEATHER RIDOUT: Look, I think - I agree with everybody. I think institutionalised killing is barbaric. It’s chilling. It’s horrible and but there’s not a lot we can do about it. Now, the Government can put sanctions against Indonesia. I think that would be an impossible thing to achieve and so I don't think that's going to happen and I feel very sorry for you and for your - and their families. It is just hideous but I think the Government - the Government would have been working much harder behind the scenes than any of us know and I know that for a fact. I've been to Indonesia many times. The relationships are pretty good with Australia and Indonesia so, because of the fact we give things like a billion dollars in aid, so we're good friends as countries and so I think the Government would have been trying everything they could of in - in that way but it hasn't paid off.

TONY JONES: I'm very sorry, I'm sure there is much more to say on that issue but that is all we have time for tonight. Please thank our panel Heather Ridout, Jamie Briggs, Chris Bowen, Alan Jones and Corinne Grant. Next Monday we will be joined by Shadow Health Minister, Catherine King; civil rights lawyer and campaigner against the death penalty Bryan Stevenson; Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson; and the foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan; and one more to be announced. Until next week, goodnight.