Wednesday, 23 January 2019
SUBJECTS: Captain Cook re-enactment, Cashless Welfare Card, Warren Mundine
DAVID BEVAN: Let’s welcome our Super Wednesday guests. Simon Birmingham, South Australian Liberal Senator, Minister for Trade. He’s talking to us from Davos this morning. Good morning Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM, MINISTER FOR TRADE: Hello David, Ali and listeners.
BEVAN: You’re there bringing world peace are you? And what’s the temperature?
BIRMINGHAM: The temperature is a whopping minus 12 degrees. So by my maths there’s about 62 degrees difference between where I am and where you guys are.
ALI CLARKE: You’re lucky.
BIRMINGHAM: I just walked down the street to get back to the hotel room, it wasn’t a very nice walk I can tell you.
BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young you’re talking to us from Southern Queensland, where exactly are you?
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, GREENS SENATOR FOSOUTH AUSTRALIA: I’m in Goondiwindi this morning and about to head up to some of the farms around this area. This is cotton country so right at the top of the Murray-Darling Basin where a lot of the water still is and it’s not getting down much further.
BEVAN: And have any cotton property owners invited you on to their property?
HANSON-YOUNG: Some have actually.
HANSON-YOUNG: Yep some have and there’s also of course some big farms around here, kind of more corporate cotton farms who are I guess up to their neck in investigations at the moment. We know after the Four Corners report that a number of farmers including northern farming up here is facing criminal charges for dodging the tax payer and the Commonwealth, but unfortunately all the water that was taken through those projects still sits on the farms so I’m going to be able to see that as well. So I’m looking forward to being able to really understand the problems up here and how that’s impacting down at Menindee Lakes and then of course into South Australia.
BEVAN: And Labor MP for Kingston Amanda Rishworth, where are you?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I’m very pleased to be in the ABC studios with both of you and enjoying the Adelaide heat which is significant today but obviously tomorrow is also pretty significant. And obviously there’s a really important message for people to take care and check on your neighbours as well.
BEVAN: Let’s go back to Simon Birmingham. Bill Shorten the Labor Party leader says the Prime Minister has a Captain Cook fetish. Should we be spending nearly $7 million re-enacting something that didn’t happen?
BIRMINGHAM: Well this is marking the 250th anniversary, a significant anniversary in terms of the types of events that were occurring. It’s reasonable to mark certain anniversaries in different ways and in this case what we are seeing as I understand it is a celebration that will be able to touch many regional centres of Australia. If you just did something that was purely a re-enactment of the limited voyages that occurred or limited locations that were touched well then of course the vast majority of Australia would miss out.
CLARKE: Did anyone else know this was coming Simon Birmingham or is this a captain’s call a la Tony Abbott when he just decided to give Prince Philip a knighthood?
BIRMINGHAM: Look I don’t know Ali to be honest there. I’ve been overseas for a few days now having trade discussions in Brussels and London over our free trade agreement negotiations so I’ve seen the announcement and obviously –
CLARKE: Where you happy with the announcement? Because it’s given a pretty nice line to Bill Shorten when he said “well you can focus on the past, we’re going to focus on the future”.
BIRMINGHAM: Look I think it’s pretty petty of Bill Shorten, is he suggesting that the Hawke Government shouldn’t have marked the bicentenary in 1988? Is he suggesting that we should never commemorate significant anniversaries in the history of our nation? I mean that’s a fairly preposterous and demeaning thing to think. As a country we should mark significant occasions it gives us the chance to reflect on our history, what we’ve got right, what we’ve got wrong and from that learn for the future.
BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young you’re on the record as saying Captain Cook arrived on Australia Day and he’d been dead when the first fleet turned up. So maybe getting a re-enactment is not a bad idea?
HANSON-YOUNG: One of those mistakes that a number of people have made and you know, I won’t make it again I can tell you, I’ve learnt my lesson. But look this is ridiculous. Ali asked is this like a captain’s pick similar to making Prince Philip a knight here in Australia by Tony Abbott. The problem is almost $7 million. I’d like to think we can spend $7 million actually helping young indigenous and Aboriginal kids access proper medical help or getting them into education programs and helping in that way. The idea that our Prime Minister seems obsessed with his version of history his version of what’s happened. Turns out it’s not the real version and no one else is as obsessed by it as he is. I think it’s a silly captain’s pick, he looks laughable and he’s looking a bit obsessive.
BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth one of the reports, I forget which paper it was, described how there was a ceremony re-enacted yesterday in which some Aboriginal people handed the Prime Minister a broken spear. In the same way that eventually after some trouble between Cook and some of the locals 250 years ago, one of the locals broke a spear and handed it to him. It looked like it was actually quite at touching moment.
RISHWORTH: I don’t think anyone’s got any problem with appropriately commemorating significant anniversaries in an accurate way. But what I can tell you is when I’m out at my street corner meetings or door knocking, no one says “I want as a priority of the Government to build a replica ship and re-enact something that actually didn’t happen”. And as was rightly put on Twitter yesterday if we were going to re-enact Captain Cook’s voyage then South Australians wouldn’t even get to see it because he never came here. So when it comes to history and priorities and all the rest, I think Scott Morrison’s got his priorities wrong and he should be focusing on the future and what the priorities are that people bring up with me which is about decent pay, good working conditions, health, hospitals and education. They’re the things that are on people’s minds not building a replica ship.
BEVAN: Alright let’s talk about a substantive issue something that’s very important, that is the Cashless Welfare Card. Amanda Rishworth, Bill Shorten says he wants to roll that back and he’s quoted as saying yesterday that we will work with the community to roll it back. It’s already been used in Ceduna for quite a while and there are plans to extend it to Queensland. But “we will roll it back and come up with better solutions, we will actually help people who are down on their luck at the bottom of the cycle”. “Down on their luck at the bottom of the cycle” that’s trivialising the sorts of problems they’ve got at Ceduna.
RISHWORTH: Firstly I think the Auditor-General outlined that this program didn’t have any significant benefits. However in saying that Bill Shorten was actually talking in Bundaberg. There was not community consent in Bundaberg, he wasn’t talking about Ceduna. When it comes to Ceduna there’s a trial going on we supported that trial and we will see what the evidence is when it comes to that trial. If the community is united and has been properly consulted then we’re not going to stand in the way.
BEVAN: So you won’t roll it back in Ceduna?
RISHWORTH: What Bill Shorten was talking about was in Bundaberg. What we’ve said is it needs clear community consent and informed consent and that hasn’t been the case in Bundaberg and so that are dealing with drugs and alcohol, Cashless Welfare Cards are not the silver bullet. You need proper drug treatment, you need proper engagement in communities.
BEVAN: I don’t think anybody is saying they are the silver bullet, but there are a lot of people on the west coast who say it’s needed.
RISHWORTH: They may have said it’s helped and we’re not going to stand in the way if the community as a whole is properly consulted and consents to such a trial. But that’s not the case in Bundaberg.
CLARKE: I understand consultation but the whole idea of the Cashless Welfare Card is about control. If this works in different environments you’re not going to roll it out in some places because you consult with them and they so no actually we don’t want that?
RISHWORTH: At the moment when you look at the evidence the Auditor-General has been very clear, there is no substantive evidence to say this is actually changing behaviour. Now there is anecdotal evidence coming from Ceduna saying that it’s helped but of course we need community consent as well. There’s no point in enforcing these types of things on communities that don’t want it.
BEVAN: Maybe you do, maybe people who aren’t looking after their kids you need to take away their money and say I’m sorry 80% of the welfare recipient’s benefits need to be used just for necessities. I’m sorry we’re not going to have consensus on this.
RISHWORTH: This is everyone this isn’t picking certain cases or identifying certain individuals, this is across the board. So it’s not looking at individual circumstances about where people may or may not need that extra support or help, it’s across the board.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham.
BIRMINGHAM: An independent evaluation into Ceduna found that there are signs of considerable positive impacts. There’s absolutely people in the Ceduna community and elsewhere where the trials have been undertaken who are positive about the fact that it is making a real difference. A real difference in terms of the fact that families have got more money to spend on food, education, housing, things for their kids because less of it is going on booze, gambling and things that are destroying those families. If that can be achieved and it appears that there are positive signs, then frankly it’s reckless and irresponsible of Bill Shorten or Amanda Rishworth to say we’ll only do it if the community agrees to it. If the evidence is there that we can do this effectively and take welfare payments that are coming from taxpayers to families and making sure they are being spent on the things that will help those families to get the type of life and benefit and opportunities that those welfare payments are intended to provide, well then we ought to make sure we deploy those opportunities rather than simply walk away from it pretending it’s too hard for Government to do that or Government shouldn’t actually play a role in that regard. Because it’s really irresponsible to think that we just turn a blind eye and say okay we’ll just keep letting people spend too much money on gambling, too much money on booze and leave kids going hungry.
CLARKE: It’s 14 minutes to 9, this is Super Wednesday. That is the voice of Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham, Amanda Rishworth Labor MP for Kingston is in the studio with us and we also have the Greens Spokesperson on Trade and Environment Sarah Hanson-Young with us. Simon Birmingham, Scott Morrison messed up the coup which was getting former ALP National President Warren Mundine by putting him into a seat without communicating to all involved and getting everybody on side. So now you have the person who’s not going to be preselected now choosing to run against him as an independent.
BIRMINGHAM: There are frequently in preselection processes and decisions disaffected individuals, that’s not unusual. Warren Mundine is an esteemed indigenous leader in Australia, he is someone we are proud to have as a potential Liberal candidate and I think Parliament would be a better place and the Liberal party would be a better party and hopefully Government with Warren as part of our team.
CLARKE: Couldn’t you have managed it better though?
BIRMINGHAM: You can always look at what the internal handling factors are –
CLARKE: Could you have managed it better?
BIRMINGHAM: – who’s on the field at the next election. Internal party preselections are just that, there are internal party preselection processes that of course have to be done in accordance with the various rules that parties have in different locations. What’s substantial though is whose name is on the ballot paper with the words Liberal Party next to it and that may well be it would seem Warren Mundine. If that’s the case that will be a great coup for the Prime Minister and the party to have someone of Warren’s stature doing so.
BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth it is a little – I mean they’ve completely stuffed up the way they’ve managed it – but it remains embarrassing that the former ALP President now wants to stand as a Liberal.
RISHWORTH: It’s not embarrassing at all. What you’ve got is Warren Mundine who’s made a choice to run for a different party. I assume that his values have changed, he obviously supports the Liberal Party’s plan to cut penalty rates, plans to cut health and hospitals, they’re obviously values he’s now comfortable with. What this has demonstrated is the chaos and dysfunction within the Liberal Party. You have the Liberal Party candidate who has been preselected for the last 8 months now running as an independent so disillusioned by the whole party process that him and a number of the presidents of the branches in the area are actually now running his independent campaign. So I think it just shows the absolute division, dysfunction that we have under Scott Morrison that’s happening in the Liberal party.
CLARKE: Okay let’s listen to Sam Dastyari former Labor Senator. He’s in the jungle on a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here reality type tv show. I just want all three of you to listen to what he had to say.
(Audio recording, Sam Dastyari): The old Labor MPs the old lefties all are pot smokers from back in the day the 70s and 60s and a lot of the young conservatives out of banking and that world they’ve got a bit of a cocaine – I don’t want to use the word habit – but recreational. But they’re the kind of extremes. We have this term if you saw so and so looks tired and agitated that means they’re drunk in the Chamber get them out. They’ll say so and so is tired and agitated, if someone’s tired and agitated they’re pissed off their face in the Chamber. Happens all the time.
CLARKE: Sarah Hanson-Young. Have you ever been tired or agitated or sat next to someone in Parliament that was?
HANSON-YOUNG: Definitely I’ve seen people in the chamber who are tired and agitated. In fact in my book I talk about once incident where that occurred and I had another Senator at the time who really behaved appallingly. It made me think very hard about the standards of behaviour and how we treat each other in that place. I think sometimes there is the robust and rough and tumble nature, and then there’s people who are just acting like morons and I think it’s time that everybody thinks a bit more about what we’re doing in that place. We get paid a lot of money to do it and I think we should be going back next month with the view to lift the standards across the board.
BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth is it anything like it was back in the old days, I reckon 40 50 years ago in the Old Parliament House it would’ve been the wild west.
RISHWORTH: Look you hear stories especially of the Old Parliament where there were bars in the Parliament. I mean I think things have changed and one of those examples is I think about 9 years ago the staff bar turned into a childcare centre so it shows the change in Parliament. Of course there’s the famous story of Tony Abbott, not being tired and agitated, but tired and asleep and missing the vote during a critical time during the Global Financial Crisis. But you know you can always do better but I think culture has changed pretty significantly over the years.
CLARKE: Simon Birmingham yes or no should there be a zero alcohol tolerance at least in the chamber? I mean other people they’re going to work and getting drug tested.
BIRMINGHAM: I’d be relaxed equally, I think in the end the public hold us to account and if somebody is silly enough to go into the Chamber drunk and gets caught out says something silly, then the odds are between preselection or the next election they’re likely to lose their job. Standards have changed and I think Amanda’s right we’ve seen significant changes compared to probably what was the case a couple decades ago. And I think the truth is if you guys the media were to catch somebody out doing the wrong thing appearing to have had one too many going into the Chamber, the scandal would be such that their career would be finished and appropriately so.
CLARKE: Well Simon Birmingham, we’ll leave you in Davos putting on another fleece and extra scarf while the rest of us won’t be doing that here. Amanda Rishworth and Sarah Hanson-Young thank you very much for your time as well.