ABC Radio Adelaide – SA Liberal politics, Bill Shorten’s NPC address, SA state election

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Radio interview, ABC Radio Adelaide, Breakfast

SUBJECTS: SA Liberal politics, Bill Shorten’s NPC Address, SA state election

DAVID BEVAN: What we have got together today is Amanda Rishworth, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development and Don Farrell’s pinup girl- he says she is the way to win a marginal seat and turn it into something safe. We are talking to Amanda Rishworth, good morning to you.

SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, AMANDA RISHWORTH MP: Good morning.

BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, an ex-Liberal who is running his own party, Leader of the Australian Conservatives. This is the man who managed to convince Family First to come across and join a new brand. Good morning to you.

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA, CORY BERNARDI: Good morning to you.

BEVAN: And, Tony Pasin, Liberal Member for Barker will be joining us in just a few moments. Now, Tony Pasin he has got the- south east politics is a world of its own, alright and I think Cory would agree with me here, you know the Liberal Party very well Cory Bernardi. It is a thankless task, it is a strange world down in the south east being a Liberal right-

ALI CLARKE: Excuse me, that is influence.

BERNARDI: It is a challenging environment-

BEVAN: It is a challenging environment.

BERNARDI: There is a diversity of views across the electorate is how I would say it.

BEVAN: The way it works down in the south east folks, is; usually you run to be the Mayor, you then ask for Liberal endorsement, you don’t get it, you run as an independent and you get elected and you have a huge fight with whoever was your Liberal MP and the party is incredibly divided, does that basically sum up 20 years?

BERNARDI: That is a snapshot of history. But, can I say that Tony Pasin has been a friend of mine for a very long time and he works very hard in that electorate managing the diversity of the views. I mean the deep south east has one perspective and if you go up to Murray Bridge you have other challenges. It is a huge electorate to deal with.

BEVAN: Tony Pasin will join us in just a few moments. Let’s begin with you two in the studio. This speech that Bill Shorten gave to the Press Club, Amanda Rishworth just to start with- we can get on to the big picture in a moment, but he is promising to lift the minimum wage and reduce private health insurance. How is he going to do that?

RISHWORTH: What Bill did in his speech is really talk about low and middle income Australians are being left behind despite the government saying that there is company growth and improvements in our economy. A lot of ordinary people felt like they are being left behind and that is not just a feeling, it is real. We are seeing that wages growth is stagnating. People are not getting the wage increases in line with price rises like private health insurance, like other cost of living pressures and it is really starting to hurt and I think this is a real experience from so many people, it is not just wages growth that is stagnating, people complain to me about casualized work, underemployment- they are not getting their fair share of this economic growth that the government talks about and that is a problem and it is a real problem not just perceived.

ALI CLARKE: Given all of that though, how is he going to do it? I mean he wouldn’t even rule out scrapping the private health insurance rebate yesterday, I mean is this all just spit balling and an idea of what he would like to do but no determination?

RISHWORTH: There is a number of things we have already announced, including; reversing the penalty rates decision, that decision actually hurts low income workers, casual workers and that is one step. But, we are starting a serious conversation about how we ensure that there is a living wage for people- that they share in the productivity growth, they share in the economic growth and not just have stagnating wages, increasing costs and they just can’t keep up with the pace of this cost of living pressures.

CLARKE: Cory Bernardi?

BERNARDI: I am shaking my head because they were hollow words from a very hollow man. I heard him this morning on morning TV in which he couldn’t explain his own positions in this. Yesterday he was going to rule out the private health insurance rebate, today he said he is not ruling it out. He said utility prices are too high, electricity prices are too high- that is a direct result of the policies that he and the Liberal Government have pursued in respect for that. Taxes are too high, that is why people can’t meet their cost of living. All of these things are just tapping into some political expediency, there is no real solution except we have got to change business as usual in this country-

RISHWORTH: Are you going to mention wages though? Are you going to mention wages? Because stagnating wage growth is a problem in this country.

BERNARDI: What I will mention is that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party setup the independent tribunal to review penalty rates and when the decision doesn’t come down their way they reject it. When they want to put additional costs onto peoples, such as union bureaucracy and strikes and those sorts of things, they make it more difficult to employ people. That adds very real-

RISHWORTH: It is not wages that is what we are talking about. There is always union bashing. What Bill Shorten highlighted is that enterprise bargaining which was seen to be in addition to the minimum wage is not actually working. People are relying on the basic safety net and that is not keeping up with the pace of cost increases. You need to talk about wages and about low and middle income earners actually sharing in our economy.

BERNARDI: Let me throw this your way; if the cost of living is reduced because you get rid of all the boondoggles when it comes to green electricity and expenses there – just wait- if you lower taxes and reduce the cost of government people will have more of their own money to spend in the matter they see fit, that will drive the economy, that will drive employment, that will drive wages growth because it comes from productivity- that is the way it works. Big government is a dud, it is a failure and we are reaping the results of the last two years.

RISHWORTH: Cory, if you have read any of the recent analysis we know that electricity in the medium term, green and renewable electricity will be increasingly cheaper and actually ensure that we transition to a low carbon economy-

BERNARDI: Wholesale electricity prices doubled in the last 12 months.

RISHWORTH: – the medium term analysis shows that prices will come down. You can’t just say- I mean what you are suggesting is business as usual- it is saying we shouldn’t transition to a newer economy, we shouldn’t transition to clean energy and government needs to play an important role.

BERNARDI: Electricity should be cheap and reliable. We shouldn’t be blowing up coal fired power stations, like Labor have done in Victoria in South Australia and it has been fostered.

RISHWORTH: They closed on their own accord Cory because they weren’t economically viable.

BERNARDI: Nonsense.

RISHWORTH: Are you suggesting that government should intervene there, but small government at other times?

BERNARDI: I am saying if you stop throwing tens of billions of dollars into unreliable intermittent power like solar and wind power we would have a reliable baseload electricity system in this country. If you didn’t close your mind to a nuclear power industry in this country we would be in a better position. Australia’s greatest economic advantage was cheap and reliable electricity- you guys and Liberals have dismantled that.

CLARKE: We would obviously like this to be a three way conversation, Tony Pasin Liberal Member for Barker and Chair of Standing Committee on Procedure is supposed to be a part of this but he actually has a problem with his phone and his own office is looking for him as well. As soon as he joins us we will let you know.

BEVAN: We are very sorry about that. So if I can just come back to you, Amanda Rishworth; how is Bill Shorten going to lift wages?

RISHWORTH: Firstly as I said there have already been a number of announcements like reversing the penalty rates decision which will impact around 700,000 workers. In addition, we have talked about cracking down on dodgy sham contracting, but in addition we need a conversation about how we ensure that wages growth does occur that it doesn’t stagnate. We need to seriously look at the bargaining structure, we need to seriously look at the framework in which our safety net actually sits within our community, we need to look at all of these things.

BEVAN: Is it fair to say the systems which Hawke and Keating put in place have virtually been dismantled? There is not a lot that is left of that. You maintain that systems that Rudd, Gillard put in place and that Abbott and Turnbull have tinkered with since is broken, it is not delivering. So you are going to have start again coming up with a way of delivering, you would say is a way which gives justice to people. How do you do that? A brand new system or do we go back to Hawke and Keating- what do we do?

RISHWORTH: I think that is where we need to actually start the conversation and talk about mechanisms and ways I which we can-

BEVAN: But I thought you have a plan because he was promising to lift minimum wages.

RISHWORTH: To have the conversation-

BEVAN: I don’t want a conversation I want the plan.

RISHWORTH: Well it’s how we do that. Everyone is talking about this at the moment, we are not hearing the Australian Conservatives talk about wages, we are not hearing the government talk about wages. This is a really critical issue that we must look at how we do lift the minimum wage, how Australian workers actually get a share in this economic growth. There is no point the government just putting out a graph and saying isn’t this good. We actually need to talk about how we lift those wages for individuals to share in the economy.

BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, I think what you are saying is if you take the burden off business you will grow the pie and people will get more money, leave it to the market and get out of the way.

BERNARDI: There are two things here, firstly we have been talking about wages and Australian Conservatives how tried to freeze politician’s wages until they deliver the surplus they have all been promising for the last ten years and that has accumulated $530 billion worth of debt with no signs of it stopping. But, secondly if you want to increase peoples wages and you want to make more jobs available you have got to increase competition for workers, you do that by firing up the economy, by firing up small business who say we can make a profit here, it is worth investing in this country and then you reduce the competition from other areas. All the talk about it- 240,000 migrants came to this country last year; many of them remain on unemployment benefits for a very long period of time. We need to address our migration intake because it is too high and it is not acting in our national, our social or economic interest at the moment.

BEVAN: So you would cut the level of migrants-

BERNARDI: Cut the level of migrants for a first thing, back to 100,000 straight up. The support for that is from economic modelling from the Commonwealth Bank which says that on a per capita basis migration is far too high at the moment because peoples standard of living is going backwards because we can’t keep up with the electricity demand, the infrastructure demand, governments are failing the people and there are a mix of migrants that aren’t working to our advantage.

BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth, would that work? Is that something we should look at?

RISHWORTH: I think the fundamental issue here is ensuring that people get wage growth. I don’t think cutting the migrants is- it is a populist answer, it is- not an answer that is going to necessarily lead to wage growth. Of course migrants come here, they start a business, they often buy houses, it helps construction jobs. It is a populist yet a policy that has no evidence to back it up whatsoever.

BERNARDI: – Except the Commonwealth Bank.

RISHWORTH: It has no evidence-

BERNARDI: None that you have read, let’s be frank.

RISHWORTH: –Hang on. No evidence whatsoever to say if we just cut our migration that will suddenly lead us to having more jobs for people, higher wages and of course the reduction of casualization and insecure work. When I talk with people- in addition to wage growth- they talk about that casual and insecure work. About that really affecting their ability to be able to get a mortgage to say in five, six years’ time I am going to have a job and the bank actually allowing them to have a loan to buy a house. That issue- in addition to wages growth issues- are something that are real issues to people and Cory; you avoid them, you avoid talking about wages growth, how we ensure that business doesn’t just make money without sharing it with their workers, you don’t talk about that, you go back to politicians pay and not they key for individuals.

BERANRDI: The challenge is Amanda if you recall the transcript, I have given solutions and answers to it, not just empty rhetoric, not just platitudes about talking to people and casualization, I have talked about how to fuel the economy. You’re dismissing the role immigration plays in it, now you want to dismiss the Commonwealth Bank, you want to dismiss the fact that both sides of government are talking about migration putting up the price of houses and yet you are talking about affordability issues, it’s just nonsensical.

BEVAN: Ok, let’s move on, before you leave us, Amanda Rishworth, Cory Bernardi, The state election campaign, somebody said to me yesterday, this is somebody who’s worked on Liberal campaigns both here and interstate over several decades, what we are seeing with Xenophon is like Donald Trump, not in terms of his policies, but in terms of his effect and his relationship to the electorate, time and again people said, Republicans and Democrats would say, Trump has peaked, he won an opinion poll, he won a primary- that is it, he has peeked and of course he didn’t, he went all the way to the presidency, is that what you think we’re seeing with Xenophon, he hasn’t peaked with the last poll, this guy is on a roll all the way to March 17. Amanda Rishworth?

RISHWORTH: As we get closer to the election people will be looking at policies and what actually will be directly relevant to their lives, whether that’s education, whether that’s health, people will be looking at policies and they will be looking at who is best to lead the country and I think when they do that they will evaluate things on that basis and see who has the best offering, I’m not sure Nick Xenophon has comprehensive policies in all areas and I think people will reflect on what affects them in their lives and who has the best offerings.

BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, Is Xenophon’s vote going to dry up in the last few weeks?

BERNARDI: I don’t think so, I think this guy’s a phenomenon; Trump was a reality TV star and knew how to work the media. Nick Xenophon is the P.T. Barnum of politics, his policies don’t really matter, his track record doesn’t matter, he’s Teflon and I think he has changed the game here in South Australia.

BEVAN: Because that’s the cry from both Labor and Liberal – people want detail, they’ll want to see policies. People don’t want to see policies.

BERNARDI: They actually want a better way in the end they recognise- and this comes back to it and I am not trying to be partisan- but they recognise the political class, the institutionalised two party system is failing them and you can look at that through education standards, through taxation, through jobs, through housing, through electricity, whatever it might be, it’s failing them and they’re looking for a better way. I don’t think Nick Xenophon offers the policy answers but I would say that wouldn’t I, but my goodness he’s tapped into a very deep vein of discontent.

CLARKE: Senator Cory Bernardi, Leader of the Australian Conservatives and Amanda Rishworth, Member for Kingston as well. We do again apologise Tony Pasin was late and unable to join us, he is the Liberal Member for Barker, he has issues with his phone, but we will certainly endeavour to get him on the next Super Wednesday.

ENDS