Sky News – climate change, tax reform, aged care

Monday, 17 February 2020

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Our first guests on the program, Liberal MP Julian Simmonds and from Labor Amada Rishworth, thanks both for your time today. We might start with you Julian on this 2050 net zero stoush and differing opinions within the Coalition. Where do you sit on this possible target?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Well we’re making sure that we meet and beat our Paris target, that’s what we took to the last election the 2030 target. But of course it’s quite reasonable and I think Australians would expect us to be having a discussion within the Government about what comes next after that. Minister Taylor has announced that we’re doing a piece of work to look at what is next and how do we achieve it, while continuing to commit to the Australian people that we are achieving our emissions reduction through technology and not a tax like Labor did, and in a way that we can account to the Australian people.

CONNELL: So just on the 2050 target though, this is ultimately what Paris aims for, is it fair enough for the Government to see if that is achievable rather than some of the comments from some of your Nationals colleagues saying well we just can’t do it?

SIMMONDS: Well the thing is when for example parties like Labor do make and set these forward targets, the do it in a way as they did at the last election without understanding what it’s going to cost and not being able to explain to the Australian people how they’re going to meet it. I think it’s quite fair and right that we as a Government has a position that we are not going to set one of these targets until we do this piece of work and we understand what it’s going to cost the Australian people, and how we would achieve something like that.

CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth you’ve been outed as a member of the Otis Club, what’s it’s view on 2050 net zero?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well I like to go to dinner, I didn’t go to that dinner, but anyone can invite me to dinner. But when we get down to what Julian is saying, it’s just not correct. The Government is not going to meet its Paris commitments. In fact if we’re actually looking at a long term target –

SIMMONDS: Well we are.

RISHWORTH: Well you’re not going to get there. The evidence is in, emissions are not reducing at the rate that is needed to achieve the Paris target. And we’ve seen this story happen many times before – we’ve seen the Government of the day come up with an idea and then climate change deniers within the Government slap it down. So we’ve had six years of complete inaction when it comes to climate change, complete denialism, and it’s no wonder the Australian people are frustrated and upset by this Government’s lack of action. So quite frankly I’m not holding my breath at all about the Government setting long-term targets.

CONNELL: But your view on what Labor might set as its 2050 target and indeed the Anthony Albanese approach, have you been comfortable with everything he’s been saying so far?

RISHWORTH: I’ve been very pleased with Anthony’s approach and indeed the whole team’s approach to climate change, because we’re not having a squabble about whether climate change is real or not. We’re not there saying –

SIMMONDS: You are having a squabble, you’ve got factions within factions.

RISHWORTH: That is just not the case, everyone is on board with taking action on climate change. There is only one party you can trust to take action on climate change, and that is the Labor Party. We’ll do it in a sensible way, and as Anthony has outlined in his speech not long ago, this is an economic opportunity for Australia and it’s time that the Liberal Party and the Government acknowledge the cost of doing nothing. Acknowledge the impact on communities, on our economy of doing nothing when it comes to climate change. So quite frankly Labor has been very clear, we will work towards our targets and we will announce policies in good time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a Government that is so deeply divided it can’t come up with a proper, national plan to tackle climate change.

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: You spoke there about the need for economic reforms, one of the conversations happening today is from New South Wales Treasurer Dom Perrottet, who wants major tax reform. He says there’s Canberra comatosis on the issue because we’ve had a revolving door of Prime Ministers. Julian Simmonds do you think the Federal Government isn’t doing enough to reform our tax system?

SIMMONDS: I think we are dedicated to a strong economy, that’s what Australians elected us to do in May.

NIELSEN: But just on tax.

SIMMONDS: Yeah sure, but also on an IR agenda and to make sure we have a surplus and other things. I think whilst the Treasurer has specific suggestions, I’m sure the Federal Treasurer would be very happy to hear them as part of the Budget deliberations. But it’s not unusual for a call from a State Treasurer to give more money out of Canberra. I don’t know the specifics of the New South Wales situation, but certainly here in Queensland we have a Treasurer Jackie Trad who can’t control the finances, is intent on running up debt and then holding out her hand to Canberra, which is very much the Labor way. So we’d assess each suggestion on its merit, but certainly we are dedicated through the Budget process to a strong economy and improving productivity where we can, absolutely.

NIELSEN: The Treasurer has already smacked down one of Mr Perrottet’s suggestions that there be an increase in GST in return for abolishing State taxes, do you agree?

SIMMONDS: Well I think the Treasurer would assess each of these on their merits, but again there’s nothing unusual in a State Treasurer trying to take the easy way out by asking the Federal Government to increase taxes on their behalf. I think the State Governments as well as the Federal Government looks at its own Budget to make sure that we have strong economy management, States need to do the same. I don’t know the ins and outs of New South Wales, but I certainly don’t see that in Jackie Trad and the Labor Government up here in Queensland.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth what do you make of these calls to increase GST in turn for abolishing State taxes? It would be a simpler system.

RISHWORTH: Labor has long-standing opposition to increasing the GST, because it is a flat, regressive tax. It will disproportionately hit those who can least afford it. But I think what the Treasurer of New South Wales is actually pointing to is the fact that this Federal Government has absolutely no plan. It has no plan about what to do with its most recent election win. It doesn’t have an agenda on productivity, it doesn’t have an agenda on State/Commonwealth relations, and Julian you can have a crack at States all you want, but what we need is a coordinated approach between States and the Commonwealth to look at how we can make our Commonwealth work better. And really I think what the Treasurer is hinting to is that this Government has absolutely no reform agenda, no plan, and so they’re just sitting there like a lame duck.

CONNELL: Just finally on this Julian, one of the things that Dominic Perrottet was most insistent upon was an approval to productivity is needed. What’s the single most significant productivity policy your Government has?

SIMMONDS: I think making sure businesses are in an economic environment where they can invest in their businesses, invest in their people. We’re achieving that through tax cuts and not just tax cuts currently, but a forward program of tax cuts as well that we’ve built into the Budget.

CONNELL: What’s the business tax cut policy?

SIMMONDS: We’re making sure there’s lower taxes for both businesses and individuals, so that people can spend more money in their businesses.

CONNELL: But that’s not productivity.

SIMMONDS: Well we’ve got the Instant Asset Tax Write-Off as well so that businesses are investing in their businesses again and putting their money back in. Because we do want to see more productivity, and I think as the Treasurer goes about building this Budget we’re going to see him put together a package of ways we can continue to help productivity and make our economy strong.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth if I could ask about the story that’s come out today that one of the firefighters who was battling bushfires over the Christmas break has been sacked. He was filmed by TV crews using some very colourful language about the Prime Minister, including language we can’t broadcast. Do you think that’s appropriate he should be stepped aside?

RISHWORTH: I don’t know the details of the case, but I think it would be shame that if a firefighter who is under extreme duress and extreme stress is not able to voice his opinions. I hope it isn’t the case that he’s been moved aside for that reason, that would be disappointing. I hope that members of the Coalition who champion free speech will come out on his side as well, saying we do live in a country in which volunteers giving up their time perhaps should be able to give frank and fearless advice to our political leaders. It would be a big shame if there is a scenario where that can’t happen.

NIELSEN:  Isn’t there a point though that you represent an organisation, he was in his uniform, it was quite abusive language at a time when we’re trying to have a more respectful political discourse?

RISHWORTH: As I said I don’t know the details or the ins and outs of this particular case. But if you have a look at the enormous stress our firefighters have been under, the months they have been out battling bushfires, the frustration that they’ve expressed perhaps about not having enough equipment, or responding to a comment that the Prime Minister made that they enjoy doing it and shouldn’t be compensated, I think we’ve got to be a little bit tolerant of understanding the conditions that they were under and recognising that it’s an extremely stressful scenario for anyone. And he is a volunteer and I think we should acknowledge that.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds what are your thoughts?

SIMMONDS: I completely agree with Amanda actually, these volunteers were working incredibly hard under stressful circumstances on behalf of all Australians. I don’t think the PM would expect that these people shouldn’t be able to speak their minds and vent their frustrations if that’s what they have. In fact that’s why he was touring these bushfire ravaged areas, so people could speak frankly. It was some colourful language but that’s just part of the Aussie vernacular a little bit isn’t it.

CONNELL: So from what we know Julian he should not have been sacked?

SIMMONDS: I don’t know the ins and outs of what his agreement is with the RFS as a volunteer, but what I’m saying is from the Government’s point of view we’ve got no problem with volunteers who’ve been working their guts out on behalf of the Australian people being frank and open and speaking their mind.

CONNELL: Finally and briefly, a plan being put forward today about Eldercare, a Medicare style levy for aged care. Amanda Rishworth should Labor be open to this idea?

RISHWORTH: What we do know is the aged care system is in crisis, and obviously we need to come up with a solution of how to fix that. The Government’s been sitting on its hands when it comes to aged care, particularly the in-home packages which have hundreds of thousands of people waiting. We’ll continue to discuss as we form our policies, but we do think as a principled point that older Australians should be treated a lot better in this country.

CONNELL: I’ll take that as a maybe. Julian Simmonds, very short on time, your thoughts on Eldercare?

SIMMONDS: Just quickly any suggestions need to be worked through as a part of our response to the Royal Commission. That’s why we did it, so we could look at this entire sector in a very comprehensive way, but certainly we’ll be leaving nothing on the table to make sure that our aged Australians are getting the support and care that they need.

CONNELL: Alright Julian Simmonds, Amanda Rishworth, thank you.

ENDS

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