Subjects: How to Vote Cards; Health Funding; Superannuation; Tax; Islamic Cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, great to be with you.
ABRAHAM: You’re the number one on the ticket, aren’t you?
BIRMINGHAM: I am indeed.
ABRAHAM: You knocked Cory Bernardi off.
BIRMINGHAM: I don’t think it is a case of knocking off, we had a very peaceful arrangement that was struck in terms of getting a good representation of the Liberal team in South Australia.
ABRAHAM: And you’ll be on the Popeye with us next Wednesday.
ABRAHAM: Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator, welcome.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: Thanks for having me.
ABRAHAM: Thank you for coming back!
HANSON-YOUNG: You couldn’t frighten me away!
ABRAHAM: Full points to you, frankly! And you’ll be on the boat next Wednesday.
HANSON-YOUNG: Looking forward to it. I think I did say the one boat that Tony Abbott couldn’t stop.
ABRAHAM: Woah! Getting the gags in early!
BIRMINGHAM: Is it true Sarah is bringing her financial advisor?
HANSON-YOUNG: Wondering if there could be a spare seat just there…
ABRAHAM: You’ll be conducting a superannuation seminar just after on the banks of Elder Park.
HANSON-YOUNG: You have no idea how boned up I am right now.
ABRAHAM: And we’re not going to ask you about super, not today. And you’re number one on the Senate ticket having rolled Robert Simms in to the number two spot as well.
HANSON-YOUNG: Well you know, I don’t think it is being rolled but yes, I am number one.
ABRAHAM: You didn’t protest as much as Simon Birmingham. And Mark Butler, he’s in the seat of Port Adelaide, which is once regarded as a safe seat, but apparently it’s marginal now. Mark Butler, welcome, Federal President of the Labor party.
MARK BUTLER: Good morning. I’m rifling through my papers to find my invitation to the Popeye cruise next week, it’s very awkward indeed.
ABRAHAM: See we didn’t regard Port Adelaide as a marginal seat!
DAVID BEVAN: Is there something you want to tell us because if there is possible action in Port Adelaide, you might be unseated, we could get you a place on the boat.
BUTLER: I’m sure I’ll find something else to do with my Wednesday morning.
ABRAHAM: To all three of you, to those people who actually like to go in to the ballot box thinking that it is a fair game here, what games are you playing with the Xenophon vote here? Is it correct Simon Birmingham, that this is very unusual to have a ballot paper that shows people how to still preference the Liberals if they’re going to vote for Xenophon?
BIRMINGHAM: Well our how to vote card urges everybody to put a number 1 next to the Liberal candidate, then it gives them some choices about where they might go. Nick Xenophon in this campaign has wanted to spend the entire election campaign talking about process matters, we don’t really want to buy in to that, so we decided the fairest, simplest thing to do was to do exactly what Nick Xenophon was doing himself.
ABRAHAM: But is it misleading to say with Nick’s preferences, put C. Pyne and then put the Xenophon candidate, in that seat of Sturt for instance, below a number of other candidates, so not the second choice? So, you’re not really helping people give their preferences to the Xenophon team are you?
BIRMINGHAM: I think the voters can pretty clearly work it out that one is preferencing the Labor party above Xenophon, the other is preferencing Xenophon or his NXT candidate whoever that may be above the Labor party. In the end, of course, voters choose how to fill out their how to vote card, what we are primarily advocating is a number 1 vote for the Liberal candidate. Where the voter chooses to go from there, that’s their business.
ABRAHAM: Ok but, the Xenophon candidate is number 4, correct?
BIRMINGHAM: On the how to vote card you’ve got in front of you? That looks good to me.
ABRAHAM: Right, so how is that directing people to how they can vote for Chris Pyne number 1 but give their second preference probably to Xenophon if that is the way they’re thinking?
BIRMINGHAM: Liberal voters would historically be happy with the fact that we would preference like minded parties on the ticket, so parties like Family First and so on…
ABRAHAM: So why don’t you say with Family First preference then?
BIRMINGHAM: Because every option presented on our ticket goes to Family First in that sense. This is giving people choice, this is not at all unlike what has been historically whenever parties have had split tickets, you think back to the old Australian Democrats days who used to have split tickets all of the time, this is exactly the same type of approach they used to take.
ABRAHAM: But it is new for the Liberal party.
BIRMINGHAM: Well I don’t know that it is unprecedented for the Liberal party. This is an unusual election campaign in South Australia, as I said at the outset, we’d much rather be talking about actual policy issues, Nick Xenophon has spent every single day wanting to speak about process issues in this campaign, lets actually fight it on the real issues of how we grow the Australian economy and particularly create jobs in South Australia.
BEVAN: Mark Butler, Labor is doing the same thing in the seat of Sturt with its split ticket and that is saying how to vote Labor then Nick Xenophon ahead of the Liberals and how to vote Labor then Liberals ahead of Nick Xenophon, but there is plenty of people that you’re preferencing before Xenophon’s candidate in both cases.
BUTLER: Well I haven’t seen the Sturt ticket, but I know the ticket in Port Adelaide is as you describe it and I think is across the seats for very similar reasons to the ones that Simon just outlined, I mean we’ve got a very long tradition of recommending preferences because remember this is only a recommendation it is not a ticket in the sense that the old Senate preference tickets worked which allowed parties to direct preferences rather than recommend them, this is a recommendation…
ABRAHAM: If Xenophon comes to the table you’ll pulp all these will you? Lets say he does a preference deal, you’ll pulp these, in return you preference Xenophon in Sturt and Mayo and maybe Boothby and he looks after you in Port Adelaide and Adelaide and the Senate?
BUTLER: Well Nick Xenophon has indicated that he’s got not interest in engaging in preferences with us…
ABRAHAM: Well lets say that he does…
BUTLER: I’m not going in to hypotheticals. We’re dealing with the reality that people are now voting, that Nick Xenophon has indicated that he’s got no preference between either major party, he has indicated that if he has the balance of power in the House of Representatives, he’s not going to tell the South Australian people whether he would vote in a vote of confidence for a Labor government or a Liberal government, he’s shipped in a whole lot of candidates who no one knows anything about in many cases, including in Port Adelaide, from way outside our community and he’s not talking about the issues that we’re campaigning on like Medicare, schools funding, climate change and things like that. As Simon says, he’s talking about process and trying to drum up some conspiracy theory.
ABRAHAM: Now Sarah Hanson-Young, captain’s call from Malcolm Turnbull, possibly his first, they’re putting you last everywhere.
HANSON-YOUNG: And in some states that means behind One Nation, other very far right wing anti-immigration groups as well. It’s incredible really; it’s more like a Tony Abbott style direction…
ABRAHAM: Well he’s making it clear isn’t he? That they don’t want to have to do a deal with you to form a minority government?
HANSON-YOUNG: I think they’ve made it pretty clear that they want to take a winner takes all approach and that’s why you’ve seen the attack on Nick Xenophon, it’s why you’ve seen the Greens put last across the country and there is nothing that brings the two old parties together faster than a bit of competition. Whether that is from Nick Xenophon or whether that is from the Greens and the interesting thing is that the seat that we are doing incredibly well in at the moment is Higgins, a Liberal held seat in Melbourne, and that seat people, I was out door knocking with our candidate Jason Bull there a couple of weeks ago and we had Liberal voters saying they’re sick and tired of Malcolm Turnbull not living up to what they thought he would be and they’re considering voting Green.
ABRAHAM: Have you preferenced Fred Nile over an indigenous gay candidate?
HANSON-YOUNG: In NSW one of the local branches my understanding from the reports, I haven’t seen the how to vote card, is yes.
ABRAHAM: Is that a good fit?
HANSON-YOUNG: I wouldn’t have done it, I think those parties should be at the bottom of the ticket. Here in South Australia, the Christian Democrats will be at the bottom of our ticket and in fact Family First will come after the Liberal party in some seats as well because we think that particularly comments from one of their candidates yesterday following the awful attacks in the United States, comments around people who are gay and lesbian were pretty unfounded and pretty off in the context of that and so we’ve made a decision to put them at the bottom.
ABRAHAM: Mark Butler, is the Labor Party on the run on the economy? In other words, has the combined pressure of Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison seen you jettison proposals that you’ve opposed – you’ve folded your cards – including for instance on your policy, as we understand it, on health now, future funding on health which the Jay Weatherill Government raged against is now almost identical to the Liberal party. Are you on the run?
BUTLER: Well no, no and the hospitals policy that we announced over the weekend is not in any way identical to the Turnbull policy. We’ve been railing for the last couple of years against the Abbott Government’s decision to trash an agreement that we negotiated when we were in government with the states around hospital funding. That agreement would ensure that the Commonwealth funded 50 per cent of the growth in hospital funding costs and we’ve said over the weekend that we would restore that agreement for an election on July 2 so, if we’re elected there will be a return of the 50/50 share between state and Commonwealth governments in the growth of hospital funding. Now, we’ve said we’ll do that for four years because the state and the Commonwealth governments, Labor and Liberal governments, recently at their COAG meetings agreed that they would negotiate a new funding agreement. So we’re covering four years to allow the process that the state and federal governments agreed to negotiate arrangements…
ABRAHAM: So the same policy as the Coalition?
BUTLER: No. No, no, no, no, no the Coalition has put in place funding arrangements that are very different and far lower than the ones that we announced over the weekend.
BEVAN: So are you able to give a commitment that when this four year budget cycle ends, post that, Labor will restore the funding that you’ve railed against, that was cut by Tony Abbott?
BUTLER: Our principle approach to this when we were in government and in opposition is that the Commonwealth should be taking an even share of growth funding over the course of really years to come.
BEVAN: Yeah I’m not sure what that means. You will restore the funding that you say Hockey and Abbott took away?
BUTLER: I can tell you what it means, it means that everyone understands that health funding is going to grow substantially in the coming years. Tony Abbott walked away from any responsibility that the Commonwealth had to share in the funding of that growth. We’ve said that the 50/50 share that was negotiated when we were in government with all state governments, with Liberal and Labor alike, should be restored and the COAG process that Malcolm Turnbull and Premiers like Jay Weatherill agreed to some months ago now should continue.
ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham do you see any difference between your health policy and those of the Labor party?
BIRMINGHAM: Well I see a lot of trickery from the Labor party and a lot of hypocrisy given where they were and frankly no, not particularly when it comes to hospitals now. Labor have overwhelmingly folded the tent down in terms of the fight they have raged over the last few years about hospitals funding and said how terribly unfair it was. Now, of course, we have a situation where they might promise a little bit extra in the forward estimates period where they are admitting over the next four years that they will run worse deficits than the Coalition, but then of course, they’re sort of saying there is a promise, a hint that there might be more beyond the budget cycle, but we’re not going to bank any of that or count any of that because we also want to doctor up…
ABRAHAM: You’ve kept neither the deficit nor the debt under control.
BIRMINGHAM: We have kept spending under control and we do, if you look at the budget, progressively bring the deficit over time. Year upon year it slowly comes down…
BEVAN: There is $80 billion in cuts, you’ve only spent 70…
BIRMINGHAM: We’ve had to deal with spending pressures that have come along the way as well, but of course, we have always made sure that where we have additional spending, we have reduced spending somewhere else.
ABRAHAM: Well let me just ask this, since the election of Tony Abbott and then Malcolm Turnbull taking over as Prime Minister, Joe Hockey as Treasurer and now Scott Morrison as Treasurer, has spending gone down under a Coalition Government?
BIRMINGHAM: Commonwealth spending in nominal terms always goes up because of inflationary pressures and all of those other factors, that’s just a reality, but in terms of the actual budget projections, spending as a proportion of GDP comes down over time under the Coalition.
BEVAN: Has it in the last three years?
BIRMINGHAM: Well in terms of those budgets, we have managed to keep it under control. It is still at highs…
ABRAHAM: This sounds like a Koutsantonis press conference…
BIRMINGHAM: But what is very clear in the choice voters have at this election, is the Coalition has policies that will see spending as a proportion of GDP and taxation as a proportion of GDP lower that under a Labor Government who are proposing $100 billion of new taxes, on income, on business, on property investment, on housing, on the environment and energy, a whole range of areas that will increase tax and revenue flows to government and, of course, see tax as a proportion of GDP go up.
ABRAHAM: You’re getting it all from super.
BIRMINGHAM: We are not getting it all from super. We have superannuation reforms which I’m more than happy to talk through once again on your program guys.
ABRAHAM: So Sarah Hanson-Young…
HANSON-YOUNG: It’s about priorities though, isn’t it? This is about what services we know need to be funded and where we have to expect that the belt be tightened and when you want to give $50 billion away in corporate tax cuts, the majority of which is going to go to the big end of town, the biggest beneficiary of the tax cuts is going to be the Commonwealth Bank. Do they really deserve a tax cut when at the time we’re saying to everyday Australians, we don’t have enough to make sure the Gonski reforms, that is the schools funding agreement, is out to the years that it needs to be, we don’t have the funding to cut waiting lists in hospitals, we don’t have the funding to clean up properly the Great Barrier Reef, I mean, it’s about priorities.
ABRAHAM: They’re a major employer though, aren’t they? Commonwealth Bank, it is not as though they’re this evil empire, they employ tens of thousands of people.
HANSON-YOUNG: And look at their profits. You only get taxed when you make profit and we’re talking about a tax cut on the massive profits of the big four banks.
BEVAN: That’s the voice of Sarah Hanson-Young…
BIRMINGHAM: Two really quick points there if I can…
BEVAN: And this is the voice of Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education, Liberal Senator…
HANSON-YOUNG: Don’t get confused!
BEVAN: And before that Sarah Hanson-Young from the Greens and Mark Butler, National President of the ALP and Federal Member for Port Adelaide.
BIRMINGHAM: Two very quick points. In the next term of office, the Commonwealth Bank won’t receive a dollar in tax cuts because they are skewed towards small and medium sized businesses, businesses earning or businesses with turnover of less than $100 million. Small and medium businesses, but even then when you go to talk about those bigger businesses like the banks, lets get back to superannuation. Who owns the banks, who benefits from those profits that they make? Pretty much every Australian who has a superannuation account is an investor and a part owner of banks and other large Australian businesses.
HANSON-YOUNG: Tell all those people who have to pay $2 ATM fees or more.
BEVAN: Max has called up 891 Breakfast and he asks our panel to comment on the expulsion of the controversial Muslim cleric who was due to speak at a mosque in Sydney last night but he flew out to Dubai after the Federal Government called for an urgent review of his visa. Now, Max asks is this an overreaction to the shootings in Orlando? Sarah Hanson-Young.
HANSON-YOUNG: Look I think it is the right decision. I don’t think he should have been issued the visa. You’ve got to question what type of controls and checks there have been on issuing visas and I talk about this issue of immigration all the time, it is my portfolio and we see all this focus on very vulnerable people fleeing war and not so much people who buy their way in here in terms of with first-class tickets and I think what this says more than anything is why we need proper protections in the 18c of the Anti-discrimination Act against hate speech and there has been an attack on that from some within, particularly from some within the conservative ranks or the Liberal party, Cory Bernardi being one of them, glad to see you’re at the top of the ticket this time, Birmo but, you know, those types of attitudes that free speech means hate speech can prevail, I do think we have to be careful. It is why those protections are needed.
BEVAN: Some moderate people within all of the biblical faiths, Muslim, Judaism, Christianity, moderate people say “look it is up to God. Homosexuality is wrong, but it is up to God” is that good enough, Sarah Hanson-Young?
HANSON-YOUNG: Look I think more and more one of the best things about living in modern Australia is that we are seeing a broadening of the view of acceptance of people regardless of their race, gender or sexuality and people can have their own faith of course, but when you start to issue religious directives or you start to talk about a particular group of people being lesser than everyone else, I do think that is a problem and it shouldn’t, you know, trying to kind of brush over it saying “it’s up to God” well sure that’s up to you, the reality is we’re all equal on this planet and it is time we started respecting each other.
BEVAN: So that’s not good enough to say “look it is wrong, it is in the Bible” and it says you should be stoned if you do this sort of thing. We’ll just say it’s up to God.
HANSON-YOUNG: As a community I think we are growing out of those views and rightly so.
ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham, should this fellow have been given his marching orders?
BIRMINGHAM: Well I think he should have been and, of course, he was given his marching orders, he got out just in time in that sense around having his visa cancelled and that is because the extremities of his views weren’t just opinions about whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, they were extended to views about violence against individuals or groups of people and that is completely unacceptable. Now, there will always perhaps be grey zones that sit in between when you want to, as a Liberal party we do, defend people’s freedom of religion, defend people’s freedom of speech, but also ensure that of course violence is absolutely unacceptable and the promotion of violence and that level of extremism is completely unacceptable.
ABRAHAM: I suppose that you could equally argue there are moderate Christians who don’t see any problem at all with homosexuality and don’t believe it is up to God at all.
BIRMINGHAM: And happily that is the case. That is to not say that the views of others need to be condemned or denied, but where they actually seek to go down a pathway of violence and that level of extremism, then yes, they do deserve to be condemned, denied and if they happen to be foreigners, ideally not admitted to the country.
ABRAHAM: And just quickly, Mark Butler a chance for you to close on this issue.
BUTLER: Well my view wouldn’t have been different even if the awful atrocity in Orlando had not happened. We can’t have people coming here promoting hate speech and as to your other point, I think there are inalienable civil rights that we now accept in our society and one of them is not to be treated differently because of your sexuality and those inalienable civil rights cannot be trumped by faith, they are basic civil rights that governments, oppositions, public figures should be defending to the hills.
BEVAN: Mark Butler, thanks for your time, Federal Labor MP for Port Adelaide. Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia and Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia.