Subjects: Chris Bowen; Bali 9, National Security 


KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program this morning, the Parliamentary Secretary to the
Shadow Treasurer, Ed Husic, and also the Assistant Education Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham. Senator Birmingham, I’ll go to you first of all on this. Is it fair enough for an individual under the pump? You know, Alan Jones is a difficult interviewer, to not necessarily have that sort of information at the top of mind.  

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well good morning Kieran and good morning to your viewers. Look, we all make mistakes, we all have slips of the mind so I’m not going to pretend that that doesn’t happen but you do expect that the Shadow Treasurer will at least in ballpark terms, if not in the precise dollars, be able to talk about the tax rates, the tax free threshold and have a good understanding of what all Australians are facing when it comes to income tax. But ultimately, I’m not fussed about pop quiz, I’m fussed about what the Labor Party will do in terms of dealing with debt and deficit, in terms of actually the structural challenges that economically we face and it strikes me that whether or not Chris Bowen knows what the tax rates are is one thing; but what is clear that he has absolutely no plan for dealing with the structural challenges Australia’s
economy faces and particularly the structural budget problems we face in the long term.   

KIERAN GILBERT: Ed Husic, I know Julie Bishop, the now Foreign Minister, successful Foreign Minister, when she was Shadow Treasurer, she didn’t know the cash rate and
everyone got stuck in to her at that point. Should Chris Bowen expect the same thing now?

ED HUSIC: Did you watch the interview? They were talking at each other across purposes. This was like de-threading verbal spaghetti and trying to work out at which point they were talking about the Medicare levy, the low income offset, whether or not we were talking about the tax free threshold. It was a, as usual; I don’t know how many people actually get a word in edgeways in a Jones interview. So it was typical in that regard, and I would say, and I would make the point, picking up on something what Simon said in relation to tax scales. Does anyone seriously believe, if later today, Treasurer Joe Hockey was given a pop quiz on the tax scales and he passes that that means he’s going to be able to frame a good budget? I
mean he’s failed his big test the first time around, he’s likely to do the same thing the second time around because their values are warped and stuffed up; and so frankly, I don’t think government is about, you know, getting the sash for the best rope learner. It’s the best values, the best ability, the best capability to frame a budget that works and I reckon that should be the test and clearly this government is failing under that critical test of skill. 

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the interview last night, Ed Husic, while they covered a lot of areas, this was a specific question. Do you think that it was just a moment where Chris Bowen would have known the answer but froze on the spot? Is that the sort of situation?

ED HUSIC: when you saw the video itself you could see that they were talking across purposes and at one point there was some sort of confusion about the Medicare levy and Jones
corrected himself, Alan Jones, corrected himself on air. I think that the key thing that was being discussed at that point is what should be happening with our superannuation system and whether or not we could, as an area of reform, and we’ve certainly focused on this; whether or not we could make wealthy superannuants carry a greater load, which they should be doing and which we were proposing to do and which this government turned its back on and now is complaining about revenue issues when there were clear revenue measures in place that could’ve been taken up and they didn’t. 

KIERAN GILBET: I do remember, Senator Birmingham, that Julie Bishop copped a lot of flak when she was Shadow Treasurer for not having the cash rate ready to go in to the interview. Do you expect the same sort of backlash here for Chris Bowen? Who up until this point has had a good run as Shadow Treasurer? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran I suspect that Chris Bowen was probably amongst those who gave Julie Bishop some flak at the time. So, ultimately there may be an element of what
goes around comes around. But, as I said before, I’m less fussed about whether or not Chris Bowen passes a pop quiz. Now, it sounded to me like the question was far more straight-forward than Ed’s suggesting, but I haven’t seen the whole program in its entirety. So I’ll take his word for it that there were some confusing elements to it. But it sounded like a pretty straight forward question; what is the income tax free threshold? Chris Bowen didn’t know it, we
all have bad days. The bigger problem is what is Labor’s answer to the structural budget problems Australia faces? Now Ed’s given the closest thing we’ve had to a confirmation that they’re going to tax some superannuants more, that that is their answer, so we have a policy revelation on AM Agenda this morning. Thankyou for revealing that to the Australian public, Ed. We can bank that down, we look forward to hearing from you or Chris Bowen or somebody else; which superannuants above what income levels, how much more you’re going to tax
them? But of course that’s just it. Labor’s answer will be: reintroduce the carbon tax, reintroduce a mining tax, tax superannuants more. Labor’s answer is all about more tax, our answer is to try and get Australia’s spending under control so that we can actually work towards a balanced budget without having to tax Australians more on their electricity, or on our export industry or more on superannuants. 

ED HULSIC: I love it Birmo. Birmo’s Liberal pedigree shines through, horror that we make wealthy superannuants pay more; don’t even blink when you’re charging a GP tax and pricing
people out of universities, kudos to Simon Birmingham. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well come on Ed; tell us who you’re taxing more. Tell us how much you’re taxing them. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham I want to end on a good note though because Chris Bowen in a statement did say that he’s looking forward to the next sparing session with Richo and Jones; so that’s good. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’ve all had those sparring sessions too.

ED HULSIC: I was going to say, if it was me I would have brought out my inner Ari Gold! I don’t
know how Chris Bowen stayed so calm through that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Ari Gold. I never thought that that name would get a mention on AM Agenda but there you go! Ed Husic, congratulations on that front.


KIERAN GILBERT: Obviously, Senator Birmingham, the fate of the Bali 9 will be something the Prime Minister will be asked about, will be discussing with a delay in the transfer to their
place of execution; Senator Birmingham, to you on that.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, firstly, any delay is welcome in that any delay provides more opportunity for legal processes and diplomatic processes to be fully exhausted. Now, of course,
we have left no stone unturned thus far and we will continue to leave no stone unturned in trying to seek mercy for these two men in trying to ensure this execution of them does not take place. Now, the Indonesian Foreign Minister is of course defending Indonesia’s policy. That’s her role, that’s her job. Our appeal really is to the Indonesian President, to the Indonesian legal system to say that mercy is warranted here. That these men have shown they can be rehabilitated. That the crime does not warrant the death penalty in this case, and that we really do hope that they will show mercy in this regard and the extension of time given just at present provides that little bit more hope, that extra glimmer of hope that these legal or diplomatic processes may ultimately achieve the right outcome.  

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s hope so. Ed Husic, talking to international affairs experts, Michael Wesley and Greg Fealy from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific at the ANU, they make the
point that this is a political thing as well because Widodo, Jokoi as he’s known, the President, is off to a very difficult start politically in Jakarta and he’s pretty much under the pump on a whole host of different areas. So he’s not going relent, it doesn’t seem, when it comes to this issue unfortunately. 

ED HUSIC: I think the tests in political leadership is always being able to transcend what might
be considered unpopular decisions, to make the right decision overall. Certainly in Indonesia’s case, and I couldn’t agree more with Minister Birmingham, he touched all the right points, along with Minister Bishop in the house last week, when she emphasised rightly that Indonesia, in making the effort to represent its own citizens that are confronted with this terrible fate of potential capital punishment in other countries for similar actions, that it obviously made sense for Indonesia in defending those nationals to also make the right decision with foreign nationals on their soil, in this case, Australian nationals and not proceed with capital punishment and be able to recognise the points that are being raised by Minister Birmingham in terms of rehabilitation of these two in particular and taking another course. The test of political leadership should be that it transcends what may be short term public demands for a better long term good. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s look at some other matters. The national security statement from the Prime Minister early next week is expected to touch on a range of different issues including
that of data retention, requiring Telcos to hold metadata for a certain period of time. Ed Husic, can you give us a snapshot of what Labor’s position is on this? Do you want some changes to the legislation as put to the Parliament? What is the Labor view?

ED HULSIC: We’ve indicated that we want to let the Parliamentary Committee do its work. It’s
dealt with hundreds of submissions that have raised a variety of concerns about the shape of the government’s proposals at this point. So, in terms of a complete Labor response, we want to wait and see what the committee recommends and we believe that’s provided good process in managing proposed national security laws in times past and amendments have been made accordingly.

From my own perspective, I’ve had concerns about his proposal for quite some time. I think that the potential impact on smaller Telcos and even larger ones like Telstra have expressed concerns about this proposal. You’ve heard concerns expressed about creating a pool of data that could be hacked into and that would not necessarily be as secure as possible. I think there are broader community concerns that are being levelled at both government and business about the amount of data they collect and the way that they retain and use that data; and you’ve also seen on the international scale to, that there has been pushback from big companies, like Google and Facebook and others, about the way in which the US Government has been, basically, accessing data. So I think there are some concerns that need to be weighed up, Kieran. 

**Interrupted – live cross to the Prime Minister**