TRANSCRIPT - PVO NEWS HOUR - MONDAY, 24 MARCH 2014

PETER VAN ONSLEN: We’ll start by talking to Tony Burke the Manager of Opposition Business, who joins us now live out of Canberra. Thanks very much for being there. I’ve got to ask you about Paul Howes, there’s a lot of suggestion that he’s stepping aside because he’s a bit frustrated with the Labor Party and Opposition not reaching in itself a little bit like what Labor did ahead of winning the ’83 election, you know when it came in with a whole raft of ideas and a new agenda, your reaction to that?

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PVO NEWS HOUR
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 24 MARCH 2014

 

PETER VAN ONSLEN: We’ll start by talking to Tony Burke the Manager of Opposition Business, who joins us now live out of Canberra. Thanks very much for being there. I’ve got to ask you about Paul Howes, there’s a lot of suggestion that he’s stepping aside because he’s a bit frustrated with the Labor Party and Opposition not reaching in itself a little bit like what Labor did ahead of winning the ’83 election, you know when it came in with a whole raft of ideas and a new agenda, your reaction to that?

TONY BURKE, SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Well I don’t think there’s any evidence of that from the interview you just played. I watched most of that interview when it ran live on Sky News, I didn’t get to watch the whole thing, but from what I saw those exact issues were put to him by David Speers and Paul Howes made it clear that they were not among the reasons he was leaving. So I think in a situation where your network got the exclusive interview, I think you can probably take him at his word.

PVO: Can you really though, I mean he’s a good Labor man and he doesn’t want to be stirring the pot, he also said in that interview that he’s not going to be one of these ex-union leaders that leaves and then starts complaining from the sidelines. So, in a sense, if he thought that he wouldn’t say it anyway.

BURKE: I think with this one Peter he’s given reasons, some personal reasons. Seven years in the one job, he’s what early 30s, it’s something, certainly I hadn’t had seven years in the one job at that age and it’s something where he’s given some personal reasons and I think we can take him at face value I really do. It’s that speculation that you put, I saw David Speers put to him and I think the answers that Paul Howes gave today you can take at face value.

PVO: Okay let’s talk about your relationship with Bronwyn Bishop in the Parliament, it seems like there’s a bit of tension there between the new Speaker and the new Manager of Opposition Business.

BURKE: Some of my colleagues have told me that I don’t appear to be managing the relation well.

PVO: So it’s your fault?

BURKE: Look the situation is, as you would appreciate there are limits about what members of parliament are allowed to say outside of Chamber on these issues, but I have a very strong view about the role of a speaker being like the role of referee in that they should be impartial and they should never be involved in the sledging. I do think there is a conversation that is happening around Australia now, of people looking at what Christopher Pyne and others are getting away with in the Parliament and saying this is not what they thought an adult government was going to be like.

PVO: So what, if anything, can the Opposition do about this because I mean I wrote a column on the weekend saying that if she doesn’t become more impartial she should be removed by her own team. I doubt that’s going to happen mind you, so what, if anything, is there that Labor can do if you feel like she doesn’t get any better at providing genuine impartiality?

BURKE: Well I think today’s not a bad example of what you can do when you are frustrated with what’s happening. I don’t think that anyone missed the frustration from the Opposition in the Parliament today, I, and you know we will call the Government on every childish prank that they run, we will call the Government on every opportunity when a question is asked and the Prime Minister chooses to not answer to make sure that is there up in lights and understood, and I think columns like yours, it’s not the only column that’s been written in the last week and clearly, you know, there is a bit of freedom on talking about this beyond what members of parliament have. We make sure people are in no doubt as to what is happening in that parliament and I think the public is able to look at that and be the judge themselves.

PVO: Maybe those rules precluding you speaking out make you as tight lipped as Paul Howes on his departure from the head of the AWU, but I’ll leave that there. Let me ask you about FoFA, the Government has backed away from, you know, rushing forward, I guess, if you like, with some of the changes it wants to make to FoFA. The Labor party opposes it, it is going to hit it in terms of its repeal day plans because nearly $200 million worth of its supposed claims came from the adjustments it was going to be making in that FoFA space, but they’re not going away with it, they say they’re going to go back there. Mathias Cormann was very clear about making that point. Do you believe that they will come back to it? What’s going on here?

BURKE: Well I’m not sure if they’re just delaying it until they’ve got the WA vote out of the way. Certainly Mathias Cormann this morning on Twitter –  

PVO: Do you think this is what that’s about? –

BURKE: I beg your pardon?

PVO: Do you think this is what this is about, that they’re in a sense doing what they’re doing with the Commission of Audit, and you’ve accused them of that before, they’re holding things back until after this all important vote in the west?

BURKE: Well look that may well be the case. The one caveat I’ve got on all of it is, this morning Mathias Cormann in an argument on Twitter with Chris Bowen claimed that the changes had nothing to do with commissions, and so, and obviously people know that commissions are back under these changes and so I think we’ve got a situation where the Minister who is responsible for it now that Arthur Sinodinos has stepped aside has had a look at it, tried to defend it, discovered that he’s getting his facts completely wrong and within a relatively short time they’ve decided to put the whole thing on the backburner, but the backburner only, and make no mistake these changes were put in, in response to Storm Financial, in response to circumstances where people would -

PVO: But there are other safeguards in common law, there’s other safeguards in, there is other safeguards in the regulations though, you do acknowledge that don’t you?

BURKE: It’s not like every safeguard’s gone, but they’re taking a lot away. They’re taking a lot away without justification and when you do that you do end off seeing a circumstance where people take a hit to their retirement savings. You know, superannuation in Australia is different to shareholding in any other country in that people have significant retirement investments where they are trusting advice that they receive and consumer protection matters in a very very significant way and, you know, you can’t just say any form of consumer protection just brand it as red tape, this makes a categorical difference to whether or not people end up discovering that a big chunk of their super ended up going off to commissions they didn’t know about.

PVO: I’m interested in something that happened in Question Time today with the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, in some of the questions or at least one that he was asking, there seemed to be the suggestion that maybe there’s a view that the mid-year financial, mid-financial-year economic update, the figures have been low-balled deliberately by the Government presumably so when the budget time comes in May they can show that things have improved under their watch. Is that what is being implied?

BURKE: It’s not just implied, I have no doubt that’s what the Government’s done, no doubt at all. The final figures for us as a Government under Peter Costello’s Charter of Budget Honesty were the ones prepared by public servants that came out in the pre-election forecast. They come out, ministers don’t get, you know, Chris Bowen who was Treasurer saw that document at the same time Joe Hockey saw it, and that’s the final economic statement that comes from a Government. The, Joe Hockey made a big fuss over saying MYEFO will be the document that matters and made a series of spending decisions to blow out the deficit and a whole series of changes to the presumptions. Some of them went to spending caps, some of them went to the unemployment figures for example, presuming that in years three and four you would not return to trend. These sorts of presumptions make a different and effectively blow out your total deficit figure to something more than double the number where they started. That’s what he’s done with the intention no doubt that he can then, when the budget comes around, claim to have fixed the problem that didn’t exist in those terms until he changed the presumptions. It’s a bit like at school when the kid will come up to you at the railway station when there’s not a train there, push you forward and pull you back and say tell your mum I saved your life, it’s a circumstance where Joe Hockey ignores the official charter of budget honesty figures, changes the presumptions to make the deficit look as bad as possible so that he can then bring in a budget and say hey presto look at all the problems I fixed, even though they weren’t, those numbers didn’t exist until the presumptions were changed last year.

PVO: Alright Tony Burke Shadow Finance Spokesperson as well as Manager of Opposition Business  in the House of Representatives, thanks very much for joining us on PVO News Hour.

BURKE: See you next time.