FRAN KELLY: Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke joins me in the Parliament House studios. Tony Burke, good morning welcome to Breakfast.

TONY BURKE: Good morning Fran, welcome to Canberra.







FRAN KELLY: Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke joins me in the Parliament House studios. Tony Burke, good morning welcome to Breakfast.

TONY BURKE: Good morning Fran, welcome to Canberra.

KELLY: Thank you. The Prime Minister is standing by his Assistant Treasurer, he says the business dealings in question happened before Arthur Sinodinos entered the Parliament in November 2011. Arthur Sinodinos has denied any wrongdoing. Should there be a cloud over Arthur Sinodinos’ parliamentary career?

BURKE: Well I think we start with what are the benchmarks that Tony Abbott set in the last term. For Tony Abbott now to argue that if something happens before you’re in parliament it doesn’t count is the exact opposite of everything that he said for three years during the last term. At 9:30 today, in the Senate, Arthur Sinodinos will be given an opportunity to explain the differences between what he’s previously told the Senate and what’s now emerged overnight.

KELLY: What are those differences because he himself says he’s given a full explanation to the Senate just in February, what more do you want?

BURKE: Well, you go through the papers today you go through the $20 million success fee, you go through the different pieces of information that came out yesterday, there’s not a match with that information to what he previously reported to the Senate. Now he’ll get a chance today to put his case to the Senate and if he can explain things properly, then so be it. If he can’t, at that point it’s right and proper that the Prime Minister would stand him aside.

KELLY: So Labor will call on Senator Sinodinos to give a statement to the parliament, if he doesn’t do that, Labor will call for Senator Sinodinos to stand aside.

BURKE: We’re working on the basis that at 9:30 this morning he’ll take the opportunity that’s given to him.

KELLY: Considering how long Labor stood by Craig Thompson, is it fair for Labor or even plausible really for you to go hard on Arthur Sinodinos when he hasn’t actually been accused of anything yet except standing to earn profit from a future business dealing which actually didn’t happen?

BURKE: We’re talking about someone at the moment who is the Minister for this Government, who is in charge of changes that will remove transparency for superannuation holders, who will remove a whole series of accountabilities that matter. The integrity of someone holding that role matters a lot. You look at the changes to superannuation that have been discussed earlier on your program today, there is a lot at stake in the probity of those policies and Arthur Sinodinos should be given a chance this morning to explain the differences between what he’s previously told the Parliament and what’s emerged in the last 24 hours.

KELLY: You yourself were named by ICAC once last February. Eddie Obeid told ICAC he hosted a number of Labor Ministers at his Ski Chalet including you, you said then you did nothing wrong, you wanted people to believe you. At this point should Arthur Sinodinos be given the same treatment, the same trust?

BURKE: Well I was given the opportunity to explain, I explained, after that nobody argued that there was a problem at all and we are giving Arthur Sinodinos the opportunity to explain this morning.

KELLY: The fact that Labor hasn’t called for Arthur Sinodinos to stand down yet, to this point, does that suggest that this ICAC enquiry is a double edged sword for you because in this case it is still the NSW Right faction of the Labor Party, your faction, that is the main target here, accused of some very serious fraudulent dealings?

BURKE: We’ve been responsible in how we’ve dealt with this issue. We’re making sure that Arthur Sinodinos is given an opportunity to explain to the parliament the discrepancies. We’re making sure that we’re not pre-judging.

KELLY: Well you say they’re discrepancies; he said he’s already stood up and said he can’t recollect when he first became aware of the involvement in the company of the Obeid family, he didn’t know before he joined the company. He didn’t know that political donations had been given by the staff, that wasn’t his business, that was there’s. I mean he’s already explained a good deal of this.

BURKE: Well he’ll get an opportunity at 9:30 today. I hope he’ll take it and we’ll listen in good faith to what he has to say.

KELLY: Your colleague Senator Penny Wong told the Senate yesterday there had been a cover up by the Abbott Government. Do you agree with that and what does she mean?

BURKE: Well I think there’s no doubt at all that the information that emerged from ICAC yesterday like the success fee, is something that the Abbott Government must have known about, surely beforehand.

KELLY: But success fees are not unknown in business are they? He was a businessman at the time, he was offered a success fee that the deal didn’t go through, he didn’t get the success fee.

BURKE: No what I’m saying is for that to have never emerged prior to ICAC making it known, when the Parliament clearly has had an interest in this for some time, I just think that it’s astonishing that information like that, the Abbott Government thought oh maybe no one will ever know.

KELLY: And do you think there might be more of that?

BURKE: I don’t know what information ICAC will have; certainly, it’s the Independent Commission against Corruption in New South Wales. It’s a serious body and the Senate is doing the right thing here in providing an opportunity for Arthur Sinodinos to explain himself.

KELLY: If he doesn’t explain himself, Labor will call for him to be stood down?

BURKE: To be stood aside, that's correct.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, its 18 minutes to eight, our guest in the Parliament House studio is the Shadow Finance Minister and the Leader of Opposition Business, Manager of Opposition Business in the House, Tony Burke. On other matters, to do with actual Parliamentary matters, Prime Minister has promised the biggest bonfire in regulation history that's coming up and today he will introduce legislation to basically wipe 10,000 pieces of regulation off the book, books, which he says is just slowing down productivity and profit making in this company, slowing down the wheels of doing business. Are you embarrassed that you had, as the government, left 10,000 unnecessary, according to the Government, 10,000 pieces of regulation in place?

BURKE: Look we had, we had clean outs of regulation in a similar way from time to time we never attached the fanfare that the Government’s attached to this one, and for good reason. Some of what gets cleared out amounts to regulations that has no legal effect at all. A regulation that had expired in its impact for example one of the ones -

KELLY: So it’s good to get it off the books?

BURKE: Oh you may as well, but you know, one of them for example is a regulation back to 1913 that affects State Government’s if they have a Navy. Now, no State Government has a Navy, so getting rid of it -

KELLY: - So get it off the books

BURKE: Yeah so getting it off the books it’s nothing; it’s not worth complaining about. But let’s not pretend that it’s going to make a difference to business confidence on some of these. If there sensible changes to regulation we’re there for it, but I think the truth is what we’ve got here is about 9,000 layers of cover for the superannuation changes. The superannuation changes -

KELLY: - The FoFA changes we were speaking about earlier?

BURKE: That’s right; those changes make a real difference to whether or not people know what’s happening to their superannuation accounts. Know whether or not commissions are being taken out in the years to come, which ultimately has an impact on how much money people retire on. Now this entire stunt is basically a protection racket for the changes that Arthur Sinodinos is the one leading on superannuation, and consumers stand to be hurt and to dress up as red tape something that's about consumer protection for people’s retirement savings, I think is extraordinary.

KELLY: So what can Labor do about that because many of these changes will be just regulation not legislation won’t they?

BURKE: And we’ll have, we haven’t seen the full legislation, that gets introduced to the Parliament today, but be in no doubt we’re not going to be, we’re not going to be supporting changes that are about knocking around people’s retirement savings.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast; it’s coming up to quarter to eight, on another matter yesterday we were speaking with your opposite number the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who was criticising Labor for blocking the scrapping of the Mining Tax. What is Labor’s position on the Mining Tax because you’re talking about blocking the repeal, but you’re also talking about introducing a very different resources tax to the next election should, bringing it to the next election, so do you like this tax or don’t you?

BURKE: Well everyone is in pretty much no doubt as to what’s likely to happen when the new Senate comes in, come July. So we’ll be in a different situation by the time we get to the next election and all oppositions wait until they get there before they say what the policies are that they’ll be taking to the election. In terms of what’s in front of us right now we’re opposing, we’re opposing the removal of, we’re opposing those repeal bills, but make no mistake here, they don’t only apply to the Mining Tax, you know Parliament the last two days has been focusing on 1,200 children, orphaned children of war veterans, who lose benefits and that’s part of these bills as well.

KELLY: Yeah but that's because you created a tax, spent the money before the money was raised, turns out it was a dud tax and instead of raising $4 billion a year it raised something like $242 million a year.

BURKE: And if the argument is that it’s not raising a lot of revenue, then the argument also follows it can’t be having a significant impact on the mining industry. The Government can’t have that argument both ways, but also the money that we’re talking about for these orphaned children of war veterans is but a drop in the ocean for the numbers, for the dollar amounts, that are involved in a Federal Budget and this is an example of just a callous decision, that I’ve got to tell you when we were preparing for Question Time on Monday we expected the Government was going to just flip on this, for something that doesn’t involve a large amount of money but really hurts some people who are in need.

KELLY: Tony Burke thank you very much for joining us.

BURKE: Great to be here with you.


Tony Burke