HOST RICHARD KING: The Bulldogs have lost the last three games in a row but they’ll be hoping they bounce back with a win against Brisbane tonight, it should be a great game. My next guest is a mad Bulldogs fan and he’ll be coming to town today to speak to a small business community forum, he is in fact the Shadow Minister for Finance and the Manager of Opposition Business and he’s on the line, Tony Burke good morning.


KING: Well three on the trot, you know you’ve got to turn it around some time.

BURKE: Watching those video referee calls from the stands on the weekend, it hurt, it really hurt.

KING: Well you’ve got a few of your troops back today so it’s a pretty strong line-up for the Bulldogs tonight, anyway, good luck.

BURKE: Thank you.

KING: The reason for the visit today to our neck of the woods Tony, you’re addressing a small business community forum – what’ll be the thrust of what you’ve got to say today?

BURKE: It’s a community forum organised by Sharon Claydon and it’s actually switched a bit, there’s now a number of community groups that are going to be at the first one I attend, and I think there’s some small business stuff later in the day. A lot of the groups, women’s shelters, things that like, some of the community groups that help people who are having a tougher time than most. So it’ll be interesting, I think, to hear their stories firsthand about the combination of some of the unemployment challenges that people are facing plus what they’re seeing on the ground as the likely impacts of the budget.

KING: And that brings me to the obvious thing. You talk about the people doing it tough and the consensus seems to be and I think it was the original reaction by most people to the budget, it’s dealing pretty tough with the people who are doing it tough rather than the other end of the income scale and that’s been confirmed now by quite a bit if research. The Government’s struggling to get any of it through at this stage Tony.

BURKE: I think it was really telling in the last couple of days when you’ve had senior business leaders come out, some of the most senior business people in the country when Joe Hockey complained that they weren’t there barracking for him, and just to say well there’s a challenge when things just look so unfair. I think that’s what shocked people. If Joe Hockey’s argument about the Budget was to have merit, people still couldn’t see why so much of the load needs to be put on people who are on the lowest income. I think it’s the same thing when people talk about Paid Parental Leave. No one’s against parents getting a bit of support when a new child arrives, but the concept that more you earn the more money you’ll get from the Government and the less you earn the less you’ll get from the Government, it’s all upside down from how Australia’s always been.

KING: And too as you’ve pointed out some weeks ago, there are a lot of little things in the budget that I think don’t jump out immediately, one being this tax. I mean every time you need an ultrasound, an x-ray, a CT or an MRI scan, there’s now a tax on that.

BURKE: That’s right, and because in the lead up to the budget the Government has only flagged the GP Tax, people had a strong opinion against it, but people knew about that one. On Budget Night itself, when it was snuck through that it’d also be for any of your imaging services and it’d also be for your pathology, those numbers add up so quickly. The other one I’ve been finding that hasn’t had much publicity but when I talk at forums people are shocked about the change to Family Tax Benefit Part B. Instead of cutting off when your child turns 16, cutting off when your child turns six. Now people can do the sums on that very quickly and realise that no one’s met a child that got cheaper the day they turned seven, and realise these are impacts that are going to hit people at the exact point that family budgets are going to be at their toughest.

KING: Font page of the Sydney Morning Herald, I mean you mentioned you’ll be talking unemployment and  certainly there are many people who have lost their jobs thanks to the downturn in coal prices in the mining industry in the Hunter Valley. “Unemployment at its highest level in 12 years”, front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Pushing Australia’s rate of joblessness higher than that of the United States for the first time since I think it’s what, since 2007, which is obviously not a good figure.

BURKE: Yeah and Joe Hockey is out there saying this would all be fixed if they could get their budget measures through. I’m struggling to find the budget measures that would actually create jobs. Charging people more money for health, reducing family disposable income, that doesn’t create jobs. And Certainly telling people they’ve got to apply for 40 jobs per-week, I don’t see how that creates any jobs. What I’ve seen them do after all the language before the election, where they were talking about creating a million jobs in five years, it was all magically going to happen when they came in, decision after decision has been aimed at actually reducing jobs in Australia. Daring Holden to leave, making the decisions they’ve been making about ship building and not giving the guarantees for work to be done in Australia. When all of these decisions add up, you end up with a situation where, of course it’s going to be reflected in the unemployment rate. I’m just struggling to see how a budget which is aimed at pulling money out of people’s household incomes can ever do anything about employment in Australia that wouldn’t be negative.

KING: 2HD it’s coming up to 16 to seven. Tony Burke my guest who will be in Newcastle today addressing a number of community forums. I spoke with Chris Uhlmann earlier in the week about his new book that he’s written with Steve Lewis, which is not bad, a satirical thriller. Interesting because Chris’s wife Gai is obviously the Labor Member for Canberra, they have very opposite views on that Section 18C, which the Government have decided to backflip on and not try and get rid of. Chris being a journo was very much in the Andrew Bolt camp in wanting to get rid of it, his wife very much the other way wanting to hang on to it. Is it a backflip or just a prudent move on the Government to leave that aside for the time being?

BURKE: It’s both. I can understand people who are jumping up and down and saying broken promise, but it was a stupid promise that they’d made on that one. The test of how stupid it was, was when George Brandis kept getting asked: ‘Can you give us an example of something you think should be allowed to be said that would currently be viewed as racist and is illegal?’ and he couldn’t.

KING: Yeah.

BURKE: Now, ultimately if you want to make a case for change in the law and getting rid of a protection there’s got to be something that you think Australia would be better if that was allowed to happen. When they can’t give a single example then you’ve got to say well the only outcome would be more racist hate speech and I can’t for the life of me see how that makes for a better Australia.

KING: Yeah. Obviously a number of our local politicians embroiled in the current ICAC inquiry. We obviously can’t say too much about that, but do you think it’s time to really look at the whole subject of donations to political parties and the funding of political campaigns Tony?

BURKE: Well there were some attempts last term that we made to do that and they ended up not having bipartisan support. I think it’s important on these changes, if you can do it in a bipartisan way and keep it above the political divide, I think that keeps a level of probity to it all. The thing that’s astonished me with these latest ICAC stories, is there’s been a pattern ever since Nick Greiner started ICAC off, which has been, when revelations have come out about someone, people have looked around and been astonished that they got away with it and have been astonished that so few people knew about it at the time. These latest ones, what’s blown me away, is that it seems, in some parts of Australia or New South Wales, like everybody in the Liberal Party was in on it. Someone comes along, has been a member and involved for only a few minutes and all of a sudden they’re in a room or a car with brown paper bags. What’s got me with this one is just the number of people who appear, from the evidence we’ve seen so far, to have either been part of it or known about it. I can’t remember an investigation conducted by ICAC that’s been like this one.

KING: Just finally, there’s been a lot of discussion about the position of our Lord Mayor, Jeff McCloy, who is a developer and was mentioned on the first day by Mr Watson as allegedly handing over a brown paper bag to Andrew Cornwell, the Member for Charlestown. Jeff is adamant he hasn’t done anything wrong and wants to stay in his position as Lord Mayor. Do you think that regardless of the truth or otherwise of the allegations, as soon as a high profile role like that of Lord Mayor or a politician or whatever, while there is a cloud the person should stand down from that position as par for the course?

BURKE: I think the judgment has got to be made as you go on these ones. I don’t know enough specifically about the situation of the Mayor on this one. I reckon it’s important to keep to the rule that if you don’t know, you say you don’t know. I’m not sure on that one.

KING: Ok, alright. Thanks for your time this morning. Enjoy your stay in Newcastle and go the Bulldogs tonight Tony.

BURKE: Thank you.



Tony Burke