Subjects: Pauline Hanson’s first speech; gay marriage plebiscite; company tax cuts.

GILBERT: With me this morning on First edition, the Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke. And Tony Burke thanks very much for your time. Obviously a lot of focus on Pauline Hanson despite there being a lot of better maiden speeches last night, including Julian Leeser’s speech, I thought it was a tremendous speech, the new member for Berowra, but what are your reflections on this maiden speech 20 years after her first appearance?

BURKE: Well it was what we expected. She’s moved from one group to throw prejudice against to a different group to throw prejudice against. But the context needs to be clear in the fact that, when it’s reported on, when it’s considered, when the public discussion happens about this speech, that this is not from a group that had a massive vote in Australia. 95% of people saw One Nation on the ballot paper and voted for someone else. There were very particular factors about a double dissolution election and the counting method that have resulted in four One Nation Senators being there. Her vote in 2001 was higher than the vote in 2016, and back then no One Nation Senators got elected. So there is not a rise throughout the Australian community in these sorts of views. Pauline Hanson has moved on from targeting Asians alone and Indigenous Australians, to now moving onto Muslim Australians –

GILBERT: Do you think the community as well, do you think the Australian people have moved on as well? It caused such a controversy in ’96 but do you think, as you say, this was expected, that people will take her claims and campaigns with a lot more scepticism?

BURKE: There has always been some voice in Australia that will be a division. Always been there. But the voices that say we as a nation are stronger for our diversity, we as a nation are better because of the diversity that we have, and the voices of people that say let’s just get along with each other, have always been the voices that win in Australia.

GILBERT: The former Prime Minister John Howard warns MPs today against demonising Pauline Hanson and the One Nation MPs. Do you get his point there? That you don’t necessarily want to make individuals like Pauline Hanson, to persecute them for want of a better word, and then therefore maybe enhance their political appeal?

BURKE: I think the silliest argument people can make about Pauline Hanson is to claim she’s stupid. She’s not. She is smart, she is strategic, she is calculating. Pauline Hanson wanted the exact conversation across Australia that we’re having now, that the media’s having now. That is exactly what she wanted. It’s what’s being delivered across the board right now. But at the end of it all, every time these views get put to the test, they are not the views that dominate Australia.

GILBERT: Let’s ask you about this other issue that has been dominating the discussion this week, that’s the same sex marriage plebiscite. The Prime Minister this morning warning that it could be a very, potentially a very long time now before the law is changed, if Labor does block the plebiscite. Is that a worry to you?

BURKE: There are a few things here. First of all, there can be a free vote in the Parliament at any time the Prime Minister chooses. So if the Prime Minister wants to say “oh no there’s no way of anything else happening”, that’s his decision.

GILBERT: That would end his Prime Ministership.

BURKE: -- That’s his call.

GILBERT: But in a political sense you know, you’ve been around this place for a long time, that’s not going to happen is it. Because of his hold on the party – it was part of his deal he made a year ago, with the conservative wing, we’ll stick to the arrangement as agreed to under Tony Abbott.

BURKE: Well, a couple of things there. You’ve got to be pretty careful wanting the job so much that you’ll make a deal to do the opposite of what you believe in. Dangerous thing for anyone wanting the top job in Australia, if that’s the precedent that you want to set to be able to get it. The second thing is, I don’t think this one’s the only issue that’s threatening Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. I think from the night he gave the angry election night speech, it was pretty clear that his hold is in trouble. And I’d be surprised, we had the one year anniversary yesterday, we might get to the two year anniversary, we almost certainly won’t get to the three year anniversary of Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership. And he’s got to decide, if the right wing of his party are going to do him in anyway, is he going to spend any time as Prime Minister doing things he believes in.

GILBERT: If he wins the next election, which he could well do, he’s still preferred Prime Minister –

BURKE: -- He won’t be Prime Minister by the next election.

GILBERT: Well he could be, a hundred percent he could be. And we’ve seen this before in recent political history.

BURKE: I know we’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the show before, last time I was on the other side of it. This time I’m watching from the audience. I know how each play happens.

GILBERT: But Tony Abbott’s not Kevin Rudd. He’s not, this is not covert action to bring him down, all these comments are being made publically, as opposed to Rudd’s leaks and so on. But let’s just move on. Anything’s possible, he could win the next election, therefore reform in this area could be delayed five, six years. Is Labor willing to see that delay?

BURKE: If you listen to the arguments coming from people who are the most directly affected – and we had families here in Parliament House this week, the people most directly affected have been saying they would rather wait than be in a situation where they and their kids are part of a national discussion, and national argument as to whether they’re good enough.

GILBERT: The last question relates to company tax cuts. The government looks like it is going to be pragmatic, they can’t get through the company tax cuts in a full ten year plan for all businesses, they will then separate the bills, and will have a tax cut for the ten million dollar or less turnover in the first instance and then move beyond that. Would Labor be willing to compromise in that regard? Because going to the election you said a small business was two million, that was your threshold, now the government’s saying it’s probably going to divide the bill at ten million. Is Labor open to that?

BURKE:  The tax cut at two million was one that we took to the election and said we would support, and we will support that. The test for the government here, is they’ll be able to get whatever they can get through the parliament. But will they keep their full plan on the forward estimates, on the budget papers, on the full ten year projection. It was the centrepiece of their entire campaign. And if they don’t commit to keep all of those projections in their own budget numbers, then their entire economic campaign from this government was a lie.

GILBERT: You’re open to the ten million, possibly?

BURKE: Our policy is the two million tax cut for a small business, that’s what we believe the country can afford. The government thinks this $50billion sideshow is affordable, that’s what they took to the people. If we’re going to have any conversation about election mandate, that was their centrepiece, they’ve got to commit that all those numbers will remain in the forward estimates and the forward projections.

GILBERT: Mr Burke, thank you for your time, I appreciate it.

BURKE: Good to be back. 

Tony Burke