SUBJECT/S: Mal Brough; GDP; The Year That Was.

KIEREN GILBERT: Joining me is Manager of Opposition Business and Shadow Finance Minister, Tony Burke. Mr Burke, thanks very much for your time.


GILBERT: It is indeed. Does the steam run out of the Labor campaign once the Government gets beyond today, the last Parliamentary sitting day?

BURKE: I don’t see how that’s the case. You don’t need the Parliament for these questions to be asked. What triggered all this off wasn’t an event within the Parliament, it was a raid by the police that kicked this off again. The important thing to know, is when we hear Malcolm Turnbull say he’d look at it again when something new comes up, we have had new events this week. On Wednesday, the Minister misled the Parliament; on Thursday morning he came into the Parliament allegedly to correct it and misled the Parliament again; and then in Question Time yesterday, we asked the exact same question to what a year ago got the answer “yes I did” and now we get the exact opposite from the Minister.

GILBERT: So, in terms of the Labor approach here, once you’re outside of Parliament without privilege, are you able to pursue this in the same manner in which you are now within Parliament under privilege?

BURKE: I’ve got to say, I’m not sure there’s been a single line that’s been said that’s been an abuse of Parliamentary privilege. The criticism that’s come back to us from Malcolm Turnbull and Mal Brough has been to say ‘oh, but all of this information was already public’. Well yeah, that’s part of the problem. When you go through each of the facts that have been before the Federal Court and the information Mal Brough himself keeps putting out, which is contradictory day-to-day, that’s a big part of the case. Let’s not forget, when you talk about Parliamentary standards, the one rule that is always meant to apply is a minister cannot mislead the Parliament. Mal Brough misled on Wednesday in the morning, on Wednesday during Question Time, and the previous Question Time on Tuesday.

GILBERT: So what has he done wrong? For viewers who are watching this morning not familiar with the case, what actually has he done wrong?

BURKE: Ok. In terms of the case itself you’ve got the Federal Police allegations. In terms of Malcolm Turnbull’s judgment, you’ve got this bloke’s meant to be in charge of Government integrity. In terms of the Parliament, the starkest example was that he claimed Channel Nine had edited the recording of the interview. He claimed he could have been answering a different question. You go back to the original tape, there was no other question he possibly could have been answering, nothing. He comes into the Parliament and says: ‘oh the tape proves that I could have been answering something different.’ No it doesn’t. No sensible understanding of that recording can lead to that conclusion. That means he’s said something to the Parliament which again wasn’t true. The one standard throughout the history of this Parliament and on from Westminster that is meant to apply to ministers is you can’t mislead the Parliament. In two days, he’s done it three times.

GILBERT: Now, if you do get his scalp, so to speak, your attention then turns to Wyatt Roy, Christopher Pyne? Is that right?

BURKE: Well at the moment you’re right, we’ve focused very squarely on Mal Brough. From articles in the paper and from different allegations that are floating around, there may well be some significant questions they have to answer as well.

GILBERT: They’re not the Special Minister of State. That’s the fundamental issue here isn’t it? The fact that this individual is the Special Minister of State and that’s why you see it as such a vulnerability?

BURKE: Well that’s where this started, and that’s also why we were initially able to ask questions of Mal Brough. The Standing Orders are pretty tight on what you’re allowed to ask, but that gave us a window to be able to start asking these questions and what’s happened here, we started last week on the Monday with two or three questions and it’s been the answers he’s been giving, and changing as we’ve gone, that have caused this to escalate the way it has.

GILBERT: The GDP figures, if we turn our attention to that. Point nine per cent growth for the September quarter driven largely by exports. This is encouraging isn’t it? In the wake of the mining investment boom?

BURKE: An improvement in those figures is a good thing. We also need to look at where are the strengths and where are the weaknesses and have an honest conversation about it. Largely driven by mining exports off the back of a very sharp decline in capital expenditure. The Treasurer has wanted to pretend the capital expenditure decline is only in the mining sector, it’s not. The non-mining sector you’ve had a 10 per cent hit there as well. So there’s some challenges with confidence, there’s some challenges with domestic demand and there’s some significant challenges with capital expenditure.

GILBERT: But encouraging at this stage? The growth figures are holding up?

BURKE: The top figure, good. What’s underneath it, not as strong as we’d like it to be.

GILBERT: Now if you look back at this Parliamentary year, it wraps up today. It’s been another eventful year to say the least. You were well ahead in the polls for most of the year and you finished the year well behind. This is going to be a difficult election year for you guys?

BURKE: Well the extraordinary thing, you go back to the beginning of this year and the personalities you and I were talking about in these interviews each week when parliament was on, the personalities have largely changed. A lot of the policies haven’t changed that much. The biggest shift in the policy debate is as time goes on, we’ve increasingly talked about a 15 per cent GST and broadening the base to include food.

Now that is a big shift in the public debate and at the moment the Government’s been able to pretend ‘oh, we don’t really have a plan, might do it, we might not do it’. It emerged yesterday they have been modelling this change. For all their talk about ‘oh only Labor ever did it’, when we were modelling their proposals, they’re now modelling their own proposals. What that means, is as next year goes on, it will become very clear what they’re wanting to do for increasing prices for every household every time they go to the supermarket.

GILBERT: Personal tax cuts and compensation?

BURKE: Well, let’s see where all if that lands. Most people know on these issues that the compensation is temporary while the GST hike is permanent and increases as prices go up.

GILBERT: Mr Burke, thanks for your time.

BURKE: Good to be back.

Tony Burke