SUBJECT/S: Registered Organisations Bill, Australian Building and Construction Commission, GST increases, 2016 election, Tony Abbott.
CHRIS KENNY: I will now cross to Canberra where I will be joined lived by the Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash ready to start a new parliamentary year, thank you for joining us Minister.
MINISTER CASH: Fabulous to be with you Chris.
CHRIS KENNY: The first thing I wanted to ask you about was a double dissolution election a lot of speculation about election timing – it looks like you are going to go full term, an election in September or October this year. But you do have a double dissolution in your trigger, in your area right now with the Registered Organisations bill which is aimed at improving union accountability – there has been no threat to use that – why have you gone so soft on Labor with the double dissolution threat?
MINISTER CASH: Chris, I can assure you we have not gone soft on Labor. The Prime Minister has indicated that he expects at this stage that we will go full term, so an election say August / September / October of this year. As you say, we do have already a double dissolution trigger. We are not going soft on Labor. I have made it very clear, that we are prepare to fight an election both on the strengthened Registered Organisations legislation that I will be bringing to Parliament later on in this session, but also, if the Senate refuses to pass the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and we will be reintroducing that legislation into the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the government remains committed fully to its agenda.
CHRIS KENNY: You have the situation where throughout last year and at the end of the year when the Royal Commission handed down its report, we saw people outraged, quite rightly at the corruption that’s been exposed within the union movement, we have seen Bill Shorten embarrassed by revelations about his own behaviour as a union leader and we know you want to introduce reforms in the industrial relations area, you’ve just about talked about two of them that have been knocked back by the Labor party, why on earth wouldn’t you see this as a priority area and get the people to the polls on this issue before the budget so that you can get these reforms in as soon as possible.
MINISTER CASH: Chris I hate to disappoint you, I’m not going to announce a double dissolution on your show. What I will say is this: this is a priority area for the Government. Both the Prime Minister and I have made that very clear, in relation to the Australian Building and Construction Commission – to be fair, some of the cross benchers who had previously not supported the legislation had said they wanted to see the outcome of the Heydon Royal Commission – well it is there now for all Australians to see. The Royal Commission endorses the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and of course Chris, this is on top of Federal Court case after Federal Court case after Federal Court case which has effectively said, and I refer to the comments on Justice Jessup late last year referring to the CFMEU, has there even in the history of Australia, been a worse recidivist? So the Government is firmly committed to its agenda and we will fight an election on those two policies, if the Senate decides to continue to block them.
CHRIS KENNY: Well I guess my point is that we haven’t heard those arguments a hell of a lot over the past couple of months so any sense of putting pressure on the Government or any threat on the Labor party, with any threat of a double dissolution just hasn’t bene there, what about your broader industrial relations reforms, you are committed, the Coalition is committed to taking broader industrial relations reforms to the election that is not doing anything much before the election, but taking a package to the election, when do you envisage that you will actually release that? Will we see this early in the Parliamentary year or are you going hold back until the election campaign?
MINISTER CASH: Chris, as you know as part of the 2013 election we had committed that if elected we would get the productivity commission to undertake a review of Australia’s workplace relations framework. We received that review very late last year. we released it to the public and I have said that we are carefully considering the recommendations. I will shortly embark upon a series of stakeholder consultations, to listen to what the varying stakeholders have to say about the outcome of the review.
In terms of the prism in which the government is looking at any changes to the workplace relations framework, they are consistent with our whole of government agenda. How do any of the changes that we are going to make, whether they are in relation to the review of the taxation system that is currently being undertaken or the workplace relations system, how will those changes going to contribute to growth? To productivity and ultimately more jobs?
We are looking to the future: employers and employees working together. How can we ensure that the system benefits both of them?
In terms of my basic approach, my basic approach is, making the system work for all Australians. Employers need employees, employees need employers. If we don’t have employers Chris, we don’t have employees – so let’s make the system work for both. But at the same time we always need a strong safety net and anybody who says that a Coalition government is going to strip the entitlements away from workers is just plain wrong and is just deliberately indulging in a scare campaign…..[interrupted]
CHRIS KENNY: I’m not saying that
MINISTER CASH: You – absolutely wouldn’t Chris!
CHRIS KENNY: No doubt plenty of people will say that during the year, you mentioned taxation reform there, we know the Government through the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the new Treasurer Scott Morrison are not ruling anything out, therefore Labor are campaigning hard on a GST campaign, an anti-GST increase campaign, certainly Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have outlined why GST might be considered, can you explain to us why this reform might actually be needed, why do we need an increase in the GST is it for instance, in keeping with the South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill that we actually need to increase the tax take.
MINISTER CASH: The first thing I want to say is, our policy is not to increase the GST, I need to make that clear. Our policy is through to ensure that everything is on the table and I think that is a fundamental difference in the conversation that Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull want to have with the Australian people and the non- conversation that Bill Shorten [and Australia] are having with the Australian people.
When I listened to John Fraser the head of Treasury the other night, I read his speech, he very much talked about a government that needs to reign in its spending; a government that needs to be aware of fiscal consolidation. And then you saw the announcements coming out by Bill Shorten that were literally tax and spend and tax and spend, verses an open conversation with the Australian people about the system going forward that is going to sustain us and the fairest system going forward. I think there was a complete contrast….
CHRIS KENNY: I don’t think the conversation can go on forever, you have a budget due in May you’ll have an election by August / October the public need to know, the voters need to know what you’re proposing to do, why do we need taxation reform…
MINISTER CASH: Because at the moment the system is strangling growth. Look at bracket creep: people, literally bumping up into the next taxation level but without having increased purchasing power. Look at what the States are now saying - in particular - look at what the Premier of South Australia is saying, Jay Weatherill. I’m not sure how much longer he is going to be able to say it, but I understand he may be gagged at their federal conference…[interrupted]
CHRIS KENNY: …Yeah he is porgy as to the increase but that is because he wants more money and he wants more tax dollars to cover his spending, surely a Coalition Government is not going to do that.
MINISTER CASH: No, Scott Morrison has been very very clear, you do not decrease a deficit by merely increasing taxation revenues, that is the wrong way of doing it. The way you look at fiscal consolidation is to look at the tax system across the board and any party that says I am automatically taking one part of that jigsaw off the table, quite frankly is not looking at the complete picture. We will have a conversation about the complete picture. If we are criticised by those who just want to spend, let them criticise us, we will wear that criticism. Because ultimately, we are a forward looking government that wants the system to work for both, the person who is the employer and the person who is receiving the wage and paying the tax - that’s what the system got to work for - that’s the conversation we are prepared to have, as tough as that conversation may be.
CHRIS KENNY: It’s pretty tough at the moment, obviously Bill Shorten is getting some traction with his anti-GST increase message – it’s a pretty easy scare campaign to run, we can come back to that issue time and time again…
MINISTER CASH: Chris that is what is so sad, it is just a scare campaign. I think the Australian people are actually over scare campaigns. I think what they want is a genuine conversation and a Government that has their best interests at heart.
CHRIS KENNY: You’re either over scare campaigns or not, you’re going to get them on both sides of politics for a long while yet, but just before I let you go Michaelia Cash, I do want to ask you about the return to Parliament of Tony Abbott, of course the former Prime Minister has mentioned he is going to stay on as the Member for Warringah, Tony Burke this morning saying this is obviously going to lead to more internal instability, more Shakespearean tragedy, are you glad that Tony Abbott has decided to stay in Parliament?
MINISTER CASH: I am delighted that Tony Abbott has reflected on his situation and has decided that he certainly can continue to represent the people of Warringah and he is going to stand again.
CHRIS KENNY: Thank you very much for your time Michaelia Cash, Employment Minister we will catch up with again on ViewPoint later in the year.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.