WEDNESDAY, 13 march 2019
SUBJECTS: Liberal and National Infighting, Liberal inaction of Climate Change, Carig Laundy, Labor’s policy on Wages.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I know the right persons to ask though Kirsten my political panel. Today the presidents of the major parties, Nick Greiner is the Liberal Party president, Wayne Swan is the ALP president. So it all makes sense. I have to go in with this one Nick Greiner, welcome,

NICK GREINER: Thank you, good afternoon.

KARVELAS:  So has Craig Laundy been asked to delay an announcement about retiring for his seat of Reid until a suitable person can be found to contest the seat?

GREINER: I have absolutely no idea at all about the answer to that question. I think, I agree with what you say about Craig's qualities. I think he has been a very good performer for the Government but I am not privy to what is happening in the pre-selection in Reid.

KARVELAS: Do you think if he steps aside a woman should be pre-selected to contest the seat of Reid?

GREINER : You know you've just said that it’s a silly game and it is a silly game. I have no idea who the candidates would be, I have no idea if Craig is going or not, so I'm not going to play that game. But given you've given me the opportunity, I should say that we seldom acknowledge the fact that the (Liberal) Party continues to pre-select women in winning positions. We've got a new female senator from the Northern Territory who has been pre-selected, as you know we've got a woman pre-selected in Julie Bishop’s seat, we've got a woman pre-selected in Higgins and we're continuing to work away at it. I've conceded on this program before Patricia, that of course I think we should have a greater number of female members, but we are actually working successfully. Especially since Scott's been there and has been very outspoken. We're actually making some progress but as to who should be the pre-selected candidate in Reid, I have no idea.

KARVELAS:  Are you urging Craig to stay in the seat and to fight it for the Liberal Party?

GREINER : I haven't spoken to Craig, Patricia.

KARVELAS:  I'm asking you  would you like to make a plea on national television for him stay in the seat?

GREINER : no, no, Craig knows my view. My view is he's a very high potential person, the right sort of person for the future of the party and he clearly is a great fit for the seat. Beyond that I don't think I'll be taking up your kind invitation.

KARVELAS:  I am kind, I'm so glad you've acknowledged it. Wayne Swan, I'll ask the question to you. If Craig Laundy does decide he doesn't want to re-contest the seat and as I say he hasn't you know, publicly declared that yet but if he does. Does that mean that Reid is all but gone for the Liberal Party? Is Craig Laundy sort of the potential winning factor there?

SWAN: I think the Government and I think the Liberal party is turning into a national joke. Its five minutes to midnight and we have got a key marginal seat and nobody knows what’s going on. What we have got out there at the moment is Liberals stabbing Liberals, and National stabbing Nationals. I mean it is a national joke but the problem is the only people laughing, is the Government laughing at themselves. It is just beyond parody to think that these events are unfolding as they have over the last week or two weeks. It's simply unbelievable.

KARVELAS:  Okay but you haven't answered my question, which is Reid without Craig Laundy does that really change the equation for Labor?

SWAN:  look well, we certainly don't take it for granted but we've got a fantastic candidate in Reid who's working hard, as all our candidates are right around the country. We don't predict the outcome of elections but what we do, is we campaign as hard as we possibly can and we've got a great candidate down there I certainly hope he becomes a new member for Reid.

KARVELAS:  Nick Greiner, this has been an ugly week of disunity between the Nationals and the Liberals what impact has it had on the Coalition's campaign in the New South Wales election?

GREINER : Well I hate to, you know, be a bit boring and say I don't know but I don't. I certainly believe that this issue the sort of Coal-In- Queensland issue was a beat up. That was beaten up by Barnaby. The reality is that the Queensland Government has said that it won't have a coal-fired power station in Queensland. The Prime Minister has said he's not interested in trying to take that issue on. So that was never going to happen, it was never ever going to happen. I think it's a bit of positioning by the National Party for seats in Central Queensland but look I think if we're fair dinkum about this and Wayne's from Queensland. This is one of those genuinely wicked issues in Australian politics one the Labor Party and the Liberal Party suffer from. The fact that people in Townsville and areas around it, the Central Queensland coal seats have one sort of attitude, an attitude to Adani and so on and people in if you like Melbourne, where I was last night tend to have different attitudes. So it's a matter of getting the balance right and the Prime Minister has been endeavouring to do that by his commitments to Tasmania as an (energy) source and an interconnector from Tasmania to Victoria. The commitment to the Snowy Two Hydro so the Government is endeavouring to get the balance right but of course it's true that it's a wicked problem not just for the Liberal Party but anyone who watched the opposition leader trying to explain his emissions reduction policy or lack of it yesterday as I watched. These things are not easy and there's no point trying to hide that.

KARVELAS:  No but it's not a settled policy at all, you say it's just Barnaby well Matt Canavan was on radio this morning with my colleague Fran Kelly and he clearly wants this to happen as well. So it's not settled....

GREINER : No,  No, it's totally

KARVELAS:  But he is a cabinet minister?

GREINER : That's absolutely nonsense, it's absolutely and completely settled, the Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear that he's not interested in in the notion. The more important thing to say, as I said before is that the Queensland Government determines these matters in terms of coal generation in North Queensland. They've made it clear that they're not interested, this is not going to happen and certainly the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government underwriting of a particular project in that way is not part of his policy.

KARVELAS:  Wayne Swan, how does that play out in Queensland, I mean a few weeks ago one of your Victorian colleagues talked about, you know his happiness about the demise of coal, he since walked away from that. Is talking down coal dangerous in Queensland?

SWAN:  Well I think not understanding Queensland, is dangerous in Queensland. And I think Queenslanders don't want to see government money being put into coal-fired power stations into the future. I think you would have broad agreement on that right across the State. The fact that the National Party are in denial on climate change and in just about every other aspect of the 21st century is one that is going to see them massacred, I think if they keep going the way they're going. The truth is that people don't want government money invested in a coal mine or a power station and I think that is a view that is shared widely across our state. But you've got these climate change wars and culture wars going on within the Liberal Party and within the National Party which are clouding that clarity. I mean up here there are Liberals who are fighting the Nationals over this very question. There are Nationals in New South Wales fighting the Queensland Nationals over this very question. What we've got is a rump of the National Party who are in deep denial at most of the progress that has been made in the 21st century, recognising climate change being the prime example of that.

KARVELAS:  So Nick Griener, is all this talk about coal and division in the Government hurting Liberals in metropolitan seats?

GREINER : Look PK I think, I've answered this before and I think, Wayne and I have disagreed about it before there isn't a lot of evidence of climate change as a vote changer. It's certainly something that people are interested in and I've noticed for example, Mr. Sharma makes his views very clear on the need for a more positive approach, and I think since then the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government believes the science. That the Government is acting to produce a balanced energy policy. That it probably is still the case that we value reliability and energy price as the most important considerations. We acknowledge that sustainability that climate change is a third part of a trilemma if you like, but we think that price and reliability are the more important factors

KARVELAS:  Wayne Swan, Labor hasn't decided whether to use carryover credits from the Kyoto agreement towards reducing your emissions by 45 percent by 2030. Should you use the carryover credits?

SWAN:  Well they will be matters that'll be announced by the parliamentary front bench at the appropriate time....

KARVELAS:  What’s your View?

SWAN: Well my view is I’m President of the Party and I'm leaving it up to the front bench and our leader to do precisely that.

KARVELAS:  But if you're serious about climate change shouldn't rule that out?

SWAN: We are very serious about it. Well that's right and you know what I'll do is I'll leave that up to the Parliamentary Wing. But I'll make the point that support for renewables and 50% renewables by 2030 is very popular right across the state, including in many of the regions where coal is mined already. I think the Liberal Party has made a fatal mistake of misunderstanding the fact that there is broad concern about action on climate change and particularly broad support for the development of renewables right across the country, not just in urban areas, not just in the well to do areas but right across the country and I think this is a big change for Australia. But it is one which is surfacing in our politics and the Labor Party will have a very strong policy in this area it's already very strong and we will flesh out the details over time.

KARVELAS:  Nick Greiner just on an issue which I think you touched on...

GREINER: It depends, just if I could speak to that a bit. I think that depends on the Labor Party being honest about the price implications. Of course it's true in an airy-fairy way that renewables are popular, wind, solar and hydro are all popular. The question is, what is the price effect and the price effect in terms of the impact on Australian jobs, jobs in Queensland amongst other places and the impact of electricity prices on household budgets. When you factor all of it in rather than just taking one sort of niche out of it I think you'll find that people are very reluctant about having further increases in their energy prices and further negative impacts on job opportunities which some of the polling research and modelling in the last week has demonstrated.

KARVELAS:  Nick Greiner, I just wanted to raise with you something that Malcolm Turnbull the former Prime Minister and your former leader of the Liberal Party has said. And he essentially has said that that the Liberal Party has a woman problem. Do you agree with his assessment?

GREINER: Oh look, I mean, I I've said on this show and I've said tens of times around Australia that of course, I acknowledge that we need more women. On the other hand I also said earlier in this interview PK we are actually continuing to pre-select women and very high-quality women right around Australia.

KARVELAS: I’m just asking you to respond to what Malcolm Turnbull has said would you use the same language as Malcolm Turnbull

GREINER: No, I wouldn't, I don't think it's the most felicitous choice of words but the fact that we need to make sure that over time the parliamentary representation of women is greater than it is now. Is certainly something that I agree with.

KARVELAS: Wayne Swan, let's move to Bill Shorten saying the election is a referendum on wages. Labor says it wants the minimum wage to be a living wage, the living wage is defined as sixty percent of the median wage but Labor won't commit to sixty percent. How can you say you're on a living wage if you won't support that target?

SWAN: Well, we'll be outlining the full details of our wages policy but the first thing we've got to recognize is that wage stagnation in this country over the last five and a half years has been a product of wage suppression. And now in part of that, is a low level of the minimum wage compared to the living wage. And we would like to see sustainable increases in the minimum wage moving towards a living wage over time and the front bench will announce further policy in that area. But the wage suppression we are experiencing at the moment is also a product of deliberate government policy starting with the Audit Commission report going back to 2014, where they said they wanted to slash the minimum wage and since then they've set about doing that by cutting penalty rates, encouraging casualization, giving labour hire a leg up, suppressing wages and in the public service. There's an attitudinal problem when it comes to the wages and the Liberal Party and a vast difference between us and the Liberal Party when it comes to this critical area of economic growth, which even the Reserve Bank Governor acknowledges needs very substantial action.

KARVELAS: but Wayne Swan, aren't you lifting expectations here? Are you sure you're going to deliver in government all of these across-the-board wage rises? Because you're significantly lifting expectations of voters aren't you? That you're going to raise all of these wages, and you haven't made it clear what mechanism you're going to do though by?

SWAN: Well we are making it clear and we've already outlined a range of policies, for example we've said we are going to move against the penalty rate cuts we've outlined that a long time ago. There is a very important role in here for the Industrial Commission and that will be addressed by the front bench over time. But there's also an attitudinal problem what this Government does in the public sector for example and to the wages of people on very low incomes is simply shocking. The fact is that essentially the Liberal Party wants to suppress wages, that's their fundamental policy it's been identified in  just about everything they do, whilst at the same time loading their tax cuts to people on the highest incomes. It's a vicious spiral when you push the lowest income earners down in terms of their wages and give tax cuts at the top, what it leads to is weak and anaemic economic growth such as that that we saw in the National Accounts last week.

KARVELAS: Nick Greiner, I'll give you the final word because we have to wrap up, but do you accept that slow wages growth is a major issue for voters? Because your side of politics doesn't look like you have a strategy to fix it and clearly it is upsetting voters who feel like their wages just aren't growing and they just don't have enough in their pocket?

GREINER: Well the side that doesn't have a strategy, is Wayne's side you just heard him. The truth is this is not a problem of last five and a half years, when Wayne was Treasurer Australia had anaemic real wages growth. The truth is that every Western country in the world except the United States has got a similar problem, the notion that you can simply vote yourself for pay rise or that you can just get the Fair Work Commission to sign something and that will mean a meaningful pay rise is absolute pigs may fly stuff.

KARVELAS: Okay so what is your strategy?

SWAN: You should tell that to the Reserve Bank Governor!

GREINER: Our strategy is both to give people money back in terms of income tax cuts. Where our policy is lower taxes, their policy is higher taxes and our belief is that you do need to have - and Wayne used to believe this when he was in government you do need to have wages reflected by productivity growth. If you simply try and mandate wages and productivity growth is not there the economic impact of that is very deleterious on everyone.

KARVELAS:  I want to thank you both always fun to have you in those chairs thanks for coming in

SWAN: Thank you.

GREINER: thank you PK.



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