Subjects: Severe weather in Queensland; Tony Nutt’s resignation as Federal Director of the Liberal Party; political polling; migration programme.
Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
You're back home and it looks like Rockhampton's in a bit of trouble this morning, not as much as perhaps people thought, but still clean-ups are happening in South Eastern Queensland, particularly south of Brisbane.
Yeah they're pretty tough people up in Rocky; as we know they live through this pretty regularly whenever there's a big rain event, a big storm and in the North of Queensland – I lived up in Townsville many, many years ago for a little while and you get these seasonal lows and cyclones every other year; people are conditioned to it, but it doesn't make it any easier, particularly the clean-up.
So I hope that it doesn't reach the peak that's projected and hopefully the clean-up takes place. We’ve seen some of the tragedy of people driving on wet roads and slippery roads and trying to cross flooded rivers and crossings etc. so hopefully we see none of that and they come out of the other side damp and miserable for the experience, but hopefully it's over as soon as possible.
This resignation of Tony Nutt, I think it creates far more interest within the Liberal Party than it does outside the Liberal Party and of course he's the Federal Director
who's resigned. There's an internal review of their 2016 election campaign due out on Friday and it's said to be fairly critical of Mr Nutt, but I mean he's gone already. But these people, while they're important inside the Party, I don't think they have a great profile outside the Party, do they?
No, I think what matters to people is that we're focused on what's in front. I mean Tony Nutt's been a servant of the Liberal Party for 35 years. He was the Principle Private Secretary to John Howard and he's a wonderful, wonderful bloke, very decent, honourable and he's done a good job in serving three sitting Prime Ministers now.
As he said in his resignation letter, it's time for him to take up new challenges and look for new opportunities and he would want the public to focus on the good work the Government's doing and we've just got to continue on that because we're two years away from an election and it will come round quickly enough.
So I think you're right, it's an internal issue and I think people recognise it for that.
I spoke to your colleague the Treasurer as do I every Monday and I put the question to him – and I know the answer without even asking you or him what you're going to say – and you've just indicated there's an election in a couple of years' time and you've just lost your tenth successive Newspoll 53-47.
But the question to you is; given that you spend most of your time giving it to Shorten – as does the Treasurer, as does the Prime Minister – both inside and outside the House, how is it possible that Bill Shorten, if he's so bad, can gain ground on anyone when it comes to preferred Prime Minister? If, you know, you think he's crook, the Treasurer thinks he's crook, the Prime Minister thinks he's crook, but he gets pretty close to the preferred Prime Minister.
But Ray, the point I think we discussed last week is that I think sometimes we've sort of got a short term memory loss on some of these things. If you remember back to Mark Latham – I mean Mark Latham was preferred prime minister over John Howard, Kim Beazley was preferred PM over John Howard in January 2001 when I got pre-selected for Dickson – Cheryl Kernot was still the Member. We were gone for all money in February, March, all of the polls indicated that Kim Beazley was going to romp in. The election was held in November and John Howard won with good numbers.
So look, I think it moves around. People want to send messages to government’s mid-term. Clearly the public want us to change some policies; they want us to take different directions in other areas. They're happy with some parts of what we're doing, for example in national security, border security, I think the public supports what we're doing.
So we've got to listen to all of that and we've got to make sure that by the time of the next election, people realise the threat that Bill Shorten poses that Malcolm Turnbull will never pose to this country because we can't allow the CFMEU to be in control. I think when people recognise that and when a decision that counts is made on election day, I believe people will support the Turnbull Government because we just can't afford to see happening at a federal level what we're seeing at a state level with these unions completely in control.
See but Mr Turnbull set the groundwork. I mean when he replaced the former Prime Minister, there was 30 consecutive Newspolls and he identified that as a reason to challenge the incumbent.
Now we're up to 10. So at what stage does Mr Turnbull say well look, I'm almost half as bad as Tony Abbott was, I'd better just pass the baton to someone else? I mean, I'm now 10, what happens after five more? He gets to 15, does he say then enough's enough? Because he raised the spectre on that day of Newspoll being a measure of the fact that he was challenging for the Prime Ministership. That's what he did.
Well Ray, that's a fair point and Malcolm Turnbull wouldn't step back from that point. What we need to do is to turn polls around, if that's the measure.
We have to make tough decisions – as the Howard Government did, as the Abbott Government did – they’re not always popular. It's hard when you've got a Budget that's going close to half a trillion dollars’ worth of debt that Labor racked up and we've got a Senate that is made of up of Independents. Labor and Greens vote together to block legislation. It is not an easy time to deal with the Senate or to deal with the debt that we've got – it’s much easier if you're spending money and making people happy – but ultimately people recognise that yes, they've made tough decisions, but they've been for the right reason.
The tax cuts that we've made for small businesses, when you go around and speak to small businesses; they want to employ more apprentices. They want to work harder, they want to put more money back into their business and Labor now is proposing a tax hike for small business at the next election.
Now, when we get into those things and we get away from the scare campaigns, one of the things that we didn't do at the last election was neutralise the GetUp! and the Labor Party scare campaigns on Medicare and otherwise. It's easy to scare people in politics. Shorten has mastered it and we have to expose it and if we do that and continue to do that in the run-up to the election, then we will see the polls come around …
…okay, well here's a way to scare them Minister. This is from your home town. A small jump in interest rates will force thousands of Queenslanders to sell up and default on their home loans sparking serious concerns in the Turnbull Government. That's what it says.
Yesterday I spoke to Ross Greenwood on this programme. We are heading towards, in spending, in relation to supporting people – who, some of them need support, others I suspect don't – welfare spending of $191 billion. By the time it gets to $191 billion the income for the Government will be at $218 billion, but then you've got to take into account the $69 billion for health, $27 billion for Defence and a little bit more on education – I think it's $33 billion. We are currently paying $12 billion a year in interest and that works out to about $34 million a day, million a day, we pay in interest. Forget about the actual loan amount, that's just in interest. We're not paying any of the capital off.
So if you want to scare people, you start talking about interest rates going up and people defaulting on mortgages and losing their homes unless we reign in debt. Now there's only two ways to reign in the debt; you either increase taxes dramatically, which you're not going to do because you've just taken company tax back for companies turning up to $50 million a year, or you decrease the amount you spend and if $191 billion of that is spent on welfare, that's what you've got to cut, that spend and while there's a recalcitrant Senate you can't do that.
So you're between a rock and a very hard place because you keep talking as the Treasurer does about the increasing indebtedness thanks to the former Labor Government. Well, you're not doing anything to address it – and I know that might not be your fault because they won't let you decrease spending in the Senate – but at the end of the day you're going to have to wear that.
Well Ray, have a look at just one area of direct responsibility for me; that is dealing with the balance of the 50,000 people that came on the 800 boats. I mean we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year – and we're borrowing to spend that, as you say, because we're in a situation where we're spending more than we earn, which is the problem – and we're being taken to the High Court, we're having to provide welfare to these people that have been found not to be refugees, they refuse to provide any information about their identity; this is the legacy that we're dealing with.
And you're right, maybe we need to talk more about it and people have forgotten about Rudd-Gillard-Rudd and Wayne Swan's still sitting in Parliament laughing and smirking each time we talk about having to take tough decisions because don't forget in the 2013-14 Budget, Tony Abbott's first Budget, we did trim back hard on the growth in spending. The spending on health and education went up every year, but we cut back the amount of growth in the spending and Tony Abbott was torn apart because of it.
In the last two Budgets that Scott Morrison's presided over and the Prime Minister's working on now, I mean there are areas that we're looking at where we need to try and cut back, but as was demonstrated in the Senate last week, the person you need to have on the programme is Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson and others who when we put up these Bills to try and cut back the spending, so that we can get the Budget back into balance and start to pay down the debt, these are the people that are blocking it.
Ultimately though, this is the basic point; you don't need to deal with the Independents if Labor supported the sensible cutbacks that we're trying to make to get the Budget back into balance.
See everyone talks about Keating and Hawke and everyone trumpets Hawke's economic management. None of that happened without John Howard supporting through the Senate those necessary economic changes that set us up for a quarter of a century of growth.
I’d say this to you. I'm not telling you how to suck eggs, but I'm a broken down choir boy, not a mathematician or an economist. If you keep ramming the fact home every day that we draw air that we're spending $34 million in paying interest, every day. I mean it should be mentioned every day by your Government to illustrate to Xenophon and others, the irresponsible attitude they have in the Senate. If you mention every day that the social security and welfare spending will go from $158 billion this year, to $191 by 2020 and that our debt, our indebtedness currently stands at $317 billion and the interest on that is $12.3 billion.
If you can all chorus that in Government, it will finally get through to even the thickest heads in the Senate, that we're going to go broke and we're going to have a recession and it won't be a recession we didn't want to have – it's going to be a recession forced upon us by our indebtedness – that's what's going to happen.
Well Ray, I think your advice is spot on. I mean we do need to talk more about it. We should. People can rattle off the $96 billion of debt that John Howard inherited from Keating and it took 10 years to pay that down.
Now you're right, we have to talk more about it. It's easier if you're an Independent frankly to support all the spending, because that makes you popular, but it makes you very unpopular when you support the cuts. So we've got to continue to work with them. We need to get sensible cuts through because as anybody listening to the programme knows, if you're earning $500 a week, but you're spending $1000 a week, you’ll only survive for so long. That's why we've got to get it back under control, so I agree with that.
Okay just very quickly. You just spoke about what it's costing for the 50,000 people that came here illegally. There's a story in The Daily Telegraph on Monday. God only knows what this has cost. This family came here 17 years ago; Jitend and Joytika Prasad from beautiful Fiji. They have in the meantime said it's too dangerous to return and they started this process months after arriving here, months after arriving here in the year 2000 – 17 years ago.
They've exhausted every legal avenue to stay in the country. They've racked up a sizeable debt for taxpayers. Now two of their children are actually Australian citizens because they were born here. All of a sudden they're finished; they've got to go back to Fiji so they enlist the help of the Human Rights Commission. God only knows what they're going to do. They came here in the year 2000 and one month after they got here on a Tourist Visa, they applied for a Protection Visa.
This has gone through five Immigration Ministers, including you and I mean can someone quantify what this family, the Prasad family, is costing us on a daily basis, in terms of the legal costs? For 17 years. Why can't someone put them on an Air Pacific or Qantas flight and get them back from whence they came?
Well Ray, as you know, our visa cancelations are up by 1200 per cent since I've been the Minister and I don't want to comment on this matter, because it is an operational matter, but I can say that people who think they're going to take us, the Australian taxpayer, for a ride, people who think that they are going to work outside of the law, or around the law, or in spite of the law, believe me, a day of reckoning will be coming for some of those people because we are not going to be taken for fools.
We have a very generous migration system – people would say too generous. We have a very generous welfare system – people would say too generous, fair enough. But we are not going to allow people to work outside of the law. We have many layers, as you point out, which I think are excessive in terms of appealing all the way to the Human Rights Commission.
We've tried to get legislation through and we will try again to get legislation through to give people a fair day and a fair hearing to hear their matter. But we are not going to continue to spend millions of dollars on these cases and it is very frustrating.
So just watch this space, but I just don't want to comment on …
… no, okay. What I want to illustrate to people who think we're being hard-hearted. These people came here, a month after they came here on Tourist visas, they say oh no we can't go back, we want protection from Fiji. I mean, we have a wonderful relationship…a lot of people go to Fiji on holidays. They've been rejected, not just by these various Ministers, but by the Federal Court, by the Federal Magistrate's Court, by the Refugee Review Tribunal of all people. Their most recent appeal failed at the Admin Appeals Tribunal because they said they didn't really have any chance of suffering any harm in Fiji. It gets that ridiculous that the adult in this, a Mr Prasad, once even applied for a child's visa claiming to be a dependent of his wife's brother. He's an adult male. I mean, these people have been on the public teat for 17 years, they need to be put on a bloody plane and sent back to Nadi ASAP.
I'll leave you with that thought, thank you.
Thank you Ray. Take care mate.