'The bar that they have set is terribly low compared to, say, the Australian Women's Cricket Team, who have done an exceptional job...' - ABC Hobart 936 Mornings with Leon Compton radio interview, Wednesday 28 March 2018





SUBJECTS: Cricket; Turnbull’s $65 billion tax handout to the top end of town; Next Federal Election; Tony Abbott and Pauline Hanson; Tasmania – the nation’s renewable energy hub; Tasmanian manufacturing; Declining Green vote; Tabling of Parliament’s ice inquiry report.

LEON COMPTON: Senator Lisa Singh, good morning to you.

LISA SINGH, LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good morning Leon, and to your listeners.

COMPTON: And Jonathan Duniam, Liberal Senator for Tasmania. Senator, Good morning to you.


COMPTON: Right, are we over-reacting team when it comes to the treatment of Steve Smith and those under him in the Australian Cricket Team and their behaviour in South Africa? Senator Duniam?

DUNIAM: I think, um, I gotta say I'm pretty amazed by the community reaction to this. But I shouldn't be surprised. Tasmanians – Australians – are passionate about their sport and most significant amongst those is cricket. I 'spose what we've got to remember here is that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. The fact that there was a bit of, you know, 'Oh no, no, no, nothing's happening, nothing to see here,' made things so much worse. I think punters are pretty happy to potentially forgive a little bit more easily if people admit that they've done wrong and show that they're willing to repent, but we didn't see that here. But can I say that I don't think – and I've never tried this and I never will – I don't think there's much worse punishment than having sandpaper down your underwear.

COMPTON: Well, indeed. It was an interesting choice as he started to panic and realise that the jig was up – it was a very interesting approach. Lisa Singh, what should happen to our cricketers from here so that the cricket public can feel like justice has been done and we can move on, hopefully with a Tasmanian at the helm of the national side?

SINGH: Leon, with something this shameful – and it is shameful – I think the Australian reaction has certainly shown that, because it is about the integrity of us as a nation and of our cricket team. There does need to be fairly strict punishment applied and I think there probably will be. I know Cricket Australia is discussing sanctions for those involved. I think this is worth reflecting on – what it means for our younger Australians who aspire to be cricket champions like these players one day, and also the fact that the bar that they have set is terribly low compared to, say, the Australian Women's Cricket Team, who have done an exceptional job and should be looked upon as the leading example of how cricket should be performed and displayed. They have not only of course won the Ashes this summer, but today in fact in Dehli they are playing in the T20 final. They have done it all without sledging, no arrogance and certainly no cheating. That’s the kind of standard that I think Australians expect and deserve of their men’s cricket team as well.  

COMPTON: Let’s get onto some of the issues of the day. Jonathon Duniam, how is your party going finding the numbers in the Upper House it needs to pass its company tax cuts?

DUNIAM: Obviously everyone comes to the Senate with a different point of view on what their priorities are and Matthias Cormann has been working overtime discussing the Enterprise Tax Plan with the crossbenchers. As we know now that discussion will continue well after Easter, up until budget week, I guess. It means that things are still alive, the discussions are still ongoing. The good thing is we have on the crossbench – and there has been a couple of changes lately – a pragmatic group of people who do want to do things on behalf of their communities. So that work is continuing. But for our state it is a very important piece of legislation. The proposal that’s before us to extend the tax relief for larger companies is important to our state. I know at least thirteen businesses in our state will benefit from extending the tax relief to the new threshold of 25 per cent in years to come.

COMPTON: When you say that, these are largely foreign owned businesses whose shareholders internationally benefit. How will it be good for workers here versus doing other things that might promote wages growth or investing in different parts of the economy?

DUNIAM: Well a lot of these business aren’t! If you look at Hazel Brothers or Voss Construction, Grange Resources – yes that’s an international company – but what happens is you’ve got businesses that have chosen to invest in Tasmania. They employ locals, they spend money locally. So when international companies who have a choice about investing in, say, India or Malaysia or somewhere else where they may have a venture underway, or Australia in particular and Tasmania with reference to the thirteen businesses that employ thousands of Tasmanians. And if the tax rate in Australia is not competitive, if there’s a choice between another nation where they can invest $50 million to expand their operations, put on a new production line, employ another 150 people, and they choose to go somewhere where the tax rate is lower rather than doing it here, we miss out. So that’s how workers benefit because there will be-

SINGH: But Jonathon, if that was the case why aren’t they doing that now? We have investment in Tasmania now from those offshore companies that have chosen to invest in Tasmania. And there is absolutely no evidence to say that this company tax cut is going to benefit Tasmania at all. That is the big concern; the fact that the government’s not relying on any evidence and in fact I think Saul Eslake has come out very strongly saying how sceptical he is and referred to what occurred in Canada when they did a similar policy approach – that there were no benefits that came. This is bad policy; it comes at a time when we need investment in schools, in hospitals, in infrastructure in Tasmania. Instead the government’s going to actually give a tax cut to big businesses, which Leon as you point out, many of which are multinationals who will take those profits off shore.   

COMPTON: News that has broken overnight is that Mathias Cormann has announced that the government is shelving their tax cut plan; they don’t feel like they can get the numbers they need. Jonathon Duniam, can you confirm that this has now been put on the backburner for the next little while or is it still a live issue?

DUNIAM: It is a live issue. The reality is that we have only a few hours left of this sitting week before we all depart and go back to our electorates. In recognition of that, Mathias Cornmann did make a statement to the Senate last night that we would not be debating the bill any further and that discussions would be continuing. That is a natural course of events – that a government will negotiate with the crossbenchers and minor parties and even the opposition sometimes to get the outcome that needs to be attained. The thing is here that the argument against lowering the tax rate is simply opposition for opposition sake. I’ve not heard one idea from the opposition about how to grow jobs. I accept that we need to invest in health, in education, in infrastructure but what’s the alternative here in terms of creating an environment where businesses will invest, we entice them to invest, we encourage them to invest? That includes more investments in infrastructure and indeed in their employees. When there is greater demand for employees chances are they will be paid more. That is how things work but I haven’t heard from Labor or any of the other opponents their alternatives.

COMPTON: Lisa Singh, let’s throw it over to you. Senator, what is your big idea to as Jonothan Duniam says, to promote the sort of growth they hope will flow from these corporate tax cuts?

SINGH: Well first things first Leon, it’s actually the Turnbull government which is governing as Jonathon is aware not the opposition.

DUNIAM: But you want to be in government, Lisa.

SINGH: Yes, and we’ve started to roll out policy after policy in that front. Particularly in the housing space and also in our dividend imputations credits to show that we will have the economic spend there for those other social services I described before like education and health. But I mean when it comes to this idea that Tasmania will be better off – I think we only need to look at the fact that at the same time as the government wants to implement this tax cut they also want to increase income tax through the Medicare Levy. Now I asked Senator Cormann this week in the Senate a question relating to that; and I said, ‘Does this mean a nurse in Tasmania earning about sixty thousand a year will be paying an extra three hundred dollars a year in this increase in income tax while at the same time you’re going to then give that money to big business in a tax cut? How does that benefit your average Tasmanian?’ And he could not answer that question, he didn’t answer that question. That is why we are all in the dark as to the evidence you are applying to this very big spend, of trickle-down economics which so many economists have said just does not work and does not provide wages growth which we know has stagnated.

COMPTON: I’ll give Jonathon Duniam the chance to respond to the question about the Medicare Levy increase and the impact on ordinary workers?

DUNIAM: The idea or the need to provide tax relief to middle-income earners is on the government’s agenda and that’s the thing. We are looking for ways to ensure that the burden on ordinary, everyday Australians who work hard for their money is relieved. So it is disingenuous to say that all we are doing is giving a tax handout to big businesses, which incidentally employ thousands of Tasmanians, and ripping money out of the pockets of everyday Tasmanians. It is not like that. We do, and I will be advocating very strongly for tax relief for everyday Tasmanians to make sure that they can spend their money in our home state, rather than giving it to the government for the government to spend it in ways they deem fit.

COMPTON: Are both parties, at the moment, gathering war chests to hand out income tax cuts in the lead-up to this election? It feels like that might be on the cards. To both of you, do you think that both parties are going to come to the next election with different suites of income tax cut plans?

SINGH: We will see what's in the government's budget this May. Which after today, our last day of sittings, the next day we will sit will be in fact the budget, so Labor will be scrutinising that budget in great detail to see, because potentially it will be the last budget the government hands down, the Turnbull government that is, before an election. So we'll see what the government's got in store, so who would know?

But for Labor we are going through a process at the moment. A policy development process of ensuring that the types of things that Labor Governments should and want to fund to support our community, that we're able to do those things. So yes, our announcement in relation to the dividend imputation credits was about that, Leon. Ensuring that we have the money there to fund some of those important social services like investment in education that is so important and needed for Tasmania. As well as our hospitals, as well as infrastructure, which we know has been cut under the Turnbull government to massive lengths.

COMPTON: Jonathon Duniam, I don't know what involvement you've got in the budget preparation process, but do you think you'll be heading to the next election with personal tax cuts on the way?

DUNIAM: Look, as I said before I am a big fan of Australians being able to determine how they spend more of their money rather than the government taking it out of their pockets and figuring out how to spend it for them, and so I am a big fan of- 

SINGH: But you're increasing the Medicare levy.

DUNIAM: But I am a big fan of ensuring that we put forward the case for Australians to have that opportunity. I don't know what's in the budget, but obviously my strong viewpoint is that we do ensure that people have that capacity and are able to make the decision best how to spend more of their money.

COMPTON: Jonathon Duniam, are you comfortable with Tony Abbott launching Pauline Hanson's book yesterday?

DUNIAM: Oh look, I wasn't paying attention to that I have to say. You know I've got a lot of books to read, Pauline's is not on mine. I mean she's a lovely lady. In terms of Tony Abbott launching it, I guess they have a good, long, strong friendship, but you know, I've got better things to be doing myself than launching other parliamentarians’ books. The people of Tasmania aren't paying me to do that sort of stuff up here in Canberra.

COMPTON: Are you comfortable, given some of the things that her party believes in and the differences with yours, that he is aligning himself and his aspirations for returning to the leadership of the party, with her star?

DUNIAM: Oh look, I wouldn't be launching Pauline Hanson's book myself and Tony makes decisions for himself about how he spends his time up here. The people of Tasmania send me up here to advocate for them, and I don't think launching Pauline Hanson's book would be what they would be asking me to do during the last sitting week before budget.

COMPTON: You're on Mornings around Tasmania. It's Senators in Space for 2018. We've been talking about big ideas over the last couple of days. Senator Singh, let’s start with you. Your big idea for 2050 – something that will catch people a little by surprise?

SINGH: Well Leon, I have to say it's hard to only have one big idea.

COMPTON: One big idea that hasn't been tabled too often, Lisa. What are you thinking about?

SINGH: I guess on a priority list, I would start by wanting to make Tasmania the renewable energy hub of the nation. And I think we can only do that, of course, with investment, particularly in a second Basslink, which I have been on about for a couple of years now. I think I wrote an opinion piece in the Mercury two years ago on this. But we have, I think, something like 30 sites in Tasmania that have been deemed appropriate for extra wind farms. It fits with our image as a clean, green state caring for our environment, but also the fact that we've got this incredible history in Tasmania of 100 years of hydro-electricity and the clean energy that provides.

I think there is so much opportunity for us to really ensure that we can provide that energy security for the rest of the nation and wouldn't it be a fantastic thing that a small state like us, pushing above our weight, by that investment in renewable energy that as we know is the future, not only for our nation, but for the world.

COMPTON: We might all agree that that's a good idea. Let's talk about what needs to happen for that to take place. Senator Duniam, let's talk about the pathway for that  second Basslink – second interconnector, they hate it when you call it Basslink because that is a proprietary title – but that second interconnector and what needs to happen, and who would pay for it is another part of the process. Let's "blue sky" that for a moment. How should we proceed?

DUNIAM: Let's "blue sky". Well so the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has presented at Senate Estimates a couples of times now and updated us on the work that they're doing with regard to not only the increasing the pump storage capacity of hydro in Tasmania, just like they are with Snowy, but they've also talked about the second or increased interconnectivity. There is a capacity there for us to look at potentially, who knows, more than just one depending on what happens at the other end, and Lisa has talked about wind farms and also hydro. Any form of energy generation that we can put online there – any storage capacity – that will mean that the business case for the increased interconnectivity will be there. So ARENA is looking at that. That is a critical part of the pathway and then investment. Well I suspect while it would be great to see the private sector invest, I think something like this, a piece of critical infrastructure, will require support from government somewhere down the path.

COMPTON: It will be challenging for Tasmania to think about funding that, I suppose, given that overwhelmingly it's Victoria and the south-eastern corner that needs that dispatchable, ideally carbon neutral energy pumping into their marketplace. Do you think the case will be made for Tasmania to fund it and then recoup the costs through any profits that might fall to Hydro, or do you think there's a case for the Feds jumping on board to fund it Lisa Singh?

SINGH: Well I think it's not just Tasmania and the Feds that need to be part of this, I think the Victorian Government also needs to play a role, because it is as you say Leon, about connecting up along that stretch of water between Tasmania and Victoria energy for the rest of Victoria but also potentially elsewhere on the national grid. So I think that that conversation needs to happen by Tasmanian and Victorian Premiers, as well as the Federal Government’s involvement. Of course, the Federal Government will need to play a key role. I think Infrastructure Australia has in fact identified that this is a big ticket idea, big ticket infrastructure idea, which needs to be having the backing of the Federal Government. But ultimately it does need leadership and it does need vision. And that vision has to come from the fact that there is a commitment to invest in renewable energy and of course we need private sector to be involved – in fact when we talk about things like building an Adani coal mine in the galilee basin one of the things – I've said is Adani in India is a big investor in renewable energy and solar farms and the like, why don't they come to Tasmania and look at investing in our renewables rather than building a big coal mine?   

COMPTON: Adani might be a subject for another time, Senator Jonathon Duniam – I think there's plenty of gristle in there and we don't have the time in the six minutes left – Jonathon Duniam, your big idea for 2050?

DUNIAM: Yeah, I so in my first speech around eighteen months ago gave consideration to looking at ways to create a bit of a renaissance in our manufacturing and services sector in Tasmania. Everyone would agree that over a number of decades we've seen major players pull out, major manufacturing entities and other businesses. I think Tasmania is a place where we do have a lot of great, innovative people doing great things, coming up with great ideas, businesses that are doing great things, like Elphinstone group on the north-west there with a lot of the work that they're doing with the local workforce. So, what I am hoping we can do, and one thing I'd love to see Tasmania do, is take advantage of what we do on island, rather than – and in my first speech I referred to the example of a fellow on the north-west coast who brought to my attention the fact that dairy farms across the north-west were purchasing componentry pieces for their dairy equipment from companies out of Northern Europe at a great cost and having them shipped all the way here to replace these pieces whereas just down the road there is a company making the pieces that were appropriate for these machines – so I thought, how does this happen? How on earth do we allow this to happen in Tasmania where a local business, employing local people, using local materials, is not chosen over a company based in, who knows, Norway, and the consumers are spending all this money on this expensive European equipment and the shipment to get it out here rather than using local. So if we can all work together – state, local, federal and private enterprise – to find a way to make sure that if we can do it on island and if it's a service we provide or if it’s a good we produce and we need it on island we do it that way, rather than looking off shore, interstate even. I want to keep business local because that in the end will be good for us.   

COMPTON: There are certainly many innovative businesses up in the north-west coast and beyond. It's been interesting to follow the defence industry here and learn a bit more on Mornings in recent months about some of the work that's happening in places that perhaps don't look for the spotlight but are doing some interesting things globally in that space. 

Are the Greens going to win a Senate spot?  So we are expecting it will be a half Senate election next time around, maybe this year, maybe next year. To both of you, do you think the Greens will retain – its Nick McKim’s seat I think that's up for grabs – do you think they'll retain that seat?  

SINGH: I think there is a core Green vote in Tasmania, it's been there a long time, and usually that's the case they manage to get one Green Senate spot. It's not something I have really kind of thought about but I must-

COMPTON: You must have looked at the entrails of the State Election and thought, ‘Gee this is an interesting trend that is heading downwards in the Green vote around Tasmania and to some extent nationally’? 

SINGH: At the time of the state election definitely and also looking at the South Australian election. I think the Greens have a lot to reflect upon out of that and also out of the Batman campaign, but whether that transpires at the next Federal Election who knows? I don't know Leon, my focus hasn't really been on that this week. It's been on something, if I can just mention, today I will table a report in the Parliament – a culmination of three years’ work of the Parliamentary Law Enforcement Committee looking at crystal methamphetamine and how we tackle it as a nation. And what came out of that in Tasmania is that we have very much a limited amount of treatment and rehabilitation services – which was going to be my second priority in your big picture question – because I think that if some of the recommendations we are putting forward is an investment in rehab and treatment, as a way of addressing this as a health issue rather than a criminal issue so we can support Tasmanians and Australians who are suffering, who have got a drug addiction, and need that support so that they can live fulfilling lives and have every opportunity like the rest of us can. So, important work that I will table today and I think something that we seriously need to address as a nation.  

COMPTON: Senator Duniam, what's your priority been this week in the Senate?

DUNIAM: The priority for me this week has been supporting, obviously, the government with their legislative agenda, particularly the enterprise tax plan. So my reflection on that of course has been the notion of perseverance that we see in this place. Now, not all of us agree, in fact more often than not we disagree – for some spurious reasons sometimes, but I love the fact that people here persevere with things that they believe are right and are important to them. One thing that I am looking forward to persevering on myself is that I've been appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of our First People and I am looking forward to trying to find a way, along with colleagues from crossbenches and the Labor Party, to try and deal with this issue properly. There's been a huge amount of talk over many, many years and we are precisely nowhere further forward than where we were years ago. So I'm hoping that through this committee that will be working through the remainder of this year will be able to do something there as well.

COMPTON: That is a really interesting point there too to make and we might get you back on to talk about what that pathway might look like, given the amount of times that this issue has foundered in years past.  Thanks to both of you for coming on this morning.

SINGH: Thanks Leon.

DUNIAM: Thank you Leon.

COMPTON: Lisa Singh, Jonathon Duniam on Mornings around Tasmania.  



Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra