'Justine's working hard campaigning in Braddon.' - - ABC Hobart 936 Mornings with Leon Compton radio interview, Wednesday 16 May 2018



SUBJECTS: Politicians in north-west Tasmania; Cradle Mountain cable car funding; Threats to Tasmania’s GST share; Braddon by-election; Tests of leadership; Female representation in the Liberal Party in Tasmania; US Embassy moves to Jerusalem; deaths in Gaza; royal wedding.

LEON COMPTON: Welcome to ABC Radio around Tasmania. Lisa Singh and Johnathon Duniam, respectively Senators for the Labor and Liberal parties, have joined us in the studio for another 'Senators in Space'. Senator Jonathon Duniam, good morning to you.


COMPTON: Senator Lisa Singh, good morning to you.


COMPTON: Neither of you are on Prime Minister or Deputy Leader of the Opposition patrol today. Stranded down in southern Tasmania. Would you like to be in the north-west today, where it feels like the national political focus will be gathering Jonathon?

DUNIAM: I was there yesterday actually, with Matthias Corman up at Turner's Beach and in Launceston earlier on in the day. I think there’s a limit to how many politicians the locals want to see, so happy to have done it yesterday but very pleased to have been in the south of the state today.

COMPTON: Lisa Singh?

SINGH: We've got a number of senior shadow ministers coming out and supporting Justine Keay. Justine's working hard campaigning in Braddon. Interestingly though, the Prime Minister's obviously in Braddon today, and I think it's the first time he's visited Braddon in 705 days so he is certainly welcome there-

DUNIAM: You're congratulating him are you? Brett Whiteley's delivered again!

SINGH: I'm finally welcoming him back to the north-west of Tasmania.

DUNIAM: When did you last go to Braddon?

COMPTON: Does it show that the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party are more serious about winning Braddon then Labor?

SINGH: It shows that they're opportune. I think that the announcement today about the Cradle Mountain Cable Way – we have had that policy for a very long time. 

DUNIAM: Half of it at least.

SINGH:  We didn't wait for a by-election to come along to finally announce funding of the cable way. We know that it's been needed a very long time.

DUNIAM: You did it before the business case was made.

SINGH:  But all you've had put on the table Jonathon was a million dollars for a feasibility study.

DUNIAM: To actually understand what we needed to fund up there.

SINGH: It's welcome but it's certainly very overdue. I think that the electors of Braddon see through it and see that it's just opportune, political point-scoring by the Prime Minister.

DUNIAM: Or delivering in Braddon!

SINGH: But seeing he is in Tasmania; I call on the Prime Minister today to tell Tasmanians whether or not the government is going to rip GST money out of our state.

COMPTON: Let's talk about that this morning. Jonathon Duniam, the GST question is interesting. Saul Eslake and others commented on the fact that the GST projections only run out for one more financial year in the budget of last week. People are concerned about what that actually means for how much GST we'll actually get? 

DUNIAM: Starting with the commitment that was given yesterday by Matthias Corman that Tasmania would not lose one cent of the GST that's been committed to it. In addition to that, the promise that's been made by the State Government here, indeed also the federal Liberal representatives that we will not accept any change that in any way disadvantages Tasmania. I heard Michael Ferguson, I think on your program earlier, saying that every state has the right to veto any change in terms of how funding is distributed under the GST carve-up model. So we've got all of these safeguards, but my commitment, Brett Whiteley's commitment, the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team's commitment, is that we will not allow Tasmania to be in any way worse off when it comes to GST distribution. And the PM will be addressing that today, I'm sure.

SINGH: Jonathon, you know very well that yesterday Minister Matthias Corman did not rule out any future cuts to GST past this budget. He did not give any guarantee-

DUNIAM: I'm not sure how you can read in-

SINGH: He did not give any guarantee past this budget. And we know that past this budget, if that was to occur, then the State Government would have a very difficult time in delivering essential services to the state. So Tasmanians, today, should be given a guarantee by the Prime Minister. As you were alluding to, I think you would like to hear as well that beyond this current federal budget there will be no cuts to Tasmania's GST. That's what we need.

COMPTON: Jonathon?

DUNIAM: Absolutely. I'm sure the PM will be asked these very questions by the press pack up at Cradle Mountain today. The point is though, as I said before, is that there are several mechanisms in place that will ensure that Tasmania has its chance to make sure it is in no way disadvantaged. And that includes the State Government having to agree to any change. That is how the carve-up of GST works. So, to whip up this scare campaign – like you did with Mediscare in the federal election – is something that we have to make sure people understand. This just isn't gonna happen. We're not gonna get the Productivity Commission report and the Government's suddenly going to turn around and say, 'Sorry, we're taking hundreds of millions of dollars'-

SINGH: Well, why won't you release it then?

DUNIAM: Because the Government needs to consider a report to it. It needs to consider how to respond. I want to make sure that I have a chance, as well as my colleagues, to ensure that Tasmania gets its fair share.

COMPTON: Jonathon, can I ask you a question? Should there be a concern in the Tasmanian community, that with a federal election coming up Tasmania's politicians – particularly Liberal politicians – will not fight as hard as they perhaps should on this issue because they don't want to embarrass federal colleagues who are hoping to win back Braddon and Bass and Lyons? So they simply won't kick up as big a stink as they otherwise might have?

DUNIAM: On the issue of GST? I can guarantee you I'll be kicking up a big stink if there's any suggestion, but I'm certain that there won't be. I'm putting my best foot forward, along with my Liberal Senate colleagues, along with Brett Whiteley. We're in the business of standing up for Tasmania, not for anywhere else. That's our job and that's what we'll be doing.

SINGH: I'm pleased that you're going to be doing that Jonathon, but-

DUNIAM: I'd like you to join me.

SINGH: I've made it very clear that we're calling on the Liberals to release this report and make it very clear what the future of Tasmania's GST distribution looks like because of those cuts to essential services. You're saying that you can't release the report because you need to consider it, but in the same breath that there won't be further cuts to the GST. That doesn't make sense.

COMPTON: When will you release the Productivity Commission report? How long do you need to consider it?

DUNIAM: That's a matter for the Treasurer and the Cabinet. They will consider that. The reality is that it's a report to government. The Government then has to respond to that. That's what Australians will need to see-

COMPTON: Did Matthias Corman – when you were hanging out yesterday – say, 'It'll take us about a month to consider this and then we'll put it on the table'?

DUNIAM: I'm not sure he provided a timeline on that, but obviously sooner is better. The sooner Australians know what the Government's response is – and that's what we should be talking about, not just the black and white print of the Productivity Commission report – what the Government intends to do, that's what should matter to Australians and as I say, my contribution to that debate about what the government should do, is to make sure that Tasmania is in no way worse off. 

COMPTON: Of course, the Government will be thinking about the seats it needs to win to retain government or to hold government in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, where these issues play out very differently. They have no seats to hold in Tasmania. 

DUNIAM: We’ve got seats to win back though.

COMPTON: You’ve got seats to win back. So let’s move on to the battle for Braddon. So we’ve got the Prime Minister visiting Braddon today, we’ve got Tanya Plibersek visiting Braddon today, it is all going on. How much of a penalty do you think Justine Keay should face in Braddon because of the fact that she hung on so long in the face of a significant amount of evidence that she was ineligible to sit in parliament?

SINGH: I don’t think she should face any penalty, Leon. I think all sides of politics have followed since 1992 the Sykes v Cleary decision of reasonable steps and even the constitutional experts –Professor Williams, Professor Twomey, Professor Rubenstein – have all come out and said that that is what people have been relying on and that this latest High Court decision really narrows and tightens the definition. So I think that all of the history has shown, including the Australian Electoral Commission’s own website, which up until last week when the decision was handed down had the Sykes v Cleary decision and the reasonable steps argument in that as what someone wanting to stand for federal parliament should rely on to renounce and go through the process of renouncing dual citizenship. That test is the test which has been in place and we've all been using as the yard stick. Constitutional experts have said that it is the yard stick, now we know it's changed, now we know it has tightened and of course we have gone to by-elections to sort it out.

COMPTON: To you Jonathon Duniam, Brett Whitely back to run for the seat. Really challenging for anybody who wants to put their hand up because you're running, you're probably putting in your own money in part and you'll only be there six months to nine months before you've got to face another election. Should we assume now that he is also the candidate if he doesn't win this time around for the next federal election as well?

DUNIAM: Well look we've got a by-election to win first we also have pre-selection processes to go through. Brett is a proven deliverer when it comes to being a member of the federal parliament and the representative for Braddon. He's got a great track record there and that's what he is campaigning on. I hope that the people of Braddon see that.

COMPTON: But he got voted out last time around. Were you hoping that you'd be able to find a new candidate to run the race this time?

DUNIAM: Brett is a great candidate, Brett knows the community. I was campaigning with Brett yesterday and the number of people coming up and saying, ‘Glad you're back in there mate, we are dissatisfied with our local member who hasn't really done much, we haven't seen, we haven't heard from, it's good to have someone who is going to stand up for our community again.’ That is the sort of feedback we were getting so I'm pleased he's back on campaign trail.

SINGH: How can you be standing up for the community when you're going to rip out all of this money out of government coffers to give to the big end of town?

DUNIAM: The fake money, Bill Shorten's-

SINGH: How do you justify it Jonathon? How do you justify it?

COMPTON: Lisa Singh, let's ask for a specific from you and then we'll get Jonathon Duniam to respond. Your party is running very hard on a TAFE campaign – making allegations about funding for TAFE in Tasmania into the future. What specifically are you saying the Liberal party are doing with TAFE in Tasmania?

SINGH: What we are saying in our budget is of course that we are going to ensure that 100,000 TAFE places are without fees. That was part of Bill Shorten's budget reply and we are asking the government to match our policy, and look at our policy in terms of fairness for the people of Braddon. Similarly with hospitals and schools and all the other areas we have announced that we will ensure that funding is not ripped out of which this government is not ensuring and they are the things that matter to people in Braddon. Whether their kids are going to get a decent education, whether they are going to be able to get a VET course that they don't have to pay a lot of money for. These are not things that Brett Whitely wants to talk about because he knows his government are not going to go down that path – they're giving money to the big end of town instead. 

COMPTON: Jonathon Duniam?

DUNIAM: It's interesting that Lisa characterises companies like the Elphinstone Group which employs hundreds of people on the north-west coast or Petuna Seafood for instance which also employs hundreds of people on the north-west coast as the big end of town. Lisa also fails to mention one thing which is jobs, people want to have jobs so they can pay their mortgage, so they can take their kids on a holiday, so they pay for medical expenses, pay for all the things they need to run a household. That's something we need to be focused on, so this characterisation of businesses on the north-west coast – ten in Braddon alone – which Lisa and the Labor party characterise as the big end of town, employing hundreds if not thousands of north-west coasters is not right. You've got to remember also Lisa that the budget does guarantee funding for essential services. $2.3 billion in terms of the state federal health partnership agreement. Guaranteeing the essential services in an affordable way. We can pay for that, we don't have to borrow to pay for those things. So to talk about not providing essential services is not right, but we also want to make sure people have jobs.

COMPTON: But it would be applying a hit to the budget – forgone revenue – through these tax cuts. Saul Eslake says that there is little evidence overseas when you cut the company tax rate that it particularly boosts investment and jobs.

DUNIAM: But by the same token we do see when people have extra revenue because they are not providing that money back to the government to churn back through the coffers of Canberra, that they will reinvest, that they will put on an extra employee. I know of one brewery here in Hobart amongst many others, one of these craft beer brewers, who as a result of the changes announced in the budget will save a significant amount of money. I understand seventy thousand dollars – meaning they will now put on an extra person to increase their operations. It's that sort of stuff. Free up the cash and allow them to invest.    

SINGH: I don't think craft brewers are the big end of town!

DUNIAM: It's one example.

COMPTON: You’re on mornings around Tasmania. It's ‘Senators in Space’ with Senators Lisa Singh and Jonathon Duniam.

Whose leadership is more at stake here? It's very unusual in positions like these for the opposition to lose seats in these sorts of by-elections. What does it say about Bill Shorten's leadership, or will it raise questions about Bill Shorten's leadership of the party Lisa Singh, if you lose seats in this suite of by-elections that are coming up?

SINGH: I think these by-elections, or the Super Saturday that it's been termed, is a real test of difference between the two parties. I think that is playing out very clearly, made very clear last week between both Scott Morrison's budget and Bill Shorten's budget reply. Today our shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, will address the National Press Club and make even further contributions based on what Bill Shorten gave in the parliament last week. So I think out of all that, you'll see a stark difference between two parties which will allow the voters in Braddon and all of those other seats to make a decision based on what they see, what I argue for, which is fairness. Fairness for people in Braddon.

COMPTON: I want to pull you away from your political talking points just for the moment, I'm asking about-

SINGH: I find that a bit critical, Leon.

COMPTON: No, because what you're doing is making it about your party versus the opposition.

SINGH: Well it is.

COMPTON: I'm asking you about what sort of an audit the Labor Party should take about your leadership if you lose seats at this suite of by-elections?

SINGH: I think we're jumping at shadows. We haven't had Election Day occur yet, and we haven't lost seats, and we certainly don't intend to lose any seats. We certainly intend to campaign really hard and ensure that the voters know the differences between the two parties, and that's what I was trying to just outline to you before. And of course those differences do mean a difference between a Bill Shorten leadership style and him as a future Prime Minister compared to the current style of Malcolm Turnbull. That's what's playing out on the ground right now, both here in Braddon and of course in those other seats States in the country as well.

COMPTON: Jonathon Duniam, been really interesting to watch the conversation about women in the Liberal Party. It's come up because Jane Prentice, a sitting member, has been de-selected to run at the upcoming federal election. Can you explain what's happening in Tasmania at the moment to make sure you preselect women in winnable spots on your Senate ticket next time around, and in the seats that you don't hold, which is obviously the south, but particularly the most winnable seats in Bass, Braddon, and Lyons?

DUNIAM: One thing that has been happening since the 2016 Federal election, and there's been a lot of commentary around the gender balance or lack of, in terms of our Federal representation, is that there has been concerted efforts, very significant efforts to make sure that we are out there working to approach and attract candidates, female candidates, to be a part of our campaign team running forward. We saw in the state election a terrific representation of female candidates in the state team and I am hopeful that we will see a replication of that when we come to announce and preselect our candidates for the federal – both Senate and lower house – seats in due course.

COMPTON: Can you guarantee that the Liberal Party in Tasmania will have women in winnable spots on the Senate ticket and for the Reps?

DUNIAM: Look, I'm not a preselector as a parliamentarian, but it is my very, very, very, very strong hope that we will. I would love to guarantee it but I'm not a part of that process, but I'll be working as hard as I possibly can in whatever way I can to make sure that is the outcome.

COMPTON: Lisa Singh, should Australia consider moving our embassy to Jerusalem? People will have seen on ABC TV News last night the picture of, in one case, people being shot in what appeared to be essentially a dust bowl, armed with rocks, by snipers from the other side. This has come off the back of the United States moving their embassy to Jerusalem along with a host of other issues, should Australia consider the same choice?

SINGH: No. No, Leon. Australia recognises that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel, not Jerusalem. That Jerusalem in fact is an area that both Israel and Palestine claim and therefore remains a disputed area that needs to be resolved through a two-state solution. What we've seen though, overnight, is absolutely shocking and tragic and we call on Israel to desist. Israel's attacks have been disproportionate. I think they've been unjustifiable. I think that Palestinian people have the right to peacefully protest, and I hope that today Israel desists and stops the use of those drones and shooting tear gas into people, including children, in Gaza.

COMPTON: Jonathon?

DUNIAM: Look, as Lisa says the Australian government, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, have made clear the Australian government’s position on where the capital and the embassy will be based, but look it is a complex matter. It's not one I feel adequately equipped to provide commentary on, but as Lisa points out it is something that has been remarked upon by the PM and that's the government's position.

COMPTON: And finally this morning, just to lighten the mood slightly. Who of you will be sitting up in front of the TV on Saturday night to watch a little bit of the royal wedding?

SINGH: Jonathon and I were just talking about this in the corridor and I didn't even realise it was on this Saturday night. No, Leon, instead I will be going to watch the mighty Kangaroos play GWS at Bellerive Oval and hope that a better fairy tale plays out there.

COMPTON: Jonathon?

DUNIAM: I admitted last weekend that I am a Eurovision tragic, so I am more excited by things like that than I am about royal weddings frankly, and I think I've burnt my TV brownie point credits in my household.

COMPTON: Well this is the other issue of course; you may be told what's going to be on the television on Saturday.

DUNIAM: Yeah, and it'll be something like Finding Dory or something like that I suspect. Plus my in-laws are down so that sort of cancels out any good TV viewing.

SINGH: Are you a republican, Jonathon?

DUNIAM: I'm a: ‘If-the-model-works-lets-not-bother-tinkering-around-with-it.’

SINGH: So what's that?

DUNIAM: I don't see a real reason to change, but I'm not out there waving Union Jacks and wearing a crown.

SINGH: Okay, I might lobby you to be part to be part of our Australian Head of State Movement?

DUNIAM: We spend enough time together!

COMPTON: I like it. I think we should have more of asking questions of each other, maybe for next time around on Senators on Space, and to both of you; thank you for coming in this morning. I appreciate it.