Sky News AM Agenda - Interview with David Lipson

Release Date: 
1 October 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: National Reform Summit, Labor’s opposition to ChAFTA, Liberal Party membership, New Turnbull Government.

DAVID LIPSON:
Alan Tudge, thanks very much for your time today.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good morning.

DAVID LIPSON:
This major reform meeting today, it seems the Prime Minister is managing expectations as to the outcome. What will be achieved?

ALAN TUDGE:
The most important objective of today is for our key economic ministers and the Prime Minister to listen to what the convenors of the National Reform Summit have to say – what conclusions have they come to, and why? That’s the first point.

The second point will be that hopefully we can get some consensus around what the objectives of economic reform should be. In our view, that should be that it must address the budgetary position; it must assist with economic growth; it must assist with overall job creation. Those types of objectives. Let’s see if we can get some consensus around those.

Then of course the third point is having got those objectives nailed down, then what are the specific measures. We’re not going to get to those today, they are for a later time, but most importantly is to listen to what they’ve got to say.

DAVID LIPSON:
You may not get to them today, but perhaps one of the lowest hanging fruit it seems where there are indications of consensus is superannuation concessions, the winding back of that. Now, the government previously opposed that, now everything is very much on the table.

We’re certainly hearing from unions, business, Labor, all want to see this reigned in. Where is the government at on that now?

ALAN TUDGE:
The government’s open to looking at every single tax whereas in the past, you’re right, we did have a stated position that we wouldn’t be touching anything in the superannuation domain. Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear that everything is on the table so that may well come up for discussion today. As will other taxes and other economic reform opportunities. So we’ve got to be very broad in terms of our thinking here.

Our overall objective of course is to grow the economy and to create more jobs and more wealth and more prosperity as well as keeping the budget under control. That’s our objective and there’s a number of ways which we can do that.

We need to bring the Australian people along with us and if this meeting today can help in achieving a broader consensus then that will be a useful thing.

DAVID LIPSON:
Speaking of consensus, reports we’re seeing that Labor may be shifting its position when it comes to opposition to elements of the free trade deal. The Financial Review suggesting today that Labor wants to enable protection of local jobs but leave the deal itself untouched.

The government must welcome that, but how will you approach what seems to be a shift from Labor?

ALAN TUDGE:
We’d welcome any constructive suggestion from the Labor Party in relation to this. But perhaps what would be more constructive from the Labor Party would be to tell the CFMEU to stop their xenophobic, racist campaign based on lies.

We know very clearly and categorically, it’s been stated in Senate estimates by government officials, that under this free trade agreement, there still must be testing going on to ensure an Australian gets the first opportunity for a job.

It’s only if there are no Australians available, then you can import people to do those particular jobs. So the Labor Party could make a very constructive move today and call off the CFMEU from their destructive, xenophobic campaign.

DAVID LIPSON:
If there was no specific mention of the China Free Trade Agreement in any amendment, would that be something the government would accept?

ALAN TUDGE:
We’re happy to look at the details of what their proposals are but let’s be clear about this. Under the current regime, you cannot get a 457 VISA before first giving an opportunity for an Australian worker to take that job. That is what the law is presently.

They’ve been running this campaign suggesting that under the free trade agreement, all of a sudden we’re going to have a flood of Chinese workers in but that’s not the case. The law hasn’t changed in relation to the 457 VISA programme.

DAVID LIPSON:
I want to look at a story that has been reported about Liberal Party members particularly in some of the southern states, Victoria and Tasmania, abandoning the party or at least threatening to do so since the change to Malcolm Turnbull. Have you noticed anything like that in Victoria and if so, how bad is the problem?

ALAN TUDGE:
There have been a few dozen members who have thrown in their membership, if you like, resigned from the party. We don’t want that to occur and we’re encouraging those people to reconsider their position and to sign up again.

Having said that, we’re actually had more people join the party in the past two weeks, at least in Victoria, than we’ve had step down from the party. That’s a very positive sign for us.

DAVID LIPSON:
So for Eric Abetz for example to send out a note, a newsletter urging people not to resign from the party, not to hand in their badges, is that helpful?

ALAN TUDGE:
That is helpful because there certainly are members who have been disappointed with the change and we’re all trying to encourage them to say ‘listen, let’s take a breather, don’t put in your resignation for your membership. Reconsider your position and give Malcolm Turnbull a chance.’

Malcolm Turnbull like any Liberal leader will be in charge of a broad church which covers the Liberal spectrum as well as the conservative spectrum. Now we need to combine those two and he’ll be very effective I think in combining those two philosophical streams.

We’ve still got the conservative members in the Cabinet in the form of Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, Josh Frydenberg and the like. We need to be a broad church and we will be. So we’re absolutely encouraging people to stay members of the party or re-join the party if they’ve already resigned from it.

DAVID LIPSON:
It seems that there is an air of positivity around and that’s probably to be expected in the honeymoon period. But have you noticed that things are easier for you to operate now with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister?

We saw for example pictures of Cassandra Goldie and Kate Carnell holding hands about 20 minutes ago here in the corridors of Parliament. An unusual picture.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yes I think there is an element of optimism in the broader community and in the business community in relation to Malcolm Turnbull being the Prime Minister and the new Cabinet being in place. It’s early days, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

We need to live up to expectations that we’ve set and we’ve got some big challenges still in front of us. I think we’ve got a very good team in place and we can meet those challenges and bring the Australian people along with us.

DAVID LIPSON:
Alan Tudge, thanks so much for joining us.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much David.

[ENDS]