612 ABC with Steve Austin

05 November 2014


SUBJECT/S: Climate Change and the G20; Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement; Female Participation in Government; Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey; World Game Multicultural Festival in Rankin

STEVE AUSTIN: Let’s ask the two Federal Parliamentarians, mercifully two backbenchers, what songs would torture them. Jim Chalmers is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin so what would it be for you Jim?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Steve we listen to Triple J at home and there was a song “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” by Fatboy Slim and whenever that came on it was not a popular choice in our household. So probably that.

AUSTIN: C’mon you’re being a politician. You actually turn the radio off when it comes on don’t you?

CHALMERS: No we switch it over to something else for the duration of that song. And I’ve got to push back against Joanna. I mean, Powderfinger – that’s an atrocious choice! They’re heroes in Brisbane. We can’t cop that.

AUSTIN: And for Andrew Laming, Federal Liberal Member for Bowman, Andrew if I wanted to torture you what would I play?

ANDREW LAMING: Well Steve I don’t want you to cut me off mate but it’s Mumford and Sons -

AUSTIN: Keep talking if you can, I’m just going to cut you off.

LAMING: Closely followed by Celine Dion, on behalf of my dog.

AUSTIN: Thanks for coming in gentlemen.  The G20. What does Australia want out of this, and we’ll start with Andrew Laming first of all.  What will be the measurable achievement that we get for all the inconvenience, the headache and expense of holding the G20 in Brisbane? How will we know if it is worth it?

LAMING: Well they’ll be medium- and long-term outcomes Steve, I mean we are talking about maximising economic growth and well how do you measure that?  Well you are looking at long term targets for growth and optimising trade opportunities.

AUSTIN: Well isn’t that easy to measure? New business, growth and employment going up?

LAMING: Well and the question is can we attribute that to the G20 in some causal way. Sceptics will say we would be going meet at some time anyway but Australia played a key role in its presidency of having those economic outcomes as a G20 focus.

AUSTIN:  Okay Jim Chalmers what do you think would be – you’ve actually been in the Federal Treasurer’s office, I assume for the planning for this or was it a bit early for you?

CHALMERS:  No definitely involved in this and a small part of the decision to bring it to Brisbane. I think it’s going to be a really proud weekend for Brisbane to have the G20 here. It’s been fascinating walking around the studio downstairs this morning and seeing the preparations that are going on around the place. They’re even steam-cleaning the ferris wheel from what I can tell, so they’re not cutting any corners -

AUSTIN: I missed that -

CHALMERS: Putting on Brisbane’s best face. But it is a really big opportunity for Australia – the G20. Every Australian has an interest in us going well. We support the objective of the Government to try and lift, or play a part in lifting, global growth because that means jobs. We also support things like building more infrastructure around the region and around the world, those are all easy to support.  There are important things on the agenda but unfortunately there are some important things not on the agenda. We would like to see some proper progress made on climate change for example. We would like to see proper progress -

AUSTIN:  Let me jump in there, if it was so important why didn’t the biggest stakeholder, the US put it on the agenda? I said this to Dave Nakimura from the Washington Post this morning.  Everyone says it’s important and should be on the agenda but US President Barack Obama didn’t put it there.

CHALMERS:  Well the agenda is in the hands of the host – the President of the G20 which is Australia. The Prime Minister -

AUSTIN: So we should have put it there?

CHALMERS: Of course, of course we should have -

AUSTIN:  Andrew Laming, why didn’t we put it there?

LAMING:  Well I didn’t make that decision but I think that the agenda is already very very packed, and I also see that in the final two years of an Obama presidency, the odds of the US taking the lead in these discussions was slim as you’ve evidenced. And finally there are other forums where climate change is specifically the topic of discussion for economies that aren’t necessarily in the G20 and as I’ve said for a long time it requires all of our trading competitors, not just our trading partners, and many of those aren’t in the G20.

AUSTIN:  Okay, point taken and sorry I will come back to you, Jim Chalmers. Sorry.

CHALMERS:  There are important things on the agenda and important things missing – climate change is one of them, rising global inequality is another issue that should be on the agenda, proper multilateral trade progress. So we want the Government to succeed in their objectives but we also think that there are some missed opportunities on the agenda. The other thing of course is multinational tax avoidance which the government says that they want to progress but unfortunately are taking some backward steps in their own actions here at home. So we want them to succeed but we think there are important things missing.

AUSTIN:  What are the backward steps in your view?

CHALMERS:  Well in their first mid-year Budget update they actually re-opened some big loopholes - $1.1billion worth of loopholes in the multi-national tax system that Labor had closed in Government. That is a step backwards.  Most of the world wants to crack down and close these sorts of loopholes. The Government through Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott say they want to close down these loopholes but their actions are doing the opposite here at home.

AUSTIN: Anything you want to say in regards to that Andrew Laming?

LAMING:  Well Jim has been very generous about our approach to the G20 in general but with what he refers to as a step back I mean there were basically some Labor policies that we elected not to continue but we have our own agenda for international tax avoidance and they’ve progressed quite well.  Clearly those reforms take years not months so it’s unlikely you’d achieve significant progress in a G20 year – but you’ve got the ball rolling and that’s the important part.

AUSTIN:  This is 612 ABC Brisbane – my two Federal Parliamentarians this morning are Andrew Laming – Andrew is the Federal Liberal Member for Bowman – and Jim Chalmers is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin and Steve Austin is my name – its 18 minutes to 10.

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Australia is negotiating with the US at the moment. Apparently Andrew Robb is really putting in a lot of spade work on this and you hear a lot of theories and things a little bit conspiratorial around it and it is fairly opaque. So, exactly what is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

LAMING:  Well, it’s 12 economies that are figuratively around the Pacific Rim that are working together. Obviously Australia and the US are the two largest economies involved but it’s basically -

CHALMERS: Apart from Japan of course -

LAMING:  Yes well said – one of our largest trading partners. So we are a key player in that area. We basically want to reduce the barriers to trade and maximise the opportunities in both the goods and services sector and I think Australia is quite well aware just how difficult it is to do business with some of these countries at the moment and so with what we would call a multilateral agreement, these nations are coming together on a common platform. Then there is a relative advantage for those that signed up early and we were an originating country in this process.

AUSTIN:  So what are we talking about?

LAMING:  Some examples would be making it easier to trade in services not just in goods. I mean obviously maximising trade, making it easier to recognise qualifications across boundaries. Many of these things are an enormous frustration for people and we take them for granted. If we have that first step into Asia where we recognise them as equals and find an agreement and then allow that kind of exchange, then we are a wealthier country as a result.

AUSTIN:  Alright – why is Japan not a part of this given how important they are to us?

CHALMERS:  No they are – they are.

AUSTIN: They are?

LAMING: They are but they are still quite a complex and have often been slow to develop these partnerships.  Australia obviously now has got the bilateral agreement and a free trade agreement but this is the next step in a more complex process.

AUSTIN:  Alright Andrew Laming thank you.  Jim Chalmers I assume this one was started by the Labor party was it?

CHALMERS:  It was, yeah.  Negotiations began in Melbourne in 2010 under Labor.  This is a huge potential deal. It’s about forty per cent of global economy, about a quarter of global trade and as Andrew said involves countries around Asia.  Some really big economies – Japan, the US, Canada, Mexico – some really big ones – Vietnam has a big, potentially larger, economy.

AUSTIN:  And what’s in it for us?

CHALMERS:  Well there are all kind of opportunities here in terms of market access with the countries that we don’t currently have bilateral deals with, but also trade in services including financial services, all sorts of issues around intellectual property and the like.  We think it is an important negotiation to be a part of in the Labor Party, but we do have some concerns as well.  We want to make sure that environmental and labour standards are upheld, we want to make sure that the balance between people who create intellectual property and use it is not radically altered and we genuinely take a dim view to agreements that give foreign companies legal rights that our domestic companies don’t enjoy. So, we come to this -

AUSTIN: There’s all this - the conspiracy I’ve seen is involving that in particular, that particular element of whether or not it’s a level playing field.

CHALMERS: Correct. But it’s not it’s not necessarily a conspiracy. I mean, a lot of the information we’ve seen so far has come out of the WikiLeaks process and. -

AUSTIN: Which hasn’t been very positive quite frankly!

CHALMERS: Correct. People want to see more transparency when it comes to these deals.  Actually the big thing that’s worrying people is in terms of the pharmaceuticals and the potential capacity for the TPP to jack up the price of medicines. I know that Andrew Robb has made some comments about that in the last few weeks. But that is the thing that is really troubling people - the potential for some of the pharmaceutical patents to be lengthened in a way that means that Australians wouldn’t access generic medicines as quickly as otherwise. That’s what’s really getting people worried. That’s why we want to see the text of the agreement before it’s signed. We want to see that sort of transparency from the Trade Minister so that Australians know what they’re getting into before the Government signs it.

AUSTIN: Andrew, do you know when that text will be made public?  Like when is it sort of due to be signed off on? Do you know?

LAMING: No I don’t. I mean, there’s huge strands to these negotiations and with big pharmaceuticals in particular, already we know that companies have thickets of patent protection to these drugs. So it’s a pre-existing problem identifying when we can release a generic. But at every level you got digital IP, you’re looking at state-owned enterprises having advantages over for instances our airlines that compete in a private space. There’s many areas where we can also benefit.

AUSTIN: This is 612 ABC Brisbane. Andrew Laming I’ll start with you because this relates to your side of politics. You’re getting all the hard ones this week Andrew, I’m sorry. But there’s a new group for women inside the Coalition setup by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin to mentor and promote female coalition staffers apparently. What’s it all about? What can you tell me?

LAMING: Well, I just don’t see how it’s newsworthy? It’s fabulous that we have groups getting together in any professional workplace, be it based on gender, or -

AUSTIN: Its newsworthy because she forgot to invite our Foreign Minister, the most powerful woman in Cabinet. That’s why it’s news worthy!


LAMING: But look we have journal clubs, book clubs, everywhere you’ve got ways to building capacity amongst your team.  My personal preference is to have entrepreneur and young leader programs that can have a theme that may be gender-based because I think that’s the best way to do it.  But I think if you choose to have an all-female group, I just regret that I can’t be there, though I may have do a Mrs Doubtfire impersonation trying get a gig.  Here you have half of all Coalitions Chiefs of Staff are female – they’re doing it very very well and to have that kind of capacity, encouraging new female arrivals in Parliament House I think is a great thing.

AUSTIN: The implication seems to be that Peta Credlin is worried about female Coalition staffers not being mentored, not being promoted, not being assisted through the ranks of the Coalition. That’s what looks to be the sub-text if you like.

LAMING: Well, we’re seizing the moment while we have a female Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister to set this group up. I think while you’ve got half of all your Chiefs of Staff being female, you’ve already hit a very important milestone. Let’s recognise that.  In my office alone, most of my staff are female. They’ll certainly want to be part of the group, and I think we should be wishing them all the best.

AUSTIN: There is Emily’s List but is there anything in the Labor Party itself, Jim Chalmers, that promotes and mentors female staffers and people?

CHALMERS:  Absolutely. Via Emily’s List as you said, but also other sorts of structures of mentoring. I support what Peta Credlin’s trying to do, because I think that we should be putting as much effort as we can into encouraging female participation in politics at all levels. I think the country is better served when our political talent is drawn from the broadest and deepest possible pools.  So I say well done.  If we’re going to be honest though about women’s participation in politics, we do need to point out that we have an atrocious situation now where we have one female Cabinet Minister out of 19. A fifth of what Labor has in the Shadow Cabinet. The Cabinet of Afghanistan has three women. The Cabinet of Iran has two women, and in Australia, embarrassingly we have one. So I think if the Government is serious about female participation in politics, then they should fix that problem.

AUSTIN: I’ve once fallen for that trick in the past, but it’s not a fair analogy because in Islam, a woman’s worth is only half that of a man. Under the actual Sharia code, it’s a very questionable analysis to draw. If you’re counting just a headcount, maybe, in terms of whether they’re listened to that’s different.

CHALMERS: I don’t know whether I want to go there.

AUSTIN: Avoid it for all it’s worth!

CHALMERS:  But I do think there is a serious point that a country like ours – a first-world, first-rate country – should be able to do better than one 19th of the Cabinet being women. I applaud what Peta Credlin is doing, but I say to the Government – to Tony Abbott – if we want to have a Government that’s reflective of the Australian people, we can do better than one out of nineteen.

AUSTIN: It’s 10 minutes to 10. Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister has really impressed many people across the board. Is she Prime Minister material, Andrew Laming?

LAMING: Well, there’s a number of people that are and that’s an important thing. The Coalition has a pretty broad and diversely talented thing, and she’s one of them, that’s for sure.

AUSTIN: You’re avoiding the question.

CHALMERS: In what way is it diverse?

AUSTIN: Is she Prime Ministerial material? It would look on popularity she is.

LAMING: I think I said yes, among a number of others.


CHALMERS: I have no idea how that Cabinet is diverse. But I think the reason that people are saying -

AUSTIN: They’ve got wets and dries that’s why!

LAMING: We’ve got people from all sorts of jobs before politics, that’s why.

CHALMERS: I think the reason people are saying that Julie Bishop’s doing a good job – I don’t have anything against her personally – but I think the reason they’re saying that is because all the others – Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison, all the others – are not doing particularly well whether it’s internally or in the public eye. And in comparison to those other jokers; I think that Julie Bishop is doing a better job than Joe Hockey, for example.

AUSTIN: This is 612 ABC Brisbane. Let me give you the chance to tell me what’s on your agenda, what you think is important in the work that you’re doing at the moment. Anything that you’re working on at the moment, Andrew Laming?

LAMING: Sure, so my main interest is the bookends of school and formal education. So that’s 0-5 year old children. I’ve worked with my local Medicare Local to hook up every General Practitioner in the area to start to identify vulnerable 0-5’s systematically and get them interventions, allied health and special educators prior to turning up at school. That’s an important area.  The second is really connecting young school graduates into the workforce. And so I’m working on these participation requirements. The Government’s changes to make sure that people are earning or learning and not going straight on to welfare.

AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers what about for you, what’s on your radar?

CHALMERS: Well I’ve got broad interest in the economy, and some of the educational pathways that Andrew mentioned, particularly in my case for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. That’s really my passion – how we get them the opportunities they deserve.  But right now with what’s going on around the world and what’s going on at home, my very specific focus is about building cohesion in our local community. We’ve got a very big event coming up next Monday which is a World Game Multicultural Festival with some of the soccer guys from SBS. We’re having a huge festival at Griffith University Logan Campus at Meadowbrook there. Everyone is welcome. We want to do what we can to build support for cohesion and multiculturalism. That means getting people together, whether it’s sport, whether it’s education, whatever way we can so that we have a cohesive and harmonious community. That’s really my focus right now in Rankin.

AUSTIN: Any word on Vladimir Putin whether Tony Abbott and Vladimir are going to get together privately and have a talk?

LAMING: Well we’re hoping all G20 leaders will be there. My understanding was that there weren’t individual meetings between those two arranged in the itinerary.

AUSTIN: Okay. That’s sad. It would have been nice to hear them have a heart-to-heart.

LAMING: I’m getting a look from Jim saying ‘will there be shirt-fronting’.

AUSTIN: Alright chaps, thanks for coming in.

CHALMERS: Thanks so much.

LAMING: Thanks.

AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers and Andrew Laming. Andrew is the Federal Liberal Member for Bowman, Jim Chalmers is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin.