Sky with Craig Laundy

28 May 2015


SUBJECT/S: FIFA Corruption Allegations; Marriage Equality; South China Sea, China FTA; GST; State of Origin

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me now, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Opposition Leader, Jim Chalmers, and also Liberal MP, Craig Laundy. Given how much money Australia spent for the 2022 bid that Qatar ended up winning – we got one vote – there’s a fair bit of focus on this here too.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: There’s been some focus on this for a while, yeah. Lots of commentary, lots of people think it’s all a bit fishy. The difficult thing for us is now that there’s this investigation, you’re not supposed to comment on these ongoing investigations. But, anyone that’s been following it – anyone you talk to in your junior soccer clubs around the community – there’s a lot of people who think it’s very fishy this whole process.

GILBERT: It’s a shame isn’t it when you think about what a great sport it is, and that spectacle – the biggest event in world sport and underneath it, you’ve got these quite extraordinary allegations Craig?

LAUNDY: It’s been the latest – I mean Jim’s right there’s been a lot of talk behind the scenes. And it’s hard for us as elected officials to talk on allegations in effect, and then there’ll be enquiries and court cases, but there’s a lot of talk on a grassroots level. And there are allegations this morning as I understand it, that the consultant that was helping us in our bid for Qatar has been implicated, so that’s another interesting development if that is – I heard it on the ABC Radio this morning – so if that is correct it’s another interesting twist, I guess.

GILBERT: We’ll have full updates throughout the day, and Sepp Blatter expected to make some comments throughout the day – he had a spokesman out there and that was all at this stage. But as I say, updates throughout the morning. But let’s move on to the issue of same sex marriage. Labor has moved this private member’s bill. The Prime Minister yesterday sought to say that this is a Parliament’s decision, that’s fair enough, isn’t it?

CHALMERS: It is fair enough. Too right it’s a parliament decision, and we should get on with it. I think a country like ours which is modern and forward-looking should have the confidence as a national parliament to say that we shouldn’t exclude some of our citizens from the institution of marriage. I’m a big supporter of marriage equality. I’ve been on the record for some years now along those lines. I think that whatever the process is, we’ve got to focus on the outcome. And too often when it comes to these kind of outcomes, we focus on the process. Our end game, our aspiration, our ambition is to have marriage equality in Australia and whatever gives that the greatest chance of happening, I’m for.

GILBERT: Yeah, there’s a suggestion the Liberal Party is heading toward a conscience vote, I know your position remains opposed to same sex marriage, as is the Prime Minister’s.

LAUNDY: Yeah, look I think one of the main points the Prime Minister made in his first answer in Question Time – and it has been missing from the debate, I think – is he asked for respect on both sides of the fence. This is an issue that divides – has a history of dividing. I have a view, Jim has a view. I respect that Jim has a view. I’m not here to shove my view down someone’s throat and I don’t appreciate that every time you speak on this publicly. This is a matter of conscience for me. It’s a matter of my faith. There are people that are in the same position as me. But the interesting point about this is – different to the Labor Party – the Liberal Party in effect, every vote is a free vote. We can cross the floor whenever we like if we disagree with a position that the Government takes, and we don’t get thrown out of the party.

GILBERT: That’s true, but the frontbench can’t.

LAUNDY: They’re tied in, yeah true. But as a backbencher, in matters of conscience – and this is the tough part for me – well, not a tough part – my faith drives my conscience. So that’s why I take the position I take.

GILBERT: Yeah, fair enough. But I guess, given the principle that the Liberal Party pursues on everything else – that MPs should have a conscience vote – that this is where it should head? In terms of your party, I know some of your colleagues – Josh Frydenberg in this studio expressed his long-standing support for marriage equality.

LAUNDY: Yeah, Josh is a good mate of mine and I know his position on it as well. Look, the party room will ultimately decide it, but my gut feel is that it’s heading that way. But it’s only a gut feel,  no one is out there doing numbers. We’ve got the Budget on, there are other issues that are front and centre in our minds at the moment. But I don’t know where it will actually go.

GILBERT: What do you say to the suggestion that it was cynical the timing by Mr Shorten on this matter, to bring it forward ahead of the Labor Conference where his deputy had sought a binding vote for Labor MPs – not only a conscience vote, but binding the other way. Her resolution was to ensure that you all voted in favour of same sex marriage.

CHALMERS: I think when it comes to an important issue like this, with the principles involved, we’ve got to try and resist the temptation to try and wrap it in some sort of political motive. We have said for some time, and Tanya Plibersek has been flagging for I think a year or so, that she wants to be part of a Bill in the Parliament. She’s been talking to Craig’s colleagues about trying to get some bipartisanship so that the Parliament would own the outcome that I personally want to see. It’s no secret that Labor’s position is for marriage equality. For Bill to move a private members’ bill, seconded by Tanya Plibersek, to put it on the table, to try and enlist the help of people from all parties in the place, that’s the right way to go about it. Ideally, from my point of view, the Parliament would own an outcome that says to gay Australians that they shouldn’t be excluded from marriage.

GILBERT: It must be tricky – I mean we have discussed this before – the Prime Minister’s personal position – he says he’s the last in his family to hold this view, with his sister as well a very strong supporter of same sex marriage – it’s a tough personal choice for him, as it is I guess for many people in the Parliament at a personal level.

LAUNDY: As I said earlier, it’s a tough choice on either side. I’m driven by my beliefs, and there are those on the other side who are driven by theirs. And the key, as I go back to, is that we respect each other’s opinion. We conduct ourselves like adults, we don’t politic like Jim just said and I agree with that, and we don’t abuse those that don’t have the same view that we have. We work our way through it and I agree with what the Prime Minister has said and what Jim has already said, that the Parliament owns this decision.

GILBERT: Let’s take a break. Back in just a moment with Craig Laundy and Jim Chalmers.


GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me this morning Jim Chalmers and Craig Laundy. Gentleman, this issue of – John Garnaut reporting this in Fairfax papers The Herald and The Age – that China is installing weaponry on these contested island – not even islands, but man made islands in the South China Sea. This at the time when we’re preparing to ink the Free Trade Agreement – The Australian reporting there that this is going to happen next month – just shows you how difficult this is – precarious this – for us at a security level with our ally US but also on an economic level, our biggest trading partner, Jim.

CHALMERS: When it comes to the islands, it’s really important that all of the countries involved work calmly through any issues to de-escalate any of these sorts of tensions. We’ve said in the Opposition, we’ve said to the Government, Tanya Plibersek has said this morning that we’d be up for a briefing on any non-civilian use of the islands. When it comes to the China FTA, we learned in estimates this week that the text of the agreement was finalised three weeks ago. We’ve been calling on the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, to release the text. If the Government is fair dinkum about us supporting the China FTA, they should give us a look at the thing. It’s been ready for three weeks.

GILBERT: Your instinct should be to support it, surely?

CHALMERS: We’ll vote for whatever is in the national interest. We’d like to see the thing. We don’t want to sign up for something before we’ve read the text of it. We know it’s ready. It’s been ready for three weeks. There’s no reason not to put it on the table so the Parliament can look at it, so we can work out whether it’s in the national interest or not. If it’s in the national interest, we’ll vote for it.

GILBERT: If China is doing this, as John Garnaut reports today, it’s a worry because it increases the risk of a confrontation, a mistake, in an already tense region.

LAUNDY: Obviously, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China – all in that precinct – but our position is actually pretty clear – it almost sounds a little Yes, Minister insofar as we don’t have a position other than free access and safe passage through that for everyone. So if the stories are correct this morning, that will be tested out over the coming weeks. But yeah, it is a contested region and our job – we have bilateral relations with all involved. Diplomacy is the key.

GILBERT: It is obviously precarious for Australia, I guess the question is – is this China flexing its increased muscles? It’s more powerful economically and I guess it’s reflecting that in terms of its regional behaviour.

LAUNDY: Man-made islands are a little unusual. I don’t think we envisaged those when we were looking at agreements earlier on. Look it is a region which is of economic interest to us. We have to work cooperatively with all involved. But the key is as long as passage is safe and free through that region for all.

GILBERT: Indeed, let’s look at the GST now. This debate around the sanitary and health products. Jim, the question that’s been put to Labor is if you support it now, why didn’t you make some effort in Government to change that anomaly.

CHALMERS: Should have, is the short answer. This is an important change that should happen. The Government unfortunately is all at sea on it. We don’t get a straight answer from Abbott or Hockey whether they’re for it or against it, they need to clarify that. But we do think that when it comes to women’s hygiene products, they should be GST-exempt. The Government has an opening here. They’ve got the extra GST coming in on Netflix. They should talk to the states and get an agreement and we should fix this.

GILBERT: It does seem odd given the other exemptions. I know that there are economists like Saul Eslake who have said that we shouldn’t be talking about reducing the base or tweaking it to that extent, we should be talking about expanding the base of revenue from the GST. But if it’s not going to be broadened, this anomaly is quite odd, given other health products are exempt.

LAUNDY: Kieran, the frustrating part as a backbencher is that we’re months away – we keep having discussions in silos on taxation. We are months away from a whitepaper. We need broad-based tax reform. Not just GST focussing on that. Not just super. Not just company tax, small business. We need to sit down. Tax is a wide-ranging thing, and it shouldn’t be looked at in silos. What hasn’t been considered, for example, with the proposed changes whether they go ahead or not is the compliance cost. I mean one of the biggest complaints I get from small businesses in my electorate – and I’ve done it – is filling in BAS statements. The time it takes, invoices that you generate as a business. Some goods attract GST, some don’t. There’s massive red tape and compliance cost tied up in this. There’s no doubt that broadening the base and applying it to everything simplifies it, and the GST is an effective tax on that front, but we shouldn’t just be talking about this individual product. This just makes a mockery of the whole process. We should be looking at tax from one end to the other and be working with the Opposition to come up with something. If we’re going to sit down on the next thirty years and rely on bracket creep, we’re joking, and that’s what we need to change.

CHALMERS: With respect to you Craig, that’s an excuse not to have a view on this specific issue. I mean, what’s your view on this specific issue? Should they be in the GST net or not? Because that’s the question before politicians right now.

LAUNDY: Yes they should. I would be broadening the GST. I agree with Arthur Sinodinos, but I would be looking at personal income tax to offset the impact of the regressive nature of the tax. That’s what I’m saying. It’s not just one, it’s the other side as well. It’s personal income tax, it’s company tax – and then you get a simple, fairer system that everyone can use.

GILBERT: The Treasurer was asked about this as he left a radio interview last night and didn’t answer the question, fudged it, but in quite a humorous way, having a go at these young reporters in the press gallery.

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GILBERT: So Joe Hockey just brushing off some questions from two very talented young reporter. One of them, James O’Doherty, 23 year old – it was funny – but I could tell you young James is one of the sharpest young reporters that we’ve had through this office, I can tell you.

LAUNDY: Mate, I can tell you I’m jealous. At 23, I couldn’t grow a beard like James does.

CHALMERS: There’s a bit of envy in what Joe Hockey said too.

LAUNDY: Look he’d had a long day. We work long hours down here and he was having a bit of fun, I wouldn’t read too much into that.

GILBERT: No, I wouldn’t either. Given he’d also just finished a radio interview. Now, just on another light note to finish. You’re wearing a maroon tie today, as the Member for Reid in Sydney’s Western Suburbs?

CHALMERS: You’ve come good on your bet, haven’t you mate?

LAUNDY: Jimmy, I’m in mourning. The Blues failed to do it last night. Jimmy and I had a bit of a muck-around yesterday afternoon…

CHALMERS: It’s the fanciest maroon tie you’ve ever seen.

LAUNDY: I was hoping he’d be in a blue tie today, and I offered if he didn’t have one I’d go and see the boss and get one of Tony’s for him.

GILBERT: Well I think that at least Mr Hadley on 2GB – Ray Hadley – last time you wore a jumper.

LAUNDY: He carved me up.

GILBERT: He bagged you mercilessly.

LAUNDY: I had to go on air and repent for my sins.

GILBERT: I think you’ll get the thumbs up from him today, it’s pretty dapper.

CHALMERS: Thumbs up from me too.

LAUNDY: Ray doesn’t mind a bet occasionally – or used to not mind a bet – and it was a bet and I lost and Jimmy won, so here I am in my maroon tie.

GILBERT: Craig Laundy and Jim Chalmers, congratulations Jim on the Queensland win. Quick break on AM Agenda, back in just a moment.