WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2018
DAVID BEVAN: Let’s say good morning to Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Labor MP for Port Adelaide. Good morning to you.
MARK BUTLER: Good morning.
BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator from South Australia. Oh there is a bit of rumbling going on there in the background. Have you kicked something over Sarah?
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: No I’m still here. Good morning everyone.
BEVAN: Good morning to you. I think now on the phone line Simon Birmingham Minister for Trade and South Australian Liberal Senator, good morning to you.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning David and good morning everybody.
ALI CLARKE: We’ve been talking about what was said under parliamentary privilege yesterday, now this Is the escalating fight between Minister Peter Dutton and former Australian Border Protection Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg. Just have a little bit of what Minister Dutton said:
PETER DUTTON (RECORDING): He was a man who had groomed a girl thirty years younger than himself. He is discredited and disgraced Mr Speaker.
CLARKE: Simon Birmingham was parliamentary privilege abused yesterday?
BIRMINGHAM: No it is fact that Roman Quaedvlieg was sacked as the Australian Border Force Commissioner and he was sacked in circumstances that frankly leave him as a disgraced individual in terms of the way in which he conducted employment practices. And the real question here is the Labor Party co-conspirators with this man; Bill Shorten, or his office, or his Shadow Minister, engaging with this man in an attempt to smear Peter Dutton?
CLARKE: But the words “grooming” somebody thirty years his junior and the fact now that Roman Quaedvlieg has now actually written to the Speaker to see if he can have it withdrawn – do you have any problem with that?
BIRMINGHAM: Look I think that it is factual that there was a relationship. How the relationship came about – well I don’t much care, in the end the relationship and the employment practices that Mr Quaedvlieg engaged in the preferential treatment, or otherwise, that he showed to somebody he was in a relationship with led to his sacking. And we now have a situation where it seems as if a former staff member, a friend of his, is working in Bill Shorten’s office and the Labor Party appears to be relying very much on a drip feed of incorrect and wrong information from him to run a smear campaign.
BEVAN: Mark Butler?
BUTLER: I think this is why people sometimes call Parliament the “Coward’s Castle”. This was an extraordinary attack by Peter Dutton yesterday and I think an outrageous abuse of parliamentary privilege. It’s a brave attempt to defence for Simon Birmingham but he didn’t just use the term “grooming,” which everyone understands has a particular meaning. He also called his partner a “girl,” which again just tends to send the message that this person was underage. It was an extraordinary and clearly pre-meditated attack.
Now I understand Peter Dutton is feeling under pressure because of the series of leaks around a range of decision he has taken both for a number of au pairs to stay in the country but also in relation to jobs for people he has known in his past career. But to use parliamentary privilege in that way, using language that is incredibly loaded, that everyone understands has a particular meaning, I think was an outrageous abuse of the privilege that is given to parliamentarians really with the aim of allowing us to have full and frank debates about the interests of the country, not to engage in vicious personal attacks.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham is the risk here for the Government that it just feeds into the widespread perception that things are out of control in Canberra? That standards are not being kept, you’re talking about things you should not be talking about and that will be expressed at the next election in a landslide?
BIRMINGHAM: I would much rather talking about, indeed, the number of issues that are in the newspapers today. The new aged care reform package that the Government is announcing -
BEVAN: Well maybe you should have told that to Peter Dutton yesterday before he got up and made this spray?
BIRMINGHAM: Well maybe the Labor Party should ask questions about policy rather than personality.
BEVAN: Okay well let’s talk about policy, have we got a national electricity policy -and we’ll come to Sarah Hanson-Young in a moment give her an opportunity – but Simon Birmingham your government spent weeks, months telling us you had a plan and that collapsed. What are we left with?
BIRMINGHAM: A lot actually. There is a range of things we are acting on; we are going to support new generation capability by acting on the ACCC recommendation to underwrite new generation capability. We are going to introduce a new default price mechanism so that no longer will pensioners, or families, or anyone else who runs out of their electricity contract will then be shoved onto the highest rate, they’ll instead actually guaranteed fair default price, it will then also be used as a benchmark, which energy companies who go out and pitch discounts and the like will have to actually pitch against the default price. So it will be much simpler for people to understand whether or not they are getting a cheap deal, a good deal, and to get them onto the cheapest deal. We are going to keep working, as we have already, in terms of getting more gas into the domestic market. We’ve already seen gas prices come down dramatically because of the new rules and laws we put in place. We’re putting in place reforms into the way in which energy transmission -
BEVAN: You’ve got a great plan!
BIRMINGHAM: We have lots of things we’re doing in relation to continue to drive down energy prices which have already seen reductions actually in terms of prices from the first of July in SA and a number of other states.
BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young from the Greens, they’ve got a great plan?
HANSON-YOUNG: If only! The biggest thing of course here and what the Coalition just don’t seem to understand is that Australians right across the country are concerned about climate change. They want to see a plan that is integrated with how we manage our electricity system and how we reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere and unless we start putting these plans together and in tandem, what we will see is power companies continuing to rip off the consumer, price gouging, and the Government continues to run around and blame renewable energy. The public know that is just not true. There is a new report out today, I heard it being reported on –
BIRMINGHAM: we’re blaming the power companies, we are taking action and in fact we have a –
BUTLER: You had a fairly good go, Simon.
HANSON-YOUNG: Listen, Simon.
BIRMINGHAM: They don’t act.
HANSON-YOUNG: Listen Simon, I listened to you.
BIRMINGHAM: - we will actually force them, the monopoly, to break up in terms of the power companies.
CLARKE: Simon Birmingham thank you but Sarah Hanson-Young is speaking.
HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Look Simon I understand that you are frustrated with the lack of policy direction within you own party, I get that, so are the Australian people. They are sick to their back teeth of the in-fighting in the Liberal Party that has meant an obsessions with coal rather than doing what is right to transition to clean, green renewable energy and putting the electricity sector, and our climate reduction plans in tandem. That’s what the public want and I think you will find that loud and clear.
BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young, at the risk of sounding like a Crows pre-season training camp, we are now going to hand the speaking stick to Mark Butler so he can have a turn. Mark Butler, there is a report on the front page of The Australian today saying that Victoria wants to build six big renewable energy projects. Now that sounds great except if it not part of a national strategy could projects like that have unintended consequences?
BUTLER: Well I don’t think so, because the Market Operator is continuing to do the work on the reliability obligation in spite of the fact the Government has walked away from the National Energy Guarantee. I’m very confident, I think industry is very confident, that the Energy Market Operator along with a whole bunch of other agencies and the state governments, are continuing to work to make sure there is enough firming technology, batteries, pumped hydro storage and such like, to continue to allow the building of new renewable energy projects through the system.
But can I just go back to Simon’s point. He listed off a range of talking points about what the Government is doing or what it is intending to do in response to a report from the consumer watchdog. The trouble is all of that was being done under Malcolm Turnbull. The thing that has changed under the new Prime Ministership is that they have walked away from the National Energy Guarantee. That is what is really causing enormous shock within the industry because that was the only policy that was going to deliver the investor certainty that is necessary to have new projects built.
Now Scott Morrison said a couple of things. First he said that policy had broader support than any initiative that he had ever seen in his ten years in the Parliament, he said that only three or four week ago. And he and Josh Frydneberg, the new Treasurer, have been saying with the National Energy Guarantee power bills would come down by $550 but without it they are going to go up by almost $300. So we are left with an enormous vacuum in an energy policy because Scott Morrison -
BEVAN: Hang on we were asking you for weeks and weeks and weeks, Mark Butler, is Labor going to get onside and endorse a mainstream, middle of the road policy just for the good of the nation? Just to get something in place and you can tweak it after the next election if you need it to? You always stopped short, you always pulled your punches, now you’re saying look it was the best thing why didn’t we have this enshrined in legislation?
BUTLER: We pulled our punches for two reasons. Firstly, we were going to have a debate about the level of ambition in the Parliament and that debate hadn’t even started. Secondly, because we hadn’t even been shown the legislation; we had briefings scheduled with Malcolm Turnbull and with Josh Frydeneberg that were cancelled as the parlour games started in the Liberal Party party room. When we tried to reconvene those briefings they were refused. We weren’t going to give a blank cheque to the former Prime Minister and the former Energy Minister but we had been clear for two years that we would sit down with the Government and agree a bipartisan investment framework. Tony Abbott and his group, though, vetoed that time and time again, including by deposing the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
CLARKE: This is Super Wednesday on ABC radio Adelaide; it is a quarter to nine that is the voice of Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change. We also have Simon Birmingham Minister for Trade and Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator for SA. On that Sarah Hanson-Young, federal Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt had a weekend of criticism after he posted online that he was with his “hot wife” at an opening night. He was accused of objectifying his wife in a sexist manner. Are you happy that he calls his wife a “hot wife”?
HANSON-YOUNG: I’ve caught up with some of the commentary around this over the weekend and I kind of understand he difficulty that Adam has got himself into here. I think while obviously there is an argument around how we need to do better to ensure women aren’t objectified. I guess I saw it in the light of, here’s a bloke who is in love with his wife and wants to tell the world actually. So I think while there is obviously reason for the criticism and I understand their arguments, I think he is actually just showing affection for his wife. I’m going to see her here tonight. The Parliamentary ball is on and apparently she is coming up. I look forward to saying hello.
CLARKE: Is this the ball Barnaby Joyce turns up with a whip with? All the time? Is that this one?
HANSON-YOUNG: I don’t know but I suggest given his recent antics he leaves the whip at home.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, is it okay to say you’ve got a hot wife?
BIRMINGHAM: Yes and it is a pretty poor state of affairs when you can’t pay your wife a compliment without a social media backlash by the politically correct brigade.
BEVAN: Mark Butler are you happy to call your wife hot?
BUTLER: Look I agree, if it was someone else Adam Bandt had said that about maybe there would have been a bit of criticism. But frankly, how he describes his wife and how she describes him is a matter between them I think.
BEVAN: Before you leave us, while we are talking about what you can and can’t say, what did you all think of the Mark Knight cartoon of Serena Williams? Mark Butler is it racist?
BUTLER: I haven’t seen it. I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, did you see the cartoon? It’s all over the media in the last 24 hours?
BIRMINGHAM: I have seen it and I think all three of us on air have been depicted by cartoonists and the thing about being depicted by a cartoonist is it is usually pretty unflattering. That is the nature of it. I could be outraged on behalf of everyone that has big ears that stick out.
BIRMINGHAM: But I’m not, I cop I it on the chin. It is all in good fun and it is all of course the way in which cartoons are drawn. Frankly, I think the social media backlash that we saw against Adam Bandt on one issue, and Mark Knight on a completely different issue is one of the real problems we have. There is a whole brigade of people out there who just want to see how dam offended they can be something rather than accepting that often things are said in good humour or in this case was simply highlighting that a tennis player had a tantrum on a tennis court.
CLARKE: Sarah Hanson-Young do you think it was racist?
HANSON-YOUNG: Look I don’t think it was a particularly nice cartoon. I can understand the racist overtures that people are pointing out.
BEVAN: You’re really trying to understand everybody today.
HANSON-YOUNG: Well I’m a listener David. But let me be clear I think the issue here is that the other player in this cartoon was drawn as white. So that is the analysis I have seen around the cartoon, is actually that depiction between Serena and the other player, which obviously wasn’t correct. I think yes we can all acknowledge that cartoonists don’t do flattering pictures, I’ve been the butt of many jokes of cartoonists across the country and I don’t think that is going to end anytime soon. But I do think we need to think about how that issue for Serena Wiliams on the tennis court has been managed and spoke about in the social realms and in the media. I do think the questioning around the treatment of female players is something that just can’t be brushed under the cupboard.
BIRMINGHAM: Can I just make one point there; Sarah reflected on the other player being drawn, Sarah said as white. I think the criticism has been the other player was drawn with blonde hair even though she is a Japanese player, but she actually has blonde hair. She had bleached blonde hair that was dyed at the time of the tennis match. So I think some of the criticism is just so unfair and I think it is people just looking for more outrage.
CLARKE: Well after all of this Naomi Osaka is the other player’s name, she won the US Open.
BIRMINGHAM: And we should celebrate that – the first Japanese player ever to win a grand slam.
CLARKE: Simon Birmingham, Trade Tourism and Investment Minister, Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator and Mark Butler, Shadow Climate Change Minister thank you for joining us.
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