6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker

Program:

6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker

Interviewer:

Gareth Parker

E&OE

GARETH PARKER:

… where are you up to in terms of negotiations on this Omnibus Bill with the Senate crossbench?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well Gareth, there’s a big job of work to do from here.

We’ve got a million Australians out there who would stand to benefit from these really significant improvements to child care. 230,000 families who are basically saying that they can’t get into the workforce, or they want to work more but they’re prevented from doing so because they need reforms to child care.

So the main game here, for me, is in negotiations with the crossbench and particularly Nick Xenophon and his team, is to find enough of these savings that are inside this Bill that we can agree on, to pay for this really significant investment in and improvement to child care.

So those negotiations, as they say, are ongoing. The main game is to ensure that there is enough savings to pay for these childcare measures, because they are so important for working families.

GARETH PARKER:

Can we be specific? Are you making any progress in the negotiations with Nick Xenophon and his Senators?

MINISTER PORTER:

They’re negotiations that only work because we conduct them privately.

I say this.  It is a really weighty and solemn duty to try and get these child care reforms through, because there are so many Australians screaming out for them, who want to have improved, more flexible, more affordable child care, who can’t engage in the workforce, or who can’t work more because they need these reforms to child care.

I feel that weight, and I know in all of the negotiations that I’ve had with Nick Xenophon and his team that they feel that weight as well. They want these child care reforms to happen, they also acknowledge that they’ve got to be paid for somehow, and we’re now negotiating around that ‘somehow’. What part of these savings can we agree on, and can they be significant enough to add up to that magic $1.6 billion mark that pays for the child care reforms.

GARETH PARKER:

Pauline Hanson seems to be suggesting that any money that you save from these negotiations should just be banked onto the budget bottom line. And that extra funding for child care might encourage low income mums to get pregnant, what do you make of that?

MINISTER PORTER:

As I said last week, I don’t agree with that analysis.

The way in which Australian families have been shown, just as a matter of statistical fact, to increase their wealth and to provide better lives for their kids and for their families is through allowing second jobs, having, what are generally mums, in the workplace earning a second income – and that’s the income that allows you to just provide in that slightly better way for your entire family.

So having a child care system where you don’t plan your work around child care, you have a child care that allows you to plan properly for your work is what we’re trying to get to.

Unashamedly we also want to exact some responsibility here, and more so, make some savings that can be banked and that can help us get closer to surplus.

You have to pay for child care reforms, and they cost about $1.6 billion. Otherwise you’re letting this circumstance arise where you would be borrowing money to pay for investment in child care, which means that the next generation of Australians in the future, when they become taxpayers, will be paying tax for child care for their own kids as well as paying extra tax to pay for the child care that they were in 20 years ago.

So we absolutely cannot just chuck this on the nation’s credit card. If we’re going to invest $1.6 billion to make child care more flexible and affordable, we have to find a way to make other savings to pay for it – and you know, those negotiations are not without their difficulties, but they move forward, inch forward, day by day.

GARETH PARKER:

Christian, what’s Tony Abbott up to?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think that’s something you would have to ask Tony.

I must say Gareth, I’ve got so many things on my plate at the moment I’m not paying particular attention to those matters.

GARETH PARKER:

Plenty of people in your party are. They say that his interventions have been unhelpful in recent days. Do you agree with that analysis?

MINISTER PORTER:

Look, there’s no doubt they’ve been unhelpful. I’d go as far as to say that I was personally disappointed with his interventions.

GARETH PARKER:

OK. Have you told him that?

MINISTER PORTER:

Look, they’re matters for myself and private conversations.

But my job here is 230,000 Australian families who want to break into the workforce and work more, and they can’t do it because they don’t have affordable, flexible child care that is a number one focus at the moment – finding a way to pay for that in this Omnibus Savings Bill and the negotiations with the Senate. These other matters, they are just an unwelcome distraction and one I’m not getting into.

GARETH PARKER:

Well sure, but they are something… you’re a prominent conservative and it seems to be that Tony Abbott is trying to make the Liberal Party more conservative in terms of the policy agenda that he outlined late last week – and that is things like cutting the renewable –getting rid of the renewable energy target altogether, cutting immigration – would you support cutting immigration?

MINISTER PORTER:

Look at what I’m doing in my portfolio – there’s no stronger conservative instinct inside the Turnbull Government than to reinvest money that you find in savings inside the welfare system into a child care system that allows more families to do more work and make better lives for themselves. That to me is the fullest expression of the conservative instinct that says that we have to help families grow their wealth through work and employment.

You know, there are few more central things to the Government than what we have before us here in terms of child care reform.

So I think that in terms of a conservative instinct, what better expression is there of that than trying to get these child care reforms paid for with responsible savings and freeing up mums across Australia to make better lives for themselves, for their kids and for their families.

GARETH PARKER:

Christian Porter, you’re the Minister for Centrelink – yesterday we got a call during our personal finance segment from a chap called Don who was finding that he had – or it was taking a long time to get an answer from Centrelink about whether he could access a pension.

Don is on the line – G’day Don

DON:

G’day mate, how are you?

GARETH PARKER:

Good.

We said that we’d try and put it to Christian Porter, and he’s agreed to address this issue. Did you want to briefly state what your issue is to Social Services Minister so he can give you some sort of response?

DON:

I turned 65 mid last year, and I applied for the pension on the 2nd of November.

They asked for some paperwork – [INAUDIBLE] for income etc., which I took in on the 1st December. They photocopied it all and kept it and said they would get back to me in a couple of weeks and they never got back to me. I rang them and they said it was still in the system. So I waited until mid-January and rang them back again and they said the same thing – it’s in the system, we’ll get back to you when something’s happening.

MINISTER PORTER:

Look Don, the information that I’ve got through Centrelink is basically with the Age Pension – this is an Age Pension?

Basically, 80 per cent of those are processed inside 49 days. Now that’s the time of a standard – the 56, which is what is occurring in the financial year to date. So what you’ve described seems to be outside what are those standards and what are those targets.

Can I just ask, is it a particularly complicated matter? Sometimes the reason why these things take longer than the standard time period is because there’s complicated financial structures and measuring assets – because of course there’s an asset test for pensioners – they’re not always easy, but I’m presuming that’s not fitting the description of what is going on here?

DON:

No, the only thing I’ve got is 10 or 11 different types of shares.

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, what I would suggest Don is 10 or 11 different types of shares may or may not be a situation that’s a little bit complicated in terms of testing assets to meet the asset test for the pension or part-pension.

Can I suggest if you want to leave with Gareth your identifying details, then I will get them through to the Human Services Minister’s office who’s in charge of Centrelink and we’ll chase up where it’s at.

GARETH PARKER:

Don, we’ll put you back to the producers and we’ll get your details and we’ll pass them on to Mr Porter’s office.

Christian Porter, what have you made of Bill Shorten’s attacks on the Government on the issue of penalty rates? It rather seems to me that we are going to go down the path of another Work Choices type campaign as the next election approaches, with Bill Shorten seeking to make the issue of penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers central to his attacks on the Government?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, if he does chose to do that it would be one of the most hypocritical acts in the history of modern politics.

I mean the Fair Work Commission is something that Labor side of politics established. Four out of the five commissioners were appointed personally by Bill Shorten. He himself specifically amended the legislation to insist upon the assessment of penalty rates on a Sunday, and he has repeatedly said that given that he asked them to specifically look at that, that he would abide by their decision on that issue.

It just is a matter of fact that if he were now to do as appears is the case, to both criticise that decision, indicate that it should be overridden in some way, would be a level of hypocrisy which is astounding, even by modern political standards. But, something maybe that I’m not surprised at.

GARETH PARKER:

How are you going to combat it?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think that you have to, and everyone in the Australian community has got to think about what the Fair Work Commission has done and why they have done it.

I mean it was a very long, torturous process and they received 5,900 submissions, 39 days of hearing, evidence from 143 witnesses, effectively cross-examination and examination of a whole range of those witnesses. They have made what is obviously a challenging decision, but they have made it because they consider it’s in the best interest overall of all of the people in the Australian workforce.

I’ve been working my way through, slowly, the decision – it’s very long obviously.  One of the very notable things that they say is that it’s no longer appropriate to take in to account the need for, they call it a ‘deterrence factor’, which is to say that when the original penalty rates on a Sunday were established, the idea was that – part of that was designed to deter employers from scheduling work on those hours, i.e. outside normal hours, i.e. on a Sunday.

One of the things that the Fair Work Commission says is that that’s no longer appropriate. The idea that the penalty rates were originally established to actually deter businesses from doing business, operating on a Sunday and employing people – I think what the Fair Work Commission has done here, has tried to balance the interest of people who were earning the penalty rates with the interests of all the other people who could otherwise be employed because businesses will open more, because they will trade longer hours, because people who operate small businesses will employ staff rather than family members or doing it themselves, because of the prohibitive nature of what was occurring previously on a Sunday.

I think that people will come to see more of the detail of this decision and understand the way in which the Fair Work Commission has made determinations that this is in the best interest of people in terms of better, bigger and longer employment on Sundays.

GARETH PARKER:

There was a Newspoll out this week and the headline figure on the two party preferred was 55-45 to Labor. Perhaps even more noteworthy than that was that the Coalition’s primary vote was a paltry 34 per cent – now I reckon if that holds true that you would lose your seat of Pearce.

Are you confident that Malcolm Turnbull is the man to take your party to the election?

MINISTER PORTER:

I absolutely am 100 per cent. There’s a long way to go to the election, and sometimes the case that when you make decisions which are fundamentally responsible and difficult decisions that are in the best long-term interest of not only individual electorates, but Australians generally that early in terms, those decisions manifest in polls which aren’t always that glamorous, because they are difficult, challenging decisions in the real world where you’re trying to be responsible and benefit people in the long run. I think that this is a much longer game than a week to week, month to month, polling exercise.

GARETH PARKER:

Graham Richardson in The Australian says that he believes Malcolm Turnbull’s gone, the only question is who will replace him.

He says that you might be a candidate to replace him, except that outside Perth you’re a complete unknown. How do you feel about being lumped in Graham Richardson’s column this morning?

MINISTER PORTER:

Malcolm Turnbull has, in my observation, some of the strongest support of any political leader I’ve ever seen inside the Liberal Party. That’s just the..

GARETH PARKER:

Christian Porter, thanks for your time today.

MINISTER PORTER:

Thank you, cheers Gareth.

(ENDS)