6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker

Interviewer:

Gareth Parker

E&OE

MINISTER PORTER:

Good Morning Gareth

GARETH PARKER:

The election went well.

MINISTER PORTER:

Yes, it was a resounding loss, and I would just like to congratulate Mark McGowan, of course, on what was alternatively a resounding victory and I hope, for the sake of the state, that he governs well.

GARETH PARKER:

Do you believe, or clearly not do you believe are there lessons, there’s clearly lessons – what are the lessons for your side of politics in this state?

It was wall to wall blue, now it’s not.

MINISTER PORTER:

Look, clearly things swing in a sort of pendulum fashion. There are cycles in politics, and we’re on the wrong end of the cycle here, there’s no doubt about it.

GARETH PARKER:

But there’s cycles and there’s cycles.

MINISTER PORTER:

Yeah sure, and there are a lot of lessons there.

GARETH PARKER:

This was a wipe out.

MINISTER PORTER:

It was a resounding victory and a resounding loss for our side of politics and there are a lot of lessons to learn from this.

I will say that these, sort of, four or five days after an election like this, there are a lot of uncool heads that are prevailing. There are a lot of emotions that swell around. I don’t know whether this is actually the best time to formulate those lessons, although everyone wants to say everything about the election.

And what happens after an election like this is; Bill Shorten says this was all about the Fair Work Commission decision. Someone else will say it was all about the GST. Someone else will say it’s all about this person or that person – and none of those things are accurate reflections of what was quite a complicated situation.

GARETH PARKER:

So do you believe that all of those factors conspired along with some others – like the ‘it’s time’ factor with the Premier?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think it was almost exclusively West Australian issues in a West Australian election. Not quite exclusively, but almost exclusively.

I think that after eight and a half years, in a period of time when you’ve had five prime ministers and five premiers in NSW – the baggage that you end up carrying in a modern state government after eight and a half years of continuous, one person leadership is very high.

We’re a cyclical economy. That you’re carrying baggage at precisely the time that there’s been a very significant downturn in the cycle – so the mining and construction boom came off which had effects on wages and employment. Having those things coincide at the same time was a series of factors that you couldn’t have overcome with the best campaign in the world.

I think there were problems with the campaign, clearly. But it was the overarching, surrounding circumstances that combined to cause this sort of result.

GARETH PARKER:

9221 1882 is the number to call if you’d like to put a question to the Social Services Minister, Christian Porter. He’s happy to take your calls.

You mentioned a long period of one person leadership – is that because Colin Barnett was a one man band in terms of the way he conducted himself, or simply because he didn’t have good enough support around him from his senior Ministers?

MINISTER PORTER:

For my part, I do think that the Nalder challenge was one of those internal matters that we really could have done without. I think it boxed people into a corner and I think it meant that having an orderly transition became near on impossible.

So if I had to point to one very significant modern event as we lead up to that election, I think that was a huge lack of internal discipline, and a massive problem that was caused for the party generally, and I think it was bad for the Government of the state.

GARETH PARKER:

So the flip side to that is, you believe that the Government would have, perhaps, been best served by an orderly transition to Liza Harvey?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, it may or it may not have been. But I can absolutely say that we would have been much better off without that bizarre, aborted leadership tilt from Dean Nalder.

GARETH PARKER:

Ok, so Dean Nalder’s one of the few that remain. Is he a potential future leader in your opinion?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, I think the dust has got to settle on the election before we start talking about those sorts of things. And it’s really up for individual members of the party to start showing their leadership credentials and throwing their hat into the ring.

GARETH PARKER:

No one’s done that so far, it’s a bit strange?

MINISTER PORTER:

It is a little bit strange. But I’m sure that that will emerge over the next couple of days.

GARETH PARKER:

Do you think that there is a best person to lead the Liberal Party at this point?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think that’s for the candidates to show themselves first, and then for people to make comment on those things.

GARETH PARKER:

Can I make this observation about the nature of leadership itself, and get your reflections on it?

It’s all very well to put your hand up when times are good and when everything’s going beautifully – and people want to be the Premier or want to be part of the team. But surely, leadership is also about demonstrating some self-sacrifice and putting your name forward when the chips are down. It seems to me that the chips are down for the Liberal Party, and if you’re truly a leader, everyone needs to be rowing together to try and re-build as quickly as possible to try and hold Mark McGowan to account.

And we spoke about big swings; I don’t think there’s any reason that they can’t win the next election if they get their act together.

I know that sounds a bit ridiculous when they’ve just lost 21 seats, however, there’s seems to be this view that ‘oh it’s such a terrible time to put your name forward and be a leader, you wouldn’t want to do it now’ – the implication being it would be better for your own personal career if you do it later. Well surely that’s not the test, surely the real test of leadership is to sacrifice and do it for the good of the organisation that put you in the Parliament?

MINISTER PORTER:

Gareth, it pains me to agree so wholeheartedly with a journalist.

But yes, someone should get into this race and get in soon, because it’s not about what’s good for your party, it’s about what is good for the state.

We’ve had a history in this state where when government’s had big majorities and got too powerful and were sometimes aided and abetted by not as critical press as it should have been, and a weak Opposition we had very, very bad results.

And having a strong Opposition Leader and a strong Opposition who do the hard detail work to keep a government to account is, in this state’s history, a critical part of good government.

So, someone needs to get in and get in quick.  

GARETH PARKER:

It’s never a good idea when its one way traffic, and I don’t care if it’s Liberal, Labor, Green, One Nation or anyone.

The GST is another big issue. The callers want to talk to you about the GST, so we’ll let them frame the debate.

G’day Cam

CAM:

G’day mate.

Minister, how are you fellow Sandgropean?

MINISTER PORTER:

Good to be back here for a couple of days, for sure.

CAM:

Is it? You bring your cheque book with you mate? Where’s our share of GST pal? You and your..

MINISTER PORTER:

Well…

CAM:

Hang on.

You and your other mates in the Federal Liberal Party better start packing up your kits mate, because you’re not getting back in until we start getting our share. And it’s just, it’s abhorrent that you cannot stand up for this great, beautiful state that educated you, that fed you, that put you through and into that federal thing and you cowing down to those eastern staters mate. Lift your game pal, lift your game.

GARETH PARKER:

All right Cam.

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, I’ve brought you, and this state – and it is a great state - $2 billion more GST than what would otherwise have been the case.

Now I’d like to do, and I’m sure more can be achieved, but let me tell you– that is $2 billion more than Labor, $2 billion more than the Nationals, $2 billion more than Clive Palmer, $2 billion more than One Nation.

And it has been hard fought.

What I’ve seen happen in this space over many years is quick fixes proposed, endless reviews proposed, real solutions are thin on the ground, because it’s just not good enough having one person fighting a fight over there without being able to get some form of consensus and agreement to a change that you propose.

So what is on the table at the moment from Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is the best deal that we’ve had on offer. It’s not all that we would want by a long stretch, but it is the best deal that we have had on offer, and that deal is that in around about 2019/20, when our share bounces back, which it will do, that the Prime Minister will work to draw a floor under that level, which we would think would be around about the 70 per cent mark…

GARETH PARKER:

It’s not going to get to that though is it?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, we would assess whatever the floor is around about that time in 2019/20

GARETH PARKER:

What if it’s only 60 per cent? Do we just have to wear that?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well, any kind of floor is a very positive improvement from where we are.

Now I would argue that a 70 per cent floor is what we would want.

But the important point here, right, is this is about the art of the achievable, not just about the frustration that you get, not just about quick fixes and promises that blow in with Pauline Hanson, not just about another bloody review like Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard who said they would have a review and fix it, but did nothing.

GARETH PARKER:

Or frankly, Senator Dean Smith, your colleague proposing this morning on the front page of the West Australian.

MINISTER PORTER:

I saw that.

Look, reviews often do little harm, but in my experience you go back to Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard promised a thorough review, which they said – quote- would bring a fairer and more equitable distribution. They had the review.  They fobbed us off and did nothing.

So what have we got? We’ve got one side of politics in the Coalition saying they will work towards a floor under the GST at a point where it will actually becomes achievable, which will be in around about 2019/20.

The important thing here is that – what is the other side of politics position on this? Now, Bill Shorten was pressed on that floor, and he would not support it.

I have not heard a single federal WA Labor member support that floor that Malcolm Turnbull is proposing. And let me tell you, getting a result here is going to be a damn sight easier with support from the Opposition and support from WA Federal Labor members.

But this is about the art of the achievable, and already we have achieved $2 billion that no one else has even come else to achieving. Not all we would want, but a lot better than anything else that anyone else has managed to do.

GARETH PARKER:

Lorna’s there. Hi Lorna.

LORNA:

Good morning Gareth.

I might be a bit simple, but my understanding with the GST is that it’s collected from all the states and the Federal Government distributes it.

Why can’t it be that the states pay the money into the federal coffers, they take off an administration fee and give every state back, say 95 per cent of what they’ve paid in and then to top up the states like Tasmania and South Australia and the Northern Territory, they only get special grants like WA did when they got those two lots of $500 million?

GARETH PARKER:

Good question Lorna.

MINISTER PORTER:

Because that’s not how the system was designed. And once it was designed it can’t be broken, effectively, without the agreement of all the states.

So Lorna, you’ve described a system that basically operated before the GST came online, it wasn’t a bad system, but unfortunately it’s not the system that we have at the moment.

So, the system we have at the moment does things whereby it calculates a state’s ability to earn revenue, and for instance one of the most egregious parts of the GST formula that the Commonwealth Grants Commission runs is the part that punishes WA for not raising revenue from poker machines.

GARETH PARKER:

So that’s open to the Federal Treasurer to change unilaterally.

He has to get the agreement of the other states and the territories if they want to change the rate of the GST, if you want to boost it from ten per cent to some other number, yes – you need the agreement of the states.

If you want to apply it to fresh fruit and vegetables, yes – you’ve got to get the agreement of the other states.

But the Commonwealth Grants Commission have made this point clear, they said it in a story that Daniel Emerson wrote in the West Australian, on the front page last year – that it’s open to the Federal Government to decide how the CGC recommendation is implemented or not implemented, that’s the facts.

MINISTER PORTER:

So in 2015 there was a methodology review of the Grants Commission that was very advantageous to WA, which gave us, basically, another $800 million worth of revenue. And yes, part of that process was about the Treasurer at the time, Joe Hockey, not quite directing them but giving them very gentle guidelines…

GARETH PARKER:

Guidelines in the way that iron ore fines should be…

MINISTER PORTER:

Correct. But you’ve got to do those things in a sustainable way.

Now, if you’re suggesting that any government can just unilaterally change the Commonwealth Grants Commission formula in a very substantive way, and it simply not be overturned by the next government, or will not be changed – I’m not sure that that is actually a fair reflection of what goes on.

So what we have to do here is, we have to look at what is the best possible plan and path forward for WA.

I’ve been around this debate for eight years now – the best plan that I have seen is to draw a hard floor under every states share when it gets to a point at around about the 70 per cent mark, which we think it will in around 2019/20.

What that means is that no state loses out at that point in time, but you can ensure that this never happens again.

The reason, Lorna, we’re in this position is because no one foresaw what would happen, in terms of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s assessment of GST relativities back when the deal was struck.

Now, we wish that a different deal had been struck at that point in time, but it wasn’t. But in 2019/20, we have an opportunity to actually fix this in a way that is going to help generations of West Australians going forward. And this fix is real. It can actually happen, which is one way in which it differs from just about every other solution I’ve seen put.

GARETH PARKER:

Do you acknowledge that if you don’t convince voters that this plan is in fact real, and will deliver results that you, personally in your seat of Pearce, could be out of a job?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think that the next federal election will be fought on federal issues, and in WA this will be one of them.

The question that people will quite rightly ask themselves is, is it the Turnbull Coalition or the Shorten Labor Opposition who are offering the best path forward on the GST?

Our path is clear; it’s been put very clearly by the Prime Minister. When Bill Shorten was pressed on this when he was in WA, he would not commit to that floor, full stop. He just wouldn’t do it.

So yeah, Gareth, if people want to make a decision around that issue, which they should do, I’ve got a high degree of confidence that we’re going to come out much better in that rational calculation in Western Australia’s voters’ minds than the Labor Party will.

And there has not been a single WA Federal Labor member who’s had the courage to come out and advocate for a floor. Not one. Ask them next time you get them on the show.

GARETH PARKER:

We certainly will do that.

Can I ask you about this one? These are some comments that the incoming Secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus, made last night on 7.30

SALLY MCMANUS:

I believe in the rule of law when the laws fair, when the law’s right. But when it’s unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.

The CFMEU, when they’ve been fined, they’ve been fined for taking industrial action. It might be illegal industrial action according to our current laws, and our current laws are wrong. It shouldn’t be so hard for workers in our country to be able to take industrial action when they need to.

What do you make of that?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well two things. I mean as an old professor and lecturer in law – I don’t think she understands the rule of law.

The rule of law is not the ‘I believe in the rule of law, but I only want to obey the laws that I like’.

It is utterly extraordinary. What Sally McManus is saying is that she, and the union movement, are the only people in Australia who are above the laws of the land.

It is an absolutely extraordinary comment and it has to be widely denounced by every single person on every side of politics in Australia.

Having an organisation like the union movement having it’s absolute head come out and say if they don’t like the law than they should be free to break it, is simply saying that they are the only group in Australia above the law. It is outrageous.

GARETH PARKER:

What the CFMEU’s argument would be is that.. hang on, in the construction industry, we’re subject to laws through the ABCC that don’t apply to any other workplace?

MINISTER PORTER:

These are laws that have been agreed in Parliament. Through the House of Representatives, through the Senate – with scrutiny from minor parties, cross-benchers – it is harder to get legislation of that type through the Australian Parliament than just about any time in its history.

So the sort of scrutiny that this legislation goes through is enormous, and that legislation is the basis and the product of the democratic process - and a very stringent and strict democratic process it is. These are the laws, determined as the best laws for the circumstances, by the Australian people, and the union movement says they don’t have to obey them. It is unbelievable.

GARETH PARKER:

Can I ask you a question about the NDIS, that’s come through on the SMS.

This is something that we’ve talked a little bit about on the program, and it’s quite difficult for people to get their heads around, on the difference between the national NDIS, the WA NDIS. I’ll just read you this, this is from Leanne who sent this through on the text message.

Gareth, can you please ask Christian Porter about the NDIS, and if the new Government, the new Labor Government changes how the WA NDIS. It’s a huge topic for people in our state and everyone’s quiet on it.

What can you tell us? I presume you haven’t had discussions with the incoming Government yet, but there was this, sort of, deal done in the dying days of the Barnett Government that said – yes, WA would be able to run its own NDIS system. What’s your view?

MINISTER PORTER:

The Commonwealth’s preference was always that WA would come into the national scheme. But the Government at the time were not inclined to do that.

They were absolutely not up for negotiation on that position. They didn’t want to come in.

So the decision that we faced was delay and wait, which we didn’t think was right for the West Australian population who would otherwise be beneficiaries of the NDIS. So we put 11 conditions around the way in which WA could join the national scheme, but run their own administration.

So I guess for Leanne, and we can get individualised information out to you, but the situation is that WA has joined the national scheme in the sense that all of the basic levels of care, the definitions about reasonable and necessary supports are absolutely consistent. There’s a whole range of conditions placed around the WA model.  The difference is that WA has indicated, and will administer their part of the NDIS themselves and pay for that administration themselves.

GARETH PARKER:

So does that mean the WA taxpayers are paying twice?

They’re paying their federal taxes plus they’re paying extra state taxes?

MINISTER PORTER:

I wouldn’t quite describe it that way. It becomes a slightly more costly outcome for the West Australian budget, because they are paying for administration that under the preference that we had they wouldn’t have been paying for.

But for the recipients of the service, which I presuming Leanne you are one, or will be one, you should not notice any difference in terms of the standards of care, the way in which packages are put together and assessed – those things will be absolutely consistent.

But there is a budgetary question that arises, and arose – but what we want to do is ensure that people, human beings in Western Australia who would benefit from the NDIS aren’t delayed, that they come into the scheme. That is happening, happening right now.

What view the incoming Government might take about this situation, I just don’t know – that will be a matter for them.

GARETH PARKER:

Just one more question on federal issues.

Federal politics this week has been dominated by an issue that’s really got not much to do with us, and that’s energy, but it seems as though the energy market in the eastern states is becoming a political problem for the Prime Minister, one that he’s now trying to solve with a reboot of the Snowy Mountains Scheme

MINISTER PORTER:

Yes, well one of the issues that you’ve got is storage of renewable energy and pumped hydro, as it’s known, so basically moving the water up the top and keeping it there so you can generate electricity when you need to, is an absolutely critical part of Australia’s energy mix going forward. There’s been a very significant announcement around the development of that type of technology and practice in Australia.

But one thing that we’re not suffering here right at the moment is what is happening in South Australia, where the renewable energy target has basically created a generation mix which leaves the state incredibly  vulnerable at certain instances and at certain points to not having enough energy to run business.

One thing that I would say about WA is that, WA Labor here have said for a long time they would have a 50 per cent target. They backtracked on that. Every West Australian should look at the situation in South Australia, where businesses are having to buy diesel generators to keep refrigerators running, before they would let the Labor Party here commit us to a 50 per cent renewable target.

GARETH PARKER:

What about the issue of gas?

Do you think that there will be a federal gas reservation policy pursued, like we’ve got on here in WA to ensure there’s enough gas for the eastern seaboard?

MINISTER PORTER:

I think describing what we have here in WA as a reservation policy as part correct.

I mean, the North-West Shelf was originally set up with were known as take-or pay contracts – so they had to have a fundamental purchaser of the product underwriting the scheme.

So that looks like a reservation, but in actual fact is something quite different.

But we’re well and truly not near that point now.

GARETH PARKER:

The obligation now is that the developers of a new project have to set aside some gas which they will market to the domestic economy here in WA

MINISTER PORTER:

In some projects, yes.

Federally, what the Prime Minister was trying to achieve yesterday was bringing all of the heads of the major producers together, making sure that they knew what we know, which is that there looks like there’s going to be shortages of supply and coming up with a plan that would prevent there having to be that sort of compulsion.

GARETH PARKER:

As I said, we’re removed from it because we don’t operate in the same space.

Christian Porter, thanks for coming in today.

MINISTER PORTER:

It’s a pleasure Gareth.

GARETH PARKER:

I will speak to you next week with any luck.