ABC Melbourne Drive with Rafael Epstein

Program:

Radio

Interviewer:

Rafael Epstein

E&OE

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

You might have heard of the Omnibus Bill.

The Federal Government has a range of changes. It has to do with child care, some Newstart arrangements, some Family Tax Benefit supplements. They want that Bill to go through.

Today the Treasurer and the Social Services Minister announced that that Bill, those savings will go directly to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So the big implication there, of course, if the crossbench does not pass this Bill, that leaves the National Disability Insurance Scheme with less money.

Christian Porter joins us. He is the Minister for Social Services.  

Good afternoon.

MINISTER PORTER:

Good afternoon.

I must say, that’s not precisely what it means.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

So tell me, what does it mean?

MINISTER PORTER:

There are three ways in which we’ll be able to fill the funding gap that we were left. The NDIS comes onto full stream in the year 2020, and unfortunately there are $4-odd billion in that year, and it grows very quickly, which was never provided for in terms of funding.

Now we’ve got three choices in the year 2020. We either borrow more money, we increase taxes, or between now and then we try and find enough savings that we’re able to fund that extra money through savings.

So one way or the other the NDIS is being paid for, that is not in any doubt nor has it ever been in any doubt…

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

I understood, but you’ll still be saying to the crossbench, if you don’t pass this, that means the NDIS gets less money, we’ll have to borrow.

MINISTER PORTER:

No, it doesn’t mean that. The NDIS gets exactly the same amount of money.

But yes, it does mean that if we can’t find savings to fill that funding gap that Labor left us with, the only two other alternatives are tax increases or simply to borrow more money. Now those are two very, very unsatisfactory options for all Australians, because what it means is you are pushing the can down the road and letting the next generation of Australians pay for expenditure that we are responsible for today.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

But you clearly want to make it more difficult for the crossbenchers to reject your savings measures?

MINISTER PORTER:

We want to encourage as many of the savings measures in our Bill to pass the Senate, and they may not all pass the Senate, but it does show the very real nature of the problem that any government faces which is that you have limitations on your ability to fund things.

And at the moment, we are credibly restoring a path back to surplus, but that only happens because we’re able to find savings inside our budget, and that is sometimes a very challenging process.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

Is it all or nothing? You’ve had plenty of discussions in media interviews about, for example, the changes to someone’s Youth Allowance - from Newstart to Youth Allowance, they get $46 less, which looks, at this stage, to not be something that is very attractive to anyone – or very many people – on the crossbench. Is it really an all or nothing Omnibus Bill, or will you split it up?

MINISTER PORTER:

We’re arguing for all of the measures, and we’ll keep arguing for all of the measures right up until the point that this is voted on.

But obviously we’re interested in getting as many measures of them passed, and we’ll make a judgement at that much later stage about what we’ll do if there are some measures that could potentially hold up the entire Bill.

That particular measure that you raised – we’ve been in discussion with the crossbench, and there is some level of enthusiasm from some crossbenchers, less from others – but that’s a measure designed to ensure that we don’t have a system, which we do at the moment, where there’s this very bad disincentive to study.

So a young person, say of 23 years, can chose between Youth Allowance Student or Newstart and one is higher than the other. Now that provides this very strange, and quite bad, disincentive to study, and if you do go onto Youth Allowance Student, or indeed Youth Allowance when you are not studying, you have a much higher ability to go out and earn money before you lose any of it. So you can make up the difference.

We think it’s very fair policy, but again, crossbenchers have various levels of enthusiasm for that particular measure.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

Are you comfortable in the West with the Liberal Party referencing One Nation – and if I can just mention three areas of policy;

Pauline Hanson says Vladimir Putin is a person who stands up for his country; his planes kill innocent civilians in Syria.  Senator Malcolm Roberts thinks that when Tony Abbott signed up to the Paris Agreement he was supporting a global conspiracy to impose one world government; and they think that Islam is a totalitarian political system masquerading as a religion. Are you comfortable preferencing a party like that ahead of the National Party?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well I served, obviously, in Colin Barnett’s first government for four years as Attorney-General and Treasurer, and I think that he’s been a great Premier.

What I want people in WA to do is to vote Liberal, and certainly not vote One Nation, certainly not vote Labor – I want them to vote Liberal. So I don’t really have any comments as to whether or not the deal is a good, or a wise, or an unwise one – that’s a matter for West Australians.

But we’re not out there doing anything other than trying to win votes for the Liberal Party, and for Colin Barnett’s re-election.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

At what point – how objectionable does a party need to be before someone in a federal party says, listen that is too far? Their website says…

MINISTER PORTER:

The federal party doesn’t…

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

Their website says, can I just ask you Minister you don’t need to comment but I just want to know at what point a party becomes too objectionable?

Their website says Islam is masquerading as a religion, and it is proving to be seditious against every nation and government on earth. I can’t imagine you’re comfortable with that sentiment, so I don’t understand why you’re happy with your party preferencing them?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well look, evidently that’s not a view that I share, far from it.

But, again, this a matter for a state division in a state where the circumstances are particular to them.  It’s not a decision of the Federal Liberal Party. And again, what we say is – don’t vote One Nation, vote Liberal.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

It does seem like major parties are so desperate now to stay alive, those minor parties can say anything. They can stand up and say – let’s just shoot every black person in the West. I just, at what point does a party say something that’s objectionable enough?

MINISTER PORTER:

They don’t get much more hypothetical than that. I’m not aware that One Nation has ever said that…

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

I’m not saying One Nation said that – but I just wonder at what point a party says something that you actually object to…

MINISTER PORTER:

I might leave that with your listeners, I have been saved by the bell of a division – so thanks very much for the question.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN:

I understand, and the bells are legitimate.

Thanks for your time.