TOM CONNELL: Joining me to discuss a few of the things of the week, our panel this week, Graham Perrett from the Labor Party and Andrew Wallace from the Liberal Party, or LNP I suppose, the Liberal party room if you want to get into that technicality. Gents, thanks both for your time. I just thought I’d pick up first of all on what David Littleproud had to say, “if you do the wrong thing, you’re going to swing,” that sounds like a pretty dramatic punishment. He’s clearing taking this seriously on live exports of sheep, Andrew Wallace.
ANDREW WALLACE, MEMBER FOR FISHER: Look I know that David is taking this very seriously, Tom. I’m sure he’s not suggesting about bringing in capital punishment for them, but these things are very serious. We’ve all seen the images, distressing images and we do need tougher regulation in this space and David is certainly going to do it.
CONNELL: It’s been announced before, the review, so they’re showing, Graham Perrett, they’re taking this seriously. The review is coming back, from my last information, in 12 days’ time. Couldn’t Joel Fitzgibbon and Bill Shorten have waited for 12 days and looked at the report, it’s an independent one and make a decision then?
GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER FOR MORETON: The industry’s had the chance to self-regulate and it hasn’t been getting it right. We’ve seen there’s a complete failure when it comes to moving sheep overseas safely. New Zealand has dealt with this. Australia obviously should be focussing on creating Australian jobs, so that’s why the Labor Party has made it clear that we intend to support Australian jobs, Australian farmers, Australian meat workers in making sure that we value-add as much as we can. Look, as the son of a butcher, grandson of a butcher, I’m all for making sure we get every dollar out of our sheep and treat them as humanely as possible in Australia. It makes sense to me.
CONNELL: But, does it make sense not to wait 12 more days? There’s not going to be a bill in that time, you’re not going to change anything, you’re not in government. You can’t wait 12 days?
PERRETT: Joel made it clear that we can’t see the industry being sustainable in the long term. I think the industry’s own report, the secret report that has now become public, has made it clear that they’re not able to safely carry sheep overseas, particularly in the summer months.
CONNELL: They’re not talking about guarantees, there could be weather events and so on.
PERRETT: Yes. Realistically in summer, the northern summer when the demand is there we just can’t get the sheep there safely.
CONNELL: I want to play you what Tim Hammond had to say earlier this week. He of course is stepping down, within a few weeks probably. He is a Labor frontbencher but it was all too much, it was family reasons. Have a listen to what Tim Hammonds had to say.
[Tim Hammond clip: this is something that I know I need to do. So when I'm 75 years old and I look back on my life I know that I've been there for my kids is the most important thing I could possibly do and be there for Lindsay as well.]
CONNELL: I think a lot of people would understand the sentiment, particularly in WA. Have you ever had that thought yourself, Andrew Wallace?
WALLACE: Look, we all, politics is a tough game but it’s not a lot different to many other games. I was a builder by trade and also a barrister. We all have our crosses that we bear and there’s no doubting that being a federal politician from the other side of the country is tough. No doubt about it and look I respect Tim for the decision that he’s made. We all should put our families first in this game, no matter what we do and more power to him, he’s come out. But being a politician isn’t the only toughest game in town, there are many many other industries and professions where people have to travel long distances, take for example our military. They go away for six or nine months at a time. I think we need to take it in perspective, but having said that I do respect his decision.
CONNELL: I guess it’s something you do sign up for, Graham Perrett. Well Tim Hammond hasn’t been in the job long but I guess the reality was even more than what he imagined he was getting himself into.
PERRETT: Andrew and I came down this morning on a flight from Brisbane. We’ve spent the day talking to defence personnel, and as Andrew said, they spend six months overseas where people fire guns at them. So a federal politicians’ lot can be tough, tough on families. Tim made the right decision for his family. I know with my family, in terms of my chance to serve the people of Moreton and the people of Australia, they’re involved in that decision. But they do bear the brunt of it. My wife’s the one who had to take the kids to school this morning. My kids are the ones who didn’t have a dad to help them get ready for school this morning. We are involved in that decision, but no doubt it is very tough on families. Western Australians it’s a particularly tough call, they spend so much time in the air compared to even a Queensland or a New South Wales person.
CONNELL: What’s been pointed out by some people is that, yes it’s tricky to be a politician but at least in this case, one person in the family has a salary of at least $200,000+. Does it make you think of the rest of the population because when they have a family, basically there’s such a big gap between paid parental leave and what you actually earn that it’s basically whoever has the lowest salary has to take the leave. Does that make you rethink going back into what was a difficult policy area, a more generous scheme?
WALLACE: There’s absolutely no doubt that federal politicians and politicians around the country are paid above the average wage. Considerably so, by probably about two times as much.
PERRETT: A bit more, Andrew.
WALLACE: $50,000, did I say two? I meant four. So, there are plenty of people that are doing it tough. I get that. You don’t go into politics for the money. Graham’s an ex-solicitor, I’m an ex-barrister at the Bar in Queensland, you know, the law in Queensland. I’m sure Graham’s the same, we didn’t come into politics for the money. I know I came into it with a belief that we could make a positive change.
CONNELL: Look, I think you need to pay a good amount of money, you want to attract good people. But on the parental leave, so let’s say you’ve got a bloke $120,000 and a woman on $80,000 and they actually wouldn’t mind the woman staying at work. But it’s such a big difference in the pay, that in the end the bloke goes back to work. Is that an ongoing problem?
WALLACE: Look I’ve had four children myself. We’re out through that stage now. I was a builder as I said earlier in my career. We were fortunate enough not to be… and there wasn’t that paid parental leave back then. So, look, it’s a different world now. I know that we want to try to keep women in the workforce as much as we can. It’s very important that we provide those incentives to encourage women to get back into work as quickly as they can. Obviously women provide a very important part of our economy and it’s important that as best we can that we get them back as quickly as we can to work, but equally you’ve got to look at the societal aspect of having a child. The evidence is very clear that it’s very important for a bonding perspective to have at least some time with a parent. It doesn’t have to be a woman. It could be Graham. But it’s important that one parent in the very early stages of a child’s development has that time at home with the child. That’s why paid parental leave is so very important. It gives families the option to be able to take time out with the child but to be able to go back to work.
CONNELL: Graham Perrett what about you because Labor railed against of course what Tony Abbott wanted to introduce but what about that same situation I just put to you. That’s really the case isn’t it, for families doing a budget, whoever is earning more, the temptation is well, you’re the one that stays at work. And Labor’s been going on and on saying women are paid less. Well this is going to entrench them because they are going to be the one staying at home and interrupt their career.
PERRETT: Look, from an economic point of view as Andrew said we need to have as many people engaged in the workplace and not disengaged through the process of having a child, with obviously the maternal/paternal connection with your new child. Look, it’s something other countries have done much better than us and when we look at our reasonably poor efforts at paid parental leave…
CONNELL: But, let’s just go into that then. Labor railed against this increase?
PERRETT: Well, look, Labor was actually at the lead of bringing in parental leave with the union movement.
CONNELL: Sure, but what about this though. You said Tony Abbott’s was too generous. Do you need to look at a more generous one than we have at the moment?
PERRETT: Well, I personally think we should be looking at some of the Scandinavian countries in terms of the support that they’ve provided. And there are other bits of leave and I think the union movement has been at the forefront of this; domestic violence leave, a few other things that the union movement has always been at the lead of social expectations.
CONNELL: Would you be happy for Labor to take a look at this.
PERRETT: Very much so. I have certainly had representations from the union movement about what would be best practice, because it varies across industries depending on union density.
CONNELL: I want to just make things a bit lighter for a moment because there was an interesting moment of diplomacy or otherwise when we had Emmanuel Macron visit this week and he had some praise for Malcolm Turnbull and his wife at the end of his speech as well. Let’s have a listen:
[clip of Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull]
CONNELL: Look, it could have happened to anyone. People have quickly pointed out delicieux in French can be delicious or lovely. Have you ever had a moment like that Andrew Wallace?
WALLACE: I can honestly say I’ve never said on national television that someone else’s wife was delicious.
CONNELL: Good to clarify that one.
WALLACE: But I’ve only been in the game for two years.
CONNELL: Ah, there’s still time. Graham Perrett, the Daily Telegraph did its thing, he was Pepe Le Pew the next day. They called him ‘Handsy’. I thought that was a bit unfair.
PERRETT: I thought that was a bit unfair. Look with a name like Perrett; I am always supportive of the French…
WALLACE: I thought it was Perrett.
PERRETT: Well, you know, originally it would have been Perrett. So I thought the Prime Minister actually handled it with much aplomb the next day when he explained it and I think Macron was saying it with the best intentions.
CONNELL: I think he said something like as glowing as it was memorable, the Prime Minister the next day.
PERRETT: Yes, it’s a lovely line.
CONNELL: Fair enough, and what about New Start? Julia Banks this week said that she could live on it. $40 a day. Could you live on it Andrew Wallace?
WALLACE: Look, I think the important thing is we need to look at what the benefit is. The whole idea of the benefit is to try to get people back to work as quickly as you can. Could I live on it? No, personally I couldn’t live on it. But we believe on our side of politics that the best form of welfare is a job and we’re creating over a thousand jobs a day.
CONNELL: And that’s a feather in the cap. There’s a line there between not wanting to have something where you’re incentivizing people to stay there on it, but being able to actually get a new start. The Business Council of Australia says it should be higher?
WALLACE: Well, look, these things are always a matter of getting the right policy setting and the right trade off. For instance I’ve got a business in my electorate back home, Parvo and Heidi Walker and they are constantly telling me that they cannot get young people to work on their fishing boats. You talk to Parvo and Heidi Walker and they will tell you till they are blue in the face that whilst the current settings are in place they simply cannot get young Australians.
CONNELL: So you’re happy where it is?
WALLACE: Yes, I am.
CONNELL: Graham Perrett, Labor has made noises about this. Where should they go?
PERRETT: Well, I know I couldn’t live on it you know. It is a budget consideration. I’ve certainly had some strong representations from people explaining this reality that it hasn’t changed since people were listening to Walkmans almost. So, we do need to have a closer look at it.
CONNELL: But it seems like, you know you can’t talk about doing something, so something’s going to happen in this area? Is that your understanding?
PERRETT: Well, I’m sure Jenny Macklin is looking at the overall. I assume they are looking at some numbers now and we will know more on next Tuesday night in terms of what the Government numbers are, in terms of what budget that we’ve got to play with, but we’ve got to get the balance right as Andrew said.
WALLACE: But at the end of the day we are a government that believes in low tax. So, we want to reduce the taxes of ordinary income earners like you, not to say that you are ordinary Tom, and also businesses…
PERRETT: Ordinary Commonwealth Bank, ordinary NAB.
WALLACE: Well, it’s not just them either Graham, it’s the Mums and Dads that are out there swinging hammers. We want to look after small businesses as well and we want to reduce their taxes.
CONNELL: And I’ll do the rest for you because you know you are giving a terrible tax break to the big banks but you are going to have a worse surplus so on we roll. Gentlemen, we will speak about that in times forward I am sure. Andrew Wallace, Graham Perrett, thank you for your time today.
WALLACE: Thanks Tom, Thanks Graham.
PERRETT: Thanks Tom, Thanks Andrew.