"BRIGGS: I'd just love to be in a position where I could just float ideas and not have to actually follow through and deliver, I mean that's yeah look -
ELLIS: Well you are, you're a member of the Liberal Government."
MATTHEW ABRAHAM AND DAVID BEVAN, 891 ABC ADELAIDE
WEDNESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2015
HOST: Jamie Briggs, welcome to the studio.
BRIGGS: Always a pleasure.
HOST: Kate Ellis, Labor MP for Adelaide. Shadow Education Minister, welcome.
ELLIS: Very good to be here, thank you.
HOST: And is he on the ground? Is he in the air? Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for South Australia.
XENOPHON: Good morning, just landed
HOST: You've just landed. Excellent. This is still not costing you $9 a minute?
HOST: That's a pity. We were going to run up the tab for you.
XENOPHON: I know you would.
HOST: And did you end up signing up the little, was it a little boy or a little girl sitting next to you?
XENOPHON: Ah, a little boy.
HOST: A little boy. He's now got a Nick Xenophon badge. And thank you for the text letting us know Nick's plane has just landed. Some of you, for some reason have been monitoring it across the oceans. Jamie Briggs, Liberal MP for Mayo let’s start with you. You are in the studio with us. Here on super Wednesday where we bring you the best of South Australian politics. The GST, are you thrilled at selling it at the next election in Mayo, a 15 per cent GST.
BRIGGS: Well I'll be thrilled to sell whatever tax policy we decide to take to the election and I think what we're doing at the moment I think is becoming a hallmark of the Turnbull Government is that we're having an open conversation with the Australian people, we're not being diverted by potential scare campaigns that some want to run. We're actually having a genuine discussion about how do we make our tax system more competitive for the future. I think a fundamental of that is how do we lower the overall tax taken from Australians? And that discussion is ongoing there's different views. It's very good to see most people participating. It's just disappointing that the other major political party in Australia doesn't want to participate in the debate.
HOST: Kate Ellis, would you support a 15 per cent GST?
HOST: Why not?
ELLIS: Well we already know from research done recently at Curtin University that would mean about $4000 for many average Australian families. We also know that families are doing it tough; that wages are already increasing at a slower rate than the cost of living and we don't want to see Australians pay more every time they go to the supermarket, every time they go to the doctor, every time they pay their school fees which are the proposals we're hearing out of the Government.
HOST: But you do want more services. You've been banging on about Gonski, just one example, more money for education -
ELLIS: - I'm glad you've been listening, David, yes -
HOST: -so, so, if you want to spend more money, you gotta get more money. Where would you get the money from?
ELLIS: Absolutely you do and that's why for every policy that's outlined it needs to identified where the funding is coming from. But what we're hearing from the Government at the moment is a sort of magic pudding approach, that I mean we've heard they don't want the GST to go into health and education they want it to go into tax cuts or they want it to go into a number of other measures. There is no clear policy out there. All we know is that in my mind tax reform is not hiking up a tax that hits every Australian family.
HOST: But that's why you have a debate. You say look we could put this up and what are all the different things we could spend on. Now when you get closer to a policy you narrow it down but you can't spend it twice, you can only spend it once. That's why you have a debate.
ELLIS: Well that's why I understand they're having a debate within the Liberal party at the moment about that policy. It's why our position is very clear. Increasing the GST to 15 per cent would just provide an unfair hit on average ordinary Australian families and we have identified a number of other ways that we could find savings in the Federal Budget and we will continue to outline those.
HOST: Nick Xenophon, the Independent Senator for South Australia. Are you going to an election campaign with or without supporting a GST increase?
XENOPHON: Look I can't support a GST increase I think we need to look at the big picture, the big picture is, how do you reinvent government, how do you make government more efficient before we talk about tax increases. Can we make government work more effectively for people? Can we add policies so that we can get more bang for our buck whether it's in health or education. We've got an ageing demographic, increased demands on health. How do we reform our system of government and reform the delivery of services before we start talking about slugging people for more.
HOST: But surely there is agreement across the board that there are structural problems with our budgets. We need either to severely curtail spending or find new sources of revenue. Nick Xenophon are you saying that you can billions and billions and billions of dollars in savings?
XENOPHON: I think we can find billions of dollars in savings. I know that in terms of education, in terms of health, just a few weeks ago Norman Swan did a terrific piece on Four Corners where it seems that there are billions in the health system where you don't necessarily get a better outcome, nor in education. It's not about cuts it's about how do you make government smarter? How do you have an emphasis on preventative health? I know that -
HOST: - you wanna, so you want to cut the health budget? -
XENOPHON: No, no, no, it's not about -
HOST: Isn't the code "preventative health", that's pollie speak for cutting health. Jamie Briggs, you're just sitting there and you're shaking your head, Jamie Briggs -
XENOPHON: - It's code for-
HOST: - well hang on, what's it code for quickly?
XENOPHON: It's code for having fewer people in and out of hospital, people being healthier, having a smarter approach to the way that we do our health and Norman Swan's piece on Four Corners shows that there are a lot of unnecessary procedures where you don't necessarily get good outcomes -
HOST: - so you want to cut health spending?
XENOPHON: No you don't actually.. You shift that spending into preventative health so you don't get as many people turning up in hospital.
HOST: Jamie Briggs, does that make sense to you?
BRIGGS: I'd just love to be in a position where I could just float ideas and not have to actually follow through and deliver, I mean that's yeah look -
ELLIS: Well you are, you're a member of the Liberal Government.
HOST: Ouch! That's got to hurt.
BRIGGS: Well we actually have a policy which you guys have already stood yourselves aside from this and Kate talks about having savings, in fact I think the last estimates there are about 40 billion short from their proposals that they want to spend. And let’s not forget, we're in this mess because the Labor party put us in this mess in the first place. We've got structural spending far above revenue, ah, because Labor put in place big spending policies without the commensurate revenue measures or savings to pay for them. The NDIS is a classic example. Good policy but Labor puts it in place without funding it and now it's hitting the budget, the Australian people are seeing the deficits we have into the future so there are no easy choices on these things. But the overall point here, and I think a point that I think both Kate and others are missing is that you can have a more efficient taxation system and lower the tax rate, the overall tax take. That's exactly what happened in 2000 when the Labor party opposed the first GST, they were happy to take the benefits of it. Mike Rann in South Australia spent all the proceeds of the GST very quickly when he got them. You can have a more efficient taxation system, collect it more efficiently and still take away, reduce the overall tax rate or tax take on the Australian people.
HOST: Kate Ellis, sorry that's Jamie Briggs here on super Wednesday with Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for South Australia, who's just landed. Kate Ellis, Jamie Briggs, Liberal Member for Mayo. Kate Ellis, Jay Weatherill, he's gung ho about this I mean you gotta read between the lines but he's made it pretty clear that there's a nice bucket of cash there and no one, he doesn’t want anyone disadvantaged of course but if there's a 15 per cent GST rate he wants to have a conversation in inverted commas about that.
ELLIS: Look I'm not surprised that Jay Weatherill or any State Premier would be looking for ways to fill the $80 billion hole in the health and education budgets that the Abbott and now Turnbull Governments have created. The problem we have is that even the Government members who are mainly backgrounding about a potential increase in the GST, or in Steven Marshall's recent comments, they have said that this money should not go towards health and education, it should go towards cutting business tax rates or the like. Which just means that Australian families are going to be slugged more and then they're going to be slugged more through fewer services in health and education.
HOST: Jamie Briggs, it's not going to be great baggage to take into an election is it? I mean you've got a bounce now, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott is gone he's off to work at the Thatcher Foundation -
BRIGGS: - I guess the question -
HOST: - reinterpreting the words of Christ, some would say.
BRIGGS: - I guess the question of what you're in politics for, Matt. Are you in politics to just win elections and be popular -
HOST: - well most of you are. It's fair to say. Aren't you?
BRIGGS: Oh no, no. I think there are, there are some, Malcolm Turnbull is one of those people who want to leave Australia in a better position. John Howard was one of those people and in the end, taking on difficult discussions is what you need from time to time but we are in that position right now, I believe we are absolutely in that position right now.
HOST: Why would you and Malcolm Turnbull and the rest of the Coalition want to suffer the pain of putting up a tax so that you can hand it over to people like Jay Weatherill and he can spend it all.
BRIGGS: Well that's not necessarily what we do want to do. What we want to do is assure that we've got a taxation system which is competitive. Which is a low as we can have it to pay for the services the Australian people want. That is ultimately what the aim is here. We've got to work out is the taxation system we have now fit for purpose in 2015 and beyond, because we do stand at the door of amazing opportunity, but we need to make sure our economy is operating as well as possible.
HOST: So is this about finding more money or is it about finding a more efficient way of collecting the same or less?
BRIGGS: I don't think this is about finding more money at all. It's about finding a more efficient way to collect so we're not putting more pressure on people. We want people to be successful. We think they are better with their money than what th Government is, so we want people to have the most opportunity that they've got to create the best of their own lives. That's exactly what we're seeking to do.
HOST: You're listening to Jamie Briggs there. Kate Ellis, Labor MP for Adelaide. Jamie Briggs, Liberal MP for Mayo. They're both in the studio. Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for South Australia. Nick Xenophon, we've talked to you before about the Malcolm Turnbull effect and the fact that you're running candidates who according to Stirling Griff will be unsuccessful at business, have lost the family home and won't be any threat to you. In other words just sort of clones as some people have, I think Malcolm Turnbull called them. Why don't you, have you considered running, really putting yourself to a test, get out of the Senate and throw your hat into the ring for a Boothby or a Mayo or a seat of Adelaide.
ELLIS: Not Adelaide please.
HOST: Oh right, haha, pick on Boothby.
XENOPHON: That's not what Stirling actually said -
HOST: - I was paraphrasing.
XENOPHON: It's not quite accurate paraphrasing. Look, the issue is, I'm very happy doing what I'm doing in the Senate -
HOST: - It's a bit cosy though isn't it. Rather than putting up a non-entity. Rather than putting up a lot of non-entities, these unknowns, why doesn't Nick Xenophon go to where the action is? Get yourself a seat in the lower house.
XENOPHON: There's plenty of action in the Senate and I guess that any candidates running in lower house seats will be put to the test and you'll get to know them and they won’t be non-entities by the end of the campaign.
HOST: Kate Ellis, are you breathing a sigh of relief with the polls of Malcolm Turnbull because the big threat to Labor seats and Liberal seats in South Australia was Nick Xenophon. Do you think that's faded now?
ELLIS: Well look to be really honest with you, I breathe a sigh of relief for any day that Tony Abbott was no longer the Prime Minister of the country so I welcome Tony Abbott departing the, well he hasn't yet departed the Parliament but I think it is a much better move for our whole political debate -
HOST: you know what you're saying there though don't you really though. Cause that's what, that's what the polls are saying.
ELLIS: I understand that the Australian people, and I am out there in my community constantly, are relieved to see the end of Tony Abbott. And frankly are relieved to see the end of the sort of negativity and the toxic environment.
HOST: So you don’t think Malcolm Turnbull is such a bad guy?
ELLIS: I think that Malcolm Turnbull is a more positive politician than Tony Abbott was I would welcome that. But what I think at the next election is that Malcolm Turnbull will need to be judged on the policies he is putting forward for the long term future of Australia and that is a debate that I say bring it on. If he wants to take an increased GST to the next election, hiking it by 50%, I say absolutely -
HOST: - sounds like you'd vote for Turnbull.
ELLIS: I would certainly not vote for Turnbull. But I recognise that people are relieved to see the end of Tony Abbott and that it has been an incredibly toxic time in Australian politics.
HOST: Jamie Briggs that must be music to your ears. Cause I know in the polling, as I understand it, in your electorate yes the Xenophon was a threat but the Labor vote was right down. What will happen to the Xenophon vote at the next election do you think? In seats like Mayo, in seats like Boothby.
BRIGGS: Well I'll let the good people of Mayo make that decision and I'll put to them a case that I should be re-elected because -
HOST: - well I would hope you would, sorry -
ELLIS: - You'll hike their GST? -
BRIGGS: - Well Kate, we'll have a policy and I'm afraid what Bill Shorten will have is a scare campaign. He'll be trying to dodge questions every day of the campaign about his involvement in the trade union scandals in the last couple of years so a really interesting campaign. We've got a really positive guy talking about the future of our country and we've got a bloke who's stuck in the past, wanting to run a scare campaign. That'll be the choice people have got.
ELLIS: I'm really glad that you'll have a policy. Hopefully you'll have a policy on education, a policy on child care, a policy on all the things that you haven't had in Government.
BRIGGS: We've got a policy at the moment before the Parliament on child care.
ELLIS: No you don't.
BRIGGS: Yes we do. Absolutely. Comprehensive policy.
ELLIS: It is absolutely not before the Parliament and nobody has seen any detail in 21 months since the review, three Child Care Ministers later. You're yet to have a concrete policy and we saw in the papers that you're changing your mind on it again. You're in Government, let's do something.
HOST: Sorry what is the ah, probably shouldn't help Kate Ellis here but, what is the current child care policy.
BRIGGS: There is quite a substantial change to the way, it was announced in the Budget, the way that the child care system will operate and the payments to people are simplifying and making it clearer for families about what they are entitled to get to assist with the cost of child care because we recognise that people need child care increasingly. Particularly with most families now having two incomes in their households, it is a very different system to what it was 20 years ago. So these reforms are about strengthening the capacity to deal with that change.
ELLIS: So you're happy if we all see the detail of that policy today then?
BRIGGS: Oh Kate the detail is clear. The problem is the Labor Party won't engage in an actual debate. All they want to do is pose and run scare campaigns.
ELLIS: I would love to engage in a debate but I need to see the detail of the policy to be able to discuss it.
HOST: Kate Ellis, Labor MP for Adelaide and Shadow Education Minister, thanks for coming in. Thank you Jamie Briggs, Liberal MP for Mayo and Minister for Cities and Built Environments and just stepped off the plane from Singapore is Independent Senator for South Australia on the phone, Nick Xenophon thank you.