SANDY ALOISI: Here at home the Federal Government is hoping tomorrow's Budget will provide the political circuit-breaker it's been seeking for a long time. But Labor's political woes will be back in the spotlight today, with Fair Work Australia making an announcement on its marathon investigation into Health Services Union officials, including Craig Thomson. Mr Thomson is now sitting as a crossbencher in Federal Parliament after the Prime Minister told him to leave the Labor Caucus two weeks ago. To look at what is a crucial week for the Government, Marius Benson is speaking to the Trade Minister Craig Emerson.
MARIUS BENSON: Craig Emerson, for a tough Budget the Government seems to be putting out a fair bit of good news in association with tomorrow's Budget documents. Part of that is a cash handout straight away, hundreds of dollars heading next month to parents of schoolchildren. Now the Opposition says that's nothing to do with education spending and everything to do with cheering people up as the carbon tax comes in. Are they right?
CRAIG EMERSON: Ask parents what they think about receiving this sort of support for their kids going to school. And we were very disappointed with Mr Hockey talking this idea down. I mean, surely the Coalition does believe in supporting parents who are taking their kids to school. It is a costly exercise. We had an education tax refund that was not being fully accessed, and as a consequence we are making sure this is money that goes into the hands of parents so that they cover the costs of their children, or at least get some support in covering those costs. But, yet again, the constant negativity of the Coalition talking it down, saying it's not a good idea, is just appalling.
BENSON: Craig Emerson, the Budget is brought down tomorrow. There's a Caucus meeting today when all the Labor MPs get together and obviously compare notes from their electorate. Your electorate of Rankin is in the south of Brisbane and a bit beyond the south of the city. What are people in Rankin saying to you about how Labor's going at the moment?
EMERSON: Obviously we have difficulties … they're actually saying quite nice things about me – so that's good. But we have difficulties; we understand that. There is apprehension about the carbon price; there's no doubt about that. People will see from the 1st of July the true impact of it, which will be nothing like the impact that the Coalition has been claiming.
BENSON: You obviously will be hoping the Budget will be good news for the Government. But there's the prospect of some bad news for you today with Fair Work Australia releasing material after its years of investigation into HSU officials, including your own Craig Thomson. Potential for bad news there for you?
EMERSON: In fact what we've hoped is that there would be a release of this report of Fair Work Australia. Four years in the making – Craig Thomson's had two baby daughters during that time. We've always said let the processes continue without any interference. And it's been the Coalition that have demanded that this report be released; demanded that we ring up Fair Work Australia; that the Prime Minister instructs Fair Work Australia to release the report. We've had the Coalition ringing up police ministers in New South Wales. There's a very clear distinction here, Marius: and that is between a government that respects processes, and a Coalition that wants to interfere in them and put pressure on investigators.
BENSON: Craig Emerson, thanks very much.
EMERSON: Thank you, Marius.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555