MARK PARTON: Let's go to the Federal Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson. He, of course, is the Member for Rankin, which is just on the southern outskirts of Brisbane. I'd love to know if, with that 1,500 jobs cut from Canberra in this federal Budget … Brisbane's a bit bigger than Canberra. I think it's about 1.2 million people in Brisbane. I'd love to know if there were 3,000 jobs going from Brisbane if Dr Emerson would be jumping up and down and screaming savagely. Morning, Craig.
CRAIG EMERSON: Good morning, Mark.
PARTON: Would you?
EMERSON: Well, obviously, every day jobs are disappearing and new jobs are being created. We've got an unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent…
PARTON: Craig, what sort of a cop-out statement is that: "every day jobs are going and some are being created"? Your Treasurer stood up yesterday and just said 'hey, there's 4,000 public service jobs that are going to go'.
EMERSON: Yeah, well that's what we're doing through an efficiency dividend and other measures. And what I'm saying is … what you're, I think, Mark, trying to convey is that there's mass unemployment in Australia. There's not. We're at 5.2 per cent. The United States is about eight and a half per cent; Europe much higher; Spain 24 per cent. And every day, yes, there are stories about job losses and not many stories about job gains. That's the point I'm trying to make: job losses is bad news; bad news for families; bad news obviously for the people who lose their jobs. Job gains are good news; therefore they don't get any media coverage at all. But job gains are occurring. We are a low unemployment country.
PARTON: Can you imagine how much easier this Budget would have been if we didn't have the NBN; if we didn't have the carbon tax.
EMERSON: Well in fact the NBN doesn't appear in the Budget …
PARTON: I know it doesn't appear in the Budget.
EMERSON: I think you actually know that, so I'm not sure of the point you're making.
PARTON: Okay, okay.
EMERSON: It doesn't make the Budget any easier or harder. But, look, while we're talking about job losses in the ACT and Queanbeyan, have a look at the alternative: and that is Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey who have said that they are going to preside over massive job losses, probably of a scale not seen since John Howard did so in 1996 — smashed the property market in the ACT and Queanbeyan, and plunged a lot of families into unemployment. So, we think this is manageable. Mr Howard slashed heavily and Mr Abbott is indicating that this is going to be, for him if he were to become Prime Minister, a substantial source of savings. That is, the jobs of families in the ACT and Queanbeyan.
PARTON: Craig, you'll be pleased to know that I did say to Malcolm Farr earlier that I thought the pain that Canberra's going to experience here could be akin to the pain of the anaesthetic needle going in before the other mob turn up next year with the scalpel.
EMERSON: Yes, well, we're doing everything we can to prevent the other mob turning up next year, as you know Mark.
PARTON: And I know you are doing everything you can, but I don't know. I will be surprised if there's not a sort of a — what do they call it — a scarred earth situation appear at the next federal Budget. Because I'm sorry, mate, you're not going to be there at the end of the next election. I know you — and I know Wayne Swan — put on a brave face, and he genuinely believes that somehow it can turn around — but it just can't.
EMERSON: Well, people like you have said that through most parliaments, and I'm not having a go at you …
PARTON: No, that's all right.
EMERSON: They certainly said that when John Howard was Prime Minister in March of 2001. The GST had just come in. People were screaming about the Business Activity Statement. Petrol prices had just gone up sharply. And he was in all sorts of trouble, and people were metaphorically saying that Kim Beazley and his team were measuring up the curtains in the Ministerial Wing. In fact, we weren't because we knew that these things can turn around. And in the case of Howard, not only did he turn it around, he won the 2001 election handsomely — absolutely handsomely. And he lost the Ryan by-election — I don't know if you remember that — with a 10 per cent swing. Ryan is also on the south side if you like — or much of it — of Brisbane, and a blue ribbon seat. He lost it. And so the pundits were saying 'that's it — Beazley's team's coming in; Howard's finished'. So I'm just saying that most parliamentary terms you get this sort of analysis.
The Budget that we released is a Budget that does return us to surplus. It makes room for further interest rate cuts. And it may be of interest to your listeners to know that the Reserve Bank cash rate now, Mark, is three and three-quarter per cent, compared with six and three-quarter per cent when we came into government. So much for the argument that the Coalition always has lower interest rates. They are much lower now than when we came into government.
PARTON: I heard a suggestion yesterday, turning to other matters, that either Tony Windsor or Rob Oakeshott or both of them were considering supporting this Opposition move to get behind the possible suspension of the Member for Dobell for 14 sitting days. Did you fear at any point that that would occur yesterday?
EMERSON: Well, I was just sitting there and watching people move to various sides of the Parliament. Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott moved to the "no" side of the Parliament with the Labor MPs. I'm not a constitutional expert, Mark, but I don't know any provision in the Constitution that allows a group of MPs to vote to exclude another MP duly elected by the people of Australia under the Constitution from participating in the parliamentary processes.
PARTON: A number of callers to this program this morning … and don't worry, they know when you're coming up, mate. They either love you or they hate you.
EMERSON: Give my love to all of them. Share the love.
PARTON: And they wanted me to ask, 'why does the Government continue to accept Mr Thomson's vote?' — which I think's a stupid question but I want to hear your answer.
EMERSON: Sure. It's a very disturbing report. This is the first time we've had the opportunity to see a report that's been four years in the making. Craig Thomson denies the allegations against him, but they'll be tested now in a court. As I understand, from Fair Work Australia, these are civil matters. Now, they are serious civil matters and I will not in any way seek to diminish those. But if we're in a situation where as parliamentarians we are judge and jury, replacing the court system in this country, then I think that's a disturbing development. There's a number of Coalition MPs who themselves are subject to civil action, and these are also significant, serious civil action. I don't make any judgement.
PARTON: I thought Albo's response was really well done yesterday. I was impressed. Craig, we're out of time, but thanks for joining us again this morning — appreciate it.
EMERSON: And all I'm saying is I don't make pre-judgments. I'm not judge and jury. That's for others to do.
PARTON: All right. Thanks.
EMERSON: Thanks, Mark.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555