MARK PARTON: Dr Craig Emerson is the Federal Trade Minister and he joins us on a weekly basis. He's on the line right now. Good morning sir.
CRAIG EMERSON: Good morning Parto from a brilliant, sunny Autumn … actually Spring day in Logan.
PARTON: In Logan, which is obviously close to home for you. Look, we've got to talk about Lindsay Tanner, who I spoke with I think once on-air in the time that he was an elected Member - because he just didn't like the media. I don't reckon I have ever seen Lindsay Tanner smile. I'm sure you have, because I think you've spent more time with him. But I just always found that he was just so negative, and he's certainly being very negative when he refers to your Party. He says that Labor has become an electoral machine largely devoid of purpose and that it risks a period of unprecedented bleakness. How can you ignore stuff like that from Lindsay Tanner?
EMERSON: Well, I can because we're just so busy getting on with what we're doing. Lindsay is perfectly entitled to express a view, as is anyone. I'll just give you an example: after I've finished talking with you, I'm going off to talk to a big pastoral company about collaboration potentially with Indonesia, and then I'm talking to a Chinese delegation who are out here in Australia. This is the sort of work that we're doing. I am speaking on food security tonight, and as a government we've just been working to the future and not looking at the past. I suppose when you're out of politics you can have a look at the past; that's a retrospective and in some senses we are just too busy dealing with the present and the future.
PARTON: But surely you can't just ignore it.
EMERSON: Yes, I can.
PARTON: But he was such an integral part of your Government for such a long period of time. Are you trying to tell me that there's nothing in this criticism that you can take on-board and say 'you know what, maybe he's right on that or that'?
EMERSON: No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that Lindsay's entitled to his perspective on these things. But since this Government has been elected, we averted recession. There are 11 million people who lost their jobs in Europe and North America; at that same time in Australia 300,000 jobs were gained, out of a total now of 800,000. That's the dignity of work; they're not just statistics. We've got a proper, decent dental scheme coming in; we've got the National Disability Insurance Scheme; obviously, we've got needs-based funding to give every kid the opportunity of a great school education. These are Labor values, Parto. This is what Labor does.
PARTON: And if you're doing it, and you're doing it so well, and you're looking after the country, why do you smell so badly on those polls?
EMERSON: Well, in fact I am reluctant to talk about the polls, but if you ask a direct question: we're 50/50 in the polls; the Prime Minister is ahead of Tony Abbott as preferred Prime Minister; but we do not and will not get up out of bed every Monday or every second Tuesday and check the polls and change our policies accordingly. We will not do that - that would be to betray the national interest. This is a Labor Government with Labor values; our industrial relations system reflects Labor values; we'll continue to govern in the interest of all Australians, irrespective of how they vote. But I'm forward-looking on this, Parto. I just frankly don't have time to go back and - with all due respect to Lindsay - go through it all and lament and say 'yes, mistakes were made - isn't that terrible'. Let's just get on with the job. That's what the Australian people expect of us.
PARTON: All right, let's look forward. We've got Julia Gillard and Bob Carr in New York this morning, and the whole UN Council bid is on. I tend to believe that it's a huge waste of time and money; I think most Australians do. Malcolm Farr from News Limited earlier suggested that most Australians do think that, but maybe we should think differently about it. Convince me that this is time and money well spent.
EMERSON: Well, here we are in the Asian region in the Asian Century - 21st Century - and we have expertise in terms of the security issues in our own backyard in Asia and the Pacific. The other two bidders are both from Europe; that would give a very Eurocentric Security Council. And what we're saying is: 'let's bring the expertise of Australia to bear on this'. We brokered a peace deal in Cambodia; we work closely with our Pacific island neighbours; we've been involved in peacekeeping forces in East Timor. It's so important that we have peace and security in our region. And to have that determined, if you like, or the influences, coming more out of Europe than Australia or our region doesn't make a lot of sense. An integral part of the living standards of every Australian is a sense that they can live in times of peace and security. It's not all about dollars and cents. It's about that sense of security and we can bring some perspectives to bear from our region and our experience. That is good.
PARTON: So how do we … 'cause it's going to get down to convincing, obviously, a number of influential people who are having a vote that we should get this spot ahead of Finland, ahead of Luxembourg.
EMERSON: That's right.
PARTON: Do you think that the work's been done to ensure that we will get that vote?
EMERSON: Well we have worked hard, but we came into the race four years ago - those two countries have been in it for a decade. So I hope that - just like the Bulldogs on Sunday night - we'll be the fast finishers in this race, and we'll be able to claim the win.
PARTON: And you fancy the Dogs on the weekend?
EMERSON: I think it's going to be tough. I do take heart from the fact that Manly beat the Storm 40-nil, I think, in the Grand Final last year, if I'm not mistaken. So, I would not want to be playing the Storm in Melbourne, but then again most NRL followers would not want the Grand Final in Melbourne anyway. So anyone who's not with the Storm, come out and barrack for the Bulldogs.
PARTON: Okay. And what about the other game: do you have any interest in the AFL?
EMERSON: Well, I'd just like the see the Swannies win. But it's pretty hard for them to win down in Melbourne, just as I hope it's hard for the Storm to win in Sydney. But wouldn't it be terrific to have the Swans get up?
PARTON: The Swans sort of find themselves a little bit like Federal Labor: that they're rank underdogs. I guess on that front there might be some Labor people cheering for them in the hope that they can cause an upset.
EMERSON: Well, you know, there's nothing wrong with having the underdog status. Des Hassler seeks it every day of the week, every week of the year. He says 'oh, this is going to be a really hard game', and the Dogs have ended up in the Grand Final. Hopefully they'll win it.
PARTON: Thanks for your time again this morning, Emmo.
EMERSON: Righto, Parto.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555