MARK PARTON: It is my understanding that the Victorian Police were front and centre in this morning's raid on Craig Thomson's house on the Central Coast. And it's part of this ongoing investigation into what went on with the money from the HSU. And we cannot wait to hear what they've got to share with us. Certainly on the basis of recent history I would be thinking that they will have something to share with us, perhaps later on this morning. We've got the Federal Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson on the line. It just so happens that he's bobbed up as this story's breaking on the Central Coast. You got anything to say in relation to that breaking news this morning, Emmo?
CRAIG EMERSON: No, I don't know any more than you know. I just saw it bob up on some of the online services. So my response, Parto, is the same one I've given on this and other matters all along, and that is: allow investigative processes to take their course without seeking to interfere with them or influence them.
PARTON: You must be pleased that when the headlines come up now it says 'Independent MP Craig Thomson'?
EMERSON: Craig made his decision and the Prime Minister did ask Craig to step aside to become an Independent. That's happened. The guy's entitled to due process. He is entitled to a presumption of innocence. He's entitled to natural justice and he's not, I think, entitled to descriptions by Senator George Brandis as the alternative Attorney-General of this country, to say that police charges are just a matter of time. That's the sort of interference that I think is unwarranted in this case – and in any other case, whether it relates to a Coalition MP, an Independent MP, a Labor MP or anyone anywhere else in the country. I think these principles are very important ones, Parto, and unfortunately they get violated from time to time, particularly by Coalition frontbenchers.
PARTON: There are so many hypotheticals that have popped up along the way in this whole saga: hypotheticals involving MPs finding themselves no longer in the Parliament and by-elections and all sorts of things. I would have thought now that we're so desperately close to the next Federal election that that stuff doesn't really matter anymore.
EMERSON: Well, we're still – I think the last election was in August of 2010 – so we're still quite a way away. But I agree with you, there are more relevant things to talk about than the media and the Coalition for that matter seeking to speculate on instability in the Parliament. We've passed more than 400 pieces of legislation through that Parliament. Just about every piece of legislation that we've sought to enact we have, sometimes sensibly with amendments from the Independents. And so it is a stable parliament; it will continue to be a stable parliament. We will have people wanting to talk about these issues. We'll want to talk about what we're doing to continue to strengthen the economy to make sure that the working men and women of Australia have a fair share of the strength that does arise out of economic policies and the good work of our business community and the working people themselves.
PARTON: Federal Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson is with us. Of course, we had an election here in Canberra on Saturday – and the primary electoral support for the Greens in Canberra has fallen away by about 4 or 5 per cent. If it falls away by that amount here, you must be hopeful that perhaps it's going to fall away by that much on the Federal scene. Thoughts?
EMERSON: Well, I think it's self-evident that there was a big drop in Greens' support. There was a lift in Liberal support in the ACT and a smaller lift in Labor support. With this Modified Dont scheme, if that's what's still in operation, it's a bit like the Duckworth-Lewis system, isn't it? You know…
PARTON: The beautiful thing about election night here in Canberra is that election night goes for a week.
EMERSON: Yeah, that's right. And in the Duckworth-Lewis system you don't know who's won the match until someone says someone won it by half a run. Well, it seems like that's about how it's going to unfold. I understand it takes until about Saturday for it to all be worked out.
PARTON: It does, but it certainly would appear that there'll be another Labor-Greens alliance. I just couldn't imagine the Greens here getting into bed with the local Libs. I think from a Labor perspective it's actually quite a positive thing, because despite the fact that the Libs did get a massive swing towards them in the ACT here on Saturday, there was also a small swing to Labor.
EMERSON: Yeah. That's right. And I saw Tony Abbott saying 'well, the Libs should form a government'. But what's he advocating? A Liberal-Green alliance?
PARTON: Well, I guess he's advocating that. Don't worry, I had Zed Seselja on this morning and he's advocating that as well. For the life of me I just cannot see …
EMERSON: That principle didn't last very long, did it?
PARTON: I cannot see that it would possibly work. He's not talking about a ministry and everything else; he's just talking about a power-sharing agreement.
EMERSON: That's an alliance, isn't it?
PARTON: I guess so. It just wouldn't be sustainable. It would be as sustainable as you and I hosting a radio program together Monday to Friday.
EMERSON: Oh, we could do that. I reckon we'd be sensational, Parto.
PARTON: Let's move on to some other matters. Angry business community leaders have rounded on your Government's strategy of slugging businesses to fill the budget shortfall. They've warned that this move – the change to company tax – threatens to shackle growth, to increase perceptions of sovereign risk and add to the woes of the struggling manufacturing sector.
EMERSON: Well, the workers pay their tax every fortnight on a pay-as-you-go basis, and what we're saying is that it's pretty fair that companies pay tax every month. They used to pay it on a yearly basis. I think it was the previous Howard Government that moved it to a quarterly basis. And we're just saying how about you pay it on a monthly basis. I don't think that actually is the end of the world. I don't think there was soaring sovereign risk when Mr Costello moved from a yearly to a quarterly basis. So maybe they should just settle down a bit and get on with what they do very well, and that's create jobs for Australia. We've got 800,000 new jobs since this Government formed office; we've got unemployment at a relatively low 5.5 per cent; we've got an economy that's growing stronger than any major advanced country and is expected by the IMF to continue to do so; inflation at 13-year lows; investment at 40-year highs, and interest rates more than halved in respect of the Reserve Bank cash rate since this Government was formed. They are actually indicators of a very strong economy.
PARTON: Before I let you go, the Government's much-delayed policy on the Asian Century is going to be released on Sunday. Are you in a position to tell us anything about it at this stage?
EMERSON: Look, it's really very much about people-to-people relationships. It's not some sort of sophisticated computable general equilibrium model or anything like that. It's a big dose of common sense, but a commitment to continue our economic integration with what is the fastest-growing region on earth. We used to talk about the tyranny of distance and here we are at the right place at the right time, in the Asian region in the Asian Century. Let's make the most of it and give our young people that splendid diversity of career opportunities that is on offer in the Asian Century.
PARTON: Thanks for your time this morning, as always.
EMERSON: Thanks, Parto.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555