SUBJECTS: Politicians pay; Newspoll; Carbon tax compensation; HSU scandal
Matthew Abraham: Senator Don Farrell, good morning to you.
Don Farrell: Good morning Matthew.
Abraham: And Christopher Pyne; powerbroker from the other side of the bench, Manager of Opposition Business on the big house on the hill in Canberra, Shadow Education Minister, Chris Pyne, good morning to you.
Christopher Pyne: Good morning Matthew. Good morning Don.
Farrell: Good morning to you Christopher. Are you supporting Peter Costello’s return to Federal Parliament?
Pyne: That was good. You get to ask the questions so I guess I get to ask you questions too. Peter Costello of course is not coming back to Parliament and I think that’s been made perfectly clear. Much as we love him and we enjoyed his time as treasurer back in the time of surpluses and low unemployment and low interest rates and income tax cuts and company tax cuts, unlike the current era. We can’t always hanker after the past. He’s had his go and he’s happy in his retirement from politics.
Abraham: Don Farrell, do you want him back? Sounds like you’re pining for him.
Farrell: Well, significant sections of the Liberal Party, are, ah, keen to have him back. There have obviously been some discussions about it, but it appears that his former close friend Mr Kroger isn’t prepared to support it so it’s not going to happen now.
Pyne: I’m not surprised Don wants Peter Costello back, given the current Treasurer. Even Don would recognise that Peter Costello is a much better treasurer than Wayne Swan so it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s hankering after his return.
David Bevan: Gentleman, if we could get a question into both of you, Rob Lucas Liberal frontbencher has told the Upper House of state parliament that it’s nonsense to suggest either of you, that is federal MPs in general, are worth $40,000 a year more than a state MP. Can you explain to our listeners why it is that federal MPs get paid so much more than a state MP? Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Well, the reason for that is very simple. Until recently the state MPs were linked to the Federal Remuneration Tribunal determinations. For some inexplicable reason that only state MPs could explain they decided to decouple themselves from the remuneration tribunal’s federal determination. I can’t answer why they would do that.
Bevan: $40,000 is a lot more money though. What is it that a Federal MP does that justifies $40,000 more than a state MP? Don Farrell have you got an answer?
Farrell: Look, I think the ah, answer to that Matt, sorry Dave, is ah, that ah, there was a review of wages for Federal Parliamentarians took some 12 months to complete. Umm, it was in the nature of a work value assessment, so obviously, umm, the ah, tribunal went out and determined what the wages or conditions ought to have been. I think the significant thing that now distinguishes state and federal pay is a string of benefits, which federal parliamentarians were previously entitled to , including travel and so forth have been abolished.
Bevan: And in return for that you got a 31 per cent pay rise. You gave up a whole lot of Parliamentary allowances, you got a whopping 31 per cent pay rise to compensate for that and you’re in front of the state MPs by $40,000 a year. South Australian MPs by the way have just voted to get themselves a 2.9 per cent pay increase, which is 0.4 of a per cent more than they are giving to the state public servants.
Abraham: It’s one thing you all agree on isn’t it?
Pyne: Obviously not because the state MPs didn’t link themselves to the Federal Remuneration Tribunal and the thing about MPs pay is nobody goes into Parliament because they’re chasing a dollar. They go into Parliament because they’re seeking to serve the people and serve their electorates. Now, I don’t have any say and neither does Don about our remuneration. That’s decided by the Federal Tribunal, as it should be.
Abraham: Now, Chris Pyne, was the Coalition a little poleaxed by the poll bounce for the budget in Newspoll? The Nielsen Poll, the Fairfax poll came out an showed after the budget that there wasn’t a big bounce, but Newspoll certainly showed quite a kick for the Gillard Government and are they now going to be able to build on that with handouts going out for carbon tax compensation and the school kids allowance?
Pyne: Well, the carbon tax is coming on 1 July like a wrecking ball through the economy. It doesn’t surprise me that the Newspoll showed a tightening of the polls. It was 59-41 the previous fortnight which is an unsustainable level, but as Labor is happy with a 55-45 poll position in the Newspoll then I’m happy with that too. I’m very happy to have an election on that basis.
Abraham: Don Farrell?
Farrell: I don’t say we’re happy with those results and obviously as a Government we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do. We’re starting that with of course today the rollout of the compensation package for the ah, ah…..
Pyne: Say the word. Come on, you can say it. We know the advertising campaign doesn’t say it.
Farrell: Look, look.
Pyne: Come on, spit it out, the carbon tax.
Farrell: Let me have a go. It’s not the lower house of parliament here. It’s ABC Radio. We’ve got to have equal time.
Pyne: Fair enough.
Farrell: Look, the ads might not say it, but the reality; everybody in Australia knows that the Labor Party have put a price on carbon and what we’re telling about now to the Australian community is the rollout of the compensation package.
Abraham: Don Farrell, why not mention in the ad, is it an insult to people Don Farrell, South Australian Senator from the Labor Party, is it an insult to people to run ads about compensation for the carbon tax without using the word compensation and without using the word carbon tax or even the Government’s preferred word of carbon price?
Farrell: Oh look the reality is Matt, there’s no person in Australia that doesn’t know the Government is putting a price on carbon as of the 1st of July this year. We’ve been talking about it for the past five years, Mr Abbott talks about it I think every single day and Mr Pyne talks about it every single day. I don’t think people, umm, I mean, I think actually the reverse of what you’re saying. I think people would be insulted if you had to explain what this compensation was for. They know that it’s for the carbon tax and they’re looking forward, looking forward to getting it.
Bevan: Well before the quarter to eight news we were trying to work out who exactly was going to get this money. And a lot of our listeners in the last half hour or so have sent us a text saying they’re concerned that they’re not going to get any. They don’t consider themselves to be wealthy, Don Farrell.
Farrell: Look look we’ve got a, we’ve got a website. I know you’ve been playing around with it this morning. The Household Assistance Estimator. We’ve set that up so people can do the calculations themselves.
Abraham: But what about (Caller name inaudible) who sent us a text, Don Farrell, saying we’re a semi-retired couple, we both work three days a week, our combined income is less than $100 000. Are we considered rich? As we get nothing.
Farrell: Look it’s not about being rich or poor. The Government has decided that they will compensate those people who are in the most difficult circumstances. And so the package is all about trying to ensure that that happens. And the Estimator that’s there to refer to is a way to determine just how much you will receive for that compensation.
Abraham: Chris Pyne, people will do their sums and it is targeted assistance. You either have to believe the Treasury modelling and that is that the impact is going to be ranging from 300 to 600 it depends on which part of the calculator you’re looking at and people are being compensated.
Pyne: Well the truth is, Matthew, the best compensation for the carbon tax is to have no carbon tax at all.
Abraham: But we’ve got one.
Pyne: It’s an entirely unnecessary tax. It’s simply a government trying to raise more revenue to fund its spending addiction. It won’t reduce emissions, it will simply push emissions off shore along with jobs and investments. And the compensation that the Government has indicated will be paid will compensate not nearly enough Australians for increased costs in every part of their lives because electricity is in every aspect of things that they purchase and the services they use. So when you buy your coffee, when you turn on your air conditioner, when you catch the bus you will be paying the carbon tax and nothing will compensate people for that and the people know that.
Bevan: Don Farrell, your Government is sending an awful lot of cheques out to people at the moment. We’ve got the compensation for the carbon tax and then there’s going to be the education money that’s coming out. Does it worry you that it isn’t education money, it’s just a cheque? It’s not in response to you actually buying something that will directly help your child’s education. If you wanted to you could take the money and go and buy a wide screen TV or a trip to Bali.
Farrell: Yeah look that’s true but we trust the Australian people and we trust families that when we send them this money that they would spend it responsibly and in the best interests of their families. We’re not telling them how to spend the money but we’re giving it to them so that they can (inaudible).
Bevan: As inconvenient as keeping receipts is and we all know it is inconvenient, at least that is a way of making sure that the money is actually spent on the child.
Farrell: I don’t think there would be any parent out there, whether they’ve got a reciept or not, who hasn’t spent this money and more on their child. Having brought up three children myself, and I know Christopher’s got four, there is no end of things that you spend your money on for your children.
Abraham: Just finally, just to both of you but particularly Senator Don Farrell, Julia Gillard geeing up the troops at the ACTU Congress yesterday and she was scathing, she was realistic I suppose about the job ahead for her as Prime Minister, she was scathing about the Craig Thomson affair. Look as a former union official yourself and very well versed in the union movement, do you find some of the salaries being paid to the top union officials, and it is not confined to the Health Services Union, are obscene?
Farrell: Look I was a union official and I only got a fraction of these salaries. But look as you say…
Abraham: So do you regard them as obscene?
Farrell: Look I can only talk about my own, my own, salary when I was a union official. Only a fraction of what has been paid to these officials.
Abraham: So you won’t be critical really of it. You’ll just say your salary wasn’t very good?
Pyne: Well Don Farrell was famously parsimonious as a union official. But the current crop who are represented by Craig Thomson could not be described ever as parsimonious, quite the opposite. Given they represent 77,000 health services workers who are the poorest paid people in the workforce it is obscene.
Abraham: We’ll wrap there. Christopher Pyne, Manager of Opposition Business in the House and Shadow Education Minister, thank you. And Senator Don Farrell, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability Urban Water. Two South Australians who swing a lot of power in their respective parties. Thank you Don Farrell.