Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda - 09 September 2013 > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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09-September-2013

Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda - 09 September 2013

Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda - 09 September 2013

Sky News AM Agenda

With David Lipson and Andrew Leigh MP

9 September 2013

8:30am

 

E & OE

 

Subjects: Election 2013, carbon tax, mandates, Senate, Coalition frontbench

 

DAVID LIPSON:


First, let’s go to our panel. I’m joined now by Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield and Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Congratulations to both of you, gentlemen, particularly to you Mitch Fifield and I’ll start with you. What are the Coalition Government’s priorities this week?

MITCH FIFIELD:

David, we’re going to be working carefully, methodically and purposefully on transition to government arrangements. We will, later this week, have a partyroom meeting, at which our leadership team will be re-endorsed. There’ll be the announcement of the frontbench at some point after that. And then we’ll have the opportunity of getting down to business. But, at the moment, we’re taking our time. We’re being very methodical, making sure that all the building blocks that need to be in place before the transition to government occurs, are in place.

DAVID LIPSON:

Tony Abbott said during the election that he would be, in his first week, working towards legislation to scrap the carbon tax. How difficult is that going to be, at this point, as you said, Mitch Fifield?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I don’t think it needs to be difficult at all. The Australian people have spoken very clearly and very loudly that they want the carbon tax/ETS to be scrapped. There could not have been a clearer message from the election result. There could not have been a clearer policy from the Coalition going into that election. And the reason that I say that it should be straight-forward is that the Australian Labor Party should hear that message loud and clear, as we did after the 2007 election in relation to WorkChoices. And they should stand aside or, better still, support the repeal of the carbon tax. For the Labor Party to do anything else would be to thumb their noses at the Australian people. I hear people like Mark Butler at the moment saying that they will seek to stop the repeal of the carbon tax. And, look, I can only put that down to being still in the denial phase of the grieving process. So we’ll allow the Labor Party that. But when legislation comes to the Parliament to repeal the carbon tax, they should support it. Otherwise they haven’t heard the message of the Australian people.

DAVID LIPSON:

Andrew Leigh, will Labor respect this mandate and allow the carbon tax to pass through not just the House of Reps but the Senate as well?

ANDREW LEIGH:

First of all, David, I want to congratulate Mitch on his re-election and Mr Abbott on his ascension to the Prime Ministership. On the question of the carbon price, what a mandate means is that an opposition that seeks a particular platform should attempt to pursue that platform in government. I respect the Coalition may want to do that. But there’s nothing in mandate theory that says that the other party needs to immediately flip its position. Mr Abbott may have been a weather vane on climate change, but I’m not. And Labor didn’t do what, say, Paul Keating did in 1993 and go through the campaign saying ‘if you vote for them, we’ll back their platform’. That’s what Mr Keating did with the GST in ‘93, very unusually. But in any normal circumstances, like the ones we find ourselves in now, we will pursue the policies we think are right for the nation. I just don’t think that household budgets…

DAVID LIPSON:

So you believe that the Labor Party will try to block this in the Senate, Andrew Leigh?

ANDREW LEIGH:

I believe that’s exactly the right thing to do, David. I just don’t think that household budgets can sustain the expense of direct action, which we know from independent estimates could be up to ten times larger than the carbon price. We have a mechanism that is currently working to reduce emissions. We’re seeing it reducing emissions already. And to replace that with a mechanism that doesn’t work would be economically ludicrous.

DAVID LIPSON:

Mitch Fifield, would the Coalition go to a double dissolution in the next nine months or so or wait until the new Senate comes in and try and negotiate there?

MITCH FIFIELD:

There shouldn’t be the need for a double dissolution election because the Labor Party should heed the message of the Australian people.

DAVID LIPSON:

But they’re not, by the sound of things.

MITCH FIFIELD:

We have said, and the Prime Minister-elect made clear before the election, that we will look at the full range of options available to us, and there are constitutional options there, to give effect to the will of the Australian people to remove the carbon tax. But I’m an optimist. I remain hopeful that the Labor Party will see sense and will hear the message of the Australian public that they want the carbon tax abolished. To do otherwise would be to do what Andrew Leigh is doing this morning and to completely invert mandate theory. Andrew is purporting that they actually have a mandate, because they lost the election, to stop the carbon tax repeal legislation. So, here we have a situation where before the 2010 election, Labor said there would be no carbon tax under the government they led. That apparently gave them the right to do the exact opposite. And now, the Labor Party is saying that we who were very clear and have a mandate to abolish the carbon tax, that we don’t have a mandate because we won the election. This is perverse. I’m sure Labor will see sense.

DAVID LIPSON:

It’s going to be a pretty bizarre looking Senate come July next year with as many seven or eight microparties, independents. We’re talking of, in your state Mitch Fifield, groups like the Victorian Motoring Enthusiasts, the Sports Party which may get in as well with a vote of 0.02%. Andrew Leigh, is this the sort of democracy that you think most people imagine when they vote?

ANDREW LEIGH:

Certainly a plethora of parties is not that unusual for the Senate. Although it does look this time as though some of these odd preference flows have led to some pretty interesting outcomes. But certainly to go back to what Mitch was arguing on mandates. I struggle to think of a time when the Coalition has voted for a policy that was against its party platform on the basis that the Labor Party had gone to the election and won the election on that policy. Certainly that’s not what we saw for the mining tax in the last election, where we clearly ran to the election saying we wanted a profits based, fair mining tax. The Coalition ran on the opposite platform and they voted against it.

DAVID LIPSON:

But could you really argue that you had a mandate after the last election, it was pretty even Stevens?

ANDREW LEIGH:

Mandate theory is about the government that wins the election and certainly this notion of mandate subverts what has ever been known before. The word mandate goes back to the Latin mandare, to trust. And I certainly feel as though my voters entrusted me with dealing with climate change in the best way for sake of our kids. How is Mr Abbott going to meet the emissions reductions targets with soil magic? That’s that question that has to be put to him this week.

DAVID LIPSON:

I want to return to Mitch Fifield and just on the question I asked Andrew Leigh before about the make-up of the Senate. And the disparate, microparties really, that look like they’ll be coming in. Also the influence of Clive Palmer, he’s had an extraordinary showing of support for him. He looks like, well he has basically, almost certainly, won the seat of Fairfax in the lower house and a couple of senators perhaps too. What do you put his success down to?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Mr Palmer, I guess, had the benefit of very high name ID, or name identification, and high recognition of the name of his party. That usually helps in electoral contests. But what we’re going to see in the Senate is the Senate being where the action is again. Which is usually the case. In the last parliament it was a bit of an aberration that there wasn’t a governing party with a house majority. So I think there’ll be more of a focus on the Senate. But we will work with the senators that the Australian people have returned. One of the promising things, I think, is we won’t see the Australian Greens having the balance of power in the Senate. That can only be a good thing for the parliament and for the ability of the incoming government to give effect to its agenda. But we will work with the minor parties and we look forward to getting to know them.

DAVID LIPSON:

And Senator Fifield, what about the Coalition frontbench? You touched on this earlier but it looks like, well Sophie Mirabella for a start is engaged in a pretty tough fight, she may lose the seat of Indi. Also, obviously we know Warren Truss will be deputy. But how much do you expect the Prime Minister to shake things up in that frontbench? He said he would keep things fairly stable.

MITCH FIFIELD:

The incoming Prime Minister indicated before the election that he thought that continuity was important and I think we’ll see a fair degree of continuity from opposition portfolio holders to government portfolio holders. But these matters are entirely the prerogative of the incoming Prime Minister. He will fashion the best possible team. And one of the great things about Tony Abbott’s prospective line-up is that we have so many ministers who will have had former executive experience. And we’ve got a lot of very talented, able people in the parliament already and coming into the parliament through the election that we’ve just had. So it’ll be a strong and steady team. It’ll be a government of adults who take very seriously and very soberly the responsibility that the Australian people have entrusted to us.

DAVID LIPSON:

Andrew Leigh, on your side of politics you need to find a leader, Kevin Rudd has stepped down. What do you think of calls for Bill Shorten to take up the reins?

ANDREW LEIGH:

Mr Shorten’s an extremely impressive person, both in his character and in his intellect I think, David. And we’re fortunate to have a range of impressive and capable individuals in the party. For me it’s less about the person who leads us and more about the importance of unity of purpose as we head into what we will be a tough period in opposition. We need to be…

DAVID LIPSON:

What do you make of calls for Anthony Albanese as well? Would he be an equally good candidate?

ANDREW LEIGH:

We have a range of talented people. I’ve known Mr Albanese for nigh on two decades and I find him an extremely impressive parliamentary performer. We’ll have these discussions internally, David. But I’m focussed on holding on its economic strategy, where that budget emergency is that Mr Hockey was talking about a while ago. Whatever happened to ending the age of entitlement? And if those Coalition finance spokespeople feel like debating Labor’s economic record, I am happy to take on that debate anywhere, anytime.

DAVID LIPSON:

What went wrong do you think, Andrew Leigh, for your side?

ANDREW LEIGH:

Clearly we were hit with a number of big shocks David. The biggest downturn since the Great Depression. The challenge of dealing with climate change. The finely balanced numbers of the minority parliament. And in those circumstances we needed more discipline and unity of purpose than we showed in the last term. But we don’t want to forget what went right. DisabilityCare, Better Schools, the seat on the UN Security Council. This is a legacy to be very proud of and I wouldn’t want us to be walking away from the strong record of engagement with the world, from the open economic policies that we pursued in government which we know bring prosperity to Australians.

DAVID LIPSON:

And Mitch Fifield, for your side, an incredibly disciplined, not just campaign, but three years under Tony Abbott. What do you put down this remarkable success to?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I think the overwhelming credit has to go to Tony Abbott for the leadership that he demonstrated, for the discipline that he had, for the management of his team. He was a consultative leader. He’ll continue to be a consultative leader. But he leads from the front. He laid out a clear agenda to abolish the carbon tax, to stop the boats and to put the budget back on a credible path to surplus. So we had a plan. We explained it clearly. And the Australian people have endorsed that plan. And we take very seriously the responsibility that we’ve been given and we will honour our commitments. And it would help a great deal if the Australian Labor Party would recognise the mandate that we have so that our first item of business can be abolishing the carbon so that Australians don’t have to pay higher electricity prices for any longer than absolutely necessary.

DAVID LIPSON:

Senator Mitch Fifield and Andrew Leigh, thanks very much for joining us this morning. You may have swapped…

ANDREW LEIGH:

Thanks David, thanks Mitch.

DAVID LIPSON:

…sides on your respective chamber but we will be speaking to you much more over the next three years at least after the break.

ANDREW LEIGH:

Terrific

ENDS

 

Media contact: Sarah Bridger

0435 183 137 | sarah.bridger@aph.gov.au