Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

2GB Ray Hadley

Program: 2GB


RAY HADLEY: Minister good morning


HADLEY: Nice to see you. Now in relation to Bronwyn Bishop that is where we will have to start. I am sure people want to hear what you have got to say. I have had my say about it this morning. She has paid the money back, it has now emerged she spent $14,000 on private limos during a two week trip to Europe costing a total of $90,000 for the trip itself – not just for her but for other people as well. There is pressure mounting from even within your party to take some action against the Speaker. Now it would be a fairly significant move by the Prime Minister and I don’t think he will do it. I have made the suggestion today that perhaps Ms Bishop needs to look at her position in relation to all of this because I think it is damaging your government and will continue to damage your government. I don’t know that some members of the Opposition will be screaming too loudly because all of a sudden News Limited and Fairfax will start investigating what money they may have spent in the past 12 months on travel.

MINISTER MORRISON: I suspect that may well be true. Look Ray, right now this issue is before the Department of Finance they will conduct the review as they are required to under what is called the Minchin Protocol and there will be a process there to ascertain as to whether any matters should be referred to the Australian Federal Police. That’s I think the next step in all of this but there is no doubt that this issue has had a very strong public reaction, understandably given the circumstances. On top of that I mean the government has been getting on with the job of government and that has obviously got in the way of the very good things we are seeking to do and we are talking about. I mean this week there will be a very important meeting between the state Premiers and the Prime Minister to look at the very real issues of federation reform, GST, all those sorts of issues; the NSW Premier has put that on the agenda today. So they are the big issues, they are the really serious issues that is not to diminish I think the public’s concern over this matter but there is a process to do deal with that. I am going to let the process follow that through.

HADLEY: Ok, but you are the Social Services Minister and you have been given a job of stamping out a culture of entitlement within Centrelink, ok?


HADLEY: No what I am saying and I know Bronwyn Bishop as well as I probably know any other politician. I have had a long standing friendship with her that goes back 30 years. I have never been out with her socially apart from 25 years ago we went to a rugby league match together, I see her infrequently but I have a regard for her. What she did here was plain silly, an hour trip in a car replaced by a helicopter that cost her $5,500 and the problem is with the punters out there that I talk to every day and you are talking to right now who are applauding you for that sense of entitlement being withdrawn from some people – 850,000 people on the Disability Support Pension, they are saying “well hang on a sec they are leading by example this mob.” But here we have a woman in a very senior position in government, in fact the second highest office in the land as Speaker, thinking it is ok in the initial stages to jump on a helicopter when she could have jumped in a cab or a car and got from Geelong to Melbourne and vice versa.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think they are all very fair comments, Ray and that is what I mean by it adds as a bit of a sheet anchor to the broader more important reforms that the government is getting on with for all the important reasons you say. That is why it is important for every Member whether they are the Speaker, the President of the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, myself, any backbencher to ensure that they do the right thing by their entitlements. If they make an error well they need to correct those errors and they need to fix them up. If they have made bad judgement calls, which are another word for “well got it wrong and it was silly,” to use your words well then look I think you have got to be transparent with the public about it. I have sought to be like that in my case, I am not in the habit really of commenting on other Member’s because they have got to get it right, I have got to get it right and where we get it wrong then we have got to fix it up.

HADLEY: Well why won’t she apologise in that case, why didn’t she – see I think she is a highly intelligent women. If she had thrown herself at the feet of the public on – forget the media, forget me and people like me, if she had gone there on Saturday and said “look, I am responsible for a really terrible error of judgement here and I am going to repay that $6,500 with the 25 per cent penalty and I apologise most sincerely for the largess.” Instead of that she sort of blew it away and said “oh well you know everyone – Tony Burke better be careful because he spends a lot of money on travel.” One of the things people are saying to me today is and Julie Gillard changed things so that even poor tragic Sarah Hanson Young could only get her hands on some money to go over there and jump on a boat provide by a wealthy American in relation to people trying to get into Italy but what is the situation with people in high office simply being able to go away and use public money. I mean can someone pull the reign on that? Not just for Bronwyn Bishop, I mean one of the things I read this morning and I can’t quite believe it, $32,000 in limousine travel? I am trying to think if I used a limousine every day to come to work and go home and go everywhere I go and I go to a lot of places whether I could run up a bill in 12 months of $33,000? I don’t think I could.

MINISTER MORRISON: It is important to separate the role of the Speaker from say Ministers for example. All ministerial travel has to be approved by the Prime Minister and they are pretty meticulous in going through what we can and can’t do and I have no objection to that, I think that is the right process. The Speaker sits outside that process, the point the Opposition has been making…

HADLEY: Well maybe the Speaker needs to be pulled back inside that process so we don’t have a Peter Slipper – we went to town on him for $900 for a cab ride with a male friend going to wineries and getting on the drink allegedly and the court found no fault with that eventually. But we are talking about a much larger amount of money with Bronwyn Bishop.

MINISTER MORRISON: The Speaker and the President of the Senate sit outside the government. They are not members of the executive government and that is how the Parliament works. They are intended to be you know have an independence in that role. There is a debate going on about that. But look Ray at the end of the day I can understand why people would feel very strongly about that and I can understand their anger and I can understand their frustration as a Minister who is responsible for trying to use the public’s money as best as we possibly can and ensure it is helping those who need it most and those who don’t need it we encourage into work to ensure they can support themselves. This is an obvious frustration and now I hope the matter can be sorted out and cleared up. There is a proper process for doing that and that is happening through the Department of Finance and if they want to refer any matters to the Federal Police then I suppose that is the next step in this process but in the mean time we have got to get on with our job but I can understand the communities frustration entirely.

HADLEY: Ok well, Minister it is hard to get on with our job if I get $811,000 in 12 months of which $309,000 is overseas trips, $47,000 is domestic and $32,000 is limousine travel. I won’t include the office costs of $350,000 because everyone be it the Speaker or someone else in high office needs an office and people to run the office. But if we take that away you know we still have close to $500,000 on travel. Now I have just come back from a holiday with my daughter and even allowing for her spending at [inaudible] markets with the use of my credit card. I can’t imagine anyone spending $500,000 in 12 months on travel unless they went around the world first class 150,000 times and stopped at every major shopping centre to spend the money that they spent. I just can’t imagine and nor can everyday Australians imagine anyone spending $500,000 in one year of – look if James Packer wants to spend it good luck to him it’s his money. If Rupert Murdoch wants to spend it good luck to him it’s his money. If Clive Palmer wants to spend it well some of it is his money and all the rest of it. But when it comes to our money there is a real resentment about that and it’s not just about her what we would like to do is see a balance sheet of how much money you people, being politicians I don’t include you in this but you people generally both from Labor, Liberal, government, opposition and other minor parties spend in a yearly basis – not just coming to Canberra from their various home states but getting around the world.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that all exists Ray. That is all in the declarations that are provided every year and it is all there and it is open source information.

HADLEY: Well how much is it?

MINISTER MORRISON: That’s why this information is made available…

HADLEY: Is it tens of millions?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well you would have to look it up Ray. All I am saying is that every single Member and the reason they do that is every single Member of Parliament regardless of what role or office they might hold is accountable for how they acquit themselves against that and they have to provide the explanations about what they have spent and how they spent it and why they have spent it. That is as it should be and that is the position the Speaker finds herself in now.

HADLEY: But the Speaker and the President of the Senate don’t need to, is that what you are telling me?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, no, I am saying they do. They absolutely do like any other Member of Parliament.

HADLEY: Well who are they answerable to as opposed to you being answerable to the Prime Minister?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well they are answerable to the Parliament that is who they are answerable to and through the Parliament to the Australian people. They face the same processes that any backbench Member of Parliament – what I am saying is as a Minister because we’re the government we have accountability to the Prime Minister.

HADLEY: Can I leave it with this, should the Speaker have apologised on Saturday?

MINISTER MORRISON: Look, if it was me and you know my form on these things….

HADLEY: If it was me I would apologise.

MINISTER MORRISON: If – look it is not for me to lecture other Members of Parliament. I need to be accountable for what I do.

HADLEY: I am not asking you to lecture I am just simply – you are a common sense – you may be the Prime Minister of this country in the future Scott so you have got to give us a straight answer. Should she have apologised on Saturday yes or no?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well let me say what I did Ray. When I had an error in one of my own arrangements and it actually came up as a result of an interview I had with you once and it came to my attention, I fixed it and I made that sort of a statement. So look…

HADLEY: So you apologised?

MINISTER MORRISON: Yes. What we need to do is we need to be able to deal with this matter and that is for the Speaker to attend to, the Department of Finance to deal with it and we need to get the agenda back on to matters which go to the government trying to get people off welfare, get them into work, pay down the debt and get on with work on national security because that’s what the government is focused on.

HADLEY: I will tell you what looked really ordinary – point scoring; the Treasurer point scoring against the Speaker and then her responding in an undignified way as she did on Saturday. He should of…

MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t want to engage in that.

HADLEY: He shouldn’t of said what he said and she shouldn’t of said what she said and I think the Prime Minister should be tapping them both on the shoulder and say “look you want to have a blue have the blue behind closed doors but let’s not play it out on Sky News, Channel Nine, Channel Seven, Channel 10, and the ABC.”

MINISTER MORRISON: Which is not something I intend to do here Ray and that is why look I think those who are responsible have got to sort this out have got to make the relevant declarations and deal with their relationship with the Australian people.

HADLEY: And apologise and apologise like you did. Mike Baird, we started with this we will go back to it 15 per cent GST, I notice that the Victorian Premier is ducking and weaving about this but at the end of the day we need full agreement between the states and territories before your government could even bring it to 10.1 per cent.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that is how it works but the other thing is this Ray, I mean I have listened to this debate on increasing the GST for a while and it seems that it is always about spending more money. So more taxes for more expenditure that is how we have gotten into this problem in the first place with the Budget being where it is. I mean first we have to get our expenditure under control and I am quite sure that Australians out there if they had to pay more for GST they would want to see things like stamp duties go, they would want to see land taxes go, they would want to see payroll tax go, they would want to be paying less tax, simpler taxes, fairer taxes not more tax for governments to spend even more money. Now I commend Mike Baird for this – Mike will always set out the reason why he wants to do something and that is he wants to spend more money in health. Now it think people would agree that that is a high priority for expenditure by the states and it is their responsibility. But when it comes to the GST not only if you increase the GST would Australians rightly want to see cuts in other taxes but equally if you put up the GST then I will have to spend more on income support payments, on welfare payments, to compensate those on low incomes. So it doesn’t come without a cost, this is a very expensive change and the people who will pay the most will obviously be the Australian people and I think they want to see taxes cut first before governments spend more money.

HADLEY: Ok, well I think you have made it clear on how you feel about that. Now the Reserve Bank raised concerns last week about negative gearing saying it should be reviewed. Should the government be looking at changing negative gearing? A lot of people take advantage of it; it would be very bold wouldn’t it to change it despite what the Reserve Bank think?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, I don’t think we should change it and for this reason because the vast majority of people, around 80 per cent of people, who actually use this by the number of people claiming negative gearing earn $80,000 a year or less. So it is nurses, it’s teachers, it’s policemen and women, it’s fireries – these are the people doing this out there and what they are doing is they’re putting money aside, on average they own about one property each so they are not exactly Rose Bay property barons they are the fairly modest people who are trying to provide for their retirement – no disrespect to people who live in Rose Bay by the way but they might have a few properties. But more generally it is people who are trying to save for their retirement. They will invest in super, they will invest in a property, small business owners particularly use negative gearing and people who are saving for their future and investing in this way they are the answer, they are not the problem. The way I hear some people go on about negative gearing and try to smear people with saying they are all the rich and all the rest of it, the facts just don’t back it up and negative gearing I think has provided a lot of opportunities for very modest Australians on modest means for a long time. It has been around for about a century so I am not quite sure why they see this as the cure all to housing affordability issues – it’s not.

HADLEY: Well I think we know how you feel about the increase in GST and also on negative gearing.

MINISTER MORRISON: It’s a straight answer on that one.

HADLEY: Look I don’t think we need to review that situation. Part of the crackdown, we will go back to your portfolio now because we haven’t really spoken about it, the Courier Mail reports more job seekers are trying to make up for missed appointments after realising their welfare payments are being stopped. The excuses for missing the appointments range from the dog chewed my iPhone, I missed the bus, I slept in, one person even falsely claimed to be in labour but then later forgot they used the excuse turning up at the next appointment without a baby. So this is all part of the crackdown from your Department and it looks like it is having some success.

MINISTER MORRISON: Yes it is. We have increased the proportion of people turning up to these appointments from around two thirds up to almost 90 per cent as a result of these changes. These are changes that have been introduced in the employment services area by Luke Hartsuyker. What this does is you have got to turn up to your appointments. I mean if you are on a welfare benefit and we are trying to get you into a job, part of the contract you have is to try and get a job and turn up to your appointments and be part of the process to get you into work. At the moment if you miss an appointment your benefits can be suspended. They will be backdated if you make an arrangement for a new appointment but when it comes to January it won’t be backdated then you will have to actually turn up to the next appointment from January to ensure your benefits kick in again. Because the benefits there, particularly NewStart, are to support you while you are trying to get a job because the job is the goal here not to stay on welfare.

HADLEY: Just quickly, News Limited yesterday suggested the government’s new anti-terror laws will enable the deportation of 140 high risk crime suspects, this includes senior gang figures, is that report accurate?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, look I think they may have confused a couple of issues here. The changes to the security laws deal with things relating to terrorism. But the other laws which we introduced on 501 cancellations which is part of the immigration – Migration Act that enabled us to cancel people’s visas like Alex Vella and others. We toughened those laws to ensure, as we have discussed on this programme that people involved in serious criminal activity their visas would be automatically cancelled and we could deport them. Now that is something we feel really strongly about, on the terrorism laws that relates to terror – now if they are serious criminals who have engaged in other offences which they may have also been engaged in things linked to terrorism then yeah sure I think those issue present. I think all of it adds up to Ray is we are very serious about this and people who have come to this country and taken on dual citizenship or have a visa they have obligations and responsibilities to Australian values and where they don’t match up to them they should go.

HADLEY: As always thank you for your time.

MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot Ray.