2GB Ray Hadley
RAY HADLEY: Good morning.
MINISTER MORRISON: It was wet and school holidays are coming to a close. It was pretty ordinary day on Sydney’s roads.
HADLEY: Could have been worse you could have been in Bali trying to get home.
MINISTER MORRISON: That’s true; hopefully they can get all those families back for school.
HADLEY: Now the front page of the Daily Telegraph, it is timely that we should talk to you in light of what Paul Whittaker’s jammed on the front page, proof of your success in cracking down on the Disability Support Pension. The number of people being blocked from accessing the DSP has reached an all-time high with approval dropping from 64.5 per cent under Labor to 36.9 per cent under you. It means in the last financial year the Abbott Government approved just under 42,000 applications for the DSP compared with 91,000 at its worst under Labor. Now there is a plan in place and what I have said all the way along people – not everyone, but people will take advantage of systems that they can rort. Surely if a doctor is the person that is saying “yeah, you can get the DSP,” shouldn’t we be investigating the doctors as well? I know that we now have a system where I think medically or the medical people that are approved by the federal government are the ones that actually you got to go to now – is that in place?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yeah, that came in place for everybody from the 1st of July and that’s what is being implemented right now. So that is why I am very confident that these numbers will continue to get better, but can I say…
HADLEY: So just stop there, so you are telling me these really good figures are under the old system and the old doctors?
MINISTER MORRISON: No, because we introduced the system for those under 35 to be going through that and then that was part of the reforms but I mean I have got to take my hat off – I mean the Telegraph was very kind today but Marise Payne the Minister here, as Minister for Human Services, has been driving a lot of these changes since the day we were elected and she has done a fabulous job and it is all about ensuring that we enforce the rules that are there and we are tightening up on those rules. I mean we have seen what has happened in Greece – now Greece, what has happened in Greece is not going to happen in Australia. One of the reasons it is not going to happen is because we are on top of it and we are dealing with the system now from a position of strength. It is far too late when you get to the situation where Greece is now they will make any number of changes like they had over the last couple of years but it has all turned to custard. Now that is why you need to reform now and keep it tight now so that it will be there for generations into the future.
HADLEY: Well seeing you have raised Greece, you know as we were trying to be Greece – the way it looks to me as an outsider looking in – they knew they had a problem and they didn’t do anything about it and they have continued not to do anything about it. They have just let it escalate, escalate and escalate where eventually they closed the banks.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well you know you can live beyond your means for a generation and then next generation pays for it and that is what is happening in Greece as we speak. But they did know about it and they continued to expand their system. Now we are in a strong position, a very strong position and we want to be in an even stronger position and that is why we are making the changes we are but it is the good men and women working at Centrelink and the Department of Human Services, I mean they cop a bit from time to time and I know we have had our issues around the calls and all these sorts of things but these are the same people who are delivering the results that are on show in the Telegraph and the other papers today.
HADLEY: Ok, it is from 827,000 I think from the front page of the Tele today down to 814,000 how do we get it to – and the one thing I don’t want to be portrayed and I am sure you don’t either is someone who is a scrooge wanting people with a disability to be disadvantaged because we all should pay tax to make sure those people are well accommodated but what is a reasonable figure because it appears to me that 814,000 is an unreasonable number of people to be on a Disability Support Pension, given the number of people who can work.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well we have several hundred thousand in that number who were grandfathered under arrangements from previous governments, not just the Labor Government from the Howard Government as well. They have been grandfathered into the system effectively for life, now some of those will start moving on to the age pension shortly and you will see a change in those numbers as a result of that. But what we will see increasingly though as we tighten up – we want it to focus on those who need it most as you say. If you have a fair dinkum disability and you go to a government doctor then that is what the support pension is there for but the other thing is this Ray, the DSP can sometimes resign people to effectively opting out of participating in our economy and I believe people with disabilities want the participate, can participate, do participate. So we want to encourage them in pathways back to work and do all we can to achieve that. The NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that will have a role to play in all of those things – it is an incredibly expensive scheme but a very necessary one and we have to make reforms to the welfare system because that is going to cost us, the NDIS, when it fully comes in an extra more than $5 billion a year and there is no levy paying for that extra money, the levy is covering all the other expenses. So we have got still a lot of work to do to absorb that big reform.
HADLEY: Phil Coorey has an interesting slant on things and it is funny that Phillip and I should think the same way but we do about this. He is talking about the trade union issue being used as a double dissolution trigger, two Bills about cracking down on union corruption that go hand in glove with what the Commission is talking about at the moment in relation to the Opposition Leader. He says they come back to the Senate, they get rejected and it would be a good time because it wouldn’t give – and he doesn’t say this I am saying this, given that there are many people within the Labor party that saying “Bill’s gotta go,” based on – and I was calling for this before I went away before he appeared before the Royal Commission last week, he simply can’t lead them to the next election. It would be timely to catch them on the hop so to speak, the Labor Party, and send them to an election via a double dissolution with Bill still as leader before they could install Anthony Albanese as leader or someone else.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well they are all issues for the Labor Party, Ray. We are focused on what we are doing…
HADLEY: Well no there not because you call the double dissolution if they deny you access to that legislation in the Senate.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well they’re already double dissolution triggers in place through some other Bills that have already been rejected twice in the Senate so I think Phil Coorey’s piece – the assumption there that there aren’t triggers is suppose is misplaced.
HADLEY: So you disagree with him you say there are triggers in place already you could have gone to the electorate…
MINISTER MORRISON: Well we want to pursue these Bills because we think these Bills are really important to get done.
HADLEY: Yeah I know that but at the end of the day you are a politician and a very smart one. The point that Phillip is making, and it is very well placed, is simply that he is very vulnerable at the moment the Opposition Leader. He has been criticised by the Royal Commissioner about his evidence and when you come back in August it would be just timely while he was vulnerable and they weren’t ready to replace him with the next leader to go to the electorate.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I will let others game all that out what we are focused on is getting these Bills through because what the Royal Commission has highlighted – and this is the problem for the Leader of the Opposition, if his own union members couldn’t trust him when he was the union boss then how can the Australian people pretend to trust him if he were ever to become Prime Minister so he is in a world of hurt over this, a world of hurt of his own making and all these points I think have been well made. But what we are focused on is we want to see these bills passed because we think they are good reforms to ensure some accountability in the trade union movement.
HADLEY: I don’t want to revisit old news but given I have been away and it is our first chance to talk, what I want to do now, because I have listened to it this morning in detail and I know that Luke played it last week I think on Friday is what the Commissioner said about Shorten and his evidence then we will have a talk about that.
MR STOLJAR: Are you evading my question?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
MR STOLJAR: Well, my question —
ROYAL COMMISSIONER DYSON HEYDON: Mr Stoljar, just a moment. Mr Shorten, I think Mr Stoljar, whatever else can be said about him, has been very indulgent about your style of answering some of his questions.
BILL SHORTEN: Thank you.
ROYAL COMMISSIONER DYSON HEYDON: A lot of your answers are non-responsive; some of your answers are responsive but then add something that isn’t responsive. Now, what you have been saying in what I am calling non-responsive parts may well be true, may well be relevant, parts of it are very interesting; it is quite useful to learn about the difficulties of negotiating EBAs in relation to very large sites with many trades and many different sub-areas. You, if I can be frank about it, have been criticised in the newspapers in the last few weeks and I think it is generally believed that you have come here in the hope that you will be able to rebut that criticism, or a lot of it. I am not very troubled about that, though I can understand that you are, and it is legitimate for you to use this occasion to achieve your ends in that regard.
What I am concerned about more is your credibility as a witness and perhaps your self-interest as a witness as well. A witness who answers each question “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t remember”, or clarifies the question and so on, gives the cross-examiner very little material to work with. It is in your interests to curb these, to some extent, extraneous answers. Mr Stoljar has a plan. Plans may succeed or they may fail but he is entitled to pursue it.
Another aspect of your self-interest that worries me is this: you are obviously an extremely busy person. You – as the start of yesterday, it was contemplated that you would be here, yesterday, today, and some other occasion, probably late August or early September, but it may partly be Mr Stoljar’s fault, but I think it is partly your fault that we are proceeding rather slowly through the material.
Now, you don’t have to accept what I am saying to you, it is offered, as it were, ex gratia with a view to the vindication and prosecution, as it were, of your own interests as a witness here. So I think, to be frank – and I am open to persuasion to the contrary. This is only a prima facie view formed on the spur of the moment – these questions he has been asking you about discussions with Mr Sasse, about the payment of over $100,000 a year plus GST, or the payment of some sum directly to the Union, you said you don’t remember and I think you said you didn’t positively remember and he said, “But you can’t deny it?”, and that triggered another of these long answers. I think we all understand that by 2007-2008 – well, by 2008 you were completely out of it, by 2007 you were substantially out of Victorian affairs, but I do think some concentration on your part, on giving a proper answer, as full an answer as the question demands but no more than that, is in your self-interest and it’s something Mr Stoljar is entitled to.
HADLEY: That is Commissioner Dyson Heydon. Now in a former life I came across Dyson Heydon during the Super League War when Optus and Fox were at war and the NRL were at war with News Ltd and all the rest of it. I would say, and then of course elevated to the High Court, he is by his very nature he is a highly, and I don’t know him well, but a highly respected and measured jurist.
MINISTER MORRISON: Very measured.
HADLEY: I think that would be the best description, in other words he is not given to alarming decisions he is quite – and when I say conservative I don’t mean his politics are conservative but he is a conservative person.
MINISTER MORRISON: He is very temperate.
HADLEY: That’s a good word, temperate, thank you. For him to say what he said and one of the funny things having listened to it again, I just heard Shorten say in the very early part of that “thank you,” that was him saying thank you. I bet he wasn’t going to say thank you when he found out what the Commissioner was going to say a bit later.
MINISTER MORRISON: Probably not.
HADLEY: What is proves to me is, if someone listening to the evidence and Mr Stoljar is trying to examine and get to the truth and Shorten brought that forward so he could clear the air – funny that he did it I think on State of Origin week when the newspapers were full of Queensland demolishing NSW and all the rest of it, maybe he didn’t know given that he is a Victorian that State of Origin was on that Wednesday and the news on Thursday would be about that not about him. But it was about him by Friday and for the Commissioner to say what he said I think that they, some of the Labor Party you know spruikers have got it right, he’s gotta go. He can’t lead the Party. But of course you and your government would love him to lead the Party because that is your best hope of winning another term.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well Kevin Rudd’s changes I think mean it is most likely Bill Shorten will do exactly that and lead Labor to the next election. But Bill Shorten has found out he can’t zinger his way out of answers at the Royal Commission. I think what has been presented there is for the Royal Commission to digest and as you say the justice is a very distinguished and temperate and measured fellow and has just called him out there. I go back to what I said before. If union members couldn’t trust Bill Shorten when he was a union boss then how could the Australian people trust him? This is the central issue here. There is a lot of detail on what is going become the commission and there will be technicalities argued over to and fro in terms of the nature of payments and disclosures and the timing of when disclosures were made – some eight or nine years later however long it was – but the real issue here I think for people sitting out there watching this is if the union members couldn’t trust him how on earth could I. I suspect there are a lot of Labor colleagues who felt the same way after they watched him knife two Prime Ministers in the back.
HADLEY: To other matters, I know that you come on the programme and the Prime Minister has said yes talk about your own portfolio but talk about other things as well so people have some sort of feeling about what the government is up to. I couldn’t quite believe this when I saw it yesterday and again this morning and shook my head in disbelieve – the alleged ISIS recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi has been allowed to live in a mosque at Minto in Sydney’s southwest – out near Campbelltown. It sits on the grounds of a primary school. The NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said she couldn’t appeal the decision because he is facing Commonwealth charges of using money or goods to support foreign hostile acts. The Commonwealth DPP say they won’t challenge the ruling. I am indebted to one of my listeners Ken from the ACT because I didn’t know who the judge was who granted bail. It was Justice Robert Beech-Jones from the Supreme Court. He also was sworn in and Ken led me to Section 7 when it was acknowledged that Justice Robert Beech-Jones had acted as counsel for former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib who of course you have had battles with over a period of time. It also said in Section 8 of the swearing in ‘you are a passionate defender of human rights, serving as a member of the NSW Bar Association Human Rights Commission in 2011’. Justice Beech-Jones is fully entitled to make a bail decision given his distinguished career…
MINISTER MORRISON: Sure.
HADLEY: But for the life of me I am buggered if I know why the Federal DPP or your Attorney-General are sitting with their thumbs in their rears not appealing this decision.
MINISTER MORRISON: The Acting Attorney-General at the time was Warren Truss and he immediately requested a review of that and for that to be contested as I understand. The Commonwealth DPP, which is an independent body, chose not to do that. I understand they chose not to do it on the basis it was for a very brief period of time 10 days and that they consulted with the AFP…
HADLEY: Where does he go then? What he goes from a school to a kindergarten does he?
MINISTER MORRISON: That’s not the arrangement. Look Ray I am sympathetic to you on this issue. It might have only been ten days for this arrangement but the other bit I have an issue with on this – I am not seeking to reflect on the Justice on this or the DPP for that matter – but there is a broader issue here. This bloke is claiming some religious protection here and this guy, if these things are true, really has no truck with Islam. He has no truck with that religion and no truck with the many good Muslim people you and I know across that community who will be appalled at this sort of thing and to have him in such a place and to give some sort of legitimacy to his religious claims here I find really appalling for that community because he has nothing – if he has done what they say he has done – he could not be a worse example of that religion.
HADLEY: With all that Minister I find most fault with the Commonwealth DPP. Justice Beech-Jones is fully entitled to make a decision on the evidence presented to him. An appellant court is fully entitled to make a decision but we haven’t got an appeal.
MINISTER MORRISON: No we don’t and as I said the Acting Attorney-General asked for that to be looked at and that was not accepted by the CDDP…
HADLEY: Well perhaps he should ask him again and say ‘listen I know you are independent and we are independent, we can’t have anything but separation of powers but what the bloody hell are you doing, I would strongly suggest and urge you to make application to appeal this bail decision.’ I am sure, I would hope if George Brandis was here he would be…look at the end of the day people are not stupid out there Minister. They know in NSW for instance when we had various Attorneys-General that some were not as forceful as others. But for instance when John Hatzistergos phoned the DPP and said ‘Mr Cowdery I really would like you to appeal this decision and sometimes Mr Cowdery would be recalcitrant and wouldn’t and other times he would comply depending on the circumstances but I think it is the manner in which it is conveyed to the DPP. In other words – ‘look I know you are independent but at the end of the day I am the Attorney-General, I am the boss, get off your bums and do something about it’.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I am sure Warren Truss as the Acting AG put it as strongly as you would hope. That is a matter for George Brandis to now further pursue. But I have no doubt George would pursue that equally as strongly for this reason – George as the Attorney-General has brought into the Parliament some of the toughest national security legislation we have ever seen to address these particular issues. I worked closely with George when I was on the National Security Committee of Cabinet. He along with Julie Bishop and Michael Keenan and others are doing everything to ensure – you know $1.3 billion invested in additional security measures to protect Australia from these threats and to track down these characters. So he won’t take his foot off the pedal as the government won’t. We are as one in that objective.
HADLEY: Well lucky you mentioned that security council, you are lucky Jo-Ann Miller the Queensland Police Minister doesn’t sit on that because she has a tendency to leave really important documents in a safe that gets sent to another person.
MINISTER MORRISON: I understand the Premier of Queensland was a little sheepish today when asked to express support…
HADLEY: Yes. She was reluctant to say she is doing a wonderful job. Because she is not and I guess Annastacia Palaszczuk for all other things is a realist and understands that the training wheels on the outside of the portfolio of the police minister are looking a little shaky and edgy at the moment.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well maybe she can ring Troy Grant he is doing a great job here in NSW.
HADLEY: Ok now just one final thing. I am trying to get my head around this stuff with the Watermark coal mine up on the Liverpool Plains which has Barnaby Joyce as the local member and also as the Agricultural Minister jumping up and down. There are calls today I notice Laura Tingle saying Barnaby has to be stood down because he is standing up to the Prime Minister and blueing as a member of Cabinet. But the thing people have sent me this morning and you can help me here, we all thought it was the domain of the State Government to make these decisions but there is an approval process where the Federal Government becomes involved. Is that because of the magnitude of the mine? How does that work?
MINISTER MORRISON: The Federal Government has a range of environmental approvals on projects like this as it has in other states but that is not necessarily the final word on it. There are still State Government approvals that need to be taken…
HADLEY: What happens if they say no, chewie on your boot?
MINISTER MORRISON: The State Government says no then it doesn’t proceed I assume. Now I don’t pretend to be an expert in that area Ray it is well outside my brief but what I should stress is the decision on that particular approval is a decision of the Environment Minister, not a decision of the Cabinet. The reason I am making that point is that Barnaby is not going against a Cabinet decision…
HADLEY: Yeah that point is made in the story today.
MINISTER MORRISON: If Laura is talking that up I think that is a bit mischievous. Barnaby has made the points that he has made. It is his local electorate but he is also the Agriculture Minister as well and is making those points. Look that will continue…
HADLEY: He is also probably worried Tony Windsor all of a sudden has come out of the blue and said ‘I might stand for this federal seat’.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well that is the bloke who actually sold agricultural properties to coal mines…
HADLEY: Don’t start me on him, don’t start me on him.
MINISTER MORRISON: That is the bloke isn’t it?
HADLEY: He sold it for a large profit and then said well ‘I was forced to because they were going to mine all around me…’
MINISTER MORRISON: Oh, right yeah.
HADLEY: ‘I had to take that $4.5 million’ or whatever it was and then he has bought large parcels of land in other parts of NSW. But one of the things I ascertain about dealing with Mr Windsor over a long period of time, I never spoke to him but he used to talk about me a lot, would seem to be preoccupied with me as I was preoccupied with him, that he has one rule and the rule is whatever I do separate to everything else.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well this is the bloke who gave us Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, let’s not forget that. It was him and Rob Oakeshott who gave us those three horrible years…
HADLEY: Don’t mention his name.
MINISTER MORRISON: Fortunately they have long passed.
HADLEY: I have got through the last two years without mentioning that name – Oakeshott and my listeners on the mid-north coast have just winced.
MINISTER MORRISON: They have just winced. Anyway, there we are.
HADLEY: We will talk next week.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot Ray. Well done Sharkies on the weekend.
HADLEY: I knew you would get around to it.
MINISTER MORRISON: It was a tremendous win over the Dragons. It was a freezing cold afternoon at Shark Park…
HADLEY: Someone told me there was a much bigger crowd than they posted. They put up 12,000 I noticed and someone said ‘there were 17,000’.
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t think there was because it was very, very cold but it was worth it just to see Ben Barba’s tackle. That was an absolute cracker.
HADLEY: Yeah and the poor old St George Illwawarra side five in a row after looking premiership material earlier in the year.
MINISTER MORRISON: True.
HADLEY: Things can change. Thanks for your time. Talk next week.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks Ray.