ABC AM programme
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As we’ve heard, the Government has questioned the motivation of the report. Scott Morrison was the previous Immigration Minister and he joins me now. Good morning, Minister.
MINISTER MORRISON: Good morning, Michael.
BRISSENDEN: The Human Rights Commission report is certainly disturbing – almost a third of kids suffering from mental health disorders. Should there be a royal commission?
MINISTER MORRISON: I find it interesting that the Human Rights Commission didn’t even want to conduct an inquiry when there were almost 2,000 children in detention and now the figure’s fallen by over 90 per cent and they’re calling for a royal commission. I don’t think the Australian people aren’t mugs. I think they can make their own conclusions about all of that.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, but there are still, what, 119 children?
MINISTER MORRISON: My understanding is there’s fewer than that now and the number is falling even further. I’ll tell you what the lessons are over the last five years: if you stop the boats, you get children out of detention and you stop the deaths at sea and that’s what the Government achieved.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, but do you concede that mistakes were made and harm was done and shouldn’t have been?
MINISTER MORRISON: What I concede is that the previous government left our borders in absolute chaos and this Government had to come in and clean it up and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
BRISSENDEN: How do you feel reading this evidence, though? I mean, as I say, it is pretty disturbing what we’ve heard.
MINISTER MORRISON: The report – and I don’t think we should go to the point of calling it evidence – the report contains many allegations and these allegations, particularly in relation to issues of abuse, these are things which are routinely referred to the authorities because they relate to potential crimes. Now, where such allegations are raised while I was Minister and I know that would certainly continue under the current Minister and I’m sure under the previous minister, those sorts of matters are routinely referred to the police. So, I mean, I think people need to appreciate in this situation that no one wants to see any child in detention, no one wants to see any child on a boat and the reason there are children in detention is because there were children coming on boats. Now, we stopped the boats coming and we got the children out of detention, so I think that’s a good outcome.
BRISSENDEN: Under your Government we had a royal commission into Pink Batts and one into union corruption. This one seems pretty significant, this call for a royal commission into this?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well, as I said, no royal commission call, not even a Human Rights Commission inquiry call when there were almost 2,000 people in detention. Now the children are pretty much out, people are calling for a royal commission. The Australian people aren’t mugs; they can see through that.
BRISSENDEN: Ok. On your current portfolio, the families’ package, what are you going to do to address the childcare crisis now that PPL is off the table because, clearly, there is a child care crisis out there?
MINISTER MORRISON: Let me say first, PPL is off the table because we believe we need to focus all of our efforts in the child care area of the families’ package to do a very important thing and that is to ensure the programme delivers on increasing the workforce participation, particularly of young mums between the ages of about 25 and 39 and particularly single mums. Now, they’re the areas where we’re lagging behind. We had an increase in the child care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent under the previous government and it didn’t move those numbers at all. We need to ensure that double income families, particularly middle to low income families, can get back to work and maintain their income when they have kids. Having kids shouldn’t send you into a welfare trap and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
BRISSENDEN: How are you going to pay for it? Are you keen to keep the levy on big business to help, you know the 1.5 per cent that you had, to help pay for this child care thing?
MINISTER MORRISON: I’ve already said in relation to that, if there’s an argument that has to be made for a child care levy, then that argument would have to be made. The PPL levy should not be considered to be transportable and we’re working through the costings and the arrangements as to the package, but we’re currently spending almost $7 billion a year on this programme for around 750,000 odd families. Now, this is a big programme – it was only $1.5 billion 10 years ago – it will rise to $11 billion at current rates. It’s one of the fastest growing areas of expenditure. That’s why we have to make sure that the money we are spending is actually getting the job done and that’s helping young families get back to work where they can so they can have the income support through their own efforts by getting to work to help their families and not make them welfare dependent.
BRISSENDEN: When are we likely to see what you’ve got planned? You’ve had the Productivity Commission’s final report into child care since November, I understand.
MINISTER MORRISON: Yeah, and I came into the portfolio picking up on the excellent work of Sussan Ley and we’re working through that at the moment. That Commission report will be released shortly. I’ve written to the Opposition spokesperson, Kate Ellis, about that and we’ve had some good exchanges on that front and I hope to be meeting with her about these things. Where I’d like to get to on this, Michael, is the same place that we were able to get to on the NDIS, and that is to be able to bring both sides of politics on this. I think that’s what families want and I’m hoping that our families’ package can attract that sort of support.
BRISSENDEN: Ok. Day four of good government – are you confident the PM’s hit the right reset button?
MINISTER MORRISON: It’s well over day four. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of days of good government…
BRISSENDEN: But Monday was day one.
MINISTER MORRISON: Look, in our first stage of government we did stop the boats, in our first stage of government we did get rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax and we have reduced the level of real growth and expenditure that was around 3.6 per cent under the previous government, we’ve got that down to just one per cent growth of real expenditure over the Budget in the forward estimates. So, stage one of the Government I think has been very successful, but stage two is we’re moving into the families’ package, the small business package, jobs, economic growth, because that’s going to get Australian families where we need to get to.
BRISSENDEN: There’s still concern about the tensions with the Prime Minister’s office, particularly among your backbench which seemed to be a part of the catalyst for what happened on Monday. Julie Bishop told this programme on Tuesday that people have been very frank and blunt in their assessment of the performance of the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister is a smart man, he’ll take those issues into account. Have you seen any evidence that that’s actually what’s happening?
MINISTER MORRISON: I think Julie Bishop’s spot on, and as I said earlier in the week, the backbench couldn’t have been clearer if they turned up with baseball bats, and, you know, it was a fairly chilling message and it was a very sobering message, not just for the Prime Minister, but for everybody…
BRISSENDEN: But are you seeing any changes?
MINISTER MORRISON: Of course I am. I mean, I’ve seen this in all my dealings with the Prime Minister and it’s important that we engage fully with our backbench, because they’re connected, as we are connected and we must remain connected, to the challenges facing Australian families. And female workforce participation has been growing…
BRISSENDEN: Has there been a change in the Prime Minister’s office?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well, the Prime Minister’s office engages with me all the time. I’ve always had a very good relationship with the Prime Minister’s office.
BRISSENDEN: What about your colleagues?
MINISTER MORRISON: You’d have to speak to them, but what I know is the Prime Minister’s office is working on the same set of goals, that the whole Government is, the Prime Minister’s objectives and that’s small business, it’s families. In our first year, more than 500 jobs created every single day in the economy. That’s three times what it was in 2013. I like those results and I’m keen to keep seeing them.
BRISSENDEN: If the Prime Minister’s office is still working the way it was working before last week, then…
MINISTER MORRISON: Well, I’m not a commentator on the Prime Minister’s office. You may wish to be, but what I know about this is that we’ve got a plan for going forward in all the areas I’ve mentioned. I haven’t seen that plan from Bill Shorten. See we need to address the challenges, particularly in the areas of childcare and families, we need the disciplined consistent approach which delivers the gains that we need. We need a sort of test match innings building performance, not just on families, but on the Budget as well. What we’ve got from Bill Shorten is just big bash politics going for the cheap, populist big hits. Now, you can’t achieve what we have to achieve on the Budget with that sort of approach.
BRISSENDEN: Just finally on the Budget then, planning is obviously well underway into this year’s Budget, but are you still sticking by the Medicare co-payment from last year’s Budget?
MINISTER MORRISON: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister and, obviously, the Health Minister and we’re working through all of those issues. As Minister Ley’s working through the issues that she has before the Senate, I’m working through the issues that I have before the Senate as Social Services Minister. Last year we were very successful when I was in Immigration on getting the Temporary Protection Visa Bill through. I’m working closely with the crossbench, but you know, there is the opportunity for the Labor Party to understand the budget mess they left this Government. Joe Hockey inherited an absolute mess. Wayne Swan inherited the greatest Treasury success that we’ve seen. That’s the difference.
BRISSENDEN: There was some confusion just on this issue, though. Earlier this week there was confusion about whether the Medicare co-payment has been dropped or not. Can you clarify?
MINISTER MORRISON: There are no changes at this moment, but these are the matters that Minister Ley and the Prime Minister continue to work through. We have a Senate, there is a crossbench there, there is a Labor Party who are in absolute denial about the budget mess they’ve left and you don’t fix that overnight. As I said, it needs a sort of innings building performance, not the big bash populist swinging that we’re seeing from the Leader of the Opposition.