10 July 2015
Transcript - #2015082, 2015

Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Anthony Albanese, Today Show, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption, Shenhua mine, Job numbers, Unemployment rate, Q&A

KARL STEFANOVIC:

We are joined now by Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson. Good day Bruce, nice to see you. The Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese. Anthony good morning to you too.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Good to be with you.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

He is under the pump. Is it the end of the road for him?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Certainly not. He went before the Royal Commission. He asked to bring forward his appearance. He answered every question that they had and the Royal Commission will now continue to do its job.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Did not just ask him questions, Commissioner Heydon questioned Mr Shorten’s credibility at length. Here is what he said.

Commissioner Heydon: A lot of your answers are non-responsive. What I am concerned about more is your credibility as a witness.

That is not great PR.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

He is entitled absolutely to defend himself. He has had weeks of speculation in the media prior to this appearance and he gave a vigorous testimony as you would expect.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

He did not answer the questions.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

No he answered every question that they had and he did it in a way that was forceful and defended his record that he is proud of as a trade union official.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It does not pass the pub test as you would know only too well, and people look at this and go hang on, even by association, there may not be anything knocking him out but it is just the association here for Bill Shorten on the top of three or four weeks of bad PR, of bad polls.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

I think people will look at the context here and what they will see is criticism from Abbott Government Ministers saying basically Bill Shorten was a part of doing deals between employers and employees for their common interest, from a mob who want to get rid of penalty rates, who want to get rid of the sort of conditions that the trade union movement has fought for.

They will be scratching their heads saying ‘why is it that Bill Shorten is basically being accused of being too moderate’?

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Bruce, he is not the first or the last to take donations in this way. You cannot really knock him out for that.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think what people are really interested in – Imagine if you had a trusted mate going and buying a car for you, trying to get you a good deal and then you find out your mate is getting a sling from the guy that is flogging the car.

That just looks dodgy. There is something NQR about that and I think that is really what the issues were about.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The Coalition has never done this before? Never taken donations?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is not the issue of the donations and the declarations. That is important and you have always got to uphold those requirements and that is what we aim to do.

But it is the issue about whose side are you on? Who are you playing us for? Why are you doing a deal with an employer and then taking some cash?

KARL STEFANOVIC:

So you are ok with the disclosure or the non-disclosure?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I know at times people will overlook things. Curiosity around the timing of that being updated.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

 I think that is worse for Bill Shorten, just in the public eye.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I am not sure about that. I reckon when you are not sure whose side you are on…

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Bill says that.

MINISTER BILLSON:

The real issue is, here what was happening for the workers. And it is like that mate buying you the car. If he is getting a sling off the car seller how is he looking after your interests?

But let the Commission runs its course. I thought the big news yesterday was the job numbers. Were they not great? The economic action strategies delivering for people.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

6% unemployment?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Jobs growth of four times it was under Labor.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

We have higher unemployment now than we did during the global financial crisis. Higher unemployment now.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Job formations four times the rate it was under Labor. Participation rate up. This is encouraging for the future.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Let me ask you a question. How did the Shenhua mine get approval?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It went through a rather extensive process.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

How does mining on prime agricultural land get approval?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I am not sure that is quite what has happened.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

That is what has happened.

MINISTER BILLSON:

This is actually a project in the hills.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It is still prime agricultural land.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Proper safeguards. We think you can have well run, well regulated proper safeguard mining operations.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Can you guarantee the water quality?

MINISTER BILLSON:

That was the recommendation that came through.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Can you guarantee the water quality?

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is the recommendation. It aims to make sure you keep that agricultural…

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It aims to make sure? Why would you take a risk? Here is the thing, this is prime agricultural land irrespective of how you spin it and I do not know why you would take the risk on something like this, on contaminating the water supply, we do not know that yet.

First of all putting a mine in there, that is for different approval processes, but contemplating actually potentially damaging the water supply is a significant risk.

MINISTER BILLSON:

All the safeguards are there to make sure that does not happen. That is the process it has been through, to evaluate what the risks are and what the safeguards are that are needed. The recommendation is – here is the approval with all the safeguards to protect agricultural water quality interests, the water table and an opportunity…

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Let me ask you one more question. Malcolm Turnbull, is he going to be allowed to go on Q&A?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is his call.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It is his call? I thought it was the captain’s call?

MINISTER BILLSON:

You know what I would like Karl? I would like Q&A one day to talk about small business. All those people that mortgage their houses.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

But what you are saying is Malcolm Turnbull makes the decision on whether to go on Q&A, not Tony Abbott? Is there an edict given to frontbenchers not to go on the show?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I have not got one. Mind you I have never been asked to come and talk about small business on the ABC either.

I have been asked a few times to go on the show and my focus is – well is this about small business? Those people mortgaging their houses to create jobs and opportunities for our economy. That is my focus.

I do not need to go on it just to talk about whatever. When we got to topics that are in my area of responsibility, sure I will get amongst it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It looks like he is disappointed.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

He is. He wants an invite. That was a good pitch.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Did you like it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

That was a good pitch.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Good on you guys. Thanks for that. Nice to see you, have a good weekend.