Transcript: ABC Afternoon Briefing

11.39am | June 06, 2019



SUBJECT:  AFP raids, RBA rate cut, Tax cuts, Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary, Religious freedom bill.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: I want to bring in my panel, Shadow Cabinet Secretary, Jenny McAllister and Liberal MP, Tim Wilson and Tim Wilson I'm going to start with you. Is a raid like this acceptable? What do you make of the AFP raid into a journalist doing their job? Informing the public.
TIM WILSON, MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN: Well as a parliamentarian, PK, my focus on making sure proper process was followed because we have national security laws for a reason because we have to make sure we preserve and protect our national security and make sure that Australians are safe, but when there is leaked information, there must be a proper investigation and proper processes and as you outlined in your introductory remark, there was a process. It was executed on a warrant from a court. Now beyond that we've got to be very careful about what else is said because this investigation is ongoing but it's important that those steps were gone through.
HOST: Jenny McAllister, are you alarmed by this story?
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW CABINET SECRETARY: Look we don't have a lot of information about it beyond that which you've outlined now, that there has been a raid. This really is actually an operational matter for the AFP and in general, I do have confidence that the AFP operate properly and appropriately. They've got a fair bit of operational independence. It's quite difficult to make any sort of specific comment about this story as it unfolds now.
HOST: Ok, but there's a bigger public interest question here and I am going to push you on it one more time. Starting with you Tim Wilson, don't the public have a right to know? Journalists of course receive sensitive information. To raid their homes. To go through their phones, where they speak to confidential sources, this is a pretty serious breach of fundamental journalism here?
WILSON: Well again, I'd have to look at the detail of some of the information only coming to light, but there is actually a separation of the issues. There is information available to journalists and whether they should report on and whether it puts at risk peoples' lives and those sorts of things and then there's obviously the how that information may have been leaked and whether somebody has broken the law to do so. And we need to separate out those key components.
HOST: Well it's about getting journalists’ sources that's why you raid their home.
WILSON: But you need to separate out the two components. There's the source and there's the choice of the journalist to publish the information. That's why I've based on what I've seen so far. There's no specific allegation made against the journalist. The issue is whether somebody has leaked classified information or information on national security and that's where it is. But again, like Jenny, we need to make sure that proper processes are followed and the AFP has done the right thing by going and executing a warrant that has been legitimately issued by a court.
HOST: Jenny McAllister, is it something that the Labor Party will seek answers on, given, I think, the potential chilling implications for journalism and public interest journalism?
MCALLISTER: We've had these conversations about our laws more broadly. Putting aside today's case, we have been really concerned to make sure that the laws strike the right balance between providing, you know, appropriate safeguards around genuinely secret information that is relevant to our national security. It's a first order priority for the governments but of course it is also a first order priority to maintain democratic safeguards. Those two things are occasionally in tension and I guess the approach we've taken on the legislative front, is to try and make sure that they're in balance and that's how we will always approach it. I sit on the PJCIS. The Committee in the Parliament that looks at intelligence questions and whenever we are asked to look at legislation, they're the big questions that Labor asks. Is this burden on privacy or whatever intrusion might be suggested, warranted and proportionate to the threat that we are seeking to address?
HOST: Ok, moving to the RBA's decision to cut interest rates to a new record low of 1.25%. Tim Wilson, you have previously questioned the need to cut interest rates, suggesting it would hurt those who are heavily essentially depend on savings. Older people, retirees obviously. What's your view today?
WILSON: That's actually a misrepresentation. What I've questioned is whether the benefit or claimed benefit is greater than the cost, and so the logic behind interest rate cuts, you cut rates, you stimulate the economic activity because more people have disposable income in their wallets because they're paying less on their mortgages. With an ageing population and more people taking defensive strategy around their investments, other people are losing out and getting a reduction, they’re disposable incomes when you reduce interest rates as well and they need to be balanced out. We've also just had a federal election where most of anyone who owns invests or is worked a day in their life, there's a huge relief because they've lived in threatened terror of a Labor Government and hasn't been a lot of employment or investment as a consequence. My view is just that we should let that wave through. Now in light of that, the RBA has come up with a different decision. I agree with the Treasurer they should follow through and deliver the full interest rate cuts and it's disappointing to see the ANZ come to an alternative decision. They've been under heavy scrutiny under the Economics Committee when I was the Chair in the last Parliament and all the banks had significant remediation costs and I just wonder whether they are not passing it on to cover up on their past errors.
HOST: Ok, but I have to just push you a little further on this given you are concerned about older Australians in the point that you make. Will you be disappointed if there are further cuts to the interest rate?
WILSON: That is a mischaracterisation of what I said. I questioned whether there was. It was going to deliver the benefit that people claim and this goes back to a paper that the RBA did in 2012 which said that actually the benefits of further interest rate cuts are questionable as the population ages and whether it stimulates the economy. So I made it pretty well known that I wasn't convinced that there was a benefit to cutting rates and I maintain that view. The RBA has obviously taken a different view. They're entitled to do so but I'm going to stick with my existing proposition because I think when you look at the flow on consequences from the election, investment employment activity and retail sales as well as property transactions, there may be follow through and it may not be justified in the future.
HOST: Jenny, what's your view?
MCALLISTER: Well it's a pretty big red flag for the government about their economic management isn't it? I mean, the reason that the RBA has intervened today is very clearly to stimulate the economy in an environment where it's been flat for a long time. One of the key reasons is because wages are flat and demand is down. Consumer demand is down and it's because the Government really doesn't have a plan for growth. So this is the RBA stepping in to meet a gap created by Government that has done very little on the economy. They've spent a lot of time talking about the Labor Party. In fact, it became a running joke on twitter that sort of Josh Frydenberg spent all of his time talking about the Labor Party. Very little work, very little work done by the Liberal Party to manage the economy and this is the big challenge they face now. They've formed a Government. It is their responsibility. I heard Tim talk about Labor policies. You can't blame other people anymore. Every time something goes well, Mr Morrison is the first person to put his hand up and say yeah, I claim responsibility for that. But when things are going poorly, they have to take responsibility for this and this is now a problem that they need to start managing in a far more serious way than they have done to date.
HOST: And in breaking news, the NAB will reduce all standard variable rate home loans by the full percentage that's been recommended so we've got the two banks that have said yes and including the CBA now and of course it's the other one, the ANZ, that isn't passing on the full rate. Tim Wilson, just talking about tax cuts because that's the next big debate that's going to be had when the Parliament comes back. It's been revealed that the Prime Minister knew he wouldn't be able to pass this tax cut by July 1. Do you acknowledge the Prime Minister misled the public, when he knew it but he kept saying that people would get it on July 1?
WILSON: I don't think that's an accurate clarification. I'll just go back to the point of interest rates. It's another one of the stimulatory affects that's flowing through. The Government was elected on a platform to deliver these tax cuts. The challenge we've had is the AEC's delivering in returning the writs, so that we can recall the Parliament so that we can pass these before the first of July. That's always been the intent that will continue to be the intent but unfortunately the AEC, and not being critical of them, needs to go through the full election processes. As soon as we can pass those tax cuts we will. The only barrier between us being able to deliver those tax cuts and the Australian people, is the Labor Party who have not committed to support and acknowledge the mandate of the Government to pass it through the House and the Senate so that we can get on with the job.
HOST: Jenny McAllister, are you satisfied by that answer?
MCALLISTER: I'm not Patricia, because the government made a promise that these tax cuts would start on the first of July, but Mr Morrison himself, set the date for the return of the writs on the 28th of June. He has known for the entire period of the election, that there wasn't any way that the legislation required to put these tax cuts in place on the first of July, would take place under the timetable that he set. And yet he made the commitment over and over again. It's not good enough. This was an important test, being honest and straight with the Australian people about how you are going to proceed. There is no need to tell this untruth and yet they did it. They knew that it wasn't possible to deliver and they said it over and over again during the election. Should have been straight with the people.
HOST: If we could just run through some other issues, which are very big issues but we don't have a whole lot of time. Let's just talk about the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, of course a big Four Corners on this yesterday. Today's the anniversary, a lot of people just thinking about the awful ramifications of that day, Tim Wilson, I'll begin with you. We try very carefully to run this very careful line where we continue this relationship with China but at the same time make points about not accepting what happened on that day. Are you concerned that that's a difficult thing to do perhaps we don't get that line right, given just how horrendous that was and what it's meant and what a chilling effect it's had on Chinese people since?
WILSON: Well, our relation with China continues to evolve and of course we have a strong economic trading relationship. It's in our interests and it's in their interests. We want to help them lift millions of their citizens out of poverty at the same time but we should never forgo our opportunity and obligation to stand up as a free nation to call on other countries to promote democratic freedoms and civil liberties as well. So, did that day have a huge impact on movement for greater freedom in China, I mean, there's no point in pretending otherwise, of course it did. And so these anniversaries provide an opportunity to remind, not just Australians never to take our own freedoms for granted but to recommit to the ambition for freedom for every person, no matter which country they are in.
HOST: Jenny McAllister, should Australia be more outspoken about human rights in China in the wake the 30th anniversary. What lessons should it teach us and what behaviour should we change?
MCALLISTER: Yeah well, the 30th anniversary is really significant particularly for a lot of Australian people of Chinese heritage. You know it's actually pretty sad day for a lot of those people and an important day for Labor given this day in particular, when Bob Hawke so recently having passed and the very significant role he played at that time. On the question around how we approach China. Penny Wong has been really clear about this for a long time. We approach China with respect. We engage with China as a really important neighbour but we always do it conscious of our interests and one of our distinct interests is in being a democratic nation and supporting democracy as a general principle. It doesn't mean that that's the subject of every conversation that we have with China and you know, we have lots of productive reasons to engage with China. We approach China with respect not with fear but yes, our democratic values are one area where we actually do differ with them and I don't think we do need to shy away from that.
HOST: Could we just commit a couple of minutes on this before we finish up. Religious freedoms. Now this is going to end up in a piece of legislation by the Government Tim Wilson. Some of your colleagues are pushing for religious beliefs to be exempt from employment contracts. Do you think that should happen? How should this be tackled?
WILSON: What the Government's talked about is having a religious discrimination act. Now we have the sex discrimination act, the racial discrimination act, religion is one of those areas in Commonwealth law, where you can be lawfully discriminated against and what we are saying is that we are going to plug that gap. Now I don't think that's overly controversial. The detail of it needs to be worked through to make sure that it's right but that's quite different from a religious freedom act and the reality is, freedom of religion includes people of faith and without faith because that's a legitimate exercise for your freedom of conscious as well, so once you start going down that path of religious freedom act, what you are actually arguing for is a human rights act. Now Liberals have consistently argued against that because we empower bureaucrats and un-elected judges to be able to make decisions about the limits of our freedom rather than the Parliament and peoples' natural right to be able to live their life freely. So I have deep concerns about going down that path because all you'll end up with is a human rights act and that isn't the basis in which I was elected. In fact, it was core principles of which I was elected to oppose.
HOST: How about you Jenny McAllister? How will you approach this Government Bill. We haven't seen it but particularly within the parameters there that Tim Wilson outlined.
MCALLISTER: Well with respect to Tim, I don't think Tim is setting the parameters of the Government approach to this legislation.
HOST: He's said this is one approach and this is the other approach.
MCALLISTER: Yeah, well he is one of many voices putting their view forward about how this all ought to be approached. I note that Mr Porter's out there saying that this is a top priority for the Government. I would ask this question - if that was the case, why wasn't that signalled in the election? You know, we've just had quite a long election campaign. I didn't hear Mr Porter or Mr Morrison out there talking about this during the campaign as a top priority. But now it is. You know we will look at any legislation that the Government brings forward and the Labor Party is committed to protecting people from discrimination on religious grounds. We had the Ruddock Review - it didn't find that there was any really acute need for legislation of this kind but let's see what the Government proposes. I guess I would just reiterate the point that you've got lots of different voices on the Liberal and National Parties talking about what they want. There's no real clarity about what the Government intends to do here. Just a lot of talk at this point.
HOST: Well when we see the Bill, we'll be able to have a proper and informed debate about how far it goes.
MCALLISTER: Yeah, correct.
HOST: Clearly, there'll be a range of views on that which we just heard there. Look I want to thank both of you for coming in and being prepared to talk about a range of issues with me. Thank you so much.