The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law

9 June 2009 - 14 September 2010

Transcript of 10/03/2010

Interview with Fran Kelly

ABC Radio National Breakfast

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

SUBJECTS: Paid parental leave, Cabinet, health, National School Curriculum.

FRAN KELLY:

Chris Bowen and Christopher Pyne joining us now. Gentlemen, good morning.

CHRIS BOWEN:

Good morning, Fran.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Good morning, Fran.

KELLY:

Leaders going it alone. It's no good on the battlefield; what about in the political arena? Dangerous or endearing? Christopher Pyne, I'm wondering, did you know that Tony Abbott was planning to announce his paid parental leave scheme this week?

PYNE:

Look, I don't talk about what goes on in the Shadow Cabinet or in discussions with the leader, Fran. I can tell you, though, that Tony Abbott has completely turned the tables on the Government and that's why they're so angry. And the Party room and the Shadow Cabinet are simply delighted that we are yet again on the front foot, making the Government follow us.

KELLY:

That wasn't actually the question. The question was about -

BOWEN:

Funny way of expressing their delight, Chris.

KELLY:

The question was, clearly, some in your party room, we know that, it was openly briefed, that they weren't happy with Tony Abbott going it alone without bringing it to the Party room first. Is it a good slogan, a healthy slogan for a leader to say forgiveness is sometimes easier than permission?

PYNE:

I think the Australian public like a leader who leads. Tony Abbott has led. It is a very -

KELLY:

Your party room didn't like it much with Malcolm Turnbull.

PYNE:

It is a very good policy. It is supported by the Party room; by the Shadow Cabinet; by the Greens; by small business; by mums and dads; by independents in the Senate. It has completely changed the political debate and of course the Labor Party is furious that we have a more generous scheme and that our scheme is fully funded and costed, and they can't believe that they have been left flat footed with a scheme which is simply the Baby Bonus rebadged. And yet we have a real paid paternity scheme, paternal scheme, and they don't.

KELLY:

So you're happy to be left in the dark and get that policy announced by your leader.

PYNE:

I'm happy to give the Opposition the best chance possible to win the next Federal election and to do that, we have to let the Australian public know that we will not be a pale imitation of the Government. We will do things differently. This has been done so differently that NSW Unions has come out and supported the Coalition's proposal and said it should be the benchmark for Australia, so I think that -

KELLY:

Okay, Chris.

PYNE:

One thing's for certain: Tony Abbott has turned the tables on the Government and that's why they're so furious.

KELLY:

And Chris Bowen, you can't get off scot-free on this whole issue of leaders and announcing policy alone, either. We've read in a couple of places this week the Cabinet wasn't even asked to discuss the hospital package announced by the Prime Minister last week and wasn't consulted on the National Schools Curriculum either. Are you happy getting policy signed, sealed and delivered to you

BOWEN:

Well no, the Cabinet works very collegiately and was consulted on health.

KELLY:

When? Just a couple of hours before the PM announced it.

BOWEN:

And a range of Cabinet committees were dealing with it, as deal with other matters. The National Curriculum was developed by a panel of experts and you wouldn't expect that to go to Cabinet because we don't think politicians should be writing the curriculum.

KELLY:

But what's Cabinet for? Surely, surely, the job of a Cabinet is to review major policy before it's announced. Fair enough, get the experts to write it, but a normal Cabinet process in Governments past would have everyone looking at that, and their Departments commenting on it.

BOWEN:

Well, John Howard put forward a $10 billion water plan and didn't take it to Cabinet. Most things go to Cabinet; Cabinet gets plenty of opportunity to be consulted. And I'm a member of Cabinet, I can tell you that we are very collegiate and very happy.

Now, the reason Tony Abbott didn't take his policy to the Party room is because he wouldn't get it through. Why wouldn't he get it through? Because it's policy on the run and bad policy on the run.

PYNE:

So you don't support paid parental leave for families?

BOWEN:

I don't support a tax which will attack the competitiveness of Australian business -

PYNE:

So you're standing up for the big end of town.

BOWEN:

Which will be a tax on growth, which is a poor policy, which is policy on the run. We don't have any details, any costings, any timeline. We don't know who will be taxed. Tony Abbott, in a Barnaby Joyce moment, said it would taxed on business with a tax bill of $5 million, then he said taxable income of $5 million. Hello! There's a big difference.

This is not just a tax on big business. You would have us believe that this is just a tax on a few big businesses. Now that would be bad enough. There are 100 businesses that make up the big businesses of Australia in the Business Council of Australia. This tax would apply to at least 3,000 businesses, right down the scale.

PYNE:

3,200 out of 750,000.

BOWEN:

Right down to the medium-sized businesses.

PYNE:

3,200 out of 750,000.

BOWEN:

This is a great big new tax on Australian business. This is a tax which will affect-

KELLY:

Okay, guys.

BOWEN:

Which will affect the competitiveness of Australia.

PYNE:

This is a tax on business.

BOWEN:

You guys should hang your head in shame about what you're doing here, and this is another example-

PYNE:

Oh yes, you stand up for the big end of town. Good on you.

BOWEN:

This is another example of your economic dangerousness, your irrationality, your rashness. You're rushing the policy out -

PYNE:

You are in the marshes, Labor are in the marshes, and they are in trouble.

KELLY:

Alright, boys. I'm going to intervene here.

BOWEN:

Rushing the policy out and affecting Australia's competitiveness.

KELLY:

Chris Bowen, it's also another example, isn't it, of Tony Abbott's capacity as a politician to grab the agenda as he did by getting control of the Home Insulation Program. Here he has, he's wrested the agenda back from Labor, which was all on health just a few days ago. Now you're all arguing about this and the pressure is now on the Government to extend its paid maternity scheme, its paid parental leave scheme, from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. It's a game changer.

BOWEN:

Well Fran, Christopher, in your opening comments, you asked him about why this is good policy. He said, "Well, I want to win the next election." So there you have it. There you have it. This is not about policy.

PYNE:

Actually, Fran didn't ask me why it's good policy. I didn't say it's because we want to win the next election.

BOWEN:

Well, no, you did. You did, actually.

PYNE:

The reason you got so angry before is because you are so shocked that Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party would actually have a better paid parental scheme than the Government, the apparent Labor Party.

BOWEN:

Well, it's not.

KELLY:

Well, they would have a more generous one.

BOWEN:

Well, generous for some. More generous for some and less generous for others, with a massive tax bill attached. I mean, well done. You've actually taken money off some people with a massive tax bill attached.

PYNE:

I don't think the Australian public are crying crocodile tears about a 1.7 per cent levy on company tax for 3,200 of the biggest businesses in Australia.

KELLY:

Christopher Pyne, let me ask you this -

PYNE:

Which means that 750,000 will not be taxed.

KELLY:

Christopher Pyne, don't you think there'd be a lot of Australian women who earn perhaps $40,000 or $45,000 a year who would not be happy with the idea that some women on maternity leave would be earning as much as $75,000 and they'd be getting $20,000? Why is that fair and why would they feel happy about that?

PYNE:

No, I think that they'd be very happy about the fact that they will get 26 weeks paid parental leave.

KELLY:

At a lot less than the woman next door.

PYNE:

At the salary that they are being paid. The Labor Party would pay them 18 weeks and they'd pay them a set amount of money, which would be less than they are currently being paid. So, as we said yesterday in Question Time, with the cameos that we put to the Government, there are people on $40,000, $50,000 a year who would be $14,000 and $10,000 worse off, worse off, under the Government's scheme.

So I actually think those women about to have children would think, 'Thank goodness the Liberal Party will actually pay me the salary I'm earning now', which is exactly what the Prime Minister's office staff get, of course. Exactly what the Prime Minister's office staff get, is what they're being paid now on maternity leave, so what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

BOWEN:

There are plenty of people who would be worse off under your policy.

PYNE:

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

KELLY:

Hang on. Chris Bowen?

BOWEN:

You have -

PYNE:

How could they be worse off?

KELLY:

Christopher. Christopher. I think it's time for Chris Bowen to have a say.

BOWEN:

Where's your off switch, Chris? Settle down.

PYNE:

Well, you wouldn't let even Fran interrupt before. And she is actually our host.

KELLY:

Chris Bowen.

BOWEN:

Just relax, Chris. Just relax. Now, there are plenty of people who -

PYNE:

Don't be sanctimonious and supercilious and conceited.

KELLY:

Okay. Chris Bowen, have a quick go.

BOWEN:

There are plenty of people who will be worse off under Tony Abbott's policy. And as well, there's a tax bill attached. A tax bill, which despite all Chris' cheap populism, would be a tax on growth, a disincentive for growth, and a disincentive for Australian business.

Now, the rest of the world are reducing their corporate tax rates. We need to compete in a global economy. Tony Abbott's plan, the party of free enterprise, proposes a very significant tax increase, not just on Australia's big businesses - as I say, that would be bad enough - but on businesses right down the scale. This is a great big tax on medium-sized businesses.

KELLY:

Chris Pyne, you get the last word this week. It's time to wind up. We've got 45 seconds left. Off you go.

PYNE:

Well, I think what this interview has indicated, Fran, is that this has been a game changer. The Opposition is again setting the agenda. Labor has massive problems on their health announcements last week. As Kristina Keneally said today, or the NSW Government has said, they won't be signing up until they've seen the Henry Tax Review. The Government's yet to release the Henry Tax Review; they have massive problems on health; the Coalition is in front on a much more generous, fully costed paid parental leave scheme; and really, I would say that Mr Rudd needs to take a serious look at how he's gonna get control of the Government.

KELLY:

Okay.

PYNE:

Because it's not going well.

KELLY:

And the politics on this, as we see, are Polls Apart. Christopher Pyne and Chris Bowen, thank you very much for joining us.

BOWEN:

Always nice, Fran.

PYNE:

Thanks, Fran.