The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Bernie Ripoll

Bernie Ripoll

Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer

5 March 2012 - 18 September 2013

Transcript of 25/07/2012

NO.007

Interview with Steve Austin

612 Brisbane ABC

Mornings with Steve Austin

25 July 2012

***Check against delivery***

SUBJECTS: Influence of the United States, economic management, leadership, carbon price, Health Services Union

STEVE AUSTIN:

Steve Ciobo is the Federal Liberal member for Moncrieff. Steve welcome back home.

STEVEN CIOBO:

Good morning.

AUSTIN:

And my other guest is Bernie Ripoll, the Federal member for Oxley. Bernie, good morning to you.

BERNIE RIPOLL:

Good morning Steven.

AUSTIN:

Are we getting our photo taken?  Is that what is going on?

RIPOLL:

That's it Yes, something for Facebook.

AUSTIN:

If you're wondering what that noise is in the background, there is a discussion being held about where people should stand for a photo So I'll let you turn sideways Steve Ciobo so our producer can take your photo and we can put it on our blog later on and we'll let people know what you actually look like.

I want to ask you about some comments by Bob Carr which look like they were misrepresented slightly. But Bob Carr in speaking with foreign ministers of other nations, in some sort of conversation with Mitt Romney, the US Presidential hopeful has had a discussion about American influence in the world and whether or not it is in decline Now I don't want to get into an argument about whether Bob Carr was accurately quoted or not, but let me ask you upfront Do you think the United States is in some sort of decline of influence around the world today?  Many people do How do you feel?  Who wants to go first? Bernie?

RIPOLL:

Ok, look not at all I think it's a changing environment I think the world changes constantly and I think if you look through history, even ancient history, there's always going to be shifting of people's views The reality is that America is the world's largest economy It is also the largest cop on the beat And we are very good friends with the United States and will continue to be for a very long time I don't see what the beat up is Perhaps it's because they are on the verge of an election in the United States and they need some extra issues I don't know, but look, from an Australian perspective, I'm more than happy with what we're doing in our relationship with the United States and decline is in the eye of the beholder perhaps.

AUSTIN:

Apparently Bob Carr told Mitt Romney that America is just one budget deal away from ending all the talk about America being in decline and few others have been talking about it Steve Ciobo, do you think the United States is in decline in its influence?

CIOBO:

I mean the United States has been the cop on the beat, the global cop on the beat now for decades And as Bernie said, and I agree with him, Australia doesn't have a closer or firmer friend than the United States, notwithstanding our British heritage and our, of course, links back to the UK But that notwithstanding, look America, it's not in decline Where the concern rests, lies, with their fiscal position and the United States like many other countries around the world underscores the need for successive governments to keep budgets under control The US GDP-to-debt ratio or debt- to-GDP ratio is substantial It's in excess of 100 per cent and that just underscores that governments need to make decisions that they can afford They can't just keep spending money hoping that at some point in the future there will be more money to wash back in the system to pay down the debt They must live within their means and I think that that's where Bob Carr was going when he spoke about the need to get a budget deal together so that it doesn't continue to see their fiscal position erode.

RIPOLL:

Tell you what it underscores for us though is how well the Australian economy is going

CIOBO:

No thanks to you Bernie. (inaudible)

RIPOLL:

I think we might have played some (inaudible) I think we might have played just a small role, some role.

CIOBO:

Yes, you did A small role. No doubt.

RIPOLL:

But it does underscore that if we're going to talk about ratios to GDP about debt Well, we are around 10 per cent We are probably best in the world We are a developed economy, we are very strong, we are strong at home here in Queensland and we're strong nationally as well

(inaudible)

AUSTIN:

Steve Ciobo, why shouldn't the ALP take credit for the good economic position that Australia is in?

CIOBO:

I'll tell you why Steve, because when they came to office Australia had zero public debt We actually had net savings of $70 billion and so when Bernie crows about how Australia has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio, you know what, when they came to government only five short years ago it was zero And they've blown it out around $115 million a day They're borrowing $115 million a day They've taken a $70 billion in surplus assets They've spent all of that They've now racked up another $140 billion in debt So in the short course of five years this Labor Government, like all typical Labor governments, big spending, big taxing, has taken $70 billion in assets and now spent another $140 billion extra.

AUSTIN:

Bernie Ripoll?

RIPOLL:

Well, look, there was a global financial crisis.

CIOBO:

There's always an excuse.

RIPOLL:

Well, I don't think that the GFC is an excuse

AUSTIN:

It's a pretty big one.

RIPOLL:

Yeah, I was going to say, it's a pretty big one I mean Spain, it's not an excuse and the rest of Europe, and there may be other circumstances But in Australia it is really clear and all the economists in Australia, in Queensland, in the world all agree with what we did in terms of saving us Saving us cost money but we did the right thing because in the end saving us meant we save people's jobs We're in a good position today because of that We came through the GFC, not unscathed, but in a really good position.

AUSTIN:

Now, you came through the GFC in a good position because of the leadership of Kevin Rudd And most Australians want him back What should, when should Kevin return to holding the reins of leadership of Australia?  Bernie?

RIPOLL:

Two quick points At the time we made a collective decision and Wayne Swan as Treasurer did a lot of very hard work with Treasury to make sure we were in a good position to be able to ride out the GFC in the worst of it.

AUSTIN:

So it wasn't Kevin?  (inaudible)

RIPOLL:

No, I'm just responding to what you put forward which was it was because of.

AUSTIN:

Well he was prime minister at the time.

RIPOLL:

He certainly was

AUSTIN:

He was the one making the announcements.

RIPOLL:

Historically correct.

AUSTIN:

He was responsible for the cash injection, the $900, the pink batts program and more.

RIPOLL:

Steven, all those things are true and they're all accurate In terms of what happens from here on is quite simple We have a leader, a very good leader, Julia Gillard and I'll be supporting her 100 per cent and I will continue to do so And I believe for the single vote I get in Caucus that she will continue to be the leader right up until the next election.

AUSTIN:

If she's a good leader, why doesn't it translate to the people that she works for?  In other words, most Australians really don't get that They don't like her She may be a good leader but it doesn't seem to translate to the electorate.

RIPOLL:

Whether it doesn't translate, I take your point because it is a serious issue and something we have to deal with and we have to continue to work hard on that How do we communicate that Certainly, what I see and what she does as a leader and as the Prime Minister of this country, and certainly my boss, I really like I think she does a great job I think our policies are sound For me the question is: would any of our policies change under a different leadership?  The answer is no. (inaudible).

AUSTIN:

So Kevin Rudd if he was leader would not change any of the policies?

RIPOLL:

Well I can't speak for what anyone else would do as leader All I can speak for is what our policies are as a caucus It's not about one individual It's about a group of people I'm more than satisfied that we have taken really tough decisions over the years, particularly through the GFC but also natural disasters A year ago here in Queensland these natural disasters cost us an absolute fortune, but we met the challenge because we had to again, because you have got to do these things as government They're tough things to do They're not always popular but you do them because they are in the national interest We will continue to do that and if there is a price to be paid, and sometimes in politics there is, it should not always be a popularity contest That's what I'm saying.

AUSTIN:

Steve Ciobo, when would the Opposition like Kevin Rudd to return as leader of the ALP?

CIOBO:

Well the reality is Steve, we would like the ALP to sort themselves out because frankly while they are continuing to obsess about who should lead and who shouldn't lead, and while they continue to have a little coffee groups and other little discussions around Parliament House, they're not focussed on what they should be focussed on Make no mistake Steve Julia Gillard is a politically dead woman walking There is no doubt about that Bernie can't say it because he is a rusted on Gillard supporter He's exchanged words with Kevin Rudd There is absolutely no love at all between Bernie Ripoll and Kevin Rudd It would be Bernie's worst fear for Kevin Rudd to come back in the Prime Minister's office because this guy would be sitting so far back in the bleachers he'd actually be, you know the public gallery would be closer.

AUSTIN:

We'll need binoculars to see you in Parliament.

CIOBO:

That's right.

RIPOLL:

Is it alright if I laugh as well?

(Laughter in the studio)

CIOBO:

He desperately needs Julia Gillard to stay there But what we know is that Julia Gillard is a dead woman walking.

AUSTIN:

But in fairness, Tony Abbott's satisfaction figures are not that much greater than Julia Gillard's In fact, if anything, what's coming out of the Abbott-Gillard battle is Joe Hockey looks like a much preferable leader or Malcolm Turnbull.

CIOBO:

But the thing is Steve what matters at the end of the day is who's the best government or the best credible alternative to lead Australia forward And the fact is that under the Coalition we have been a united disciplined team We have an array of frontbenchers with experience, sitting on ministerial leather People who can lead this country and importantly have a plan to lead this country.

AUSTIN:

But still Australians haven't warmed to Tony Abbott You might be disciplined but they're not warming to him.

CIOBO:

You know people used to say this about John Howard frankly Steve People used to say little Johnny, he's got no charisma, he's not the kind of person to lead But you know what, at the end of the day, they respected John Howard and they recognised that he was a man who had a vision for Australia's future to make us a more prosperous nation They know that about Tony Abbott.

AUSTIN:

Bernie Ripoll?

RIPOLL:

Let me tell you the good ship unity over here is just one vote away from a complete disintegration of unity because Tony Abbott only ever got up in caucus by one vote.

CIOBO:

Sound like you're flailing Sound like you're flailing

AUSTIN:

Keep going Keep going

RIPOLL:

It wouldn't take much for something to turn The reality is that if our polling is so bad, their polling should be a whole heap better but it's not As I said yesterday to another media organisation, I said polling does not tell me anything new at the moment We have got a lot of work to do and we are going to continue to do that because we actually do believe in doing the right thing and doing things in the national interest.

AUSTIN:

What is the internal polling for the ALP say, Bernie?  (inaudible) guys be wiped out at this stage Looks like federally you'll be wiped out like you were at state level, but worse so.

RIPOLL:

I'm not sure what the internal polling says because I have not seen it so, I'm sure there is some but no one has shared it with me The reality is though, I can do my own sums on this and engage myself, and certainly we are doing it tough It is hard yards out there but, tell you what, there's always...

AUSTIN:

What's your margin of safety for your seat?

RIPOLL:

There isn't one I'm on scratch Let's just call it that But look there is this sort of dichotomy.

AUSTIN:

But you must know what the figure is though?

RIPOLL:

5.8 per cent Sorry, I thought you meant what I think it is I know what it actually is, 5.8 There is a dichotomy in view out there, when I go out to talk to people at communities, functions and fetes on Sundays, just like Steve would and all the rest of us do, I get a different view The feeling I get back is they say we really like some of the things you're doing, we think you're doing a good job, we really don't like Tony Abbott (inaudible) But they are saying, they're just not too sure They are a bit uneasy and I think the view and I ask them why and they can't really tell me, but they're uncomfortable about what's happening in the world They're uncomfortable about where they are positioned There is a sort of confidence that because the world is in trouble that we ought to be in trouble The reality is I'm saying to people have a bit of confidence in us as an Australian community Have a bit of confidence in us as an economy Have a bit of confidence in where we can go given that we've come through things really well in the last few years led by this government, this Gillard Government.

AUSTIN:

Would the Labor Party be troubled if Malcolm Turnbull led the Liberal Party?

RIPOLL:

To me it does not make any difference who leads the Liberal Party honestly It really doesn't.

CIOBO:

Steve, Bernie needs to spend less time talking to himself in the mirror frankly, and needs to spend a little more time talking to his constituents Let me be very clear about what the constituents are saying to me because I hear this from everybody who I talk to.

AUSTIN:

You couldn't get two more different seats though I mean Oxley, working class southside of Brisbane, and you're the sort of.

RIPOLL:

He's got my beaches.

AUSTIN:

Upper middle class of the Gold Coast.

CIOBO:

Steve, that is actually a perception that is incorrect The reality is that my seat of Moncrieff Let's take a couple of things First, it's in the bottom quarter percentile of electorates in terms of average income so my electorate is absolutely working class people It's reliant on the services sector and in particular tourism and construction And those are the two biggest industries that are being adversely affected by this Government's poor economic stewardship So my electorate is doing it really tough right now Much more so than for example Bernie's electorate where there's been a lot going on in Ipswich But the single biggest issue, Bernie says he doesn't know what the people are concerned about.  I'll tell you what they're concerned about Bernie (inaudible) They're concerned about the cost of living They're concerned about the fact that your Prime Minister, the woman that you support back in the leadership ballot, continues to support today, lied to their faces only six days out from the last federal election when she said that there would be no carbon tax in the government that I lead and then despite that lie, came in as a government and introduced the carbon tax that she said that she would not introduce That's what people are angry about They know it's costing them more to live now and your government is doing nothing except making the problems worse.

RIPOLL:

That's not exactly true that we are doing nothing

CIOBO:

You're making it worse.

RIPOLL:

That's far from the truth The school kids' bonus was there to help people meet their cost of living with their kids and it's substantial We've also got a compensation package that's out there now and it's substantial.

AUSTIN:

You're sort of caught though aren't you Bernie?  Because the public, the indication seem to be that people don't feel they'll be compensated adequately Guys like Ken Henry who have worked the numbers have said actually they are being overcompensated.

RIPOLL:

Look, I do not think we'll ever fall right in the middle and say it's just right but we are doing something I don't think it is fair to say we're doing nothing We have recognised that there is a cost of living pressure and it is widespread.

CIOBO:

That is made worse by the carbon tax, right?

RIPOLL:

Look you've got your view of (inaudible).

CIOBO:

Can't you say one honest thing?  One honest thing It's made worse by the carbon tax, that's why you're introducing compensation.

RIPOLL:

Look Steve, yeah, let's just say one honest thing and our two electorates are not the same Let's start there. Let's start there because I think you're having a lend of the rest of us and... (Inaudible)

AUSTIN:

This is Inside Canberra Twenty-four minutes past nine Bernie Ripoll, Federal Labor member for Oxley is my guest Steve Ciobo is the Federal Liberal member for Moncrieff My name is Steve Austin News headlines at half past this morning Steve, sorry, Bernie, tell me about the Health Services Union $20 million of funds of members Now this really is working class people, often immigrant workers in the HSU and this mess has been dragging on and it looks like, I think the Australian newspaper got it right today It looks like for some reason this mob is being protected to protect Craig Thomson and your boss Julia Gillard It's just appalling.

RIPOLL:

Steven, you're right It is completely appalling There is no protection It's completely disgraceful.

AUSTIN:

Political protection.

RIPOLL:

No It's completely disgraceful There is a process in place and that process ought to be given the full weight of the law Anyone who is found to have done any wrongdoing ought to be prosecuted on that basis and they ought to have the same access to the legal process as anyone else But I can assure you whether it's my view or anyone else's view we do not agree with what has transpired at that particular branch of one union And in fact we have taken action to make sure that this doesn't happen again in the future Bill Shorten, as Industrial Relations Minister, has moved that that branch be put into administration We're taking this very seriously It's disgraceful Disgraceful behaviour Disgraceful action The people that union represents are some of the lowest paid people in this country and the HSU East Branch is not representative of the hard working people in the union movement who day in, day out fight for rights of workers and particularly those who are lowly paid And it's a real blight on all of us All of us I'm really offended by what has transpired And certainly no protection, I'll give them no verbal protection or any other protection.

AUSTIN:

Steve Ciobo?

CIOBO:

Well I don't understand if that is the case Bernie, why you will not support the Coalition's push What we want to do Steve is make unions accountable back to their union members in exactly the same way that company directors are accountable back to shareholders It is a very straightforward proposition At a company level, if a company director misappropriates funds, does not act in the best interests of shareholders, it's a criminal offence Currently, if a trade union official does the same thing to trade union members it is only a civil offence And Labor won't support us for reasons I don't know But make no mistake what the Temby Report found about the HSU is that there is something like $20 million in dubious spending Williamson was paid a salary of $394,000. There was $3.12 million paid to a printing company, which allegedly gave Williamson and Craig Thomson credit cards. $4.7 million to United Edge, that was an IT company that Williamson actually had a share in. $3.4…

AUSTIN:

No need to read the newspaper People can read it for themselves We've got the account Either way. (inaudible)

CIOBO:

Steve, $20 million of funds that are channelled, that effectively garnished from the lowest paid workers and Labor stands here hand on heart and Bernie says 'Oh, I'm really concerned about it I'll give them no verbal protection.'

RIPOLL:

No, I'm not concerned I'm disgusted by it.

CIOBO:

Well do something.

RIPOLL:

Well, I have.

CIOBO:

Well why won't you support the Coalition move to apply the same safeguards to union members as applied to shareholders and company directors Why won't you support that?

RIPOLL:

We have done a lot in fact to process this through People listening to this program ought to just remember one thing about the LNP, the Coalition and Steve for that matter, Steve Ciobo, in terms of their policies towards workers and unions (inaudible). They don't care about changing rules.

CIOBO:

(Inaudible) Keep going Bernie.

RIPOLL:

They have only one objective and that is to shut them down in the end It's not about changing or making rules better. It's about having rules making it impossible for unions to operate That's the bottom line So this is all just a smokescreen If they are really concerned, they would be supporting what we are doing to make sure that we do lift the standards and to make sure these things don't happen in the future.

AUSTIN:

Twenty-eight past nine Steve Ciobo you were away overseas Did you end up paying your hotel bill or not?  Speaking about money.

CIOBO:

Well this would be funny if this wasn't so sad I'm glad you raised it because it gives me a chance to set the record straight following something inaccurate news reports

AUSTIN:

Basically said you skipped out on your hotel bill.

CIOBO:

That is simply not the case I've actually never been invoiced for that amount There wasn't an invoice sent to me by the hotel, the Crystal Plaza.

AUSTIN:

In which city by the way?

CIOBO:

In New York.

AUSTIN:

Crystal Plaza in New York They didn't send you a bill to stay in their hotel?

CIOBO:

No, no, no That's correct And some of the News Limited reports made out that this was a cost difference between the price of a two-bedroom apartment that I took because my wife and child came across and the price of a one-bedroom apartment That is not the case and it is a good chance for me to clear that up The reality is that I pay personally already the price difference between a two-bedroom apartment and a one-bedroom apartment The actual cost differential represents the price difference between two one-bedroom apartments and the reason this all came about is because when the government first made the booking I'm obliged to comply with the Department of Finance rulings To the Department of Finance I said to them I want to downgrade to a cheaper two-bedroom apartment that will actually save taxpayers' money. The Department of  Finance said no, we're not going to allow you to do that and this is where it all began Because I started fighting that and it simply is devoid of any common sense whatsoever, so I started fighting that Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was over there, I paid the price between a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom.

AUSTIN:

You personally paid that?

CIOBO:

I personally paid that I also personally paid to fly back to vote against Labor's carbon tax when I could have claimed that at taxpayers' expense but I paid personally because I've always been concerned about doing the best thing by taxpayers That's why I'm standing up to the department on this because the department has made a stupid decision that's cost taxpayers more money and I'm going to fight it every step of the way.

AUSTIN:

So there is an outstanding bill of sorts at the hotel in New York and you're currently arguing with the department of administrative services about their arrangements?

CIOBO:

That's been paid What I'm fighting with them about is the fact that they make silly decisions like saying you are not permitted to take cheaper two-bedroom accommodation.  You must get the more expensive one-bedroom accommodation.

AUSTIN:

Bernie Ripoll, do you want to respond?

RIPOLL:

I won't comment particularly on anything in relation to Steven's personal matters with the Finance Department It's up to him to sort out But I will just correct one thing it was not the government.

CIOBO:

Excellent point.

RIPOLL:

Just to be clear because the words 'the government' is often thrown out there and just for accuracy, it is the department and not the government.

AUSTIN:

I'll leave it there Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in Bernie Ripoll, Steve Ciobo

CIOBO:

Thanks.

RIPOLL:

Thank you.