The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of David Bradbury

David Bradbury

Assistant Treasurer, Minister Assisting for Financial Services & Superannuation and Minister for Competition Policy & Consumer Affairs

5 March 2012 - 18 September 2013

Transcript of 23/07/2012

NO.073

Interview with Rafael Epstein

ABC Melbourne 774 Drive

23 July 2012

SUBJECTS: Budget surplus, Melbourne by-election, leadership

HOST:

David Bradbury joins us. He's an MP in Western Sydney. Importantly, he's the Assistant Treasurer. David, good afternoon.

DAVID BRADBURY:

Good afternoon, Rafael, how are you?

HOST:

I'm good. Does Chris Richardson have that right? If you plug the numbers into your budget today you'd be in deficit?

BRADBURY:

I think it is largely an academic exercise to go around speculating as to what the budgetary position might be on any given day or any given period throughout the financial year. Obviously, we have forecast the return to a budget surplus in the current year. There is still obviously the best part of a year to go before we get to the end of that financial year. I think that any pronouncements at this stage about whether or not those forecasts are going to be delivered is certainly premature to say the least.

HOST:

I accept that it is an academic question. Let's just have a listen to Chris Richardson, reason being he says, essentially, that if you do want to maintain a surplus you're going to have to cut more than you have said. Let's just have a quick listen to Chris Richardson on AM this morning.

RICHARDSON: If the economy stays on this course and the Government, fixed to the view that it has to be a surplus this year, then yes, it would have to take further decisions to cut or to move money around. To be honest, given the fragility in Europe in particularly, but also to some extent in China, I wouldn't be that fussed if they got there by moving some money around.

HOST:

I mean, that's the importance of his claim, isn't it, David Bradbury, that you're going to have to cut more programs than you have said you will to reach the surplus, which is clearly something you're committed to.

BRADBURY:

We are committed to returning the Budget to surplus, that's an important point to make. But there is no point in speculating on where we might be in a year's time. I think it is relevant to note that we are committed to running a tight fiscal policy in the current environment and we will continue to go through the business of government in scrutinising expenditure proposals and obviously to the extent that any particular initiatives where we think some savings can be made, we will continue to engage in those exercises.

HOST:

You'll make any further cuts you need to reach the surplus, won't you?

BRADBURY:

We will and certainly that's been the approach we've adopted in the past. Now, obviously there is the MYEFO process, which is midway through the fiscal year, but we are committed to running a tight fiscal policy, to returning the budget to surplus. And in circumstances where our economy continues to grow strongly, where inflation is contained, where unemployment continues to be low and we have a record pipeline of investment coming in to the country, these are precisely the circumstances in which governments should be returning budgets to surplus.

HOST:

I'll ask you about the Melbourne by-election result, what it means for your ideological tussle with the Greens in a moment, but what would you cut that you haven't said you'd cut so far?

BRADBURY:

We will go through the normal processes of Government. We have an Expenditure Review Committee that assesses proposals and decision the Government takes and that is a process that is ongoing within government. But can I make this point, that there were plenty of people that said ahead of us handing down our Budget in May that there was no way in the current circumstances that you could find the savings necessary in order to hand down a forecast budget surplus. Now those people were shown that we were able to find those savings. We are in a situation where that is a forecast. We need to progress throughout the year, but we are committed to returning the budget to surplus and we'll continue to be looking for savings measures where we can find them and rest assured we will make those cuts if they're appropriate.

HOST:

David Bradbury's with us. He's the Assistant Treasurer in Julia Gillard's Government. It's seventeen minutes past five, 774 ABC Melbourne. At the Melbourne by-election, Labor has just scraped in in the vote for that state seat, David Bradbury, but you actually face a similar sort of existential problem, which is actually in my view pretty similar to the problems that the Left faced all those years Menzies was in Government. You've essentially got a split left wing vote, don't you? It's a crucial problem that you're unable, highly unlikely to get over for quite a while.

BRADBURY:

I'm not sure that the Greens or the DLP would necessarily be happy with that characterisation.

HOST:

I'm sure they wouldn't, but it's certainly a split of the left vote, isn't it?

BRADBURY:

I think that we live in an environment these days where there is always going to be a diversity of opinion. And people are out there looking for the party of choice, often on any particular given issue, not necessarily a party they sign up to and certainly very few people sign up to parties for life.

HOST:

But it's more important than a diversity of opinion, isn't it? Because you are in the situation you are in because the agreement you have with the Greens, carbon pricing, asylum seeker policy, it has a real world impact on you. And that division of the vote and the compromises you're forced to make, that's not going away.

BRADBURY:

I'm not sure that is in itself an explanation for why the Greens are polling strongly in a number of seats around the country. But I think if you look, Melbourne has to be the very heart of where the Greens have been polling at their strongest and to suggest that this is somehow as a result of the alliance arrangement that was entered into after the election I think misconceives the fact that the Greens actually won the federal seat of Melbourne at the last federal election. Now, obviously there will be some parts of the country, and Melbourne is one of them, where the Greens vote is going to be higher than it is in many other parts of the country. I look at my electorate where the Greens poll around 4 per cent of the primary vote. Now, the nature of the challenges that we face in seats like mine versus seats like Melbourne will always be very different and that is one of the challenges that any party faces. We have a very diverse country.

HOST:

The ALP just hasn't worked out how to deal with the Greens. Your party in NSW wants to hit them over the head with a hammer. Daniel Andrews, the State Opposition Leader here, says that we just need to tackle them very gently, not gently, but JUST on a local policy level. The Labor Party hasn't actually worked out how to grapple the Greens, have they?

BRADBURY:

I think to some extent there's been something of a watershed that has occurred in the last week or two and I think that what is now happening is that people are starting to apply a degree of scrutiny to the polices…

HOST:

Labor people have been saying that about the Greens for the last five years.

BRADBURY:

I think there has been a genuine debate occurring around the policies of the Greens. I think it's ok for a party that considers itself to be a party of the Senate to target 10-12 per cent of the vote and be content with that. But if parties genuinely want to represent a cross- section of the community, if they want to hold lower house seats, then they can't be focussed only on 10 or 12 per cent of the electorate…

[inaudible]

HOST:

I find it very unusual for any political party to take advice from another political party. Let me ask you perhaps a more practical question. Stephen Conroy, the senior Victorian ALP member, Communications Minister. He's suggesting that at the next federal election, particularly in the Upper House, Labor's going to have to preference the Greens ahead of the Liberal Party to ensure that progressive voices maintain whatever gains you feel you've achieved under the Gillard Government. Would you agree, regardless of all the posturing between Labor and the Greens, that when it comes to the Senate, Labor has to preference the Greens above the Liberal Party?

BRADBURY:

I think that most members of the Labor Party would take the position that there is no automatic decisions taken on preferences, these are matters that are taken by the organisational wings at the state level across the various branches of the Labor Party. Now, obviously an important part of those discussions will be what the arrangements in return might be. If I can, once again, just comment in relation to my own seat. At the last election, the Greens were not prepared to direct preferences in support of me, so I think that…

HOST:

It actually doesn't matter where the Greens preference [inaudible] it's more important where the ALP preferences the Greens in the Senate, isn't it?

BRADBURY:

Well, that's wrong, because I only won my seat by 1.1 per cent and the Greens got four per cent of the vote. So their preferences may well have, had I not managed to get a primary vote higher than my Liberal opponent, Greens Party preferences potentially could have elected a Liberal Party member in my seat. Now, the hung parliament, where every vote counted, that may well have led to Tony Abbott being in Government. So I think in the end, what is important for the Labor Party is that we do all that we can to maximise our primary vote and that is about being a good Government, about demonstrating that we are setting the nation on the right course. Now, we've gone through some challenging times, but we are taking some hard decisions that are in the long term interests of the country but I think we have to continue to make that case to the Australian people.

HOST:

Look, just a quick one. 1300 222 774, I'd be interested to know what you think about what David Bradbury has to say. Many people saying that Kevin Rudd is still a live option. Is he in any way for you a possible leader of the Labor Party before the next election?

BRADBURY:

Well, look, Kevin has said himself that he is not holding himself out to be an alternative leader. These matters were settled back in February in the Leadership ballot, which was a very decisive outcome.

HOST:

Any possibility he could be leader before the next election?

BRADBURY:

Look, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, our leader today, will lead us to the next election.

HOST:

Absolutely no possibility of Rudd being leader?

BRADBURY:

She will lead us to the next election.

HOST:

David Bradbury thanks for taking the time.

BRADBURY:

Ok, thanks very much Raf.