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

Chris Bowen

Treasurer

27 June 2013 - 18 September 2013

Transcript of 26/07/2013

Interview with David Koch and Samantha Armytage

Sunrise, Channel 7

Friday, 26 July 2013

SUBJECTS: Asylum seeker policy, the Budget, policy costings, and Bob Katter advertisement.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Let's bring in our Big Guns of Politics, Treasurer, Chris Bowen, and Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey. Gents, good morning to you both. Joe, your plan has drawn some criticisms from legal and military experts, what do you say about this?

JOE HOCKEY:

Well, there's always going to be predictable criticism but the fact is the military have been used by the Government on numerous occasions, in cyclones, in the Northern Territory Indigenous Intervention and on this occasion we're saying this is part of the solution, that we're going to bring all of the agencies of Government together, headed up by a General and make sure that the boats are actually stopped. Three more came in two hours last night, so clearly the PNG solution is not a solution at all.

DAVID KOCH:

Chris, former PM Malcolm Fraser, he wants a major processing centre in Indonesia with UNHCR backing, do you reckon that would cut the flow of asylum seekers?

BOWEN:

We could certainly take more from Indonesia directly and that's been done, but to suggest that's some sort of answer in itself is really not right. I think what we're seeing is both parties addressing this issue in different ways. Us saying, we want to see people who come by boat, not resettled in Australia, not ever, processed in Papua New Guinea and staying there. It's a tough message but it is an important one.

But what we saw yesterday from the Opposition was just another three word slogan and a PowerPoint presentation to try and cover up the policy which just isn't going to work. You know, all the experts say it's not safe to turn boats around, Indonesia have said that won't take them. Papua New Guinea will take people. We're dealing with a country that's working with us. The Opposition said yes to the country that says no, and no to the country that says yes. It just doesn't make sense.

HOCKEY:

Hang on, hang on…you've guys said…

BOWEN:

It just doesn't make any sense.

HOCKEY:

You've guys have had five policies in six years, please we've had a 4,000 word policy out there for a period long time…

BOWEN:

You've had a three word slogan Joe and this is just another one – because you're just desperate and shrill because we've got a policy which will work. 

HOCKEY:

Well it's not. Three boats came in two hours last night. There's 300 places, berths, on Manus Island – 860 people have come since you've said everyone is going to go to Manus Island which has only 300 beds. So please, don't try and con the Australia people. The fact is it was Labor that opened the door to the boats, they can't shut the door.

And look the most humanitarian thing, the one thing that we can agree on now, that you and I agree on now, is the most humanitarian thing you can do is try to stop the boats. That's the most important thing. 

BOWEN:

We agree on that.

HOCKEY:

But that is a change from Labor.

BOWEN:

But it takes more than a three word slogan to do so…

HOCKEY:

Well it is a change from Labor.

KOCH:

Well this difference in beds on Manus…how many people can Manus Island take?

BOWEN:

Well at the moment it's got a reasonably moderate capacity but…

HOCKEY:

Three hundred, 300 -

BOWEN:

Well it's more than that Joe. But the Minister has said that we're going to put more there. Now we've never said it's going to work over night. We were very clear. We said this is going to take a while to work, you've got to get the message through, people have already paid their money, that's why we're doing the ads. People criticised us for the ads but you've got to get the message through…

HOCKEY:

How many people…?

BOWEN:

People smugglers will lie. People smugglers spin and we've got to be out there counteracting it and that's what we're doing. And it does take a while. There are no silver bullets here but our policy, some people, many people criticise it for being too tough but it's the right policy to actually deal with this. 

ARMYTAGE:

Don't we have to go back to Indonesia here though and stop this problem, meet it halfway? I mean is…

BOWEN:

But we do, I mean the Prime Minister has been working closely with SBY on this but these are people coming through Indonesia, they're not Indonesians. You can't just say Indonesia should fix it. You've got to work with them and you can't just say, "Oh we'll turn the boats around and make it all Indonesia's problem".

You've got to work with people, like we're working with Papua New Guinea and I think what we're seeing is the Opposition - and really what the Opposition is doing is quite disgraceful, with all due respect to Joe. Out there messaging, saying, "Oh this will never work, people will still come to Australia. They're feeding into the people smugglers' hands, because the Opposition really doesn't want this to work.

HOCKEY:

What?

BOWEN:

It's highly irresponsible. You don't want PNG to work. It's highly irresponsible, Joe. What Tony Abbott has said, Tony Abbott's saying, "Oh don't worry, don't listen, you'll still end up in Australia", it's highly irresponsible.

HOCKEY:

Okay. No, no, no.

KOCH:

Okay. Asylum seekers is one big issue for the election coming up, the other one is the economy. The Financial Review is reporting the Government's facing a $20 billion revenue shortfall over the next four years. Chris, is that right? Are they the predictions you're getting and are you really going to have to play tough on the razor gang?

BOWEN:

No, what I've said Kochie is that the Budget is there, we update the Budget, I've said we'll put out an economic statement before the election, that's what normally happens in elections these days. You'd expect Penny Wong and I to do that.

I've said the terms of trade that the world's prepared to pay us for our goods is falling, that has an impact, we'll account for all our spending, we'll account for that in the economic statement in an open and transparent way.

I read today in the same article, Joe, saying that they're not going to put their costings out before the election, so you can clear that up Joe, clear it up now. 

HOCKEY:

Hang on. No, no, no, no, no.

BOWEN:

Clear it up.

HOCKEY:

Do you stand by the commitment to a surplus in 2015?

BOWEN:

That's the plan. No, 2016-17 – Joe, get it right.

HOCKEY:

No, no, no. Kevin Rudd said we'll get to surplus in 2015, when he debated himself at the Press Club a week ago. Do you stand by that?

BOWEN:

Because Tony Abbott didn't turn up.

HOCKEY:

Do you stand by that?

BOWEN:

We've been very clear and consistent. Balanced and in surplus according to our strategy, yes.

HOCKEY:

Right, okay that's a change already, number one.

BOWEN:

No it's not a change Joe…

HOCKEY:

Number two…

BOWEN:

What's concerning is that you won't put your costings out.

HOCKEY:

Can I get a word in here?

KOCH:

Yeah, go for it.

HOCKEY:

I mean number two – there are reports in numerous papers today that the Government is divided about whether to remain committed to a surplus. Number three – every number the Labor Party has put out over last six years has been dead wrong. Dead wrong.

Now, it's coming to crunch time and the numbers have to tell the truth. They have never told the truth about the set of the numbers, this is what is going to define the election and beyond. And Australians need to know that there's some certainty. So if you're saying that you are absolutely committed to this budget surplus, as Kevin Rudd said for 2015, we'll wait and see how it pans out over the next few days. But what I do know is they're not going to call an election this Sunday because they have a budget crisis now. They briefed they were going to have a major economic statement today, they can't make the numbers add up…

BOWEN:

That's not right Joe, just not right -

HOCKEY:

Well you did mate and we know that -

BOWEN: 

Well you don't know that because it's not true, Joe -

HOCKEY:

You can't make the numbers add up, that's the problem.

BOWEN:

Joe, you can give a commitment to put your costings out before the election -

HOCKEY:

We will. Absolutely…

BOWEN:

And no secret commission of audit to hide the costings and savings… [inaudible]

HOCKEY:

Absolutely, absolutely…

ARMYTAGE:

I just want to lighten the mood a little bit. I want to show you this and get an idea of what you think of it. Bob Katter has asked his supporters to come up with an election ad. This is the winning entry, take a look.

Video plays.

ARMYTAGE:

Go on, I think you could do a big hat.

KOCH:

What do you reckon?

HOCKEY:

Yeah, yeah, yeah [laughs]

ARMYTAGE:

It's quite catchy don't you think?

HOCKEY:

You know what they say about big hats?

Laughter.

KOCH:

And Bob's got the biggest, Chris, what do you reckon?

BOWEN:

It's a winner. You've got a tutu don't you Joe?

HOCKEY:

Yeah, it's been a while, it's been a while…

ARMYTAGE:

We had to do two serious topics and this is a bit of fun.

HOCKEY:

Well this is Bob Katter in all his glory.

KOCH:

Okay thanks guys. See you next week.

BOWEN:

Thanks Kochie.