2 December 2013

Interview with Paul Murray, Sydney Morning, 2UE

Note
SUBJECTS: Christmas, Carbon Tax, power bills, Paul Keating, New Year’s, Paul Howes, tattoo ban for police officers, Nick Lalich

This transcript is an interview with the Assistant Ttreasurer, Arthur Sinodinos with Paul Murray on 2UE. The main topic discussed was Christmas, Carbon Tax, power bills, Paul Keating, New Year’s, Paul Howes, tattoo ban for police officers, Nick Lalich

PAUL MURRAY

Arthur Sinodinos, who is the Assistant Treasurer of this fair nation, he joins us now from Canberra, because Parliament is sitting. Assistant Treasurer good morning.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

No cigars in Canberra I’ve got to tell you. It’s hard work, sermons and soda water down here.

PAUL MURRAY

Oh as well it should be, as well it should be. Now what about, I’m imagining down there though that the Christmas season is just endless, does everyone have the, you know, you’ve got to go to the Japanese Ambassador’s Christmas drinks and you’ve got to go to the New Zealand High Commissioner’s, you know, festive, festimas?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

There are a lot of receptions and parties put on by embassies, by various companies, lobby groups, as well as you know, the House and the Senate have parties and all the rest of it. The only complication is, because we’re trying to get all these pieces of legislation done by the end of the year, there’s actually not much time for people to turn up to things, because most of the time you’re sort of in and out of the House voting.

We’ve got to get a whole slew of tax bills up before Christmas, Carbon Tax, Mining Tax, debt ceiling. There’s actually a fair bit to do. You know being in government you’ve actually got to get things done and that’s what we’re trying to do at the moment and then we can relax with a few cigars at Christmas!

PAUL MURRAY

Good boy, we’ll I’m there with you anytime you want to. Now I’ve got to ask you though, in all your time inpublic life, working in and around and now being a politician yourself, what has been the best of the private Christmas parties? Please tell me that John Howard on the lawns of Kirribilli House, you’re sitting there with a bottle of Grange and you are smoking cigars going: you know what, this a pretty good life.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Look, the Kirribilli business drinks were always the highlight of the year. I didn’t see many cigars, because apart from anything else, Howard stopped smoking years ago and so he wasn’t and isn’t a great cigar man, and there wasn’t much Grange around either. But I’ve got to tell you that Kirribilli business drinks was always very good for getting people together, particular in Sydney. And to Janine’s point, Sydney often, you know near the water, this time of year when the weather’s fine, really sparkles for Christmas.

PAUL MURRAY

Yeah, what about for you Janine? You’ve had one or two Christmas drinks over the years. Is there one in particular behind the scenes?

JANINE PERRETT

I was just thinking I’ve never been invited to Kirribilli House, no matter which Government, because I attack them all evenly, which is fine. But I remember in the heyday of the 90’s some of the merchant bank parties were completely over the top. But the funniest was one they led you down a secret destination and you were dressed, it was sort of a prohibition, a gangster theme, which was appropriate for ‘banksters.’ It was when they were really ripping everyone off, it was wonderful.

PAUL MURRAY

Correct, I love the term ‘banksters’ too, that’s a good one. Alright, let’s get into a couple of things here. Now I always love, despite the fact that the media love all sorts of distractions in the world and they want to pretend that real people will talk about Gonski and real people care about our relations with Indonesia, bang, CHOICE, the consumers association, occasionally they can go a little bit left, so hardly a right a wing think tank, right? But they’ve reported back, the single biggest worry of any one household at any time, the bill we all dread, is the power bill. Arthur, your Senate, the Senate is going to vote on whether the Carbon Tax is repealed or not. Here it is, this must be manner from heaven that somebody like CHOICE is saying people’s biggest worry is power bills and there is a thing politicians can do this week to cut them.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Well, I mean, that’s absolutely right. There are a couple of points here. First of all, you now understand why the Carbon Tax was so toxic in the community. Because it was being imposed at a time when electricity prices were going up for a whole variety of reasons, including very big leaps in network investment as it’s called. And so you have this situation where, at one stage, people were seeing their bills go up, not once or twice, but three times and up to four times more. And we had this new term enter the lexicon - ‘energy poverty’ - where people were being forced below the poverty line because of energy bills. Now what CHOICE is saying is: even though people are really focused on the energy part of their bills, even though there might be other parts of their spending which is a bigger proportion, what’s happened is it’s become an increased proportion that’s increased very rapidly.

And I think this is the thing that our opponents in the Labor Party always underestimated in the community when it came to dealing with things like climate change. While people wanted things done, they didn’t wantthese sorts of swinging increases that we saw in electricity prices, which have already had a big impact in reducing demand. So I agree with you, this is a good week, give people a Christmas present, take a few hundred dollars off the electricity bills for ordinary families. You know it’s very important and it’s a very easy thing for Parliament to do.

PAUL MURRAY

Well Janine this is the thing, for your mate Bill Shorten he would be…

JANINE PERRETT

Oh don’t you dare…

PAUL MURRAY

..he would be able to understand actually: hey this is what the real world cares about and there’s a way of being able to cut your bills now. Nobody’s saying don’t do anything about climate change. This Government’s position is Direct Action, their’s can be an ETS. But everyone agrees that a fixed price on carbon, that is the Carbon Tax, should go, because if it’s not, July 1 next year, trucking companies, they’re going to start copping the whack.

JANINE PERRETT

Look I’ve always been ambivalent on the Carbon Tax. I do agree with everything Arthur said about the fact that we’re already paying higher electricity prices for a number of reasons. So anyone who thinks that once the Carbon Tax goes your bills will constantly be down and it’s going to be Nirvana, it’s absolutely wrong. The electricity companies are going to keep ramping up these bills. The fear is going to be, and a lot of that fear was by the scare campaign of what was then the Opposition. But the fact is your bills are going to keep climbing, they might have a short term respite with the relaxing of the Carbon Tax or the abolishing of the Carbon Tax and I think the reason it should go is because they have a mandate for it. It was an unpopular tax, find an alternative for it.

PAUL MURRAY

But it’s also, it’s that thing, Arthur, where we know, 10 per cent of our power bill is to do with the fixed price on carbon. Now they might be able to, slowly but surely over the next five to ten years, work out a way to raise things by 10 per cent, but there is the 10 per cent that is the here and now, that is the Carbon Tax.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

And it was something we can all directly do to help reduce people’s living costs. And on the issue of the other drivers of electricity prices going up, I mean we’re looking with the States and we’ll continue to look at ways in which we restrain that sort of growth, through smart investment and the like. But the point is that this is something we can immediately do to get people’s costs down. And we can do the same by cutting company tax, because if we cut company tax and companies are able to offer more jobs that will flow through to higher employment. So there are all sorts of things at the moment where cutting taxes makes good economic sense.

JANINE PERRETT

Well there was one thing I think it was in the Fairfax papers last week that showed that electricity executives were getting way beyond the pay scale of other utilities. Maybe there’s an area to look at.

PAUL MURRAY

Yeah correct, correct. Alright, now I want to ask you, Janine, you and I have different views about the Paul Keating interview series that’s happening on the ABC. There’s yet another thing out there today about the type of person that he was, that he used to get high on symphonies, loves the idea of classical music, fine. We all knew this about the bloke, but do you think that there is a resurgence of interest for any particular reason other than the bloke is willing to talk to Kerry O’Brian?

JANINE PERRETT

Well he’s rationed himself, smart marketing. He didn’t write an autobiography we haven’t seen a lot of him. Look at Julia Gillard, she was barely out of the Lodge and she was giving interviews and series at the Opera House. Look he’s a fascinating creature and you see his intellect and a lot about him and you realise the dearth of it we have. The only thing I object, I didn’t like the way they’ve described this as he got high on symphonies, as though art is some kind of bad thing, that it’s like a drug, it’s weird. All he was doing was getting some joy out of classical music, which is a good thing. So I didn’t like the way it was portrayed but I find him an endlessly fascinating character in a bland political world.

PAUL MURRAY

But Arthur this is the thing, perhaps it is my underdeveloped palate, so I turn to you as a veteran of these matters. I remember the feelings I had about Paul Keating at the end of his Prime Ministership. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise things like, you know the need to float the dollar, the need to deregulate the banks. Many of the wonderful structural things that he did, but the celebration of the bloke, when the bloke seems to, to this very day, think that the Australian public got it wrong, when we got it oh so bloody right in 1996.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Well you see this is contradiction that lies at the heart of Paul Keating where he talks about the need to do the big things, the big picture, but you’ve got to take people with you. And what happened so often in the 80s and 90s is that a lot of the big picture stuff got through, because both sides of politics basically agreed it had to be done. At the depths of the recession in 1991 when the Government, the then Government under Hawke and Keating, produced further tariff cuts, the Opposition actually agreed with them. This is in the depths of the recession, because we thought it was the best long-run thing for the country.

Where Keating went wrong is, in issues like the Republic or some of the other stuff he did, he tried to make it too partisan an issue. Whereas the way to get those things through is to make them inclusive issues, where you bring people together. In the end he’ll be remembered as someone who didn’t bother to take people with him. He just wanted people to accept that he was guru, he knew everything and admirable as he is and there’s a lot in the interviews that if you’re a young, aspiring politician you should study and look at, and I can come to that if you like. The point is, the biggest lesson out of his career is you’ve got to be able to take people with you.

JANINE PERRETT

Yes and yet he addressed that today Arthur, I don’t agree with that. He said you just can’t be, he didn’t use the word wimp, but he said: you’ve got to be brave, you’ve got to lead, no one will ever say about me I didn’t give it my all. And he said things like engagement in the Pacific, sorry in Asia, the Republic, those things, they’re big picture, they’re hard issues and he said: what kind of politician doesn’t try for the hard ones? I loved the idea that you don’t just go for the easy marks, you go for the hard ones. That’s leadership.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

That is leadership, but leadership is ultimately being able to take people with you, otherwise reform doesn’t stick.

PAUL MURRAY

But also, my thing too Arthur…

JANINE PERRETT

He’s got a better record on reform than a lot of the Tory governments.

PAUL MURRAY

Yeah, oh listen to her. But my thing though is Arthur is that I think you’ve got to be able to, in politics, media or anything else - you don’t have to convince a board room - in politics you have to be able to convince people at a barbecue. Now that doesn’t mean dumb it down and tell people what they want to hear, but you’ve got to be able to allay people’s fears, inspire them that it’s a good idea, convince them of the risk. But it seems to me that people like Keating, his whole focus, even though he was of the working class, came up through it, he seemed to in that final bit - and why John Howard was able to thump him in 96 - was because he seemed to have lost touch from the very stock that he was from.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Yeah I think that is absolutely right. I think at the end, he maybe came to the Prime Ministership too late in a sense. But he came to in with this air of resignation that: look I know what’s good for you, you’ve just got to accept it and let’s get on with it and I’m not going to have more silly tiresome debate on this, let’s just get it done. But politics is a game where day by day you have to be persuading people, whether it’s in your own party, out in the electorate, it’s hard work. It takes longer and sometimes things move more slowly than Janine and other’s would like. But ultimately you get things to stick and it’s hard yakka. It really is hard yakka.

But look, I don’t want to end on a negative note about Keating, because what I said before was a lot of young politicians could learn from him. And one of the things they could learn from him, was when he was learning about various industries and things around the country, he actually made a point of going and visiting people who were on the verge of retirement, right? Who could speak frankly about their experiences of the industry and that’s how he learnt about some of the great industries of the country. And I think that’s a very positive message, or one of the positive messages you take out of his approach to things.

PAUL MURRAY

That’s a very interesting point. Alright quick break, we’ll be back with more. We’ll talk about Paul Howes, who genuinely is a friend of yours Janine. We’ll get to him in a moment’s time, as well as away from that, police, should they or shouldn’t they have tattoos? This is a weird one. We’ll get to it next on 2UE.

BREAK

PAUL MURRAY

Twenty one past ten. As I told you my little birdy was right and the theme of this year’s New Year’s Eve is going to be smile. It’s going to be there. You don’t like it Janine?

JANINE PERRETT

I suppose, it’s better than peace.

PAUL MURRAY

It’ll be there and the fireworks by the way, the Lord Mayor Queen Clover has announced, will be launched not from a bike, no - but it is, shine it is rather, not smile, shine. The artistry is going to be done by Reg Mombassa, fine. The fireworks in part will come off the sails of the Opera House. First time in 10 years, so it’ll all be there.

JANINE PERRETT

What does shine mean?

PAUL MURRAY

What do any of these garbage things mean? Because we wrote eternity once, every year we have to write some bloody thing on the Harbour Bridge.

Arthur Sinodinos is the Assistant Treasurer of this country, now let’s get into some things here including Paul Howes and what he had to say yesterday on Sky News. I’ve played this a couple of times, but I just still can’t believe the ease with which he dismisses firstly an entire sector of our economy; secondly pretending that people who are family-owned businesses are somehow sort of hicks in the country who are standing in the way of global progress. This is weird for a working man of the day to say this stuff.

‘’The day of ma and pa farming in Australia needs to end, we need to have a transformation of that so that we can have stability and long term planning about the type of crops and the types of different processes will be used.’’

PAUL MURRAY

Now Arthur, I just find it quite bizarre the ease with which he said “ma and pa farmers,” as if the agricultural sector that it’s built off, multi-generational farming, is somehow backwards in its ways.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Well you see, he’s a union leader, you wouldn’t expect him to be talking about union workers like that, would you? And this is the paradox of all of this: that anybody who is a bit independent and tries to look after themselves, works for themselves, I think union leaders are inherently suspicious of. No doubt he’d prefer if we had collective farms and we had long-term planning and crops were decided. But that’s not how we run things.

Look, where there is a kernel of truth in what he is saying is that the agriculture sector is going to go through more structural change, there is no doubt that there is going to be consolidation over time, but the challenge for us though, and the challenge for him and he probably is an apostle of Paul Keating, is you’ve got to take the very people you’re attacking with you. So it’s not a good idea to start the process by attacking them and saying ma and pa figures and all the rest of it. You’ve actually got to figure out what are their concerns, what is standing in the way of the further progress of wheat de-regulation and other things where there have been concerns and you deal actively, intelligently on the ground with each of those issues. You don’t just put your head in the sand and say: ‘oh well they’re all hicks and you know they’re a blot on the country’. You’ve got to work with them. The challenge for politicians is we’ve got to work with everybody.

We can’t let any one sector down in that sense.

But this is where for me, Janine, I’m glad the country dodged a bullet. That bloke could have been a Senator. I prefer him to be saying on television on a Sunday morning than in the Senate actually trying to write the laws of the country.

JANINE PERRETT

Oh I actually think he’d be better as a Senator, because he doesn’t seem, I don’t actually know who his constituency is anymore. I don’t know that he represents the unions, I don’t know maybe Labor he would have been better, but look I’m with Arthur. There was a kernel of truth there. We are going to see a restructure, we are going to see bigger conglomerates. That’s a fact of life, but to be so dismissive of ma and pa farms when they are so important to the country. I mean most of them, and I admit I get sick of the whinging little farmers who are constantly whining no matter what, they want government assistance, that’s it. They have to become more competitive and thanks to the Keating reforms of the Hawke-Keating Government we have become more open on free trade and these issues and our farmers…

PAUL MURRAY

You know Arthur she is doing this because you’re on the phone, if you were here…

JANINE PERRETT

Our farmers are now competitive, they have led the way in free trade on agricultural goods and I think they’ve done a fabulous job. But yes, I think it’s the way he said it, the arrogance of it: ‘oh the ma and pa farms just have to go’. I think he just needs a bit of toning down, which, if he was in the Senate, he might learn a bit of…

PAUL MURRAY

Oh rubbish…rubbish, I don’t want to pay his bills.

JANINE PERRETT

He’s a thinking man, I like a thinking man. We don’t have many of them in Parliament

PAUL MURRAY

Arthur, can you see what Janine does when you’re not in the studio with her, it’s all bringing up, you know the joys of the past and the sins of the current.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Oh indeed and [inaudible] the Senate and all the rest of it, that’s very naughty.

PAUL MURRAY

Now in NSW the new Directive is going to be that police can have tattoos, but if they have them they should cover them up and if you have particularly offensive or racial or sexual ones, you will not be allowed inside the force. Janine, do you care if coppers have tatts? I don’t.

JANINE PERRETT

Of course I do, this is the most stupid Directive. I would have thought it would have been self-evident. I want to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys and I don’t want tatts running up their neck.

PAUL MURRAY

Stop this. The good guys are the people wearing the blue, the good men and women are the people wearing…

JANINE PERRETT

Not if they’ve got tatts coming out of their necks…

PAUL MURRAY

But hang on, if they make a decision when they are 19 and they’re playing football and then they decide for a career change when they’re 23, who cares?

JANINE PERRETT

Well they should listen to their mothers and mothers always say: ‘don’t get a tatt love, you’ll regret it later in life. It’ll affect you’re employment prospects.’

PAUL MURRAY

Arthur, do you feel any less guarded if the person coming at you is a police officer with tattoos on their neck?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Well I think Janine is right, mothers are always right with advice like that, that’s the first thing. The second thing is these tatts are meant, in a sense, to show you’re a member of a tribe. You know how our society starts to get a bit tribal and all the rest of it. And we want police to be, sort of, a bit above the various tribes in the community. They’re sort of the last resort, the thin blue line, all those clichés, but they are true. And so yeah, there are a lot of people with tattoos who are very nice people. That’s not the issue. But the issue here is there is just a slight unease, you just think, you just want them somehow to be the most normal, sane of people. And maybe I am biased about what is normal and sane and that’s the issue. And I’ll get criticised for that, but you want them to be the people you can absolutely rely on and sometimes we ask the super human of them, but geez so many times they actually deliver that.

JANINE PERRETT

Oh goodness they have to have their hair cut short, they have to wear a uniform, they have to comply by other standards that make them a little bit more square than the rest of us…

PAUL MURRAY

So do you think police officers should also not have a beard?

JANINE PERRETT

Yes I do actually, but isn’t that a safety thing because it can be pulled in a fight?

PAUL MURRAY

Try and pull my beard, you wouldn’t know… [inaudible] thank you, can you go after the grey ones, you actually did pull at my beard. Oh wow.

Alright now we did talk about Nick Lalich we spoke about this just before 10 o’clock with Shaun Nicholls from the Sydney Morning Herald. Nick Lalich, State MP, goes off on one of these supposed study tours where he goes to the UK and the US to study their political system. He goes to Las Vegas and walks in and out of one casino to conclude that they don’t really help with problem gamblers. He goes to New York, but after four weeks of trying to get a meeting with somebody from the Police Commissioner’s office over there, he meets with no one, but goes to New York anyway. And the best he can surf up with a trip in California is to talk to one police officer who says “yeah, we’re sort of on top of crime.” This stuff is ridiculous Janine, seriously.

JANINE PERRETT

Maybe they should go to Arthur on it first. Look, I actually thought it was a bit of a cheap shot, but not because I think he doesn’t look like an idiot, but because I think if you went through numerous politicians on this, especially State ones, they would all be shockers. I don’t know why he was singled out personally.

PAUL MURRAY

Yeah, but this is my thing where I think there is an argument: I understand domestic travel, international travel for me at the Federal Parliament makes some sense and absolutely for Ministers and Shadow Ministers, people of responsibility. But lifetime backbench nobodies like Nick Lalich in the State Parliament racking up $16,000, how can it not be a gravy train? Arthur?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Look it is the privilege of being an MP that, among the other things, you get the odd study tour and the transparency around that is you’ve got to issue a report. And can I say that report speaks for itself.

PAUL MURRAY

Very well done, very well done.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

I think I’m going to have to go because the bells are ringing, so there might be a division. So all the best. You’ve been fantastic and Janine, always great to hear from you.

PAUL MURRAY

Ok, all the best. Thank you Senator.

JANINE PERRETT

Bye.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Bye.