TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR THE HON. ARTHUR SINODINOS AO
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LIPSON AND ANTHONY ALBANESE, LATELINE
Subjects: Finkel Report, Prime Minister’s Donald Trump impersonation, Ministers called before Vic Courts, Debt.
DAVID LIPSON, PRESENTER:
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on Lateline.
Arthur Sinodinos, the Finkel report was supposed to end the climate wars. It seems to have brought the battlefront right into the Coalition party room.
ARTHUR SINODINOS, INDUSTRY MINISTER:
Look, I don't know why people get so excited about a robust discussion in the party room which is the first step in this government along with the other governments that will have to respond to Finkel to put together a set of policy recommendations to take us forward.
The whole point of going to the party room was to give exposure of Finkel to the various people in there. Look, you can't go to a party room and suddenly expect everybody to just sit there mute, put their hands up and say yes, Prime Minister that is a good idea, we are all robots. We are not robots and the point is, this has been an issue within the Liberal Party where over time there has been concern about what is the future of coal as we continue to reduce our emissions, what is the role of renewables which need to have backup. What impact does that have on the cost to the system?
What Finkel has done is come up with the comprehensive of set of recommendations that we along with state and territory governments, have to respond to.
And that's the point, isn't it, that the government hasn't yet to come to a decision on this.
David, I sat through most of that discussion in the party room and I wasn't surprised that some people were quite passionate in putting a view but in fact, I thought it was a pretty civilised discourse, on the whole.
Anthony Albanese, that is right, isn't it? I mean that is where the discussion should happen, that's where there should be no holds barred?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW INFRASTRUCTURE MINISTER:
Look, there is nothing wrong with the party room having discussions but it is time that the Coalition showed some leadership on this issue.
The fact is that everyone in the energy sector, every economist knows including scientists, scientists like Finkel or every economist knows that what you need effectively is a price on carbon.
Now that can take many forms. Finkel has come up with this option which is the same way to essentially achieve, a different way to achieve the same outcome. We think an emissions intensity scheme is more effective and so do most economists and so does the energy sector but we have said we are prepared to be constructive because what you need is certainty.
The fact is that three-quarters of Australians are going to have a massive increase in their energy bills again, on July 1. The reason why we have had failure both in terms of emissions but also in terms of cost to consumers is because of that uncertainty which has been there essentially since Tony Abbott took over the leadership of the Liberal Party.
Well, speaking of Tony Abbott, a few Coalition MPs that I have spoken to this week have suggested that he may have lost even more friends in the party room this week. Barnaby Joyce was asked about it on 7.30 this week. This is what he said.
BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
Well, I think he can be doing more to help. At times you have to temper your expressions, other things that other backbenchers may say, are understandable, but if you held the highest office, you understand how the game works.
Arthur Sinodinos, what do you think of the way Tony has handled this?
The way that I interpreted what Tony said in the party room is, as Barnaby says, this bloke is a former prime minister, he is looking to his own legacy and what he said in the party room was we need one set of policies to deal with electricity and then when it comes to emissions, we should replenish the emissions reduction fund and deal with emissions that way.
What I think we are all saying as a government today is that if you are going to provide certainty to the sector over time, and we do need that certainty to reduce the cost of actually getting investment into this area, you do need to move beyond the approaches we have had.
What about his altercation with Craig Laundy? We reported that on this program this week. Today we see a quote from Laura Tingle that Tony Abbott said to Craig Laundy in the party room, go F* yourself.
I mean, how is that viewed in the party? Is he losing support?
Well, I wasn't witness to that being said but what I will say is they are both willing and robust characters. They are adults, they can look after themselves.
But look ...
Is his preselection under threat? That's one of the other things that's been reported today.
David, Australian politics is either going to be dominated by working out the policy merits of all of this or we can continue to have discussions about personalities.
In relation to pre-selections, I'm sure that Tony is okay in his seat.
Tony Abbott's legacy on climate change is set, it's bad. He played a very destructive role and in terms of his so-called emission reduction fund, what is that if not a tax?
That is directly putting taxpayers' money into a fund to pay subsidies to the big emitters. The fact is that we need to do better than that. We need to get this right. This is an opportunity to get it right and I hope that the more sensible views within the Coalition prevail and that we can have a bipartisan position moving forward because that's what you need.
Without that certainty on both sides of politics, you won't get the investment that is required.
That's right. Look, I want to move to another topic. Malcolm Turnbull tried his hand at some comedy this week at the Midwinter Ball. It was actually pretty funny in my opinion, where he lampooned himself and Donald Trump.
Now some commentators have said this is very serious. It could cause a diplomatic spat, hasn't yet.
This is what Joe Hockey, our ambassador in the US had to say followed by comments from Malcolm Turnbull.
The administration hasn't rung us up and I haven't been hauled into the White House or been sent back to Australia, so far as I am aware. Although I saw a series of black cars outside.
It was a good night, we were having a laugh. Everyone says politicians are too serious, too scripted. You have got to lighten up, right.
It is Australia.
Okay, first the leak. Now everyone at the ball was told that reporting of the events there were off-limits but something always leaks and Malcolm Turnbull must have known that. What do you think about the leak?
Well, I don't think that Malcolm Turnbull should have assumed that. He should have assumed that the press gallery ball would be bound by the rules that were established by the press gallery.
These aren't politicians rules. This is the press gallery encouraging people to be a bit more wild perhaps, be a bit more outrageous than they would be if they knew the reports were going to happen.
So I would hate to see Australia lose our sense of larrikinism. It's one of the things that characterises us. Malcolm's speech was very good. He had a go at himself, he had a go at others. So did Bill Shorten.
And that is a good night. It is raising money for charity.
My concern I guess is, that how much do we say it's okay if there are to be no private spaces at all? Because that has implications for the way that we deal with each other, between journalists and politicians and I am concerned about that in terms of whoever made the decision to make the tape and to leak it, that hasn't happened like this before.
How serious, Arthur Sinodinos, is this, do you think in terms of international relations?
I think the President would have been disappointed not to be mentioned, to be honest. I think he quite likes being in the limelight.
Look, I don't think this is going to rip up the ANZUS alliance, I don't think it is going to have any such impact at all particularly because it was self-deprecating. It wasn't just about the Donald, it was about the Malcolm as well and look, I think we just all need to relax a bit.
I was actually a bit surprised that people were surprised that something might get out. I mean the way politics plays these days, sooner or later, if something is really juicy, it gets out but that doesn't mean that Malcolm or others should stop from just trying to be themselves and you saw a side of Malcolm that maybe a lot of people don't see.
Well, this is the thing. I mean I re-tweeted a clip of Jeremy Corbyn this week in Westminster. He was roasting Theresa May but doing it in a way where she was laughing along. Have we lost a chunk of our humour in Parliament, Albo?
Oh look, I think some of the best elements of Parliament and some of the best way of taking down your opponent is with a bit of a sense of humour.
Certainly that is something that I tried to do from time to time as Leader of the House of Representatives. I found that if you could get the place laughing even during that hung parliament at ourselves, in part, then that would be far preferable and I do think that is what the public want to see.
And I certainly don't think there’s any long-term damage at all to Malcolm Turnbull or to the relationship with the US.
Could politicians be more authentic?
Well, I think they certainly should try to be, I always try to be. I reckon Arthur is someone who tries to be as well and I reckon the feedback that you get from the public is that when you actually say what you think, then people appreciate that.
Arthur and I are here, there's no notes. We haven't got the script from our party rooms that is a good thing.
Arthur Sinodinos, have we lost the humour?
Look, I think one impression I have is if you go back to say the '60s and '70s, there is an impression that there were some quite long-standing friendships across the political divide. You had characters like Fred Daly who was seen as, and he was Leader of the House at one stage, who were great at actually puncturing a situation with humour. Jim Killen was the same.
There has been, I think, in recent years more of a stiffening in a sense and more of a, we have gotten into the trenches and I think we've actually got to move away from that because I think the public instinctively turn off when they see that.
Does that make it harder to actually get things done across the aisle?
Only you decide that that's the only way you're going to be.
What about the Victorian ministers Hunt, Tudge and Sukkar who today were called to explain in court their criticism of the courts over terrorism sentencing. Now they didn't go to court but their lawyers did on their behalf.
Anthony Albanese, did they go too far?
Well, they withdrew their comments so they themselves have acknowledged that they went too far. It's good that it's been settled and I think that their withdrawal through the Solicitor-General was appropriate.
Should they have made the criticism in the first place? I mean should courts be completely off-limits for politicians to criticise?
Well, what happened with their comments was a bit too far. They have acknowledged that by the fact that they have withdrawn their comments.
Arthur Sinodinos, what you think?
Well look, I'm one of their colleagues as a minister. The judgement in the case has been reserved so I can't really comment any more than that given the circumstances.
What about more broadly though on the issue of criticism of courts, leave them out of it? Should politicians weigh into ...
Look, I have said some stuff on that before really because of this judgement now, I am really bound not to say anymore.
One thing that is clear and it's important to state is that given there was a bit of a debate about politicians deciding for example people's parole. That would be a very bad idea.
What we need to do is to make sure that we continue to have the separation of the legal system from the political system, the independence of the judiciary is a very important foundation stone of our democracy.
And that is something we all strongly agree on. It's a foundation of the system.
Look, we've just got 90 seconds left. I just wanted to ask about debt. It has hit $500 billion, half a trillion dollars today.
Now, Arthur Sinodinos, you guys were elected to fix this, weren't you?
And we have reduced the rate of growth in debt. The rate of growth in spending from now on is going to be about 1.9 per cent in real terms, the lowest in 50 years.
From next year we are going to be borrowing for infrastructure, no more borrowing for recurrent or operational expenses.
So in that sense, we are doing what we need to do to get to a surplus by 2021 and as part of that, we have also been prepared to contemplate revenue measures in a way we would not have a couple of years ago.
Just in 20 seconds or so, Anthony Albanese?
Twenty seconds, grab a soundbite from them before they were elected. They spoke about debt and deficit disaster, they have made it worse.
Anthony Albanese, Arthur Sinodinos, thanks so much for being with us.
Good to be with you.