30 January 2019
Transcript - #2019001, 2019

Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes, AM Agenda, Sky News Australia

Subjects: Climate change targets, immigration and jobs.

GILBERT:

Good morning, welcome to the program. Coming up shortly, Laura and I will be speaking to the Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert after the Government's jobs pledge yesterday. Get a bit more detail on that. First, though, Laura, another Liberal front bencher, a senior one, facing a challenger?

JAYES:

Yeah, that's right. Former banker, climate campaigner and veteran, Liberal Oliver Yates, says he will challenge Josh Frydenberg for the seat of Kooyong. Mr Yates has told us here on Sky News this morning he will run as an independent in the blue ribbon seat due to the Government's inaction on climate change.

YATES:

So I'm fighting for the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party has lost its way. It is not following its own principles. I don't want to live in an American society where, you know, where we end up with suburbs where that are worse off and because they're worse off and they don't have wealth they get less services and they get worse schools and they get worse hospitals. I don't want to live in an environment where I leave my children horrific environmental liability. That's completely wrong. It's immoral.

GILBERT:

Mr Yates has now been expelled from the Liberal Party for challenging the Deputy Liberal Leader.

JAYES:

Have you any backing from outside groups like GetUp?

YATES:

Do I have backing? I have backing from everybody and I have backing from citizens and from children and schoolchildren.

JAYES:

Are you getting any funding from GetUp?

YATES:

No, I'm not getting any funding from GetUp. GetUp doesn't give funding.

JAYES:

Have you got any support from GetUp, then?

YATES:

I get support from everybody. I've been in this business, as you know, I'm head of the Clean Energy and Finance Authority which this Government tried to abolish. Of course I talk to everybody.

JAYES:

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert joins us live now. Stuart Robert, thank you for your time. Just want to follow up from what Oliver Yates was saying about the Liberal Party not adhering to its own principles. It echoes what Paul Kelly has said as well saying that there is the Liberals seem to have vacated the field and voters doubt their credentials on climate change?

ROBERT:

I think, Laura, we might just focus on the facts and the facts are that we'll beat our 2020 climate change target, that we will meet our 2030 target of 26% to 28%. In fact, the national energy market will meet its reduction of emissions in terms of output from energy by 2022, eight years earlier. So I don't think the facts actually stack up the way Mr Yates seems to think they do.

GILBERT:

But you do concede, though, that you're vulnerable in a number of electorates around the country on this issue, on this issue of climate change?

ROBERT:

The issue's important. Many Australians feel it's important. My sons feel it's important which is why we're going to meet our targets. The Prime Minister has made it clear we'll meet our targets at a canter. We'll exceed our 2020 targets exceptionally and to get our targets for energy eight years in advance, I think those numbers, those facts speak for themselves. So I'm very confident in terms of the Liberal Party meeting its obligations, our international obligations when it comes to climate change.

JAYES:

This is an argument that we have heard, to be fair, time and time again from Liberal Party senior ministers, everyone from the Prime Minister down, but it seems that voters are sceptical about the commitments that you're giving. Is there anything that you're going to do in this campaign, in the lead up to the next election to try and bring those voters back into the tent, to, I guess, give them that comfort that you are doing what you say you're doing?

ROBERT:

Well, the truth is always a wonderful disinfectant, Laura. In this campaign the next three months you will hear a lot of truth from the Liberal National parties and a lot of Labor lies. So we will continue to push the point very strongly that we met our Kyoto 1 targets, we will absolutely meat our Kyoto 2 targets by 2020 and if energy is any indication of our 2030 targets we're going to meet it eight years in advance.

GILBERT:

But many observers, experts in this field are saying, wondering where you're getting this confidence from. Meeting the targets in the electricity sector is one thing but that's only a third of emissions. Where does the rest of the reduction come from in terms of the economy-wide reductions, which the former Abbott Government committed to in the Paris agreement?

ROBERT:

Yes, no question, the former Abbott Government did and we continue to hold to a 26% to 28% reduction. The Government has a range of measures that we're putting in place now.

GILBERT:

You say it's going to be done at a canter but the emissions reduction fund's depleted, I just wonder where you achieve this from?

ROBERT:

And, likewise, our past successes in Kyoto 1 and Kyoto 2 speak for the Government's commitment and capacity to meet those targets.

JAYES:

Okay, let's look at the jobs plan now announced by Scott Morrison yesterday. This is the centrepiece of your economic strategy moving forward. 1.25 million jobs over five years. Can we sort this out once and for all? Be very clear on this, Stuart Robert, will they be full-time or part-time jobs?

ROBERT:

Well, the labour force statistics, of course, for December showed 23,000 or slightly over 23,000 jobs created for that month, 11,800 were full time, 11,200 will be part time. So there will absolutely be a mix.

GILBERT:

And in terms of the commitment, though, of 1.25 million additional jobs, has there been any modelling done on what the breakdown will be?

ROBERT:

In terms of the jobs, looking backwards, of course, we committed to a million jobs over the last five years. The target was actually exceeded by 10%, 1.1 million, and, again, you look at the labour force statistics in the ABS, it will show you a very strong mix between full-time and part-time. In fact, there's been 1.2 million jobs created since that commitment was first made. So the past is a very good understanding or very good pointer to where we will be going in the next five years.

JAYES:

Given that, what role will immigration and population play in reaching this target?

ROBERT:

The immigration numbers, as you know, have been fairly steady for the last number of years. There's been a ceiling of 190,000, albeit we haven't hit that ceiling for a number of years. But the intake has been constant. So the input that immigration will have going forward, considering the numbers will be constant, will pretty much be the same as it was in the last five years.

JAYES:

Given, that no, after you, please.

GILBERT:

I was just going to go to the Foundation of Young Australians, Laura and I spoke to Jan Owen who is the CEO of that organisation, and it's found analysis done by Alpha Beta that they've released today shows that 70% of young people currently learning skills that will be redundant by 2030. So are we equipping young people with the skills to fill the 1.25 million jobs that Mr Morrison committed to yesterday?

ROBERT:

Always a challenge when technology changes, when the jobs of the next ten years will look substantially different to the jobs of the last ten years. The great thing, of course, in the last financial year, 100,000 Australians got a job, the highest number, I think, in our nation's history, which was an extraordinary result for the economy. We've got the Skilling Australian fund, of course, $1.5 billion in partnership with the States, which is about 300,000 apprenticeships in areas of demand, and of course rural and remote. So the Government's doing everything it can in terms of ensuring we have a good skills mix. It's one of the key tenants of the Government's economic plan, ten key points the Prime Minister released yesterday, about ensuring that we can continue to meet the jobs growth and the jobs growth targets. There will always be a need for a different mix of skills. Our education system and vocational training will always need to adapt as we go forward and I'm fairly confident that our institutions can do that.

JAYES:

How are you going to cut $350 billion worth of debt over ten years? Where will you cut spending?

ROBERT:

Well, the Government, of course, has reduced the growth of spending year on year to 1.9%, the lowest in 50 years. What the first point of our economic plan, of course, is for Government to live within its means and that's about trimming our cloth, about getting our budget into surplus.

JAYES:

Stuart Robert, these are all slogans, I asked where are you going to cut spending.

ROBERT:

Not at all, we've actually seen it. We've demonstrated spending growth of no more than 1.9% year on year.

JAYES:

Where will you cut spending going forward?

ROBERT:

The lowest in 50 years. So the MYEFO showed next financial year a surplus of $4.1 billion, growing to 12.5, growing to $19 billion and, of course, the budget showed within ten years that the net debt will be 1.5% of GDP or $48 billion. So the Government's current projected plan, the current work that we're doing, in fact, the ten key articles in our economic plan will see that net debt drop to 1.5% of GDP.

GILBERT:

Now, our colleague David Speers asked you yesterday about the instant asset write off for smaller and medium-sized businesses. Why don't you, you know, put that on a permanent footing given how well received it is? You know, you referred to how the take up is very strong, just put it in place on a permanent basis?

ROBERT:

Well, Kieran, many government programs people require them to be on a permanent basis and many of them are terminating measures, so they're there for a set period of time. So at present we want to encourage small and medium businesses and family businesses to invest and grow. In fact, it's the third key part of our economic narrative and plan is to encourage small and family businesses to grow and that instant asset write off, increasing it to $25,000 and pushing it out for another 12 months to 1 July next year is a core part of that. Now these programs terminate because we're looking to see the impact they have and to encourage businesses for a time period. Now future governments may make future decisions but right now we've extended it by 12 months.

JAYES:

I appreciate the glossy brochures, I appreciate the track record but we're getting into the raw politics of this now. We've had senior ministers in your government say that Labor's policies could cause a recession, do you agree with that assessment?

ROBERT:

Well, track record is actually fairly important, Laura. If you want to see how a government will go forward, look at how the Government has come. In the last five years, balancing the budget is extraordinary. If you wish to see how Labor will govern, again, look back to the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years that were a disaster and there are real risks for a Labor Government. You can't impose $200 billion of new taxes and Labor is not arguing with that number and not expect there to be some real risks in the economy. We're offering a strong economic plan with a strong future and a strong track record. Labor is offering a high-taxing, high-spending government, or potential government.

JAYES:

But you're not offering any detail of where you will cut spending because already, in MYEFO, you've set aside $10 billion, $9.2 billion to be more accurate, to spend between now and the election. How is that cutting spending or paying down debt?

ROBERT:

Laura, the budget and MYEFO makes it very clear, the budget is in surplus by $4.1 billion, next financial year rising to 12.5, rising to $19 billion. The budget also makes it clear in ten years net debt will be down to 1.5% of GDP, so $48 billion down from where it is now at $351 billion. The budget numbers speak for themselves and every government program on every line of expenditure and it is absolutely clear we will have the budget in surplus next financial year and surplus is growing year on year.

GILBERT:

You say that we should look at the track record of parties to see how they govern but Labor would argue the suggestion of a recession is flawed because they avoided they're one of the only advanced economies to avoid a recession off the back of the GFC under Labor's stewardship?

ROBERT:

Oh, come on, Kieran. We avoided the dramatic impacts of the of the GFC because our interest rates were high so the Reserve Bank could exercise very strong monetary policy by cutting them, China's insatiable demand for our natural resources and iron ore spiking to almost $180 per tonne and, of course, enormous amount of money in the bank that Labor spent like drunken sailors. Now the challenge is going forward we don't have money in the bank, we don't have interest rates so high they can be cut and, of course, China's consumption is still strong but nowhere near as high as that. Therefore, there are rifts ahead, there are some challenging times ahead and, frankly, voters should not be risking the future with a government that spends like that in terms of the Labor Government.

GILBERT:

But, you know, much of the structural deficit was put in place, even prior to that when John Howard and Peter Costello promised the house and Kevin Rudd matched them back in '07 in terms of those massive tax cuts, is that not true?

ROBERT:

Not at all, if you look at Howard and Costello bequeathed the Australian people in 2007, they bequeathed no debt at all in terms of government debt.

GILBERT:

And huge promises for tax cuts which Rudd matched.

ROBERT:

They had a budget surplus of well over $10 billion and something like $10 billion to $20 billion in the bank. An extraordinary set of books that any country in the world would love to inherit and Labor turned that around in five years into a disaster. They're the facts, Kieran.

GILBERT:

Stuart, we're out of time. Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert, we'll talk to you soon. A quick break on 'AM Agenda'. Stay with us, back in just a moment.