19 April 2018








SUBJECT/S: Live exports, Budget, Bachelor in Paradise, Banking Royal Commission, Cannabis


PETER VAN ONSELEN, INTERVIEWER: We’re joined now to debate all of these issues, and perhaps some more if we have time, by Anne Aly, Labor MP out of Western Australia, as well as Liberal MP out of Victoria, Tim Wilson. Thanks both of you for your company.


TIM WILSON, MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN: Thanks for having us Peter.

INTERVIEWER: Dr Aly, I might start with you. The live export ban – it’s really more of a suspension at the moment – do you think it’s likely to result in a full ban?

ALY: Oh look, I don’t know. I can’t predict what the outcome of that is going to be to be honest, Peter. I know it’s very clear what Labor’s policy has been. We did have an independent inspector that was removed by a decision by Barnaby Joyce in 2013, but there is something I do want to say about this whole live export thing because I think those tragic, tragic pictures that we saw of those poor animals suffering really resonated all across Australia. And there’s two sides to this: there’s the exports side of it and working with exporters from here in Australian, but there’s also another side of working with importers – and particularly consumers – of Australian meat overseas. And for the past several years I’ve been doing that, and going over to the Middle East and talking to people in the Middle East about increasing the consumption of frozen and processed meat from Australia, in order to have a more long-term and more sustainable approach to banning the live meat export. So we need to look at this from a more long-term perspective, and look at working not just with importers – sorry, not just with exporters from Australia – but also importers overseas.

INTERVIEWER: Tim Wilson, I should clarify that when I talk about a suspension; that’s the Labor Party policy as announced today by Bill Shorten. The government, any chance the government is going to adhere to that? Or will it be waiting for the review?

WILSON: Well the government’s currently conducting a review, which is the appropriate response to these situations. What we saw under the previous government was shocking, horrific images which lead to an immediate suspension, without the facts or the information about what should be done from there. We’re doing it the much more sensible way, which is looking and recognising that the horrific images and what we thought at least, certainly, an improved industry, has failed, at least in some areas, to meet public expectations, public confidence, my confidence. I agree with Anne about the shocking and horrific images, and making sure that any policy response from the government is considered. And it’s for the reasons that Anne actually just outlined, it’s because we’re obviously concerned about producers and the Australian producers, we’re concerned about animal welfare, but we’re also concerned, of course, about the end users or the consumers of Australian meat. And while it’s nice to say ‘why don’t people just put meat in their freezer and pick it out of the freezer when they need it’, in many countries across the earth including in a place like Indonesia and the Middle East, those options aren’t always available--

ALY: --well they should be made available.

WILSON: So we have to recognise there’s a full consequence to the supply chain if we would do something, suspend it immediately, without proper consideration.

INTERVIEWER: But having said that--

ALY: --can I?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, please jump in.

ALY: I actually wanted to respond to that, because I think that it’s not an impossible thing for us to increase the demand for frozen meat coming out of Australia, process the meat here – so we’re growing another industry here in Australia, we’re diversifying our industry here in Australia – and we’re putting an end to the demand for the live exports. So we’re handling this in terms of increasing demand for one form of meat, reducing the demand for another form which is the live exports, and in that way dealing with this issue. I don’t think it’s impossible to expect that--

WILSON: --Anne nobody said it was impossible. We’re just saying that everybody – and I think you’ve just acknowledged in the comments you’ve been making – that there’s obviously demand for live meat at the moment. I accept completely that it’s part of the supply chain, if you reduce the supply chain of live meat and transfer people towards other forms of fresh or frozen meat, you can address those concerns. But it’s not going to happen when you just announce a suspension by a press release; it’s going to be through managing a supply chain over time.

INTERVIEWER: Alright, let’s move on. It looks like there’s not going to be bipartisanship on this issue, at least until we find out what the review says. On another issue, Tim Wilson, who’s right? The Deputy Prime Minister that says that it’s going to be Santa Claus, as far as budgets go from the Treasurer, or the Treasurer who says ‘no it won’t be’?

WILSON: Well, you know what I’m like Peter, I’m a fiscal conservative on these things and so my hope is we’re not going to have Santa Claus. I’m hoping that what the government is going to do and the Budget or the Treasurer’s going to do--

INTERVIEWER: --so you disagree with the Deputy Prime Minister?

WILSON: No, well, what I’m hoping is that when the Budget is delivered at the beginning of May, the first full week of May, the Treasurer’s going to be bringing down a Budget that is tight, responsible, focused and, of course, managing spending very clearly. But as a critical part of getting us back to surplus, so that we can start to pay down debt. And what, frankly, I’d like to see, is tight surplus so that we can actually start to focus also on driving tax reform to relieve pressure on families as well as paying down the debt at the same time.

INTERVIEWER: Anne Aly, the Labor Party surely would be comfortable with what the Deputy PM is talking about, because he’s talking about a lot more money going in to infrastructure. Labor’s long talked about the need for that.

ALY: Well, Peter, you know, I can’t keep up with who’s agreeing with who in the Coalition government, who’s disagreeing with who, who’s telling who off, and who’s chiding who. It’s like an episode of Bachelor in Paradise--

WILSON: --oh Anne--

ALY: And I know that you’re a big fan, I know you’re a fan of Bachelor in Paradise, Peter. So two Bachie fans here.

WILSON: Who’s the Bachelor though and where’s the paradise? Canberra isn’t Paradise--

INTERVIEWER: --You guys are soaking up my time here, and we haven’t even got to the Banking Royal Commission, so let Dr Aly get it out.

ALY: I do want to say, that whatever the outcome is: this Budget is going to be a dud unless it reverses the cuts to Medicare, it reverses the cuts to schools, it puts back money in to aged care, and it reverses the $65 billion tax break for the big end of town.

INTERVIEWER: Alright let’s get in to the Banking Royal Commission, Anne Aly let me stay with you on this. Is there any chance that the Labor Party are going to, by the end of this – because it is a very quick Royal Commission – say ‘more time is required, our policy going in to the next election is that we need to have more terms of reference and a longer inquiry’? The Royal Commissioner doesn’t seem to want that but even some Liberal backbenchers – or, at least, Coalition backbenchers – do.

ALY: I don’t think we should jump the gun here, Peter. I think we should wait and see what the end result of the inquiry is. And every day we’re seeing more and more revelations – and yeah, sure, they’re really, really shocking – but they shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who have been listening to their constituents, who have been listening to the tragic stories, some of them quite tragic, about how they’ve been duped by banks and the financial sector. It’s a shame that we had to drag the government kicking and screaming to this Banking Royal Commission. It’s good to see that Barnaby Joyce has now come up and saying that he’s regretting not voting for the Royal Commission. So I want to see, you know, let’s just keep focused on what keeps coming out, and then, let’s take a look at what our next step it. I don’t think we should be pre-empting anything.

INTERVIEWER: Tim Wilson, from your perspective, what do you think about the idea of the banks being broken up or carved up so that they’re not so big? Professor Allan Fels, former head of the ACCC, we spoke to him last night here on the program, he was saying that.

WILSON: Well, I’m cautious about taking such a dramatic step. I’m not saying no, and the reality is banks get an enormous amount of support through regulation and legislation to underpin their market position, if this inquiry leads to a position where it’s deemed there’s too much market power then, of course, all options have to be on the table. But I think what has actually come out of this Royal Commission on the government’s terms is actually, not just – critically – it’s not just a Royal Commission in to the banks, but it’s a Royal Commission in to other areas of the financial services sector. And if the government hadn’t taken the approach it had, we wouldn’t have heard about the shocking examples that came out of AMP in the past 48 hours. And what we need to do is focus on making sure that the banking and financial services sector as a whole seems to clean up its act, because when you hear stories about people being billed up to a decade after they’re deceased, you know, that’s not just negligence or irresponsibility--

INTERVIEWER: --do you accept that the government was wrong to oppose a Royal Commission in to the banks for so long before finally capitulating on it? Now that we’ve heard what we’ve heard in these proceedings?

WILSON: Well the truth is, the push that was made by Labor for a Royal Commission was like what they’ve just done on the live cattle exports. It was a press release kind of announcement to try and draw attention to something and distract--

ALY: --oh it was more than that, Tim.

WILSON: When in fact the government has, firstly, moved methodically through the issues, and worked with the parliamentary process. The banks came and said ‘we think we need a Royal Commission to engender a sense of confidence in the system’ as well as, of course, we then went and expanded and said ‘no, no, let’s include other financial service institutions’. So actually I think we’ve ended up at the right place, frankly, rather than just running in haste. So, you know, in hindsight I think many people would go, when some of these revelations come out that maybe we should have moved there earlier – I’m happy to accept that totally. But I think we’ve ended up at the right place and I think it’s been a – well – the tragedy is it’s a good place for transparency, clearly outlining very bad outcomes for some consumer.

INTERVIEWER: We’re out of time but just very quickly, Anne Aly, the Greens policy on marijuana. The Labor Party often feels threatened on its left flank by the Greens, particularly in inner-city seats, any chance it’s going to look to move in that direction?

ALY: No chance. I mean, let’s focus on legalising medicinal cannabis for those people who are suffering unfathomable pain and how this can help them. But opening it up to general use and recreational use, I don’t think so. I think the Greens are just putting this out there so they can try and be relevant.

INTERVIEWER: Have a brought you two together on the last question, Tim Wilson?

WILSON: Well it’s true, Anne’s right about the fact the Greens have done this to be relevant, but what I find is the stark and naked hypocrisy in this, which is, you may be aware, Peter, that we’ve just completed an inquiry in the Health, Age Care and Sport committee looking at the access to electronic cigarettes – or vaping, electronic vaporisers – to try and get people off cigarettes. The Greens oppose the legalisation of those life-saving, substituting mechanisms for dealing with nicotine but want to go off and decriminalise marijuana. The most naked example of hypocrisy and clearly not thinking about it, so, on this point, yes, Anne is right, because what they want to do is make relevance because – particularly after we dealt with marriage and marriage for same sex couple last year – they’ve really had nothing of use to say.

INTERVIEWER: There you go, a bit of bipartisanship to end the segment. Anne Aly and Tim Wilson, appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

ALY: Thanks Peter.

WILSON: Thank you.