February 25, 2017


DAVID LIPSOM: Matt Canavan, Brendan O'Connor, thank you for your time. First, Matt Canavan. Did you find Tony Abbott’s intervention helpful?


MATT CANAVAN: I always welcome ideas, David. I don't have any problem with people putting forward different policy suggestions. I love this game because of different people’s ideas and I don't always agree with them but Tony Abbott as a former Prime Minister and a backbencher in a party that welcomes debate, he is welcome to put those views forward and good luck to him. I encourage it. I like the debate but we don't always have to agree, that is fine and I do not agree on many of those points.


LIPSOM: But many of your colleagues have told me behind the scenes and have also spoken publicly, like Mathias Cormann saying that he was flabbergasted at the comments last night, they are more than ideas, aren't they?


CANAVAN: My blood pressure does not go up from those comments. I can only speak for myself. People put forward different views. Tony is welcome to do that. He has a record of contributing to public policy and debate over many years and he said he would continue to do that as a backbencher. He is a Member of Parliament, unelected Julie and I got no problem engaging in debate with people from different parties in my own party.


LIPSOM: You don't see this as undermining and sniping and wrecking?


CANAVAN: I don't find it all that distracting. I have been very, very busy getting on with my job. I read the newspapers in the morning and saw Tony's comments, that is all well and good but I get on with the job I have been elected, to represent the people of Queensland.


LIPSOM: Some suggest the motivation is to blow up Malcolm Turnbull and have Peter Dutton installed as Prime Minister. Does Prime Minister Peter Dutton have a ring to it?


CANAVAN: You mentioned motivation. I'm not going to start to psychoanalyse Tony Abbott. I will engage with people and the ideas they put forward on their merits. I am a little too busy to worry about trying to work out what people's intentions are at different times. As I say, we've got a lot to do as a government. A real focus on energy. This week I was meeting with a lot of manufacturing businesses, and that is my priority.


LIPSOM: One of his ideas on energy was to cut the renewable energy target. Do you support that?


CANAVAN: No, I think we have come to a resolution on the renewable energy target. It needed to be reduced a few years ago and we got the support of the Senate because electricity demand has not grown as expected. We needed to come down from a level which was going to get to 30 per cent to a more reasonable level of 23.5. That is our position. We do not think going to 50 per cent, which is where Labor will take it, will be good. It will push up prices and cost jobs and make it harder for people to pay their power bills. We have got the settings right and we should not tinker with policies every few months. This was only resolved a year and a half ago and we should let it run its course.


LIPSOM: Brendan O’Connor, is Labor's renewable energy target too high?


BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: No I think what we are doing is exactly right. In fact, what really happened with the RET as you know over the last three years, is there has been all sorts of problems because this government pretty much deterred investment in renewables because of its back flipping and its complete disinterest in this area of policy. Labor is up for having a debate on energy policy. We know we have to move from coal up to renewables and we are happy to have that debate anytime, anywhere with the government.


If you look at all the commentators including those advising the government they are saying they have to take renewables far more seriously than they do and should not engage in lies around the issue of the energy debate so far by the Prime Minister in particular.


LIPSOM: Do you concede though that the subsidising of wind and solar has indeed contributed to pushing out baseload power like coal stations in southern Australia which, in turn, has made the system less reliable?


O’CONNOR: I think we decided quite rightly to transition in an orderly way, in a focused way, from our reliance on coal to renewables. Therefore, we are happy to have an honest debate about this. Let's be very clear here, renewables will be the energy source of the future. We have to do this in a manner that is going to ensure a proper transition, but it is wrong to deny that renewables will become an increasing part of the energy supply of this nation.


LIPSOM: Let's move on to penalty rates. Brendan O'Connor, what mechanism would Labor employ to actually reverse this penalty rates decision that you are so against?


O’CONNOR: We are looking at that now. There are 450 pages of the decision. It’s a very damning decision for hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers in retail and hospitality -


LIPSOM: From the umpire?


O’CONNOR: Indeed. For us, it is difficult not to support a commission an institution that we support in general terms but this is a bad decision and we have to take, I think, a different approach and we do believe we need to find a Parliamentary remedy and ensure that these workers who are struggling to make ends meet are not affected in the manner that they will be affected if this decision is enacted.


We will consider how we do that but we call upon the Prime Minister. He was happy to legislate to stop truck driver rates going up. He can consider this as an impost on low-paid workers and work with Labor to prevent penalty rates being affected and retail and hospitality worker’s wages going down. He can do that if he works with Labor. He has intervened in the decision of an independent umpire, he did it to the road safety tribunal.


LIPSOM: Matt Canavan, a lot of hospitality workers in North Queensland. How is it being received in your patch?


CANAVAN: First of all, David, I do support the principle that if you work on weekends and public holidays, you deserve to get a bit extra but the question is how much? Some people are upset by the decision of the tribunal but I've spoken to small businesses who say they can put on more people. The people I've spoken to in small business do not earn a lot of money, they are often struggling to meet costs, they often go to the wall. All of us would have the experience of seeing small businesses, particularly in tourism areas in Queensland, who cannot open on some of the busiest days at the moment.

How do you get the balance right? You do deserve extra but if we go too high, it's like Goldilocks. It's too high, people lose their jobs and we don't want that either. It's about what process you set up. I don't think politicians will get it right because we don't have all the information and don't have to pay peoples bills and add up all the revenue at the end of the week. That is why we set up an independent umpire. That is why Bill Shorten is being the equivalent of John McEnroe. He is worse than John McEnroe because he appointed the independent umpire and now he is disagreeing with him.


LIPSOM: Brendan O’Connor you called on debate on the previous issue we were talking about. What about this Coles worker who claimed to be a victim at Bill Shorten's press conference but he will not lose a cent under the EBA?


O’CONNOR: That wasn’t an intentional mislead from him. He was not aware of the agreement but that is a distraction from the bigger question. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be affected and Malcolm Turnbull was willing to change, in fact revoke a decision of the Road Safety Tribunal to stop truck drivers wages going up. It's not true that he can’t -


CANAVAN: That is not accurate -


O’CONNOR: It is entirely accurate. Obviously, you voted on this and you don't even understand what you voted on because -  


CANAVAN: We did and we never supported that tribunal.


O’CONNOR: If I can finish, there were two bills, one which went to the revocation of the order and the second went to the abolition of the tribunal. They both passed the Parliament. My point is the Prime Minister when he was happy to, intervened on an independent umpire decision and he can do so here if he supports low-paid workers. In fact, Malcolm Turnbull for once in his life should stand up for hard-working Australians are struggling to make ends meet.


LIPSOM: I want to finish on the issue of Israel with the Israeli Prime Minister who has now left Australia after his historic visit. Brendan O'Connor, several Labor luminaries are calling for formal recognition of Palestine. What’s your position?


O’CONNOR: My position is the position of the Labor platform and the Labor policy.


LIPSOM: So you are not pushing to go further?


O’CONNOR: Well, my point is, Labor Party policy and the Labor platform believe in a two- State solution. That’s my position.


LIPSOM: You are not advocating like Bob Hawke, like others in the party, for formal recognition of Palestine?


O’CONNOR: I think everybody agrees we need a two-State solution to this. If I’m going to have a debate about the policy or the platform of the party, I’ll do so internally, David. I am comfortable with the position as is but I'm happy to have those conversations about whether we look to change that within the forums of the Party.


LIPSOM: Any last thoughts, Matt Canavan?


CANAVAN: I kind of find it a little ineffective or maybe we think we are two important if we can lecture other countries and resolve all of these issues. It is unfortunate the disputes which occur in that part of the world. I encourage all parties to try to talk and come to arrangements which will guarantee peace. That is not something we can do directly from here, all we can do is create the environment to get those negotiations to conclude as soon as possible.


LIPSOM: Gentlemen, we are out of time, great to talk to you.