DAVID SPEERS: Welcome back and welcome to our panel joining us this morning: Labor MP Richard Marles, from Melbourne and Liberal MP Jamie Briggs who’s in Adelaide. Now Jamie Briggs, I might start with you then.
Big issue there in South Australia, saving the Murray Darling and we've just heard the Coalition’s Barnaby Joyce making it clear there; no water buy-backs until there’s a better understanding of the economic impact that it would have on regional communities.
Are you comfortable as a South Australian with that?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well look, John Howard started this process in January 2007 and he released at that point a 10-point plan which included having an independent authority to decide for the first time in Australia’s history what was necessary to ensure that the Murray-Darling Basin survived, including how much water flows out the mouth of the Murray which is in my electorate — the Lower Lakes are in my electorate of Mayo and I am pleased to see in the draft guide or the draft plan that there is a commitment to 89 per cent of the time — an outcome of 89 per cent of the time the Murray mouth will be open.
I think that’s a very important commitment to ensure that the salt is discharged out of the system each year and the river is flowing.
We obviously regulated the river for a very long time now and we've taken too much water out for a very long time and there is need for reform, there is need for reducing the amount of water that is taken out of the system. So we'll now look at the detail of the plan when it’s released shortly by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
But I make one point, I think the reason we're back to this parochial fight again is because Kevin Rudd in 2008 gave up on the core commitment in the 10-point plan that John Howard released which was to have a truly national independent authority and he gave the states the opt-out power. Now I think that’s why we're going to see real problems with this in the coming weeks and months.
DAVID SPEERS: Yeah okay but just getting back to that question; Barnaby Joyce says no water buy-backs until there’s a further economic — understanding of the economic impact on regional communities. Are you happy with a further delay on this?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well our policy is to continue the process of reducing the pressure on the Murray-Darling Basin and so where there are willing sellers and where there’s a plan for good outcomes like having the Murray Mouth open for 89 per cent of the time then that is something that the Coalition’s policy supports.
DAVID SPEERS: So that means yes going ahead with water buy-backs?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well look, we took a policy to the last election which was to continue our commitment to this necessary reform. You need a healthy basin so you can continue to grow the food for the future. Barnaby made that point and I agree with him very strongly on that but you need a healthy basin also to ensure that people — that the environment continues to survive. I mean we've talked about — we heard Barnaby’s concerned about townships along the basin and I understand that.
I grew up in Mildura and now live on the lower stretches and I understand the need for a strong economic basis and in fact the township of Goolwa in my electorate, a couple of years ago at the worst part of the drought, it did lose significant amounts of business. So you know, we have seen the worst effects in my parts and we understand the absolute need for genuine reform in this area.
DAVID SPEERS: Okay, it sounds like you have a different priority then, or a different approach to this than Barnaby Joyce, at least in terms of that particular impact.
Richard Marles, I just bring you in here.
The main criticism of the report is that well it doesn't specify what each town is going to have to do, what the impacts going to be for each town, where the water they're giving up is going to go, what it’s going to be used for; don't these communities deserve that sort of detail?
RICHARD MARLES: Well, as you pointed out in your interview with Barnaby Joyce, there’s obviously a limit to how much detail can be determined in the context of having a water market. But, we also know that this is something which has been the subject of a lot of consultation and there’s still another 20 weeks of consultation to go.
I very much welcome the comments of Jamie in supporting this plan and it does seem to be very much at odds with Barnaby Joyce and his opposition to the plan and I think that highlights a couple of things.
Firstly, the management of the Murray-Darling Basin has been an intractable problem for years. It has been an area where policy has been characterised by deadlock and that was certainly the case under the Howard Government. What we've got now is a government that is prepared not to put the Murray-Darling in the too-hard basket and wanting to actually work through a process which sorts this out.
I think the other thing that we see is that…
DAVID SPEERS: [Interrupts] Even if that means some political pain along the way? I mean if your government is prepared to do that it means you know, some pretty difficult conversations with people in those small towns.
RICHARD MARLES: I think it does mean some difficult conversations but I think what you've also seen is a government which has been prepared to work through the very difficult challenges which it’s been faced with and you could look at that in terms of managing the economy, the carbon price, the minerals resource rent tax.
We are prepared to take on the hard issues and that’s something very different to what you see on the part of the Coalition and not surprisingly given the two…
DAVID SPEERS: All right well it…
RICHARD MARLES: …alternative views that we've seen this morning. I mean…
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well…
RICHARD MARLES: …they would be fighting each other like cats and dogs over this.
DAVID SPEERS: A nice — a nice segue — okay I think we've covered that. Let’s segue then to the economy…
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well David, can I just t- can I just make one…
DAVID SPEERS: Very quickly. Very quickly.
JAMIE BRIGGS: Can I just make one point. Richard Marles has verballed — I have not said we support this plan yet. We haven't even seen the plan yet so let’s have a look at it in the first place.
DAVID SPEERS: All right.
JAMIE BRIGGS: And we have got genuine concerns.
DAVID SPEERS: All right we will have a look at it this morning.
JAMIE BRIGGS: And secondly we're not at odds, Richard Marles.
DAVID SPEERS: Well okay, we'll let people make up their own minds on that.
RICHARD MARLES: [Laughs]
DAVID SPEERS: The economy; we'll see the budget update this week from the Treasurer. They have released the nasty bit already, there’s a $7 billion write down in revenue thanks to the — well largely thanks to the economic crisis in Europe and the havoc that’s resulted in here on the stock market.
Richard Marles, that is going to mean some — again, painful political decisions here in spending cuts isn't it. Are there any areas that you're particularly worried about being cut?
RICHARD MARLES: Well I think you're right to say that there will be some difficult decisions that need to be made in order to get the budget back into surplus at the next budget but that is definitely something that we are committed to doing and something which is an appropriate and right thing to do in the context of the current economic environment here in Australia because whilst things are wobbly in Europe…
DAVID SPEERS: [Interrupts] So where do you wield the axe? Where do you wield the axe?
RICHARD MARLES: Well, if I can just finish. I'm not going to get into the ins and outs at this point. The Finance Minister has highlighted some of those areas but let’s see how that plays out. I would make the point that whilst matters are wobbly in Europe, our economy is integrated with Asia, thanks to the decisions that were made by the Hawke and Keating Governments.
This is the strongest part of the world in terms of economies and you're seeing that reflected in the Australian economy as well as the way in which the government managed it. And so it is the right thing to get the budget back into surplus.
That has created the space…
DAVID SPEERS: Well…
RICHARD MARLES: …to see an interest rate reduction which we saw a few weeks ago which is so important in terms of putting confidence into the economy.
DAVID SPEERS: Okay well Jamie — Jamie Briggs, will the Coalition support spending cuts this week or will you try and — I mean because you do support getting the budget back into surplus but will you on the other hand try and seek some political capital by attacking any spending cuts?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well Labor has never delivered a surplus and they never will deliver a surplus. They have spent us into this situation through their waste and mismanagement. We know that they came to government with a $20 billion wad of cash in the bank and they've managed to not only spend that wad of cash but they've also spent billions and billions more to the point where we're over $100 million dollars in net debt.
DAVID SPEERS: So will you back spending cuts?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, let’s see what they are. Labor hasn't delivered spending cuts, all they've delivered is more waste and mismanagement in their time in government and we'd be fearful of exactly the same. We do face perilous economic times.
I — one thing I very, very rare thing I agree with Paul Keating, what he said yesterday. I think Europe is in real trouble and it’s going to have a genuine effect on us if the globe goes into recession. That will reduce the revenues for government and will mean hard decisions are necessary. And Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have been working through a process within the Coalition of identifying all the waste and mismanagement within the government. It’s a very different job.
DAVID SPEERS: They've still got a way to go there though by the sounds of it?
JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, it’s a hard job. I mean, these guys have, you know, looking at basic things like the number of increases in senior public servants has been astronomical since they came to government. Consultants are out of control. Basic things like that; this government doesn't know how to spend money…
DAVID SPEERS: Alright.
JAMIE BRIGGS: …Doesn't know how to use money properly.
DAVID SPEERS: We're nearly out of time but I just…
RICHARD MARLES: David, [indistinct] if there’s a difficult decision they won't agree with it.
DAVID SPEERS: …Quickly want to play to you what Kevin Rudd had to say yesterday on the issue of Labor Party reform. He’s talked about some ideas that he wants to get up this weekend going to re-empowering the membership. He was on SKY News yesterday; he was asked well why didn't you do this when you were prime minister. He talked about perhaps having an opportunity in the future.
[Excerpt from earlier SKY News interview]
KEVIN RUDD: So my recommendation if elected — if I was in a position in future…
REPORTER: You mean if elected prime minister again?
KEVIN RUDD: No, no, no. Paul, going to your question that you said if you were ever in a position to do something about this…
KEVIN RUDD: …and is that you don't make speeches like this for the fun of it.
[End of excerpt]
DAVID SPEERS: Whoops. Richard, should he have an opportunity in the future?
RICHARD MARLES: Well I think people are being unfair about what Kevin said there. He was asked a question about what he would do if he could and he was answering in that context. But look, I would say this…
DAVID SPEERS: Alright. We've got to wrap it up there unfortunately guys. We are right out of time. I'm sorry about that.
JAMIE BRIGGS: [Laughs]
DAVID SPEERS: Richard Marles and Jamie Briggs, I do appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you for that.
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