Thursday, 17 April 2014

Transcript of Interview - Sky PVO News Hour - 14 April 2014

Transcript of interview with Peter van OnselenSky News – PVO News Hour

Monday 14 April 20147:40pm


SUBJECTS: Youth unemployment; Budget; aged pension; electoral matters

PETER VAN ONSELEN: We’re now joined by Liberal MP Tony Smith live from Melbourne. Tony Smith, a lot to talk about in the electoral affairs area. But can I just start with your reaction to this, I guess, startling report about the extent of youth unemployment as a problem since the GFC, which has tripled in numbers, particularly in terms of long-term unemployment. A lot of people have said to me that they think the welfare system is the kind of area someone like Tony Abbott might be more inclined, rather than less, to do some major adjustments, given his interest in the policy area. Do you think that’s likely in the May Budget?

TONY SMITH: Well we’ve got a month to go, Peter, and there will be a lot of speculation. I think the main thing is, as Joe Hockey has been saying, we’ve got to get the growth rate up. That’s the most important thing. We’re below where we want to be and need to be to get the sort of employment outcomes in the years ahead, particularly those looking for their first job...

VAN ONSELEN: You say that, you say getting the growth rate up is the most important thing but then Martin Parkinson says Australia can’t hope to grow its way out of its troubles, there also has to be GST reform.

SMITH: Well, I mean Martin has obviously got his view but there needs to be Budget reform. Clearly, the Commission of Audit is going to be very important in all of this, but so too is revitalising our enterprise economy. And the Budgets are very much about that. They’re about ensuring we put into place the policies that will see growth lift in the years ahead. And that’s very much what Joe Hockey’s been on about here since he became Treasurer and it’s the message he’s been preaching internationally as well.

VAN ONSELEN: Well his latest message has been that we may need to see an increase in the aged pension age up to 70, perhaps. Do you worry about people in manual labour? That seems to be where Labor is going, they’re drawing a distinction there. Tony Burke did it on Australian Agenda on Sunday. They’re drawing a distinction between people in manual labour and having to be very carefully about them; versus keyboard warriors like yourself and me, who could perhaps retire at 70 no problem.

SMITH: Well, two points. Labor are, as usual, trying to run a scare campaign. There is quite rightly, as Joe said yesterday, a need for a national discussion about the future. It’s not about people on a pension today and it’s not about people on pension tomorrow. But it’s quite right we have a discussion about people in the decade ahead. And as many people have pointed out throughout the course of the day as this debate has unfolded, we need to look at the long term. When the pension came in in 1909, life expectancy was much lower. And we’re facing a situation where the number of workers per those out of the workforce is shrinking. In 1970, it was about seven workers for every person out of the workforce…

VAN ONSELEN: But that should be about bolstering things like superannuation then, shouldn’t it? On your side of politics, they ultimately came on board. But you fought, for a long time, the increase in superannuation, particularly through the Howard years, when you sat on your hands.

SMITH: Well I wouldn’t say we sat on our hands but the thing about superannuation is it’s in transition. For most of the workforce, it’s existed for about 20 years only, so it is something that is in transition. But Labor wants to keep the Budget blindfold on, Peter. That’s the situation…

VAN ONSELEN: ...I agree they’re just playing politics. But my worry is that your side of politics won’t be tough enough and it will be rhetoric and not reality. But hopefully you’ll be honest with me, Tony Smith, when we talk post-Budget about that. Let’s move onto electoral matters before we run out of time. My producer’s worried that we’re overtime on this interview but I guess that’s what happens when you talk about Oscar Pistorious for too long, I guess. Electoral reform—you’re heading up this inquiry, if you like, as chair of the Committee, working your way around the country. Are you going to make some harsh recommendations, particularly in light of the debacle in WA and perhaps what some people would say is the wider debacle of minor parties in the Senate? What are you expecting?

SMITH: Well look, Peter, we’ve got some hearings tomorrow and the next day. And as you rightly point out, we’ve had a few already. We were in Perth last week. The two main issues we’re focused on initially; Senate voting, and the performance of the AEC following the debacle in Western Australia. So, the Committee will bring down a report on Senate voting before we get back to Canberra for the Budget. That will be released out of session. We’ve had a number of submissions on that. And on the AEC, there clearly has to be major changes in terms of their culture, so that in the future we won’t see a repeat of what we saw in Western Australia.

VAN ONSELEN: Alright, Tony Smith, as always, appreciate your company. Thanks very much.

SMITH: Thanks Peter.


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