Sky News Interview: Barnaby Joyce, Michaelia Cash, Energy, Family Court Reform



SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce, Michaelia Cash, Energy, Family Court Reform

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Gentleman, thanks so much for your time. Let’s quickly talk about Barnaby Joyce, not labour on. It is not time, Peter Khalil, that everyone should just leave them alone?

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL LABOR MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, I’m not really going to comment on this. I think there’s been too much commentary around it. Only to say that, you know, we’ve descended into this kind of hyper real, hyper reality type TV, with a former Deputy Prime Minister. I think it’s a bit sad.

JAYES: Craig Kelly?

CRAIG KELLY, LIBERAL MP: Yeah, I’ll just give Barnaby a bit of space. Give him a bit of time. He’ll be back.

JAYES: Alright, let’s talk about Michaelia Cash. She has just stood up in Parliament House and said that she will not be bullied. She points out the court case is between AWU and the Registered Organisations Committee. She’s been subpoenaed by the AWU to appear in court and she says it’s just another tactic from the union. Craig Kelly, we just heard from the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, on this. He says she has questions to answer. Does she?

KELLY: [laughter] We forget what this court case is all about. This case is actually about Bill Shorten. Has he given $100,000 to GetUp using the proper means. Now, GetUp is an organisation that campaigns against industry, campaigns against the workers, they, to me, are the last people the workers union should be giving money to and this is what the case is all about. It’s all a simple sideshow whether the AWU have issued a subpoena to Michaelia Cash. The core issue: has Bill Shorten done the correct thing and the correct documentation to give that money to GetUp.

JAYES: Is that the nub of the issue, Peter Khalil? He made a donation… the AWU made a donation to GetUp when Bill Shorten was at the helm. It was $100,000 of union money. It was done without proper approval. If there’s questions to answer by Michaelia Cash are there questions outstanding here?

KHALIL: No, I think the real issue… it’s just remarkable what we’ve seen today from Minister Cash. I mean, in the immortal words of Neville Bartos in the Chopper movie: there is no cash here. Cash, no. That pretty much sums up her hiding from the Senate estimates. Now, we’ve got seriously here, a Minister who has misled the Senate, a Minister whose staff member is being investigated by the AFP, a Minister who is being hauled before the courts with a subpoena to explain what she knew about the tip off around the AFP raid on the AWU offices. And she is in hiding and she hasn’t turned up to the Senate estimates. So really we’re talking about a Minister who is not doing her job. And if she can’t do her job, if she can’t front up, she shouldn’t be in the job. Have we got to this point, Laura, where Ministerial responsibility and Ministerial accountability has descended to such a low level that she can’t even turn up to be accountable to the Parliament. She’s got to be accountable to the Parliament.

JAYES: Before you respond, Craig Kelly, there was a moment in her media conference today which was put to her about the whiteboard incident.

MICHAELIA CASH, JOBS AND INNOVATION MINISTER (footage): I had nothing to do with the whiteboard. Can I tell you… you think you were surprised? You should have seen the look on my face. I was the one who was surprised. I believe it’s parliamentary security, have taken full responsibility for what occurred. We advised many journalists of that on the night.

JAYES: It wasn’t her office that did that. It was parliamentary services. But I think the point here is, Craig Kelly, that she’s being bullied by Labor or whatever you want to say here. Is it now difficult for Michaelia Cash to do her job, because every time she does stand up, she’s peppered with questions that are nothing to do with jobs and innovation.

KELLY: Look, Michaelia is doing a fantastic job. Remember it’s over a million new jobs that have been created under this Government. Michaelia Cash is the Minister responsible primarily for that job creation as part of the Government. She’s one of the ministers that can really hold her head up high and say that she’s ticked every KPI that’s been asked of her. And they say she’s in hiding. Laura, she was in front of a press conference, in front of all the national media, only a few minutes ago, taking questions, so you can’t say she’s in hiding, that’s just a ridiculous statement.

KHALIL: I made it in the context of being in hiding from her duty to be accountable to the parliament. That’s what Senate estimates is for, Craig, so that Ministers can answer questions around their portfolio responsibilities and she’s ducked it.

JAYES: Well, Peter Khalil, seeing as you’re the expert on Neville Bartos, do you think he would have used a whiteboard?

KHALIL: [laughter] I don’t know. I think, to give some… to be a little bit sympathetic to Minister Cash, she did say that it was overzealous security officers that did that.

JAYES: Okay, well let’s move on. Let’s talk energy now. This was the subject of a party room yesterday. Craig Kelly, since was last spoke to you, has your preselection been sorted out? Are you still under threat?

KELLY: Oh, look Laura, we have a process where every single one of us in the New South Wales Liberal Party has to put our credentials on the line, to the branches and the state party. I am more than prepared to do that and run on my record.

JAYES: I was a bit worried earlier this week when you said that if you cut yourself, you’d bleed blue. I was a bit worried that you might have had some kind of implement in your pocket to actually prove that, but you didn’t when you spoke to David Speers earlier today.

KHALIL: [laughter] Some rare disease.

KELLY: [laughter]

JAYES: And not a rare disease! Peter Khalil, that’s very unkind of you. But just to be clear, you’re no longer threatening to run as an independent.

KELLY: Look, we have a really big job to do here for the rest of this term of the Government. I’m looking to get the endorsement of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party and continue to represent the people of Hughes because the people of Hughes and the people of all of Australia simply cannot afford a Bill Shorten led Labor Government.

JAYES: And if you don’t get the endorsement? Will you support who does?

KELLY: Look, Laura, I am very confident that I will get that endorsement.

KHALIL: He’s so independent, he’s actually off the reservation!

KELLY: Peter, come on.

JAYES: Let’s talk energy policy, Craig Kelly. This is something that you’re very passionate about. We heard Josh Frydenberg’s say that we’ll start to see prices come down. We’re basically over what is the worst of the increase in power prices. Do you buy that?

KELLY: Oh, we’ve seen some very big spikes in wholesale prices when the Hazelwood power station closed down. They have eased off a little bit. But we’ve got coming down the track, the prospect of the Lidell power station closing down which would see another spike in price increases. This is why you’d hope that Peter and the opposition and the Labor Party would work with us and try and keep that power station open for as long as we possibly can. It doesn’t matter what your position is, whether 50 per cent renewable energy target or whatever it is. We should be trying to keep those existing assets that we have, that are generating low cost power, base load power, twenty four hours into the grid. We need to try and keep those going for as long as we possibly can. Every economic analysis that we look at..

KHALIL: That’s just…

KELLY: …has said that if Liddell closes, prices will go up. And I cannot believe at this point that there’s members of the Labor Party cheering on the closure of Liddell power station.

KHALIL: Sorry, as fond as I’ve become of Craig and these Kelly versus Khalil wars, he really is off the reservation. And I mean, the CEC, the Clean Energy Corporation, just had a report that came out that showed that there was 5,300 megawatts of additional power that’s come through investment in renewable energies, creating over 5,000 jobs. And the fact that most of these old coal fired plants are closing down and it’s absolutely necessary that we continue to invest in renewables to create that new energy and bring prices down, because the coal fired plants are closing down. They’re an old technology.

JAYES: Just to be clear, Peter Khalil, what is Labor’s plan to bring prices down? Is it to invest in more renewables? Is that your plan?

KHALIL: Well, that’s part of it, Laura. You’ve got to be able to invest in renewable energies because they’re coming on board, just as the CEC report demonstrated. 5,300 megawatts of energy that’s come through. That puts a downward pressure on prices as you go forward. The coal fired plants that they want to keep open, or that this particular ginger group within the Liberal Party want to keep open, is really about old technologies that are not going to work at keeping prices down.

KELLY: Laura, I’ve got to jump in. First, those so-called renewables that are being investment (sic), they are adding $3.6 billion onto peoples bills this year. That is the direct cost of the subsidies. There’s also many indirect costs, but it’s $3.6 billion…

KHALIL: And you want to spend $4 billion on a coal fired plant! What subsidies are you talking about?

KELLY: Peter, I don’t want to spend any money on a coal fired plant. There are buyers on the market who are prepared to take over Liddell and keep it running without one cent of Government money. It is the renewables sector that wants that $3.6 billion. Now, that’s…

KHALIL: You were just on the program saying you wanted to spend $4 billion buying up a coal fired plant.

JAYES: What has happened to that threat from the Government. They asked AGL to consider some of these buyers. It seems that Josh Frydenberg has backed right off there. You’ve called for a change in competition laws to allow a compulsory acquisition. The Government’s nowhere near that, are they?

KELLY: Yeah, no, firstly, there wouldn’t be a compulsory acquisition. It would be an amendment to competition laws to clarify the existing law, that what AGL are doing, a company with a substantial amount of market power…

JAYES: No, your colleagues are nowhere near you on this.

KELLY: Well, Laura, I think they are. I think there’s a real concern.

JAYES: What do you know that we don’t?

KELLY: Well, Laura, all of my colleagues, every single one of them, are concerned about the price of electricity. It’s not only for the bill’s for their constituents, but where it’s starting to flow through is into industry. Industry are coming to us all the time and saying we cannot cope with these electricity bills, we cannot continue to exist, to run our businesses competitively if we’re paying two to three times the price of electricity that we are in the states. And this is why Peter’s policy is so dangerous. To copy South Australia. 50 per cent renewable energy target, we know the results. It’s not a question. That gave that state the highest electricity prices in the world and that’s what Peter and Labor want to copy.

JAYES: I just want to ask you about the national energy guarantee as well. What’s your view on this. Should it debated in party room before Josh Frydenberg takes it to the states? Or are you comfortable with this… with Josh Frydenberg nutting out a plan with the states and then whatever comes out of those meetings, then it’s discussed in party room.

KELLY: Well, firstly, there’s the basic, overall mechanism of the national energy guarantee. I think the party room should have the opportunity to look at the details, because just like with everything, the devil is in the details. What is the emissions trajectory? Where do we start? Where do we finish? How does that trajectory look? Is it a hockey stick type shape? What penalties will be involved? I think all those things should come to the party room and be discussed before they go to a COAG meeting. Because after COAG, it can often become a fait accompli.

JAYES: Okay, so you’re on Tony Abbott’s side with all of this. He stood up in the party room yesterday and said that he wants all of that to happen.

KELLY: Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m on anyone’s side. I just think the proper processes of the Coalition party room is before we decide on legislation, the legislation comes to the party room, it goes through the back bench committees for debate and discussion, rather than be firstly decided by all the state energy ministers, including many of the energy ministers that are from Labor states and even here in the ACT, a Green energy minister.

JAYES: Okay. Do you accept that’s probably not going to happen, though?

KELLY: Oh, no, look, I think it will. I think there’s a way that this can be debated fully in the party room and there’s full discussions on it to make sure that we are doing the best to get electricity prices down in this country.

JAYES: Peter Khalil, let me ask you about the family court. We’ve yet to see this full review into the family court system, but the Government has actually announced today that there will be… well, they’re going to move ahead with one element that might solve some of the huge backlogs we’ve seen in the family court and that is to merge the federal court and the family court into one. Part A to my question is, do you support that on face value without, you know, seeing some of the detail behind it and also there’s a suggestion here that this is just a bit of a sap to Pauline Hanson. What do you think about that?

KHALIL: Yeah, look, your question around do we support it. We need to look at the details of the legislation, of course. What we understand from the reports is that they’re looking at scrapping the family court, or merging it with the federal court, and there’s a couple of alarm bells that ring just from that reporting in and of its self, because it sort of hides the fact that there’s been a lack of investment in the family court, a lack of judicial appointments that have been left vacant, that haven’t been filled. But also this idea that you scrap the appeals part of it, or the family court appeals division, is problematic in some sense, because you don’t have those specialist exports working on some of the most complex cases that go through to appeal. But look, anything that certainly tries to reform or speed up that massive backlog is something that we are, on face value, willing to be constructive about and look at. But we need to look at the detail.

JAYES: Yeah, sure. That’s fair enough. But Craig Kelly, Pauline Hanson out taking credit for this today. Was it her that pushed the Government?

KELLY: Oh, look, this is something that does need a lot of reform. I’ve spoken many time in parliament about my concerns with the family court. I’m concerned especially with the costs that are involved. I’ve had many of my constituents come to me and they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to half a million dollars on legal fees in the family court. This is completely [inaudible] things out of control. Any reform that we can do… and I think this is perhaps only a small start…

JAYES: Do you think there’s a problem, Craig Kelly, about the family court traditionally favouring the mother rather than the father? I mean, there seems to be a lot of males that are frustrated with, particularly when it comes to custody of their children. What do you think about that?

KELLY: Look, I’ve seen cases go both ways. I’ve seen many situations where the mothers have been severely, you know, what I think is extremely harsh. I’ve seen situations where children have been removed from good mothers. Are taken away and given to fathers and I’ve seen the reverse. I have great concerns about the way this single expert process works in the family court, where basically they subcontract the case out to a single expert who has his own biases, charges like a wounded bull, like in [inaudible] situations. I think there’s still a lot more that needs to be done in the family court area.

JAYES: Gentleman, we have run out of time. I never get enough time on this segment. I’ll talk to the bosses about perhaps extending it. Peter Khalil, Craig Kelly, we’ll leave it there now. I’m glad that you didn’t strangle each other and Craig Kelly’s not bleeding blue in our studio. Gentleman, thanks for your time.

KELLY: Not today, anyway! Thanks Laura.

KHALIL: Thanks Laura.