Sky News Interview: Liberal Party Leadership Crisis, Company Tax Plan, Immigration



SUBJECTS: Liberal Party Leadership Crisis, Company Tax Plan, Immigration

PETA CREDLIN, HOST: Peter Khalil, what are people saying in your Victorian city seat of Wills?


CREDLIN: G’day, welcome to the show, delighted to have you on, what are they saying to you? What are the issues? I mean, this place is an echo chamber as you know, what are people telling you on the ground and are the issues worrying them, families, small business, the whole lot?

KHALIL: Well, you’re right about that, I mean, what happens up here in Canberra is a bit of a bubble, and down in our electorates, people actually care about bread and butter issues, and my electorate’s quite diverse. The working class suburbs up north, people care about healthcare, they care about education for their kids, they care about infrastructure, they’re worried about overdevelopment and the influx of too many people into Melbourne, and I think that applies to Sydney as well – and overdevelopment, and a lack of spending on infrastructure and roads and things like that. Further down south in my electorate, there’s obviously a lot more of the social justice issues people are concerned with around climate change, but I think generally speaking people are kind of sick and tired of the sort of, divisiveness and the disunity we’ve been seeing in Federal politics now for what? 10 years now? We’ve all been… we’re not all innocent, the Labor party’s been guilty of this as well, I think we’ve learned our lesson though and it’s just sad to see this. People ask me “oh, are you happy that the Libs are imploding?” I’m not. I think that Australia deserves better.

CREDLIN: Yeah, I do listen with great interest to the lectures coming from the Labor party all day today and yesterday about unity and spills of Prime Ministership because I had a ring side seat, mate, when you turned over the Prime Ministership three times, but I do think certainly from external vision that the Labor party might have learned its lesson, and I remember at the time, Peter Khalil, I agree with you, I felt just a sadness when Gillard knifed Rudd in the middle of the night. Australians woke up to someone that they had never themselves elected, and then the calamity has continued but I want to go now to Tony Pasin, I know your seat of Barker quite well, my little sister used to run a dairy farm just outside of Mount Gambier, I know it’s a very agricultural seat. What are the issues that are concerning your people?

TONY PASIN, LIBERAL MP: Well, Peta my people are focused on jobs, they’re focused on lower energy prices, they want better roads and better telecommunications, better mobile coverage. Look, they are things that I focus on, they’re the things that they talk to me about and you know, I conduct over thirty community meetings a year around my electorate and they’re the first four things people raise at every stop on that journey across those thirty meetings.

Credlin: So, George Christensen, I know that the National Party, the LNP in your case, in Queensland, don’t have a vote in the Liberal party room as to the Prime Minister and you’ve had your own leadership woes this year around Barnaby Joyce but surely you must sit there with despair after you saying just then that you feel that you got a good outcome on what was the NEG, I can’t tell you what it is anymore because it’s changed so many times but you feel that you got a good outcome and some common sense on energy this week, you must be despairing that the Liberal party could have a challenge tonight, tomorrow, the next day, the next week, who knows?

GEORGE CHRISTENSEN, LIBERAL NATIONAL PARTY MP: Well, you’re right on the NEG, I don’t care what you call it, it’s common sense outcome but yes, look, it’s all very distasteful to see it all going on but I’ve got the easy handball pass here to my Liberal colleagues because I can say “I’m a member of the National party, I don’t get a vote”. And, I got to tell you that I was very unhappy when some Liberals were sticking their bib in when the National party had leadership issues. I’m not going to go and stick my bib in on the Liberal party’s leadership issues, it’s up for them to resolve.

CREDLIN: Okay, well Tony Pasin I want to put you in the hot seat because you’re known as someone after the last couple of days who supported Peter Dutton in the ballot. Now this is a big step, you’ve now really repeated, or look like you’re repeating the Labor playbook here, why did you think a change of leadership was necessary on Tuesday?

PASIN: Peta, my soul focus is ensuring Bill Shorten never becomes Prime Minister of Australia and quite frankly, when Malcolm Turnbull took the unusual and quite surprising step of vacating the Prime Ministership of Australia, and calling for nominations, and when there are two nominations I was put in a position to make a decision and quite frankly I came to the decision that Peter Dutton offered in my humble opinion better prospects of success at the forthcoming Federal election.

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, what do you make of all of this stuff today about Section 44 in the parliament, I watched question time closely, that was sort of the direction of Labor and there was talk tonight that the Prime Minister via the Attorney-General will seek to refer Peter Dutton over the child care issue to the Solicitor-General for an opinion. Now, be very clear about this, Peter Dutton has had those interests I think for nigh-on fifteen years , I’ve certainly known about them a long time. I was mentioned in question time because I made it clear on this show the other night that in all my dealings with him he had recused himself, that means removed himself from the room whenever childcare issues were discussed. So, it was surprising that Labor went there so hard today. Are you scared of facing Peter Dutton if it came to it at the next election?

KHALIL: No, I don’t think that we’re scared of any of this rabble of a mob that we’re seeing. There are legitimate questions to be answered, well I thought when I came on your program that I was going to be a set-up like WWF, you’ve got George and you got Tony, I’m outnumbered but now all I’ve got to worry about is the tough questions that you ask, Peta, because they are so divided, they are tearing each other apart. This is just unedifying to watch this terrible spectacle, there are legitimate questions to ask about whether he did recuse himself under a Turnbull government, like he did under Abbott or a previous Howard government. So, I think that they’re legitimate and valid questions to ask but these guys are just tearing themselves apart, and on the point that Tony talks about “we don’t want to see Bill Shorten”. Excuse me, talk about a bubble, people are sick and tired of seeing this spectacle, this disunity and the thing that Bill Shorten and Labor has done over the last five years is provide stable and sensible opposition. We put forward policies, the Australian people will decide whether they like it or not.

CHRISTENSEN: (Inaudible)

KHALIL: You can tear it apart on this program, that’s up to you but, don’t say “it’s not”, since you voted with us on protecting penalty rates.

CHRISTENSEN: Come on mate, Bill Shorten is an absolute flip flopper.

KHALIL: (Inaudible).

CREDLIN: Hang on gentleman, there’s nothing worse at home than watching two grown men scream across each other. Finish your point, Peter Khalil and I’ll go to George.

KHALIL: Well, lucky I’m not in the same studio as George because he outguns me, I think.

CREDLIN: You’re lucky that you’re not in the same studio with me, mate.

KHALIL: (laughs)

CREDLIN: Finish your point then I’ll go to George.

KHALIL: But the point is, if current behaviour on the Labor side is a predictor of future behaviour; we have been sensible, we’ve been stable in opposition and we will provide sensible and stable government which is what Australians are crying out for.

CREDLIN: George Christensen.

CHRISTENSEN: Well, thanks Peta, I got to say that I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself there to get into wrestling mode. The reality is, I mean, Bill Shorten offering stability? He’s the guy that comes up to North Queenslanders and tells coal miners he loves coal and then zips down to Melbourne and tells the latte sippers that he doesn’t want coal mining projects to go ahead. The guy offers anything but stability. He is a walking disaster for North Queensland and Central Queensland and our economic prospects, so I got to say this is why it’s important that we keep Bill Shorten out of The Lodge. We got to do the things that matters as well and fixing power prices is one of them, I’m going to say we’ve done it this week, we’ve also focused on the drought. Yes, this whole leadership is unedifying but I think we’ll just move on after this is all sorted, but I just say that I hope the Liberal’s…

KHALIL: George you, George, George.

CHRISTENSEN: (Inaudible)… as soon as possible, it’s got to be over.

KHALIL: You are in no place.

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, I want to go to Tony Pasin, please.

KHALIL: Okay, I’ll do as I’m told (laughs).

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, I’m going to go now to Tony Pasin on the issue of the company tax cuts. Company tax cuts, Tony Pasin, the government dumped them today. I have to argue, being unable to get them through the parliament for many months, I would have dumped them and got them off the agenda and taken away a lever for Bill Shorten, a stick actually, to beat you around the head with, but in any event, the Prime Minister committed to not take them to the next election. Already the business community is pretty cranky. Do you think that’s a good move, is that going to make your life easier in Barker?

PASIN: Peta, it’s an absolutely good move, I called many weeks ago for us to dump this policy. I said at the time I think it’s the right policy at absolutely the wrong time. Competitive tax rates are as important as competitive electricity costs and other things but unfortunately, I said at the time and I’m of that view now that we don’t have the political capital to achieve it.

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, this will blow a big hole in Labor’s arsenal, because you have had I think a very effective line, you’ve cut through on this issue people have seen transposed issues like the drought and money for the banks or more money into Medicare, and the banks getting this tax cut. It will also return money back in to the government’s budget, makes it more competitive the fight about fiscal stewardship between you and the Liberal party far more germane at the next campaign. How do you feel? You’ll be regretting, won’t you, that the Prime Minster dropped them today?

KHALIL: Oh well, no, not really. I think we’ve been arguing this for a couple of years now, and it really didn’t gel with people when they saw that the government was willing to give seventeen billion dollars to the big banks and a paltry sum for farmers who are suffering drought. They were willing to give seventeen billion dollars to big banks but cut education, cut healthcare, cut hospitals and schools, not spend enough on infrastructure that’s really needed in cities like Melbourne and Sydney and throughout Australia. Look, we’ve been arguing for this and finally they’ve come down from what has been a phenomenally stupid political position that they’ve had but I think bad policy as well, because fundamentally, as you know Peta, government is about priorities, it’s about what you prioritise, and we’ve made a very clear cut priority that we prefer to spend and invest in schools, in healthcare, in hospitals, in roads and infrastructure rather than give a company tax cut to big banks and multi nationals.

CHRISTENSEN: (Inaudible)

KHALIL: Which, by the way, their whole argument about trickle-down economics does not fly. A lot of the economists… Hold on George, I tried not to interrupt you. I’m not allowed to because…

CREDLIN: Yeah George, I think you can zip it.

KHALIL: To finish the point, trickle-down economics has shown not to work. Economists from the IMF right through to all the major economists talk about how a lot of those corporates will actually spend it on share buybacks and dividends and so on. It doesn’t trickle down, and we’ve seen some of the lowest wage growth in Australia for a long time. People are struggling with cost of living, they’re struggling with energy prices, we’ve touched on that, they’re struggling with day-to-day childcare and all sorts of cost of living pressures. We want to relieve that, we want to actually help people and they’ll decide at the next election whether Labor policies actually work for them.

CREDLIN: Okay, Peter Khalil, there’s actually a lot there that I agree with. Particularly on the company tax cuts, because a lot of the money from their company tax cuts for big corporates will head off-shore and there’s no necessary immediate impact in the Australian economy. They were phased over such a long time as opposed to the ones put forward by President Trump, which were a far more stimulatory nature. But, if your grievance is taxpayer money, or in this case, revenue forgone, heading offshore and not hitting the pockets of Australians, you must have the same view about renewable energy, because you’re talking about billions of dollars in subsidies between now and 2030 and right now, seventy percent of the windfarms in Australia are foreign owned and it wasn’t that long ago before about thirty million dollars out of Western New South Wales’ solar farms indeed went to a Saudi billionaire. Let’s be consistent, Labor.

CHRISTENSEN: She got you, Pete.

KHALIL: Well, on that point, there’s two points that I’ll make on that. No, she hasn’t got me, George. Let me answer first, then you can decide whether she’s got me or not. Two points on that.

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, I haven’t even started but please respond.

KHALIL: Whether you believe that climate change is a real, scientific fact, that it’s actually a real problem that the globe has to deal with. That’s the first starting point, and I know that George doesn’t believe that, and others, on the Coalition side, don’t believe that and they stick to their guns on that. The second part of this is let’s be clear about this, the national electricity market has been gamed, you have producers of energy who are holding back energy from going through interstate distributors or connectors until the spot price or trading price goes right up, then they sell. They’re gaming the market, like you kind of do this on Wall Street as well, the speculators do, and inflating the price. When people say “renewables are making the price go up”, well no, there’s some gaming going on in the NEM as well.

CREDLIN: Peter Khalil, I did not deal with the science of climate change, so don’t go into that red herring. Secondly, I’m not talking about market inflation, I’m talking precisely about and specifically about the fact that billions of dollars of subsidies from Australia will go into the seventy percent of foreign owned windfarms in this country and head offshore, the same way that you just argued that corporate tax cuts will end up in the pockets of multinationals overseas. So, there is a consistency, of both of those arguments but you only want to rely on one, in relation to corporate tax cuts and not the other in relation to renewable energy. That’s what I want you to respond to.

KHALIL: Well, the renewable energy that you’re talking about is going to be utilised in Australia, right? So, it’s not quite right that to say that it’s all going to go offshore. The investment in renewables…

CREDLIN: Seventy percent. Seventy percent. Seventy percent.

KHALIL: I don’t know where you got those stats from Peta, I mean, I take at face value what you’re saying. The other point about all of this…

CREDLIN: They’re in the papers every day and they’re government numbers.

KHALIL: Well, government numbers, okay.

PASIN: I think George is right.

CREDLIN: Your government numbers, mate, your previous government numbers. In any event, this is going around in circles. I’ll have to leave it there, we’ll go to a break. Coming back, we’ve got plenty of questions from my viewers and if you think I was tough, just see what they’ve got coming for you. See you shortly.

CREDLIN: Welcome back, well I’m in Canberra and so are your MP’s. Peter Khalil from Wills in Victoria is here with us, LNP’s George Christensen Queensland Member for Dawson, and South Australian who represents the seat of Barker, which is well known to many of you as the home of Mount Gambier, Tony Pasin. I’m going to get straight into viewer questions, gentleman. So, start your buzzers. The first question is from Stephen and Peter Khalil, it’s going to come to you actually, you talked a little bit about immigration as one of the issues in your seat of Wills. Stephen’s question is “Why would we not slow immigration, knowing that too many people brought in faster than we could possible build infrastructure for will be a disaster?” He’s not saying “get rid of immigration”, Peter Khalil, he’s saying that it’s coming at a pace that we can’t absorb.

KHALIL: It’s a good question, and I’ve spoken in parliament about this and spoken publicly about this, there is too many people going into Melbourne and Sydney, I think it’s about ninety percent of our migration intake goes into those two cities. The infrastructure is not keeping up, it’s impossible to keep up, really with that kind of intake. Also, temporary visa holders and workers are coming in mainly to Melbourne and Sydney, plus the student population is mainly Melbourne and Sydney. People are really feeling the congestion, the overdevelopment, all of those pressures, so we have to have a conversation in our public discourse without the racist overlay, and without all this crazy stuff about “let’s ban people because of their faith, or their ethnicity, or their race”, that’s not what we do in Australia. We have an open immigration policy based on getting people in once they meet all of the security checks and all the rest of it. We need to try to find ways to incentivise people to go into regional cities. Go to where Tony is, out in Adelaide, or where George is in Queensland. You’ve got to provide the jobs there, you’ve got to build some incentive into it. So, I’m very open about discussing this, I think we have a real problem in Australia. We have to have that conversation and we have to have a rational conversation, without the crazy fringes on the far right or the far left infecting that discourse.

CREDLIN: I just want to say, I think that’s a lot of common sense there from you Peter Khalil, and it’s a grown up politician that wants to debate these issues and allow people to have a voice and I completely agree when the two major parties, or the three major parties, vacate the space, you leave it open for a vacuum to be filled by people who don’t necessarily have all the broad understanding of the benefits to immigration but also some of the constraints. George Christensen, this is a lot of common sense from Labor, do you reckon Peter Khalil can convince his leader that this is a way to go, to have this conversation where all Australians feel that they’ve got a voice on this issue.

CHRISTENSEN: Peter Khalil for Shadow Immigration Minister, I say. That’s a very, very common sense thing that I’ve just heard there, but let me just say that shifting migrants into regional areas, it’s got to be regional areas where there’s labour shortages, and the migrants that come there have got to be skilled and lined up for a job that there is absolutely no Aussie to take. I sort of gristle when I hear the claim “just shift all these migrants out to the bush”, it ain’t going to work if there’s no jobs there. I got to say that there’s some areas like Townsville, where we have youth unemployment that’s upwards of twenty percent, it’s not going to work in a place like that, it’s not going to work in a place like Bowen where there’s huge unemployment, and I also do just say, just cautionary; valid concerns that people have around culture, it’s different to race, it’s very, very different to race. When you’ve got people from cultures that just have values that are the antithesis of Australian values, you’ve got to be careful about bringing that culture into this country. So, I think we really do need to screen who comes here, and what their values are before they come here. That is not a racist thing to say, most Australians would probably agree with that statement.

CREDLIN: I just want to make the point there on culture before I go to Tony Pasin, George; it’s not necessarily about people coming in to Australia. We can see with some of the recent terrorist arrests, they were young people that were born in Australia, some were third generation, some were second generation, predominately young people. It’s an issue of culture, it’s not necessarily where your birth certificate was stamped.

CHRISTENSEN: That’s correct.

CREDLIN: Tony Pasin, I’m from a regional area, you live in a regional area, George has got a lot of sense there, people want more residence in regional areas but of course you can only live in a regional area if you’ve got work.

PASIN: Well, we’re going to have a trilogy of common sense here tonight, Peta, the reality is, I agree with both Peter and George, I think for too long we’ve had a population distribution problem in Australia and in my electorate unlike perhaps George’s and other regional centres. We are desperate for people to come, we’ve got labour force shortages and it’s holding up investment. Mine is a region, not all of my electorate but much of my electorate is holding its hand up for people to come and take job opportunities and success.

CREDLIN: Can I just interrupt you? I’m sorry to do this to you Tony Pasin, but we’ve got breaking news. You can see that now on your screen, Sky News understands that a number of Liberal MP’s are calling for a party room meeting tonight, it looks like it is a party room meeting in relation to the leadership. I will excuse you Tony Pasin because you have a vote in the room if a meeting does materialise, George Christensen thank you for your time, Peter Khalil great to have you on the show, you’re welcome back anytime, particularly with common sense at the end like that.

KHALIL: Thanks, Peta.

CREDLIN: Thank you, gentleman.