ABC RADIO AM
FRIDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2013
Subjects: Parliamentary entitlements, NSW bushfires, MRRT, Coalition cuts to small business and families.
TONY EASTLEY: West Australian liberal Don Randall has broken his silence on questionable travel expense claims, saying a controversial trip he made to Cairns, where he owns an investment property, was in his capacity as then shadow parliamentary secretary for local government.
He's also defended a claim for more than $5,000 he made for a trip to Melbourne where he and his wife attended a West Coast Eagles football game, and for employing his daughter as his taxpayer-funded executive assistant.
Mr Randall's paid back more than $10,000 of entitlements he claimed last year and says he has Tony Abbott's support for his contention he's done nothing wrong.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Mr Randall's explanation isn't good enough and the Prime Minister has to explain why Mr Randall's travel claims are justified.
Mr Shorten is speaking here with AM's Tom Iggulden in Canberra.
BILL SHORTEN: As I've said from the outset, I believe it's up to the Prime Minister to explain how Mr Randall's claims fell within the guidelines. Clearly each of the two people involved, Prime Minister Abbott and Don Randall, have got a different explanation.
There is community anxiety about entitlements. I think the vast bulk of MPs do the right thing but I think Mr Abbott has to explain if he thinks it's good use of taxpayers' money to fly 3,000 kilometres to Cairns to have a quick chat with a colleague.
TOM IGGULDEN: Well, there's also the issue of Mr Randall attending an AFL game in Melbourne and apparently his daughter's on the parliamentary payroll as his executive assistant as well.
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I know that when the Abbott Government was in opposition they were very active about pressing the case against crossbenchers and entitlements.
But I think more and more people are starting to wake up to the idea that this isn't the Government they voted for on the 7th of September. You've got this episode which has now embroiled the Prime Minister and Mr Randall and some of his other frontbenchers. You've also got Joe Hockey the Treasurer before the election saying that we had a debt crisis and now he's nearly doubling the national debt all on his own.
TOM IGGULDEN: Staying on the parliamentary entitlements issue though, you have acknowledged that community concern is growing about this. Is it the case that the Opposition shouldn't be passively saying they'll go along with whatever the Government wants here but in fact start pushing for change in this area?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, we've indicated that we would sit down with the Government to clear up the guidelines. Obviously you've got to approach this on a bipartisan basis and we have made it clear that we are willing to sit down with the Government to alleviate community concern, to make sure that there can be no doubt about the integrity of the system. That's what the community expect and the Opposition is willing to work with the Government to do that.
TOM IGGULDEN: Would you go to them with a model that you think would work or are you waiting to hear from them about what they would like to do?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I think it is an issue of concern. This matter of the Perth MP going to Cairns and Mr Abbott having one explanation and his backbencher having another is troubling.
We would sit down with the Government, we would see what they have to say and we would be happy to discuss with them our ideas about changes.
TOM IGGULDEN: On another issue, we heard Tony Abbott say earlier this week that the UN climate change chief Christina Figueres was talking out of her hat by linking bushfires with climate change. What's your view on that issue?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, a man died yesterday. There's hundreds of houses have been destroyed. I visited some of the fire affected areas myself with Senator Doug Cameron on Tuesday.
In terms of the debate about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather and, you know, how dry the undergrowth is and the lack of moisture, I don't believe that this week when people have still got properties on the line is the right week to debate that issue. But I do believe fundamentally that climate change is real and that human activity contributes to it.
TOM IGGULDEN: And just finally Bill Shorten, on the mining tax, the Government has presented its legislation to repeal that tax. It has been criticised as one that's been poorly designed and also one that didn't bring in much by way of revenue.
BILL SHORTEN: Labor believes that there should be a fair share of the natural resources to all Australians. Labor believes fundamentally that some of the propositions which the Coalition are advancing, that they want to have a retrospective tax on the superannuation payments of people who earn less than $37,000 was a bad idea, that attacking small business and increasing their tax load is a bad idea.
So we think that the Government seems hell bent on supporting some of the richest mining companies in the world to the disadvantage of millions of Australians and hundreds of thousands of Australian small businesses. We don't see how this is in Australia's best interest.
TOM IGGULDEN: Do you accept though that the tax was poorly designed and didn't bring in the money it was supposed to?
BILL SHORTEN: So what we have is the Coalition is saying that they're scrapping a tax because it's not raising enough money. We don't believe that is the real motivation of the Coalition. We think that they aren't governing for all. Before the election they said they'd be a government for all Australians yet after the election it doesn't matter about, they are nearly doubling debt, or they're going to slug new taxes on the superannuation payments of millions of Aussies or hundreds of thousands of Australian small businesses.
What we saw from the opposition before the election, the Government they're proving now is a very different thing and the fact that they've got the big business lobby…
TOM IGGULDEN: They said they'd scrap the tax though. That's what they're doing and I'm asking you whether Labor will support that.
BILL SHORTEN: And they also said, our principle about what we support and don't support is what's in the best long term interests of the nation. How on Earth is it in the best long term interests of Australians to see hundreds of thousands of Australian businesses paying more tax, to see millions of Australians paying a retrospective tax on their superannuation payments? That was never what people signed up for at the last election.
TONY EASTLEY: The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaking to Tom Iggulden in Canberra.
Leader’s Office Media Unit: 02 6277 4053
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