Transcript – Drive with Tom Elliott – 3AW

Topics: counter-terrorism arrest, penalty rates, George Christensen, four year parliamentary terms, Peter Dutton, Victorian Liberal Party, s18C Racial Discrimination Act

 

E&OE

 

TOM ELLIOTT:

Senator, good afternoon.

 

SENATOR THE HON SCOTT RYAN:

G’day Tom.

 

ELLIOTT:

How much do we know about what has happened in Young today? What have you learnt?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

What I understand is that there is a 42-year-old Australian citizen, an Australian-born man, arrested. He will be changed with two foreign incursion offenses. These carry a maximum imprisonment term of up to life and that’s after we have increased the maximum penalty from 10 years to life. He is not a government employee, he is an electrician, and he was allegedly using the internet to perform activities for ISIS, amongst other things by researching and designing devices to identify missiles for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

 

ELLIOTT:

So not to build missiles but to identify them?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

And, I understand he has allegedly been helping develop – now I assume, I don’t know all the details about this – that was being done over the internet as well.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, they say he is Australian born, is he of the Islamic faith?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I do not know that. The information I have is that he is a 42-year-old Australian-born, Australian citizen. Importantly, the police made clear that there were no allegations of a domestic threat or a plan to carry out anything domestic.

 

ELLIOTT:

But still, it’s disturbing isn’t it, that someone here in Australia, born in Australia, wants to help Islamic state develop sophisticated weaponry?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

This is a reminder of the threat that we face in this new world. It’s also a reminder of the great work the Australian Federal Police do, being able to act so quickly and get this information out to the public about it.

 

ELLIOTT:

Do you know the name of the man who has been arrested?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No I don’t. I understand he will be appearing in the Young Local Court in NSW later today, if not already.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, now penalty rates. Only just days ago, Fair Work Australia came out with what many thought was a surprising decision in a number of industries to cut penalty rates for Sunday workers. So in retail, hospitality and what they call fast food, interestingly, not in restaurants and cafes, Sunday penalty rates are going to be drawn closer to Saturday penalty rates.

Bill Shorten has come out and said it’s the wrong decision, it’s wrong and Labor is going to oppose it.

Where do you stand on it? What do you think of Fair Work Australia’s decision?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

This was the work that Fair Work Australia started that Bill Shorten commenced. He asked it to do this review and these are his laws. These are people that Labor appointed, in fact, most of them were appointed by him. One of them is a former deputy secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We believe that if you’re going to have an independent umpire to make these decisions, you have to respect these decisions.

 

ELLIOTT:

Sure, but do you have a personal view, or at least a party view, on whether or not cutting Sunday penalty rates is a good idea?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well I think it’s fairer to describe it as a reduction. Penalty rates are still there. You still get more for working on a Sunday than on a Monday. On top of that, they’re not disappearing this week. No one is going to lose money … [interrupted]

 

ELLIOTT:

Sure, but is it a good idea to reduce them on a Sunday, closer to what they are on a Saturday?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look, I think on this issue, I support the fact that the Fair Work Commission has worked on this for years. It has taken hundreds and hundreds of submissions. It has listened to hours and days of testimony. I’m not across all of that information. They’ve made this decision after hearing all those submissions under a process that Labor set up, and now, for purely opportunistic reasons, to sort of create faux outrage, the Labor Party and Bill Shorten are trying to reject it.

 

ELLIOTT:

But you must have some idea. I can say, for example, and this is what I said the other day, I don’t see a reason why Sunday penalty rates should be higher than Saturday penalty rates. It seems to me that you should get paid a premium for working on the weekend, but I don’t regard Sunday as any different to Saturday so I can openly say, I don’t have a problem with the Sunday penalty rate being the same as the Saturday one. What is your view on that?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look Tom, 10 years ago, the Liberal Party and the Coalition learned a pretty brutal lesson that Australians want the umpire to make these decisions. They want an independent process …

 

ELLIOTT:

You’re talking about WorkChoices.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Yes, exactly. I respect the fact that the people made their judgement very clear at the 2007 election and the Liberal Party respects that. I’ll tell you what the most important – and probably least reported – element on this decision is, which is, one of the explicit reasons the Fair Work Commission decided to take this path was potentially tens of thousands of jobs being created.

We know, particularly in regional towns, in small shopping strips, that a lot of small businesspeople just cannot afford to open on a Sunday. They will often work for free if they can manage the turnover and not lose money and employ an extra waiter, or an extra server, in a café, but this decision is going to provide extra employment opportunities, particularly for part-time workers and that is so critical to give people their first job in the labour market.

 

ELLIOTT:

So can I conclude from this that the scars of WorkChoices are so strong that you just don’t want to have a firm view on this aspect of industrial relations and you’d rather just say, ‘right-o, it’s Fair Work Australia’s thing, we’ll just leave it up to you and whatever the decision is, we’ll abide by it?’

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I wouldn’t say it’s the scars, I’d say it’s respecting election outcomes. One of the things politicians need to be honest about is that there are things we’d like to do, there are things that we can win arguments about and things that we can’t win arguments about. We learnt a lesson in 2007 that people want an independent umpire to make those decisions. Bill Shorten’s walked away from 100 years of Labor commitment to that to try and have a union-funded, misleading campaign where no one is going to lose a dollar next week or next month. The Fair Work Commission is going to take more submissions on how to do this at the same time as minimum wage increases.

 

ELLIOTT:

Yes, but eventually Sunday penalty rates will be cut.

Now let’s move on. George Christensen has come out today and said he can no longer act as the National Party Whip in the federal lower house. Is that disappointing for you?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look, this might be a bit of out left field Tom, I actually think it’s refreshing.

 

ELLIOTT:

Refreshing?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Refreshing because George has been honest. He has said ‘I want to be outspoken’. That is not consistent with being the Whip. For your listeners, the whip’s job is to make sure all your people turn up and know what the party position is when they vote. He has been honest enough – and taken a reasonable pay cut with this resignation, nearly $30,000 – because he has said ‘I want to represent my constituents’.

 

ELLIOTT:

Have you spoken to him since this decision?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I haven’t. I do know George. I’ve been to my local pub with him when he was in Melbourne once. I like George. I haven’t spoken to him since this.

 

ELLIOTT:

Do you worry that he will defect and join either One Nation or the Australian Conservatives with Cory Bernardi?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I hope not, and not being a member of the National Party, I wasn’t privy to this discussion at the National Party meeting before he put out this statement. But he did describe Barnaby Joyce as being incredibly supportive of it and I know he has also made a statement today that he wants to remain a member of the National Party.

 

ELLIOTT:

  1. Four-year parliamentary terms. Now here in Victoria we have a four-year fixed term, so Daniel Andrews, short of something terrible happening, will be the Premier of this state until late 2018. Most other states are the same. Why don’t we do it at a federal level?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well firstly, we’d need a referendum.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, we could have one of those.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

We’ve tried it several times and it has never been supported. In 1988 they tried it and I think just over a third of people voted for it. It got badly, badly defeated.

Now I know you’ve got a view on this, I’m a little bit contrarian. It’s odd for a politician to say ‘don’t give me a longer term’ but I don’t think longer terms give us better governments. I’ve seen more bad governments last for too long – whether it be the Joan Kirner government or all those ones in NSW – than I have seen good policy defeated by short parliamentary terms.

 

ELLIOTT:

But Malcolm Turnbull said the other day, the average period between elections is, I think, two and a half years at a federal level. You win an election, you re-arrange your cabinet, you’re in power and you’ve only got about a year until you’ve got the next election campaign staring you in the face. It seems to be only a year in the middle of two-and-a-half years isn’t enough to get important and often unpopular things done. If you knew you had three years, four years, guaranteed, wouldn’t that allow you to do some of the stuff that might not be popular, but which long-term, might actually be good for the country?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Past history shows us that the best governments have been ones that have done that, all as you have described, in three-year terms. The Hawke government liberalised the economy, it started to bring the budget back to balance. The Howard government brought in tax reform, industrial relations reform under Peter Reith and gave us record services. They all happened, difficult choices, under three year governments.

 

ELLIOTT:

Are you making the difficult choices at the moment?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Our challenge at the moment is the Senate. One of the reasons I think we’ve got to be careful of four-year terms is I’m a Senator. Do people really want me or Jacqui Lambie to have an eight-year term?

 

ELLIOTT:

But as it is, you have a seven-year term.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I have a six-year term, yes.

 

ELLIOTT:

A six-year term, yes. Doesn’t it seem odd that you’re happy to have a six-year term as a senator, but you don’t want your lower house colleagues to have four years in government?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

It would also mean having an eight-year term in the Senate. Do people want, what could be – like we do at the moment with the Labor Party being intransigent and opportunistic – I don’t know if we want to have longer gridlock either.

 

ELLIOTT:

All right we will go to some calls. 9690 0693, 13 13 32. Special Minister of State Senator Scott Ryan is going to stick around.

 

[PROMOS, AD BREAK AND TRAFFIC]

 

Senator Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, is with us. I don’t know if you follow what the bookies say about politics, but one of them has your colleague Peter Dutton as the short-priced favourite to be the next leader of the Liberal Party. Would you back Peter Dutton into that job?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Peter is a close friend, I’ve worked with him for many years. He was Peter Costello’s assistant treasurer in the last few years of the Howard government and I serve on a cabinet committee with him. I think Peter is one of the strong performers of the Government and he has been an impeccable team player every time I’ve worked with him over the past eight years I’ve been in Parliament.

 

ELLIOTT:

So no leadership ambitions from him then?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I don’t think any discussions like that are helpful and I don’t think he would contribute to them at all himself.

 

ELLIOTT:

John, go ahead.

 

CALLER:

Good afternoon. I was just listening to the Senator before, I have a query regarding the paid position of the whip in the party. Why does the whip get paid, by the people, to organise a bunch of blokes, or a bunch of people, who are supposed to be able to run the country?

 

ELLIOTT:

Very good question John.

 

Yeah Senator, why do we pay the whip more for what is, essentially, a party political role?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well it’s an organisational role in Parliament too. They actually meet, particularly on the Senate side, to organise the parliamentary agenda on behalf of the senior ministers. It goes back decades and is a decision by the independent Remuneration Tribunal, which makes decisions on politicians’, judges’ and senior public servants’ pay. I’ve never inquired as to the rationale, but if you’re the chair of a committee, if you’re a whip, if you’re a minister, you do get extra on top of your base salary.

 

ELLIOTT:

Does the whip sort of come around to your office and say ‘now look Scott, the PM needs your backing on this one so make sure you’re in the Parliament, vote early, vote hard, vote often’. Does he say things like that?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

[laughs] No, what the whip does is they’ll make sure all of their colleagues know that the order of business might have been changed, we might have been dealing with the tax bill at 9am, it’s now the health bill. Anyone that wanted to speak on that, rearrange your day. Parliament is a very fluid place and it is as much about keeping the place working as it is about the old, theoretical role of carrying the whip.

 

ELLIOTT:

Sophie, hello.

 

CALLER:

Hi, I’ve got a couple of points Tom, if I may? I think Labor’s got a real credibility problem, despite what I may or may not feel about this issue. If you can’t go to an independent umpire and then stick with it, you’ve got a real problem. How can you actually run anything? I’ll give you three examples: Bracks said no tolls [inaudible]; Andrews said changing the East-West Link contract wouldn’t cost us a cent, it has, but it’s done more than that, there’s the hidden cost of who would do work with the Government, who would do business without taking out insurance to make sure if they didn’t get it, or it went back, they’d have to pay more. And finally, Bill Shorten. I cannot watch him on television being holier than thou when he sold out his own members to try and do a deal so they lost some penalty rates for the benefit of the union.

 

ELLIOTT:

Sophie, let’s give the Senator a chance to look at Bill Shorten. I criticised him last week because he said here on AW that he would accept Fair Work Australia’s judgement on penalty rates and then when the judgement came in and it wasn’t the judgement he was expecting he said ‘right, now we are going to oppose it’. Is that the reason in terms of preferred prime minister that Mr Shorten tends to suffer?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well he is doing it for political reasons because the unions will run a multi-million dollar campaign lying to people. As I said, no one is losing any pay at all next week or next month.

 

ELLIOTT:

Yeah but come on, that’s disingenuous. Eventually when penalty rates are cut, say in six months times, so people will lost some of their pay.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

But the Fair Work Commission said that it could do it over several years in combination with the minimum wage.

 

ELLIOTT:

I don’t think you can say, on one hand, this will be great for business and they’ll employ more people, but on the other hand it won’t cost the workers anything.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No, but this campaign that Bill Shorten is trying to run, when he traded away penalty rates … I’ve never traded away penalty rates because I’ve never been a union leader, but he has done it. He signed agreements with people to trade away his members’ penalty rates and I think that’s what Sophie there was pointing out. There is no credibility here.

 

ELLIOTT:

Thank you Sophie. Harry’s got a question about the leadership about the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party. Harry go ahead.

 

CALLER:

Yes Minister, I’m wanting to know if you’re backing Michael Kroger or Peter Reith or are you going to give me blah, blah, blah answer, political talk?

 

ELLIOTT:

I read that this morning. Peter Reith is apparently angling to become the next president of the Victorian Liberal Party over the head of Michael Kroger. Senator, what do you think?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well I think I saw Matthew Guy say yesterday that (a) these are matters for the party; (b) no one has even nominated yet. Let’s wait and see what happens.

 

ELLIOTT:

Yeah but you’re a member of the party aren’t you?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I can tell you, no one wants me on your program, as a politician talking to hundreds of thousands of people, talking about Liberal Party matters Tom.

 

ELLIOTT:

No, but Michael Kroger. Don’t they play the Darth Vader theme when he enters the room at party conferences and that sort of thing?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Maybe in a couple of weeks, if someone nominates, it might be time to ask me a question. But as it is at the moment, Michael is the party president. Nominations close either this week or next week and the Liberal Party is a democracy. We have an annual meeting where everyone stands for election every single year, this is entirely normal.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK we look forward to seeing the result of that. Frederick, hello.

 

CALLER:

G’day Tom. One of your callers just got in and exposed another rort: the whip. They come up every day. They wonder why we don’t trust them. They’re just a bunch of crooks. I mean they need the taxpayer to pay for someone to organise their own lot. Forget about the stuff about organising the Senate, they’re organising their own people.

 

ELLIOTT:

All right, thank you Frederick. We will take that as a comment. Michael, go ahead.

 

CALLER:

Good afternoon Tom, Minister. Look I’d like to know about the whipper (sic) and whether he has got a wardrobe full of whips because I reckon on both sides of Parliament you’d run out of whips because a few of you need flogging.

 

ELLIOTT:

George Christensen was pictured on the front of one of the weekend magazines a few weeks ago holding just that, a stock whip, over his shoulder. Does he actually have a whip?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I think the National Party Whip has had a whip handed down among whoever holds the office for the last 20 or 30 years. I think I read that in that article. As I said, in Parliament, a minister gets paid more than a member of parliament and there are certain parliamentary offices, they are not decided by members of parliament, they are decided by the independent panel that makes the same decision for judges – a Supreme Court judge gets paid more than a County Court judge.

 

ELLIOTT:

Now very quickly before you go, there is talk of reforming section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act at the federal level. Are you planning to recommend changes to this particular contentious part of the Act?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

So the Joint Committee on Human Rights brought down its report about half an hour ago Tom and there are two parts of it. The first part, the Coalition and Labor agree on, which is changes to the process around complaints to stop what happened to those students at QUT, where someone made a complaint, it went on for years, it caused all the stress that potential legal activity, as well as costs, can do to someone. So to allow the Human Rights Commission to terminate vexatious or non-substantial complaints early, to prevent, or restrict, access to courts so people can’t be sued for vexatious complaints and to make lawyers and the commission more accountable for how they handle them to deal with this problem where the process is the punishment.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK but what about the actual words, like if you just cause offence to someone that can be considered racial discrimination, is that going to be changed?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

So this is where the committee didn’t make a recommendation, and I understand that is because both the Coalition and Labor have agreed to this report. There is an option to not change it, there is an option to insert ‘harass’ and replace ‘offend, insult’ because they are a low bar, or there is an option to redefine the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ to have a much higher standard so it is not just that I insulted you, or you insulted me because of my Irish heritage. That came down in the last half hour and that will be considered by the Government.

 

ELLIOTT:

So no official position on that, as yet?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No.

 

ELLIOTT:

All right. Senator Scott Ryan thanks for your time.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Thanks Tom, thanks for having me.

 

[ENDS]

 

Author: senatorryan

Share This Post On