Subjects: Volatility on the Korean Peninsula, Former Prime Minister Abbott, Solving the Australian Energy Crisis, Reduction of 457 Visas
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now Special Minister of State Scott Ryan, and as Matt [Thistlethwaite] points out this issue of cost-sharing is something that Trump has been very critical of, particularly in relation to NATO but other allies Japan, Korea and so on. This rotation though comes at an important time in our region, with quite a bit of volatility right now, and most notably on the Korean Peninsula.
SCOTT RYAN: Well this rotation has strong bipartisan support which is important. It is an important part of the regional apparatus, when we support a rules-based order. Australia does pull its weight that is widely observed. But obviously there are sensitivities on the Korean Peninsula and we hope that they are resolved peacefully.
GILBERT: Let’s look to some issues at home now, and a lot of debate about Tony Abbott’s contribution yesterday. First of all his opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph, then on the Ray Hadley morning show on radio in not just Sydney but across the country that he’s broadcast and making some interesting statements, including talking publicly about a private conversation he had with the Finance Minister Matthias Cormann.
RYAN: Well look I’ve always not done that. Every member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party is free to make contributions that they see will hopefully help our cause, but also to drive them and motivate them personally. It’s a very important principle in the Liberal Party, it’s one I’ve long defended. But, I’m not going to make observations on the contributions of colleagues.
GILBERT: Not even the Former Prime Minister? Some of your colleagues have said that he’s entitled to make comments about policy if it is constructive, if it is well intentioned.
RYAN: Every member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party is free to make comments on what motivates them personally, on policy that is before the country, on challenges that are before the country, and it’s up to every individual member to make the judgment as to how that helps the Parliamentary Team and how that helps the Australian community.
GILBERT: You don’t feel that it’s self-serving from him, that this is policy-driven or you’re worried that this is more about other issues at play here?
RYAN: Well I don’t think it helps for people to provide public comments. I’m not going to try and peer into people’s souls to ascertain their motivations. I’ve always tried to avoid that. But the important point is that, when I was with family and friends over Easter, people weren’t talking about politics. People want the Government to get on with what we’re talking about, which is addressing the energy problems this country faces because of years of policy choices that have been made, bringing the budget back into balance. People are talking about the need for certainty for jobs, and they’re talking about challenging issues like housing affordability. People aren’t talking about politics.
GILBERT: You don’t have to peer into the soul of Warren Entsch to work out what he’s thinking. He says Mr Abbott should back off.
RYAN: And Warren is free to say that. Warren has been in Parliament a lot longer than I, he’s been in Parliament nearly two decades apart from three years where he spent out of it. But you know, I’m not providing public commentary on my colleagues.
GILBERT: Let’s move on to one of those issues you touched on then, the energy crisis around the country. Bill Shorten is putting forward a proposal today about a voluntary gas swap where LNG providers and gas producers can swap Australian gas, instead of exporting it, keeping it locally and then purchasing cheaper gas from Asia, what do you make of this idea as a proposal? It seems to make sense to me.
RYAN: Well the first person to highlight the energy challenge we face was in fact the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he put this firmly on the national agenda at the end of last year. It became apparent that particularly with gas, but also because of what was happening with the rapid increase in renewable energies that our electricity system was not as stable, was not as reliable as it needed to be. Since then there has been a process put in place where there have been a number of meetings between the members of a sub-committee of Cabinet, as well as key energy providers. They’re coming to Canberra again tomorrow to meet with the Government, and all the options are being considered to ensure that we have reliable and affordable energy, both gas and electricity going forward.
GILBERT: Do you think this is being done with good will on all parts including the producers? Are they seriously looking at ways to try and keep more of the Australian gas supply for domestic use?
RYAN: Well I’m not directly involved in the discussions but from background prior to coming into Parliament in the corporate world, I can tell you that I am certain that these companies know that if they’re going to be significant players in Australia, that the reputation of their brand and their company in contributing to solving this problem is going to be very important to them.
GILBERT: This idea of a gas swap is something as I say Mr Shorten has put forward today, also supported by Innes Willox of the Australian Industry Group. They represent tens of thousands of manufacturers and producers in this country who have a lot at stake here in terms of energy.
RYAN: And I visited some of the providers particularly in Victoria where we have historically had very cheap gas from Bass Strait. A lot of our manufacturing base did depend on access to that energy and to those inputs because it’s also used in plastics manufacturing and the like. All the options are on the table. All the options are being considered. They’re being considered by a formal process. They’ve had multiple meetings with members of the Government and they’re coming to Canberra again tomorrow to speak with senior members including the Prime Minister.
GILBERT: The Prime Minister is seizing on this recent bus trip by Bill Shorten to regional Queensland and other areas in relation to his campaign against 457 workers, foreign workers coming in on those 457 visas. But the Prime Minister today is going to release some numbers suggesting that far from increasing, they’re down a third over the last year in terms of the 457 workers here.
RYAN: Well it’s important in politics Kieran, we’re judged by our deeds not just our slogans or our words, and Bill Shorten is the master of this. I mean he handed out 457 visas like I handed out Easter Eggs on Sunday to the kids. When he was Employment Minister 68,000 [were issued], it’s been reduced by a third in the most recent annual figures. When he was doing his bus tour down the coast of Queensland, he went through areas where they’ve been reduced by 70% like Mackay, or in regional New South Wales or Queensland by 50%. So Bill Shorten’s record here, is going to be what he’s held accountable to, not just the bumper stickers on the sides of his bus.
GILBERT: But Labor says the reason why there was an increased number when Mr Shorten was Employment Minister was because we were still in the mining boom, therefore more workers were needed.
RYAN: Well that doesn’t explain the fast food deals that were done. It doesn’t explain in areas of high unemployment where people were brought in for such particular roles. Bill Shorten doesn’t talk about that, he just wants to build up this grievance and play to this fear that people have of foreigners taking Australian jobs. But his record as opposed to his words is what he’s going to be held accountable to. It is important in politics we are held accountable for our deeds, not just our slogans.
GILBERT: Minister I appreciate your time, thanks for that.
RYAN: Thanks Kieran.