September 21, 2016

HOST: He (Anthony Albanese) was on air gloating last week about Hawthorn, Fourthorn, they were on for their fourth flag in a row. He wanted to come in on Monday and talk about their triumph and now he’s disappeared for two weeks. You might choose to disregard those two things and say they’re not related. We don’t. There is a clear and present relationship. In any case, Mark Butler in Port Adelaide has stepped into the breach, Mark Butler good morning.


MARK BUTLER: Good morning. Well we knew we had September off from a while ago.


HOST: So you’ve been preparing for this day.


BUTLER: We’ve been preparing for a leisurely September at both AFL and SANFL level, we’re feeling relaxed and ready for 2017.


HOST: Well that puts you on an even keel with Christopher Pyne whose Crows went out sadly on Saturday night. Good morning.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes, very disappointing and obviously Albo’s done the old tag team Brutus Beefcake with Mark Butler this morning.


BUTLER: It’s a hard thing to break into this bromance between Albo and Christopher.


HOST: You’ve done what few politicians can do Mark by becoming part of the duo. We’ll kick off with you Chris, we’re interested in the speech yesterday by the Social Services Minister Christian Porter gave at the National Press Club where he addressed the push by ACOSS for an increase in the weekly dole payment. Currently it stands at $38 a day or $266 a week, but ACOSS is arguing for a $53 a week increase which would take it up to $319 a week at a cost to the budget of some $7.7 billion.


Now in rejecting the claim the Government has argued that the dole should make it difficult for people to subsist, to create an incentive for them to go out and look for work. The counter argument to that though, is it not, is that people do need enough resources to survive and to put themselves in a better position to actually get out and about and look for work.


PYNE: So Christian gave a pretty thoughtful speech at the press club yesterday, it wasn’t a tub thumping ‘people need to get off welfare’ speech it was about the obvious issues that we face as a nation. We have a generous social welfare net, we have jobs going, particularly in the regions that people need to fill with backpackers from around the world because a lot of Australians don’t want to do those kinds of jobs, we have to balance that with support for people who are out of work. So the dole needs to be enough for people to be able to live on, but it shouldn’t become a way of life, I think that’s the balance that we’re trying to reach. We certainly wouldn’t be wanting to make it such that people would have to turn to crime or whatever because they can’t afford to live on the dole, but we also don’t want people to think ‘life’s pretty good on the dole so I’m not going to go out and look for work’. Because work is a big part of self-esteem and a big part of our community, our society so we have to balance those things and I think Christian did a good job explaining that yesterday.


HOST: What’s Labor’s view on this Mark, does the Opposition believe that $266 a week is enough for people who are unemployed to survive on?


BUTLER: We said before the last election David, we accepted that the level of  Newstart, particularly because of the basis of its increase which is only in line with inflation, was confining too many Australians, individuals and families, to living in poverty and as you point out it was the Business Council of all organisations that has said at some point the level of Newstart, or the dole, becomes a barrier to employment because people aren’t able to get around for job interviews and such like. So we committed to a review of the level of Newstart. As you pointed out, this is no simple thing. To lift the level of Newstart to the level of the dole by $50, which is the claim of a number of organisations, would cost the budget about $2 billion a year. That is a very, very significant impost on the budget and we would have to find a way to pay for that. So for example, when we increased the age pension by the biggest amount in its 100 year history in 2009, we had to find offsetting measures. We had to be very clear that the rate of the increase was the proper increase, we didn’t just pluck a figure out of the air.


This requires a fair deal of thought. I don’t accept that we can just kick this into the long grass, which is why we said if we were elected in July, which obviously we weren’t, we would have the sort of review we had into the level of the age pension back in 2009. Look this is not simple. A $2 billion a year increase is a very substantial impost on the budget that the Council of Social Services, the Business Council and others are asking a Federal Government to do, and you couldn’t do that with the click of a finger.


PYNE: I think that’s the first time a Labor member has admitted they didn’t win the election.


BUTLER: You’ve been talking with Albo too much. He has that sort of rough Sydney thing going on, I’m more honest and reflective on our position.


HOST: Bill Shorten is still carrying the trophy around above his head, he can’t quite work out where it’s gone.


BUTLER: We’re focussed on next season Christopher, we’re focussed on next season.


HOST: Christopher, yesterday the Australian Industry Group rejected what the ACTU had called for earlier this year which was Domestic Violence Leave to be part of modern awards. I think 10 days leave is the figure that was touted. Where do you sit personally on the prospect of leave on the basis of domestic violence?


PYNE: Well I’m not an expert on the area, so that’s the first thing I should tender, that I know all about the ins and outs of the area. I think it’s quite a fraught issue because a lot of people would seek help, hopefully seek help for domestic violence from the authorities or institutions that help people in that situation. They might not want to admit it to employers and other employees, they might find that intrusive, so I think there are issues around that. Obviously people who have been in a domestic violence incident might well take sick leave if they are in that situation, I guess practically. But I think it is something that needs to be properly considered as opposed to becoming a political football.


HOST: Do you have a view Mark based on the evidence you have seen thus far?


BUTLER: This is a relatively new issue, I think five or six years ago the first domestic violence leave clause got negotiated into an enterprise agreement and now it’s become increasingly common. The state public service here and in many other states have granted that leave, you see businesses like Virgin, McDonald’s, IKEA, Telstra, a number of others, have granted this leave as well. It reflects something that Rosie Batty talked a fair bit about when she was Australian of the Year and that is the importance of keeping an employment connection for a woman who is experiencing family violence. Christopher is right, often they’ll have to take their standard leave entitlements like annual leave and sick leave to deal with the consequences of a violent relationship but they’re often exhausted. So it has been claimed by the ACTU and unions for some years now to reflect the fact that women in that position will often need extra leave to attend court, or to attend medical and legal appointments and to arrange a relocation for them and their kids and a standard claim of about five or ten days for that sort of circumstance is pretty common. The APS, the Australian Public Service has rejected that claim under Christopher’s Government. They’ve said it’s an enhancement to industrial conditions so they are not going to have a bar of it and when we announced the position before the last election of inserting a five day entitlement for victims of domestic violence leave into the legislation, Michaelia Cash, Christopher’s Ministerial colleague said that would be a problem and they reject that because it might lead to employers declining to employ women, particularly women of that sort of age which I find just a ridiculous reflection on employers and the sort of argument you heard forty years ago when people were arguing for women to get equal pay. So I think the Government does need to look at this very carefully both in their own backyard because Australia’s workplace relations have always worked on the basis that big employers set an example whether that’s the Commonwealth and the State Governments or big private sector employers like Telstra who are doing the right thing and putting these leave entitlements into their enterprise agreements. Close to two million workers have this entitlement now and I’d like to see that entitlement spread to all women who experience this terrible scourge.


HOST: Just before we wrap it up guys. Chris you probably haven’t always passionately agreed with everything Cory Bernardi, your South Australian Liberal colleague has said. What did you make of his observations yesterday, he’s obviously over in New York, now based at the UN for a while. He came out and said that he thought that a Trump Presidency could be a good thing for America and by default the world. Do you agree with that view?


PYNE: Well look I’m not a commentator on Cory Bernardi’s views so I really don’t have any opinion about what Cory Bernardi says about Donald Trump. From the Government’s point of view we will work with whoever becomes President of the United States. I see that Bill Shorten spent a lot of time attacking Donald Trump which is not very statesmanlike, it must be said because whatever our personal views about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and I much prefer Hillary Clinton to be elected President, as a potential Prime Minister you’d expect Bill to show a bit more diplomacy than bagging the person who might actually be the US President.


HOST: You’re in the George W Bush Camp are you, backing Hillary?


PYNE: I’m a Hillary supporter, definitely. I think that some of the views that Donald Trump has, in fact almost all the views that Donald Trump has, I find hard to agree with and I think Hillary Clinton would be the person I would vote for if I had a vote in the US.


HOST: What about you Mark? You’d be well and truly in the Hillary Camp, I’d imagine?


HOST: Oh you’d be a big Trump supporter Mark?


BUTLER: I’m very much a Hillary person. Christopher called Donald Trump terrifying on national television so I’m not sure he’s in a position to criticise Bill’s commentary on this point. I’m pretty sure from the western suburbs I heard Christopher high fiving people when Cory Bernardi got on that plane for 3 months…(inaudible)


HOST: Carried his bags.


BUTLER: I can tell you it’s going to be an interesting ride having Cory as our representative in the United Nations for a few months, an interesting ride indeed.


HOST: Who knows? He might get head hunted by President Trump. Chris Pyne and Mark Butler stepping up to the plate for Albo. Good on you both for coming on and as always an excellent two tribes.