TOM CONNELL: Joining me live now for some more on this, one of our regular panels here on Newsday Labor MP, Graham Perrett and Liberal MP, Tony Pasin. Gentlemen, thanks both for your time today. I want to start by playing you one other thing that Scott Morrison had to say today, he was asked earlier about Barnaby Joyce coming out this week and saying, ‘I argued against the Royal Commission, I got it wrong’, would Scott Morrison do the same thing a mea culpa? Here was his response.
[Scott Morrison clip]
Tony Pasin, where do you sit on this? Do you tell voters, yes we argued against this for too long?
TONY PASIN, MEMBER FOR BARKER: Well Tom as much as I like my rear vision mirror, I spend a lot more time staring past the windscreen looking forward. I’ve got to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of banks. I watched my parents struggle through the eighties paying 20 per cent interest rates, and I’ve come to the position whereby I’ve been shocked by the revelations via the Royal Commission. I’m grateful that we’ve expanded the scope of it. But I’m certainly in a positon to I think to myself, when I review my conscience day to day, I wish I had perhaps been stronger early doors. I’m grateful we’re in this position. I think we should stop the political point scoring and just focus on what the Royal Commission is telling us and what actions we take forward to change the culture inside banks and financial institutions.
CONNELL: And of course it is happening now and I might just get you to respond, Graham Perrett on something else Scott Morrison has said today where we shouldn’t be taking our frustration out on.
[Scott Morrison clip]
Graham Perrett, I’m sure no one has ever had a crack at you about being an MP. Is it a good message from Scott Morrison? Let’s not take it out on individual staff?
GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER FOR MORETON: Definitely. I’ve had very good meetings with the Financial Sector Union, the FSU over the years, in fact they highlighted many of the concerns that are now just playing out in front of Justice Hayne in the Royal Commission: the pressure to sell: the percentage of wages that are linked to selling credit rather than putting the customer’s best interest first and foremost. The culture of banks has changed wholly and the people that work in banks, out front, trying to meet those unrealistic goals just to keep a CEO and the board and perhaps even, dare I say, shareholders happy the pressure has always been on those frontline service staff and a few people out the back. So I do acknowledge that Mr Morrison did have some insight there.
CONNELL: Well as for those executives and board members, they’re having an uncomfortable time of it. We’ll keep a close eye on that. Tony Pasin, I wanted to ask you about the National Energy Guarantee because we’ve had this meeting just wrap up. What we appear to be hearing from both sides is that Josh Frydenberg is saying we won’t shift this floor on emissions reduction, 26 per cent, but states will be told if a future government comes in they can ramp up that target. So if Labor gets in they can increase the amounts of emission reductions if they want. Is that fair enough?
PASIN: Well the concern I have with that, Tom is we’re going to continue the uncertainty. This exercise is about ending the uncertainty. The various actors in this drama are telling me, and perhaps appropriately the stalemate that we’ve found our self in is a product of this kind of, if you like, position whereby we’ve got so much uncertainty that investment decision are being waylaid. Now, I’m worried that this will lead to yet further uncertainty and we’ll be in the same position. My focus in this debate has always been affordability, affordability, affordability. Obviously, reliability is important as well. But I just want to take an opportunity over the next short while while we continue to work on this to remind my colleagues that as important as energy security is, affordability is equally important because there’s no point having a reliable system if you can afford the electricity that it delivers.
CONNELL: So what are you talking about when you say remind colleagues? What are you worried about on the affordability element of the NEG so far?
PASIN: Well Tom, my concern is that we’re spending a lot of time focusing on whether our system is reliable and I understand why. Look, I’m a South Australian, I lived through the blackout, I get all of that. But, I just worry that a little too much of the focus is on ensuring that we have a reliable system as opposed to one that is affordable. Now, we need to get these things right. We need them in balance. I’m sure Graham agrees with me. Ultimately we need an affordable, reliable system. Those two things need to sit in balance.
CONNELL: Just on the reliability are we talking about, we had a conversation not so long ago in politics about gold-plating, there was too much spent on poles and wires to make sure that it was reliable that we need to accept that there will be the very occasional short blackout but prices won’t go through the roof. Is that what you’re saying?
PASIN: Well, Tom the question here is how we ensure that we have reasonable levels of reliability coupled with affordability. These things need to sit in balance because unfortunately if you end up in a situation where the NEG is all about reliability at the cost of affordability then I don’t think we’ve achieved what we need. We need a reliable and affordable system and I’m comfortable about the reliability issues as I read the NEG. I remain a little concerned about the affordability question. I think it is important that we keep working on this and it’s important we do it in a bipartisan, even tri-partisan way.
CONNELL: Graham Perrett we heard the Queensland minister come out and say that the concern had been addressed, as I said there about the ability of the future government, if it is your government, to ramp up this target. So it looks as though what Labor would be closer and closer to accepting this mechanism at least.
PERRETT: Well, I do agree with Tony that we do need to have certainty but he’s forgetting the third major umbrella that it all sits under that we must meet our commitment to reducing emissions. So, yeah, getting the reliability right, yeah, getting the price right, lets support manufacturing, let’s make sure that we can look after Australians – you tend to lose Government is you don’t get that right – but also we must meet our commitment, our national and international commitments to reduce emissions and I think if we did get that bipartisan mechanism right we can then bring in the dollars that will invest in renewable energy and make the best use of the cheapest way to provide electricity to Australia. Technology is coming on, we’ve got battery storage, so many developments in renewables that you can get the balance right.
CONNELL: We’ll see where that goes. August is going to be the deadline. It’s more like an agreement to keep talking today so maybe not quite concrete. There’s some breaking news that you can see on your screen. Barnaby Joyce and his partner, Vicki Campion, have welcomed their baby boy, Seb, I believe it is being called. Now this happened a couple of days ago but that’s now been confirmed so obviously something that took a lot of the political spotlight earlier this year and I guess Tony Pasin everyone just hopes that it’s a happy and healthy start to life.
PASIN: Well, I’m hearing the news, Tom, right now and I’m very happy for Barnaby and his partner. I hope they are blessed as I have been with children and it’s just a great thing.
PERRETT: Yeah, could I echo that Tom, and all the best to Barnaby and Vicki and good on you Seb, you’ve got a big spotlight on you I hope it all kicks along nicely for you.
CONNELL: I’m sure he will be a colourful young chap if he is anything like his father. So there you go, news there Vicki Campion and Barnaby Joyce did have their baby boy a couple of days ago. It has now been confirmed. I want to get on to our next topic though gentlemen. Israel Folau has been an ongoing saga here after comments he made on Instagram, were there going to be sponsors lost, was he going to leave the game of Rugby Union? In the end, no. It all started from this post from Israel Folau. He spoke about his time away from injury, and he spoke about God having a plan. Someone responded to him by saying, ‘What was God’s plan for gay people?’ He wrote back, Hell as you can see there is capital letters unless they repent of their sins and turn to God. I know I have played you a lot of Scott Morrison already today but I am going to play you what he had to say about this as well, first of all:
[SCOTT MORRISON: Freedom of religion is one of our fundamental liberties as citizens. That doesn’t mean we have to all agree with each other about religion or even agree with each other’s own expression of their religious faith. It’s not for one Christian to always have to completely agree with another Christian. Or a Hindu a Buddhist, a Muslim, whoever. There are lots of different views within faith but gee it would be a pretty sick society without faith and my life would be pretty sick without it too. It means a lot to me, it means a lot to people and it clearly means a lot to Izzie and good for him for standing up for his faith. I think he wouldn’t have wanted to intend to offend or hurt anyone because that’s pretty much against the faith he feels so passionately about. He’s shown I think a lot of strength of character in standing up for what he believes in and I think that’s what this country is all about]
CONNELL: Graham Perrett anything you disagree with there? A right to free speech. He is clearly a religious man.
PERRETT: Yeah, I do agree that people make religious choices but that doesn’t mean you are free from the consequences of making public announcements. He is a role model for lots of people, young rugby players and for him to make that statement that would be damaging for people: damaging for young men, damaging for young women that are perhaps keen rugby players, I know there’s gay rugby teams here in Brisbane, they have the Bingham Cup. So it would have actually damaged people for one of their role models to come out and say that and he should have been more aware of what he was saying as a role model in that community and the damage that has resulted because of his statements, I think is very, very regrettable. And there will be consequences.
CONNELL: Tony Pasin, sorry Graham I will just jump in there. Tony Pasin the response wasn’t really a biblical verse like some of his comments are. Hell in capital letter. In the end, if he has freedom of speech aren’t sponsors entitled if they want to yank their sponsorship if they don’t like it?
PASIN: Well, Tom can I go back to what Graham just said. I’m a little disappointed because ultimately what Graham is arguing is that Izzie is not entitled to express his religious belief and throughout the same sex marriage debate we were assured that this wouldn’t turn into a debate whereby individuals weren’t entitled to express their opinion. It is an opinion he holds, it is consistent with his religious belief. He is perfectly entitled, in my view, to express that. Now as to the more concerning elements of this, for me, it is the corporate bullying that comes with this. Now, good on him for standing up for his beliefs, good on him for expressing them because, quite frankly he is entitled to and I would have thought that Graham would stand up for his right to express his opinion even if he didn’t share it, but the reality here is the level of corporate bullying we are seeing in Australia right now is, in my view, past the pale. People should be entitled…
CONNELL: But isn’t, Tony Pasin isn’t, they’re entitled absolutely but a company is entitled to do what it likes surely, they are paying often millions of dollars and they have a certain brand they want, now if that’s not in keeping with that, whatever it might be, you know you see it pulled for whatever other things happen for different athletes but are they entitled to do this as well in response?
PASIN: But Tom it’s a form of third party forcing effectively we’re your corporate sponsor therefore you can’t express your reasonably held opinion and belief. Now I don’t think that’s an Australia I want to live in. I want to live in an Australia where people are free to express their opinions, even ones I vehemently oppose because it is through that freedom, its seminal that freedom of speech that we can have a strong robust democracy. I don’t think corporate Australia should be using its purse strings to try to shape the views of individuals even ones they sponsor. Now, you know all strength to his arm for having the intestinal fortitude if you like to express his opinion knowing full well that it would likely attract the wrath it has attracted and equally I’ve noticed in recent days comments from Israel Folau saying if I have to walk away from rugby that’s what I’ll do. Now that is a man of really strong character and I want to live in an Australia where people are free to express their opinions. Even opinions that I don’t share.
PERRETT: Tom and Tony, if I take that transcript and delete the word ‘Israel’ and insert the word ‘Yasmin’ would it still hold true then, Tony?
PASIN: Absolutely, people are entitled to express their views.
PERRETT: I must have missed your comments about Yasmin.
PASIN: I am not particularly happy about what Yasmin has said about Australia Day. I don’t like the content of what she’s saying but I won’t put my hand up and say she’s not entitled to express an opinion. She’s entitled to express an opinion.
CONNELL: But weren’t people saying at that stage Tony that because she appeared on the ABC that she shouldn’t so, because that was a public broadcaster, that was an issue, that was an argument by a few people wasn’t it?
PASIN: Well, that was an argument by some. In my view people are entitled to their opinions and they should deal with the consequences of those opinions if you like.
PERRETT: I agree with you, Tony.
PASIN: This comes back to a seminal issue; do we have freedom of religion in this country? I say yes and we must. Are we entitled to freedom of speech? I say yes and we must.
CONNELL: I just want to quickly get you on the redistribution in South Australia, your seat of Barker, Tony Pasin, you lost a lot of skin last election is it going to take a further hit from the redrawing of the boundaries here?
PASIN: Well according to the Electoral Commission there’ll be a 1.2 per cent margin lost to Labor. Tom, the electorate 64,000 square kilometres it’s growing, I’m picking up the rest of the Barossa and the community of Kapunda also. That is what it is. What I’m more concerned about is that I live in a state that not so long ago had 13 federal members, we’re about to have ten. At the same time, Western Australia has gone from 13 to 16. Sadly, the South Australian economy has lagged. It’s lagged under a Labor Government for 16 years. I’m looking forward to that turning around. We need to grow our economy.
CONNELL: Graham Perrett, how do you get Mark Butler back in? Should Tony Zappia or Steve Georganas be nervous?
PERRETT: Well look this is the independent umpire making a recommendation. I’m sure people will put their two cents worth in. Mark Butler is a great friend of mine; we got elected at the same time, as did Tony Zappia for that matter. Mark Butler has been a great servant of the Labor Party, both when he was Aged Care Minister and in his great work on climate change and renewables. I’m sure the South Australian wing of the Labor Party will sort it out and we’ll get the best result possible.
CONNELL: We’ll see where it goes. Thanks always to regular panelists, Tony Pasin and Graham Perrett.