Sky News- 26 July 2019

July 26, 2019

TOM CONNELL:  My next guests on the program, one of our regular panels here, Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Labor MP Graham Perrett both joining me.  Gentlemen, thanks for your time, as ever.  Craig Kelly, you are doing your usual thing here just talking quietly and obeying party lines with this wild idea for a pension asset test on the home, the home that you live in. You seem to be getting a thanks, but no thanks on this from most of your, colleagues?

CRAIG KELLY, MEMBER FOR HUGHES:  Well look, firstly, that is not exactly what what I said, what I was talking about, we need to do everything we can to encourage home ownership in this country. And that is what this Morrison Government is doing with the policies that we took to the election, and that we will bring in this term of parliament, to make it easier for people to afford a deposit and get into the housing market. That is the policies that we have. Now beyond that, when we look at that, a broader, a much broader talk about superannuation, we are having a review into superannuation and retirement incomes and as the Prime Minister said that everything on this is on the table for open discussion.

CONNELL:   Well he says on the table although he says basically they don't seem to be willing to touch superannuation.  I might just start with you though as well on this Graham Perrett, Craig Kelly put for example, I think, you know, what about a $10 million home why should that be exempt? What is the answer to that?

GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER FOR MORETON:   Well, obviously Craig's, you know, raised this idea up the flagpole looking for a few other of those extreme right wingers in his party to salute it, it isn't getting a lot of joy at the moment but there's always been a bipartisan approach to the family home.  People as they age, they're more comfortable staying in their own home. People have better health outcomes if they stay in their own home. And it means that there's not as many taxpayer dollars being used to support them in an aged care facility.

CONNELL: But no-one's saying get out of their home, they're saying, you know at what point the home is still exempt from the pension asset test. I mean, it doesn't sound very right wing to me if you're saying, let's question whether a very valuable home can be exempt for the test. Isn't that a left wing idea?

PERRETT:   Well, the Australian Labor Party, and normally in a bipartisan way with the Liberal Party, has always seen the family home as being a special, having a special place in Australian politics and Australian social policy. So any departure from that would be very bizarre, but especially for someone in the Liberal Party, I would suggest.  We know that by keeping people in their home for as long as possible, they don't, they're not an extra burden to society in age care facilities and the like. And as we've seen in the Aged Care Royal Commission, there's a lot of problems in that area as is, not to mention the hundred and thirty thousand plus waiting list. So I think Craig should leave the family home alone.

CONNELL:   So I just...

KELLY:   I'm actually in agreeance with Graham. I don't want to see anyone forced out of their family home to get the pension? The question we should be asking as a country is how can we increase home ownership and the point that I was making, the more money that you put into superannuation, remember, that's your money. Yes, you may get more at the end of the day, but it means that you have less during your working life. That means you have less ability to afford a deposit, less ability to pay off a mortgage. And that's a discussion I think, as a nation, we could have sensibly without sort of going off on this right wing, left wing sort of perspective.

CONNELL: Well, can I ask you this, Craig Kelly, because Scott Morrison said in the party room this week that if you want to raise ideas outside of the normal party processes, you're being disrespectful to your colleagues. Do you agree with that?

KELLY:   Well we all have an obligation to make sure that we continue to talk about the base principles of the Liberal Party and that is one of those basic principles is to encourage home ownership. We are the party that wants to give Australians every opportunity to get in and own their own home. That is a fundamental principle of the Liberal Party. And that's what I've been talking about.

CONNELL:   On speaking out Craig Kelly, Scott Morrison is basically saying, we did say pointedly, where he elected to do some things not elected to do others, raise things through the internal party process. You're obviously talking to the media. And I'm not criticizing that aspect. But are you happy to continue to ignore that edict?

KELLY:   Look I don't think I'm ignoring it at all. We've got a set of policies that we took to the election that we will deliver for the Australian people, and all of those I'm 100% on board with, and I'll continue to promote the good work that we are doing. Now, there's other things as far as a general discussion about where we go with future policies, things that are up for debate. I certainly don't think the Prime Minister...
CONNELL:   And you want to be able to debate them publicly don't you.  You want to be able to put out ideas publicly even if that's not always comfortable for the Prime Minister.

KELLY:   The reality is that these things get debated in public. Even anyone that says anything in the party room gets you know, unfortunately, gets thrown up in the media and gets debated in public. So it's really impossible to have these conversations completely behind closed doors, and part of the discussion, a part of the policy discussion and framework. It's got to be, you've got to bring the public along with you. And the public has some input in this debate as well.

CONNELL:  Well, I'm into people talking to journalists, I'll always say that Graham Perrett.

PERRETT:   Here, here.

CONNELL:   Let's turn our mind to private health insurance. We've got people leaving this in droves seemingly. What's the solution here? Is it broken this system?

PERRETT:   Well, I think we've got - sorry, there's a bit of a microphone problem there.

CONNELL:   You can repair that on the go. I think it's working again. Okay. Have a go clipping it on Graham, I might just go ask Craig Kelly.  Well, there you go, you've got it. So go on.

PERRETT:   Yeah, yeah. So obviously, private health insurance, what we've got about $11 million of taxpayer dollars and in kind support for this industry. We're seeing the lowest, we're actually seeing 65,000 fewer people being covered by private health insurance, when the Australian population has gone up by 400,000 people. So on Craig's Government's watch.  It's a bit of a disaster. I think it was called the death spiral. The, what is it - seven or eight per cent of people between 25 and 29 are actually dropping out of private health insurance, while those aged between 90 and 94 have got an eight or nine per cent increase in them taking up.   So fewer people in there supporting older - a ratio of one is to two a few years ago.

CONNELL:   Yeah people who don't need it as much.

PERRETT:   Yeah, well, it's people like you, Tom that are fit and healthy. And you know, maybe if you've lost your weekend penalty rates and a few other things, few other impacts, private health insurance fees have gone up by 30% under Craig's watch, so it is a real cost. We've got a Government that's overseen a system that's really got some institutional flaws. And Greg Hunt has been silent about this. We've got all these stunts, political stunts going on in Parliament about legislation that'll be rolled out in 10 years time, five years time, not dealing with the big issue right now which is private health insurance.

CONNELL:   There is talk now of another review Craig Kelly. We've just had a big overhaul of this. Do you think this is failing right now?

KELLY:   Well look, you're seeing those numbers are declining in private health insurance. And we want to encourage people to be in private health insurance.  Everyone that is in private health insurance, that takes pressure off the public system. So more people in private health insurance is a good thing.

CONNELL:   That's not working though is it on these numbers.

KELLY:   Well look, I think one of the reasons perhaps why is people turn up to a hospital, and I hear stories about people going to hospital and they ask you, are you a private patient or a public patient? And if you pay, you say you're a private patient, you get exactly the same treatment but you end up with a big bill at the end. I think that's one issue and that's rightfully so, something we need a review at and need to have a  good look at this to make sure that we can treat as many people as we can.

CONNELL:   So it's broken at the moment then, because you've been in charge for a while on this and it's trending pretty badly.

KELLY:   No look, I wouldn't say it's broken but we need to look at what we can do to keep more people in private health insurance because that takes the pressure off the public system.
CONNELL:   Graham Perrett just finally, Will Fowles was getting headlines this week. The Victorian Labor MP kicking in a door to get to his luggage here in Canberra. He was here for some maiden speeches. Jeff Kennett has said that Will Fowles should not use mental health as an excuse on this. What were your thoughts?

PERRETT:   Well, look, Jeff Kennett is obviously one of the experts in this area in terms of being the head of Beyond Blue but from my reading of it, I don't know Mr Fowles at all, but he indicated that he's going to pay for the damage that he caused, seek some treatment. My understanding is he's got some mental health issues and some addiction issues as well. So he's got some challenges in front of him, I would have thought we could keep - you know Craig and I know it's a tough game. It's pretty, you need to be pretty willing to represent your areas, but I think he would need a bit of space and a bit of treatment. There's three million Australians that have some sort of mental health issue or some addiction issues or the like, so we need to - they'd all have different stories with their families. I think we'd be, it's not for me to judge what's going on in this gentleman's life and I hope he get's some help and support as quickly as possible.

CONNELL:   Craig?

KELLY:   Well, I think Jeff Kennett's right. Mental health is a very serious issue in our society. For someone to go and have a big night, a big bender, in Canberra, get onto the grog and who knows what other substances.

CONNELL:   Well, do you know that?

KELLY:   Turn up and then kick a... Well these are the comments we were reading in the media.  There was a big night involved.  Kept turning up at the hotel and kicking a door in and then sort of saying ah you know I'm sorry it's a mental health issue.   I quite frankly, I'm on Jeff Kennett's side here.  I don't think that's good enough.

CONNELL:   You don't want to tread a bit carefully before you know full detail.

KELLY:   Well, I don't think there's any excuse for an elected member of parliament violently kicking in a door like we saw in Canberra the other night.  I just don't think there's any excuse whatsoever. You simply should say, I was wrong, I apologize. Rather than trying to look for some excuse.

PERRETT:   Look can I just say...

CONNELL:   Just quickly Graham Perrett you can if you're quick.

PERRETT:   When you go to the gym in Canberra, you go past a picture of a guy, a politician who took his own life due to the pressures of politics and all sorts of things. I always think when people are having these sorts of problems, give them some space. Find out the facts before we judge.  That would be my only advice Craig.

CONNELL:   Graham Perrett, Craig Kelly we'll do it all again in a fortnight's time. Thank you.