TUESDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Morrison shirking a Federal ICAC; QLD LNP cuts to frontline staff; Clive Palmer’s death tax lies.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let's go live to my pollie panel, Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick, from the Labor Party, Murray Watt. We spoke about Federal ICAC last time. You clarified afterwards that you are comfortable with the Government direction on this. So do you have any concerns about what sort of, not in a concrete sense, but what's on the table at the moment for a National Integrity Commission, as it's being called?
GERARD RENNICK, QUEENSLAND LIBERAL SENATOR: Look, I haven't actually had a chance to read the legislation, Tom. Well, we haven't actually presented any legislation to the party room for a start, but I've been in Estimates for the last couple of weeks. But look, you know, obviously concerns...Funnily enough I did a bit of research and Terry O’Gorman, a civil libertarian from Queensland, did make a good comment about ICAC, is that you don't have the right to remain silent. And often people, you know, are badgered into making confessions that, you know, that later turn out to be false. So, look, there's genuine concerns about judicial checks and balances that I think we need to make sure we protect it.
CONNELL: But not having the right to remain silent, you don't have to make a false confession, do you?
RENNICK: Well, look, like I said, I'm not a legal expert, but, you know, people do make false confessions. I mean, I don't know why. You know, maybe they feel intimidated or they're, you know, under pressure.
CONNELL: What's a false confession been?
RENNICK: What does it mean?
CONNELL: No, what's an example of false confession that's happened?
RENNICK: Well, I've quoted Terry O'Gorman.
CONNELL: Yeah, but when has that happened in New South Wales, for example?
RENNICK: Look, I honestly can't recall what the example was, but they did give an example in the article.
CONNELL: So you wouldn't want any witness - even if these are not public hearings- you wouldn't want any witness to be compelled to give evidence, they should be able to say 'no comment' or whatever it might be?
RENNICK: Well, that is the judicial checks and balances, my understanding. But like I said, I'm not a legal expert, Tom. You need to go and take it up with the Minister.
CONNELL: We have been inviting him on lately, (we'll) try again. So where does Labor sit on this? If there are going to be these private hearings - which it's perfectly possible to get the information you want out of that, and there was initially a private hearing of Gladys (Berejiklian) before a public one. Would you support that legislation? You can maybe try to change it if and when you're in power, but for now, support a National Integrity Commission?
MURRAY WATT, QUEENSLAND LABOR SENATOR: Well, we'd obviously be very happy to look at any model that the Government put forward. This is something that Labor's been calling for, for three years now. And we probably would be prepared to support, you know, almost anything that the Government put up in terms of an integrity commission at this point in time. The problem has been that the Government just doesn't want to do it. I mean, I commend Gerard for our last interview, he was at least honest and expressed the view of the party room, which is that people don't want a National Integrity Commission.
CONNELL: Well, not everybody does.
WATT: Well, clearly, I don't think Gerard's on his own here. And that is clearly the reason why the Government hasn't moved ahead with an integrity commission. We found out last week in Senate Estimates that a draft bill was given to Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, in December last year, before COVID was even heard of. And yet that's the excuse that the Government is using for not moving ahead.
CONNELL: But if they do, even if it's not the exact form Labor wants, what, you'll support it, even if perhaps you try to make changes later?
WATT: Well I'm not going to give you a categorical guarantee-
CONNELL: -Pretty close to it.
WATT: Well, of course we're going to want to look at exactly what the model is. But philosophically, we are supportive of a National Integrity Commission and we've been calling for it to happen for three years.
I can understand why the Government doesn't want to do it with sports rorts, with Western Sydney Airport, with all of Angus Taylor's stuff, but it's not good enough. They've had this bill since last year and they should get on with it.
CONNELL: Queensland election, Labor costings are out. It's a big growth in debt, but still they'll need $1 billion in savings, which Labor has often pointed out really means a cut, within Health. What did you make of that?
WATT: Well, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the Health Department and other departments in the Queensland Government to find savings, provided that doesn't come from frontline staff. And that's where the really big distinction between the parties stands as we head into this weekend's election. On the one hand, you've got Labor saying that this is the time that we do need governments to borrow, to invest in infrastructure, to invest in services, get people back into work. And the reality is that under Deb Frecklington and the LNP, they've said that they want to get the Budget back to surplus in four years. And that can only be done by cutting about 30,000 staff out of the public service; out of hospitals, out of schools, out of police. It's exactly what Deb Frecklington did last time.
CONNELL: What did you make of the surplus pledge, because it's very different to what the Federal Government's doing to try to, you know, bounce back from a pandemic.
RENNICK: Sure. Couple of things there. I think it's a bit rich for Murray to say that they've never cut frontline services. Over 30 maternity wards have been shut under Labor's time in government last 25 years, including my hometown of Chinchilla, despite the fact that its population has doubled. When I was born there back in 1970 and throughout the 70s, my mum was one of four midwives there and we had our own maternity ward. And one of the great things that Deb Frecklington has promised to do is to restore maternity services, to Chinchilla and Theodore, which also happened under the Newman Government - they reopened Beaudesert and Ingham as well. We also added a thousand police. Now, as for getting back to surplus, we are going to pursue a building agenda. And if you build and you tap that free rainfall from the sky and the free sunlight, and you capture that water in a dam, and then that dam then adds value, grows crops and adds value to the land. You're basically expanding your baseline economy. And that's the way we intend to build. We're not going to cut services or anything like that. We are going to build-
CONNELL: -There won't be any services cut when the LNP outlines a path to surplus?
RENNICK: Well, I haven't looked at...I mean, I can't make that commitment-
CONNELL: -Well, that's what you just said.
RENNICK: My understanding was Deb has said that she's not going to cut services. She's not going to cut salaries, any attrition will be through natural attrition, which is what my understanding is. But look, long story short, if you ended up on a desert island, would you go to a bank or would you start to build? And if we've got to restart to build, and this is both nationally and across all states, we have to build.
CONNELL: What about the Clive Palmer campaign? He's taken out these huge pages of newspapers, we're all used to that. 'Don't risk a death tax'. I mean, does this highlight an issue in our democracy when such a huge campaign can be run on a lie - let's call it what it is?
RENNICK: Look, I haven't seen the ads...
WATT: Have you opened a paper lately?
RENNICK: No, I haven't read a paper Murray. I actually don't read the papers, other than down here a couple of times at night. But that's it, I don't actually read the paper, a physical paper, because I don't go to the newsagents, I come straight in here, I go back home. So look, I can't comment on it. I do worry what Labor will do, I know Paul Howes I think said something last year about 'people shouldn't have any money left in their superannuation account when they pass away', which concerned me-
CONNELL: -You can't take one line from that and then say the Queensland Government-
RENNICK: I'm not saying it's-
CONNELL: -There's no plan on a death tax is there?
RENNICK: No, let me finish please, Tom. If you retire at 65, you've got no idea if you're going to live to 75, 85 or 95. So to say that, you know, you shouldn't have any money left in your super account when you die, well, that's just completely unrealistic. Because you don't know how long you've got. So most people are going to put as much money as they can in so far to make sure that they can retire well, alright. So why then you'd sort of be criticising people for having money left when they die-
CONNELL: -And what do you think of this, I mean, there was Mediscare, the campaign Labor ran, has that sort of perhaps unleashed these future campaigns?
WATT: No, I don't think it has. I mean, I think we've seen Clive Palmer just take dishonest politics to a whole new level, backed in by the millions of dollars that he has lying around in his own bank accounts. This is a replay of what we saw at the federal election. At the federal election the Liberal Party propagated a lie that Labor was going to bring in a death tax. We all saw the Grim Reaper ads and all the rest of it. Now, Clive Palmer's doing it with the express purpose of electing Deb Frecklington and the LNP. And I think it's incumbent on people like Gerard and Deb Frecklington to call out this lie for what it is.
CONNELL: We've run out of time, Gerard Rennick. Murray Watt, thanks for your time.