JOURNALIST: Joining us to discuss these and other issues is Finance Minister, Penny Wong, in Adelaide, and Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, in Sydney. As always, thank you both very much for being here this morning.
First of all, the headlines are all about the NBN today so lets start there. Minister Wong, late yesterday even the independents joined calls for the release of this business plan for the NBN. The only thing we do know is that its been in the Governments hands now for a couple of weeks. Why all the secrecy about it?
WONG: We will release it and the Prime Minister has made that very clear. But we are going to do the responsible thing, which is to go through it very carefully, analyse it very carefully. And we also recognise there is commercial-in-confidence and potentially market sensitive information in that plan. It would not be responsible for the Government to not consider those issues very carefully before we release it.
JOURNALIST: But the point is weve got one more week of sitting of federal Parliament before we go into the Christmas break. There will be no time for any public discussion or a response to the Government before the thing gets underway.
WONG: Well hang on, there is some legislation in the Parliament now. It is not the last decision that has to be made by the Parliament in relation to the NBN. We have been very clear about what the NBN is about. We have put forward an implementation study, which the Opposition has had for some time. We are very clear; we were very upfront in the election about what we were going to do.
I think the real question here is this: would it make any difference to Mr Abbotts plan to oppose it? And the answer is no. He is going to oppose this regardless of what information the Government gives him.
We will work through this properly, carefully, as we should. We will release the business plan, as the Prime Minister said, in December.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison reasonable argument by the Minister?
MORRISON: Well no, I dont think so. This Government has turned into policy shut-ins. The curtains have been drawn. After talking about letting the sun shine in, theyve certainly drawn the curtains. Theyre defying an order from the Senate to release this information. Its just like they did with the Henry Tax Review. They dont trust the Australian people with this information. They dont think the Australian people can consume it, consider it. And more importantly, they dont want the Australian people, through the Parliament, to be able to question them next week in the House and in the Senate on the details of these matters. Its a simple thing. Theyve done a business case apparently. They should release it. We asked for there to be a cost-benefit analysis on what is the largest single investment of public money in an infrastructure program. No cost-benefit analysis. We wanted one, theyve said no. So for all the talk about letting the sun shine in, its pretty dark in the Parliament now because this Government has drawn the curtains.
JOURNALIST: Lets just hit another topic here for a moment. Penny Wong, has the Government reneged on a deal to support the Services Union in fighting for equal pay for women?
WONG: Ive seen those reports and I dont accept the premise of that question. We have been very clear as a Government about our support for pay equity. We moved the amendments and the legislation that enabled these cases to be run.
Lets remember that it was a Labor Government that ensured that these cases could be run by making sure the legislation allowed it to happen. This is an important issue. Pay equity for women is an important issue. All were saying in what weve put forward to Fair Work Australia, is we are setting out what we think Fair Work Australia needs to take account when considering the case.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, would you agree that perhaps the Government is taking the right tack here in prioritising its budget balance first?
MORRISON: Everything has costs. But I think what people are surprised about is the gap between the rhetoric of the Labor Party when it comes to these matters and then what it actually means when they make decisions in Government. Now they need to be accountable for the gap between those two things. If they are suggesting that theyre making sensible budgetary decisions, well sensible budgetary decisions are good things. But if youre going to go out there into the electorate and pretend to be something more than that, well theyll be accountable for that.
WONG: Well Ron, hes conveniently ignoring the fact that none of this happened when they were in Government. Paid parental leave which weve delivered never delivered by the Liberal Party.
MORRISON: Youve got a half-scheme there Penny.
WONG: Pay equity provisions well if you want to argue about your scheme Scott, Im very happy to talk about the extra taxation of the company sector, extra tax on big companies.
JOURNALIST: But Minister, it was part of your platform though. It was part of your platform.
WONG: Absolutely, absolutely. And weve delivered. We have delivered the changes in the Act which enable this to occur. Is Scott really suggesting that it is wrong for the Government to make the very obvious point that this, like any other claim any other claim has to be assessed...
MORRISON: Im not making that point Penny. Im not making that point at all.
WONG: ...against the context of our commitment to bring the budget back to surplus.
MORRISON: Im not making that point, Penny.
WONG: Im pleased to hear it.
MORRISON: Im making the point that Labor goes out there and pretends to be one thing, and then the realities of Government hit them and they know that thats not possible.
WONG: Thats a lie.
MORRISON: And weve seen that across a range of issues and you need to be accountable for the impressions you make in the electorate.
WONG: And Im very happy to be accountable for paid parental leave and for provisions in the Act...
MORRISON: Sure. What about the NBN? Will we see the report?
WONG: Yes, Ive said that. Im very happy to be accountable for the NBN.
MORRISON: Why not now? Why not before we go back to Parliament?
WONG: If you would let me finish, I have outlined that. What is interesting here is what Scott is arguing for is something that never happened under their government.
MORRISON: Oh were going to blame the former government now.
WONG: Let me finish mate, come on. I know you want to cut me off when I am making a good point. I know Im on a winner when he interrupts me.
MORRISON: Its just we always go back to the...
JOURNALIST: Well, Im going to interrupt both of you in a moment!
MORRISON: The public have heard all of that Penny.
WONG: You didnt release the business cases of a whole range of Government business enterprises when you were in Government.
MORRISON: This is $43 billion, Penny.
WONG: Exactly and thats why we said we will do it. And we will also consider it carefully because it is $43 billion...
MORRISON: Conveniently when the Parliament has risen.
WONG: ...and it is $18 billion over the forward estimates. We will consider it carefully. We will release it. We are not going to release it without having had the opportunity to consider a very large document carefully and to consider the market and commercial sensitivities in that document.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly, Ive got a topic here that I bet I can get both of you to agree on. Are politicians worth this pay rise they are getting?
WONG: Who wants to go first on that?
MORRISON: Youre the Finance Minister, Penny. Ill let you go first.
WONG: (laughs) Thanks for that, thats so courteous isnt it? Look I think I dont know about others but Im sure most of us would say this: I dont think people looked at how much we were paid when we wanted to stand for Parliament. People stand for Parliament for other reasons.
On pay, Ill tell you my personal view is that I just want someone else to decide. Because I think once it gets into this political arena, it puts everybody into a difficult position. I think if the independent tribunal decides it, I think thats the best way to deal with it.
MORRISON: I agree with Penny. Politicians dont go into this for the money. It should be set by an independent tribunal and were all happy to live with that.
JOURNALIST: : Lucky were all here to serve the community. Thank you very much both of you for being here this morning. Penny Wong and Scott Morrison, we appreciate your time on the morning news.
MORRISON: Thanks Ron.
WONG: Good to speak with you.