9 September 2018
Transcript - #2018009, 2018

Interview with Barrie Cassidy, Insiders, ABC TV

Subjects: National Accounts; power prices; emissions reductions; Wagga Wagga by-election; the Liberal Party; Peter Dutton; and Jewish New Year.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Josh Frydenberg, welcome.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

We'll start with the National Accounts. So the Prime Minister has conceded this, that there aren't many Australians who aren't feeling the benefits. Why is that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

There are Australians who are doing it tough, like the drought-stricken farmers that the Prime Minister has made a priority of helping, like the long-term unemployed and like families dealing with power bills that are still too high.

But the National Accounts numbers were very positive because at 3.4 per cent our economy is growing faster than any G7 country and at the fastest rate since the height of the mining boom. And what is particularly encouraging about these numbers is that we're creating more than 1,000 jobs a day and that the growth is broadly based.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Those figures, of course, were Malcolm Turnbull's numbers?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, as his Treasurer, can take a lot of credit for it because you don't get results like this by chance. The economy doesn't run on autopilot.

That's why Bill Shorten is a huge risk to the Australian economy because he wants to slug Australian families, Australian businesses, Australian pensioners with an additional $200 billion worth of tax and that will put our growth trajectory in jeopardy.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What impact will these figures have on the surplus? Will you be hitting a surplus earlier than perhaps your forecast?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well as you know, we will get to a balanced budget in 2019-2020, with a good surplus after that. These are better-than-expected numbers, better than what the market forecast, and we'll update the final Budget outcome later this month and then we will have MYEFO, which is traditionally around December, which will take into account how the economy is going.

There will be another set of National Accounts before then in December and that will obviously update the 2019-2020 numbers.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But this does suggest you can hit that target earlier?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, I'm not going to speculate as to what it will actually do to the final bottom line. But these are really positive, encouraging results, that, again, shows the Australian economy is resilient, that the growth is broadly based, that we're creating a record number of jobs and that Australians are benefitting from the Coalition's good economic management.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You mentioned the MYEFO. What then after that? Is there a prospect of a mini Budget before the election?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well look, I'm not going to speculate, Barrie, as to what would happen after that, other than saying MYEFO is an important economic statement. It's traditionally done around December and it follows what will be the December National Accounts.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But it also follows, doesn't it, that you have to have an election by early May, so you can't have the traditional Budget in the run-up to the election. So you want a mini Budget, or perhaps even, is there a prospect of a full Budget, but delivered earlier?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Again, I am not going to speculate about what will occur or not occur next year, other than to say that these are positive economic numbers. We have seen broadly based growth. It's at risk from the Labor Party and we'll update our forecasts, not only in the final Budget outcome, but in MYEFO at the end of the year.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But I would have thought as the new Treasurer, you would surely like to go to an election with your Budget?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I'll keep my thoughts to between conversations between me and the Prime Minister.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Alright, the National Energy Guarantee is dead, declared so by the Prime Minister. Now, given how hard you fought for that, how does that make you feel?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, no-one is more disappointed than I am about that, because a lot of work went into the National Energy Guarantee. And I put on record my appreciation to the Energy Security Board for their work on that.

But as Bismarck said Barrie, politics is the art of the possible, and it is very clear that that legislation couldn't proceed so our focus now turns to the reliability aspect of the National Energy Guarantee, which is very much needed, and reducing prices.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You got the policy through the Party Room three times.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We did.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

With significant numbers.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We did.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And it is dead.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

And it is. But what we are now focusing on is the equally important component of the National Energy Guarantee, which is around reliability. And what you will see is an unequivocal statement and effort from the Coalition to reduce people's power bills.

Already, prices have started to come down from the 1st of July in South Australia, Queensland and in New South Wales. And we are implementing the ACCC's recommendations to support new generation and also to ensure that there is a standard offer so that people's power bills are not as complicated.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But no mention of emissions. Now, Malcolm Turnbull said on his way out that emissions are just too hard for the Liberal Party to deal with. Can you seriously go to the next election without a policy to reduce emissions?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We do have a policy to reduce emissions. What we have seen is, emissions have come down…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What is that policy?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we have got the Emissions Reduction Fund, you've still got the Renewable Energy Target that is in place, we have the National Energy Productivity Plan…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

That is a target, that is not a policy.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, actually it is implemented – it is legislated. What we have actually got Barrie is a suite of measures that take into account the built environment, that take into account the land sector, that take into account the electricity sector and as you know, on business as usual we'll see emissions come down by 24 per cent in the electricity sector. But emissions on a per capita…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Only in the electricity sector.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Across the economy, emissions on a per capita and GDP basis are the lowest level in 28 years. Now you would like to say that the Coalition has a challenge with emissions. I put to you that this is a challenge that has dogged both sides of politics.

Who could forget Kevin Rudd saying it is the greatest moral challenge of our time? And then Julia Gillard, in the same election cycle, saying no Carbon Tax under a government I lead.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

It doesn't make voters feel any better when you tell me that both sides of politics have screwed up this policy.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well it's the fact. It's a fact that the Parliament…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

That both sides have done that.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It's a fact that the Parliament has failed to deal with this issue over more than a decade. But, what you will hear from us, which you will not hear from the Labor Party, is that we will put reducing people's power bills first – over emissions. You will not hear the Labor Party say that.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So, that is your position – straight out?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

That is our straight out position, unequivocal – we are about reducing people's power bills.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And you think that voters are comfortable with that? That you just put that well ahead of emissions reductions?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I think the people of Australia want to see their power bills come down and they want to see the Government take whatever measure possible to do that.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And you don't think they're interested in emissions reductions?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well of course they are interested in emissions reductions, but we have policies and a track record for doing that. But what we won't do is adopt the reckless targets that the Labor Party have done, and the Labor Party, dare I say it, have not revealed how actually they are going to get their economy wrecking 45 per cent emissions reduction target.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Was the NEG a factor in Malcolm Turnbull's downfall?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as you said it went through the Party Room three times, so it wasn't the factor in his downfall.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What was?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well I'll leave that to the commentators.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

No, you're Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. Just tell the people of Australia why Malcolm Turnbull was sacked?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I think that the focus for the Morrison Government and for all my colleagues is on delivering more jobs, lower taxes and the essential services they need.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Why was he sacked?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I'll leave that to you and the couch to discuss that as part of Insiders.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You've got a leadership role now.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Yep.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So surely it falls to you and Scott Morrison to explain to the country why he was sacked?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, every Australian is more interested in actually getting those essential services in health and in education and in the NDIS that they need, in getting this continuous strong jobs growth, in getting lower taxes, which will be reversed under a Shorten-led Government.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What do you think that the people of Wagga were interested in when they voted the way that they did yesterday. Maybe they were troubled by what's going on at the federal level.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

As you know in this by-election, it was a state by-election, it followed the resignation mid-term of a member under a very dark cloud.

And if I turn your mind back to the Miranda by-election in New South Wales in 2013, again, when a local member resigned mid-term, there was a more than 20 per cent swing against the Liberal Party and a loss. Now clearly, what happened in Canberra doesn't help the overall situation. But if you're looking for cause and effect, it was local factors.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Is there bullying going on in the federal branch of the Liberal Party?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, again, over the past couple of weeks, the whole leadership change, and spill, took its toll on my colleagues. But these are not issues that are again confined to the Liberal Party because you heard on your show last week, Clare O'Neil say there's a toxic culture in Canberra.

And you know that bullying aspects and allegations were involved in the Emma Husar case, and we know that the Greens are notorious if you look back to the Batman by-election. So there is a broader issue here about parliamentary behaviour that I think we all have a…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

That doesn't address the question. Is bullying going on within the Liberal Party?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, any of those sort of discussions, again, will remain internal. We have our whips who have a formal pastoral care role. They sit down with colleagues on issues in relation to relationships, health, staffing or indeed colleague-to-colleague.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Kelly O'Dwyer, Julie Bishop and others don't have any problem saying that there's bullying going on within the Liberal Party. Why do the blokes have a problem declaring that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I think what we do have is a problem in the Liberal Party, which I'm determined and Scott Morrison is determined to address, which is to get more female representation to the Parliament.

And in my first comments to the party room, having been elected Deputy Leader, I said we needed to get more women into safe seats as well as at the top table. And Scott Morrison, in his first Cabinet, saw additional female representation.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Alright, do you want to be the first man then to declare support for quotas?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

No, I don't support quotas but I note that Julie Bishop during the week did not support quotas.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So how do you get there?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We have, as a party, a 50 per cent target for female representation by 2025. We now, and Kelly O'Dwyer has helped to lead this, we now have a fighting fund. We're focused on recruitment, retention, mentoring, which is absolutely critical here, and in order to get more women into these seats.

Now, I have to point out that over the course of the last week, Jane Hume has been reindorsed for the Senate in Victoria. Yesterday, we endorsed two women on our Senate ticket in Tasmania and we have also seen other females in Mayo and McNamara come on board.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Your numbers are 25 per cent – 25 per cent women. You set a target, you don't meet it, so what? What happens?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I think we're all focused on improving those numbers and let's not forget, the Liberal Party is a party of firsts when it comes to women. We were the party which had the first female in Cabinet, the first female Finance Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, and, obviously, that is a very proud record that we want to continue.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Julia Banks obviously feel she's being bullied and the when she makes it allegation, there's a counter claim against her, and suddenly, a document is leaked, a campaign document, that suggests that she treated volunteers and staff poorly. Can you imagine how she feels? She makes a complaint and then that's how she's treated?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Julia Banks, who is a very good friend of mine, and has been a wonderful colleague, and a very effective local member, and she deserves an enormous amount of credit for being the only Liberal to take a seat off the Labor Party at last election.

She has obviously had a tough time, and I've been speaking to her regularly. Now, that report in the newspaper about those allegations against her, according to the Liberal Party of Victoria, and their statement, has no credibility, and that should be a line under that.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

When you were speaking to her, I presume very recently.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Yes.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Did you need to persuade her to stay in politics until the election?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Again, I will keep those conversations private. But what Julia Banks is interested in, is supporting the Liberal Party and ensuring that Bill Shorten is kept out of Government.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But given the way she has been treated since she made those allegations of bullying, you wouldn't blame her if she walked, would you?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, Julia Banks has one goal, and that's to support Scott Morrison and she's indeed said myself in her statement. That's her focus. She will not allow the people who have tried to bring her down a victory, and she will help ensure that the Coalition wins the next election.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So you're satisfied that she will stay there until the next election?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I am.

BARRY CASSIDY:

She's given you that guarantee?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I have obviously talked to her at length and she's made it very clear that she will be in Parliament next week, she'll be supporting Scott Morrison, as Prime Minister, and the Coalition, and doing everything she can, and indeed, the new candidate in Chisholm when it is pre-selected, and doing everything to keep Bill Shorten out of office. And I have to say, when she was referring to bullying, she also referred to bullying from the other side.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And she'll be sitting next to Julie Bishop on the backbench, as it turns out?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

As you know, Julie Bishop has been the Deputy Leader for 11 years. Scott Morrison offered to her to stay in that role. She's been an outstanding leader, an outstanding role model to millions of Australian women. A fantastic friend and colleague and I have very big shoes to fill in that role.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And do you expect that Peter Dutton is in for a rough week?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the Labor Party has made no secret of that. But you know, the Labor Party has become experts at mud-slinging, but Peter Dutton has been their target.

But Peter has made it very clear, both in and out of the Parliament, answering those related issues, and we do know that he has intervened hundreds of times in his role, including to help a 14-year-old boy with autism come into this country when it was initially blocked; including supporting a Kenyan mother who was going through chemotherapy, who was going to be sent from this country. So he has taken a number of humanitarian steps in using those interventions, and we support him.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

As it turns out, tomorrow would have been your first day in Question Time as Treasurer, and you won't be there?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I won't, because it's the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah and Scott Morrison and the party have been very understanding, and Michael Danby won't be there, Julian Leeser won't be there. So other Jewish members of the team won't be there. But it's a part of my faith and I'm glad I'm able to adhere to that.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Has the Labor Party been understanding as well, you'll get a pair?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Yes, they have.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

You will. Thank you for coming in this morning, appreciate it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Pleased to be with you.