21 October 2018
Transcript - #2018048, 2018

Interview with David Speers, Speers on Sunday, Sky News

Subjects: Wentworth by-election; emissions reductions; Australia’s embassy in Israel; and strengthening penalties for white collar crime.

DAVID SPEERS:

Thanks very much for your time.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you, David.

DAVID SPEERS:

So why did this happen?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as you know, we've had a pretty tough couple of months in Canberra and what was seen is the Liberal Party focus on its own internal debates. And when that occurs, the public mark you down. This is a deeply disappointing result; we will cop it on the chin. There is no sugar coating the result.

But, the people of Wentworth have sent us a message and we are listening to that, and we have heard it loud and clear. And that is, focus on delivering for them on the issues that matter to them, that is jobs, that's higher wages, that's more trade deals, that's the essential services that they rely on.

DAVID SPEERS:

So, this vote was about punishing the Liberal Party over the tearing down of Malcolm Turnbull?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We were punished, absolutely, the public in Wentworth were angry and what we saw was their popular local member, and the Prime Minister of Australia, lose his job and as a result he resigned from the seat and we were punished for that.

DAVID SPEERS:

And do you, as part of the leadership team, as the Deputy Liberal Leader, offer any apology to the Australian people for that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, what I can say to the Australian people and to the people of Wentworth, is that we are back to work and that we will re-double our efforts to deliver to them on the issues that are important for them.

DAVID SPEERS:

But is it that easy to move on from this? As you say, voters have punished you for this. I appreciate you weren't responsible for bringing down Malcolm Turnbull, but as Deputy Leader, you are part of the leadership now of the Party. Certainly those who were responsible are offering no apology. How do voters get a sense that you do actually acknowledge this was a mistake?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, look. Those events are in the past and the people of Wentworth have spoken on them. But we have also seen the Government delivering on its promises to the Australian people at the last election. And I am talking specifically about the economy; creating more than one million new jobs. This week or the week that has just been…

DAVID SPEERS:

[Inaudible] no credit for this?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I think they were angry in Wentworth because of the result of the leadership change…

DAVID SPEERS:

So how did you acknowledge that response to that anger?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as I said, we will not be focusing on internal debates. What we will be focusing on is…

DAVID SPEERS:

No apology?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…is on delivering them. Well, of course the events of eight weeks ago did not put the Liberal Party's best foot forward and I understand the people's anger, but I also…

DAVID SPEERS:

But will you say sorry on behalf of the Liberal Party?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, look, we can say sorry, but at the end of the day it is the results that matter and the results are the delivering on the jobs, delivering on the essential services, delivering on our commitments at the election.

DAVID SPEERS:

Kerryn Phelps certainly campaigned very strongly on climate change, along with other groups, 'Get Up' and so on, was climate change part of this vote?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it is clearly an important issue for the people of Wentworth, but our policies have been settled for some time under Malcolm Turnbull and under Scott Morrison. We have seen emissions come down to their lowest level in 28 years. We have a suite of policies, the Emissions Reduction Fund, the National Energy Productivity Plan, the Renewable Energy Target. And what we have seen is emissions come down as a result of our policies, but at the same time we are moving towards meeting and beating our targets.

DAVID SPEERS:

But emissions have gone up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, in the electricity sector they have gone down. With the Emissions Reduction Fund, we have contracted 190 million tonnes of abatement…

DAVID SPEARS:

But overall emissions [inaudible] have gone up.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, on a per capita and GDP level, they are at the lowest in 28 years.

DAVID SPEERS:

But, I am not wrong in saying that emissions have gone up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, not from our 2005 levels, not from our commitments under Paris and we have actually improved significantly, David, on the abatement task when we first came to government.

DAVID SPEERS:

Okay, but was there a message last night to the government that voters, at least in this seat, want you to do more?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look I think the message from the voters in Wentworth was that you are punished for the events of recent weeks with the leadership…

DAVID SPEERS:

Not climate change?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, look, the issue of climate change is important to the people of Wentworth, the government has a suite of policies on that, but we will not reduce emissions at the expense of people's power bills…

DAVID SPEERS:

So this won't shift your approach?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we are not going to move from the policies that we have and our determination to not only reduce emissions, but also to reduce power prices.

DAVID SPEERS:

And what are those policies to reduce emissions?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as I said, we have a National Energy Productivity Plan, which is designed to boost energy productivity by 40 per cent by 2030. We have an Emissions Reduction Fund, which had over $2 billion in it…

DAVID SPEERS:

Which has nearly run out, will you top that up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, there is $250 million in it. Those are future decisions for Cabinet, but we've also got a Renewable Energy Target, and a suite of other policies.

DAVID SPEERS:

Alright, was there also, I mean another big issue during the week, of course, was the government shifting position on Australia's embassy in Israel, floating the idea at least that it might be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Did that backfire, do you think as a political tactic in Wentworth?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

No and I think, firstly, it wasn't a political tactic. The reality is, as Scott Morrison has explained, there was a major vote at the United Nations that Australia had to make a decision on and it was therefore timely to announce our position on swapping…

DAVID SPEERS:

It wasn't necessary though, there would be plenty of votes at the UN where we've, Australia's voted, you know, with Israel in a minority on things like this.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But David the same people who would criticise us for making this announcement about Australia Israel relations a week before Wentworth would have been the same ones who criticised us for making the same announcement a week after Wentworth.

The reality is Israel, as part of any two states solution, would see West Jerusalem as its capital. Australia has embassies and high commissions in over eighty countries. Israel is an anomaly in that we don't have our embassy in their capital.

DAVID SPEERS:

But, Australia's position for decades has been that we wouldn't shift the embassy or agree to shift the embassy to Jerusalem until the final stages of any two state solution. In other words it would be part of the negotiation, Israel would have to, I mean both sides have to give something don't they to achieve a two state solution. What has Israel given for Australia to suggest this?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well two things. Firstly what Scott Morrison said is this that we have not changed our position on the two state solution and what he has done is begun a process in relation to the embassy and I think that is really important no defined positions have actually been taken. What he has done is begun a process. And the second point is the one that Dave Sharma has repeatedly made, and he is someone of standing having been a former Australian Ambassador to Israel, indeed appointed by the Labor Government, is that the negotiations to date have been at a stalemate, and what you do is you need something that is going to break that stalemate, and that moving…

DAVID SPEERS:

And Israel doesn't have to give anything for it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well of course, as part of a two state solution there is going to give and take from both sides. But when you've got Hamas and Hezbollah and some of the groups on the Palestinian sides still threatening, you know, very aggressive action towards Israel, it's very hard to get both sides to the table.

DAVID SPEERS:

So you would like to see the embassy moved?

JOSH FRYEDENBERG:

Well look, that is a decision for government into the future. But know we have a process underway.

DAVID SPEERS:

Now, you do now face a hung parliament. Are you sure you have the confidence of the house to be in government?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well the first thing I'd say on that is that Julia Gillard and Labor governed for three years with only 72 seats in the parliament and we now have 75, and we already have had constructive discussions with some of

the crossbenchers, and a number of them have made it very clear that they want the government to run it's full term.

So we will be getting back to work straight away, continuing those discussions with the crossbenchers. But what Australia needs is stability, and we are delivering on the economy, we are ensuring that Australians remains safe and secure, and will continue to prosecute that…

DAVID SPEERS:

Have you received or sought any assurances since last night's result in Wentworth?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well look there are ongoing discussions with crossbenchers, but David as you know they've made it clear, a number of them have made it clear, they want the government to fulfil its full term.

DAVID SPEERS:

That's a, that's one thing to make that clear before you are in a hung parliament, now you are. Will you be seeking a more concrete and public assurance from the crossbenchers?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well clearly we will be seeking assurances that we'll continue to govern, and that we will continue to have that stability for the economy and for the Parliament consistent with some of the previous statements.

DAVID SPEERS:

I mean Scott Morrison amongst others did warn that if we saw this result we've now seen we would be in a period of instability and chaos. Is he right?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we are not going to be in a situation of chaos. What we are going to be is in a new world, with [inaudible] clear majority on the floor of the house. But that being said, history shows that governments without clear majority, can run for a number of years and obviously we want to fulfil our term and win the next election and continue to deliver for the people of Australia.

DAVID SPEERS:

Labor says we need an election now.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well of course they would and Bill Shorten can take no comfort out of last night's result, he couldn't even show his face in Wentworth, which says a lot about his popularity within the electorate.

DAVID SPEERS:

So this doesn't shift election timing, plans?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Not from the government's perspective.

DAVID SPEERS:

When will there be an election?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well obviously next year is the scheduled timing of the election.

DAVID SPEERS:

Do you think March? Or do you think April?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I didn't bring my crystal ball into the studio.

DAVID SPEERS:

Look, a final one away from all of this. You are announcing today that you are going to go ahead with the recommendations from the corporate regulator ASIC for much tougher penalties on corporate criminals.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Absolutely, as you know the Royal Commission is still yet to deliver its final report which is due in February of next year. But what we are preceding with is increasing the penalties both civil and criminal on those accused of corporate crimes and that is important. The penalties for civil penalties will increase up to tenfold and the criminal penalties will double.

DAVID SPEERS:

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Deputy Liberal Leader, thank you very much for joining us.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Pleased to be with you David.