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720 ABC Perth Radio: Drive With John McGlue

McGlue: Oh to be a fly on the wall at the Liberal Party meeting room in Canberra, the WA MPs lead by Christian Porter, the former state Treasurer, well he was taking up the fight for a rethink on how the GST is carved up among the states and pointing out the bleeding obvious that WA is getting an unfair and falling share.

Well it all went well apparently until Treasurer Joe Hockey fired up and he launched, we understand, a stinging attack on the Premier Colin Barnett which in turn led to interventions from the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the most senior Liberal from WA in the Federal Parliament. Even the Prime Minister got involved saying Mr Barnett ran a good Government. All pretty fructuous among the Federal Liberals today and on a day, of course, when the Mining Tax got repealed but they should’ve been pretty happy about that and among the people in the room today is my guest on drive the relatively new Liberal Senator for Western Australia Linda Reynolds. Welcome to the program.

Reynolds: Good afternoon John.

McGlue: What happened in there today?

Reynolds: Well John firstly as you know I can’t talk to you about exactly what happened in the party room. But what I can do, as you’ve just said, it was a brilliant day in the Senate today for Western Australia with the repeal of the Mining Tax going through on top of the repeal of the Carbon Tax.

So, it was a brilliant day for Western Australia and it again just demonstrated, I think, that all Western Australian Liberals, we are beating as one voice and one team.

McGlue: Can I ask you what the Government had to give Clive Palmer to get him across the line to get his vote today in the Senate? What did you have to give him?

Reynolds: Well it wasn’t actually a matter of giving him anything, as you know there has been some sensible negotiations going over the last few weeks led by the treasurer and our own Mathias Cormann. And I understand the Government has agreed to delay the abolition date of the associated spending measures with the mining tax which were completely unfunded. So what we have done is we’ve agreed to delay the abolition until after the next election so that then means that all Australians, we can take these issues back to the election and Australians can have a say.

McGlue: What is the cost of that for the taxpayers?

Reynolds: At the moment it is not quite as much as we wanted but the total net savings in relation to the measures we have passed today is $10 billion –

McGlue: No but in terms of the compromises you have made with the Palmer United Party. What kind of dollar figure do you put on those?

Reynolds: Look I understand it is about $6.5 billion in the short term but with the changes in the longer term do actually even out. So again, it is, I think, a brilliant outcome for all Western Australians that we have gotten rid of this mining tax.

McGlue: Why would you do it if there was such a hit to the treasury coffers, would you do the deal especially when we keep getting told there is a budget emergency?

Reynolds: Well this was a tax, if you remember John, that doesn’t actually raise any tax and not only is it a tax that doesn’t raise tax but it is actually a tax that costs West Australian industry and West Australian jobs dearly.

McGlue: No I understand that but if you are deferring some spending cuts as a result of a deal with Clive Palmer why would you do that, why would you compromise if there is such an important task in addressing the budget emergency?

Reynolds: That is exactly John, with respect, that is exactly what we have done. We have actually dealt with, in a very sensible way, the Palmer United Party and some other independents, to get this change through and to get through a range of other budget related measures. So don’t forget over 90 per cent of the budget has now gone through, what we still have to do is we’ve got some longer term fiscal measures which we have to keep talking with the minor parties over the next six months for the longer term of the budget but this is unequivocally good news.

McGlue: It’s 16 past 5 on ABC Drive Linda Reynolds is my guest on the program. She was in the Senate today. Expressing happiness as you can hear that the mining tax has been repealed. Many people in Western Australia, the mining industry, today the Chamber of Minerals and Energy really celebrating the fact that the Mining Tax is gone and hoping it will see a rejuvenation of the investment in the mining game in WA.

Can I return to the GST issue with Senator Reynolds because I know you spoke about the GST issue in your maiden speech recently. I would’ve thought it’s firmly in the public interest for people to know what WA Liberals are thinking about the carve-up issue so can you tell me what Christian Porter did say today on behalf of the West Australian MPs, and I guess on behalf of the West Australian people.

Reynolds: Good try John but as you know I can’t talk about the deliberations within the party room per se, but what I can do is have a talk to you about what the West Australian Liberals are doing in relation to the GST.

McGlue: Here you have a Liberal MP representing the people of Western Australia who has told the party room today, as we understand it, that he has been delegated, if you like, to speak on behalf of the WA MPs to the broader party room. It’s a pretty serious issue – all we hear about in Perth from your Liberal colleague Colin Barnett so why on earth can’t you tell us exactly what your pitch is to the Liberal Party.

Reynolds: I can absolutely tell you what we are talking about. Western Australian Senators and Members from the Liberal Party are speaking with one voice. We are all saying, as you are saying, we are getting an absolutely raw deal, you well know the figures that if GST was distributed on a per capita basis Western Australia would be about $3.7 billion better off. Last financial year we’re distributing a lot of that to the other states which really has to stop and is not fair. Now we all know that and I spoke on this again in the Senate. But the question really is now that we all know that this is a problem – but the question is with $123 billion worth of debt left by Labor and the budget, and $1 billion a month on interest payments. The real question I think for us all now has to turn to what can we do about it? And this is what the West Australian Members and Senators are now raising with the rest of our colleagues is a couple of things.

First of all we know that if Western Australia does well the rest of Australia does well and that we know how to generate wealth, we know how to be productive and competitive. So we need to put as a team on behalf of Western Australia this argument more prominently. But what I am so excited about is, and this is what I talked about last week in the Parliament, is that Tony Abbott has released a White Paper on the Reform of the Federation. Now that title might not grab most of your listeners up front, but it is, I think, a once in a generation opportunity for all West Australians to get engaged in this debate and this discussion, to think about where the weaknesses are in our current state and federal relations.

McGlue: Well what about getting the treasurer Joe Hockey engaged in the conversation because it has been reported today that Julie Bishop had to repeatedly intervene in an attempt to cool down Mr Hockey and calm the situation during the discussion on the GST. Can you tell me Linda Reynolds, why was it not possible for you guys to have a calm and composed discussion about this given how important it is to the people of Western Australia. Why wasn’t that possible?

Reynolds: Absolutely we had very constructive discussions with the treasurer and with the finance minister.

McGlue: – Was it calm and composed?

Reynolds: I didn’t say they weren’t calm and composed and we are discussing this regularly. And in relation to the Treasurer he absolutely does understand the importance of the West Australian economy on the rest of the country but as I said he is left with $123 billion worth of debt that he has to deal with which is actually going to increase to over $600 million if we didn’t do anything. But what the Treasurer has done is he and Mathias Cormann are going to announce another White Paper shortly on reform of taxation measures. So between these two white papers it is finally an opportunity for us to have our say, not only becoming more of a competitive federalism so we don’t get dragged down by the other states, so that we can actually compete, and keep the benefits. But the Government is now also saying it is time to have a look at how we distribute revenue between the states. So it is time I think for all of us in Western Australia to start looking constructively about how we can have input into making sure that these reviews have an outcome that we want.

McGlue: Thanks for your time today. I tried every which way to tell me what happened in that room but you won’t. [Laughs]
Reynolds: You can read between the lines John we have had a very constructive discussion in a number of forums on GST.

McGlue: I can see you are reading between the lines Senator Reynolds. It’s been reported a hell of a lot differently elsewhere. Thanks for your time today.

Reynolds: Thank you very much John.

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