Senator Mitch Fifield
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES
MANAGER OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS IN THE SENATE
Senator for Victoria
Sky News AM Agenda
With Kieran Gilbert
19 August 2014
E & OE
Subjects: Relationship with Indonesia, Budget negotiations, NDIS
I’m joined now live from Melbourne by the Liberal frontbencher Senator Mitch Fifield. Senator Fifield first to you and this news that’s been confirmed this morning to us by the Foreign Minister that agreement with Jakarta has been reached and that she’ll be signing it with her counterpart within days.
Well Kieran, we’re close to that situation of being able to sign an agreement with Indonesia on a range of intelligence matters. We have a good, close and productive relationship with Indonesia. Julie Bishop has furthered that relationship as Foreign Minister and we look forward to that relationship becoming even closer.
I want you to respond if you can to some of the comments made by Christine Milne this morning about the Government needing to have a rethink on the budget and just where you’re going to generate the revenue from. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said there is no alternative being put up by the opposition parties, well she’s trying to drive an alternative starting with the banks.
Look Kieran I don’t think she really is trying to present alternatives. As usual, the Greens expect everyone other than themselves to compromise. In fact if I closed my eyes when Christine was talking before, I could have been listening to Wayne Swan. What she wants is to keep the mining tax. What she wants is to reintroduce the carbon tax in some form. The Australian Greens, it looks like, are dealing themselves out, just as the Australian Labor Party are. The policy of the Greens, the policy of the Labor Party is simply to block all of our measures. We inherited a situation Kieran, as you know, where debt was going to, on the path set by the previous government, peak at $667 billion. You know, we are paying $1 billion in interest alone every month. $123 billion of cumulative deficits. This is a situation not of our creation. We are the Government, we’ve put a plan forward, we’ve put a budget forward in order to address that situation. We are going to work hard to get our budget measures through the Parliament. But obviously if there are Senators of good will who have positive propositions, then we’ll sit down and we’ll talk.
Senator Fifield you are now a Minister and a Senator. Before you were a Senator you worked for a number of years for a former Treasurer, Mr. Costello. Do you remember a situation as difficult as this where you’ve got such an intransigent Senate? You’ve got Clive Palmer repeating his opposition last night to the key saving measures like the GP co-payment, like the deregulation of tertiary education. This is a very tough spot, I’ll put it to you, do you remember a comparable situation with the former Treasurer?
I certainly do Kieran, and the common theme here is an intransigent, opportunistic and obstructionist Australian Labor Party. I remember well coming into Government, working for Peter Costello in 1996, each and every savings proposition that we put up then to bring the budget back into balance the Australian Labor Party opposed. It’s the same situation today. And I remember back then…
… You had the numbers on the crossbench, you don’t have them now do you?
Kieran, for the majority of the time of the Howard Government we didn’t have the numbers in the Senate. There was a brief period where we did. But for the majority of the time we did not have the numbers. And for all of the time we were in government, the Labor Party were opposing. So Kieran, this is very familiar territory for me. And the common element is the Australian Labor Party not accepting responsibility for the mess that they helped to create. Back then it was a $96 billion debt. We’ve got an even bigger debt now. But the common thread is Labor Party irresponsibility.
But when I say that you had the numbers, you had the numbers in the crossbench to get the chunk of your savings agenda through. It looks like $40 billion in this savings agenda won’t get through because of the roadblock on the crossbench. How do you see a way through here with Palmer reiterating his opposition to those key measures? You need him on board.
What I remember from the period after ’96 is that the then crossbench Senators would often express a range of views on different pieces of the budget. We would sit down, we would talk to them. And as a result of doing so we were very successful in getting large parts of our budgets through. Similar situation here. Crossbench Senators are expressing a range of views. We’re sitting down with them. We’re talking to them. And I’m confident that we can work with the crossbench that we have, with the eight crossbench Senators and get significant elements of our budget through. But look, what we won’t do Kieran is compromise on the fundamentals of our budget. If crossbench colleagues have positive suggestions then of course we will sit down and we’ll talk.
You’re also the Minister responsible for the Disability Insurance Scheme. I want to ask you about this to wrap up our discussion this morning. The 4th quarterly report has been released into the NDIS and reading through it there are some very encouraging signs here that this does look, and the operation around looks like it’s becoming more efficient.
Kieran it’s the 4th quarter, a year under our belt of the operation of the scheme. It’s still relatively early days. There has been a slight trend up in average package costs to about $34,600 but that is still below what the Productivity Commission anticipated average package costs would be. The length of time that it takes to have a person receiving a package is coming down and there is a high level of satisfaction among participants in the scheme. So positive trends at this point in time. But we still have to be very mindful that this is early days. We’ve got to learn lessons from the trial sites and make any necessary adjustments before we move to full national rollout.
Indeed. Well it’s good to see the progress being made in that very important area of public policy. Senator Fifield thank you for your time, appreciate it.
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