Interview 2CC Canberra Breakfast

Interview 2CC Canberra Breakfast Main Image

By David Smith MP

22 September 2020


SUBJECTS: Upcoming Budget; Energy Policy; National Intuitions; Ice cream preference
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Welcome to our political panel that we do on a Tuesday. Joining us, as he does, the man with the second coolest name in Australian politics ACT Liberal, Senator Zed Seselja.

ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR: Good morning, Stephen. How are you?

CENATIEMPO: Very very well, mate. And joining us for the first time, the member for Bean representing the Labor Party, David Smith. G'day David.

DAVID SMITH, LABOR MEMBER FOR BEAN: Thanks, Stephen. I knew you couldn't have been talking about me having the second coolest name in Australian politics.

SESELJA: But I think it's a cool name, David.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, it's very cool. Nobody's ever going to misspell it David like mine or Zed's

SMITH: True, what about Brendan Smyth?

SESELJA: Well, he's added a Y, so you know, it complicates it.

CENATIEMPO: Just to be difficult. Zed I want to start with you this morning. We're expecting a fairly big spending federal budget next month. Some of the ideas on the table, bringing forward tax cuts, a boost for pensioners, incentives for businesses to employ more staff. The spending though, a very 'illiberal' budget, I would have thought.

SESELJA: Well, look, it's going to be a budget that's very focused on jobs. And, Stephen, whilst I'm not going to make any budget announcements today, there's no doubt that just as we grew jobs in the economy before COVID and just as we've since COVID been working very hard to get jobs back into the economy and we've helped to save a lot of jobs, the budget will be focused on that. So obviously, we're already delivering significant tax cuts. I always get a bit concerned when people say that tax cuts are spending, tax cuts are not spending, tax cuts are returning the money, some of the money of the Australian people to them to allow them to spend their own money in the way they see fit. We're delivering already some of the largest tax cuts in our history, but we're also working on a whole range of other measures to support the economy and to support jobs. So all around skills were we've got big business and unions coming together, you know, affordable and reliable energy, supporting housing construction, that will very much be the focus of the budget to make sure Australians can get back into work and our economy can continue to get back on track.

CENATIEMPO: David, how does that play? How does that sort of put pressure on Labor, given that a lot of the policies that the Liberal Party's probably going to push for this next budget would be, I guess, ideas that your party would support, but you've still somehow got to play opposition?

SMITH: Well well, I don't think you do have to just play opposition. And I think clearly there's a real need for the budget to focus on protection of jobs as well as creating secure jobs, not just creating any jobs, making sure that we create secure jobs. If we want to do that in the long term, we have to make sure that we're also training and upskilling Australians. So looking at vocational education, apprenticeships, but also looking at our universities, it's critical that, you know, we provide support to those, support and help to those who need to pay the bills and put food on the table. So I think, you know, at times I don't think it's just a simple game of opposition and we may not always have the same approach of getting to the destination. But I think jobs has got to be the focus of the budget.

CENATIEMPO: One thing that you do have big differences on is energy policy. Angus Taylor is going to today announce more details of the government's energy plans following last week's announcements on fuel, security and gas. There's almost a split personality in the Labor Party over this. How do you overcome that, David?

SMITH: Well, I think it's interesting, too, to talk about split personalities, because I know I'll be listening very closely to Angus Taylor today. And if this was take two on the government's energy policy and, you know, they've been trying to get to an energy policy for the last seven years, then that wouldn't be a bad thing. But we're looking at here at a take 20. And if .....

SESELJA: You're still not answering the questions, you're not answering the question, David,

SMITH: I didn't realise you were interviewing me Zed.

SESELJA: I was just wondering if you're going to answer the question.

CENATIEMPO: Oh, come on. Come on.

SMITH: If you want to talk about split personality. I think one of the great things is it's good to see that the government's thinking in areas like hydrogen. If you go back to what the former resources minister, Matt Canavan, said last year about the hydrogen industry, he was telling us that it was snake oil and, you know, any commercial use of hydrogen is probably decades away. I think the reality, the reality is, is that there's actually probably a lot more nuance in terms of positions. But look where we're going to be listening pretty closely to Angus Taylor today. And I guess we're looking I guess particularly we're interested in seeing where that technology roadmap is going to go and where the detail of it is, because that's something that's been missing.

CENATIEMPO: Given that Joel Fitzgibbon is very vocal on this and represents an electorate that is right at the very coalface, pardon the pun, why is he being treated like a pariah in your party, David?

SMITH: I don't think Joel has, there's room for some robust debate, and in most cases, Joel and Mark are pretty much on the same page. But look at some of the differences in energy have been just as starkly obvious in the government. Let's face it, we lost we lost our last prime minister over a failure in energy policy.

SESELJA: Well can I just if I can come in there, because he's he's saying that on the same page, just last week, we announced our policies around gas and we had Mark Butler and Anthony Albanese bagging it and saying it's terrible and it's not creating jobs, et cetera. And we had Joel Fitzgibbon saying that it's actually the Labor Party's plan. So they were hardly on the same page. But to David's credit, I mean, David, I think is part of the Otis group which which goes and talks about more sensible policy within the Labor Party on energy and good on him. I think that's really important.

SMITH: Firstly in relation to that, I'm not actually a member of the so-called Otis group at all.

SESELJA: I thought you went along, I thought you went along.

SMITH: That's not true

SESELJA: Is that not right? Didn't go along to dinners?

SMITH: No, didn't didn't go along and was named incorrectly. And, really there were parts of the gas industry who actually said elements of what came out last week were just, were effectively a thought bubble. So it's I think one of the problems that we often see in this space is that there's a lot of spin, but no substance.

CENATIEMPO: Well, I'm not going to tell you that...

SMITH: A lot of sizzle but not much sausage.

CENATIEMPO: Neither, neither of you are fair dinkum on this. The Liberal Party was fair dinkum. They'd be they'd be out there saying, we're going to build this gas plant now and we're going to build a new coal fired power station. If the Labor Party was fair dinkum about reducing emissions, you'd be embracing nuclear power. So you both lose on this one as far as I'm concerned.

SESELJA: But Stephen, on the gas...

SMITH: We can respectfully disagree with that too

SESELJA: What we've said, is that is that that capacity will be built. And if the private sector won't build the capacity to replace Liddell then we will ensure that it's delivered through a gas plant. Now, what we want to see is the outcome. We're not ideological about how it's delivered, but we want to see the outcome. And the outcome includes having reliable, affordable energy and indeed meeting our emissions reductions targets. And so we've we've laid out that plan and look at the private sector comes to the party and delivers that kind of dispatchable power. Well, good luck to them. That'll be fantastic, because in the end, we want good outcomes for consumers, good outcomes for manufacturing and business whilst delivering on our environmental promises.

CENATIEMPO: David, I'm going to throw one out that I think you can both agree on. You've been calling for more federal government support for Canberra's national institutions like the National Museum, etc. Zed I imagine that you can get behind this as well. I mean, these are important cultural icons that we have here in Canberra that no other part of the country has. This should be a real bipartisan approach.

SESELJA: Yeah, look, I've had a lot to say over this over the years. I mean, I think efficiency dividends, which happen under both sides of politics, provide particular challenges for our small institutions. My father spent most of his career at the National Library and I spent time on the board of the National Library. And I know the challenges it faces. But in having this conversation with which I think is a really good conversation to have, we shouldn't ignore the massive investments we're making right now to some of those very institutions. So, you know, the 500 million dollar expansion of the war memorial, 80 million dollars extra for the National Gallery. We've seen just recently extra money, eight dollars million for Trove, which is at the National Library. So, yes, I agree that there are great challenges for our institutions. I think it's important that we support them. I think that efficiency dividends are challenging for them. But I think these huge investments that we're making are also going to be a huge boost for some of those institutions as well.


SMITH: Yes Stephen look at this year, this year for a number of reasons on top of the efficiency dividend, there's been real pressure on the Canberra's cultural institutions. And, look, we're seeing some significant staff cuts at not very not very large, not very large organisations. There's been a report sitting on the shelves now for more than 15 months with some bipartisan recommendations about the way forward, including a different approach to the efficiency dividend. One of the most immediate matters of concern is that organisations like the National Archives, the National Film and Sound Archives and also AIATSIS have got hundreds of thousands of hours of material on magnetic tape, which effectively we need to digitize by 2025 or we're going to lose that. So that's one of the recommendations that we need to actually move on really quickly. And otherwise there's going to be a significant amount of our history we are going to lose.

CENATIEMPO: Now, I was going to talk to you about international rivals, but we've run out of time. So one quick question before we go. Zed Seselja, ice cream in a cup or a cone?



SMITH: Oh my goodness, we're on the same page. I'm in a cup as well.

CENATIEMPO: Good on you guys. We'll talk again next time. Thanks very much, guys. Thanks.