Transcript - Senator Chisholm interview with ABC 24 Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett

GREG JENNETT, HOST: All right, let's go to today's political panel now. And with us Labor Front Bencher and Queensland Senator Anthony Chisholm. Anthony's in Cloncurry today and Liberal MP for the Sydney seat of Banks, David Coleman, and joins us from our studios in that city. Now, we want to get pretty swiftly to tax cuts, I promise. But, David, since we're following hot on the heels of Simon Birmingham's remarks there, I know Teena McQueen wouldn't be a household name to most Australians, but do you share Senator Birmingham's view about the inappropriate nature of her comments expressed at the weekend?

DAVID COLEMAN: Look, Greg, I don't know Teena McQueen and I don't tend to get super involved in these sorts of internal matters because there's a lot, much more important things. But Senator Birmingham's comments sound pretty sensible to me, but it's not something that exercises my mind to a great extent.

HOST: All right, we will bank that. Sensible it is. Let's move on to stage three tax cuts. And over to you, Anthony. The Treasurer has thrown open the floodgates and says it's perfectly normal and totally understandable for there to be an internal argument over this. Some are describing it as a brawl in the Labor Caucus. What's going on from where you sit? Are we going to get tweaks changes, modifications or scrapping of these?

SENATOR ANTHONY CHISHOLM: It's interesting spending a couple of days in the northwest of Queensland like I have, and it hasn't really been a focus of conversation up here. So I am aware there has been some discussion down south, but the focus where I've been through, Mount Isa and Cloncurry, has definitely been on more government services and what government can do to support these communities when it comes to health, housing, labour shortages in particular. So I think, from my point of view, the focus of the Government and what we deliver in the budget needs to be focused on delivering for those communities. From what I've heard my colleagues say, there's been no plans to change our position on stage three. I understand that there has been some conversation about it. But I think the important thing for the Australian people to know is that this will be a responsible government that we're going to deliver taking into consideration those important economic factors that are developing around the world. Any responsible government would do it and that's what the Federal Labor government are doing as we prepare to deliver this budget.

HOST: So, noting the feedback that you're getting out on the road there, Anthony Chisholm, is it your view that this is politically sale-able, marketable, this trade-off between a tax cut held back or delayed or modified in some way, traded off against the delivery of much needed government services? This is something you think you can win as an argument with the electorate.

CHISHOLM: I don't really want to get involved in speculation on that, Greg, as I said there's been no plans announced that we're going to change our position on stage three, but it's more, I suppose, reflective of the community feedback I've been getting over the last couple of days since I've been in this part of the world. And it really has been more focused on not so much individuals, but more what support the government can provide to regional communities, which have significant challenges when it comes to housing and the flow on effect from a lack of housing is, it means you can't get that health professional to come and live in town. So it's really practical things like that. That I think are consuming people's thoughts. The cost of living more so than it is the stage three tax cuts.

HOST: All right, David. Well, the common good argument is against, you know, personal hip pocket cost of living relief. I think I know which way you're coming at all of this.

COLEMAN: Well, Greg, this whole sort of discussion at the moment is absolutely outrageous. The Labor Party voted for these tax cuts. They are the law of Australia today. As recently as the day before the election, Anthony Albanese, was talking about these tax cuts and Labor's support for them and this sort of chaotic process where anyone with any vague connection to The Labor Party sort of proffers their view is kind of bizarre. I mean, this has, like, Rudd-Gillard vibes to it Greg, and Jim Chalmers talks about wanting to have a national conversation on tax. I think we know that whenever the conversation ends, we know that Jim's last sentence is going to be, here are your new taxes and that's wrong. It's what The Labor Party always does, it's bad for the economy, and it's a complete backflip on what they promised before the election.

HOST: What about responsiveness to altered circumstances, though? David Coleman you can take your back marker as the election campaign in May, or you can take it from when these were first legislated in the last Parliament, and so much has changed on the Federal Budget since then. They don't, in fiscal terms, quite seem appropriate to our deficit situation.

COLEMAN: No, I don't agree with that at all, Greg. I think they're entirely appropriate. And the budget position is $50 billion better than it was at the time of the election. So, I mean, this is just the usual sort of dressing up of a predetermined outcome. It's very much like the job summit, remember? That was going to be a really interesting national conversation. And the outcome of that national conversation was, let's embed the ACTU in a lot more workplaces. So let's sort of cut to the chase here in terms of what this is about. This is a softening up process and the end outcome will be more tax, it might be in the budget in October, it might be sometime soon after that. But that's what's going to happen, I think we all know that. And that is philosophically very different to what we believe in the Coalition, because we believe that people should keep more of what they earn. That's why we legislated for it. We don't think that someone earning $120 or $130,000 is rich, far from it. And if you're in Sydney trying to pay a mortgage and raise kids, those sorts of salaries do not make you wealthy at all. And so to be walking away from this is appalling.

HOST: All right, well, Anthony, there's a taste test of what you might be confronted by for the next two and a bit years. If you go down this path, is it worth it?

CHISHOLM: Well, I'm not going to answer the speculation on what path we go down. We haven't changed our policy position, but we're certainly not going to be lectured to by the previous government. We have inherited a complete mess. These are the economic circumstances that we're dealing with. We've heard the Treasurer talk about it repeatedly when it comes to the unfunded programs, when it comes to the trillion dollars of debt that we have to deal with as a government, and also the changing economic circumstances around the world. So what the Australian people would observe is that the Federal Labor Government are trying to be responsible and deliver a responsible Government Budget, whereas we're not seeing any of that from the opposition who want to run around scare campaign who are in complete denial about what their record in government was, which was abysmal.

COLEMAN: Well, can I just pick up on that point? This point about the trillion dollars of debt is false. The net debt of Australia is less than $600 billion. Labor voted for every single measure that the government put through in response to COVID. And in addition to that, they wanted to spend an additional $80 billion. You'll recall when we finished up with JobKeeper, they said we shouldn't do that and it would be calamitous for the economy and that would have cost tens of billions of dollars. So facts are relevant. The facts do not support the statement that Anthony just made. But what we're seeing is Labor reverting to type.

HOST: Well, there's certainly some joint ownership over that totalled up number of one trillion. That is true. Can I just switch tack off the economy, though, to both of you, sort of on a social or values question. Andrew Thorburn and his experience with Essendon. Maybe to you first, Anthony. Many questions being raised about where religious freedom and freedom of speech stood in all of this. Do you have any concerns at all about the process employed in his hiring and then pretty much being ushered out?

CHISHOLM: I think when it comes to how these issues are dealt with in sporting organisations, I think they are quite unique. And I think back to the Israel Folau scenario a couple of years ago now, that involved rugby union, obviously dealing with an AFL club this time. And the reality is, I'm a member of the Carlton Football Club, I'm a member of the Broncos, and I really take pride in the work that my football clubs do around diversity, around tolerance, and that's for me, an important role they play in the community. So for the CEO, they're actually representative of that club. They're the senior employee official of those clubs. So their job is to engage with people, to be a leader, when it comes to those issues that clubs have been supporting for a long period of time. So I think in the sporting landscape, these are unique and that they're membership based organisations. So I think that when it applies in the sporting landscape, Essendon just seemed ill prepared or didn't do their due diligence and weren't prepared to deal with it and folded as a result. So I think when it comes to sporting organisations, these are just a bit more unique than what they are in the general community. And I'm someone who believes that we do need a diversity of opinion and we do need to ensure that there is freedom of speech. But when it comes to a sporting club, I think that they are representative of the community and they don't want those values to be reflected.

HOST: Understood and the good points all. David, what causes you concern, if any, not just about the process, but about whether any form of injustice has been inflicted here?

COLEMAN: Yeah, I think this is a very difficult issue, Greg. I think the comments in the past, back in 2013, which seemed to have triggered this, were obviously things that I would entirely disagree with. People who are LGBT have been discriminated against for thousands of years and there's a lot of work to do to write those wrongs. But I think in the case of Mr Thorburn, it is important to look at what's actually happened here. And as I understand it, the issue is not so much what he has said or done, but what this pastor had done in the past, some time ago. And I think that to take action against someone based on what someone else within their faith has said. I think that does raise some concerns, because that could, if applied more broadly, could potentially capture a very large number of people in a large number of situations. So absolutely support the move to embracing diversity, inclusion. That's very positive and probably overdue, to be frank, but we also need to be careful about condemning people based on statements of others.

HOST: Thanks for your thoughtful reflections, both of you. Yes, in the criminal law, that would be called guilt by association, not that is what we're talking about in this case. Anthony Chisholm and David Coleman, really appreciate your time and your thoughts on both these matters today. Talk soon.

COLEMAN: Thanks, Greg.

CHISHOLM: Thanks, Greg.