Interview with Steve Austin 612 ABC Brisbane

Transcript
05 Oct 2016
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Steve the money, it’s a little bit less than that actually but there was a saving there and that has already been committed to the Rothwell Intersection. But mostly to the Gold Coast Light Rail, $95 million of it was committed to Gold Coast Light Rail and you may recall that not long after I became Prime Minister, we announced the extension of that up past the university.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Alright so the money is already spent. Now, when you were here for the opening of the new Rail Link, you said there are still matters to be resolved or determined when it comes to the Cross River Rail, what does it take or what will it take for the Federal Government to put some serious money on the table for this project in Brisbane?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well let’s just step through it - it’s very important that the Cross River Rail’s business case is properly assessed - now it has been presented to Infrastructure Australia and they’re looking at it carefully. It’s important that we understand how it is going to work as part of an integrated transport solution for all of Brisbane. It’s important to see how it is going to promote affordable housing, how it is going to promote better amenity and how it works with the whole of the city.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Why does Cross River Rail have to promote affordable housing?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, because what you need to do with all of your transport infrastructure Steve is ensure that you achieve outcomes that are more than just running a line from A to B. See, one of the reasons why my Government, the Turnbull Government is undertaking a very different approach to cities to any of my predecessors with our Cities Policy is that we are working with State and local governments. We have city deals, as you know, and the goal is to ensure that our efforts are coordinated. Now one of the issues with Cross River Rail as you know, there is a difference of opinion with the city government, Brisbane City Government, very powerful -

STEVE AUSTIN:
City Council yes.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes that’s right City Council and the -

STEVE AUSTIN:
A Liberal Council.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well that’s right, you understand that Brisbane has a very powerful city council, city government and it has enormous transport responsibilities unlike local governments in most other parts of Australia. And so it’s important get a clear, single plan supported by the State Government, the city government, the Federal Government and we will work constructively towards that. But it’s very important that you make sure that you get your business plan agreed, you work out, you satisfy that it improves the amenity, the liveability the opportunities for the people who live in Brisbane and then you can make a decision as to how it is going to be funded. Now, of course, one of the important issues that again has been overlooked in the past is one of the innovations that my government is seeking to bring to transport development is to ensure that we recover some of the increasing land value occasioned by the construction of transport infrastructure. See, the big opportunity, if we want to reduce congestion in our cities is to ensure that there is more development around transport hubs and in particular railway stations.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Now the State Government intends on doing the same so both state and federal governments chasing that increased land value around the city of Brisbane when you build the Cross River Rail.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well I think it’s not a question chasing, it’s ensuring that if we have the same view there and the same vision, then that would be very helpful because the important thing is to make sure that we maximise the liveability bang for the taxpayer’s buck.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Now Anthony Albanese has said you could do this now. Tony Abbott famously said that his government wouldn’t fund public transport like rail in Brisbane, so Cross River Rail died. Anthony Albanese said just put back the money you removed from it in the 2014 Budget. Will you?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well the money that was proposed  to spend by Labor was on a completely different plan. You see this is part of the problem -

STEVE AUSTIN:
I’m talking about the money that was taken out of the 2014 Budget by Tony Abbott.

PRIME MINISTER:
But Steve, this is where governments waste money. You get essentially a press release, a name and politicians talk about dollars as though it was rain water. The reality is, these are your listener’s taxes and they expect me as their Prime Minister to spend them wisely and carefully and ensure that we get the best value. You know - running around, treating government like an endless ATM, that’s how we got into the Labor debt that we’ve inherited and that we’re battling to bring down in Canberra. So I can assure you, Tony Abbott had many qualities as Prime Minister, many achievements. He did not believe the Federal Government should fund public transport infrastructure in cities. That has changed. I do. Now Tony’s view is perfectly – that was his view, the government’s view, the Turnbull Government’s view is that we will support infrastructure, whether its roads or rail or light rail, depending on its merits.

STEVE AUSTIN:
So give me a target date then. What would be your ideal target date to resolve the business plan, the idea of land value, appreciation for the Cross River Rail project.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Steve, as soon as possible. I mean I’m a businessman who has come in to politics at the age of 50. I’ve been - all my life I’ve got on and done things. I’m an activist, so the sooner the better but what we are not going to do is throw around numbers like telephone numbers based on essentially press releases.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Alright well let me ask you, the rail line to Petrie, the Kippa-Ring - Petrie line which you were on a couple of days ago, that took over 100 years. Now I bet you my listeners are going, oh crikey Prime Minister, don’t let the Cross River Rail be another 100-year project please.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it won’t be 100 years. Do you know there was an older gentleman there who I would’ve thought would’ve been well in to his eighties who told me that his grandfather, he had his grandfather’s diary and he’d noted the he’d come from a meeting in 1888 to discuss the extension of that rail line.

STEVE AUSTIN:
And that’s what my listeners fear with Cross River Rail.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well that won’t be the case. The reality is that all of our cities around the country need big investment in public transport infrastructure. As they do in many other types of infrastructure. The important thing to do is to treat, as an integrated urban investment so that you get the outcomes that you need in terms of housing affordability, in terms of greater amenity, in terms of business and ensuring that you bring more jobs in to the areas that are affected by the investment.

STEVE AUSTIN:
Alright you just gave me a throwaway line then saying ‘I’m an activist’ Prime Minister what are you an activist for? Who are you an activist for?

PRIME MINISTER:
I’m an activist for you. I’m an activist for your listeners and for all Australians. My job is to ensure that we have a strong economy, to ensure that there are greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren, to ensure that they can enjoy the opportunities we had and even bigger and brighter ones and realise their dreams.

STEVE AUSTIN:
This is 612 ABC Brisbane, Steve Austin is my name I’m talking with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Well if you’re an activist, what’s happening with the M1 upgrade between Logan and Mudgeeraba because this is shaping up to be another rail project, for 20 years the fastest growing city in South East Queensland, Logan, has been finding that whenever federal money is announced for a Logan upgrade, it simply disappears, never happens. There’s a funding dispute.

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ve committed $215 million dollars which will widen the M1 between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes –

STEVE AUSTIN:

But the argument is over the split. The state says it should be 50/50, you say it should be 80/20.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I think you’ve got it round the wrong way.

STEVE AUSTIN:

I’m sorry, the other way, my apologies. So there is this dispute over the funding model and this is always the problem isn’t it? How are you going to break that deadlock? Can you break that deadlock?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the State – let’s put this into context. We are spending, the Federal Government is spending $13 billion on land transport infrastructure in Queensland. We’re spending $6.7 billion on the Bruce. $1.14 on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, $914 million for Gateway Motorway North, $200 million for Ipswich Motorway and $95 million which I just mentioned, for the Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 2. That of course doesn’t take into account money that has been spent already, that we were discussing earlier, on the Redcliffe Peninsula Rail Line, which is around $600 million.

So within all of that, we are offering $215 million to the M1 widening and upgrade. It is standard, that has been the standard share on the M1 in the past. A lot of money has been spent on it, as it should be. It’s been 50/50 in the past and we’re offering 50/50 and the State Government, predictably, is saying they want more money. But you know, the fact is we are spending a very substantial share of our national land transport infrastructure investment in Queensland.  Other states have complained that we’re spending too much in Queensland, to be quite frank.

STEVE AUSTIN:

So Mark Bailey, Queensland Main Roads Minister, will have to find the balance to get that thing happening?

PRIME MINISTER:

As they always have done Steve. One of the problems that you face here is that the State Government is all too ready to retreat from its own responsibilities and put them at the door of the Federal Government. Annastacia Palaszczuk is the Premier, these are her roads. We are offering $215 million, which is half.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Well the M1 is part of the national highway network, it’s not her road.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is actually. It is a State Government road but it is part of a national highway, that’s a designation, but the road does not belong to the Federal Government.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Alright. My guest is the Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, before I move on I’d like to ask you at some stage I know my listeners would very likely want to talk with you directly, can you come up at some stage and do talkback in studio? Taking calls from Brisbane listeners?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep. Absolutely of course I can.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Terrific, alright. Now the banking inquiry. The head of the Commonwealth Bank, Ian Narev has admitted that 10 per cent, one in 10 of his customers received inappropriate financial advice from the bank. We’ve heard his evidence yesterday. What plans does your Government have to mitigate the negligence of banks and their representatives? They’ve admitted to 10 per cent and that’s only what they have admitted publically. What are you going to do about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we have done is we have provided additional – so we’re taking action. The big difference between my approach to this industry and Bill Shorten’s is that what I’m doing is taking action right now.

STEVE AUSTIN:

They wanted a royal commission with substantial power.

PRIME MINISTER:

But Steve a royal commission – let’s just be quite frank – a royal commission is an inquiry. It’s a government inquiry, that’s all it is –

STEVE AUSTIN:

With subpoena powers.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes it has subpoena powers, it has the power to compel witnesses and the production of documents as indeed does ASIC. It has no power to change a law, to change a regulation, to impose a fine, to levy compensation. So let’s be quite clear about that. If you started a royal commission into the banks today, it would go for years, you’d spend hundreds of millions of dollars and you’d have no action for all that time. Because whenever you proposed to do something, people would say: “Oh we’ll have to wait for the outcome of the royal commission. Let me just get clear what I’m doing here. We’ve boosted ASIC’s funding. We’ve given them a power intervene with banks that are selling products that are leading customers –

STEVE AUSTIN:

Prime Minister forgive me, we know that, but if each member of the Economics Committee that is currently running the enquiry is only allocated 15 minutes each, how can they get to the bottom of anything?

PRIME MINISTER:

Firstly, the Committee can call the bank CEOs back as much as it likes.

STEVE AUSTIN:

They can do that anyhow.

PRIME MINISTER:

Correct - that’s what I’m saying. So if there are members of the Committee that want to spend more time cross questioning Mr Narev, or somebody else, then they should ask, they should move that the Committee have an extended hearing and Committees often do that.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Here is why subpoena powers are important, if a royal commission, the Commonwealth Bank refused, point blank, to say how much it profits from home loans or credit cards, citing commercial confidentiality. That would not be able to be done under a royal commission would it Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you can’t –

STEVE AUSTIN:

It would not be able to be done.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s not quite right Steve, but I don’t want to get into a legal argument. Let me say that the issues about, you know, commercial in confidence are respected in royal commissions as well but can I just make this point to you? The critical virtue of my - this is again an initiative of my Government to bring the banks to the Economics Committee at least once a year.  I’ve seen it reported in the press that this was designed to stave off a royal commission, that’s nonsense. I understand the banking industry and I understand what’s wrong with it. I understand that what it needs is greater accountability and transparency. So what we’ve done is ensure that the banks go up before that Committee at least once a year, it could be two or three times a year, it’s up to the Committee. What that will do over time is make the banks much more accountable, because the Chief Executive will know that if one of his managers down the line treats someone badly, it’s not an issue that he can brush under the carpet because he’ll be in the witness box, before the Parliamentary Committee in a few months, being grilled about it. So what it does is, this is going to change – it won’t happen just in one hearing – but over time this will change the culture of accountability in the banks - whereas a royal commission is a one-off inquiry. It happens and it writes a report and then it gathers dust.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Banks in Australia today Prime Minister control 80 per cent of the loans and 80 per cent of the wealth management in Australia, is this acceptable to you as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a competitive market, we’ve always been trying to encourage greater competition. You saw a very good suggestion by the Chair of the Economics Committee.  I’m not saying the Government is about to adopt it, but it’s a very constructive suggestion it’s what Committee Chairs and Committee members should do. David Coleman talked about bank account number portability, so that you would have a bank account number and you could take that and go from Westpac to NAB to ANZ to wherever, as you wished. Governments of both sides have sought to do this to encourage greater competition between the banks and there is, of course fewer barriers to competition now because of the internet. Nonetheless the big banks are very dominant there is no doubt about that.

STEVE AUSTIN:

I look forward to seeing you in studio where you can take calls from listeners Prime Minister. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks very much Steve.

[ENDS]