Politics with Michelle Grattan
Deputy PM Michael McCormack on the drought and restive Nationals

Deputy PM Michael McCormack on the drought and restive Nationals

October 23, 2019

While the drought continues to hit the Nationals’ constituents hard, the party faces a testing terrain on a political level.

In this episode of Politics with Michelle Grattan, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack acknowledges the mishandling of the bring-forward of the dairy code, which will increase the negotiating power of milk producers.

Tensions blew up in the Nationals party room this week after Pauline Hanson managed last week to win an acceleration of the code. The deal was all about the government wanting Hanson’s Senate co-operation. But agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie had previously told Nationals who have been fighting for the code that it couldn’t be finalised until well into next year.

McCormack also shared his willingness to consider a proposal from the drought policy released by the National Farmers’ Federation for exit assistance for drought-striken farmers who sell.

But he had a cautionary message for those deciding whether to stay or leave, saying “they absolutely need to make sure they don’t self-assess. They need to absolutely make sure that they consult their families foremost, that they talk to rural financial counsellors, they talk to their accountants, their banks. They take every bit of good advice available before they take that ultimate step”.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ Mick Tsikas

Tim Watts on Australia’s changing identity

Tim Watts on Australia’s changing identity

October 14, 2019

Tim Watts is Labor member for the Victorian seat of Gellibrand, one of the most diverse electorates in Australia. His own family is a microcosm of diversity - Watts comes from a long line of Australians with ancestors deeply rooted in the old attitudes of "white Australia", while his wife is from Hong Kong, and his children Eurasian-Australian.

In his new book, The Golden Country, Watts reconciles the past and present in his family, as well as examining immigration, race and national identity in modern Australia.

In this podcast with Michelle Grattan he also explores the "bamboo ceiling" in our politics, business and other areas, and talks about his efforts to encourage Asian-Australians to climb the ranks in Labor, which presently has ALP Senate leader Penny Wong as the only Asian-Australian face among its federal MPs.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ Erik Anderson

Daughters of Robert Menzies and Arthur Calwell say parliament wasn’t always a “fort”

Daughters of Robert Menzies and Arthur Calwell say parliament wasn’t always a “fort”

September 23, 2019

Last week, a very special event took place in Parliament House. The daughters of Sir Robert Menzies and Arthur Calwell - Heather Henderson and Mary Elizabeth Calwell - came together to reflect on their fathers’ legacies, and to offer their perspectives on a different era in Australia’s political history. Michelle Grattan moderated the conversation.

The event was organised by the Menzies-Calwell Group, made up of members of parliament from both sides of the political divide. Inspired by the friendship between Menzies and Calwell, the group aims to inject a degree of bipartisanship into our present hyper-partisan politics.

Additional audio: 

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image: 

Office of Maria Vamvakinou MP

Arthur Sinodinos with some reflections and advice

Arthur Sinodinos with some reflections and advice

September 18, 2019

Arthur Sinodinos will soon leave the Senate, and early next year take up the position of Australian ambassador in Washington. A former staffer and one-time public servant as well as a former minister, in this podcast Sinodinos reflects on the challenges of pursuing reform, has some advice for ministerial staff in dealing with the public service, and warns about dangers for democracy and science posed by a polarised media.

A strong ally of Malcolm Turnbull, Sinodinos tells Michelle Grattan that the former prime minister was “prepared to make a stand for what he believed was right - and unfortunately there were others who didn’t seem to be too comfortable with that”.

On the current controversy about Liberal MP Gladys Liu and her past ties to groups with links to the Chinese regime, he says: “I think she’s trying to … make sure that she’s got her memory intact, as it were. And then I’m sure she will as necessary provide further information”.

On the contrast between the roles of staffer and politician: “One of the biggest differences is that when you’re the politician and the front person, the minute you say something … you own it, Whereas when you’re the adviser you give all the advice in the world but there’s not quite the same level of responsibility”.

Additional audio: 

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image: 

AAP/ Mick Tsikas

Jim Chalmers on the need to change economic course

Jim Chalmers on the need to change economic course

September 16, 2019

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers says it's time to change Australia's economic course “in a responsible and affordable way which doesn't jeopardise the surplus”.

Chalmers predicts the budget outcome for last financial year, forecast to be a deficit at budget time, could possibly show a surplus, because of high iron ore prices and other factors including an underspend on the NDIS.

He argues the government can have both a more stimulatory policy and a surplus going forward, given the various boosts to the budget's bottom line. “I don't think the government has come to a fork in the road where it's a choice between a surplus or doing something responsible to stimulate the economy.

“As it stands right now it's possible to do both and we think the government should do both”.

The government should boost Newstart, Chalmers tells Michelle Grattan, although he wouldn't oppose it first holding “a short sharp review” to examine interactions with other payments.

On Labor's way ahead, now being debated within the party, Chalmers says “we'd be mad not to learn the lessons” of the election result.

With some of the opposition's most controversial election policies in his portfolio, notably on franking credits and negative gearing, Chalmers is already consulting widely.

There's agreement on two things, he says. “Nobody expects us to finalise our policies three years before the next election […] and nobody expects us to take an absolutely identical set of policies to the 2022 election”.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ Joel Carrett

Independent MP Helen Haines on using ’soft power’

Independent MP Helen Haines on using ’soft power’

September 10, 2019

Helen Haines, MP for the Victorian regional seat Indi, made history at the election as the first federal independent to succeed another independent.

She was backed by grassroots campaigners, Voices for Indi, who had earlier helped her predecessor, Cathy McGowan, into parliament. But while McGowan towards the end of her time in the House of Representatives shared real legislative power after the Coalition fell into minority government, the same power does not lie with the lower house crossbench today.

Still, Haines believes she has what she calls “soft power” as she has focused on relationship building during the first few months into her term. "Building relationships is key to getting things done and it’s key to establishing an environment that is less an environment of conflict and less an environment of bringing people down."

On current legislation, Haines is in favour of the government’s push to stop animal-rights activists from publishing farmers’ personal information. "Many people have contacted my office deeply concerned about this and I’m very supportive of bringing their views to the house on this."

But she’s a trenchant critic of the government proposal for trials to drug test people going onto Newstart and Youth Allowance. She says “the evidence is not there to support” the move.

In Indi, she points to mental health and aged care as frontline issues, which she will seek to work with the government on.

Additional Audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ Mick Tsikas

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on a slowing economy

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on a slowing economy

September 5, 2019

This week’s June quarter national accounts showed weakness in business investment and consumer spending, reflecting an all-round lack of confidence. Still, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg remains optimistic about the economy.

In this episode of Politics with Michelle Grattan, Frydenberg talks about the government’s discussions with the Reserve Bank on a new agreement covering the inflation target, saying: "If you look at the last 20 quarters, 17 of those were outside the [2-3%] band and today inflation is at 1.6%.[…]You want to have a target which can be met, which is met, and is not merely just aspirational."

He also promises to announce the proposed inquiry into retirement incomes before year’s end.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ James Ross

PM’s advisor Christine Morgan on tackling Australia’s rising suicide rates

PM’s advisor Christine Morgan on tackling Australia’s rising suicide rates

August 26, 2019

The number of suicides in Australia has been rising in the last decade, with more than 3,000 Australians taking their life in 2017, according to the latest available ABS figures. Some of the most vulnerable groups include Indigenous Australians, young Australians, unemployed people, and veterans.

Scott Morrison has declared this a key priority area for the government. He has appointed Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, as the national suicide prevention advisor to the prime minister.

On this episode, Christine Morgan speaks with Michelle Grattan about the issue - what we know so far, and what needs more clarity. She stresses the role of communities in tackling the rising rates, and also argues for a more holistic view - beyond narrow mental health problems - of the factors that drive people to contemplate taking their own lives.

"Yes, it may be that they’re suffering from a mental health condition. Yes, they may be suffering from a health condition. But they may also be being affected by other things which significantly impact, like what is their housing security?[…]What is their employment situation? what is their financial situation? Have they come from a background of trauma?"

Anyone seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

Shutterstock

On the ‘creeping crisis’ in the public service

On the ‘creeping crisis’ in the public service

August 13, 2019

Scott Morrison has voiced his intention to shake up the federal public service - seeking to make it more efficient in implementing the government’s agenda. A review of the public service led by David Thodey is now finished.

Meanwhile, Professor Beth Noveck and Professor Rod Glover have released a timely study of the public service, titled Today’s problems, Yesterday’s toolkit. Commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, it builds on interviews with almost 400 public servants - most of them Australians.

In this podcast episode, Noveck and Glover discuss the “creeping crisis” of effectiveness and legitimacy the Australian public service is facing.

"Blunt public sector management tools, including hiring freezes, efficiency dividends, and funding cuts that hobble innovative or experimental initiatives, are creating what interviewees for this study describe as a creeping crisis for the public sector."

To reverse this trend, they say the government must ensure public servants have a “ 21st century toolkit” to solve public problems. They point to the private sector’s “use of creative problem-solving methods, enabled by new technologies” as an example to follow.

They argue that “improving individual skills provides the linchpin for tackling public problems and restoring trust in government”.

The report is now available online and open to the public for comment.

Additional audio: 

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

 

Image: 

Shutterstock

Anthony Albanese on Labor’s hard times

Anthony Albanese on Labor’s hard times

July 30, 2019

Anthony Albanese has a blunt message for critics who are accusing Labor of attacking government measures but then voting for them. They should “examine the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be,” he says.

In the post-election reality the Senate will mostly support the government. This severely limits the opposition's capacity to alter legislation.

In this podcast episode, Albanese defends Labor's backing for the government's $158 billion tax package, supports an increase in Newstart, and strongly argues the need to take the superannuation guarantee to 12%.

He remains confident in his ability to force the expulsion from the party of maverick unionist John Setka, regardless of the outcome of the court action Setka has brought. “That will happen. His values don't fit the values of the ALP. It's as simple as that,” he says. But he stays implacably opposed to the government's Ensuring Integrity legislation to enable tougher action against erring union officials, saying Labor will vote against it.

Despite its problems at the election, Albanese believes Labor can successfully appeal to both working class aspirational voters and its progressive supporters, maintaining they have common interests in an ALP government.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/LUKAS COCH