Politics with Michelle Grattan
Pat Turner on Closing the Justice Gap

Pat Turner on Closing the Justice Gap

June 10, 2020

Pat Turner, for decades a strong Aboriginal voice, is the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together about 50 indigenous community peak organisations. In this role she is part of the negotiations for a new agreement on Closing the Gap targets.

Unlike the original Rudd government targets, the refreshed Closing the Gap agreement, soon to be finalised, will set out targets for progress on justice and housing.

But the issue is, how much progress should be the aim?

“We want to push the percentages of achievement much higher, but we are in a consensus decision-making process with governments … what the targets will reflect is what the governments themselves are prepared to commit to,” Turner says.

The Australian Black Lives Matter marches have focused attention on the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people, often for trivial matters. In this podcast Turner canvasses both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

She points to “huge issues with drug and alcohol abuse”, with inadequate resourcing to deal with these problems.

She urges reform for sentencing arrangements for those charged with minor offences, criticising a system which imprisons people who cannot pay fines, or post bail. “It would be less expensive overall for the jurisdictions, and it would more beneficial to the community [if those people weren’t in prison]”. And she identifies the “the over-incarceration of women [as] a major concern.”

Among the changes needed, she says, is better training of police.

“Now I’m not saying that all the police behave badly - we have got outstanding examples of how the police work with our communities.” But “we just can’t wait for ad hoc ‘good guys’ to come out of the system and engage properly - we need wholesale reform of the police departments.”

Statistician David Gruen and the race for real-time pandemic data

Statistician David Gruen and the race for real-time pandemic data

June 5, 2020

Perhaps at no point in Australia’s history has the demand for real-time figures been stronger than during the coronavirus crisis.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stepped up its efforts to get data fast, to help inform the government’s COVID-19 decision-making.

David Gruen, the Australian Statistician and ABS head, in this podcast tells how the bureau has used small, quick surveys to mine timely data from businesses and households.

Some of the more interesting findings concern household stresses felt during the crisis.

Some 28% of women reported feeling lonely, compared to 16% of men. “Overall, only about a fifth of people said they were lonely, but that was the most common of the stressors,” Gruen says.

ABS survey results also showed 75% of parents kept their children home from school. “Women were almost three times as likely to have stayed at home to take care of their children on their own, than men.”

“About 15% of parents said that a lack of access to a stable internet connection was impeding their children’s ability to undertake schooling from home,” Gruen says.

In the wake of the roll out of the single touch payroll system last year, the ABS has also had instant access to almost all business and tax data. “[Single Touch Payroll] is a huge addition to the statistical arsenal,” Gruen says.

In the next census of the Australian population, to be held in August 2021, there will be two new fields of questions - on chronic health conditions and veterans.

But the census will no longer ask Australians whether they use the internet.

“There’s huge public value in having an accurate census, because you collect an enormous amount of information which is of value both to government decision makers, and to decision makers in the community,” Gruen says.

“The things that you learn from the census form the basis for an awful lot of decision-making in subsequent years.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on saving Australia’s tourism and construction industries

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on saving Australia’s tourism and construction industries

May 29, 2020

As Australia slowly emerges from isolation, the nation’s economy is reopening, and even looking rather better than expected. But Australia still faces grim months ahead as unemployment numbers grow and the true extent of business survival rates emerge.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described the economic data as sobering when he recently gave an update to parliament. In this podcast, Frydenberg says there would be greater reason for optimism, especially for the tourism sector, if states were more willing open their borders.

“Now we need to see those state borders opened, whether it’s in Queensland or Western Australia, South Australia or Tasmania,” he says.

The Northern Territory will begin easing its border restrictions from June 15, scrapping mandatory quarantine for interstate arrivals. But both the Queensland and Western Australian governments say they will likely keep the measures in place for several months. Tasmania’s premier too is standing firm on his decision to keep the state’s borders closed.

Frydenberg says the government has reacted to COVID-19 “in an unprecedented way in terms of the scale and the size of our response” but reiterates that “the measures are temporary and targeted. And we want people to get back to work as soon as possible”.

However he acknowledges the housing construction and tourism sectors are in need of particular support.

On housing, “we recognise that there may be contracts in place to July or August, which is going to see the pipeline continue to then, but then we’re going to see probably a steady fall after that. And that’s the gap that we need to try to fill with particular measures.”

“It’s a watching brief, but certainly both areas are a focus for the government.”

Frydenberg also indicates that after the June review of the JobKeeper payment, some people could get less money than they are receiving now.

“There are a few issues we need to look at, including some workers within the JobKeeper programme getting paid more than they normally would otherwise get.”

Jim Chalmers on JobKeeper’s flaws and the Eden-Monaro byelection

Jim Chalmers on JobKeeper’s flaws and the Eden-Monaro byelection

May 20, 2020

Labor will campaign on the flaws in the JobKeeper program in the Eden-Monaro byelection, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says.

“There will be so many people from Eden-Monaro who would have heard the Prime Minister say that there would be wage subsidies only to find out that they’ve either been deliberately or accidentally excluded from those wage subsidies, who can’t understand why someone who might have been on $100 a week before is now getting $750 while they’re excluded from it.”

Chalmers says he intends to campaign in the byelection - for which a date has yet to be set - and has spoken with Labor leader Anthony Albanese about doing so.

As the political debate turns to the strategy for the economic exit from the pandemic, Labor is seeking to define its differences with the government.

“We don’t want to see all of this support withdrawn from the economy in one hit, on one day, based on a faulty assumption about ‘snap back’, when the reality is that the recovery is going to be patchy, Chalmers says.

"It’s going to be longer than ideal, and different types of workers in different types of industries will feel the impacts differently. I think the Government’s policy needs to recognise that.”

The aftermath of the crisis will be the defining debate at the next election,“ Chalmers says.

"I think the next election will be about unemployment in particular. It will be about what the future economy looks like and whether we can create that inclusive, sustainable growth that creates well-paid jobs for more people and more opportunities. I think that’s where the next election will be won or lost for the government and for the opposition.”

“This is not the sort of crisis where we get to September, people forget about it, and the world moves on”

Chalmers, who worked in then-treasurer Wayne Swan’s office during the global financial crisis, contrasts the support Labor has given the Morrison government with the stand of the Coalition opposition then.

“We actually haven’t held anything up in the parliament because the priority is to get this support out the door and into the pockets of workers and businesses as soon as possible.”

“We are deliberately being more constructive than our opponents were a decade ago because we saw firsthand the costs of that kind of oppositionist approach.”

Democracy 2025 - The role of the APS in a post COVID-19 world with Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans, Peter Shergold, and Renée Leon

Democracy 2025 - The role of the APS in a post COVID-19 world with Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans, Peter Shergold, and Renée Leon

May 18, 2020

In the latest Democratic Fundamentals, Renée Leon, former Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, and Peter Shergold, former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, discuss the challenges and opportunities for the APS as the world eases restrictions with hosts Mark Evans and Michelle Grattan.

Democratic Fundamentals is produced in partnership with Democracy 2025, The Conversation and contentgroup.

Paul Kelly on the risk of a COVID-19 second-wave

Paul Kelly on the risk of a COVID-19 second-wave

May 12, 2020

Speaking as an expert in epidemiology, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is candid about the prospects of a second-wave of coronavirus in a society that hasn't developed herd immunity.

"There is a very large risk of a second wave. We need to do this very carefully," he says, as Australia starts to roll back restrictions.

"We are potentially victims of our own success here because we have been so successful in minimising the first wave of infections, the vast majority of Australians have not actually been exposed to this virus in a way that could develop immunity in people or herd immunity in the population".

"There is that sense that people want to just get back to doing what what they did before. But it's going to be a new normal. We have to decide as a society, what does a COVID-safe society look like? And there will be changes..."

"This is a big change in the way we're going to live. I think we've seen that in human history. The changes that pandemics have brought, back to [how] the 1918 flu changed the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has changed the world. And this one will change the world."

Kelly, in his role as an adviser to the government, praises Australia's response to the virus as one of the most effective in the world - comparable to the successes of Taiwan and New Zealand. But he also acknowledges the marked difference in policy between the Tasman neighbours.

"New Zealand very early on decided that they could and wanted to eliminate the virus altogether as a public health issue. And so they've gone very hard with their social isolation policies and so forth...they really are on a path to not having any virus in the country at all."

"On our side of the Tasman, we went for a suppression approach, which meant that we didn't go quite as hard with the lockdown measures that have been introduced, on the basis that the economic and social impacts of that were not proportionate to the threat of the virus."

If, as both governments would like, a trans-Tasman "bubble" is established for travel, Kelly agrees that, in terms of risk, it would be the New Zealanders who'd have to be more careful about inviting Australians in rather than the other way around.

"But I think it's definitely achievable. "

Describing himself as a glass half-full person, Kelly says: "So with my glass half full, I will hope that sometime in 2021 we'll be talking about vaccines. And then our challenge will be getting enough of them available to the people that need them, not only in Australia but throughout the world and particularly in the poorer nations of the world, so that we can have an equitable distribution of something that could change a lot of people's lives."

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Nev Power on the role of business in a post-coronavirus world

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Nev Power on the role of business in a post-coronavirus world

May 6, 2020

Nev Power, former head of "Twiggy" Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group, is now the Chairman of the government's National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

The commission, set up by Scott Morrison in March, is working on mitigating the effects of the virus on jobs and businesses, and exploring opportunities to help get the country moving again in the post-virus future.

This week the national cabinet was briefed on its preparations for the COVID-safe workplaces.

It is also looking towards the big ideas.

With many calling for reform, Power advocates "tax benefits to companies that invest here in Australia".

"If there are opportunities to incentivise companies to do that, and to accelerate that process, I think that would be very positive.

"This would be some form of investment allowance, or investment tax concessions that reward companies for investing directly in Australia rather than across-the-board tax reductions for those companies."

Power sees a longer-term role for the national cabinet: "I think the national cabinet has been very successful and the results speak for themselves... I believe that there's a great opportunity to keep it in place to help us accelerate the economy and to put through all of the changes that we need to make sure the economy comes back as quickly as possible."

Katy Gallagher on the senate’s coronavirus watchdog

Katy Gallagher on the senate’s coronavirus watchdog

April 28, 2020

Labor's Katy Gallagher is chair of the Senate committee that will assess the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, both its economic and health challenges. It is set for the deep dive, having a final reporting date of mid-2022.

With parliament currently sitting only in fits and starts, Gallagher considers the committee a "key accountability vehicle".

"We don't want political grandstanding, we don't want long winded political arguments, there are other forums for those," she says.

"We do expect public servants and ministers to attend with information and provide information. I don't want it to be turned into one of those committees that we see so often where we ask questions and the officials at the table work out how not to answer them"

The committee's role will be "to explore why decisions were taken and provide that conduit back to the public."

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his autobiography, ‘A Bigger Picture

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his autobiography, ‘A Bigger Picture

April 20, 2020

In this episode of Politics with Michelle Grattan, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull gives his frank assessment of Scott Morrison as a former colleague and as prime minister, warns about the right of the Liberal party, and tongue lashes News Corp.

As Treasurer, Morrison at times infuriated then PM Turnbull by leaking to the media and “frontrunning” positions before decision were made.

“Morrison and I worked together very productively” but “he had an approach to frontrunning policy which created real problems for us,” Turnbull says.

As for now, Morrison’s “obviously got massive, completely unanticipated challenges to face … I think he’s doing well with them by the way. … I think the response of Australian governments generally [on coronavirus] has been a very effective one”.

Turnbull’s anger against both the Liberal right wing and News Corp continue to burn undiminished.

The right, “amplified and supported by their friends in the media, basically operate like terrorists”.

News Corp “I think was well described as ‘a political organisation that employs a lot of journalists’”; The Australian “defends its friends, it attacks its enemies, it attacks its friends’ enemies, and the tabloids do the same.”

MPs Tim Watts, Fiona Martin, Clare O’Neil and Helen Haines discuss serving their electorates during the coronavirus crisis

MPs Tim Watts, Fiona Martin, Clare O’Neil and Helen Haines discuss serving their electorates during the coronavirus crisis

April 9, 2020

Michelle Grattan talks with MPs Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Victoria), Fiona Martin (Reid, NSW), Clare O'Neil (Hotham, Victoria) and Helen Haines (Indi, Victoria) about how they do their job during the pandemic.

They discuss the operation of their electorate offices in light of isolation requirements, and recount how the crisis is affecting their constituents.