Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB

Deborah Knight
Early release of Bali bomber; secret ministerial appointments; fuel efficiency standards

DEBORAH KNIGHT: It’s certainly been an interesting week in federal politics. Ed Husic is the Minister for Industry and Science, Angus Taylor the Shadow Treasurer. They both join us now, as they do every Friday, for Question Time. 

Fellas, thanks again for joining us. I want to start with the confirmation this morning that the bomb maker behind the deadly 2002 Bali terrorist attack has had his sentence effectively cut in half and he could well walk free next month. Now, the families of the 202 people who were killed, including 88 Australians, are understandably appalled by this. Ed, can our government do anything here to stop this happening? 

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Well, first, I do feel for the families of the 88 Australians who lost their lives, and all their friends as well. And it will be particularly hard given the 20th anniversary is around the corner to see this happen. I mean, this person was responsible for deaths and destruction on a major scale, and as the Prime Minister said this morning, we will be raising this via diplomatic representations, not just in terms of this but for Australians who are in Indonesian jails as well and what’s in the nation’s interest. So we do intend to follow this up. But, again, I think it is really important that the Indonesian government appreciates that this is a very serious matter from our point of view and that people do feel strongly about this development. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, and this is the fella that mixed the chemicals and effectively he’ll be free as the families of those killed mark the 20th anniversary of their deaths in October. I mean, Angus, it’s hard to believe that his sentence has been reduced to what it has considering the enormity of the crime. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that’s right, Deb. And like Ed, my heart goes out to those families of the 88 who never came home after that fateful day. I mean, this is dreadful for them to have to go through and relive these experiences. I do think it’s right that the current government follow our lead on making strong representations to the Indonesian government on this issue. I’m glad to hear that the Prime Minister has said he will do that. That is exactly what he should do. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah. And our thoughts are with the families of the many who did not come home. 

Now, the big news this week has been, of course, the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s secret ministries, which did come as a surprise to almost everyone, including the former ministers whose portfolios he took over. And, Angus, one of those was yours – the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. What did you first think when you heard about this? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: I didn’t make too much of it. I had a very good working relationship with the Prime Minister. I mean, he could override in many different ways if he didn’t like what I was doing. He never did that, I should say. But I also felt that this shouldn’t become a distraction from the really big issues that we’re facing right now – rising inflation, rising interest rates, the challenges Australians are facing in making ends meet both in their households and their businesses. And, you know, my fear continues to be that it becomes a distraction from those issues which really matter. 

You know, we’ve had an announcement today from Chris Bowen that he’s resuscitating a commitment – a policy that he committed they wouldn’t pursue with vehicle standards which will raise the price of a Hilux and a Ranger, the most popular vehicles in Australia. And, of course, he’s hiding behind this distraction. And I think those issues are the ones that will really affect Australians in the long term. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: So has Scott Morrison apologised to you, or you didn’t think it was even necessary? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it’s completely unnecessary. I mean, as I say, my working relationship with him as he knows was very positive. And, you know, there’s no need for him to apologise to me. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Ed, is this a distraction, a storm in a teacup? 

ED HUSIC: No, it’s not; it’s a big deal. I mean, you need to know where the buck stops, and I don’t know, maybe Scott Morrison will come in and answer Angus’s questions during the course of this discussion as well. I mean, he seemed to think that he could do Angus’s job better than Angus by sitting in a position in the way that he did. I’m sorry, I don’t know if Angus did say whether or not he knew at the time that he had, within government, Scott Morrison shadowing him.

I do know, because I was opposition industry minister that Scott Morrison had set himself up to be the decision-maker on grants in Angus’s portfolio when he was the minister. And knowing again who’s responsible is really important publicly. And I mean, Scott Morrison had a hard enough time doing his own job properly and then wanted to take on all these other roles. And who was accountable, at what point and the quality of decisions? 

And picking up on something Angus said, he said we’ve got all these other issues that are really important that have come – and a lot of these problems have started when the Coalition was in government. They needed a Prime Minister focused on his job, not going and spreading himself across other roles, keeping it secret. And it’s only come to light because of the work that we’ve seen in terms of the books that have come out, and that’s been made apparent that way. It’s just wrong. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, Angus did you know at the time, or did come as a surprise? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I’ve been very clear about that. But, you know, the hypocrisy in this is extraordinary. I mean, every day we were in government Labor said Scott Morrison needed to take responsibility. Now they’re saying he took too much. Look, the reality is the working relationship I had with the Prime Minister was an excellent one. I knew my job. The Prime Minister – the Australian public generally take the view that the buck stops with the Prime Minister, and that’s the nature of things. 

But, look, getting focused on the things that really matter for Australians – the rising cost of living, the fact that Labor wants to impose a tax now on our most popular vehicles, on tradies, on miners, on farmers – 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, we’ll get to the electric vehicles in a moment – 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I mean, these are the issues – these are the issues that really count. And Labor doesn’t want to take responsibility for them. They talked about responsibility all through the election campaign. They do need to take responsibility for taking action to alleviate those pressures. And that’s what we need to be talking about right now. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, the Greens are calling for a censure motion against Scott Morrison. Ed, will you support that? 

ED HUSIC: I haven’t seen that. We take our queues based off what we want to do as a government. But I just – I’m sorry, Angus cannot just air brush this away. I mean, there are a lot of things in his portfolio when he was industry minister – notably supply chains. Rising cost of living affected by disrupted supply chains, affected by failure to have people available to do work that impacts on those supply chains. You know, you’re talking about making us take accountability for their stuff ups when they were in government. When Angus was the minister, we didn’t even know – 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: But, Ed, there are a lot of issues that have been – 

ANGUS TAYLOR: It’s time to take responsibility, Ed. It’s time to take responsibility. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Ed – Ed, there are a lot of issues this week that have just been brushed over that you’ve been trying to get traction with, like the 10-year partnership with Moderna to make more vaccines. It’s gotten no oxygen because Anthony Albanese was behaving a bit like an opposition leader – grabbed this and ran with it. 

ED HUSIC: Well, I think it’s a serious issue about the way in which the problems we’ve got today that emerged out of a government that was divided, dysfunctional. And, clearly, we find more evidence of that chaos. And then taking responsibility for the way that’s done and giving assurances that they will not have that happen again should they at some point be successful in forming government, I think these are important things. 

And, like I was making the point a few moments ago, a lot of the things that we are dealing with today – rising inflation, rising cost of living, disrupted supply chains – happened under the Coalition’s watch and in a system where, you know, one day you can have Scott Morrison saying, “I don’t hold a hose,” and the next day he’s responsible for – what – half a dozen different portfolios that Angus didn’t even know about. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: And what about the criticism that Scott Morrison’s now copping for taking the Mickey of himself posting these memes? What are your thoughts about this, Ed? You reckon it’s – 

ED HUSIC: Well, as he should. I mean, it’s a serious – 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, can’t we – isn’t it just the Australian way just to make – take the Mickey out of yourself? Can’t we have a laugh at our own expense? 

ED HUSIC: Well, I mean – okay, let me put it this way: there’ll be a lot of other people on social media – and I’ve seen it and we as a people have a great sense of humour – but it does undermine whether or not Scott Morrison took this issue seriously. I mean, this is a bloke who was the Prime Minister of the country who only few weeks ago told people that they shouldn’t trust government. Wow. I mean, he was responsible for the top political job in the country and that’s what he has said is his view later. He doesn’t treat politics seriously. Frankly, I don’t know why he’s still – if he's got that view, dim view of government, why is he still the member for Cook representing people who do want to have faith the government can be there to help them on the things that matter most? 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: And, Angus, do you think he should be gone from parliament? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, let me say, Deb, in response to all of that, Ed’s a minister now. Anthony Albanese is the Prime Minister. They are acting like they’re in opposition. When you’re in government you have responsibility for dealing with the hand you get. You know, we got a tough hand during the pandemic. There’s all sorts of things, tough issues to be dealt with right now. Carrying on about the opposition is not the way to deal with them. Australians want you to deal with the issues that you face and the hand that you have. That’s not what Labor’s doing. They’re spending their whole time looking to blame someone else and not take responsibility. 

It is time to deal with these issues. Now, we’ve made a number of suggestions about how to deal with the rising inflation and interest rate pressures. Labor’s ignoring all of that and doing what they love to do, which is getting back into opposition. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right. I want to talk about the electric vehicles – 

ED HUSIC: So are you saying I should accept responsibility for your time as industry minister where we’ve had disrupted supply chains, where the programs – 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Ed, okay. If you want to go there I’m happy to. 

ED HUSIC: Why should I accept as a minister responsibility for your actions? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Let’s go there then. I mean, we dealt with the AdBlue issue. It was a tough issue all around the world. 

ED HUSIC: After you were told by – 

ANGUS TAYLOR: You have done nothing on it. Absolutely nothing. And we’ve got Incitec that needs a solution to the problem. Labor’s not even talking about it. They’re not taking responsibility. When you’re in government you’ve got to take responsibility, Ed. You’re a minister now. Please behave like one. That’s what Australians expect. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right. All right. Let’s talk about the electric vehicle issue, because it is a big focus in Canberra today. The government’s vowing to overhaul fuel efficiency standards to encourage the take-up of EVs. How low are our fuel efficiency standards, Ed? 

ED HUSIC: I think in the OECD we’re the only – apart from Russia – the only country in the OECD not to have full efficiency standards in place or being developed. And that’s an issue. And car makers are factoring in, as are refiners, improved standards. And that will be an issue longer term. 

And you saw some refiners close under the Coalition’s watch. I mean, we lost two during that course in time. So it is a big issue and we’re trying to make sure that the playing field is a bit more even so that you can see that. But it doesn’t mean that people will stop buying them. In fact, in some markets if you look at the US for instance, I think one of their top sellers is still a vehicle, the Ford 150 is still trip top-selling vehicle. And they’ve got fuel efficiency standards in place there. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: But at the end of the day, isn’t the point that if you don’t have the infrastructure, if you don’t have the electric vehicle charging stations, then no-one’s going to want to buy them because you’ve got to have that basic infrastructure in place. Angus, that be front and centre? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, can I just say that Ed’s not even across the facts, which is not surprising given their obsession with what’s been going on this week. Look, we put in place initiatives with the refiners to get down to 10 parts per million of sulphur, which is the key issue that’s got to be resolved to improve our fuel. 

The second thing that’s got to be dealt with is aromatics, and there’s not a solution to that which is affordable. So the risk is that they’re going to raise the price of fuel. But they’re also talking about vehicle standards which will raise the price of the most popular vehicles. Independent economic work told us 5,000 bucks on a typical vehicle like a Hilux. And they had promised they wouldn’t pursue this. Now they’re back on to it. And in places like where I live out in the regions and the suburbs, you’re going to see higher priced vehicles if they pursue this policy. This is a broken election promise, Deb. And Labor’s trying to bury it – not surprising. But this is a really big deal for people out in our suburbs and regions. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, we’ll see how it flies and see what comes of this conference in Canberra today. 

I want to end on something a bit fun with you guys, as we do every week. There’s this article
In the Sydney Morning Herald today about the fact that millennials are getting old. And I’m officially gen X. The youngest millennials are turning 26 this year – the oldest are 40. So I want to know: what was the moment or the thing that made you stop and think, “Oh, I’m getting old?” When did the penny drop? Ed? 

ED HUSIC: When I told people that one of my favourite music artists was Billy Joel. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: You should be proud of that. 

ED HUSIC: I love Billy Joel. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Billy Joel’s great. 

ED HUSIC: I also found out I was old – I used to be able to – I had enough vertical leap to be able to grab a basketball through my jump, a basketball hoop. And when I stopped being able to do that, that’s when I also knew I was old. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, when your knees don’t cooperate. When you think you can do stuff and they don’t cooperate. What about you, Angus? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Looking in the mirror is getting more confronting, Deb. But the truth is - it was a little while back – I played golden oldies on a regular basis. A little while back I played a game and I felt great during the game, but the next morning I woke up and I thought, “Nah, that’s it. I am just getting too old.” 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, yeah. When you’re sort of – the rough and tumble and you go, “Oooh, hang on, that didn’t used to hurt like that anymore.” When I start saying things like, “I sound like a broken record,” and my kids go, “What’s a record,” then you know you’re very old. Good on you, fellas. We’ll talk again next week. 

ED HUSIC: No worries. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Deb and Ed. 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Angus Taylor and Ed Husic joining us every Friday for Question Time.