Interview with Deborah Knight, Afternoons, 2GB
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, as always on Fridays we’re joined by Ed Husic, Minister for Industry and Science, and Angus Taylor, who is the shadow Treasurer.
Fellas, thanks so much for joining us. I want to start the segment today by paying tribute to our veterans, because of Remembrance Day. It’s such an important day on our national calendar. And Ed, I wonder what Remembrance Day means to you and your community?
ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: I got to spend it today with the Rooty Hill sub-branch. We are out at the RSL, now called West HQ. And Alf and Dave and the other veterans do a – I said to them today thank you so much for doing this, it is important that it gets done and that we remember. And they also organised for a flyover, which happened right as the ceremony began. They’d organised a RAAF flyover as well, which was really, really thoughtful. And I just think it’s so important. And they get thousands of people out at Pine Grove Memorial at Minchinbury for every Anzac Day. And it does mean a big deal for people that have served in our area.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Absolutely. And it’s great that this year was the first restriction-free Remembrance Day we’ve had since Covid, so the crowds were able to turn out.
And for you, Angus, we’ve spoken on the show in the past about your family’s military history. And I know, attend ceremonies for Anzac Day and for Remembrance Day.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, sure do. As you know, my grandfather served in the First World War, which is unusual for someone of my age. But look, it’s just a great opportunity to honour those who have served tirelessly. I went out to Picton to a commemoration for Remembrance Day in my electorate and heard from Petty Officer Sarah Flanders who was a guest speaker and a former Picton High student who is serving in the navy. And it’s just great to hear from our currently serving military as well about the wonderful things they’re doing and the important role they’re playing in our great nation.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, very well said. Now, on to the big news today from the Prime Minister – he says that the government knows who is responsible for the Medibank hack, which is terrific. But I wonder – what now? How do you track them down? It’s good and well to know who they are, but if they’re offshore crooks, which these people are, Ed, how can we be sure that we’re actually going to stop them in their tracks?
ED HUSIC: I think increasingly governments are working together and have been over some time on this. It’s one of the big issues in terms of crime, cross-border crime, that has attracted the attention of INTERPOL and prioritised it. Locally, working with state and territory governments plus Medibank Private. We need to be able to provide just simple, straightforward access to support.
And if I may Deb, just say that if one’s been affected, they should call Medibank on 13 23 31 – there’s a whole range of things, support and advice that I’m told is being made available from both Medibank and the government to help people.
But we’re going to have to coordinate both within our border and across our border to be able to deal with these types of threats.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And we’ve got to ensure that the information doesn’t get out in the first place. Because this is the most sensitive medical information, the most private information, not to mention the personal details that opens, you know, close to 10 million Medibank customers up to identity fraud and theft. I mean, the corporations have got to have better cyber security to begin with.
ED HUSIC: I think that a number of things need to happen. One is that companies need to respect the way they capture, store and use data. So absolutely to your point. And on the security side especially, you need to be able to have a very clear focus on this. And there’s also a cultural thing, too, because it’s not just about having the best technology, Deb. As some of these events have shown, if the culture of not respecting data is present, you can have the best systems in the world, as I’ve said previously, but if you’ve got your password sitting on a post-it note on your computer, that is just asking for trouble. Or if you’ve got other things that are happening within companies where things aren’t being attended to, then this type of thing is going to happen. That’s why we’ve amped up the penalties to make sure that companies do take this stuff seriously.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And Angus, what more can be done here? Because obviously increasing the penalties is one way of ensuring that the companies who are guilty of repeated serious breaches don’t do it again because you’ve got to ensure that the penalties are tough enough that they’ll take strict action, but what else can be done to make sure that our information, our private information, is safe?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Deb, can I first say that, you know, these breaches are just terrible in terms of the information that’s been put out. It’s just absolutely atrocious, as you point out. The point you’ve always got to keep in mind in this area is that cyber criminals are constantly evolving, whether it’s in Eastern Europe or Russia or Asia where we see so many of these cybercriminals. They are entrepreneurs. They are incredibly innovative. They are constantly evolving.
So the key is to be always trying to get one step ahead of them. You can’t set and forget. You’ve got to be on it all of the time. That means you’ve also – yeah, I agree with Ed, you’ve got to have trusted and cooperative relationships across borders between the public sector and the private sector and within the private sector in terms of how companies are cooperating. You can’t solve this problem without it, which is why we set up the ACSC and why we’ve committed billions of dollars to the ASD, the Signals Directorate.
But, you know, it’s got to be collaborative. We’ll work with the Labor government on any sensible solution that’s going to help prevent these things from happening in the future and mitigate them if they do happen. And you’re quite right – prevention has got to be the first priority.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Should we have things like mandatory testing of cyber security systems? Because corporations have got to do regular fire drills, they've got to ensure that their evacuation systems work. Should that same logic, apply to cyber security? What do you reckon, Ed?
ED HUSIC: I think we should be considering a wide range of ideas, and I think that’s one thing that absolutely is probably worth considering. I’ll leave that to the Cyber Security Minister, Clare O’Neil. She’ll obviously be taking on board advice from a range of different people with background and skills to be able make those calls. You know, you already do see – picking up on Angus’s point, you’re absolutely right, these are very sophisticated crims, some of which recognise the error of their ways, pay the penalty and then help companies too – they go from the black hat to the white hat testing systems as well. So, some do use those type of drills, but if there needs to be broader mechanisms put in place, but obviously we’ll take on board advice and respond in the proper way.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And the AFP will be making more comments about the fact that the Prime Minister has said that they know who is responsible for the Medibank hack. More details will be released later in the day. We’ll keep across the very latest with that.
Now the other big news for the government, the signature industrial relations bill has passed the lower house, but the Senate is the problem now. And crossbencher David Pocock is one of them who holds the key. Ed, he says he has real concerns about this legislation. Are you confident that it will pass the Senate in its current form?
ED HUSIC: Let me put it this way – we’re very focused on getting this done. We’ve been saying for ages we want to get wages moving.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Are you prepared to split the bill then to get it done?
ED HUSIC: We haven’t got a moment to lose to be able to move wages. We’ve been very focused on it given that they’ve been dragging for years.
Now, David’s in the Senate, I’m a lower house member. You know, we recognise that once it gets to that part of the parliament things do tend to be done differently. There will be a lot of talking. Obviously, we want to work with people who want to work with us in a constructive way, and I suspect that that will be the case. And the PM has been talking to crossbenchers and listening and working out things. So, we’ll just wait and see what happens. But I don’t think anyone should mistake for one moment our determination to get a better deal for working Australians.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, we know, Angus, that wages aren’t rising to match inflation. If this bill does bring about changes to increase wages, it should be welcomed, shouldn’t it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we all want to see higher real wages, Deb. There’s no doubt about that. And I think that’s crucially important. But I don’t think that’s what this bill is going to deliver. First of all, it’s a broken election commitment. The Treasurer was very clear that this wasn’t part of their policy. He said it in November last year. So it’s another broken election promise.
But we know from experience that multi-enterprise bargaining as they call it, industry-wide bargaining, leads to more strikes, fewer jobs, unprecedented access to small businesses in this legislation, increased red tape for small and medium sized businesses and higher prices for Australian families. We just don’t think this is the way to achieve that important and noble outcome of higher real wages, which we all want to see, Deb.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right. Well, we’ll see how it goes in the Senate.
In terms of the election promise issue, we know that no new taxes has been one that has been definitely put to voters in the lead-up to the election. But Ed, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has left the door open today to a temporary coal and gas tax to try to find some sort of solution to the soaring energy prices. Are we going to see taxes going up?
ED HUSIC: I noticed some publications today were hot to trot on some of these things. What we’ve been trying to do, Deb, is signal a number of things: one, high energy prices, very serious; two, we want to deal with them; three, we’ve tried to work with the companies. The PM has left the door open to work with them, but they’ve got to take seriously that their prices, particularly on gas, are working against the national interest. And instead of putting out mistruths and bending the truth and all this type of stuff, threatening to sue us if we dare take action on behalf of Australians, which you’ve seen some gas companies suggest this week, we’ve said we’re going to look at a range of issues. we’re going to work through them properly as a government and then we’re going to make that call. And we want to make it before the end of the year because we believe that we’ve got to get this thing sorted before we get to next winter.
And certainly we welcome the Coalition, if they’re serious as well on this, we welcome working with them on making sure that we both – we stick up for ordinary households and manufacturers, the tens of thousands of manufacturers across this country that are relying on a better deal out of companies that, frankly, these gas companies have been making extraordinary profits. They can still make profits, but bring down better prices and do the right thing for the country.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: So Angus, what would a temporary coal or gas tax do to the industry?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I have no idea what they’re proposing, Deb. It’s all pretty vague. What I do know is if you want to get prices down in any market you get more supply into the market. And we’re very happy to work with Labor on exactly that. But your question about tax is a good one. I mean, Labor promised no new taxes. We had a franking credit tax in the Budget, so they’re talking about higher income tax. Now they’re talking about taxes on our exports and taxes on superannuation. Now this promise of no new taxes is just another broken election promise. One after another we’re seeing these broken promises, and this is just the next in a long list.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: So will you rule it out, Ed, or beyond your pay grade?
ED HUSIC: We’re working as a group. I’m not going to go into the rule in, rule out stuff. But I just want people to know we are focused on this issue of bringing down prices, particularly on gas. I don’t care how unpopular I am with those gas companies for calling them out on the greed that they’ve exhibited. But we are focused on this. It’s got to be dealt with. These companies, if I may say, they were the same to the Coalition when they were in government, and Angus knows the type of games that they get up to. And they are the same now, and they should not mistake for one moment – and I believe the country should stand as one to ensure that the resource that we have plenty of we get access at a better price.
And, Angus, I know you’ve mentioned a number of times about supply. You know, one of the things that gets me going is that Santos has sat on that bloody Narrabri deposit, and even the Chamber of Commerce President this week has been saying why has it taken them six years to get moving on it? And companies like Santos, they know that they can go ahead with it. They’ve got the green light and they should get moving. And I think this week even the New South Wales Government were saying, “Look, we only just got the last lot of documents we needed out of them.”
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, everyone’s blaming each other, meanwhile there’s no supply and the prices keep going up.
ED HUSIC: Well, the supply – my point is this – Angus has mentioned a number of times. This is why I said it’s not a supply problem; it’s a greed problem. Now they’ve got Narrabri sitting there. Get cracking.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Is it as simple as that, Angus?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Deb, we got more supply into the network and prices came down. We had prices getting up to $20 a gigajoule. We got them down through the pandemic down to around 5 or 6.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right.
ANGUS TAYLOR: So it – you know, they’re the facts. That’s what you do. I’ve said this from the day Labor got into government to Chris Bowen – this is the answer. Everyone knows it’s the answer. He just hates the gas industry and is demonising it. You’ve got to work with them to get more supply into the network.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right, all right. Let’s end on something fun before we get to –
ED HUSIC: I love you, Angus. I want people to know at least once every time you – there’s got to be a Chris Bowen reference at least once in these discussions!
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, I mean there are questions that need to be answered. But let’s end on something fun, as we do every Friday Question Time. My middle child, Elsa, had her high school orientation today. And I want to know from you fellas, when it comes to your high school years what would you want to go back and change if you could? Maybe your hairstyle or your taste in music, or maybe you had a terrible role with a teacher where you absolutely did the wrong thing. What is your biggest high school regret? Let’s start with you, Ed?
ED HUSIC: The King Gee stubbies. Those shorts were terrible.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Did you have desert boots to go with them?
ED HUSIC: Desert boots. I went to Mitchell High, Blacktown.
ANGUS TAYLOR: You’re pre-empting me, Deb.
ED HUSIC: The shorts were either too long and baggy or too short and just wrong. And I just wish I could go back in time and fix those uniforms.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yes, I can just see those desert boots and those stubbies right now. What about you, Angus?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I don’t regret the music. I mean, bands like ELO, ZZ Top, they’re even better today than they were back then.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: True.
ANGUS TAYLOR: But I’ve got to say, yeah, haircuts, the bowl hair cut I had on a number of occasions, and it doesn’t age well. And then, of course, the outfits – flares and desert boots. I’m old enough to be in that category and they were pretty awful, weren’t they?
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, those school photos, geez, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of the Angus Taylor or Ed Husic school photos from back in the day.
ED HUSIC: No, you don’t. You don’t want that. But by the way, the other questionable shoe – well, not questionable, but everyone remembers the Dunlop Volleys.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: They’re fine. The Dunlop Volleys are back. They’ve gone full circle in the fashion stakes actually, the Dunlop Volleys. Get another pair, you’ll be right. The kids will think you’re cool when you do that, Ed.
ED HUSIC: Yeah and the mullet’s back, too.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: I know. It goes full circle. Good on you, fellas, we’ll talk next week.
ED HUSIC: Cheers.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Ed. Thanks, Deb.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Angus Taylor and Ed Husic for our regular Friday Question Time.