TRANSCRIPT: Wake up with Richard King 2HD

May 9, 2017










TUESDAY, 9th MAY 2017

SUBJECTS: 2017 budget, NDIS, needs-based school funding, university cuts, Medicare rebate, clean energy supplement, Royal Commission into Australia’s banks, the extent to which Mark Latham is a grub.

RICHARD KING, PRESENTER: Joining me now is the Federal Member for Shortland Pat Conroy, morning Pat.


KING: Good thanks how are you?

CONROY: Good thanks.

KING: Do you agree with Craig James from CommSec , not expecting too many hits for the average Aussie in tonight’s budget?

CONROY: Well, clearly this is going to be a political budget and they’re going to try and repair some of what they did in that incredibly unfair 2014 budget. I don’t expect them to make all of it up but obviously they’ll try to repair some of the massive cuts to education and healthcare that we saw in 2014. So, time will tell, I reckon we’ll see a couple of hidden nasties in there which we’ll have to find in the fine print.

KING: Good news if it’s true, full funding for the NDIS from beyond 2019. That would obviously be very heartening for you?

CONROY: Oh certainly I welcome that. The NDIS should be bipartisan commitment. The truth is that Labor put aside the full funding for it but the Government chose to rip some of that money out. So them restoring that NDIS funding I certainly welcome. The NDIS does great work in our region, we still have to iron out a few bugs but overall I welcome that announcement.

KING: Interesting. There’s certainly a clean divide on this education funding, there’s a bit gone from funding for universities, apparently an increase in fees and having to repay via HECS a lot earlier: $42,000 which is down from $50,000. Well, Bill Shorten you leader has accused the Turnbull Government of lying to parents, but struggling to explain and certainly siding with Catholic schools who would need, according to them, increased tuition fees five times more than the planned funding cuts. Are you alongside you leader on this one siding with the Catholic schools?

CONROY: Well I’m really concerned about what this budget contains for education. On the unis, it’s a $3.5 billion cut, its stacking up the repayments of students and lowering the threshold. And that’s really important because our local uni in Newcastle 50 per cent of students come, not from school, but retraining and mature age students who are typically part time. Studies have shown they’re the most deterred by increasing uni debt and increasing repayments. I’m really concerned about the uni cuts having an impact on our great retraining efforts that are being done at Newcastle University. On the schools funding it’s a giant con to be frank. They’ve cut $30 billion in 2014 and they’ve restored some of the money in this budget, but it’s still a cut and that will impact our local schools. Labor and Liberals to be honest in the 2013 election, committed to a base level of funding being achieved by 2019 for every student in the country. What they announced last week means that base level of funding won’t be achieved by 2029 at best. So that means that most students that are starting school now aren’t going to see the funding promised in the 2013 budget. So I’m really concerned people may be hoodwinked by this package.

KING: Alright. Good news again if it’s correct, that the Government will unfreeze the Medicare rebate and certainly I think most of us will be very happy if that does happen, Pat?

CONROY: I welcome the unfreezing of the rebate if that is what they do and I think it’s long overdue. I do applaud them for finally coming to the table on that. We’ll see the details because I’ve heard concerning information that they’ll unfreeze it for GPs this year, which is good, but it won’t be unfrozen for specialists until a few more years down the track. So that might have an impact on when people see a specialist. But I certainly welcome anything that relieves the pressure on doctors to stop bulk billing, because we are a high bulk billing region and we need to restore those levels.

KING: Energy prices have been a hot topics with increasing electricity and gas bills. Pensioners are getting a one off payment to help with electricity bills I mean every little bit helps, it’s not a lot, and only one off, but a good thing for pensioners?

CONROY: Oh look, I welcome the $75 that a single pensioner is going to get. I think as you said every little bit helps. I don’t want to be Mr Negative here, but I point out that the Government has still got on its books a commitment to slashing the clean energy supplement that pensioners receive. That’s an annual payment of $600, so yes they’re giving $75, which is good, but unfortunately they’re still committed to a $600 cut in the pension; a cut each year. I’d like them to go further to be honest, and I’d certainly support them going further but obviously $75 given the high cost of electricity will be welcome.

KING: Now housing affordability is a hot topic, everybody seems to have a plan; most of the plans don’t seem to have much of an impact. What would you like to see on the subject of housing affordability in the federal budget tonight?

CONROY: Yeah I’d like them to adopt some of Labor’s policies, like restricting negative gearing to new property, reducing the capital gain tax discount from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. Those will help slow the boom in investment housing. Then I welcome them restoring the ability of first home buyers to salary sacrifice into a deposit account. That’s something we tried in government and got abolished in 2014, so if they restore that that’s definitely worth supporting. Looking around, more infrastructure because you can tackle housing affordability through two things: it can make housing more affordable in the middle and inner rings of cities but then you can also invest in infrastructure so people can live in the outer ring and get to work a lot easier. So increased infrastructure investment, whether it is the Glendale Transport Interchange or more commitment to public transport is something we’ve got to really concentrate on. It takes longer on rail now from Newcastle to Sydney than it did in World War Two and that’s just incredible.

KING: It is incredible, but there’s been a lot of talk about major infrastructure spending. We didn’t do very well last year. Fingers crossed, for obviously you and all our local MPs believe that the Glendale Interchange is a very high priority, are you hopeful are you optimistic there be something there for that tonight?

CONROY: I’m hopeful Richard but I’m not optimistic to be honest. This is the single most important project, as identified by all eleven Hunter Councils. It will unlock $98 of private sector investment for every dollar of government investment, and will create ten thousand jobs. To me it’s just a no brainer. For a $13 million commitment from the Federal Government we could have this thing built. I hope they announce it. I’ll applaud it. I’ll be the first to say I’m Labor but I’m supporting a Liberal measure if they do it, but I’m afraid I’m going to be disappointed.

KING: Thirteen to eight on 2HD, my guest the Federal Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy just on the subject of tonight’s budget. You’ve been one that’s been wanting a Royal Commission into our banking system for some time. The Turnbull Government has asked the Productivity Commission to hold an inquiry into Australia’s financial system as to whether or not it’s competitive and innovative. Are you happy with that? Do you think that goes far enough, or would you like to see still a Royal Commission?

CONROY: Look, I’m still definitely committed to a Royal Commission. We’ve had so many inquiries. We’ve had the Murray Review that looked at these issues only three years ago and made recommendations that the Government hasn’t adopted. We really need a Royal Commission to shine a light on this industry, both the individual abuses of customers, the fact that we’ve got the most concentrated banking sector in the world. Our four banks own more of the market than any other western nation. That means their profits are so much higher than comparative banks around the world and that impacts on everyday banking for businesses and households. We want a profitable banking sector I’m not talking about nationalising it, we need a profitable banking sector that returns steady profits to their shareholders, but they shouldn’t be ripping of customers like they do now, and the full weight of a Royal Commission will help achieve that change.

KING: What did you think of the ad that certainly generated a storm on social media. Your fellow Labor federal member Anthony Albanese has slammed this new Labor Party white Australia first, which features of course Bill Shorten, sparked a social media backlash, I think even Derryn Hinch described it as an ad, or it could be an ad for the Ku Klux Klan. Do you believe it was a major error on behalf of your party?

CONROY: Look, I’m Labor through and through, but that was a massive mistake. It was a mistake by the national secretariat of the party to design and release that ad. The diversity was lacking in it, and the messaging was poor. I think the core policy announcements that were contained in that ad were good which was around putting Australians first for jobs and reforming the 457 visa system to make sure Australians get the first chance at jobs, looking at increased funding for TAFE. They’re all good policies, but the overall message was, quite frankly, very ill thought out and unfortunate. So I’m not defending everything Labor does, that would be dishonest. That’s a mistake we need to rectify.

KING: Former Labor leader Mark Latham, it was announced by your party is never to return to the party, but apparently he’s announced that he’s joining David Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats. Do you think there’s a place for Mark in federal politics still?

CONROY: Absolutely not. He’s a grub of the highest order. He’s demonstrated anti-social tendencies. He seems to hate women. He seems to hate young people. He just seems to be a very grumpy, angry, old politician whose lost touch with what the struggles are of everyday Australians. So not only does he not have a place in modern politics, I don’t think we should even have his photo in the Labor party room. He’s a rat and I’ve got no time for him.

KING: Alright, why don’t you tell us what you really think (laughs).

CONROY: Well I’m passionate about it.

KING: Well yeah obviously. Now if you had the magic wand and could do anything, what would you like to do in tonight’s budget, just one thing?

CONROY: Well besides the Glendale Transport Interchange, it would be to restore the funding to our hospital system. The 2014 budget cut $1.2 billion of funding that was going to Hunter New England hospitals and Central Coast hospitals. Our hospitals are under breaking pressure right now, and we need to help the state government from the federal level to get money back into that. That, and Medicare are the most important issues in my electorate and that’s what I’d love to see in the budget.

KING: And you are for your electorate holding a number of budget forums next week. What’s the purpose of those Pat?

CONROY: They’re to give a straight and factual presentation about what’s actually in the budget. So the first half of the presentation will just be me briefing people about this is what the budget has announced, this is the impact on the bottom line, all the figures are from the budget papers, it’s not me fudging it. And then the second half is me giving a bit of analysis and answering questions. And they went really well last year. We had over 100 at Warners Bay at one of them, so I’d love people to go along. They can see the details on my Facebook page. They’re on Monday night at Valentine Bowls Club, Tuesday during the day at Doylo RSL, during the night at Swansea RSL on Tuesday night, and then Thursday during the day at Charlestown Leagues Club. So please ring my office on 4954 2611 or look up my Facebook page. This is not a political event. This is me briefing the constituents of Shortland about what’s in the budget, and that’s one of my duties as a local MP.

KING: Good to talk to you, thank you very much for your time. Have a good night and fingers crossed for some good news for our neck of the woods in tonight’s budget Pat.

CONROY: Thanks Richard, have a great day.

KING: You too. Pat Conroy, Federal Member for Shortland.



© 2013 Pat Conroy | Disclaimer