Member for Isaacs

ABC News Breakfast 15 February 2016

15 February 2016

SUBJECTS: Stuart Robert; Labor's plan to fund health & education and balance the Budget.




SUBJECTS: Stuart Robert; Labor's plan to fund health & education and balance the Budget.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: Going back to Federal Labor's move to refer the Stuart Robert saga to the Federal Police. Were joined by the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Why are you doing this?

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We think it's really important that the highest possible standards be brought to bear on the high office of being a minister of the Commonwealth and while it was clear last Monday, a week ago, that Mr Robert had breached the ministerial standards, and should have resigned then and there, it took until Friday afternoon for the Prime Minister to get around to doing this. It also became apparent last week, on Friday at the time of the Prime Ministers announcement, that Mr Robert had a direct financial stake in one of the mining companies whose signing ceremony he attended.

ROWLAND: Why are you saying there's alleged criminality here in referring this matter to the Federal Police?

DREYFUS: There's an offence in the criminal code and it's an abuse of public office offence. It covers, potentially, this very conduct of using your public office, the high ministerial office that Mr Robert had, to benefit yourself or to benefit someone with whom you're associated.

ROWLAND: He had interests in this trust which had shares in Nimrod resources but is there any evidence to prove that Stuart Robert gained financially?

DREYFUS: That's the matter that has to be investigated by the police. Clearly, if you hold a financial interest, whether directly or indirectly through a chain of other companies, it doesn't matter. If you hold a financial interest in one of the mining companies that's entering a lucrative deal with a Chinese state-owned mining company, that's something that's potentially an abuse of office and absolutely should be investigated.

ROWLAND: Many would say Stuart Robert has paid the ultimate price in being dumped from the ministry.

DREYFUS: He paid the appropriate price. He couldn't possibly continue as a minister. We said it from Monday morning onwards. Why it took the Prime Minister a whole week -perhaps he didn't want to make the announcement while Parliament was sitting for whatever reason but this is something else, takes it to a different level and we are pursuing it because we think the highest possible standards need to be brought to bear.

ROWLAND: You're confident the Federal Police will find something wrong?

DREYFUS: I've got great confidence in the Australian Federal Polices ability to properly investigate. I don't know what they will find but it's entirely appropriate that they be asked to investigate. That's how we maintain standards.

ROWLAND: It's not just a fishing expedition?

DREYFUS: Not at all. Were going on something that only became apparent at the time of the Prime Ministers announcement of Mr Roberts resignation. For the first time we learned that he had this direct financial interest, that's the matter that's prompted our request to the Federal Police.

ROWLAND: Early days yet but any word from the Federal Police?

DREYFUS: No, we haven't had a response yet.

ROWLAND: Lets go to the opinion poll in the Fairfax papers this morning, a gain by the Labor Party of 4 points on a preferred basis but looking at preferred Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull still well ahead of Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten only garnering 19 per cent support as preferred Prime Minister. Does that worry you as a member of his team?

DREYFUS: I'm not worried about polls but I think that that drop you've identified is reflective of the fact that the wave of relief that swept over the country when Tony Abbott stopped being Prime Minister, that's receding and people are starting to take a longer, harder look at the way in which Mr Turnbull is governing the country. What were seeing is chaos in the ministerial ranks with departure after departure and most significantly and I think this is the thing that people are looking at they are not seeing changed policies from Mr Turnbull. Rather, they're seeing a continuation of failed policies and particularly in tax. We've had the extraordinary development in nearly 6 months in the job Mr Turnbull has failed to engage with tax policy properly. By contrast, people are seeing Labor not just rolling out new tax policies and proposals last year but at the weekend very coherent, fully worked-through tax policies on Saturday.

ROWLAND: Lets go to one of those policies, the move to wind back negative gearing concessions. How confident are you that that will be a vote-winner in marginal seats?

DREYFUS: I think people will see that Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have crafted very thoughtful policy here which picks up the problem that negative gearing was meant to boost housing supply and reduce the price of housing, making it easier for people to enter the housing market and what do we find? We find that 93 per cent of existing investments in negative gearing have in fact gone to existing housing. Only 7 per cent going to new housing. I think redirecting that, of course grandfathering so that no existing arrangements will be affected at all, giving people time to get organised, we've said if we win the election it will come in on 1 July 2017 but, importantly, it's going to be redirected towards new housing and that's the way the tax system should be operated. We need to focus on what social benefits are we trying to achieve by tax settings? We know what the social benefit is, it's making housing more affordable, increasing the supply of housing.

ROWLAND: Wont focusing the concession on new housing make it harder for first home buyers to get into the new housing market?

DREYFUS: It will expand the supply of housing. It will make more people more interested in building new houses, in picking up house and land packages, in providing demand for new housing. It's about increasing the overall supply of housing, Michael.

ROWLAND: Mark Dreyfus, well leave it there. Thanks for joining us this morning on Breakfast.