Subjects: economy/house prices; Native Title amendments; GetUp! campaign tactics
GARETH PARKER: And joining us this week from Parliament House in Canberra, the Attorney-General, the Industrial Relations Minister, and of course, the Leader of the House. Christian Porter, good morning.
I think we've got him, good morning.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yep, no, I think you've got me, there's bells ringing in the background, but I'm on.
GARETH PARKER: No worries, all good. We're just a little slow. Problem was at our end. Thank you for your time this morning.
Before we get into some of matters in your portfolio, can I just get your general assessment about the state of the economy at the moment?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, it's different around Australia. There are definitely international challenges that we're facing on the east coast, which thankfully is not under state of affairs for us in WA. But there is a shocking drought which is having a pretty strong effect on the domestic economy. But notwithstanding all of those challenges, things are very solid and very stable heading in the right direction. We've seen yesterday…
GARETH PARKER: Do you think so?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: I do. I mean out of- if you compare to the G7 economies, we're growing at a rate second only to the United States. If you look today, for instance, unemployment has come down from 5.2 to 5.1, and there are actually some pretty pleasing figures in WA on youth unemployment. So, I’m not denying that there aren't challenges, but we have a very strong plan in anticipation of those challenges, and at the centrepiece for that is tax cuts for all Australians, which are staggered through and which will have a very significant effect as we move on over the next several quarters.
GARETH PARKER: Because it doesn't seem as though those tax cuts have actually done anything much to stimulate the economy. It seems that the tax cuts that have been delivered, the $1080 tax cuts, that they have been put by people into their mortgage, or their credit card debt, or they've been put in the bank. They certainly don't seem to be circulating around the retail economy.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, and I think though that obviously those tax cuts and that money comes in on a regular basis. I'm not disputing that quite often, when people find extra money in their pockets, the first thing that they do with that often is, as you say, pay down a debt like a credit card. But that benefit exists in perpetuity. So we would expect that given reasonable time, that's going to have the right effect on the economy. And of course, the reason why we won that election was because our plan was to tax less, and Labor's plan was to put $397 billion worth of taxes on the economy. So our plan…
GARETH PARKER: That's why they lost.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Of course.
GARETH PARKER: But it's now your job to run the show.
We've been having the debate this morning about real estate. In this state, your electorate is ground zero for this issue. As an outer suburban electorate, it is ground zero for mortgage belt people. Your voters are people who may well have bought houses that are now worth less than they paid for them. This is a significant challenge, isn't it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Undoubtedly, it is. I mean I live in Yanchep and prices over six years in Yanchep have decreased 20 per cent. And again, one of the reasons why we won the election is that was going to represent even further losses for people if you got rid of negative gearing, because you would've ended up under Labor's model, taking a whole lot of buyers out of the market.
But everyone would like to see a steady recovery of house prices in WA. And ultimately, that is about having the WA economy perform better, and that's a shared responsibility between the Federal and State Governments. But what you want to see is the economy doing better and the sort of demand and pull factors for property prices existing to greater extent than they have recently. But I mean, again, I think that the signs for the West Australian economy are very positive. And particularly in WA, there is an enormous amount of allocated Federal money for infrastructure, and particularly roads, and of course rail. So in my electorate, what I'd like to see is the State Government's promise made good to actually start the Ellenbrook rail project this year, and that's what they promised they'd do. And a massive amount of money has been allocated to it. So if you want to see improvements in the WA economy, I think the first and foremost thing that should happen is that projects, which we have funded, but which of course are organised by the State Government, have to start on time.
GARETH PARKER: So you want to get on with it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, I mean there's no point in saying: well, we need to have greater stimulus in the economy and having hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to something like Ellenbrook rail, having Labor clearly promised they'd start it this year. And mate, you know, we're now in October and where is the work?
GARETH PARKER: The issue with native title, this one that you and I have been talking about for many years, back to when I used to work at the newspaper when you were in the State Government. You highlighted that this was an issue that disproportionately affected Western Australia because of our large tracks of unallocated Crown land which are subject to native title. You're putting a bill up to the Federal Parliament today, what will it do?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: It makes the processes that sit behind native title quicker, faster, less expensive, more streamlined. And having been a native title administrator at a State Government level and now at a Federal Government level, I wanted to pay particular attention to this because I don't want to see extra costs for the mining and resources industry; unnecessary delay for State Governments or farming interests and equally, I don't want to see native title claim bodies and bodies corporate for Indigenous corporations slowed down by terrible internal processes.
So it gives greater flexibility on the internal processes that would allow for section 31 agreements to be signed. So they relate to the grants of mining and exploration licences. It streamlines and improves the native title claims and resolution making process, increases transparency and accountability, creates new pathways to address native title dispute. One example might be that, for instance, to get a section 31 agreement for a mining or exploration licence signed, that had to be by complete unanimity of a native title claim group, like everyone. And even if someone had died and hadn't been removed from the list, the section 31 agreements could've been overturned or might not have been made in the first place. So we've changed that process so that a claim group can act by a majority, which seems to me to be a matter of complete common sense. So that's really going to benefit states like WA where there's a lot of interaction between native title claimholders and mining companies and a whole range of other economic interests.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Boss of GetUp! stood up at the National Press Club yesterday and said: oh, we messed up the election campaign. We've talked about this before. I mean, do you think that this new right wing version, Advance Australia, do you think they're going to have an impact?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I hope that they do okay. But mostly, I just hope they behave properly. I mean GetUp! were just complete creeps, full stop. They were republishing on Facebook and Twitter material that had been got by someone who was essentially stalking Nicolle Flint in her seat of Boothby. I mean someone who had the police approached them, and the photos that they were taking during their stalking were being republished by GetUp!. In my electorate and other electorates, GetUp! were producing these telephone canvassing sheets, that they were encouraging people to recite in thousands of telephone calls through the election and they just contained outright lies.
GARETH PARKER: It didn't seem to do you any harm.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean, I think people didn't buy it, right? I think that's absolutely right. It was just absolute lies.
GARETH PARKER: Did they help you?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: I'm not so sure about that. It's never a very helpful thing, I think having thousands of people conned in to making phone calls on behalf of GetUp! telling lies about a candidate, and they're obviously not positive things that they were saying. But I do think that in WA, when east coast money and organisers spend Sydney money, and in many cases, overseas money to try and unseat and unsettle locals, that doesn't work terribly well. But look, they just behave terribly, and in a way that normal mainstream parties would never accept. And there was a guy from GetUp! in the WA newspaper recorded as saying that the reason why he was supporting GetUp! was because the Coalition Government- he didn't want to see policies that would enslave his children. But no mainstream party would associate themselves with something so ridiculous. But what GetUp! seems to do in my observation is allow the Labor Party to have some agent out there who engages in all the stupid, sort of, guild politics, campus dirt sheet tactics that a mainstream party just wouldn't touch. And they kind of farm all that rubbish out to GetUp! and hope that they profit from it. And I think it's really bad for Australian democracy and it's just not how Australians want to see a good clean contest fought.
GARETH PARKER: Okay, thank you for your time this morning.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Okay, thanks for that Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, Attorney-General.