Saturday, March 15, 2008

Malcolm Turnbull's Life on Mars

Was he set up? Is he mad? (he is not) Or are the Government and its Treasury involved in a cover up, including the falsification of documents?

It would seem to be one of them.

Here's the story as it unfolded yesterday:

Malcolm Turnbull claimed that at its February 25 Cabinet meeting, the government rejected Treasury advice to seek a specific dollar-figure wage increase for low-paid workers before the fair pay commission.

“We know that the Treasury recommended a specific number - $18,” he said.

He asked the Minister to release the Treasury advice.

The Treasury Secretary Ken Henry refuted the story in a public statement.

“I refer to recent claims that the Treasury recommended to the Government that it nominate a specific dollar figure in the Government's submission to the Australian Fair Pay Commission on minimum wages, These claims are false."

Turnbull responded: "I think you’ve got to read that statement very carefully. What we said was that the Treasury gave that advice prior to the February 25th Cabinet meeting, at which the government decided to make no submission as to the level of increase."

Then the Government leaked to the media the actual Treasury submission, dated February 21 which does indeed make no mention of a specific increase ($18 or anything else) and in fact says "recommending a specific quantum is highly problematic".

So was he set up? Is he mad? Have the documents been forged? Is there Life on Mars?

Below read yesterday's excruciating transcript:

SHADOW TREASURER:

Well today we’ve received confirmation that the government lacks the courage to tell the Fair Pay Commission what it regards is the appropriate increase for Australia’s lowest paid workers, for the minimum wage. And it’s refusing to give that advice, that assistance to the Fair Pay Commission; even though it says that the fight against inflation is its number one priority, even though it says that it’s concerned about the position of Australians on the minimum wage. When the Fair Pay Commission is looking for guidance, for assistance from the Australian Government, it’ll receive nothing. Mr Rudd is not providing any new leadership, he’s providing no leadership. He’s had advice from the Treasury that the appropriate figure is $18 and he is not prepared to provide that advice to the Fair Pay Commission.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, you never actually nominated a specific figure yourself when you were in Government.

SHADOW TREASURER:

Well, that is true, on the two… the Australian Government always made recommendations, in the days before the Fair Pay Commission, to the Industrial Relations Commission, but they didn’t make submissions before, that is true. But Mr Rudd has offered new leadership, he has said that looking after the interests of the lowest paid and the fight against inflation are his key priorities and we know that the decision of the Fair Pay Commission will have considerable ramifications both for the fight against inflation and of course for those on the lowest wages. Now why does he have nothing to say? When the Fair Pay Commission says, “what do you think the increase should be?” the Australian Government is going to stand there and say nothing. It’s just gutless.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, Ken Henry from Treasury this morning took the unusual step of saying your claims that Treasury recommended an $18 a week increase to the Labor Party were I quote “false”, that’s a pretty emphatic….(inaudible)… Why did you make this claim?

SHADOW TREASURER:

Ok I think you’ve got to read that statement very carefully. What we said was that the Treasury gave that advice prior to the February 25th Cabinet meeting, at which the government decided to make no submission as to the level of increase. I put this to Mr Rudd twice, at eleven-minutes past two and forty minutes past on Wednesday afternoon, in the House of Representatives. He declined to contradict me. He did not correct me. If I was so wrong, why didn’t he correct me on Wednesday? You have to ask yourself.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Wayne Swan though?

SHADOW TREASURER:

He was sitting next to Wayne Swan. If Wayne Swan had known that what I was saying, or thought what I was saying was false he could have said to Kevin Rudd, lent across to Kevin Rudd and said “Turnbull’s wrong. Correct it”. This is very fishy. The only way we will know what really happened is if the Government produces all the Treasury advice. They’ve got to table all of the advice. It’s not good having a carefully worded statement here, and a few lines out of context there. Let’s find out what that advice is. Look, Mr Rudd said he was opening up a new era of openness and honesty and transparency and yet on this vital issue, instead of providing new leadership, he’s providing no leadership at all. When this vital issue of what should the Fair Pay Commission do, he has got nothing to say. That’s not leadership. It’s not courage. It’s not honest. It’s gutlessness.

JOURNALIST:

You’re not embarrassed at all by the false claim of $18?

SHADOW TREASURER:

No, I assure you. The $18 was the subject of the advice from the Treasury prior to the 25th of February. If he wants to contradict that, table it all. Get all of that advice there, every document. We’ll put in an FOI request. Let’s see if they respond to it. Let’s see if they produce all the documents.

JOURNALIST:

Can you produce documents to back up your case?

SHADOW TREASURER:

No, well, I can’t because I am the Shadow Treasurer, not the Treasurer. The Treasurer’s got the documents and what he’s not doing is producing them so he can know what the position really is.

JOURNALIST:

When you say it’s fishy, are you suggesting that you’ve been set up?

SHADOW TREASURER:

No, what I’m saying is, it is fishy because if the Treasury had never given that advice prior to the 25th February Cabinet meeting, why didn’t the Prime Minister say so in question time on Wednesday? He had two opportunities. I asked him the same question twice. He could have contradicted me or corrected me on either of those occasions, and he didn’t. And its not until today, after the Parliament has risen for a few days, its not until today we find out that what I was putting to the Government, namely that they were not going to make any submission as to what the outcome of what the Fair Pay Commission should be, its only now that we know that in fact what I put to them in Parliament is correct.

JOURNALIST:

Are you embarrassed that Ken Henry took the unusual step to provide a clarification?

SHADOW TREASURER:

No, I’m not; I’m neither embarrassed nor am I surprised. The person that should be embarrassed is Kevin Rudd. He is the one that said he was going to provide new leadership, he is providing no leadership. He was the one who said he was going to be transparent; he’s not producing any of these documents. He is the one who said he would put the Treasury front and centre, at the heart of the Government’s policy agenda. Where’s the Treasury advice?

JOURNALIST:

So the suggestion from you is that he didn’t know on Wednesday when you put it to him that he wasn’t across it? Is that what you’re suggesting?

SHADOW TREASURER:

Well look, if what I had put to him on Wednesday was wrong, why didn’t he say so? He never loses an opportunity to correct me if he thinks I’m saying something wrong. Why didn’t he correct me? He quite deliberately did not contradict that point and the only reasonable inference from that is that what we were putting to him was correct.

JOURNALIST:

What lesson have you taken out of this Mr Turnbull given Treasury’s come down pretty heavily today in terms of further statements and questions in the House?

SHADOW TREASURER:

Look, the only answer, the only response to issues like this is openness and transparency. If Mr Rudd is genuinely ushering in a new era of open government, then it all hang out. Let’s have all of the Treasury advice. Come on this is a big issue. This is a really big issue that our economy depends upon and the lives and livings of many Australians, particularly the lowest paid depend on. Let’s see that Treasury advice. Put it out there, let’s see what they said. If he puts all the advice out there and it turns out that what we’ve been told is wrong then we’ll say so. But we’re not going to back off until he puts all the information out in the public domain.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

so, according to turnbull he needs rudd to tell him whether he is lying or telling the truth

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