Subjects: Women in Liberal Party, energy, aged care,
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me live now is the Defence Industry Minister, Steve Ciobo. Mr. Ciobo, thanks so much for your time. On the one hand, the Prime Minister says it’s a pretty rough business, the pre-selections and so on, but then on the other, he’s saying he’s 100 per cent confident that bullying is not a problem for the Federal Parliamentary Party. Can he be that sure?
STEVEN CIOBO: Of course he can, because we’re a close-knit team, we’re focused on what we’ve gotta do to make sure that we can deal with the issues that are important to Australians. He’s spoken to those that have raised concerns, but you know Kieran, the fact is that we see, let’s call it “argie bargie.” We see “argie bargie” on all sides of the political aisle. Let’s not pretend this is something that only the Liberal Party deals with. I mean, in fact, we’ve seen much more excessive examples of actual physical violence in the Australian Labor Party. So, the fact is that, yes there’ve been concerns that have been ventilated, the Prime Minister has been involved, and in fact, we’ve seen that when they’ve gone on the public record, that the bulk of the concerns relate to the state-based organisations. And, of course, that’s got to be dealt with and dealt with and dealt with appropriately, but that’s the reason why you can be assured about the situation as it is.
KIERAN GILBERT: What about your parliamentary colleagues? You can be sure?
STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely. Yeah.
KIERAN GILBERT: But at the state level, obviously this needs to be dealt with, and he’s saying, in terms of the Sudmalis, you know, argument last night, the claims made against those individuals, he wants this dealt with by the Party organisation.
STEVEN CIOBO: By the State. Right, correct. By the Party organisation at a state level. Absolutely.
KIERAN GILBERT: And are you confident that’ll happen?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, of course. The Liberal Party has a terrifically strong track record, a strong track record of dealing with these sorts of matters. A strong track record of making sure that the best people can come through and that’s what we’re going to continue to focus on-
KIERAN GILBERT: They don’t have a strong record in terms of female representation.
STEVEN CIOBO: No. Well, hang on, no, we do-
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s appalling.
STEVEN CIOBO: This is, exactly, this is, well I’m sorry, you’re wrong.
KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of female representation-
STEVEN CIOBO: If you look at cabinet representation, 58 per cent of cabinet ministers in this country that have been female have been from the Coalition, 58 per cent, much better than Labor. I’ll tell you what we’re not, perhaps-
KIERAN GILBERT: Right now, we’re talking about today. You could have five members of the Lower House, potentially.
STEVEN CIOBO: We’ll see, we acknowledge that it ebbs and flows. I don’t pretend that but please don’t dismiss the history of the, the really strong history, of the Coalition with respect to female representation. Now, ours ebbs and flows-
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, you might be good over the years but right now it’s not looking so good.
STEVEN CIOBO: Because it ebbs and flows, this is my point, Kieran. The Labor Party has a quota system, right? So, it doesn’t matter who’s best for the job. The Labor Party says fifty-fifty, man/woman that’s the way it’s gonna be. Okay? Our approach is different, and what we have is a strong track record, the runs on the board. People can look at the history of the Coalition and see our success in relation to female representation in relation to the number of females that have served in Cabinet with a whole array of different measures like that. You look at the tremendous progress that the Coalition has made with the level of female representation on government boards, the level of female representation in senior executive leadership positions, a whole array of different metrics. The Coalition’s track record is incredibly strong. In fact, in fact, stronger than Labor’s is. And yet, you and others-
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s because you say it ebbs and flows but I mean this out … this is … you say it ebbs and flows but it’s at a very low ebb right now. That’s the point.
STEVEN CIOBO: This is something that’s changing. This is something that will change.
KIERAN GILBERT: That’s not sustainable, is it?
STEVEN CIOBO: But, no, this is something that will change, and no one’s saying that it should stay the way that it is now. In fact, people are saying the opposite. They’re saying they want to see those levels of representation increase again. And you know what? They will. We’ve already seen, for example, in a number of our key marginal seats where women have been pre-selected. We’re already seeing where woman are in number one and number two positions on Senate tickets for the Coalition. So our track record is strong, Kieran. My point is you focus on one thing and are forgetting about everything else, all the other metrics, all the history, all the background. And I’m simply here to remind that you that on all those other measures our track record is stronger than Labor’s. I absolutely can see that it’s not, the level, that is, of female representation isn’t as high as we’d want it to be and we’re working on that.
KIERAN GILBERT: Could you imagine, though, if you ended up with only a handful of women in the Parliament after the next election?
STEVEN CIOBO: I don’t think that’s going to be the outcome.
KIERAN GILBERT: Because, well you’re confident you’ll hold onto those marginal seats, but I mean you have lost Ann Sudmalis and Julia Banks. These are ultra-marginal seats.
STEVEN CIOBO: Sure.
KIERAN GILBERT: You wouldn’t be too confident about holding those?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I’m, ultimately, think the next election will be a decision where Australia wants to be in three to five years’ time. And frankly I think that, look we know that Labor is incredibly arrogant. At the moment they are running around the building as if they are already in government. They are absolutely 100 per cent certain. Bill Shorten is so cocky about the fact that Labor is going to win the next election, and that’s fine. If that’s Labor’s attitude, if they want to be that arrogant about it, they can be. From my perspective, I’m going to be spend every single day between now and the next election taking the fight up to Labor, outlining why Labor’s big taxing and big spending agenda is not good for our country, why it’s going to result in more debt, why it’s not going to do anything, for example, for energy prices. I’m very confident that we will be highly competitive at the next election.
KIERAN GILBERT: You genuinely don’t feel, in a pragmatic political sense, that the Liberal party’s got a women problem?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, of course we don’t, and our history demonstrates that we don’t. Yes, the level of representation right now is lower than in ought to be, but this is something that we will continue to work and something that we will fix.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Prime Minister last night said that he wants to remain within the Paris framework. He’s told my colleague Paul Murray because it has national security implications. Can you explain what he means by that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, of course, there is a variety of considerations in looking at any of these sorts of matters. Bear in mind that we are on track to meet our emissions reductions target under Paris anyway. So, the point the Prime Minister makes has a variety of considerations. Take, just to sight one example, in our immediate neighbourhood that is in the South Pacific. We know that climate change in Paris is particularly important to a number of our Pacific neighbours. We’re a good friend and supporter of our Pacific neighbours. We’re the biggest development aid and development assistance donor to those countries. We want to work closely with them, so they’re the kinds of considerations that the Prime Minister is making.
KIERAN GILBERT: But Minister Taylor, the new Energy Minister, says that emissions reduction is virtue signalling. That’s not the view among the Pacific.
STEVEN CIOBO: No, no. That’s over simplified what he’s said. What Angus’ point was, was to highlight that we are seeing energy companies saying that emissions reduction is a virtue and they are forgetting the number one issue that they need to focus on, which is customers. So his point was more to say that they need to focus on customers, not on virtue signalling.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, well that’s true. But, I mean, emissions reduction in terms of the Pacific neighbours has nothing to do with virtue signalling. It’s an existential threat for them, isn’t it?
STEVEN CIOBO: But, hang on. We’re on track to meet the emissions reduction target that we have set under Paris. So, under the Coalition that will continue. The big difference between Labor and the Coalition with respect to emissions reduction is that we’ll meet our reduction target that we outlined in Paris, and we’ll do so in the climate of bringing down energy prices. Now, Labor has a very different policy. Labor wants to shoot for a 45 per cent emissions reduction. They don’t care about the impact on energy prices. They obviously don’t care about the impact on reliability, and you need to look no further, frankly, than what Labor did in South Australia, what Labor is doing currently in Victoria, where we are seeing a massive negative impact on reliability because Labor has these ridiculous emissions reductions targets they’re putting in place.
KIERAN GILBERT: I mean, talk about virtue signalling, the Prime Minister said when he appointed Angus Taylor, “you’re the minister for bringing prices down.” That’s a pretty clear virtue signalling from him on the other side of the debate, isn’t it?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, actually, I think that that’s just shown that we are very, very in touch with ordinary Australians. Everyday Australians that are struggling to make sure they can keep the cost of utilities, like energy, as low as possible. The businesses that employ millions of people, for the schools and hospitals that, of course, have to pay all these power bills. Getting energy prices down is unashamedly the number one priority for the Energy Minister.
KIERAN GILBERT: Did Prime Minister lose a bit of bark in a political sense yesterday in terms of the Aged Care Royal Commission on the one hand but then Labor saying “you cut $1.2 billion from that sector in the first place.”
STEVEN CIOBO: Again, the Labor party throwing mud against the wall. I mean, this is where Labor simply does not deal with facts. As the Prime Minister said over and over again yesterday, if you look the budget figures, every single year, the amount of funding that the Coalition is providing to the aged care sector increases, so it’s increasing. This is the kind of thing that Labor does, whether it was the medi-scare campaign, where they just lie through their teeth that we’re privatising Medicare, which is completely preposterous, or these sorts of claims when you get a $1 billion plus increase every single year in aged care funding and yet Labor runs around and says “they are cutting money out of the aged care sector.”
KIERAN GILBERT: They say that it would have grown quicker. That’s the point.
STEVEN CIOBO: You know what would grow quicker under Labor?
KIERAN GILBERT: Obviously, it’s needed.
STEVEN CIOBO: I will tell you what will grow more quickly under Labor. Debt. Debt will always grow more quickly under Labor. Deficit will always grow more quickly under Labor and unemployment will grow under Labor, because they can’t control any of those things.
KIERAN GILBERT: Defence Industry Minister, Steve Ciobo. Thanks so much.