2CC Breakfast with Mark Parton

Subjects: Minister's hair, PM's tears, Abbott's comments, flood levy.

Transcript, E&OE

9 February 2011

So much talk up at Parliament House over the two incidents yesterday: Julia Gillard becoming extremely emotional and then the hijacking of Tony Abbott by Mark Riley. We will share some of the comments with you in the next few minutes. What we might do right now is take you to the Federal Trade Minister, who joins us on the line right now. G'day Craig Emerson.

EMERSON: G'day Parto.

PARTON: I've got to share with you some comments that Ray Hadley made about you on the radio.

EMERSON: Oh no…they'd be wonderfully supportive?

PARTON: I know you're a big fan of Ray's and Ray is a big fan of yours as well.

EMERSON: You're about to give me the good news.

PARTON: Here we go - this is what he had to say.

HADLEY: I saw that Craig Emerson and I tell you I wish he would stop dying his hair - it looks ridiculous and looks like he has a helmet on.

EMERSON: [Laughing]

HADLEY: [I saw] Craig Emerson on Sky News this morning - Craig stop dying your hair and go grey gracefully; you look ridiculous. Go to Julia Gillard's hairdresser friend and see if he can do something other than dye it. That's an aside…

PARTON: What do you reckon about that Craig?

EMERSON: [Laughing] This is quality morning radio?

PARTON: Do you put colour in your hair Craig?

EMERSON: No I don't. Actually, if he bothered to have a look he would see the grey bits on the side and well that's it. If he wants me to dye my hair grey just to make him happy, well you know I could consider that ....

PARTON: He's not the first person to make that comment.

EMERSON: ...but he would probably be unhappy about something else.

PARTON: He's not the first person to make that comment to me – probably because most of the hair is so dark and all of a sudden the grey just pops up.

EMERSON: I'll issue an official apology (laughing) I'm sorry Ray, I'm sorry for that; my hair hasn't gone grey.

PARTON: Excellent. Craig Emerson, what an amazing day it was yesterday. The first day of Federal Parliament for the year and, bang! It's all on and an amazing outpouring of emotion from politicians on both sides, but there is a lot of focus on what your leader did in the house.

EMERSON: Yes, Julia as you know spent a lot of time up there with the rescue personnel: the SES workers, the helicopter pilots, and they told her of their eyewitness accounts of the trauma that was going on. It is terrible. I was out in Ipswich, I think I told you the last time we spoke, and the people who were affected you realise how vulnerable they are to a flood that's just enormously powerful and enormously destructive. But I think when you are a long, long way away perhaps it just looks like a lot of water. But, you know, it's terrifying and Julia was very upset as I continue to be upset about Jordan Rice the little boy who was 13 and said take my brother, rescue my brother first – this is the ten year old.

PARTON: And there's no doubting that's just…

EMERSON: ..horrific.

PARTON: ....that's just a horrific story and there's no doubting that but it is, was still, I don't know still fascinating to see this emotion from Julia because she has been so wooden about, she's been so robotic, almost pre-programmed and all of a sudden she was human. Now clearly she's always been human but you've got to agree with me she's found it difficult to express that sort of genuine emotion in a public forum before.

EMERSON: I guess there is a balance to be achieved between a leader who on the one hand needs to exude authority and confidence and on the other hand to reveal emotions and, you know, I wouldn't want spin doctors involved in seeking to achieve that balance. Julia is Julia.

PARTON: So there's no question, no chance whatsoever that there was any pre-meditation in what went on in the House yesterday?

EMERSON: As I say Parto, if you and your listeners had the opportunity of seeing what happened up there and the trauma, the distress and the grief at the loss of children in particular, mate I can tell you this: you would be crying, you would be crying and all your listeners would. It was just horrific.

PARTON: Tony Abbott wasn't crying yesterday but there were many emotions running through his head in that hour's silence he had facing Mark Riley. That was a fascinating little exchange wasn't it?

EMERSON: Oh well, I really want to stay out of that Parto because I don't believe for a moment that Tony Abbot meant any offence in the comments that were made and recorded in Afghanistan. This is a matter for Mr Abbott and the family of Corporal MacKinney. He has talked to Corporal MacKinney's widow and I think it should just rest there. Honestly, I don't want for a moment to be seen politicising the death of a soldier. There was more grief yesterday as we passed a condolence motion for Richard Atkinson. So that's 22 two soldiers, you know.

PARTON: Let's leave it behind and let's talk flood levy briefly. I am very much on-side with what the Opposition put on the table yesterday. I know they can't quite decide on exactly how they want to do it, but when you consider the amount of money that needs to be spent on the flood recovery balanced against the entire spending of the government over the year, mate we don't need to do a tax on this, seriously.

EMERSON: As you know Parto, one-third of the estimated $5.6 billion comes from the flood levy. Two-thirds is from spending cuts and deferrals. Sixty per cent of taxpayers would pay less than $1 a week in that flood levy and, if you are on $80,000 you would pay $2.88 a week. So I think it needs to be kept in context. The Opposition yesterday said it would defer or reconsider foreign aid to Muslim schools in Indonesia. That was actually a Howard Government program. I am not suggesting the Opposition is claiming this, but it is claimed on emails - far from radicalising Muslim activity in the schools it is actually meant to be a kind of peacemaking effort so John Howard thought it was a good policy and we've continued it.

PARTON: But if you've got schools that have to be built here in Australia, you know, isn't it time to say 'hey we'll be back spending money there when we can but we've got this drama here'?

EMERSON: Well I think you know the lessons of the Bali bombings and the whole unrest in Indonesia. Other parts of the world tell us we need to make sensible investments in ensuring that we do everything possible to keep Australia safe. This is in part about keeping Australia safe. Now, on that basis we would be saying 'let's not have defence, or let's not have this or that'. I think what we are doing is an appropriate balance: one-third on levy, two-thirds on spending cuts. Tony Abbott needs to find, before he even announced yesterday, $10.7 billion because that's the black hole in his election commitments, not repudiated, that has been identified by the Departments of Finance and Treasury.

PARTON: We'll pass you regards onto Ray Hadley. Thanks for your time this morning.

EMERSON: Okay bye bye.

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