GREG CARY: Good morning, Craig.
CRAIG EMERSON: Good morning, Greg.
CARY: They're pretty sensitive about all this stuff.
EMERSON: I think people just want to be able to air their perspectives on what is a very heated debate about what has developed as a tragedy, frankly. And that is that some states haven't seen the desire or the priority to fund some of the most vulnerable people in our country.
CARY: Obviously you heard the Premier, and that's not how he described it. He was in the room. He said there was – he called it an "Obama moment" – when everybody side-by-side said 'we will support this', and it was a question about how it was then funded. He also said that the Prime Minister didn't like the idea of it being another tax for which she would have to bear the political responsibility.
EMERSON: Well we've got several states – that is, Tasmania, South Australia and also the ACT – that have been able to find the necessary money. The Commonwealth has put on the table $1,000 million. Campbell Newman says he cannot find $20 million. He is the first to complain about new taxes and higher taxes. Mr Abbott opposed the flood levy; they are opposed to tax increases. And then Campbell Newman, who frankly has not been fair dinkum about this, thinks how can he get out of it?. He'll propose a new tax to the Prime Minister at The Lodge. I mean, he didn't even put in a proper submission about a launch site for this – it went for less than two pages. At least the other states put in substantial submissions. And it shows that Campbell Newman's not fair dinkum about it.
CARY: Now Craig, when you say the Federal Government's put in $1,000 … what did you say?
EMERSON: A billion. A billion dollars.
CARY: A billion dollars. The funding at the moment, as I understand it, is that the State Government is putting in more than $900 million and the Federal Government is putting in a little more than $200 million. And if this thing has to be funded, the Productivity Commission itself said the slack had to be picked up by the Federal Government. If that has to be funded, I guess what our Premier was saying was 'we need to find another tax to do that because, as you know, we don't have the money here'.
EMERSON: We don't need to find another tax to do it. What happened in our budget processes in Canberra is that we made savings in defence, in foreign aid, in a whole range of areas – not only to bring the budget back to surplus but to find $1,000 million. It's a matter of priorities. We think that national disability insurance is a very high priority. Campbell Newman unfortunately doesn't.
CARY: Well that's unfair to him, though.
EMERSON: He won't find $20 million.
CARY: Well it's not just coming down to $20 million – that's not fair.
EMERSON: It is. That's what's been sought from him – $20 million to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Other states, smaller states, found the money. Campbell Newman says he can't find the money. In fact, as I think you may have ventilated in the last day or two, he's going to axe a scheme, a taxi scheme at $6.50 per taxi ride for people with disabilities. They are cutting community groups, Greg, in my own electorate. In Logan City, Boystown is being cut; Youth and Family Services is being cut; Logan East Neighbourhood Centre has been cut. This is an indication of Mr Newman's priorities. He's going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an appeal, a High Court appeal, against a mining tax which is designed to fund infrastructure investment in Queensland and small business tax breaks because he says that that mining tax should be abolished. But he's got an idea for a new tax. I mean, he's not fair dinkum.
CARY: Well he would argue differently.
EMERSON: Of course he is.
CARY: This starts to become a …
EMERSON: He's being a very clever politician in arguing differently.
CARY: Well, Craig, hold on a second. What are you doing?
EMERSON: One hundred thousand million is a lot of money, Greg. It's a lot of money and we have found it without increasing taxes. Campbell Newman says he can't find $20 million.
CARY: At the moment the state is putting in more than $900 million and the Federal Government's putting in about 200, and the Productivity Commission said the Federal Government would need to pick up the slack.
EMERSON: And let me explain this: the Queensland State Government is the worst funder of disabilities in Australia – the worst funder in Australia. It's about priorities; it's not about new taxes. It's about where you're going to spend the tax revenue that you have. Campbell Newman thinks it's better to spend it lodging an appeal, or supporting an appeal, in the High Court against the mining tax so he can give the money back to the big mining companies …
CARY: See, Craig, that's where it's not being fair, though, because as you well know …
EMERSON: Come on.
CARY: No, hold on a second.
EMERSON: It's true.
CARY: No, hold on a second. Craig. Don't tell me to come on. You know, you're talking about priorities, and you know – and I'm disagreeing publicly with some of the cuts that the Premier is making – but you know his priority at the moment is to cut. He says he's been left an economic mess. His priorities … no, hold on a second …
EMERSON: Well, why support the abolition of the mining tax?
CARY: Hold on a second. Let me make the point then you respond, and you'll have plenty of time to do it. But he's saying we've got to clean up our economic mess. Once we've done that, and he said it here yesterday again, he's happy to get fully involved in all kinds of projects. But first things first: his priority – and you were the one talking about priorities – is to clean up the mess.
EMERSON: Okay. He's saying that people with disabilities can wait until 2018. They've waited long enough. And if he is genuine about priorities, why would he support the abolition of a mining tax which would fund small business tax breaks for hundreds of thousands of businesses in Queensland and which would fund much-needed infrastructure? If it's about priorities, he should support infrastructure investment in Queensland by the Commonwealth of Australia. He doesn't do that.
CARY: Okay. I don't want to be in a position of defending him. I just want this policy, as do most Australians, up and running and what was…
EMERSON: And $20 million would do it.
CARY: Now hold on a second. What was significant this morning is that the Premier told us that there was a moment there when everybody agreed, bar the Prime Minister, that this could be done – and suddenly it wasn't done. To me that was a very serious allegation.
EMERSON: Well he's saying it could be done through a new tax. Well you don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out if you jacked up taxes in Canberra then lots of things could be done. We could double the aid budget, we could step in and fix up all of the community groups where Campbell Newman has slashed their funding.
CARY: Yeah, but you're having another shot at him.
EMERSON: All of these things can be done by increasing taxes …
CARY: But there's no … it has to be done.
EMERSON: But it is the Coalition who have been opposing any increase in taxes.
CARY: No, but all the Premiers and First Ministers agreed on this the other night, except apparently for the Prime Minister. And I understand you weren't in the room, so that's why I thought it was significant that he said that.
EMERSON: I wasn't in the room and I'm not disputing whether they did or didn't. If they did, what's happening is that even before going into that meeting, Campbell Newman said this: that he's sick of the Commonwealth putting its hands in people's pockets and collecting more taxes. Then he goes into a room and says he's got a great idea for increasing taxes.
CARY: But what …
EMERSON: Let me just read: "Frankly, Queenslanders are sick and tired of the Prime Minister putting her hand in their pockets". And then he says "it's take, take, take …"
CARY: Well we are.
EMERSON: "… We want some give, give, give". Fine! So then he goes into a room, into a private discussion, and says: 'I've got a good idea. I want you to put your hands into people's pockets so I can go outside and say we're sick of you doing it.'
CARY: Craig … but Craig, just on that point, he also said to us this morning that he was happy to take the personal and political responsibility for doing that, and was happy to go out there and show leadership, as were the other Premiers and First Ministers apparently, to say if we are going to fund this for Australians, more than 400,000 Australians directly implicated – and that would be probably a million and a half with extended families etcetera – he was prepared to do that. The Prime Minister wasn't prepared to do it.
EMERSON: Come on. This is the 24th of July, Greg, where he said Queenslanders "are sick and tired of the Prime Minister putting her hands in their pockets. It's take, take, take. We want to see some give, give, give."
CARY: But Craig, you're not answering that particular point, though. The other night he said …
EMERSON: I am. I am. The point is that Campbell Newman has been condemning the Prime Minister for increasing taxes. He goes into a private discussion and says 'I've got an idea; I don't need to put any money in – you just increase taxes'. Walks out, belts the living daylights out of the Commonwealth, and in any event …
CARY: No, he wouldn't have. But Craig he's on the public record … hold on a second. You'll have the final say, trust me. But he went on the public record this morning saying they wouldn't have beaten you around the head politically.
EMERSON: Yeah, yeah…
CARY: Hold on a second, mate: don't just 'yeah, yeah' me, because he couldn't have done it because Tony Abbott would not have been able to disapprove of it. He wouldn't have been able to say …
EMERSON: Come on. Tony Abbott disapproved of the flood levy, Greg!
CARY: Craig, if every Conservative minister around the country said that what the Prime Minister was doing was good; if everybody stood shoulder-to-shoulder and said 'we need to do this' … Tony Abbott wants the scheme. You know he wants the scheme.
EMERSON: It's about priorities. We found $1,000 million.
CARY: Then what are your priorities then, Craig? How badly do you want this?
EMERSON: A thousand million is a lot of money, Greg. A thousand million is a lot of money. Twenty million is not a lot of money.
CARY: What about increasing the Medicare levy?
EMERSON: I would ask your listeners to judge. You're saying 'well where's your priorities?'. We found in the budget $1,000 million …
CARY: Well, to be fair … hold on a second, Craig. I'm saying that in light of this particular scheme it is essential for this country to have that scheme. It should be a national priority. So what we're discussing here, or arguing about, is how to fund it. Now, the Premier has said, because we're going to do the (audio cut) for the Australian people. The Premier has said he's prepared to argue for an increase in the Medicare levy so the Prime Minister wouldn't have to wear that. Are you in favour of that?
EMERSON: No. What I'm in favour of is doing the right thing with the money that we've got. The money that we've got has allowed us, the revenue has allowed us to find $1,000 million. Campbell Newman will not find $20 million. He puts a letter in that doesn't even run to two pages …
CARY: He's putting in $900 million now, Craig. You're not being honest. With respect, mate, you're not being honest about that.
EMERSON: Well, we're going around in circles, because it is the lowest funding for disabilities of anywhere in Australia.
CARY: How much does the Federal Government put into disabilities in Queensland?
EMERSON: I'm not disputing the figure. What I'm saying is we've put on the table $1,000 million – and you will not accept that. You will not accept that. You will not accept that we will put $1,000 million on, but Campbell Newman will not put $20 million on. If you want to back Campbell Newman in on this at the expense of the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable people in our community …
CARY: Listen, Craig. Hey, listen. You just hold on a second. Don't you put words in my mouth. I'm not backing anybody, and what I'm talking about is …
EMERSON: You're advocating Campbell Newman's position.
CARY: No. Now you just hold on a second, and then we'll wrap it up and you can have the final say. What I'm advocating is this: that we need desperately as a nation to have a National Disability Insurance Scheme that all the Premiers and the First Ministers across the political spectrum agreed with that proposition when talking with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister knocked it back, according to the Premier this morning. And to air that kind of thing publicly I imagine is very rare, because the Prime Minister didn't want to wear the idea of going to the Australian people with another tax. Let me have the final say, then you can.
EMERSON: The Australian people …
CARY: Hold on a second, Craig.
EMERSON: I thought you just did. Keep going.
CARY: No, if you're going to make a point, let me respond to it and then you will have the same opportunity. The Premier says the Australian people will be happy to wear an increase in the Medicare levy so this thing can be done, if that is promoted. But what you're saying is you won't do that.
EMERSON: Are you now finished? Do I get to say something?
CARY: Craig, my guests always get the final say. You're no different.
EMERSON: Okay. That's very kind of the Premier saying that the Australian people are happy to wear an increased tax. The Premier would not be applying that tax. The fact is that $1,000 million has been found with no new taxes. We are asking Campbell Newman to find $20 million. It's up to him whether he wants to apply new taxes on that or not. It's a matter of priorities. His priority is to appeal, at the High Court, against the mining tax to give the money back to the likes of Clive Palmer because he thinks they are more deserving than the most disadvantaged people in Queensland.
CARY: Good to talk to you.
EMERSON: Thank you.
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