Politics with Michelle Grattan
Politics with Michelle Grattan
About Politics with Michelle Grattan
Michelle Grattan, Chief Political Correspondent at The Conversation, talks politics with politicians and experts, from Capital Hill.
The Productivity Commission’s nine-volume report has a tough central message. It says productivity policy has to focus on the areas that have proven the hardest in the past, rather than those where previously progress has been most readily achieved. One key take from the report is that Australia is performing poorly in growing its productivity. The commission makes recommendations across the policy spectrum, from education and health through workplace relations and migration to data and technology. It points to the difficulty of improving productivity in the public sector, and more generally to the complexities, now that we have become predominantly a services economy. In this podcast, Michelle Grattan discusses the blueprint for reform with commission chair, Michael Brennan.
Voters in New South Wales are heading to the polling booths on March 25. For both Premier Dominic Perrottet and Labor leader Chris Minns, it is their first election as leader. The Coalition government has held power since 2011. Labor needs to gain a net nine seats to form majority government. If Labor wins, the party will be in power in every state and territory except Tasmania. There are 10 seats in this election that are on a margin of less than 6%, including Minns’ seat of Kogarah on 0.1%. In several contests the fate of “teal’ candidates will be watched. Spending and donation caps, and optional preferential voting make the teals’ path to victory more difficult than in the federal election. In this podcast, Michelle Grattan speaks with Antony Green, the ABC’s election analyst, Professor Andy Marks, from the University of Western Sydney, and Ashleigh Raper, the ABC’s NSW state political reporter.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers sparked a political row when he announced a tax hike on superannuation concessions for accounts with balances over $3 million, from 15% to 30%, to begin in 2025. Polling indicates the move has broad support from the public, although any change to super is always controversial. Opposition leader Peter Dutton has promised the change would be reversed by a Coalition government. Mike Callaghan, a former treasury official, chaired the Retirement Income Review that was handed to the Morrison government in 2020. Callaghan sees the Chalmers’ change to super as “an important step”.
Adam Bandt aspired to power-sharing with a Labor government. That was never going to happen but, possessing the major slice of the balance of power in the Senate, the Greens have considerable potential muscle – at least in theory. In this podcast, we get a glimpse of the gap between Greens leader Adam Bandt’s aspiration for ambitious reforms and the reality that the government is only giving concessions at the edges to the minor party. “There’s a capacity for this to be a golden era of reform in this parliament,” Bandt says. “For us to pass laws that tackle the climate crisis and to protect the environment. That tackle the cost of living crisis.
Frank Brennan has been involved over decades in the big debates in Indigenous affairs. A Jesuit priest and an academic expert on the constitution, Brennan has advocated for recognising First Nations peoples in that document. But he has concerns about the breadth of Anthony Albanese’s proposed referendum question, arguing its reference to the Voice making representations to executive government raises the prospect of many legal challenges. This issue of the potential for legal challenges is one that divides legal experts, with a number of authorities maintaining there is no problem. In this podcast, Brennan elaborates on why he believes the referendum question should be reworded and the form he thinks the question should take.
Kate Chaney was one of half a dozen new “teal” MPs elected to parliament last year, winning the previously solid Liberal seat of Curtin in Western Australia. “It’s been a fascinating and steep learning curve over the last eight months,” Chaney tells the podcast. “As a crossbencher, you really have to think very carefully about how you vote on every piece of legislation and try as much as possible to connect with community and ensure that those votes are informed by community.” Against the background of the stoush between fellow teal Monique Ryan and a staffer over long hours, Chaney says the workload is massive. “It’s definitely challenging trying to get across all of the legislation with only one personal staff member [working on legislation]. I do think that challenge is quite different to the work of a backbencher in a party. I have been very lucky to find [staff] who are passionately engaged and have experience that has made them very well-suited for the job while still bringing a freshness to it.”
In this podcast, Michelle talks with Malarndirri McCarthy, Labor senator for the Northern Territory and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians. McCarthy is a former journalist and also served in the territory parliament, including as minister for children and families.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has rejected as “laughable” criticism he has turned his back on the Hawke-Keating reform era in his blueprint for “values-based capitalism”. In this podcast Chalmers also reveals he spoke with Paul Keating while writing of the essay, published in The Monthly. “Capitalism after the crises” looks at Australia’s future following three international crises: the GFC, the pandemic, and the current energy and inflation shock. Chalmers advocates government-private co-investment, the renovation of the Reserve Bank and the Productivity Commission, and improving the functioning of markets. Critics have labelled his values-based capitalism highly intervention, and counter to the direction of the reforms Bob Hawke and Keating implemented.
In this, our last podcast for 2022, we talk with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. We spoke to each of them on the day the parliament was back to pass the energy package. Albanese, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping during the recent summit season, reveals he anticipates a further positive development in China's relationship with Australia within weeks. Asked whether he expected some relaxation of China's trade restrictions on Australia any time soon, he said: "I'm hopeful that any of the barriers to normal economic activity are removed and that we have stronger economic relations. "China is our major economic partner and I think in coming weeks you will see further measures and activities which indicate a much improved relationship, which is in the interests of both of our countries, but importantly as well is in the interests of peace and security in the region."
Australians are currently confronting a cost of living crisis that includes soaring energy prices. Ministers have been working for weeks on a strategy to contain the prices of coal and gas, driven up by the fallout from the Ukraine war. It’s the toughest, most complicated policy issue so far faced by Anthony Albanese, and it’s involved some head-butting with the NSW and Queensland governments. In this podcast, we talk with Professor Bruce Mountain, Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre at Victoria University, about this energy policy conundrum, and the attempt to deal with it by price caps. Mountain says: “One of the great difficulties in capping wholesale coal or gas prices is there’s no guarantee that that will impact the price of electricity. There’s a long chain to be followed between a wholesale cap on coal or gas and the price that the customer pays.”
Six months after Scott Morrison was ousted, he remains a centre of attention, with parliament set to censure him on Wednesday over his multi-ministry power grab. In exquisite timing, journalist Niki Savva’s book Bulldozed is released this week. It documents Morrison’s style, which eventually shocked even those closest to him in government. “He’s a very secretive character. He’s distrustful. He’s a control freak. He’s a bully. He’s stubborn. He doesn’t listen to anyone,” Savva says. “And he was, as Alex Hawke [former minister and a Morrison numbers man] has said on the record, addicted to executive authority. He liked to be in absolute control, taking every decision but not taking responsibility for every decision.” Savva says Hawke believed Morrison was frightened of a leadership challenge. “Alex Hawke […] believed Morrison was panic stricken by the thought that both left and right were out to get him. And although he was worried about Frydenberg, he was more worried about Dutton. He thought that there would be a move initiated by Frydenberg and then Dutton would come through the middle.”
The Australian National University Dictionary Centre has just announced its word of the year is “teal”. Senior researcher Mark Gwynn described it as an “easy choice”. “The colour came to represent a movement of independent and strong female voices taking on the establishment.” Monique Ryan, the member for the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, is the giant slayer of the movement, having defeated former treasurer Josh Frydenberg. “It’s fascinating that the now the word ‘teals’ is now a noun that everyone recognises,” she says. “That was not the case a year ago.
Victorians go to the polls on November 26, with the Andrews government seeking a third term. Labor is the clear favourite, but it is under pressure in a number of seats. The premier is a polarising figure, especially (although not only) as a result of the trials Melburnians endured with the prolonged harsh lockdowns during COVID. Victoria will be a fresh test of what we saw in the federal poll – the disillusionment of many voters with the major parties.
Karen Andrews is the former home affairs minister and now shadows that portfolio, which includes cyber-security. With Australians shocked by hackers starting to post Medibank data on the dark web, in this podcast Andrews calls on the health insurer to provide more information. “There are some very serious questions that need to be put to Medibank about what it actually did.” “They have sustained incredible reputational damage. The only way that I can see forward for them to be able to improve their public standing is to be very clear and open about what happened, why it happened, and what they are doing to assist their customers".
The aftermath of the Albanese government’s first budget has seen the political and policy debate turn sharply onto the spectre of households and businesses facing sky-high power prices over the next 18 months. The government is now scrambling to craft a policy to bring the domestic price of gas down. In this podcast, Michelle Grattan talks with Professor Bruce Mountain, Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre at Victoria University, about this power price crisis, and the options available to deal with what he calls “a weeping sore”. Mountain offers four key ways to address gas policy.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers says of his first budget: “Inflation is the dragon we need to slay”. Chalmers’ worry about inflation was reinforced by Wednesday’s release of the September quarter CPI, which showed inflation at 7.3%. In this podcast, we talk to Chalmers, shadow treasurer Angus Taylor, and the head of the Grattan Institute Danielle Wood. Among the topics we canvass are the budget’s broad fiscal settings, the huge increases in power prices it forecasts, the pressures for tax and spending reforms in future budgets, the government’s housing initiative, and the implications of the childcare policy for women’s workforce participation.
The government has flirted with, and now ruled out, changing the Stage 3 tax cut in the October 25 budget, which appears set to be dominated by some deep spending cuts. In the longer term, however, debate will continue over the need to reform Australia's tax system, as the calls on revenue to finance big programs increase. Meanwhile, the government is locked in a battle to get high domestic gas prices down, with its light touch policy towards the gas producers not having much impact. In this podcast, Michelle Grattan talks with Rod Sims, former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and now a professor at the Australian National University's Crawford School for Public Policy, on tax, gas and privatisation.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a landmark reform of the last decade. But while delivering much benefit, it has operational problems and its cost has escalated dramatically – currently around $30 billion annually, there have been suggestions it could reach $60 billion. The scheme looms as one of the major pressures on the Albanese government’s budgets in coming years. In this podcast, Michelle Grattan talks with Bill Shorten, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services about the issues around the scheme and the reforms needed to improve its operation and contain its cost.
The government has introduced its legislation for the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which has received the endorsement of opposition leader Peter Dutton and so is assured of passage through parliament. But critics are unhappy that its public hearings will be limited to when there are “exceptional circumstances”. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus in this podcast strongly rejects the argument this is too high a hurdle. The government has yet to nominate a head of the powerful new body, and Dreyfus says it is open to suggestions. Asked if he has anyone particularly in mind he says, “No I do not. […] We’re going to be trying to find someone who’s eminent, who has a real standing in the community.” On the question of so-called “grey corruption”, notably misuse of ministerial discretion in grants schemes, Dreyfus stresses it will be completely up to the commission to decide what might justify investigation.
The Ukraine conflict has escalated this week, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announcing a partial military mobilisation and once again raising the threat of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile Ukraine has been pressing Australia to provide another 30 Bushmasters, after those already helping the war effort are proving very effective. In this podcast Ukraine’s ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko urges the Albanese government to reopen Australia’s embassy in his country as soon as possible. “By now 60 different countries have sent their embassies and ambassadors back to Kyiv. And I think it’s important for Australia to go back because if Bruce Edwards [the ambassador, now stationed in Poland] is on the ground, he’s capable of meeting people there and interacting with the minister of defence, with the minister of foreign affairs, with other stakeholders in Ukraine, to provide a better feedback to Canberra.”
The podcast Politics with Michelle Grattan is embedded on this page from an open RSS feed. All files, descriptions, artwork and other metadata from the RSS-feed is the property of the podcast owner and not affiliated with or validated by Podplay.