Anika Wells MP on Sky News






SUBJECTS: Stimulus package; Treasury forecast on coronavirus impact; climate change and screen scraping.

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: We’re joined live now by our politics panel, Anika Wells, Labor MP from Queensland and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg.  Thank you for giving up your time.


ANIKA WELLS MP, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Pleased to be with you.

NIELSEN: Now we have to take the time while we can because there might be a division in the House, but it’s nice to have you in the studio.

WELLS: We’re in the big city.

NIELSEN: Oh you know, it’s all the excitement of a sitting day.  The discussion today has been around the coronavirus’ impact on the budget.  We’ve had Treasury estimate now that it’s going to be at least a 0.5% hit.  Anika, do you think that it’s okay for the government to say ‘we need to reframe our budget because of this major crisis in coronavirus?’

WELLS: I think it’s okay to reframe, but I think it’s pretty rich to blame new factors like coronavirus and bushfires when we know that the economy was running off the road last year.  I think like my predecessor Wayne Swan said: ‘you can’t trust the person who crashed the car to do the repairs,’ and that’s what the government is asking us to do this morning, which I think is beggar’s belief.  It’s pretty rich.

BRAGG: Wayne Swan?  You’re taking advice from Wayne Swan on the economy?

WELLS: Always.

BRAGG: Well that’s a worry.

WELLS:  Well he led us through a global financial crisis, giving him the award of world greatest Treasurer.  What have you guys got?

BRAGG: Well obviously the economy was….

NIELSEN: Did you say the world’s greatest Treasurer?

WELLS: Yeah, the world’s greatest Treasurer.

BRAGG: Wow write that down. I’ll remind her of that in future years.  Now the economy was picking up at the end of last year, that’s what the National Accounts showed yesterday.  The economy was picking up, we’ve been hit with the coronavirus and the bushfires and that’s the reason why there will be a reduced level of economic growth this year.

NIELSEN: When it comes to the budget, Anika is making a point.  Wages were pretty bad going into it.  There were some real concerns.


NIELSEN: The budget.

BRAGG: But I mean the accounts show that the growth has stayed above 2%, the job creation has stayed pretty steady and when you’ve got unemployment between 5.1% and 5.3% over the last year, that’s a pretty strong foundation.  Also, the trade deals that we’ve been able to deliver over the last few years, which Labor failed to do in office, provided a quite strong foundation for us to be able to deal with these threats.

NIELSEN: Do you buy that?

WELLS: I don’t.  I mean it must be lovely to have these esoteric debates over in the Senate, but it’s not what it feels like on the ground.  Retail figures are down, purchase of new car sales are down, people are losing jobs and in my seat of Lilley, we’ve had Lockheed Martin shut down, we’re now looking at maybe 850 jobs lost from Virgin Australia just in the past few months, we’ve got people on strike because companies like Jetstar can’t pay wages and provide secure workplaces, and we’ve got empty shop fronts everywhere.  The Courier Mail called one of my villages ‘the village of the damned,’ because retail figures are so bad.  That’s what it looks like for people actually out in the suburbs, no matter how many medals you guys want to hang on yourself for what a great job you’re doing.

BRAGG: You can’t have your own facts…

WELLS: I don’t have my own facts!

BRAGG: You can’t… unemployment is lower than it was when your great Wayne Swan was the Treasurer, so these are the facts.

WELLS: Some of the facts that the government spout though are just because there are more people in Australia then there were when Labor was last in government.

BRAGG: But the rate is the rate.  The rate is a percentage, so yeah.

NIELSEN: The thing is too, talking about being in a budget position, it looks like we’re in a position to lose the surplus.  It was long promised by the Liberal Party….

WELLS: Much heralded!  Many mugs!

NIELSEN: But at the same time, if you come in with the Labor Party’s agenda, with all the taxes and changes to franking credits that were supposed to come through, we would be in a worse position now to deal with something like coronavirus.

WELLS: I don’t think that there’s any use in playing hypotheticals and I don’t think it’s useful buying the frame that the government are trying to use on that.  What Labor wanted to do was stimulate the economy.  What Labor has been asking for since I was elected last May, was to bring forward infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy by bringing forward important infrastructure projects on the ground.  That’s something the government is now looking at this week.

BRAGG: But how would new taxes stimulate the economy, like taxes on houses and the retirees?  How would that have worked?

WELLS: Why are we prosecuting an argument from last May when what you guys are looking at today is an infrastructure stimulus package.  That’s what we’ve been calling for since last May.

BRAGG: But that’s the question that was asked.  I am wondering how tax increases would stimulate the economy.

WELLS: I’m not arguing a hypothetical from last year.  You are talking about looking at the facts as they are.  The facts as they are in March 2020 is that the economy…

BRAGG: So the policies you took to the last election were wrong, is that right?

WELLS: That’s absolutely not what I’m saying.  I’m asking why you’re still obsessed with Labor nine months on from an election, when you’re in government for your third term.  Time to do some governing isn’t it?

BRAGG: Well I mean…

NIELSEN: Let’s ask the question about what the facts are today.  The facts today are that Jim Chalmers has said one of the ways we could stimulate the economy is with a raise to Newstart.  Do you think that would help stimulate the economy?

BRAGG: Look I think if you want to try to have a targeted stimulus package, it really ought to be focused on trying to improve job creation opportunities and increase the opportunity for private businesses to invest more.

NIELSEN: Why would that help with coronavirus though?

BRAGG: Because businesses create jobs that manage the economy…

NIELSEN: I mean they’re doing this with supply change.

WELLS: Love being mansplained don’t you?

BRAGG: And that’s basically what the Treasury Secretary said this morning to Senate Estimates.  We have a strong foundation, and in the case of looking at stimulus, really focusing on businesses and jobs is the most important thing that a government can do.

NIELSEN: Wouldn’t raising Newstart give consumers more money in their pocket to go and spend in Australian businesses?

BRAGG: But we’re focused on job creation.  The temporary target of a stimulus that you may deploy would need to be focused on getting people in jobs.  I mean that’s the object of targeted...or you can do a Labor party cash splash where you’re burning down people’s houses and all that…

WELLS: Bringing forward infrastructure spending would create local jobs.

BRAGG: We’ve done that.

WELLS: You haven’t brought infrastructure spending.  In south east Queensland the government has announced thirty projects of infrastructure, and have started none.  None of thirty.  Particularly nine of them are in conjunction with the Brisbane City Council.  Nine of those projects were supposed to be shovel ready by the start of 2020.  We’re in March 2020, and the Deputy Prime Minister is looking to cast around blame when it’s his own portfolio, that he heralded last year as having all of these plans that he is not rolling out the door.

BRAGG: We’ve written to the states and asked them for their…

WELLS: Oh, how powerful!  That’s what people elected you to do, lots of letters…

BRAGG: To accelerate…

WELLS: Do some governing!

BRAGG: To accelerate some infrastructure expenditure.

NIELSEN: Now we try and let you guys have at least one niche topic on this panel every week.

WELLS: You’re very generous.

NIELSEN: You really take the cake this week, so we’ll start with your one first.

WELLS: Yeah it’s a bit niche.

NIELSEN: That is the definition of niche.  So we’ll start with the 2050 climate target.  Labor doesn’t actually have a plan either, so what’s the point of throwing stones at the government for not having a plan towards 2050?

WELLS: Because the government needs to do some explaining on this 2030 plan that we hear about from them every day.  The government’s 2030 plan is complete nonsense.  It is based on just over 100 megatonnes of reduction from technology solutions, which they haven’t spelt out.  It’s based on an EV strategy that they absolutely bucketed us for during the election but now haven’t elaborated on the details of their own themselves, and it’s based on accounting.  Nearly half of the reductions are based on accounting and carry over credits.  It’s not on planning whatsoever, it’s a complete furphy.  Yet you guys are chipping in the engraving on your medallion for what a good job you’re doing and you’re trying to put the focus on us.  It’s not good enough.  You’re in your third term, do some governing!

BRAGG: Quite a long answer.

WELLS: There’s a lot to say!  You’ve got a lot to do!

NIELSEN: Let Andrew respond.

BRAGG: We have a plan for 2030, what’s your plan?

WELLS: Our plan, we’re working on which as you point out…

BRAGG: You have no plan.

WELLS: We are nine months in to a new term of opposition…

BRAGG: But you’ve got a plan for 2050.

WELLS: We’ve got a target for 2050.  If you hop in the car…

BRAGG: It’s uncosted.

WELLS: If you hop in the car, you need to know where you’re going before you work out the best way to get there.  We’re working out the best way to get there in consultation with stakeholders, our members and the broader public.

NIELSEN: Let’s let Andrew get his niche topic out – screen scraping.  I had to google it.  What is it and why should anyone care?

WELLS: See what I was saying about the esoteric Senator?

BRAGG: Well I guess it’s more about the question of competition in banking. As you know we had a Royal Commission into the banking sector, which said the incumbents weren’t doing such a good job.  So there have been a lot of allegations about a lack of strong anti-competitive feeling amongst the smaller fin-techs that have been trying to get people’s businesses to improve competition and choice.  So these are the allegations that have been raised. We raised them with Andrew Wilson yesterday and we look forward to seeing what they have to say.

NIELSEN: But what’s screen scraping and why should we care about it?

WELLS: Great question.

BRAGG: It’s mainly to do with, ‘are large companies using practices in their own businesses that they’re trying to stop smaller businesses from doing?’ Now when you already have an oligopoly, which is already commonplace in Australian market places, we want to be very conscious that there is a platform for new businesses to come to market.  We actually like choice and competition in my party.

NIELSEN: There you go.  Andrew Bragg and Anika Wells thank you for your time.  And I do have to apologise, I don’t think he was mansplaining. I do hate mansplaining.

WELLS: He was absolutely mansplaining, but I’ll say it on your behalf.

BRAGG: I don’t know what that means anyway, what does that mean anyway?

WELLS: Ohh, mate.

NIELSEN: We’ll let you google it because we do have to move on.