Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health | Minister for Sport

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Transcript - Interview with Jon Faine - ABC 774 Melbourne

Thursday, 9 November 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Sam Dastyari, citizenship issues, same sex marriage postal survey, private health insurance premiums, Government.

JON FAINE:

Greg Hunt is Federal Member for Health and Sport and the Member for Flinders in the Turnbull Government inner sanctum, in the Cabinet. Mr Hunt, good morning to you.

GREG HUNT:
Good morning, Jon, and I’ve just dropped off my little eight-year-old boy for his first overnight camp at school, so it keeps all of life in perspective.

JON FAINE:
It most certainly does. As does, just by way of passing, the confrontation between some far-right protestors and Sam Dastyari in a Footscray pub, we just were reminded about on the news this morning.

What do you say to those who think it’s alright to call a Member of Parliament a terrorist and to tell him to go back where he came from?

GREG HUNT:
Look, this was straight out racism and I condemn it unequivocally.

JON FAINE:
And those who say well no, it’s freedom of speech and they’re entitled to express their views and Senator Dastyari makes light of it himself in response?

GREG HUNT:
I think this was racism and it should be called out wherever it occurs in relation to whoever does it and it’s completely unacceptable and there is no place for it in Australian society. Simply, clear, unequivocal.

JON FAINE:
We’re seeing more and more of it, of course, and groups are organising around in particular a fear and a dislike of Muslim migration.

GREG HUNT:
I’m not sure we are seeing more of it. When you look over Australian history you’ve got one of the most successful – I would say the most successfully multicultural society in the world – but you always have outliers.

I think there are fewer outliers now, but frankly this is completely, absolutely, unacceptable. It’s racism and it should be called for what it is.

JON FAINE:
Pauline Hanson this morning has been asked about it and she declined to criticise the behaviour or condemn it.

GREG HUNT:
Well I’ve been asked about it and I have criticised it and condemned it.

JON FAINE:
But the fact that she refuses or declines to go where you’re so prepared to go in this discussion this morning. What do you make of that?

GREG HUNT:
Well, we have a different view on this.

JON FAINE:
Is the difference that she’s from Queensland and you’re from Victoria?

GREG HUNT:
Well, the difference is we have a different view and I’ll let her explain her position, but I can tell you mine.

JON FAINE:
But you’re not at the moment trying to solicit votes for your party in a Queensland state election, she is, so she doesn’t want to upset people who might feel inclined to behave that way in Queensland it would seem, is my fair reading of the situation.

GREG HUNT:
Well the voters of Queensland will make their own judgement. My message to the voters of Queensland – who are unlikely to be listening to our program this morning – is that the best prospect of jobs and a fair and balanced and decent society is under Tim Nicholls and the LNP. So if we want to talk Queensland then I will.

JON FAINE:
To move to other things – and I will come to your portfolio in a moment – the Prime Minister is jetting off to meet with leaders in the Asia Pacific Forum – and Donald Trump amongst them – leaving behind an almighty mess over citizenship.

It seems almost every day there’s another swag of members of either the House of Reps or the Senate whose status to be there is under a cloud and the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader yesterday failed to reach agreement on a way out of this. What should happen next?

GREG HUNT:
Look, we’ve got a motion. We’ll be proceeding with it. The Prime Minister will settle the details.

It’s about transparency. But what is interesting, I have to say, I’ve thought that no matter what we propose in good faith, Bill Shorten will act as a constitutional vandal and a constitutional fraud.

He’s not interested in a resolution and this is indicative of who he is. Given the chance to actually achieve the very outcome which he claimed to seek, he’s walked away from it and he’s not interested.

We now know that all along he’s been aware that at least two and possibly three of his own members held British citizenship at the time of the last election.

Now, that will be a matter that will be dealt with through the transparency process and the High Court if it comes to that, but all of this self-righteous cant and indignation that he put out – a complete fraud.

JON FAINE:
How is it fraud or vandalism to say you want the Constitution to be upheld and enforced?

GREG HUNT:
Except for the fact that he doesn’t. They have hidden the fact that all along they knew they had at least two and possibly three members after giving everybody else lectures, members with significant issues.

And secondly, here is a chance to resolve something, to ensure transparency and I can guarantee that no matter what we do he will find an excuse for not supporting that transparency and that’s exactly what’s happening at the moment.

So we’ll proceed with the motion. The Prime Minister will settle the details and we’d prefer to have the Opposition’s support – that would be the best way forward – but either way the Government will ensure that there’s full transparency.

Frankly, I think that what’s happening here is a 19th century document meets 21st century multicultural Australia and modern communication mechanisms.

At the end of the day, my prediction is the numbers in the House of Representatives in three and six and ten months from now will all be exactly the same as they are. I think that’s the point that’s being lost.

I suspect that the numbers – and I can’t guarantee this – will be exactly the same.

JON FAINE:
Well, that’s wishful thinking I suspect on your part. But, if indeed you and your colleagues on the conservative side think that Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson, Justine Keay from the Labor Party did not successfully and in time renounce any UK citizenship that they may have inherited, why not refer them to the High Court and have it resolved in the only place where, as the Prime Minister reminded us, the only place it can be resolved?

GREG HUNT:
Well he’s correct about that and…

JON FAINE:

But why not refer them then?

GREG HUNT:
Well, right now we’ve got a transparency process to ensure that every Member of Parliament is able to gather the information that they need, to present it…

JON FAINE:
Sure, but if you make the claim as you just did, Mr Hunt, that there are members on the Labor side and the leader himself, you said, was a constitutional fraud and a vandal…

GREG HUNT:
Absolutely.

JON FAINE:
…if you in fact believe that, then why not refer those members of the Labor Party who you think you have grounds to be suspicious of, refer them to the High Court?

GREG HUNT:
Well, we do know that all along – all along – Bill Shorten was aware that he had at least two and as I say possibly three members who were British citizens…

JON FAINE:
So, my question to you is rather than going over what we’ve already covered – I’m trying to move it the next step forward – why not refer them to the High Court?

GREG HUNT:
So I won’t on this program make prejudgements as to what the Parliament will or won’t do. Once everybody has had the chance to set out the facts and make their case through a transparency process – and that’s what everybody should do – and all of our members are ready and willing to do that.

JON FAINE:
Jacqui Lambie, Pauline Hanson, Josh Frydenberg, on and on the list goes. I mean, it’s tit for tat is what you’re worried about, isn’t it? If you refer the three Labor people who you think there’s a cloud over, if you refer them then the response is to refer as many as half a dozen on your size to the High Court and chaos ensues.

GREG HUNT:
No, I think the position here is we’re doing the right thing in the right way, using the Parliament and Parliamentary procedure to ensure that there’s compliance with the Constitution and if there isn’t then the Parliament will deal with that.

There’s no question about that. If there isn’t then any individual member can refer themselves, or the Parliament will deal with that. And so I think that that’s a clear process…

JON FAINE:
Well, no the clear process – with respect, Mr Hunt – is if you are claiming publicly, as do your colleagues, that there are clouds over three members of the Labor Party, refer them to the High Court. Full stop. That’s where it gets resolved. The Prime Minister said so himself.

GREG HUNT:
Well, we have a process now and there are two different stages here. So I’m not going to pre-empt that. I am calling out blind hypocrisy and constitutional fraud in terms of somebody who had claimed to be holier than thou and it turns out all along he knew that he was in no position to be making those claims.

And I am saying that if Mr Shorten wants to be constructive, right now we’ve got an approach that can be agreed upon but either way we will be moving in the Parliament to make sure that there is a process of transparency and I think that’s…

JON FAINE:
Alright, I won’t ask my question for a…

GREG HUNT:
… as much as anybody could do.

JON FAINE:
I won’t ask my question a fourth time, that would be beyond tedious. There is, of course, the Scrabble solution, Mr Hunt.

GREG HUNT:
Yes? Go ahead.

JON FAINE:
You’d be a keen Scrabble player?

GREG HUNT:
Well I play a little bit of Scrabble but I’ve got no idea where you’re going to take this one.

JON FAINE:
Okay, well there is one, when you can’t make a word, you are allowed to throw in all your tiles and pick new ones.

GREG HUNT:
Ah, yes. I suspect that Australians do not want to go back to the polls just over a year after the last national election.

At the end of the day, my prediction – as I said earlier – is when all of this is washed out, the numbers in the House of Representatives will be unchanged and that our plan and intention is to give the Australian people the full term of Parliament that they voted for.

JON FAINE:
I will come to your portfolio responsibilities in a moment, I promise, but just still on issues that are bubbling along just below the surface. Senator Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi and others are saying that on the cusp of the announcement of the results of the postal ballot for same-sex marriage that there needs to be more done to protect religious freedom.

We’ve invited Senator Abetz and others from that particular small group of Parliamentarians to join us this morning, apparently none of them are available. Are you concerned about religious freedom and protection for religious freedom?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I think we do have to have religious freedom which has been a fundamental part of the proposal, the…

JON FAINE:
But are the freedoms that we already have inadequate suddenly because of a same-sex marriage law?

GREG HUNT:
No, I think we have a very good balance in Australia at the moment that allows religious freedom and it allows, at the same time, to protect against discrimination. I think that balance is, in my view, the right balance.

What would be involved in anything here is to make sure that the churches have a right of religious freedom so as nobody has to perform a ceremony against their fundamental tenets and beliefs which go to the heart of religion and religious freedom.

They are enshrined in the draft bill, although of course there will be debate in Parliament. That debate will go ahead if the plebiscite passes.

The plebiscite now, I think, has 77.5 per cent of participation which is incredibly beyond what any of us, including myself, had predicted. So, as a democratic exercise, it’s been an extraordinary success.

If, as the polls are indicating, it does come out as a yes vote, then it will go to the Parliament and it will pass – in my judgement, again – there’s an overwhelming number of members who’ve indicated they’ll support the national consensus, if that’s the consensus.

And it will pass with religious freedoms but with balance against discrimination. And there’s no way that there could be a reversal of any of the existing protections against discrimination in my view.

JON FAINE:
Tomorrow is the last day for health insurance companies to ask you for permission to increase premiums and some companies apparently are asking for as much as 4 per cent premium rise, even though the cost of living is barely moving at all and if it is moving, it’s between 1 and 1.5 per cent. Why should a 4 per cent cost increase in health insurance be approved in that current climate?

GREG HUNT:

Well, my job is to make sure that we have the lowest possible change in premiums. We’ve had the lowest in 10 years this year at 4.8 per cent, but that’s still too high.

That’s why we’ve just had the biggest reforms in private health insurance in over 15 years – a billion dollars in savings with lower costs for prostheses or devices, the ability for young people to get discounts and then, in particular, better mental health coverage so as there are no more waiting times, better rural access coverage and simpler premiums.

What does that mean? That means that we’ve got the chance to take those premiums lower and I’m going to drive and drive to make sure that every single dollar that’s been saved through this billion dollar reduction is passed through to people because every dollar can be really difficult and painful for a family or for a single.

JON FAINE:
Can you say right now, you will not approve a 4 per cent increase in premiums if it’s asked for?

GREG HUNT:
Look, I’ve never speculated on individual figures so I won’t change that position now. What I will not approve is if every dollar is not passed through – and we’ve got that guarantee in writing from the private health insurers – then I will veto it, but I’m going to just push to make sure we get the lowest possible outcomes.

We’ve had the, as I say, the lowest in a decade, lower than any year under the previous Labor Government, but I want to go further and I want to go lower.

And also, to get the simplicity so as people don’t have any surprises. I can tell you that the most common complaint that I get is (a) the premiums are expensive and (b) people don’t like surprises.

They want to know exactly what they’re covered for and that’s what we’re going to deliver.

JON FAINE:
And finally and briefly, rumours of a Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton dual ticket for the leadership in the absence of a spill?

GREG HUNT:
No. What we are completely focused on is ensuring that the people get the Government they voted for and they brought in a Malcolm Turnbull Government and I believe in him and support him completely.

JON FAINE:
Thank you for your time on all those issues this morning, it’s been a busy day.

Greg Hunt, the Federal Minister for Health and the Member for Flinders.

(ENDS)

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