MP Patrick Gorman Discusses Matters on ABC Canberra Radio

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Assistant Minister, thanks for your time. Good to see you.


SHIRLEY: It is talk topic of today and last night, obviously $700,000 for Sam Mostyn in the role as the new Governor General; over, under, or about right?

GORMAN: For your listeners, what we do, and this has been a bill that has been passed by Parliaments every five years since 1974 when we had the Governor General Act, which is that we set the salary of the Governor General. It's normally close to what is going to be the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court. That's the comparator that we use.

SHIRLEY: So it factors in CPI, inflation, these sorts of things, obviously.

GORMAN: Yes. Under the Constitution under Section three of the Constitution, it's right up there at the front. We can only set the salary of the Governor General before they come to office, and we can't change it once they take office. So it's important that we get it right. So we look at what the likely salary is going to be on average for the Chief Justice over that five year period. And then we legislate that salary for the Governor General.

SHIRLEY: A comparison is being made by some of the predecessor, General David Hurley, against this salary for Sam Mostyn, $200,000 difference. Is it mainly because David Hurley has a military pension or not?

GORMAN: That's correct. What we have is David Hurley had an incredible career of service to the Australian people through a range of roles, including through the military. And when the Parliament legislated in 2019 for his salary as Governor General that was taken into account. So effectively, the amount of money he received from the Commonwealth through both that pension that he was receiving, and his salary as Governor General, put him at that same level as the Chief Justice of the High Court.

SHIRLEY: So the reason you've spelled out clearly and the legislation that governs the Governor General's salary - pardon the pun - sounds basically as transparent as one could hope. But this text from John in Kingston highlights maybe the sentiment in the cost of living crisis a lot of Australians and Canberrans are facing. John says 'the GG isn't a CEO Adam, it's a figurehead, no financial or personal responsibility. No costs, two houses, professional chef and a full wine cellar, travel free.' Can you understand Assistant Minister Gorman why some people on this day are seeing this and feeling a bit put out?

GORMAN: I understand that people have a lot of different views and one of the things I love about Australia is that when there's anything in front of the Parliament, in a democracy like ours everyone can have a view. And I actually quite welcome that. But what's important for the considerations that I made in putting this together along with others, is that it's important that we follow convention. And the convention has been for many decades to use this model of setting the salary. And I wouldn't have felt comfortable explaining to any of your listeners why we would have broken from that convention. I think when you're talking about the King's representative in Australia, and I know people have lots of different views about the Monarchy and our relationship with the crown. This is the system of government we have, it's been in our constitution for 123 years, it's important that I fulfil my obligations as a Member of Parliament. And I'm encouraging everyone to recognise that - I'm talking about myself, right, I got into Parliament because I want to make sure that working people get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. And if you look at the work that we've done in terms of, people will earn more and keep more across tax cuts, across what we've done when it comes to getting minimum wages up, supporting people in aged care, early childhood education. They're the things that actually make me bounce out of bed in the morning. But I also respect that we've got obligations, and those obligations have sat upon Parliamentarians for 123 years, part of our Constitution Section three, and we've got to do our job.

SHIRLEY: With that Constitution and convention context you've explained, is there cause to review it, depending on how the years evolve, if things keep getting tighter for regular hard-working Canberrans and Australians, whether a government actually has responsibility to review convention and think to itself, we should change this.

GORMAN: I'm going to put my energy into making sure that we do things that help working people. If you think about what we've got coming in six days time; tax cuts for 13.6 million Australians, including every Canberran who is a taxpayer. They're the things that I think we should be spending our energy and time on. It is important that when it comes to respect for our institutions, we do continue with conventions and I think we've got a great democracy. I always try and think about how do you build institutions up? And I think if we're going to start fiddling with those things we risk disrespecting the institutions that have actually served our country really well.

SHIRLEY: Eight minutes to eight, the thoughts you're hearing are that of the Assistant Minister for the Public Service Patrick Gorman Labour MP, Adam Shirley with you as well on ABC Radio Canberra. You mentioned energy, energy that we need to power our homes, power our cars, etc. There is obviously quite a bit of disagreement politically about our primary energy sources that we need now and into the future. You recently passed I think an emissions targeted bill in the Parliament as well to try and hold the government in Australia to account for reducing its carbon footprint. Given the debate about nuclear, given the recent appointment of Matt Kean as your Chair of Climate Change Authority, can you say you're doing as much as you can in trying to reduce our carbon footprint and make it a reasonable cost for Australians too?

GORMAN: I'm really proud of the work we've done in just two years, we've got a legislated commitment to net zero, Australia didn't have that. And that's already driving investment. In terms of what we've done over the last two years: 25% more renewables in the national energy grid. When you look at what we've done in terms of household solar, last year 330,000 household solar installations across the country. And the bill that you reference that I managed to get through the House of Representatives, the Senate is still a work in progress, that was the Net Zero Economy Authority Bill. Now what that seeks to do is actually to have a body, a heart of government that can help those communities where you're seeing coal fired power stations closed over coming years, but also attract investment. Be one of those front doors for investors who are saying, I've got a net zero proposal I want to invest. I was down in Collie in the Southwest of Western Australia last week, talking to workers who currently work in a coal fired power station, and have now been told sometime out to 2050 they're going to get a nuclear power plant. But they were talking to me about the projects that are on the cards with Green Steel -

SHIRLEY: Did you guide them that discussion? Or was that something that they come up with themselves? Obviously people will be wondering that?

GORMAN: If you were to go anywhere in the Southwest of Western Australia, or anywhere in any of these communities where all of a sudden they've been told they're going to have a nuclear power plant steamrolled in by Peter Dutton and the Coalition, people are talking about it. You can't avoid that. If someone was to propose that a nuclear power plant was to be placed on Lake Burley Griffin, I'm pretty sure that there'll be a few people just spontaneously talking about that too.

SHIRLEY: So is it from what you've assessed over the last week particularly, because the Coalition has been talking about the option of nuclear for years. Is it something that is at least worth considering? And working through the practicalities in more detail of?

GORMAN: If you want to talk about more detail, and working through the practicalities of it, we've had one side of politics saying for a number of years now that they want to go down the nuclear path. But they haven't put out any of the detail. I can't engage in a debate where only one side is coming with a carefully costed detailed plan. I think people have got a lot of questions about this and I'm pretty comfortable arguing it. Whether it be on the economics, whether it be on the energy mix, whether we argue in terms of what's right for these communities. It just doesn't stack up for Australia. And that's what so many experts have been telling us. We heard that again over the last few days. The CEO of the power retailer in Western Australia has said it doesn't make sense for our grid. I think you're seeing those comments all over the country.

SHIRLEY: In that way does Matt Kean as the new Chair of the Climate Change Authority add to your argument, because he's clearly, being NSW Energy Minister, always said that renewable solar and other energies that can be stored in batteries would be the way to go for that state. I'm wondering whether that was a deliberate pick by you for that reason, rather than him being the absolute number one choice for the job.

GORMAN: If you look at Matt Kean's skills, it is about being able to work across different interests to bring people together. That's what we need, and also to Chair a really important Authority that can give us clear advice. That's what that body is there to do. I think the other thing is that he does bring that experience of having looked at these questions around nuclear and renewables from the position of a Treasurer, and the Treasurer of our largest state. 'Does the economics stack up, what are the costs? And what are going to be the costs for individuals for households?' That's the thing that I've seen figures around over the last few days, saying that for households if we go down the nuclear path, you're probably looking at about $1,000 more per year on the average household energy bill. And that's not the path we want to go down. We know that firmed renewables with batteries and other firming are the cheapest way to get more energy into the grid.

SHIRLEY: A quick one yes or no, because some say you should be, can you and should you be more ambitious as a Federal Government on your zero emissions targets both in the interim, and then up to 2050?

GORMAN: We are the most ambitious government in what we've legislated on climate change that Australia has ever seen. That's the fact of it. No other government has legislated for Net Zero. No other government has legislated as strong a target we've set to 2030. You're trying to get me into the debate about what does Australia do around our 2035 target under the Paris Accord. That's an agreement made across pretty much every nation in the world to say, 'here's how we'll outline what our reductions and emissions are.' We've said that we will make that in accordance with the normal timelines but that's a question for 2025. And a question that we will take advice from Matt Kean and his and his board on.

SHIRLEY: And at two to eight, it's a local budget issue, but you're in the heart of a region and you have responsibility for a lot of ACT workers by extension. Complete this sentence if you don't mind 'on ACT Budget Day I hope...'

GORMAN: I hope that we see a budget that fulfils the ambitions of Canberran's now with cost of living pressures, and into the future so that people can not just fulfil their ambitions but for their family and generations to come.

SHIRLEY: We've had quite a few listener responses to that sentence. So, Assistant Minister, I appreciate you weighing in too. Thank you for your time today.

GORMAN: Thank you.

SHIRLEY: That is the Assistant Minister for the Public Service amongst his other responsibilities.

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