Transcript - 2HD – Breakfast with Richard King and Kim Bauer



SUBJECTS: Unemployment and Underemployment; Worker Rights; Liddell Power Station; Regional Australia; Cricket Australia.

RICHARD KING: Coming up to nineteen to nine on 2HD. It’s not unusual for politicians to come to our neck of the woods, which is good.

KIM BAUER: We appreciate it.

KING: We certainly do, particularly for fundraisers. And our next guest is now a grandfather, recently became a grandfather and it was a couple of months ago that former Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan announced that he’ll be bowing out of politics at the next Federal Election after a career spanning decades as a Labor stalwart. Wayne Swan was first elected as Member for Lilley in Brisbane back in 1993 and served as Treasurer under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. And as I said, he’s come into our neck of the woods as a fundraiser for Labor’s Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson. It’s happening this Friday and Wayne Swan is on the line. Good morning Wayne.


KING: Well first up, I believe you’re a mad, keen Bluesfest fan at Byron Bay, did you go this year?

SWAN: Certainty did and got a surf in every day at The Pass at Byron it was spectacular.

KING: Oh did you! And what was your pick of all the acts at Bluesfest this year?

SWAN: There’s always a lot of very good acts but there was a band called Little Georgia, who were an Australian band, but with a real sort Allman Brothers-type tone to them. So I was pretty impressed with them. There was an older blues act, a bloke called Wally Trout.

KING: Oh yes, Wally Trout.

SWAN: We were pretty impressed with his great name and better music.

BAUER: Now Wayne you are coming up, as Richard said, to help Meryl Swanson, she’s got a fundraiser on. Now you’ve been part of a thing called Conversations with Meryl and you’re going to talk about The Good Fight, you know the inequality in Australia. What do you see as our biggest inequality at the moment?

SWAN: I think the biggest inequality in Australia at the moment is what’s going on in the labour market. Whilst you’ve got a relatively low level of headline unemployment – the rate – which is great, the truth is that the underemployment rate in Australia is at record highs. When I say that, you add the unemployment rate to the number of people out there in the workforce who want to work more hours, and that is at record highs. So there’s a lot of people out there who are in insecure jobs, who are uncertain about their future, and cannot get enough work, despite the fact that the headline unemployment figure says it’s relatively low.

KING: Right. And do you think that labour groups should be allowed to take action without necessarily having to fill out mountains of paperwork and get approval to do that?

SWAN: Too right. You see the problem we’ve got around the world, and it’s not as bad here as other countries, is that the rich are simply getting richer, the middle’s getting squeezed, and great armies of working poor are being created. One of the reasons that is happening has been that the voice of labour has been deliberately suppressed right around the world.  So when union membership goes down to record lows, what you see is the profit share going to record highs. So the truth is that the profit share in Australia is at record highs and the wage share is at record lows. And part of the explanation – it’s not the full explanation – is that relatively low levels of union membership.

BAUER: Now Wayne, Richard just said that you’ve become a grandfather, so congratulations on that, but do you fear given what you’re saying now, down the track you know when your grandchild is finished uni and is looking for a job, that she will face a pretty bleak future?

SWAN: Absolutely but I fear that about my own three children. You see the labour market out there for anyone really under 30 is pretty tough. And we are yet to experience another wave of technological change through artificial intelligence which is going to rip away at job prospects in many middle-level professional occupations. We have big challenges ahead of us in terms of the employment market and the capacity of people to secure good quality jobs, with good levels of pay, over time. That’s the most important issue I think for the future of Australia and it goes to the very heart of whether we will continue to pride ourselves on the fair go, or whether we go down the American road of the rich simply getting richer and the middle class being suppressed, really.

KING: The cost of energy is a hot topic and it’s certainly a hot topic in our area because of the massive supplies we have of coal and the dependence in well the local economy on coal, not just getting it out of the ground, it’s shipping it, and rail et cetera, et cetera. Lot of discussion about the future of Liddell beyond 2022, do you think the Governments should be buying back into the generation of electricity?

SWAN: No I don’t. I think they’ve completely bungled the whole energy market. What we needed in Australia was a transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy over time and in that transition there was always a role for coal, but we do need to make that transition to deal with climate change and that transition would’ve been gradual and it would’ve resulted in lower energy prices, if in fact the Abbott and Turnbull Governments hadn’t made a such a hash of that transition. They were simply being driven by ideology, not policymaking which should produce affordable energy prices.

BAUER: Wayne you’ve been up to our neck of the woods quite a bit?

SWAN: Many times yeah, many times.

BAUER: Now, there’s a huge debate going on at the moment led by, you know, our local Labor MPs. When you think of our region, do you think Newcastle is metropolitan or regional? Which basket would you put us in because you know funding, our funding, is being affected greatly by our classification?

SWAN: Look we’ve got this happening and this is a dilemma. It’s the Sunshine Coast and how it relates to Brisbane. It’s Townsville and how it relates to its surrounds. So, it’s something that is happening everywhere and I think that in some ways those distinctions are no longer a realistic description of where Australian development is in our regions outside the capital cities. So many of our biggest cities are not capital cities and they are growing strong. I mean Newcastle’s made a remarkable transition over the last 20 or 25 years and its prospects are great. In terms of the comparative advantage, you’ve got wonderful resources, you’ve got good people, you’ve got good educational facilities, and what we don’t have is a coherent economic framework across the country that takes that into account.

KING: 2HD. It’s thirteen minutes to nine. Our guest is former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan, who back in February announced he would be bowing out at the next Federal Election. Changing the tack, I noticed on your Twitter you’re not happy about Cricket Australia’s latest media contract Wayne?

SWAN: No I’m certainly not. I mean what has happened here I think is disgraceful because effectively they’ve flogged off the rights to pay TV, to Foxtel, and there’s nothing more democratic in Australian life than people being able to turn on the TV and watch the cricket. Effectively, they’ve sold their rights off to large slabs of crickets to Foxtel and this in many ways is emblematic of what I call trickledown economics where the rich get richer and everybody else can go jump. I think this is very much a backward step and much of it, I think, can be centred home to the Board of Cricket Australia who aren’t really as interested in the grassroots as they make out.

KING: Alright and while we’re talking sport finally, obviously, you’re coming into Newcastle Knights territory on Friday. We beat your beloved Broncos a bit over a week ago, and we’ve bounced them back to form with their win over the Warriors on the weekend. You’d have to be happy about that anyway?

SWAN: Yeah well the Broncos have had a horror start to the season but so have the Cowboys. In fact, you can basically overturned the whole commentary of last year and every team that was doing badly last year is doing well this year and every team that did well last year is doing badly. It’s quite interesting and it’s going to make for a fascinating season isn’t it?

KING: Well it’s a tipster’s nightmare at the moment that’s for sure. Alright, lovely to talk to you, thank you very much for your time. Just for those interested, and I’m sure there will be many, many: former Treasurer Wayne Swan will be, as part of the Conversations With Meryl series, this Friday night at Easts Leisure & Golf Club. That’s Tenambit St, East Maitland, on this Friday night. Great to talk to you, have a great week Wayne.

SWAN: I’m looking forward to coming down.

KING: Thank you Wayne Swan. That’s happening from 6:30pm, it’s a political fundraiser. Tickets are available by going to Meryl Swanson’s Facebook page.

BAUER: There is a link on it and they’re only $45 the tickets.

KING: Yup, it should be a good night. That’s Conversations With Meryl featuring this Friday night, former Deputy PM and Treasurer Wayne Swan and as I said it gets underway at 6:30pm at Easts Leisure & Golf Club that’s in Tenambit St, East Maitland.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra