ABC Radio Sydney Drive

19 June 2023


Richard Glover: Richard Glover with you on Drive. Welcome, if you've just joined us. The Monday Political Forum. Matt Kean, New South Wales Liberal Member for Hornsby, the Shadow Minister for Health, Matt's with us, good afternoon.


Matt Kean: Good afternoon, Richard, thank you for having me.


Richard Glover: Yes, so is Cate Faehrmann, a Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. She's here with me in the studio. Cate, good afternoon.


Cate Faehrmann: Hi Richard.


Richard Glover: And on another line somewhere else is Tim Ayres. Senator for New South Wales, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing to boot. Hi Tim.


Tim Ayres: G'day Richard. Hi, Matt and Cate, I'm coming to you from cold Canberra.


Richard Glover: Cold old ‑‑


Tim Ayres: It's always very good to be on ‑ I nearly called you 2BL, there you go.


Richard Glover: We're still with the bank of New South Wales and fly TAA. What do you mean? Well, pull the beanie closer and tighter, and we'll talk about the ‑ I'm interested particularly to talk to Tim Ayres about the US and China, and Anthony Blinken's meeting, because he's been doing some work on that relationship for Australia, and also interested to talk to Cate Faehrmann about the Premier, Chris Minns, and his whole idea about having more development in Sydney, higher, more density in Sydney to try to stop that slow suburban sprawl.


But before that, we should talk about the legislation permitting the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. It's passed both Houses today, indicating a vote later this year, probably October.


Now, despite some slipping poll numbers for The Voice, the PM remains confident it will pass. Here he is with me on Drive, late last week.




ANTHONY ALBANESE: There are a series of polls, of course. That one wasn't as positive. The other polls are showing, Essential shows a 60 per cent Yes vote. The poll that counts, of course, and when Australians focus on what this is about, is the one where they go into polling booths and write Yes or No on their paper. And this is an opportunity to unite the nation for reconciliation to be advanced. I'm confident that we'll continue to put the case. There's been, of course, a lot of misinformation put out there, and once the debate goes out of Canberra as well, I think you'll see different outcomes.


[End of Excerpt]


Richard Glover: That's Anthony Albanese, mentioning to me on Thursday the misinformation which was an idea he came back to today. Is he right to remain confident? Matt Kean.


Matt Kean: Richard, I think he is right to remain confident. I mean I'm a supporter of The Voice. I believe that as people learn more about The Voice and about the proposal, they'll continue to back it in. Personally, I think it's a safe constitutional change that will make a meaningful difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. It's a modest request from our First Nations people to the rest of the country, and I think that rather than searching for reasons to justify a No vote, Australians will embrace the Yes vote and help pull all of Australia, all of our country together.


Richard Glover: Your colleagues in Canberra led by Peter Dutton, they're going pretty hard on it?


Matt Kean: Well, again, I think this is an opportunity to bring the country together, and everyone will have their say at the ballot box, including my colleagues in Canberra, and I'll certainly be out there advocating for a Yes vote, because I think it's an opportunity for us to bring the nation together and build a stronger and better country for everyone to be part of.


Richard Glover: Cate Faehrmann, the polls, one poll looked all right, but the other polls didn't look good.


Cate Faehrmann: Well, I think there was something that came out as well, looking at the average, and the average over a number of the polls is apparently still above 50 per cent. But as the PM said, you know, the poll that counts obviously is what people do on the day, and now that we have seen the vote through the Federal Parliament, it is now up to the community, it is now up to, you know, the Yes campaign to run a really cohesive and inspiring campaign.


This should be a unifying moment for the country, and it's great to have Matt Kean on here as a Liberal supporting it, but it is so disappointing that Peter Dutton has used this opportunity that should have been so unifying to divide the nation. And hopefully, you know, we are all, as Yes supporters, just really, really hoping that in the next four months, however long it takes, that the community will get behind Yes, and I'm confident ultimately that they will choose Yes, but yes, there's a big campaign ahead.


Richard Glover: Yeah. I mean there's a lot of misinformation around. One of the most interesting calls today, I think, was from John in Crookwell, and he said he's a sheep ‑ lamb farmer ‑ sheep farmer, and said he's actually in favour of The Voice, but he says around town, we're back to all the, "Oh, they'll take your farm ‑ if you vote this, they'll take your farms, it will be in by December and they'll take your farm."  He says that's the thing that he's hearing around town.


Cate Faehrmann: Well, hopefully, now that yes, you know, it's outside, the Parliament's voted, now it is up to the community, lots of different voices, but what we need to do, of course, is counter that misinformation, that disinformation that's out there; that's very critical. And I am confident that a lot more voices will come out, a lot more leaders from various communities, culturally diverse communities, right across this country will come out and hopefully swing behind Yes.


Richard Glover: Tim Ayres, you've got a pretty confident Prime Minister there. Has he got a right to be?


Tim Ayres: Yeah, I think he has got it right, and I agree with Matt and Cate's contributions. It's going to be a good thing now that the legislation's cleared the Parliament for this debate to get out into the community. I mean it's been hopelessly partisan in here. The National Party decided its position on The Voice to Parliament before the legislation had been provided to them.


Peter Dutton leading the Liberal Party, I mean he has only got one vote in the referendum, but he's led, you know, the significance part of the Liberal Party to a very negative position that I think misses the historical moment. And you know, Peter Dutton did the same thing around the Apology to the Stolen Generation. He made, you know, you look at the arguments that Mr Dutton made around that speech, and that historically important day, to justify boycotting the Apology to the Stolen Generation ‑‑


Richard Glover: I mean, I should interpose, to be fair to him, he has said he's got ‑ he got that wrong?


Tim Ayres: Yes, but he's making the same arguments again now to oppose The Voice to Parliament. I mean this is the problem, that it's just an utterly regressive position, and I think what's been really important about Matt's contribution and the contribution of leaders from the state Parliament's from the Liberal Party and the conservative side of politics is they've made it really clear that there’s actually a conservative case for Yes, as well as a conservative case for No. I mean if you care about keeping our democratic institutions up‑to‑date and making sure that our Constitution is a living document that works for all Australians and makes the country stronger, then vote, you know, vote Yes for The Voice to Parliament and for recognition.


This is an important historical moment. Polls go up and down, Richard, but now this campaign's going to be out there in the community. There will be members of the community leading the argument. It's a very modest and simple and straightforward proposition, and it's going to be good ‑ yes, it will be good for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, but also, it's going to make Australia stronger. You know, if you care about the future of the country, a more confident, outward-looking Australia that's confident about its past, and facing the future together, then this is an important referendum to vote yes in. I'm really confident, by the way, that in the end this referendum will be brought home by young people, who overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly support the proposition.


Richard Glover: Tim Ayres is here, Senator for New South Wales for Labor, Cate Faehrmann from the Greens and Matt Kean, New South Wales Liberal Member for Hornsby.


Now, the relationship between the US and China is in the spotlight today, with America's Anthony Blinken meeting China's top diplomat. We have a speculation that a meeting President Xi might follow.


The US are still calling the differences between the two countries “profound”. But as with Australia, China seems to be in a mood to somewhat repair the relationship. Why has China turned down the heat in terms of both the US and Australia, and do you think that repair job will continue? Tim Ayres, you spent a lot of your time thinking about this relationship. What's your view?


Tim Ayres: Well, I think it's been very important for Australia that we've taken a structured and consistent and calm approach to this question. It is true that there are some structural differences now in the relationship, and those will present challenges from time to time, but we have worked in a very careful way to stabilise the relationship both in strategic and regional, but also in trade terms, and that work is, you know, is still continuing, and there is still progress to make. But as the Prime Minister made really clear in his Shangri‑La speech I think last week, you know, Australia has to be in a position where we shape the region in our interests.


We can't approach the region, you know, the way that we wish it was, we have to approach the region as it is. And shape the region in a way that means that, you know, no one country dominates the recently, and no country is dominated in the region, and that we have a shared approach to fair rules and to, you know, compliance with the international norms. And I think we're making steady progress through those issues, but as I say, there is more work to be done, and this will be a constant focus of this Government.


Richard Glover: Yeah, and you have to applaud the Australian industries who did manage to pivot to some extent, I know people didn't get the price for the barley they used to get, and so forth, but we did show a bit of resilience as a nation when China tried cut us off at the knees, we did find other markets, and that was probably a pretty good maturing thing anyway, wasn't it?


Tim Ayres: Well, it certainly has meant that we're taking an approach now as a Government that is about, yes, stabilising the relationship with China, and in fact despite those impediments to Australian trade with China, trade with China actually grew last year. In those particular areas, barley, wine, coal, timber, a range of these areas, it has been a challenge for those sectors to diversify. And diversification is now a key plank of our approach on trade policy, diversification in terms of the markets that we trade with.


The UK Free Trade Agreement just went into effect a couple of weeks ago. We're working hard trying to secure a good quality ambitious, EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement, but also, Richard, diversifying the products that we offer the world; you know, shifting Australia up the value chain, making sure that we're, you know, reindustrialising our economy so that we're exporting higher value products to the world as well as exporting to more diverse markets.


So this is, as you say, it delivered a jolt to the Australian system, and the Government's been working very carefully to make sure, yes, improve our trading relationship with China, get that back to normal, but also diversify our trade in the new markets. That's where the good jobs are.


Richard Glover: That’s right. Don't forget the lessons we were forced to learn, I guess. Cate Faehrmann, what do you make of this slow warming of the relationship, I suppose? I don't know how long it will go for.


Cate Faehrmann: Yeah. I mean, I think if we're looking, if the question is how do we get the repair job to continue, do we want the repair job with China to continue, then I don't think we can look past the AUKUS arrangement and the $368 billion spending on nuclear subs, that's a minimum, that will be spent on nuclear subs. Really, we should be looking at what that means in some ways to China, which I'm sure they're not very impressed about, and thinking how ‑‑


Richard Glover: Well, they’ve said so, we don't have to imagine, yeah.


Cate Faehrmann: Well, how can we chart a middle path, if you like, in this part of the region, and I think the AUKUS arrangement, which was done under the previous government really, as well as that whole arrangement, we should have the courage to reassess that, and I think if we're really serious about repairing relations with China in some ways, you know, in terms of a repair job, that would have to be on the table.


Richard Glover: Matt Kean, how do you look at these events in China with Anthony Blinken and so forth?


Matt Kean: Well, Richard, I'm just going to take issue with what Cate said, and she's suggesting that we should make the defence of our country weaker in order to appease China, or any foreign nation for that matter, then I vehemently disagree with her.


We need to navigate our differences respectfully, but it's important that we continue to stand up for our values. We cannot retreat on key values and policies, and you know, we need to protect our country and our sovereignty as well. That means continuing to speak out about our concerns around China's destabilising actions in the South China Sea. That means, you know, renewing, or making sure that we speak up about our concerns about human rights violations in places like Xinjiang, and the erosions of freedoms in Hong Kong. They're non‑negotiables for Australia and for Australians, and you know, if that means weakening or strengthening or military, if it means strengthening our resolve, then that's a price that we should be willing to pay, and I'm so proud ‑‑


Richard Glover: You can overheat your rhetoric though, can't you? I mean there were examples under the previous Federal Government where ‑ I mean everyone wants Australia to defend its interests, of course it does, but the rhetoric sometimes seemed to be too bellicose.


Matt Kean: Well, of course. As I said, we need to navigate our differences respectfully, and I think it's pleasing to see that there is a sort of ‑ I won't say re‑setting of the relationship ‑ but stabilising of the relationship, and I think that's a good thing. It's in our economic interests. And whilst we have common economic interests, we also have our own values which we need to continue to stand up for, and I think that, you know, if the price of our friendship with China is coming at the expense of us selling out on human rights values and also, you know, respect for freedom in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, then that's a very high price for us to pay, and I don't think we should be paying it.


Richard Glover: Matt Kean is here, the New South Wales Liberal Member for Hornsby and Shadow Minister for Health. Cate Faehrmann is here too, the Greens Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and Tim Ayres, New South Wales Senator for Labor, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing.


I'll check the Sydney traffic in just a second. But the Premier, Chris Minns, is pushing Sydney councils to accept more housing density, saying that every area has to do its part.




CHRIS MINNS: We're not afraid of that fight, we're prepared to take it on. A lot of these mayors who I've spoken to or heard from in the media in the last couple of weeks have two modes, they have two answers to any question in relation to development, and that is "No" or "Hell no." 


[End of Excerpt]


Richard Glover: That's the Premier. "No" or "Hell no" he says is the answer he gets from the local councils. The Premier says more density is better than a continuing sprawl of the outer suburbs into farmland, consuming land and resources. Has he got a point about that? Cate Faehrmann?


Cate Faehrmann: Yeah. Look, we absolutely agree that there needs to be limits to growth, there needs to be urban growth boundaries set. You know that in 1950 Sydney had a green belt, that had legislated boundaries to grow.


Richard Glover: What did we do with that, bulldoze it?


Cate Faehrmann: That was scrapped, yeah. Yeah, exactly, I think over developer pressure, speaking of which, developer pressure I think is what is leading Chris Minns on his policy. Look, we agree with developing in existing footprints, absolutely. There are several things wrong with what he has announced though. One is the 15 per cent affordable housing target, it should be at least 30 per cent. Affordable housing, by the way, is just 20 to 25 per cent below the current market rate. That is not affordable for people who are shut out of housing. That is available for people just to rent as well.


It also cuts off after 15 years. So, we would say, bump it up to at least 30, make it in perpetuity, but also it should not be development at any cost. And what we worry about is that this is going to go just completely over the top of any kind of planning rules in place, if it's over $75 million, developers love this ‑‑


Richard Glover: We do need more apartments, right?


Cate Faehrmann: Yes, yes, we do, but to just come forward with this, okay, we're going to take away the planning rules to give us in fact something that is not going to provide as much affordable housing as we need, and what I would like to see this Government address as well is the number of investment properties in terms of short‑term holiday lets, I feel like it's a policy that was put before the Minns Government on day one from developers, and they haven't listened to all solutions and all stakeholders.


Richard Glover: Is this a free‑for‑all for developers as Cate seems to imply, Matt Kean?


Matt Kean: No, I think we need to encourage and increase in housing stock, but that includes greenfield sites as well as increasing density in some new suburbs. I'm worried that the Premier plans to only increase density in those areas that already have some of the city's highest densities. I mean the ten densest LGAs in Sydney are all within eastern, northern and southern districts.


So Richard, I think it's a false argument to just focus on how many new houses an area is delivering. You've got to look at the existing density, the feasibility of development, and importantly affordability. And also, what I'd say is, when considering changing housing targets, the Government needs to work with communities, and right now all we're hearing from Chris Minns is that he wants centralised planning whereby he makes decisions as to where developments are going to go. I don't think that's going to ‑‑


Richard Glover: Okay. But you're Member for Hornsby, and you know, he didn't mention Hornsby, but he's talking about parts of Sydney which by and large have got off lighter than other parts of Sydney, and maybe Hornsby's a pretty example of that.


Matt Kean: Well, Hornsby's taken a disproportionately high number of new dwellings in recent history. You just need to drive through Waitara, you just need to drive through Asquith to see that. So we've done our fair share. All I'm saying is that there need to be a number of considerations when deciding where development needs to go, and that includes looking at existing density, feasibility of the development, whether there's the infrastructure to support it, and whether they can bring the community along with them. So I'd hate to see them trampling local community voices and overriding local councils. They need to bring councils and communities on the journey, rather than trampling democratic rights of individual communities.


Richard Glover: Tim Ayres, we need more housing in Sydney, everyone knows that. There's these terrible kind of battles, financial battles for rental properties when they come out, poor people sort of bidding against each other. What do we do about it? How do we get more houses without either ruining existing suburbs or just spreading out into the countryside?


Tim Ayres: Well, we need more housing, but today in the Senate the Liberals and Nationals and Greens voted together to defer a piece of legislation that would have delivered 30,000 more homes. I mean this is the problem with this debate.


Richard Glover: Well, the Greens, I'll let Cate say it, but the Greens, you know, say you haven't gone far enough.


Tim Ayres: Well, on that bill, nowhere now. I mean it was either 30,000 additional social housing homes, and we've ended up with nothing.  Now, it depends on whether you're really serious about social media, or you're really serious about social housing.


Richard Glover: Okay, let me give ‑‑


Tim Ayres: It means ‑ it means that ‑ just let me finish this point, Richard. It means that we have to have a partnership, and that's what the Housing Accord is about, we need 1 million more homes, and that means working together, like nobody shirking their responsibility, working together at the Commonwealth and State and Local Government level.


That does mean that both of the elements that you and the other panellists have been talking about, more density, so that people can live where they work, but also more land releases.


Now, of course, it's got to be done in a sustainable way. It's got to be done with regard to the, you know, amenity and environmental issues that of course have to be satisfied. But it's no good to have a position where people say, "We want more housing, just not here." 


Richard Glover: Okay. Tim Ayres is with us. I've got two minutes left. Cate, I know this is your Federal colleagues and not the New South Wales colleagues.


Cate Faehrmann: Yeah.


Richard Glover: But nonetheless, there'll be the actual people who might have got a roof over their heads earlier if the Greens had voted for this.


Cate Faehrmann: Look, I understand my Greens colleagues have been negotiating in very good faith with the Government to try and improve this legislation, but more importantly, to get rent freezes, rent controls in place. This is ‑‑


Richard Glover: Why don't they argue about that later and get this at least going?


Cate Faehrmann: This is the opportunity to get it in place, is to say to Labor, "This is what we need, this is what needs happening for our support."  And I'll tell you what, the vast majority of renters, the vast majority of Australians are behind rent freezes. They are absolutely out of control. The National Government, Federal Government has to do something, and that's what we were trying to get them to do.


Richard Glover: I guess the question always with rent freezes is, does that in the end reduce the amount of property in the market?


Cate Faehrmann: Well, you know, we have to have a look at overseas examples. No, it doesn't, but the Government hasn't even considered rent freezes. Other jurisdictions have looked at that, and that's where we need to go.


Richard Glover: We are out of time, but thank you very much to Cate Faehrmann, who you've just been listening to, the Greens Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Cate, thank you so much.


Cate Faehrmann: Thank you.


Richard Glover: And Matt Kean, New South Wales Liberal Member for Hornsby, Shadow Minister for Health. Thanks Matt.


Matt Kean: Thanks Richard. Thanks Tim, and thanks Cate.


Richard Glover: And yeah, Tim Ayres, Senator for New South Wales and Assistant Minister for Trade and for Manufacturing. Tim, thanks very much for joining us.


Tim Ayres: Terrific to be on the show. I do think it is time for a rebrand. Back to 2BL, I think.


Richard Glover: And we'll fly down to Canberra on TAA and in a Holden. Exactly right.


Tim Ayres: Good to talk to you, Matt and Cate.