SUBJECTS: Pregnancy and miscarriage; housing affordability; GST

GARETH PARKER: My guest on the show is Tim Hammond, the Labor Member for Perth. You’ll know him as a regular guest of the programme. Tim, good morning to you.

TIM HAMMOND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS: Good morning Gareth, good to see you. Good to talk to you, more to the point.

PARKER: Yes unless you’ve got some magical power! We’re not skyping today but hopefully we will see you in the studio at some point in the near future.

HAMMOND: Yes that would be good!

PARKER: Tim, plenty to talk about today. But I just wanted to start by asking you about a piece that you wrote for the West Australian last week. Quite a brave piece, I thought, because it addressed something that’s very personal, and that has traditionally been something that families deal with in a very private way, and that is the tragedy of miscarriage. In quite a remarkable piece in the West you revealed your own family and your own wife Lindsay’s history of miscarriages. Why did you decide to do that?

HAMMOND: Yeah look it really came about after talking to Linds with the arrival of some really exciting news, which is that she is pregnant again. We’ve got a couple of young girls – a 5 year old and an 18 month old – and she broke the news in a text message to me when I was out at a dinner in the electorate that we had a positive pregnancy test on our hands. And so I raced home, and we looked at it three times, and I went and bought another one, because we weren’t entirely persuaded. It was one of those heart-in-mouth, wonderful moments.

But it kind of then got us thinking, because in between our first and our second bub we went through three miscarriages in a row, and they’re always really tricky times, and they were always before that 12-week mark, and we were caught in that funny space where there’s this weird convention bestowed upon us all that we don’t talk about pregnancy in those first twelve weeks. And with me being away so much as a Federal MP we were just worried that if anything were to go wrong this time round then perhaps Lindsay wouldn’t necessarily have that support that might otherwise be available to her if we were a bit more open about the fact that we were in very early stages of being pregnant.

So that got us thinking, and I put pen to paper and really just to ask the question. I entirely respect and understand couples who want to keep these things under wraps, but if there’s a risk that even one couple increase their risk of being upset or isolated or even depressed as a result of having to hide the terrible loss and grief of miscarriage in a veil of silence, then perhaps we need to be a bit more accepting and open, in that it happens so much. One in four, perhaps as many as one in three early pregnancies result in a miscarriage. If we’re a bit more open about it perhaps then we let people know that it’s okay to grieve openly and that there’s a lot more support out there.

So we thought we’d put it on the table, and we were absolutely overwhelmed and blown away by the positive response we got, people sharing their stories.

PARKER: I was going to ask you, Tim, what sort of reaction did you have?

HAMMOND: Yeah look it was amazing. I didn’t really expect it, to be honest. We got some wonderful messages obviously of support and congratulations for the news. But also a lot of people who I knew, who came forward with their own stories to share about the loss that they’d felt upon losing a baby in that early first trimester. And incredibly touched and honoured to have evoked that sort of response in people who felt that it was time for them to share. So yeah, it was a really lovely feeling.

PARKER: Any trepidation about that? About being so forward about it?

HAMMOND: Oh, a little bit. It’s always a bit – when you’re so open and honest about these things in a public way there are always a few nerves about how it’s all going to go. And of course what really struck home for me on balance is that at the end of the day if something goes wrong with Linds and this new bub in that early stage, and I’m in Canberra or away a lot for this job, I just want her to have all the support she can get. And so that for me, on balance, made going public with it worth it. And we’re now at twelve weeks, so fingers crossed. Every day’s a blessing and we just take it day by day, as they say.

PARKER: Absolutely. 9 22 11 882 is the number to call if you’d like to have a chat about that issue today. Happy to take your calls. What do you think of this? It’s unconventional but Tim Hammond, the Member for Perth is essentially saying that we need to be able to discuss these things out in the open rather than keep them behind closed doors. Tim let’s move on to more political matters


PARKER: There’s a big debate going on in the lead up to the Federal Budget about housing affordability. The Government has made clear that it’s not going to tinker with negative gearing rules. There may be a proposal in the budget to allow first homebuyers to access their super. I think the Labor Party are clearly on the record that they want changes made to negative gearing. Where do you, what do you make of all this?

HAMMOND: Yeah look I think it’s a real shame that, in the context of it being undeniable that we have a housing affordability crisis all across the country, we don’t have a Government that is more open about putting all of the options on the table and considering them on the merits. And there are two things about that.

Firstly, make no mistake this is not an East-Coast centric problem. In the papers yesterday I think in Perth we were declared to be the mortgage default capital of the country. That’s got to be telling us something about the fact that housing affordability is an issue.

The second thing is that the proposal about making changes to negative gearing – again I just want to spell this out very briefly to your listeners, if I can. Firstly, Labor’s proposal has never been that those changes are retrospective. So they don’t affect anything that’s happening now. Secondly the changes aren’t to get rid of negative gearing, but simply to adjust the type of investment that can be considered to be tax deductible, and that is on new homes, and to limit the number of properties you can negatively gear. And thirdly, the independent modelling demonstrates that this is likely to have a positive impact in terms of slowing down the heat in the market in terms of housing affordability. It’s not just us, it’s the Grattan Institute, Saul Eslake, it’s McKell. All of these independent third parties who’ve had a look at this proposal and formed a view that it will work. So that’s the negative gearing proposal that the Government has regrettably decided not to look at, which I think is a real shame.

PARKER: What about the idea of allowing first homebuyers to access their superannuation. I’ve got to say I don’t think that’s a great plan.

HAMMOND: No, look, it’s frustrating you know because what that does is it basically puts them between a complete rock and a hard place in terms of having to make that invidious decision. Do you pull out your superannuation in its very early stages to have to afford a house? Which is again if this is thrown open you’ve got to think about what that’s going to do in terms of the knock on effect in relation to the heat in the market. I reckon it’s going to send prices up.

But more to the point if we force young homebuyers into that invidious decision they are going to cut off their nose to spite their face in terms of the impact of leaving that super in their nest egg until their retirement. Again the modelling on this is really quite scary, in terms of the negative impact on how large the nest egg grows if you’ve got to pull the super out. So I’d really urge the Government to shy away from these kinds of quick fix solutions and perhaps just have a look at this in a bipartisan way about what will really work to solve what is clearly a crisis, which is overheated prices for homes.

PARKER: Okay. Just quickly on the GST I had Scott Morrison, the Federal Treasurer, on my programme on Friday. We’d been trying to get him for two weeks. We didn’t get a lot of answers but what we did get from Scott Morrison was a recognition that there are aspects of the CGC carve up system that don’t work in the national interest, and he did make a commitment to go away and look at those. I got a big reaction to that interview, but I also keep getting a big reaction from listeners who want to know when Bill Shorten and when Chris Bowen are going to come out and clearly state what they are prepared to do on this GST issues. Because it’s one thing to criticise the Government for inaction and to call for Liberals to be thrown out in this state, but it’s quite another for Labor to have a positive plan that’s going to help us. So what is the plan?

HAMMOND: Again, Gareth, there are three things about this. Firstly, I’ve got to say that I’ve been impressed by both Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen in terms of how receptive they’ve been to all of us Federal MPs in WA who are raising this issue with them. Secondly if you go back and look at Bill’s comments on Election Day when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark McGowan, he made it very clear that he was up for the challenge in terms of trying to sort this out. And thirdlywhen you talk about positive plans, that’s exactly what Labor’s form was in relation to that last Federal election, which is nailing big ideas to the wall for Australians to make up their minds as to how we should be judged as an alternative Government. So we know that this thing cannot be fixed in a day, but what we do have is a very receptive Labor team who understands that we need to try to do something about the current problem.

PARKER: Alright Tim. Well my advice, for what it’s worth, is that you’re going to need more than a receptive approach and more than big ideas. You’re going to need a concrete plan for action if people are going to vote for you at the next election. Anyway, that’s my comment. Thanks for your time today.

HAMMOND: Appreciate it, Gareth.

PARKER: Tim Hammond, Labor Member for Perth.

HAMMOND: Thanks mate.