Perks, Penalty Rates & Life in Space
Monday 10 August, 2015
Chris Hadfield, Former Commander of the International Space Station;
Anne Summers, Author The Misogyny Factor;
Josh Frydenberg, Assistant Treasurer;
Sharon Bird, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education;
Joe Hildebrand, News Ltd columnist and Co-host of Studio 10.
Audience: ALP 35%, Coalition 40%, Greens 15%, Other 8%, Unspecified 3%
TONY JONES: Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I'm Tony Jones. Here to answer your questions tonight: columnist and broadcaster Joe Hildebrand; the Shadow Minister for vocational education, Sharon Bird; former commander of the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield; pioneering feminist author and publisher Anne Summers; and Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Please welcome our panel. Thank you, and last week we announced that visiting counter terrorism expert Jonathan Fine would join tonight's program. Unfortunately, Dr Fine isn't well, can't be here tonight. We wish him a speedy recovery. We’ve got a lot to talk about. Let’s go straight to our first question which comes from Damir Hudorovic.
DAMIR HUDOROVIC: Good evening. While we are reviewing the various privileges of our politicians in the wake of Bronwyn Bishop, why can't we also look at their pensions as well. How is it fair that their massive parliamentary pensions and entitlements are not means tested? Surely if they are earning income as consultants or board members after they leave Parliament, this should be taken into account. If they are already wealthy, do they require taxpayers to further line their already bulging pockets?
TONY JONES: Joe Hildebrand, let’s start with you.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Well, firstly I would just like to say to you thank you very much, Tony, for having me on the show at such late notice. Unfortunately, I do have to inform you that you did have booked an ultraconservative Jew and instead you’ve got a moderate Catholic, so I’m not sure how this is going to fix the left/right balance.
TONY JONES: Probably won’t have a huge bearing on this question, Joe.
JOE HILDEBRAND: You never know. If the astronaut votes for Donald Trump, then may you’re back on track. I think that’s a very good question and very enlightened question. I think that most things in life should be means tested. I don't see why people who do have the ability to pay for themselves and pay for their own way in life should also receive public money. I think there’s a very good case for public money being given to people who can’t afford to get by. I'm a strong supporter of welfare where it's needed and where that makes a difference between people floating or sinking, but, yeah, it’s a very good question. If we’re means testing pensioners as to whether or not they’ve got a million dollar house, it seems strange that we’re not means testing politicians on a much, much greater pension who might have several multimillion dollar houses.
TONY JONES: Now, Joe, we learnt a lot more about this over the past couple of weeks and one thing we learnt was that Bronwyn Bishop evidently will retire on a pension of $255,000 a year, but she does seem to have been in politics since Federation, so I’m just wondering whether that actually is fair enough.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Oh, the compound interest just kills you. Look, I think there is certain - obviously Bronwyn Bishop it depends on when you started in politics. So basically they’ve cleaned it up a little bit. So, if you entered politics recently, you’re not going to get the ridiculously generous entitlements that Bronwyn Bishop will be going out on. It's hard to make these things retrospective. You know, retrospective legislation is always a problem, even when it’s dealing with something that the common person would see is an obvious rort but, again, you know, the rules are the rules. In the case of travel entitlements, it would appear there are no rules but, you know, if that's going to happen, maybe we should grandfather it but certainly for new people coming in, I think you’re going to see…
TONY JONES: You mentioned travel entitlements. I just want to ask Chris, did you get travel allowance while orbiting the Earth and was it on compound interest?
CHRIS HADFIELD: I wish. I've been around the world 2,597 times and gone about 60 million miles, so I wish but unfortunately no.
TONY JONES: Okay. I’ll come back to you because Canadians have a bit of an issue with politicians' entitlements as well. But I actually want to hear Josh Frydenberg on the question that was asked?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, firstly, there have been some changes, as Joe referred to. When Mark Latham and John Howard were in, in 2004, they made those changes to the superannuation. But the point here is that if you’re a politician, you're pursuing a job. Now, that job may be like if you’re working in a public hospital and you're a nurse or you’re a doctor or if you’re the head of the Reserve Bank, if you’re a public servant, whereas when you're talking about the pension, that's a welfare payment and that's for people who can't necessarily support themselves. Now, what somebody does with their wage or with their income as a politician is their own business and obviously some are better off than others but I don't think we're talking about, you know, two of the same things here when we're talking about pensions and when we're talking about politicians' wages, and, you know, for that reason, I think you can differentiate.
TONY JONES: Well, one of the things we may be talking about in Tony Abbott's review is what other entitlements a retired politician may be due. Now, if you take Bronwyn Bishop again, she’ll be entitled to ten free domestic return flights, presumably not on helicopters, each year. So, will those sort of things be under the microscope? Will they go?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, again, we've made some changes around the gold card and I'm sure there’ll be further debates in the Parliament about other entitlements, but the point is the last few weeks, I think it hasn't done anyone a service in terms of our Parliament, in terms of the public debate. It’s a pox on both houses and, at the end of the day, we need to remember that it’s the taxpayers' money and we, as politicians, need to use that wisely. That's why the Prime Minister has undertaken a root and branch review of the entitlement system. It has got bipartisan representation with Harry Jenkins and Brendan Nelson, as well as experts from the business community. Let's see what is actually produced by that report, but I think it's also important for the public to understand that, you know, politicians do spend a lot of time away from home, they are required not just to serve their constituency but to travel constantly, to appear before committee hearings and the like and that does cost money, and I just think it’s really important that we have a sense of balance here, Tony, when this committee meets and they make the recommendations to the Government, because clearly some of the entitlements have been within the rules, but outside public expectations, but I don't think we should seek to change the whole system to the point that it becomes unworkable or unreasonable.
TONY JONES: I noticed Anne Summers gave a sideways glance during that answer. Do you want to respond to what you've just heard?
ANNE SUMMERS: Well, just a couple of points that I think are worth making, Tony. I mean, I agree with Josh. Obviously, I mean, I remember, you know, back when I was in Canberra in the press gallery, the gold pass system, which all politicians cherished, was lifelong travel forever, as much as you liked, you know, domestic and overseas and that’s certainly has been pared back and think that's probably a good thing. But there’s two points I’d make. One is that there was a perfectly good review done of entitlements by Barbara Belcher in 2009, which has not been implemented and I don't see why it's necessary to set up a new review that’s going to take at least six months to report when there’s one sitting there that could do the job.
TONY JONES: That's what you have to do in response to headlines, though, isn’t it, realistically?
ANNE SUMMERS: Well, but it does make you think that, you know, how serious, you know, are politicians about reforming? They just want to get it out of the headlines, you know, into yet another review, which will be ignored, like the previous ones, and life will just go on. And the second point I’d make about the - and I have great sympathy with politicians. I spend a lot of time in Canberra and I know how hard politicians work and I think they should be very well paid, possibly more highly paid than they are, but I think it’s the entitlements and the travel requirements that should be looked at. And, I mean, I was looking at the family reunion rules in the Remuneration Tribunal website for my sins and, you know, it seems, from my reading of it, that the family reunion provisions were meant so that family members could come to Canberra and spend time with the Parliamentarian, either for a swearing in or for a maiden speech or for some important occasion. These provisions weren't meant to take your family to Cairns or to Perth or to Uluru for a holiday with the kids flying business class. I don't think any of us can see any value in that.
JOE HILDEBRAND: To be fair, though, it is very cruel to make children go to Canberra.
TONY JONES: Unless they go by business class.
JOE HILDEBRAND: But business class, you wouldn't want to get off the plane.
POLITICIAN’S PERKS- FACEBOOK QUESTION00:08:48
TONY JONES: Okay, we’ve got a Facebook question on this subject. It’s from Ben Rydal: “The only entitlements politicians should receive is their base wage. There should be no perks. Now there’s talk of removing their perks and raising their salary. How is that better?” And I’ll start with Josh Frydenberg?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, look, I don’t want to pre-empt what this review will actually find but when you talk about perks, if it is about family reunion, I think there is a good case for family members to be able to see their spouse from time to time. Now, you don't want to overdo that. But, you know, these are the broader issues that will be looked at in this review. There have actually been some changes, Anne, that the Government has adopted, which has tightened the ability of members of Parliament to employ family members. They've reduced the class that they travel on international delegations, there has been a tightening of some of the family reunion provisions, so changes have been made.
TONY JONES: So just a quick question before I pass over to Sharon Bird, because I’d like to hear from the other side of politics but are you comfortable with the way in which these entitlements to family travel have been used that we've now discovered? Are you happy with that?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, as my colleagues have made clear, you know, the use of some of those entitlements have been outside community expectations but within-side the rules, and I'm sure this will be one of the first issues that the--
TONY JONES: So the rules are now going to match community expectations, are they?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, that's for the review, not for me to decide.
TONY JONES: Do you think they should?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, I'm sure that's one of the key issues that need to be looked at.
TONY JONES: Let's ask Sharon Bird the same question?
SHARON BIRD: Yeah, Tony, I think Damir's question and the online question reflect a much broader conversation that’s going on in the community and it does - it very quickly encapsulates issues to do with entitlements and the sorts of expenses that MPs have to do their jobs. I'm of a view that part of it’s fed by people feeling very frustrated and disengaged from politics and so this becomes one lightning rod for that. I think some of the conversation that people are having about politicians, it's part of, for me, part of the most depressing part of my job is to see the cynicism that you're confronted with all the time in this job and I acknowledge sometimes, you know, individuals don't help our case. But I do sincerely say to you here that the vast majority of people I meet in politics, even like Josh, if I completely disagree with their formula for making our nation better, actually are there and really committed to their communities. Today we had a very important condolence motion in the Parliament for Don Randall and people reflected on some amazing work he did in his community and so I think we have to look at things like the expenses. You have to feel confident that we’re using them for a legitimate purpose and that’s important too.
TONY JONES: So last week, Sharon, we had the extraordinary spectacle of Christopher Pyne and Tony Burke actually agreeing on something. We had bipartisanship, I think for virtually for the first time in the course of the Parliament and what was it over? Parliamentary entitlements. Do you think people have a right to be a bit cynical about that?
SHARON BIRD: Well, I'm not saying that the cynicism is not legitimate. I think there have been I’m just saying I don’t think it's only entitlements. I think some of the way we've behaved in debates, some of the online conversations is actually bringing us to a space where it’s not a really productive sort of public discourse we’re having about politics and I remain really optimistic that we can move beyond that and actually lift the standards. We’ve got a new Speaker in the Parliament. I'm very confident that Tony will lift the standards of the Parliament. We have to improve on what we do with expenses, not just the rules but applying our judgment to how we use them as well. But we also, I think, have to engage in a much more civilised debate with each other and with the community and treat them with some respect.
JOE HILDEBRAND: I do agree with that and I do think some of the tone of the debate has been ugly recently. I think there’s a couple of things though. I think in recent years there was this perfect storm of conflicts. One was the unprecedented brutality of the knifing of Kevin Rudd in his first term as Prime Minister. This also happened to coincide with the explosion in social media around this time and I'm talking just the last five to seven years, say. And so you’ve suddenly got people who are not used to public debate, who know no rules, jumping in and you have this kind of mob mentality, this sort of stacks on mentality, and I think it’s the same kind of thing that you see in the football stadium with Adam Goodes is taking place in the online community except, unlike the Colosseum, it’s limitless. There is no barrier to it and there is no siren to tell you when it stops. And I think the other problem is that, and this is why you see people like Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie - just like Pauline Hanson did a long time ago - riding this great wave of popularity and then, of course, everyone realised they don’t really know what they’re talking about and they forget about them in the next election but, still, that’s why you get this thing. The other problem is you’ve got two parties which repeatedly and steadfastly refuse to put the most favoured politicians into the leaders' position. Both Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott, in a recent poll, were the third most popular candidate within their own party among the general public. So the public is seeing, time and time again, parties refusing to do what they are clearly telling them they want them to do over and over and over again.
SHARON BIRD: But just to reflect on that a bit, Joe, I actually think that picking leaders by popularity is what’s got us into this problem in the first place. I think leaders should set out an agenda and engage with the community and have the hard conversations.
TONY JONES: Or should they just be picked by the union movement, for example?
SHARON BIRD: Well, you know, there is the cynicism I referred to earlier.
TONY JONES: That’s not unfounded. Let me bring in Chris Hadfield and you would be familiar with these arguments in Canada, where the same sort of entitlement scandals - I mean, you've had a senator who’s facing corruption charges or fraud charges as we speak.
CHRIS HADFIELD: More than one, in fact, yeah. Yeah. From a personal point of view, I served for the government for 35 years. I was 25 years in the Air Force and then ten subsequent years with the space agency and so one side of the story is actually just the arcane complexity of the actual rules that you're trying to follow, and you do your best, but if, you know, you have one child in college and one child in high school and one in elementary school and you're on travel and then you ask someone, "What am I allowed to actually do?" and someone gives you the rules and you try and follow the rules so in some cases I'm sure it's inadvertent. In other cases though people, I think, don't behave honourably and if you're in public service, you not only have to follow the rules but you really have an obligation, I think to meet the expectation of the people that put you there and not everyone is perfect, of course, and you need an external body, you need an Auditor General who is going to try and make the rules reasonable, but then enforce the rules that exist.
TONY JONES: I’ll throw back to Josh on that and it will be the last point we make on this subject so we can move onto other things but that's a pretty good idea, isn't it, to have an independent arbiter of all of these things? Shouldn't someone independent come in and look at these things now? You’ve just got a little review full of politicians who have already benefitted from these perks and why shouldn't a totally independent person look at it?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, Sharon and I are on a unity ticket tonight about your cynicism. Can I just say…
TONY JONES: I suspect I’m on a unity ticket with the Australian voters.
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Okay. Let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story here because there are five members of that panel. One is David Tune, a former distinguished secretary of finance. Another is John Conde, a businessperson who’s the head of the Remuneration Tribunal. Another is Linda Nicholls, who’s a distinguished business leader and there are two politicians, so the politicians are actually in the minority. Now, in the United Kingdom they had a pretty bad expenses scandal. People were staying in fictitious houses and claiming benefits, eating meals that they never had and claiming benefits for that, and they've gone down that route of an independent person to oversee it or agency to oversee it. I understand that while there’s been a recommendation in Canada from the Auditor General, it actually hasn't got to that point just yet. Look, again, these are issues that will be mulled over by this committee. No doubt they’ll play out in the public debate. We do need to improve the system but just that word of caution that, you know, some people will never be satisfied as to what the entitlements that politicians get and I just think, whatever is produced and whatever is recommended, that everyone needs to bear in mind that there needs to be a reasonable test here and it needs to be workable because politicians do important work on behalf of their community and they should be allowed to do that.
TONY JONES: Okay, that’s a good point to end it. Sorry, we’ve got hands up there. We’ve got to move on though. The next question is a video. It’s from Zoe Tulip in Canberra.
ZOE TULIP: Hi. My name’s Zoe and I'm an undergraduate student studying visual arts and science communication at the Australian National University. So, I saw the performance by Chris Hadfield up on the ISS and, you know, it was really cool combining science with art and music and it was great. It's always great seeing those two things come together. But I was kind of curious to ask Chris was there also an underlying message of science in that performance or was it just about showing the possibilities of, yeah, combining art with science?
TONY JONES: Okay, Chris, before we go to you on that, let's take a quick look at what Zoe is talking about, Chris Hadfield's YouTube clip seen by hundreds of millions of people, at least a section of it.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYED)
TONY JONES: A couple of little sections from the video there. Just before we go to Zoe's question, is it true that your son pretty much twisted your arm to do that?
CHRIS HADFIELD: Yeah, that was just a father son project. He sent me a note saying, "Hey, dad, you really ought to record Oddity while you’re up there." I was going, “Oddity? The astronaut dies in Oddity. Why would I record that song?” And so, as a father I said, “Hey, if you re write the words so the astronaut lives, I’ll record the song,” and it just kind of went from a father son project into something, as you say, that hundreds of millions have seen. But to answer Zoe's question, you know, we've been living off the planet for 15 and a half years, as 15 leading nations of the world, we left Earth 15 and a half years ago, and when you first just start exploring, that's a temporary thing, but this is now almost cultural. This is a shift of our understanding of ourselves. It becomes a subculture of people living off the planet, and how do you share that? How do you - you know, we’re an outpost away from the world, and how do you recognise that that transition is happening within us as a species? And you can talk about the graphs and the charts and we were running 200 experiments on the station and we set records for science utilisation and we were busy people but, at the same time, it’s a magnificent human experience, and I just tried to use every means I could think of to try and share that experience with other people.
TONY JONES: You’d be quite philosophical about it, in fact. I think you called it an extension of the human consciousness, of human understanding. You’re talking here about the video.
CHRIS HADFIELD: Well, I wish all of us, everybody here in the studio audience and Zoe, if you could join us from Canberra, to - if we could all go around the world 100 times together, just to get on board a ship and actually get next to the window and see the reality of our planet enough times that you get over just the jaw drop. Well, I guess your jaw doesn't drop without gravity but to get over the gobsmack wonder of it and then actually start to see that we're all in this together and to actually see the reality of our planet as one place and not the hyperactive reporting that we get, the exaggerations that we get every day. I think it is a really important perspective to have and the more accurately people can see themselves, I think, the more likely we are going to make good decisions together.
TONY JONES: Josien de Bie has a question on precisely that subject. Let's go to her. Sorry, she’s up there. I beg your pardon, on the other side.
JOSIEN DE BIE: Hi. Yeah, building on that, when you're in space, do you feel more like a Canadian or more like a citizen of Earth, and how long does that feeling last once you've landed?
CHRIS HADFIELD: When you first get to space, it's actually kind of comical. You get to the window and you look for things that you know. And, in fact, you feel this weird compulsion to grab the person next to you and go, "Hey look,”
SHARON BIRD: There’s my house.
CHRIS HADFIELD: “There’s Paris. I was in Paris. That’s Paris. I was in Paris." And the other person goes, "Okay." But then the second time around you go, "Yeah, hey, there’s Paris." And then the third time around, somewhere along the way, you start to realise that your particular parochial view of the world gets less and less important, and, yeah, I’m a very proud member of the society that I grew up in. I’m a very proud Canadian. I was happy to command a spaceship with a Canadian flag on my shoulder, but I recognise that it’s way more than that and I had a crew from all around the world and you go around the world 16 times a day so you see all seven billion people every single day and somewhere along the way when I was, you know, communicating with Twitter, I stopped referring to sort of other people from other places and it all just sort of became a collective sense of us, sort of unconsciously without me thinking about it, which I think is healthy, but it's not normal, and the more we can get that way, I think, whether on purpose or just by the things that we do, I think the better we’ll be.
TONY JONES: Just coming to the second part of Josien's question, which is how does it feel when you come back again, we know that in the past astronauts have come back. They’ve had religious epiphanies in space and they’ve come back deeply changed. Some of them have come back and quite disturbed by being back and the change they found on Earth, have become alcoholics. I mean, how do you manage that, the transition back to Earth?
CHRIS HADFIELD: Yep, can I have a drink? Josien, it’s a good question. At first you feel awful. I mean, just physically. So your feelings and emotions that Tony is talking about are dominated by the physical changes that have - so you’re nauseous and you can't balance and you faint when you stand up. But you get over that in a few weeks and then in a few months you get your musculature back. It takes about a year and half to get your skeleton back but the thing that lasts the longest, I think, is the psychological and the philosophical and the people that you’re speaking of that came back with an epiphany or a necessity to try and deal with it through, you know, drugs or, you know alcohol or whatever, that was really early on in the space program, when getting to the Moon was everything and psychological preparation, understanding what this was going to mean to the people was tertiary at best and we did a terrible job. I mean, Neil Armstrong was an astronaut for 8 years total. He flew in space three times. He walked on the Moon. He rescued a Gemini that was spinning out of control and then eight years. How does he fit that into the rest of his life? I don't know of any of the astronauts in the latter day who were shuttle astronauts who have had an epiphany. I think we’re much more careful psychologically in letting people know what it’s going to be like. Get them try and ready for it and so that not only do they deal with it better afterwards but I think they get more out of the experience and they’re maybe hopefully better at letting other people see into it, just because it’s not such an aberration out of their normal life.
TONY JONES: Joe, it’s probably too late for you to become an astronaut.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Well, yeah, I’m…
SHARON BIRD: Why would he say that?
TONY JONES: How would you actually respond, do you suppose, to actually looking at the Earth behind your thumb?
JOE HILDEBRAND: Look, it’s funny you should say that, because my primary concern about Chris’ adventures in space is that a whole bunch of musicians will see an astronaut playing a guitar and think that they can become an astronaut. I’ve met a lot of guitarists and that is a very dangerous thing to contemplate. But I think the point Chris makes is absolutely right. I think all of us have a duty to constantly be trying and it’s a hard thing to do because human beings are innately selfish creatures but you should always be trying to think of things that are greater than you and I think one of the interesting things about religion, no matter which one it is, is that it's almost this it’s almost this sort of paradoxical quest where you seek to be like God or seek to know God, while at the same time knowing that you will never ever really knowing God, but it’s that imagining of something greater than yourself, the imagining of some kind of higher importance, and also more important than that is probably the imagining of yourself, the knowledge of yourself as one with your fellow human beings, that we are all in this together, except of course the Protestants.
TONY JONES: Sharon, vocational training is your area. You know, there doesn't seem to be a big space for Australians to become astronauts but one or two have. You know, what are your thoughts when you listen to this?
SHARON BIRD: I think what's quite exciting, and if I’ve got it right, Chris, I think you were inspired as a young person by Neil Armstrong and the original landing on the Moon to get into it this.
CHRIS HADFIELD: I was.
SHARON BIRD: And what I get quite excited by for my own field of education is the number of schools and young people now who are involved through NASA and various space programs in their schools actually connecting and having, you know, projects and experiments carried out in space and they get the results back, and we know that we need a generation not just, you know, committed to science, technology and maths, but excited by it and so, you know, if they can take - I hope a whole generation of people will see Chris playing his guitar and not want to become a guitarist but will want to be inspired to get involved with science. I think it’s really exciting and I think Josien's, was it, question about the arts combining with science - arts and technology, there’s such a fertile area there and whether it’s vocational training, higher education, I hope people are inspired by problem solving and opportunities when they participate in their education and that's why I'm very passionate about it, but I love to see stories like Chris's because I think it really does engage young people to they may not be an astronaut but they might decide they want to design some of the technology that contributes to it or, indeed, I think today they’ve perfected an experiment in space growing their own food, so they might want to do agronomy and how that can contribute.
JOE HILDEBRAND: I tell you what, if they figured out how to grow plants in space, I do know a lot of musicians who would be interested.
TONY JONES: Josh. Josh, let’s go to you, Assistant Treasurer but you could be the voice in the ear of the Treasurer that says it is time to build an Australian space agency?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, I mean, Sharon’s absolutely right, Chris's story is an inspiration to, you know, a whole lot of young people around the country and good on you, Chris, for getting out there, coming to Australia and spreading the word. Australia has actually got a proud record. Over the last five decades, Tony, of cooperating with NASA in space exploration. We've done that through, for example, the Woomera tracking station, we do it through the Parkes observatory, we do do it through Geosciences Australia and CSIRO, but we don't feel we have, you know, the capacity to have our own space program and that's why we're linking in with our American friends and our European friends and others. Now, what we do, though, focus on is how do we support Australian businesses who have got space exploration or research that is related to their products, whether it’s in satellite navigation or the like. So both the CSIRO and the Department of Industry have designated space units that are focused on these issues, on research and the commercialisation of technology, and Andy Thomas is an Australian who obviously became an American citizen in order to join the program, and there are other Australians who are working in the engineering side with the Mars program and the like, so I think it's actually quite a positive story, but as a country of 23 million people, I don't think we’re going to be seeing any time soon either side of politics try to put an Australian on the Moon.
TONY JONES: Yep. Anne, what are you thinking about this, listening to this. There’s an awful lot of earthbound problems that need to be fixed first. I mean, are you a little bit cynical or are you thinking: I'm inspired to hear this story as well?
ANNE SUMMERS: Well, I mean, you can't not listen and find it extraordinary. I remember I heard Valentina Tereshkova speak many years ago. She was the first woman in space. She was a Russian woman and she was pretty much involved on a propaganda mission. I heard her speak, actually, in Greece and she was railing at Star Wars. It was back in the era of Star Wars and she was saying, “We don't want Star Wars because up there in space it was so peaceful.” And, I mean, although there was a propaganda element to what she was saying, it was still very moving and I imagine Chris probably felt the same thing, that, you know, that’s there is a peace, a physical peace and a kind of an ontological peace, which I think was what you were talking about, that must be something that we either bound people can't really contemplate and I don’t really see - I'm not a religious person at all and I can't see religion delivering that but I can see the kind of physical experience of being up there doing something quite profound to you.
TONY JONES: Let me that's a perfect - actual perfect point to go to our next question which is on this subject. It’s from Dinah Zhang. Go ahead, Dinah.
DINAH ZHANG: Hi. My question is to Chris as well. You talk about to drive a space craft, you have to fundamentally change yourself and I think it is a really attractive proposition in a way because there are so many aspects - or so many of us that want to change aspects of ourselves. So I'm just wondering how do you fundamentally change yourself and also wondering whether the perspective that you've gained from being outside of Earth has helped you with that?
CHRIS HADFIELD: Thanks. Dinah. To go to the core of your question, one of the most - well, the most dangerous thing you’re asked to as an astronaut is to fly the rocket ship. On my last flight I was in space for five months but 50% of the risk - half of all the risk that I was going to face in five months off the planet was in the first nine minutes. Launch is risky. And on my first space flight back 20 years ago, the odds of death were 1 in 38, which if Air Canada, which is the national airline, they would crash nine aeroplanes if they flew at that rate. So how do you face up to danger in your life? And a lot of us, everybody in this room, has just denied themselves something in life because we're afraid of it. We just basically say, I won't do that because I'm afraid. I won't bungee jump, I won't get married, I won't fly an aeroplane, I won’t whatever.
SHARON BIRD: Same thing. Tick, tick.
CHRIS HADFIELD: I'm fearful and therefore I’m just not going to do that thing but, of course, all of those experiences have a richness that maybe make them worth doing. So how do you change yourself from just hiding behind an amorphous fear to digging into it to figuring out that this is something worth taking a risk for? We’re all going to die eventually anyway, so which things in your life did you decide were worth taking a risk? And, to me, I think early on, giving yourself a definition of what success might look like. If these things that I’m doing go perfectly, how is it going to end up? What am I going to be doing? What am I really trying to accomplish with my life? Because that then lets you choose what you're going to do next. This I want to walk on the Moon, I decided when I was nine. Neil and Buzz are the coolest human beings ever. I want to walk on the Moon. I'm nine years old. What do I do next? And so I started reading about it and learning to scuba dive and joined the air cadets and learned to fly and go to university. All of those things trying to gather each of the skills that someday may let me do something that was my end life dream and the question we all face is not, you know, want do I want to be doing in 30 years. The real hard question is what should I do next? And to me that's the real key of how you change yourself is give yourself a long term definition of how you want this to turn out so that it helps you choose the small things you need to deliberately whittle away and change about yourself so that you can separate danger from fear. You can say this is a risk worth taking. This is a risk not worth taking. This is something that is important to me. And it’s amazing, if you go through that mental process internally, where each of those little next steps can take you.
TONY JONES: Now, I'm sure my fellow panellists or our fellow panellists here won't mind if I ask you one more question about this, because everyone wants to know, you did something - you talk about the danger of taking off in the spaceship in the first place but the other incredibly dangerous thing is something only 200 people roughly have done, which is to walk in space, and you describe that as the experience that trumps everything.
CHRIS HADFIELD: It is.
TONY JONES: An overwhelmingly visual experience and I would just like you to somehow pass onto the audience here what that's actually like?
CHRIS HADFIELD: We don't go outside like in the movies, Gravity, we don't go outside recreationally. What was George Clooney doing out there? Flying around? Like he and Sandra met while they were out on a spacewalk. It’s dangerous to go outside but sometimes you need human dexterity. There’s things that someone - it takes human creativity to go out and fix something or build something. So once in a while we accept the risk that we need to go outside. I was lucky enough to do two spacewalks and to take all the training, do all that thing, all the little next steps that get you to the point where now you can safely do, the moment comes, you turn the hatch, you clunk it up out of place and you pull yourself out into universe and suddenly you're not on Mother Earth looking up, you know, sort of like a - like sitting in your mother's lap looking at something, you are in the universe with the world. It’s an entirely different perspective and we were coming across the Indian Ocean in all the darkness and I had all the lights shut off in my suit because I wanted my night vision to adapt because I wanted to see Perth and I wanted to pick up Adelaide and Melbourne and Sydney. I wanted to see, you know, the cities on the coast. But as soon as my eyes got adjusted, we drove into southern lights and we're going five miles a second and the southern lights were rippling and pouring between my legs and all of the colours and three dimensions and it was overwhelmingly beautiful, just an amazing human experience and this is a natural thing. This is just part of being a planet. This is just the energy from the Sun and the upper atmosphere and the fluorescence but it is just so unconsciously gorgeous and you don't get that level of understanding without challenging yourself, without deciding that some risks are worth taking and the most memorable, I guess, the most rewarding moment of my entire life was to have a chance to be one of the first human beings to go out into the universe and get a sense for what it's going to be like when we turn tail to Earth and leave as soon as we solve those problems.
TONY JONES: Chris, thanks for giving us here a bit of a sense of that. We’ll come back. We’ll speak a little more about this afterwards. Before we go to our next questioner, a brief note on an experiment we are launching tonight ourselves. Here on Q&A we invite our panel to express opinions, but we’d also like them to stick to the facts. So if you notice a politician or a commentator bending the facts or even a presenter, for that matter, why not refer them to the experts. Send a tweet using the hashtags #FactCheck and #QandA to alert the fact checking unit at the ABC and the university and research experts at The Conversation. Then keep an eye on our twitter feed and their websites for the results.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Could have told me that earlier, Tony.
TONY JONES: You’re warned now for the rest of the program. Just stick to the facts, my friend. The next question brings us right down to Earth with a thump. It’s from Diana Minglis.
DIANA MINGLIS: Hi. The term un-Australian is bandied about a lot lately but I think we've lost sight of the fact that the word Australian used to represent a fair go for all. As we’re making it increasingly difficult for the youth of Australia to access social security and have access to a public safety net, won't the Productivity Commission’s recommendations of getting rid of penalty rates on Sunday make it increasingly hard for young people and students to eke out a living?
TONY JONES: Josh Frydenberg.
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, firstly, what is the problem the Productivity Commissioner is trying to solve with its interim report on industrial relations? Essentially it’s job creation and unemployment. So, in Australia…
TONY JONES: And political inertia.
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, arguably there hasn't been enough movement in this area. So, unemployment in Australia is just over 6%, but youth unemployment is closer to 14%. Now, in the areas where youth unemployment is particularly high, places like Cairns, parts of Tasmania, parts of Adelaide, hospitality, retail, tourism are predominant sectors. Now, what the Productivity Commission has said is when it comes to Sunday penalty rates, they are being prohibitive, about at 200% sometimes of the base wage and the feedback from businesses is that they're not opening because of those prohibitive costs. So the issue that they've raised is maybe in some certain sectors that the Sunday penalty rates be at the Saturday level and that would be a reduced cost to business, who could employ more people and stay open. I think this is a genuine debate to have. The former head of the ACTU and a Labor minister, Martin Ferguson, has called for reform in this area, modernising our penalty rate system. Also Brendan O'Connor, the Labor Party spokesman, has said he’s open to this area as well. So, we’ve now got a report. Let's have a broad discussion about it but let's not run scare campaigns before actually reports have been released publicly, let's have a debate because, at the end of the day, the purpose behind reform to industrial relations, particularly in this area of penalty rates, and the way the Fair Work Commission operates, it's not about ideology, it’s actually about job creation.
TONY JONES: Josh, you mentioned some areas are not covered by this and, indeed, the Productivity Commission has decided to excise from the penalty rate changes emergency workers, which includes policemen and nurses, firemen we imagine, so that was probably a smart political move but the unions are calling it economic apartheid. So your response to that and then I’ll hear from Sharon Bird?
JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, the unions had their campaign against this report before they’d even seen it and Tim Lyons, who is a former assistant secretary of the ACTU, said it was wrong for the unions to run a re run of the WorkChoices campaign not based on the facts. So this is, you know, head leaders of the union movement criticising their own union brothers for coming out and critiquing a report that they haven't seen. Now, of course, there are differences between the workers in the hospitality and retail and tourism sectors and those who are working in emergency services. We've got a particular problem that a lot of cafes, restaurants are closing because of the high prohibitive costs on a Sunday. We've got a more dynamic economy. Trading hours have changed than where they were in the '60s. Arguably we’re less religious as a society, so Sunday has less significance in that respect, at least, than it used to. People are looking to shop 24/7 and restaurants need to be open, so I think this is a fair dinkum debate to be had but we've got to focus on what we're on about here, which is about jobs. And the point about this report, it’s 1,000 pages in length. There’s been 200 submissions including 20 from the unions themselves. It’s been produced by the Productivity Commission, the same group that produced the recommendation to create the NDIS. They’re independent experts without a partisan axe to grind and I think we should give them a fair hearing.
TONY JONES: Okay, actually I’ll bring in Sharon after. We’ve got another question that will bring Sharon in. But you've been listening to this, Anne. What are your thoughts?
ANNE SUMMERS: Well, I anticipated this question might come up, so I went and actually read that section of the Productivity Commission report, because I don't feel particularly well informed on this subject, and I have to say I felt even less informed after I’ve read it because the report doesn't provide any rationale whatsoever in the text of the report. Maybe it’s buried in appendices which I didn't read but, in the text of the report where the recommendation is made, there is no rationale made for why this change to penalty rates should apply to certain occupations and not others and I just don’t accept the arguments you’re making, Josh, about, okay, we all like to shop on Sundays and the religious things don’t matter. Those arguments still apply to the transport sector, the emergency services sector and these other sectors that are being quarantined from the penalty rates sector. So I don’t - and the costs of having to pay penalty rate Sunday rate penalties to those occupations are going to be just as high, the 200% loading. So it doesn't seem to me that there is a case being made for why there should be a differential approach to this. If we’re going to re look at the whole question of penalty rates, and I have no reason why we shouldn’t do that and do it in a calm fashion but I just don’t - then I don't like this idea of singling out certain industries and saying that they should cop it and others are protected.