30 January 2015
Transcript - #2015004, 2015

Doorstop interview, Jordan Springs, Sydney

FIONA SCOTT:

[Inaudible] here today with the Treasurer, here in Jordan Springs. This is just one of seven developments that are going on within the electorate of Lindsay. Lindsay does sit as a pivot point between the north-west growth sector and south-west growth sector. These two growth sectors are effectively like a Canberra being built to the north of Penrith and a Canberra being built to the south of Penrith. Not more than probably about 20km away from here, we actually have the Sydney Business Park, which is one of the biggest business parks that will be built in Australia. Why it's exciting to have the Treasurer here today is because the Federal Government has been committed to supporting the people of western Sydney and the Treasurer has been a very, very strong voice and strong advocate. We're delivering an extra $3.6 billion road package to the people of western Sydney, which will include upgrades to the Northern Road, and a loan to the State Government to build the Werrington Arterial, which is a $70 million package. So, it is really exciting to have the Treasurer here because it is projects like this that will create jobs, and is creating jobs for the people of western Sydney. It is developments like this that have taken NSW back to being number one again. So, thank you Treasurer for coming today.

TREASURER:

Fiona, thank you very much, and to our good friends at Lend Lease and JK Williams. How exciting it is to see this construction; how exciting it is to see the jobs here in western Sydney – the jobs for all Australians. Last year, we created jobs in Australia at three times the speed of the year before, three times the speed. More than 200,000 jobs created in Australia last year. We want to do better this year and we can do better. The biggest infrastructure package in Australia's history was announced in last year's Budget and that is going to create jobs and we can see it on the ground right here, right now. JK Williams have said they expect work. They have been warned work is going to increase by three times the current load over the next decade. They've got to prepare for that and that's one building company. It's going to be right across the state, right across the nation, and it's a direct result of our plan to build a stronger and more vibrant economy. That of course spawns new small businesses. Last year, we had a record number of businesses created in Australia. It's remarkable; we are still getting on with the job, whilst we're facing some global headwinds on the economy. And it's remarkable that we're actually getting more jobs created and there will be more jobs again this year.

Now, in housing, there is particular opportunity. Dwelling approvals are at four-decade record levels and dwelling investment is at record levels. Now, it's not an accident. It's happening because we are facilitating growth in the economy and that in turn is facilitating jobs and how exciting it is to see the job creation, to see the wealth creation – on a scale that we haven't seen for years in Australia. There's much work to be done. Getting rid of the Carbon Tax obviously helps to lower the cost. There's real benefit in lower fuel costs – substantial benefit for the economy. These things are flowing through directly to job creation. In this year, there is going to be a lot more as a result of our direct $3.6 billion investment in new roads in western Sydney. So, over to you for questions.

REPORTER:

Just on the economy though: we're hearing today predictions that this year the dollar could fall as low as US 77 cents. I mean, what kind of ramifications is this going to have for the Australian economy?

TREASURER:

It is going to be what it is. I mean, I never speculate on currency. The US dollar is obviously strengthening. Markets are factoring in further cuts in interest rates at the moment; that is a matter for the Reserve Bank but obviously, when Australians have the opportunity to export more goods and Australian goods are more affordable, that's a good thing for Australian business and you've just got to deal with it. The Australian dollar has been at highs of over 100 cents to the US, it's been at lows of 50 – less than 50. Australia's flexible economy can cope with that sort of volatility. It can be disruptive for businesses that are in a particular area of operation – be it import or export, depending on where the Aussie dollar is but we've got to take advantage of it and the more flexible we are as an economy, the better. We can cope with volatility in our currency. Also importantly, we need to make sure that our economy remains flexible and again, relies on a strong Budget – getting back to surplus – ensuring that we as a nation live within our means.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, the Government has been silent while the IR Productivity Commission's gotten under way. Do you concede that Labor and the unions will fill that void with an anti-WorkChoices campaign?

TREASURER:

That would be ridiculous because we announced back in the middle of 2013 that we would refer the whole industrial relations system to the Productivity Commission for an independent review; they will consult with the community. That's the appropriate way to do it. We said any changes would be taken to the next election, that's exactly what we [inaudible] do. Labor has to stop scaring people and actually come up with a plan. That's what we want. We want a plan out of Labor to build a stronger nation, and over the next few months, the Australian Government is going to engage in a conversation directly with the Australian people about how we meet head on the challenges of the future but, importantly, how we roll out a plan to strengthen the Australian economy.

REPORTER:

Business and Liberal backbenchers are calling on the Government to spell out the need for reform of IR; will you make the case for an overhaul of IR?

TREASURER:

Look, we're not going to get into some sort of politically expedient debate for commentators about industrial relations. We are focused on delivering our plan, which involves strengthening the Budget, helping to create more jobs, rolling out the infrastructure of the 21st century, reducing the overall tax burden and ensuring that Australians can control their lives, rather than have Canberra or anyone else imposing legislation that controls their lives.

REPORTER:

Jacqui Lambie today has said that she'd rather work with Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop than the Prime Minister. Do you think Tony Abbott's exhausted his ability to work with the cross-benchers?

TREASURER:

No.

REPORTER:

What does the Government need to achieve on Monday with Abbott's speech at the National Press Club?

TREASURER:

I think it will be an opportunity again to reiterate that we are the only political party with a plan for the future of Australia and we're rolling out that plan. You can see the activity right here, you can see it. This is activity that we are helping to facilitate. A good Government is helping to create jobs. Ultimately, it's business that creates jobs, its employers taking risk but we help to facilitate that by building roads, by ensuring the government lives within its means, by having no surprising taxes. I don't think Australians want to go back to the days of $900 cheques or school halls or waste in pink batts. Those days are over. We've got to look forward and we're focusing on laying down the infrastructure, and you know, Fiona Scott has been a relentless advocate for western Sydney and a relentless advocate for the infrastructure that is going to help to build a more prosperous community

REPORTER:

Well, it hasn't been a good week for the Government by anyone's measure. Why do you think voters have turned so savagely on Tony Abbott and on your Government?

TREASURER:

Look, I'm not going to get involved in commentary. There's plenty of commentators out there. We are focused on jobs, that is what we are focused on. Doing the job and creating the jobs.

REPORTER:

Do you think if the LNP loses the Queensland election this weekend, it could be the final nail in the coffin for Tony Abbott?

TREASURER:

I hope the people of Queensland back a very good State Government that has a plan for the future of Queensland. In the last 18 months - and it shouldn't be forgotten - the last 18 months to two years, as a result of falling commodity prices, Queensland has lost over 15,000 coal jobs and coal-related jobs – 15,000 in just a short period of time in Queensland as a result of falling commodity prices. Now, there is inevitably going to be a reaction from the community, as there would be a natural rebalancing of the numbers in the Queensland Parliament, but I say to the people of Queensland don't abandon good government tomorrow. Do not walk away from the only political party – the LNP – that actually has a plan for the future of Queensland that is going to create jobs. Governing is hard; it's harder now than ever before. We have more headwinds as a result of global activity – or lack of global activity than we've had in a long time. We are facing all sorts of difficult challenges but we will overcome them because, ultimately, the LNP are the only ones with a plan.

REPORTER:

So, what you're saying there is if the LNP loses some seats tomorrow, it's got nothing to do with Tony Abbott [inaudible].

TREASURER:

I'll leave that to commentators. I’m not – I resolve this here – I had a couple of good new year's resolutions and one of them was not to engage in commentary or gossip and I think they're pretty good and please let me try and keep that resolution.

REPORTER:

Lots of this gossip and problems with the Prime Minister this week has come from your own backbench, though. I guess would you urge them to pull their heads in?

TREASURER:

Everyone's entitled to a view but I would just say to people: we do not want to become a carbon copy of a bad Labor Government, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. We need to focus on doing the job at hand, which is making Australians richer and creating more jobs. That's what our plan does; we are sticking with our plan. We've got to have a steely resolve to keep doing what is right for the nation.

REPORTER:

So, you're saying that you’re starting to look like a carbon copy of a bad Labor Government?

TREASURER:

No, that's yours – that's your comment.

REPORTER:

But how do you recover from here? I mean, you've had a Prime Minister who's been the object of ridicule this week. How can you go forward?

TREASURER:

I say again, we are focused on rolling out a plan that delivers more jobs. You know, three times the number of jobs created last year compared to the previous year under Labor – three times the number of jobs. More than 200,000 new jobs created last year. How good is that? And economic growth was significantly up last year compared with the previous year under Labor. No-one wants to go back to the dysfunction of Labor and what we are offering is a plan for Australia's future, and we are rolling out that plan and you can see it right behind me now.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, on Paid Parental Leave, will you be helping the Social Services Minister, who says he wants to ensure it actually does improve participation in the workforce?

TREASURER:

Very important. Our families’ package, which we are working on, is about improving workforce participation for women, and opportunities for women. As a nation that is ageing – and we should celebrate the fact we're living longer, celebrate the fact that we have the opportunity to work longer – we also need more female participation in the workforce. If we could have more female participation in the workforce, it will actually build a stronger Australian economy. It's actually good for Australia's economy and good for jobs to have more women choosing to work, but we've got to make that environment flexible and part of that is to have a families' package that provides flexibility. The second thing is – and it's hugely important – we've got to be able to fund whatever families' package we have and I'm obviously working with the new Minister, Scott Morrison, in that regard and obviously with the Prime Minister.

REPORTER:

Higher education reforms have been billed as the Government's highest priority when Parliament resumes. [Inaudible] and how do you get the crossbenchers on board with this?

TREASURER:

The Labor-controlled Senate is doing everything it can to stop anything that helps to strengthen the Australian economy, anything that helps to strengthen higher education in Australia. I'm bemused that the Labor-controlled Senate doesn't want to embrace a higher education reform package that actually provides more scholarships and more support to more disadvantaged people than any other package in modern Australian history, and that's our higher education package. Those that [inaudible]. But importantly, there is a huge and strengthened safety net for those who could not normally afford to go to university. It is hugely important that we have universities that rank in the top 20 in the world and we've fallen out of the top 20 ranking. Now, our higher education reforms give them the chance to compete with the best in the world, and most importantly, our reforms in education more generally have provided fee help and fee assistance to a whole class of Australians in [inaudible] and various other things, that haven't had the opportunity to get financial support from Government. So, our plan is comprehensive. We want it supported by the Labor-controlled Senate because ultimately, even people like former Treasurer and I think he was Education Minister under the Labor Government, Mr Dawkins, he said, you know, higher education reforms are essential. Thanks guys and thanks everyone and thanks to all the guys at Lend Lease and J K Williams.