21 February 2014
Transcript - #2014011, 2014

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

SUBJECTS: G20, healthcare, workplace law

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey, thanks for your time. You are hosting your colleagues from the G20 this weekend. What outcomes do you want to see from the G20 summit?

TREASURER:

We need to focus on growing the global economy. Only through growth are we going to create more jobs. The fact is that we are working towards a goal, an identifiable and real goal, that is to increase the growth of the global economy. Putting a number on it is a key challenge over the next few days – as is having a realistic pathway to do it. What does this mean? It means we are each given a task to go forward with, to have changes in our own economies, to grow our local economies and therefore grow the global economy.

PRESENTER:

You've had your proposal to 'put a number on it' endorsed by the IMF chief Christine Lagarde. That must be encouraging for you on the eve of the summit?

TREASURER:

It is a step in the right direction. We have got to have agreement between us; there is no single decision-maker in this body. You have got the 20 biggest economies in the world sitting around the table and they represent 85 per cent of the world economy and we have got to get an agreement. We will see how that pans out, but it is certainly going to be a busy few days. The benefit to everyday Australians is significant - Australians and people around the world have to believe that tomorrow is going to be better and more prosperous than today. Therefore, if they do believe that - if it is going to happen - then they are prepared to invest and create jobs for others in the community.

PRESENTER:

There have been proposals from European nations for tighter market integrity rules, also for a financial transactions tax. This would further tighten the post-GFC governance arrangements. You are not so convinced on those particular proposals. Why is that?

TREASURER:

Instinctively, I don't like more regulation. I prefer better regulation and hopefully less regulation. I, instinctively, don't like more tax. Ultimately, the higher the taxes, the less economic activity and fewer jobs. What we have got to focus on is how we can get Governments to live within their means and how we can empower the private sector to grow and create more jobs in a way that delivers the revenue that allows us to provide the essential services for our nations that the community expects.

PRESENTER:

You are taking your argument on infrastructure to the world stage with the G20 Ministers. Do they have the capacity - like you argued earlier in the week with your New South Wales counterpart Mike Baird - to recycle Commonwealth assets and Government assets at the State level? Do other countries have that same capacity that you argue Australia and our States do?

TREASURER:

They do. Many countries do. Governments are not going to be able to meet the financing bill - for not only new infrastructure, but for the maintenance of existing infrastructure - because Governments around the world have run out of money. We have to turn to the private sector and the private sector is awash with money; the private sector here in Australia has plenty of money. Superannuation funds are heading towards $3 trillion of money under management here in Australia. What we have got to do is give them the product that allows them to invest money of mums and dads into Australian assets. The best way to do that is to give them the assets government owns, say 'come and buy these assets', so the Government can take the money and build the new assets of tomorrow that, in turn, will generate the income and jobs that are going to grow the economy.

PRESENTER:

Will that include infrastructure bonds created specifically for that purpose?

TREASURER:

There will be a range of different vehicles for it. The fact is with privatisation… previously, it has been, in some parts, about selling the asset and simply handing out the money to the community or selling the asset and paying down debt. We need now to recycle that money. We need to recycle precious taxpayers' money from existing assets into new assets. We need to give Australians, everyday Australians, the opportunity to own the infrastructure that makes their lives easier every day.

PRESENTER:

The Health Minister Peter Dutton has really started the Medicare debate again. He says, 'the 1980s model needs a rethink'. The Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, said that he wants his Government to be the best friend Medicare has had. Can you achieve both?

TREASURER:

Yes, you can. Of course you can. The fact is, if you are going to be the best friend that Medicare has ever had, you need to make sure that Medicare is sustainable. The problem is we have been left with a health system, an education system, a welfare system that is unsustainable over the medium term. You can either massively increase taxes to maintain the existing system or you can get a balance that ensures that you have a fair universal system but at the same time have enough money in the private sector and enough money in peoples' pockets to create jobs to drive the sustainability of the system. The fundamental point is that we are ringing an early warning bell about the sustainability of these things - about the sustainability of our healthcare system, the sustainability of our welfare system, the sustainability of our education system. If we want to maintain a reasonable quality of life, we need to have a good, proper and well informed discussion about whether we can afford what we have. If we can't, we have got to find ways to make sure that we can have a system that delivers what Australians expect.

PRESENTER:

Are you going to undermine universal healthcare as Labor says you are?

TREASURER:

Universal healthcare can have payments from individuals. A lot of people go to the doctor and undertake healthcare and pay money along the way. I don't think they actually understand what universal healthcare is - it is about universal access to healthcare and about everyone having the same opportunity in the healthcare system. A lot of Australians already contribute along the way, the question is: how can we make sure that we have an appropriate quality of healthcare and how can we sustain that quality of healthcare over the medium and long term?

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey, one final issue I want to ask about are workplace laws. The Government is finalising the terms of reference for a Productivity Commission Inquiry into them. Will you look at bringing a business representative, someone with real industry experience in there to have input into it?

TREASURER:

The fact of the matter is: we promised before the election to have a Productivity Commission review into the workplace system. We said that whatever comes out of the review we will take to the next election. There are no surprises here. We will wait and see how the review goes. There is much work to be done.

PRESENTER:

Will it look at giving employers greater capacity to remove conditions from enterprise agreements?

TREASURER:

I am not going to engage in speculation about a review that has not even started. Unlike the Labor Party we have fair dinkum independent reviews and we will let them go about their job.

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much, Kieran.