4 February 2015
Transcript - #2015011, 2015

Interview with Michael Brissenden, AM, ABC Radio

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Joe Hockey is the Treasurer and he joins me now. Mr Hockey, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

On June the 22nd 2013, you said of the Labor Party, ‘they’re spending all their time talking about themselves worrying about who is going to have what job rather than worrying about the jobs of everyday Australians. It is pathetic and it is insulting for the country’. What’s different?

TREASURER:

What’s different? I am not talking about this sort of speculation. You might ask ten questions in a row. I am focused on jobs; on small business. I welcome the Reserve Bank rate cut yesterday. The shackles are off the Australian economy. We have got costs of business that have come down. The Carbon Tax has gone. The Mining Tax is gone. We have got lower taxes. It is also the case that the Reserve Bank yesterday identified that getting rid of the Carbon Tax helped to ease inflationary pressures in the Australian economy, which gave them more room to cut interest rates. Now that is great for business; it is great for consumers. It is very tough for people with savings [inaudible]…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

I do want to get to interest rates, but can we just deal with this leadership stuff first because that is the thing that is consuming the headlines at the moment.

TREASURER:

No, no it isn’t. The front pages of the papers that I saw, actually talks about rate cuts. It is the obsession of the Canberra gallery and a few others…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

And your colleagues – some of your colleagues.

TREASURER:

And also some colleagues, exactly. There's 102 people – 102 people Michael, in the Joint Party Room – in the Party Room – The Liberal Party Room, 102 people. Now, we have heard publicly from a few of our very upset backbenchers. We understand that they're upset. It's tough governing.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Many of us have heard privately from others who aren’t speaking publicly.

TREASURER:

You may well do…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

You have to admit there have been a number of setbacks. I think the awarding of the knighthood was the last of those that was considered to be out of touch – the Prime Minister out of touch with the public. Then there was the Queensland election, which had a very significant impact on your LNP colleagues in Queensland, many of them who are worried about their seats.

TREASURER:

Michael you know, I understand but you don't try and bring down a Prime Minister because of a knighthood for Prince Phillip. Even as a Republican I think that is absolutely absurd and you don't want to be in a position where you see Australia have its sixth government in eight years. So we need to have stability. The Australian people expect stability. We want to deliver stability and in the face of all sorts of headwinds, we are going to deliver stability.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

The polls weren't good even before the knighthood was awarded. Do you accept that a leadership spill now needs to be had to clear the air?

TREASURER:

No, come on. I mean there is 102 people in the Party Room, if one person has publicly said they do not support the Prime Minister. Now Michael, I have got a bit of a memory around this joint. Like you – you've been around a few years, so have I. I remember in 1997, John Howard had sacked seven Ministers – seven Ministers before his 18 months in office. Seven Ministers. He had a number of backbenchers end up going to the crossbenches. That is in 1997 and then we won the subsequent election. Now, I'd say to you, we're not even at that point of time in the Howard Government. We haven't even got to the 18-month point, but obviously there are going to be pressures when you have to make difficult decisions. Now, we've been making difficult decisions. We have been absolutely right on national security, as you can understand from that tragic event that has been reported with the Jordanian pilot. We have made absolutely the right decisions in relation to the economy, as you can see with interest rates coming down and taxes coming down. We've made the right decisions in relation to stopping the boats because we have.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

But I think as you and some of your colleagues have said, there is no challenger; none of this would be happening in your Party if the public thought you were doing a good job.

TREASURER:

Well, we've got to work harder with the public to carry the day, but we have been dealing with the challenges that have been left behind. To give you an example, Michael, every day the Government is spending $100 million more than it collects in taxes. Now, the only way – you have to borrow to make up that money and borrowing every day in interest alone costs us $40 million. So our numbers, even though they're getting better, they're still bad. So we have got work to do. Despite that challenge, Australia is creating 600 jobs a day which is three times the speed of that under Labor. So you don't throw out good policy outcomes with all this sort of commentary about leadership and so on. You don't change a Government when it's actually on the ground doing a good job, but the Government has a responsibility to do better.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay, sometimes these things move beyond your own control. I mean, you say you don't want to do it; inevitably they get a momentum of their own as we have seen many times.

TREASURER:

Under Labor, and I would say to everyone: let's not become a carbon copy of the Labor Party, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd party. Australia threw them out. They will throw my colleagues and me out if we are not focused on what is important for the Australian people, which is jobs, national security and how to have a better future.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay. Would you want Malcolm Turnbull to give an assurance that he is not going to challenge?

TREASURER:

It was absolutely unanimous in Cabinet yesterday, for the brief moment that the matter was talked about. We had hours – well, we actually spent most of the day talking about policy. We invited the Governor of the Reserve Bank into the Cabinet, for the first time he's visited. He has been Governor for years; it’s the first time any Government had asked him into the Cabinet room, which stunned me…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

The new Secretary of Treasury and the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister came in. I presented slides on the Australian economy, and also on the global economy. We talked at length about the challenges, but also reaffirmed our commitment to the plan ahead, which is jobs, families, small business and how we can grow prosperity.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay. Well, let's talk about the Reserve Bank because clearly there are challenges. I mean, in the Statement yesterday they said that growth was below trend. What was his outlook? What did he tell the Cabinet?

TREASURER:

Obviously there are some global headwinds. The United States is doing well. China is doing as expected, and there are headwinds coming out of Japan and particularly out of Europe. So, we need to further strengthen the Australian economy so that we are able to cope with any adverse circumstances in the future. Now the best way to do that – the best way to do that, is to get on with the job of governing. Now, it is patently clear that the Reserve Bank would not have been able to move yesterday to cut interest rates if there hadn't of been a fall in petrol prices, which obviously we don't control, but the fall in petrol prices is the equivalent of half a percent cut in interest rates, plus the cut yesterday. The flow through to the Australian economy is significant and importantly, it must be immediate. And I say again to the Australian banks: pass it on in full now, not just to home owners but importantly, small business and credit cards as well.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Let me put to you another quote from 2013 when you were shadow spokesman, ‘rates don’t fall because the economy is chugging along well. Lower interest rates’ – this is a quote – ‘lower interest rates are always good when you have trend or above trend growth, not when you have falling growth’, and the RBA statement from yesterday of course said that growth is continuing at a below trend pace.

TREASURER:

That is right. We have got to get it up, we have got to get it up. We have got to do more. This is all the more reason [inaudible]…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

But this is an indicator of an economy in trouble, isn’t it?

TREASURER:

No because actually we have got – compared to many other countries that we actually deal with, [inaudible]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

I’ll tell you why, because Wayne Swan had debt going up, he had unemployment going up significantly. They had no plan. No plan to fix the economy. No plan to fix the Budget. We actually have a plan, Michael. We are rolling out that plan now. It is being implemented and you can see the benefit. And I know lower interest rates are difficult for many people that rely on their household income – on their savings in the bank, for income. I know that. That is one of the reasons why, Michael, we kept the Clean Energy Supplement for pensioners and a range of other people even though we abolished the Carbon Tax and that is why we kept the tax cuts even though we abolished the Carbon Tax. So we are actually lowering the cost of living for everyday Australians despite the challenges that we all face.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay, Joe Hockey thanks very much for joining us.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Michael, thank you.