5 February 2015
Transcript - #2015015, 2015

Interview with Ben Fordham, Sydney Live, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM:

Mr Hockey, good afternoon.

TREASURER:

Afternoon Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

You were pretty pumped up today.

TREASURER:

I was visiting the Central Café in Queanbeyan and met the Mastoris family. The father came to Australia 50 years ago and started up a coffee shop in Queanbeyan – main street of Queanbeyan. His son has taken over the business. They now employ 20 people from seven different countries. You know, when you meet those sort of people, it reminds you of why you are in politics, and that is to make life easier for everyday Australians; give them hope that tomorrow will be better than today and let them get on with their lives. The job of every politician is to focus on the Australian people rather than on themselves.

BEN FORDHAM:

You’ve been frustrated, understandably for some time, with this stuff bouncing around but it sounds to me like that frustration has gone to another level today.

TREASURER:

I am getting on with the job. Tony Abbott is getting on with the job. We have got some great data that has been coming out; some indicators that life is getting a little bit easier for everyday Australians as a result of our policies. Now for example, the Reserve Bank cut interest rates on Tuesday and they cited the cut in the Carbon Tax – the abolition of the Carbon Tax, as one of the reasons why they were able to do something to help to ease some of the interest rate burdens for families and for small businesses. Now, of course that has an impact on self-funded retirees and pensioners who rely on their savings in the bank and that’s one of the reasons why last year, when we abolished the Carbon Tax, which would have affected those households – self-funded retirees and pensioners, we also kept, in the case of pensioners, the Clean Energy Supplement, which ensures that in the case of pensioners and self-funded retirees, they are actually financially better off. We had tax cuts for self-funded retirees without the Carbon Tax. That helps to mitigate some of the impact of lower interest rates on their savings.

BEN FORDHAM:

You have been pushing the big banks to pass on the interest rate cut. You may not know it – happened in the last few minutes or so, that ANZ has lowered its variable rate by 0.25 per cent. So, that is the last of the big four to jump on board.

TREASURER:

Hang on, hang on. I want to make sure it flows through to small business loans and credit cards as well and we are following up with individual banks, ringing around saying, ‘terrific what you have done’. Some of them have announced their small business loans coming down as well but others haven’t. So, we are going to keep the pressure on Ben because it is vitally important for small businesses that they get interest rate relief, as well.

BEN FORDHAM:

You have sent a message to some of these disgruntled backbenchers today. For those who missed it, can you just repeat it for us?

TREASURER:

I am sending a message to all Australians that the job of the Government is to focus on serving you, the people of Australia, and that every Member of Parliament should not fall into the trap of worrying about their own job. They should only worry about the jobs of everyday Australians. That’s what I am focused on, Tony Abbott is focused on; the Cabinet unanimously is focused on. Everyone should do that. Now Ben, we live in a world where instability is great for the media and it is great for social media, in particular, but Australia has now had – we’ve had the Howard Government, then we had the Rudd Government, the Gillard Government, the Rudd Government, now the Abbott Government. We’ve had five governments in eight years. This is not stability. We have to deliver stability. Six governments in eight years is not the answer. You actually have to deliver stability. Now, whenever you make difficult decisions in politics, and you have to make them if you are going to lead, then you are going to lose bark. It is going to be inevitable because there are some times, some occasions, when difficult decisions are criticised one end of the country to the other and maybe appropriately so but you cannot be a leader if you are incapable of making difficult but right decisions.

BEN FORDHAM:

If Tony Abbott was rolled as Prime Minister would you refuse to sit on the Frontbench?

TREASURER:

It is not going to happen and I am not going to speculate because I am focused on the jobs of everyday Australians, mate, I am not focused on my own job. I am doing my own job but I am focused on the jobs of everyday Australians.

BEN FORDHAM:

You have had Glenn Stevens, the Reserve Bank Governor briefing Cabinet for the first time and his warning, you know, is enough to scare the life out of a lot of people. I don’t mean to be beating it up more than it already is. I mean the numbers speak for themselves but he says, ‘the Budget is at risk of never getting back into surplus’. I mean that does sound doom and gloom. They’re his words, not mine.

TREASURER:

We have got to explain – and they were actually the words of the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Governor was telling us about various headwinds coming from what is happening in Europe and what is happening in Japan and the slowing down – predicted slowing down in China, and obviously the strengthening of the United States. So, we went through all of that. In fact, you know, when the media was speculating that we were talking about leadership, the Cabinet was actually in heavy discussions about the economy and about jobs and growth, and that is what we spent hours on. But I just say to you, Ben, today, the Australian Government is spending $100 million more than it collects every day, right? One hundred million dollars more every day and we have to borrow that $100 million every day just to meet our daily bills. Now, the interest on the debt today is $40 million, and tomorrow it will be $40 million. If we do nothing, in ten years, it will be $120 million a day. This is unsustainable and that’s what I have been saying. Now, at the same time that we are trying to reduce our expenditure and grow the economy, we are trying to create more jobs, and last year – last year under the Abbott Government, we created 600 new jobs everyday, which was three times the speed of the previous year under Labor. Now, the lesson out of last year is small business is going to be the engine room of the Australian economy into the future. Last year we had the biggest number of new business start-ups in Australian history. I want to see that grow further because I grew up in a family that had a small business and that small business paid for my education, it put a roof over my head, it helped my parents to hope that tomorrow would be better than today and if we can get more small businesses to start today, that is going to grow Australia.

BEN FORDHAM:

Wasn’t that small business that your parents ran, wasn’t it a corner store and weren’t you accused of stealing lollies? True or false?

TREASURER:

In fact, for those people who know it in the middle of Chatswood, my father started a delicatessen where Lemon Grove is in Victoria Avenue in the 1950s – early 1950s, and as a new Australian when he came, he thought how am I going to win over these Australian customers. So, he deliberately misspelt Vegemite one day and Peanut Butter the next day and they would come in and feel sorry for the new Australian[inaudible] and he would get to know the his customers and then you know, he built the store.

BEN FORDHAM:

Very smart bloke. Good to talk to you Treasurer, thank you.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much.