31 March 2014
Transcript - #2014022, 2014

Press conference, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Budget, WA Senate Election.

TREASURER:

As we approach the Budget, more and more evidence emerges of what was left behind by our predecessors. The fact is, Labor said that spending would not grow by more than 2 per cent per annum in real terms that is, after inflation, as a result of their initiatives. The fact is, it's growing at 3.5 per cent and in the year that was never published of the Budget, the fifth year, there are massive increases in expenditure. In fact, a 6 per cent increase in expenditure in that one year alone, as a result of initiatives taken by the previous government.

What does that mean? (Interruption) We all wish we were going to Hamilton Island! But the fact is that 16 years, 16 years of deficits without a recession, without any significant downturn is the legacy of Labor and unless we take immediate remedial action in the Budget, then Australia will never have a surplus. The fact is we have to address this and address this fast. The challenge is that everyone in Australia has to help to do the heavy lifting on the Budget because if the burden falls on a few, the weight of that burden will crush them.

What we need to do is to ensure that the whole nation helps to do the heavy lifting, to undertake the Budget repair work so that we cannot just maintain our quality of living but maybe even improve our quality of living into the future.

REPORTER:

So Treasurer are you then foreshadowing some tough cuts in the Budget?

TREASURER:

There will be hard decisions unquestionably but everyone has to help to do the heavy lifting here. It's not going to be a case of a few do the major sacrifice. Everyone is going to have to make a contribution – big business, small business, all people from all demographics across the community. So any other questions?

REPORTER:

Yes, how do you believe average Australians feel when it comes to welfare spending? Do you think they're comfortable with the level of welfare their taxes are funding?

TREASURER:

No-one wants to hear that they might receive less money from the Government and therefore of course they don't want any changes to welfare. But the fact is, sooner or later governments run out of money and are unable to maintain current expenditure. Well we've reached that point where we cannot maintain current levels of expenditure and importantly, we can't maintain current growth in levels of expenditure that were left behind by Labor.

Now some areas of welfare have massive growth, well beyond the norm. And that massive growth is either through policy changes taken by the previous Government or their failure to deal with the changing demographics in our community, particularly the fact we're all living longer and that's something that should be celebrated but it's also something that needed to be affordable for our nation.

REPORTER:

Do you think West Australians would be pleased with the Government’s performance, certainly in terms of the economy given that unemployment has hit the highest level in more than a decade?

TREASURER:

Well, obviously in Western Australia, you're seeing the impact of the transition from the mining and resources sector being a major capital investment program, to a production program where fewer employees are involved. Having said that, the best way for West Australians to get rid of the Mining tax and the Carbon tax is to vote Liberal on Saturday. Frankly, nothing could be clearer. The Labor Party has voted to keep the Mining Tax and the Carbon Tax and they still expect Western Australians to support them. Well that's ridiculous because you can't go to Canberra and vote to keep the Carbon Tax and the Mining Tax and then go to the people of Western Australia and say that you're opposed to the taxes.

West Australians are very fair dinkum, straight-talking people. They will see through Labor's duplicitous message of opposing the Carbon and Mining Taxes in Western Australia but voting to keep them in Canberra.

REPORTER:

Why should Alexander Downer be off to London to be the High Commissioner? Is this a case of jobs for mates?

TREASURER:

Well I would expect that he would do a fine job. He's one of Australia’s longest serving Foreign Ministers. He has been able to deal with lots of challenges. He has a certain affinity with the United Kingdom and I think his clipped language will serve him well in London.

REPORTER:

What about Mike Rann? Is it a case of quid pro quo really to send him off to Rome?

TREASURER:

Oh look that's a matter for the Foreign Minister. I think she is always looking to put the square pegs in the square holes.

REPORTER:

You mentioned to Alan Jones this morning that wealthy people shouldn't have their health care paid for by taxpayers. Did you mean specifically bulk-billing or were you talking in more general terms about Medicare?

TREASURER:

Well the fact is, everyone has to contribute. We should have a health system that helps the most disadvantaged. The fact is that where people can afford to make a contribution to their health care, they should. If we want to have the very best health system in the world, there's no such thing as a free health system for people that can afford to make a contribution. I have private health insurance, a lot of people do. We are making a contribution to our health system.

But I would say to the Labor Party, that seems to rail against paid parental leave for higher income women, why is it okay for higher income women or higher income men to receive free health care when they can clearly afford to make a contribution and don't?

REPORTER:

You made the point today Treasurer, that people need to shoulder the burden - I suppose of the Budget deficit. Are you trying to soften the blow of Budget cuts and can you give us any detail what have we might expect?

TREASURER:

Look I'm dealing with the reality here and the reality is, that if we do not make the decisions that are necessary in the May Budget and if we allow the Budget to continue running deficits and increasing debt, Australia will have a lower quality of life, a lower standard of living than that which we've had in the past.

So it’s a clear choice for the Australian people, either you can have a lower quality of life, a lesser standard of living, or we can all do the heavy lifting from the Budget in May and all contribute to a stronger and more prosperous nation. Thanks very much.