20 February 2015
Transcript - #2015029, 2015

Doorstop interview

TREASURER:

[Inaudible] as many Australians as possible to take the opportunity to go into work. Now, we have to change the attitude of employers, and there are some very good employers – Bunnings being one of them where a quarter of the workforce is over the age of 50 and they’re even employing someone who’s 83 years of age, five days a week. That’s a great story. If you want to work in Australia, you should be able to work in Australia and it’s as much about changing the attitudes of employers as it is about the enthusiasm of the potential employees.

REPORTER:

And how do we change that?

TREASURER:

Well, for a start the Government announced a Restart program – a $10,000 payment to employers that employ people over the age of 50 but there’s more to be done, there is more to be done and when we release the Intergenerational Report in the next few weeks, that will clearly illustrate that Australia needs more workers, but importantly, it’s good for Australia and it is good for individual Australians, that if they want to work they can work. So, we’ve got to change the culture of the nation. Whether you are a mum who’s just had children and wants to go back into the workforce, or someone who has turned 50 and you to want to stay in the workforce, we’ve got to work harder as a nation to create opportunities.

REPORTER:

How many employers have taken up the $10,000 grants?

TREASURER:

You’d need to ask Eric Abetz that question, but I know there is more work to be done in taking up the opportunities on Restart.

REPORTER:

Because really the difficulty – you only have to speak to people who are made redundant or whatever in their 50s, they find it very difficult to get employers to even consider them.

TREASURER:

That’s right and we’ve got to change attitudes, we have to change attitudes. People over the age of 50 who lost their job are inevitably, at the moment, going to spend a longer period of time out of work than someone who is younger. It is simply about changing the attitudes of employers, but also importantly, don’t stereotype our moments in life. We may study when we’re young, it doesn’t mean we can’t study when we’re older. We may well seek retirement when we’re older; don’t suggest that you can’t retire half way through your career.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, in recent days the Government talked about retirement superannuation. Are you talking about the need for change in the next Budget or the Budget after that?

TREASURER:

Well, superannuation is a long-term investment and obviously as part of this upcoming Intergenerational Report, there will be a further discussion about how we as a nation can have a better quality of life and how we can pay for that better quality of life. The age pension is not going to do all the heavy lifting over the decades ahead. Superannuation obviously has an important role to play, as does ongoing involvement in the workforce.

REPORTER:

How important is it then to lift the superannuation amount from 9.5 per cent to…?

TREASURER:

The Henry Report, which was commissioned by the previous Government, said increasing the rate is not the solution, it’s about better investment and about a fairer treatment of the existing rate. Having said that, we are increasing the rate of superannuation and we are committed to that, but ultimately, if people want to work, we have to facilitate it. You know, life doesn’t end when your turn 50, and given I’m turning 50 this year, I hope it certainly is true.

REPORTER:

[Inaudible] What’s the future of the Census [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

Look, the Chief Statistician is concerned about a number of things at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. One is that obviously the mainframe computer system of the ABS is just not up to scratch. You’ve seen enormous volatility in the unemployment numbers in recent months. The previous Government did not spend any money on a computer system that is running 33 year old software. Enough; we need to have the best information and the best statistics. The expert, who is the Chief Statistician, has suggested there should be a delay in the Census. I think – if that is his considered advice and the considered advice of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and they say the urgency is about fixing up the computer system of the ABS, then that sounds like good advice to me.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, you have talked about intergeneration theft, what’s the policy argument to not count the family home in the pension assets-test?

TREASURER:

People need to have a measure of certainty about retirement savings and about entitlement to pension and entitlement to superannuation. We are endeavouring to provide stability and certainty on the one hand, but on the other hand, inevitably, there do have to be from time to time, changes in policies to cope with the change – and quite rapid change, in demographics of the country. So, it is a balancing act and, over the next few weeks, we’ll be having a conversation with the Australian people, encouraging Australians to respond and engage in a conversation about how we can afford our future as a nation. This is a fundamental point: it’s not about handing down a Budget in any one year, it’s not about a single policy that is going to solve many of our demographic challenges, it has to be everyone working together to identify how we can be a more prosperous and more embracing nation into the future.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, what’s happening to the levy on big business that was to pay for Paid Parental Leave?

TREASURER:

We will have more to say about that in the future, but I say to large businesses, you will be paying no more tax in the future than you are paying today.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, it sounded like, from what you said [inaudible] but the transition is the thing to look at with the pension – with …

TREASURER:

No, I wouldn’t [inaudible].

REPORTER:

Treasurer, around that national conversation about changing the attitude to older [inaudible] workforce, just on that issue of the family home [inaudible] what is an accumulation of wealth with older Australians [inaudible].

TREASURER:

Well, I’m not someone who has a socialist-like zeal for redistributing wealth. That’s not what I entered into politics for; it’s not my core ideological belief, nor is it that of the Government. Ultimately, it comes down to how we pay for our quality of life as a nation and this is a very big issue, and we are in a privileged position that we can now have that conversation. If we want to be able to afford the healthcare, the hospital system, if we want to afford – be able to afford the age care system, the pharmaceuticals that are going to maintain and improve our quality of life, we’re going to have to find the money. There’s no money tree in Canberra. We all have to make a contribution and this is a compact between the generations because older Australians now have made enormous sacrifices during their lives for our nation. We have a compact with older Australians to make sure they maintain that quality of life. And in turn, my generation has an obligation to our children to make sure that they have the same, if not better, quality of life than that which I have had. This is what it’s about and this is a conversation that is rarely had in Australia, but it’s about to happen because it must and we are going to go to every street corner, every town hall, into every living room, into every workplace, and embrace this conversation about how we can afford our future as a nation. Because ultimately, the cost of not engaging in this conversation is going to be far greater in the future if it’s not undertaken now.

REPORTER:

On the family policy, in the Fin Review today, it talks about how Minister Morrison’s been tasked by you to look for medium, long-term Budget savings, but also productivity-improving measures. Now, Minister Morrison thinks a more expensive families’ policy would encourage more women to return to work and would be more productive, but of course it would cost more. So, you’ve got to make a choice there – is it productivity or cost?

TREASURER:

Well, that’s right. Well, there’s always solutions put forward that deliver better outcomes that cost more. The challenge is how do you pay for it? Now, currently, the Australian Government is spending $100 million a day more than it receives in taxes. So, we have to borrow that $100 million every single day and if we keep doing that, sooner or later, you’re going to have real troubles with debt. So, what you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to lower your spending and if you keep increasing your revenue well sooner or later it starts to cost jobs. So, we cannot continue to borrow $100 million every day just to pay the day-to-day bills of the Federal Government – it is unsustainable, and if we don’t undertake measures now to address that spending, then the bills will get bigger, the debt will get bigger, the interest will go beyond $40 million a day and it will cost Australians not only more money, but it will reduce our quality of life. So, there is a balancing act. I am all ears for suggestions on how we can further improve the Budget and get to the point where eventually the Federal Government lives within it means, but at the moment, the only suggestions are actually coming from our side of the political fence. I would encourage others to participate in the conversation.

REPORTER:

[Inaudible] Treasury can withstand another great strain if it has to find money to help cyclone-ravaged communities in Queensland?

TREASURER:

Absolutely. Look, whenever Australians are hit by natural disasters, be it drought or flood or cyclone, the Australian Government and the Australian people will be there to stand by their side and to help along the way.