5 March 2015
Transcript - #2015039, 2015

Interview with Ben Fordham, Sydney Live, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM:

The Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey joins us live from Canberra. Mr Hockey, good afternoon.

TREASURER:

Good afternoon Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Have we got a lot to look forward to or not?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, it’s exciting. You know, we’re very privileged to have a quality of life that our parents and our grandparents could never have imagined. What we’ve got to do is make sure that those who follow us have an even better quality of life, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. This is a snapshot of where we’re at today; where we could be in 40 years’ time, and you mentioned the grey army; it’s about people choosing to work longer. We need you to work longer if you can, but you’ve also got to want to work longer. People may well retire earlier, they might retire later, they might have, you know, education courses younger and they might have them when they’re older. So, longevity means we’re flipping tradition on its head and…

BEN FORDHAM:

You’re going to need to turn around attitudes out there amongst employers aren’t you? Because the moment you mention anything like this, I mean I will be bombarded with phone calls from people who say, ‘hey, forget about 80 and going back into the workforce, I’m in my 50s and I’m being rejected by employers’.

TREASURER:

That’s exactly right and changing attitudes of employers is part of the story of this Intergenerational Report. I mean, I went to Bunnings for a launch the other day of the National Seniors Employers Toolkit.

BEN FORDHAM:

How good’s Bunnings?

TREASURER:

Oh mate, I love Bunnings. I tell you, I mean a quarter of the workforce of Bunnings is over 50, and I met a couple of guys in their mid-80s who are still working five days a week at Bunnings.

BEN FORDHAM:

I saw you on the news that night and you said to one of these gentlemen, ‘how many days a week do you work here?’ And he goes, ‘five days, full time’….

TREASURER:

….as if I was an idiot for asking the question…

BEN FORDHAM:

…he was like, what do you think I’m here one day a week because of my age?

TREASURER:

Exactly right. I was guilty of that stereotype, and then, look, that’s exciting, I think it’s fantastic, you know.

BEN FORDHAM:

There are a lot of people who are going to be listening saying, ‘Joe, that’s not exciting. At the moment, we’ve a quality of life that allows the bulk of us to be able to retire age 65’ –  you’re now talking about, I know you’re not saying that this is compulsory, but you’re saying, ‘look, we’re going to have to work longer, we’re going to have to work harder. That might be exciting to you but not to everyone.

TREASURER:

Well, I’m not so sure about harder, because I think you’re going to see a lot of technology improve that makes our lives easier. I mean, you know our output per hour of work has doubled since 1971. So, in 1971 we had to work two hours to produce what it takes us to produce in one hour today. So, with technology moving so quickly, you would expect we can produce more in less time in the future, but that comes down to what sort of infrastructure we have, how much we can invest in new technology, and also our embrace of new technology. Now, let me give you an example: there’s been a lot of talk about driverless cars. I’d urge people to go and do an internet search of driverless cars, particularly have a look at some of the stories on YouTube from Mercedes Benz, from BMW and others. There is credible evidence that suggests that by 2040 three quarters of the cars on the road will be driverless. Now, what does that mean?

BEN FORDHAM:

You’re getting very Jetsons on us.

TREASURER:

You say Jetsons, Ben, can I tell you, I mean when the iPhone came out I took it around to my dad and I brought up on FaceTime, my children who are a few suburbs away, and dad looked at it and he just smiled. And I said, what do you think? And he said, when I was a little boy growing up I would never have thought that I’d ever see Dick Tracy’s watch come into play, right? It was sort of an observation, now, I think, are you kidding me? Driverless cars? But they are going to be absolutely transformative for people like my parents who are in their 80s, who want to stay in their home. And a driverless car, you hop into the car, you press a button, it takes you to the doctor, takes you to – you know –  the shops, takes you to the grandchildren and the thing is…

BEN FORDHAM:

I don’t think that I’m going to see driverless cars on the roads in my lifetime.

TREASURER:

Well, I’ll tell you why – because they’re first going into mass production in 2018. Let me finish, hang on…

BEN FORDHAM:

No, no, hang on, we can talk about driverless cars all day but I’d rather talk about a few other things.

TREASURER:

Okay but the truth is, I’ve got a Holden Commodore, that Holden Commodore, you press the button and it parks itself. The current Holden Commodore sold now will park itself by pressing a button.

BEN FORDHAM:

Don’t you get your Commonwealth car driver to park your car for you?

TREASURER:

I drive myself around.

BEN FORDHAM:

Let me ask you about tax relief: no tax relief until 2021?

TREASURER:

Well, if we try and get back to living within our means, we’ve got to reduce our spending. At the moment, the Labor Party and the Greens and others are preventing us from reducing spending, that means that we are just nowhere near living within our means.

BEN FORDHAM:

So, the way we’re heading, no tax relief until 2021?

TREASURER:

The way we’re heading, we’ll never get the Budget back to surplus; we’ll never pay off $1 of debt.

BEN FORDHAM:

That doesn’t sound good when you’re the Treasurer?

TREASURER:

I’m asking the Labor Party, the Greens, the independents to work with us to fix the problem, to fix the challenge. We’ve come a long way and as the Intergenerational Report shows, we tried to do 40 years of Budget fixing in one year. Now, that was too much last year, but it still has to be done if we’re going to be able to afford our future.

BEN FORDHAM:

I mean, the big picture here Mr Hockey is that this is something that kids should be really worried about. I’m sure that there won’t be too many young Australians who will be sitting down reading your Intergenerational Report, but if they did and if they understood it, they should be scared of what they read.

TREASURER:

No, you know why we shouldn’t be scared? It is because we’re dealing with the issues. That’s the reason, we are…

BEN FORDHAM:

Hang on, you talked about not going back into surplus for the next 40 years and…

TREASURER:

But we’ve got a plan; the Government has a plan.

BEN FORDHAM:

Well, I think it’s scary reading.

TREASURER:

Don’t be scared, Ben, because the future is exciting. Australia’s future is going to be much more positive than anyone appreciates, but what we’ve got to do is start planning for our future now. Our future stretches from tomorrow right through to the next 40, 50 years. It’s exciting stuff, it really is.

BEN FORDHAM:

Let me go to Wayne, he’s got a question for the Treasurer, Joe Hockey. We’ve only got him for another couple of minutes. Go right ahead Wayne, your question?

CALLER:

Yeah, look I’m a Liberal supporter, but I’m just wondering if Joe’s going to go until he’s 80 or if he’s going to take the rich Government pension when [inaudible] and he’ll probably go out before he’s even 60, if they don’t get their act together now. So, I’m just wondering [inaudible] with the rest of the Government [inaudible].

BEN FORDHAM:

Mr Hockey, are you going to work until you’re 80?

TREASURER:

I’m going to work beyond 80; I’m never going to retire. I love work, I love participating. Not everyone does, but it might not be five days a week when I’m in my 90s, it might be three days a week or two days a week, whatever the case may be – it may be entirely flexible. But, you’ve got to give people a choice, and you know, if as is the case, we’re living longer, if by the middle of this century, every child born has a very good chance of living to a hundred, I mean the average age will be around a hundred, then the question is, can you retire at 60? Can you retire at 65? And for those people that [inaudible] won’t be the case, but what we’ve got to do is create an environment where they’ve got a choice.

BEN FORDHAM:

I know there’s an important meeting you’ve got to get into, so final question: I watched this morning outside Parliament House where you had, you know, the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Greens and everyone else, they came together as one for the sake of the Bali Nine ring leaders. What you’ve got on your desk at the moment in this report, I mean you’ve got some huge challenges ahead for the good of this country, can you imagine if all sides came together and went, ‘right, we’ve got this gigantic debt we’re dealing with, it’s on its way to a trillion dollars one day if we don’t get it back on the road and do something about it’ –  you’re not going to be able to improve this – what I believe looks like a scary story inside this Intergenerational Report, unless you have that same kind of unity that we saw today for a couple of drug smugglers, but for the good of the nation; I’m not convinced that you’re going to be able to get the Greens, and get the Labor Party and get everyone else on board to be able to sort this mess out?

TREASURER:

We’re ready to talk. I mean, I’ve walked around to my Labor opponent’s office and said, ‘how can we get on with dealing with this issue, how can we get on with fixing’…

BEN FORDHAM:

When was that?

TREASURER:

Well, that was about a few months ago – two or three months ago. I’ve spoken to other….

BEN FORDHAM:

Have you dropped in since?

TREASURER:

All of my colleagues have been going around to them, saying, ‘how about we talk? Can we talk?’ We do that. We go around to them; I go around to their offices.

BEN FORDHAM:

Three months ago!

TREASURER:

Well, mate the issue’s been around for 12 months, right. So, I’ve – it’s not like a fly by night response to the Intergenerational Report. I’m actually trying to do it now, and in Parliament I said, ‘well, let’s work together’.

BEN FORDHAM:

You know what you should do, you and Chris Bowen, the Shadow Treasurer, should get in the back of a driverless car and the two of you should sort this stuff out.

TREASURER:

You know what? I’d love to do that. I would love – you know, Ben, I would, seriously, this is not about me or Tony Abbott, or the Liberal Party or anyone. You know what it’s about? It’s about our future as a nation.

BEN FORDHAM:

Well, do it! Do it!

TREASURER:

Well, it takes two to tango, and I’ve offered.

BEN FORDHAM:

You sound like a couple of school girls, or school boys! No, I’m waiting for him to call me!

TREASURER:

You shouldn’t be so sexist, Ben, you really shouldn’t be so sexist. I mean, seriously you’re beyond that, you should be focusing on what’s good for the country, like me, and I think you do [inaudible].

BEN FORDHAM:

Well, Mr Hockey, pick up the phone and call Chris Bowen then, and don’t leave him waiting three months for your follow up phone call!

TREASURER:

I just offered it in the House - I offered it in the House. I said, ‘come on’… Tony Abbott said, ‘can we work with you guys?’ We said, ‘we’re ready to work with you and they’re not responding at all’. I mean, you can…

BEN FORDHAM:

This could be one of these scenarios, Treasurer, where he’s waiting on your text and you’re waiting on his.

TREASURER:

No, no, no mate. I’m offering –  I’m offering again, through your program, I’ll send him a letter, I’ll speak to him, I’ll do all of that, but if he doesn’t want to respond and have a sensible discussion then it’s pretty tough. Having said that, the Australian people are up for this conversation and it’s going to be an exciting few months ahead as we talk about it.

BEN FORDHAM:

Enjoyed the chat, we’ll talk to you soon.

TREASURER:

Any time, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Treasurer, Joe Hockey joining us on Sydney Live.