13 March 2015
Transcript - #2015053, 2015

Doorstop interview

REPORTER:

What’s your reaction to the resignation of Glenn Lazarus from the Palmer United Party?

TREASURER:

Well, quite obviously, it doesn’t change the way we interact with the Palmer United Party or any of the Senators. We’ve been treating each of the non-Green/Labor Senators as independents and I suppose that gives Dio Wang more power and influence in the Palmer United Party Senate Party Room.

REPORTER:

But now that there’s no Palmer United Party voting bloc in the Senate, are you hopeful that you will have more luck in getting Budget measures [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

I would hope that Senator Lazarus would now consider things on their merits rather than having other influences at play.

REPORTER:

What’s your relationship with Senator Lazarus in terms of [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

We’ve both played prop and we’ve had the odd conversation.

REPORTER:

Are you going to sit down with Senator Lazarus and go over a briefing of last year’s budgetary measures in [inaudible]

TREASURER:

Look that will be – we’ll just see how things pan out. You never know, sometimes these things have lots of different twists and in politics you can’t bank the future of Australia on the back of one person resigning from the Palmer United Party.

REPORTER:

But do you think it will have a difference?

TREASURER:

I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s not going to change our attitude towards the Senate.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, [inaudible] do you now accept that it’s basically not the will of the broader public to have a portion of superannuation taken out to make it available for first homebuyers [inaudible]

TREASURER:

Look, clearly there have been some concerns expressed but you don’t close down a national conversation on the back of a handful of people expressing a particular opinion on an issue. You need to engage broadly in the community. This didn’t start as my idea. I’m not running it as my idea or that of the Government but it is an interesting proposal that’s being put forward by many parties over many years. So, really I respect the community more than to simply shut down any proposal put forward by people that have considered all the merits of an argument.

REPORTER:

Do you think some of your colleagues have sought to shut it down as you say?

TREASURER:

People have strong views – they’re entitled to strong views but when the pension system was introduced in the early 1900s, life expectancy was 58 to qualify for a 65 year old pension. Today it’s vastly different. On superannuation it’s vastly different again.

REPORTER:

But some of your colleagues seem to have shut down the conversation before [inaudible]

TREASURER:

No, I think colleagues have many different views and they’re entitled to them.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, your new Secretary, John Fraser, in his first public address said that superannuation concessions need to be looked at as far as whether or not they now fulfil the purpose that they started off, but that politicians needed to be brave to actually bring that conversation on. Are you brave enough to have that conversation about the tax expenditure involved with superannuation?

TREASURER:

We have a taxation discussion paper that’s going to be released in April. Obviously, superannuation will be part of that. Without people rushing off and saying, ‘these new proposals are going to be government policy’, please let’s have the community engage in proper conversations about issues and not try and close down a conversation after 24 hours or 48 hours or just seven days. I mean, really, we’ve got to get out into the community; engage in conversations about our future as a nation.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, do you regret [inaudible]

TREASURER:

Everyone has a right to protect their reputation and I’m no different. My rights are not different to every other Australian and if I choose to exercise those rights through the court, that is the same entitlement I have as everyone else in the community.

REPORTER:

How are you feeling after a few days of that hearing?

TREASURER:

Look, I’m not going to start speculating on it – it’s before the courts.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, on the current Budget, about $50 billion of health spending is relegated to the states. How do you see the states fund the shortfall in that funding? Are you open to states actually getting patients to pay for it, you know, to public hospitals? Is that…

TREASURER:

That is a matter for the states. We invited all the states to participate in the Intergenerational Report. For one reason or another, they all declined. That’s their choice. But clearly, there are structural challenges facing the states, particularly in relation to medium and long-term funding of hospitals. I do note that hospitals have become more efficient in the last few years and that’s a good thing. But obviously, there’s going to be greater pressures on our hospital system as we all get older and as we have a bigger proportion of the population ageing.

REPORTER:

Can I just ask you about the Infrastructure Investment Bank [inaudible] campaign that our Government’s been involved with in trying to get better governance standards. So, has the UK undercut that process of [inaudible].

TREASURER:

No, no. Quite obviously, China has improved the governance structure that they are proposing for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. So much so that New Zealand has now signed the memorandum of understanding. As too has the United Kingdom overnight. This is something that will obviously be taken into account by the Government over the next few weeks as we continue our dialogue with those people behind the Asian Infrastructure Bank. I have – I’ll leave it there. Thank you.