14 March 2015
Transcript - #2015054, 2015

Doorstop interview, Five Dock Meat Market

TREASURER:

It’s terrific to be here with my friend Craig Laundy at Five Dock Meat Market. Mr and Mrs de Romanis and their son Gus are a great Australian story. They represent a family business. They illustrate all the great attributes of migration to Australia and also they illustrate the fact that life does not stop when you turn 65 and the fact that Mr And Mrs de Romanis have continued to work after taking a short time off. Retirement didn't suit their lifestyle, it wasn't their choice to continue in work, but they obviously were focussed on continuing to engage in business. This is the sort of story that is going to be part of Australia's future. It's not just a story about Australia's past; it’s a story about Australia's future - people continuing to work as long as they choose to work. Mr de Romanis is 78, Mrs de Romanis is 74. They've chosen to go back into work after a short period of retirement. Good luck to them. That's what Australia is going to be about in the future – people continuing to work past the age of 65 and that's exactly what the Intergenerational Report illustrates, that we're going to have longer lives, we're going to be a wealthier nation, we're also going to be a healthier nation, but importantly we need to pay for our future. And everything the Government is focussed on today is about how we can make sure that we can afford and pay for our future and part of that story is about Australians engaging for longer in work if that's what they choose to do. Over to you.

REPORTER:

Mr Hockey, do you support Scott Morrison's suggestion of an adequacy review panel to monitor pension increases?

TREASURER:

We are certainly prepared to discuss sensibly proposals that make sure that the pension continues to be available to those most vulnerable and most in need in the community. We want to make sure that the pension is there for the future as it is today - there for those most vulnerable in the community. Now, what Mr Morrison has put on the table, and in discussion with the senators and crossbenchers, is perfectly sensible. In order to stay the same we have to change. We have to make sure that the pension is available to those who deserve it and are in need of it in the future.

REPORTER:

Do you think it will give reindexing the pension a chance in the Senate?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to speculate on discussions with Senators other than to say we are prepared to discuss these issues with anyone who is sensible and anyone who really cares about Australia's future. Because obviously the interaction between the pension and superannuation is going to be essential to give older Australians the sort of quality of life not only that they deserve, but that they expect.

REPORTER:

To achieve the Budget turnaround with the $57 billion shortfall in hospital funding revealed today, do you expect patients to be bearing the cost of this?

TREASURER:

Patients are taxpayers. There is no difference between a patient and a taxpayer; it comes out of the same pocket and ultimately, taxpayers whether at a federal level or a state level are going to have to bear the cost of increasing health care, particularly as we live longer. Now, I perfectly understand that the states are going to have a significant cost in their hospital system. We invited the states to participate in the Intergenerational Report. For one reason or another, they chose not to, but whether it's a federal taxpayer or a state taxpayer it comes out of the same pocket.

REPORTER:

What has Premier Mike Baird said to you about this funding shortfall? Yesterday, in the leaders' debate, he made it pretty clear he's going to be raising issues with you directly.  He's not happy.

TREASURER:

I perfectly understand that. The states run the hospitals. The Federal Government doesn't run the hospital system, but we are obviously prepared to sit down with the states to discuss issues, because ultimately whether it's a State Government or Federal Government, it is the same taxpayer. It's the same taxpayer. So, ultimately taxpayers have to pay for the hospital system.

REPORTER:

Will GST be lifted to cover the shortfall?

TREASURER:

We have no plans, and I know Mike Baird has no plans, to lift the GST. In order to change the GST, you need the agreement of all the states and also you'd need to have the agreement of the Labor Party in the Senate. Clearly that's just not happening, so obviously we need to look elsewhere for the money.

REPORTER:

What's the difference between indexation of the pension and the general [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

I think quite clearly we want to make sure that the age pension is a proper safety net and gives people a quality of life as they go into retirement. Now, you've got significant concessions, funded by taxpayers, in the superannuation system. Four out of five Australians over the age of 65 today rely on the age pension. It's got to be enough to cover the cost of living challenges into the future. We want to make sure that the age pension is sustainable as Australians live longer. Now, this is the fundamental issue. As we as a nation continue to live longer we want to make sure that the age pension is going to give people a decent quality of life into the future as it does today. And that means we've got to get it right. We've got to get the formula right to make sure that the age pension keeps up with cost of living challenges and changes. Scott Morrison's proposal and discussions with Senate crossbenchers is about making sure that the pension will forever increase to meet any increase in costs of living.

REPORTER:

Have backbenchers raised concerns with you about the Coalition’s existing pension plans [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

There are many people raising issues about the pension. I think we all want to make sure that the age pension certainly meets any increase in the cost of living for age pension recipients into the future.

REPORTER:

This new proposal – what would be the impact on the Budget bottom line?

TREASURER:

Let’s just see what happens in discussions with the crossbench. Anyone who is prepared to approach this sensibly and to think about the future rather than longing for the past is going to make a positive contribution to the policy outcome. I would say again, the age pension will, under us, always increase to meet head on - and beat - the cost of living pressures in everyday life. Now, we’ve got to make sure that’s sustainable for the next decade and beyond.

REPORTER:

I understand you’re talking about federal issues today but there is a state campaign going on. Did you invite the State Member to come and campaign with you today?

TREASURER:

I’m sure the State Member’s campaigning and we’re not campaigning; we’re meeting great Australians who are actually doing a wonderful job running a great family business.

REPORTER:

You are obviously doing your thing and he’s out [inaudible] is there a divide between State and Federal Coalitions?

TREASURER:

No, not at all.

REPORTER:

There was an article in The Australian today saying that the defamation trial made you look a bit mean and petty and that there was a bit of, well, angst in the Liberal Party’s campaign to be re-elected…

TREASURER:

Complete rubbish. Any other questions?

REPORTER:

Just on the federal-state funding divide. If it’s not going to come from the GST, where is it going to come from? Are we sort of kicking the can down the road if we’re saying, well, it will come from somewhere but we’re not identifying where.

TREASURER:

Well fundamentally, you can kick the can down the road but sooner or later you run out of road and that is almost the point we are at in dealing with the Budget mess left behind by Labor. Now, what we’ve got to do is make decisions about Australia’s future. We can long for the past, but we’ve got to make decisions about Australia’s future that ensure we have a decent quality of life into the future and not just today. That’s exactly the sort of discussion we’re having through the Intergenerational Report. Thanks very much.

REPORTER:

Can I just ask one? I know you’ve taken an interest in a second Sydney airport in the past. Is there any merit in getting whoever ends up running that airport to build a rail line given how much they’ll be benefiting from the rise in land value?

TREASURER:

The second Sydney airport is going to be the greatest adrenalin shot in the arm of Western Sydney in its history. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be page turning infrastructure for the future of the whole of Western Sydney, and in fact, Sydney as well, because you cannot have two million people without basic infrastructure. And an airport is basic infrastructure in the 21st century. Now, this airport is going to help to create jobs, it’s going to help to create wealth and it’s going to create prosperity. Anything we can do to make that airport get built as soon as possible is going to be good for the people of, not just Western Sydney, but all of Australia. Now, I just want to add one further thing about this: we’ve worked very closely with the Baird Government in helping to make this airport and all the infrastructure and all the jobs associated with it real. I would expect that over the years ahead, anyone who cares about jobs and the economy and prosperity is going to get on with the job of building the second airport.

REPORTER:

But just in terms of rail, you would have seen Anthony Albanese yesterday came up with a plan to make that operate from the cost.

TREASURER:

Anthony Albanese has been a terrific supporter of the second Sydney airport. He was unable to get his colleagues on board. We very much appreciate his support for the proposal to date and are always happy to look at any proposal that Mr Albanese’s putting forward. Thanks guys.