8 April 2015
Transcript - #2015071, 2015

Doorstop interview, Canberra

REPORTER:

Treasurer, how are you?

TREASURER:

Yeah, good.

REPORTER:

Can I ask about the Treasurer’s meeting tomorrow? Have you any intention of altering the GST distribution formula?

TREASURER:

There have been recommendations made by the Grants Commission. I had a series of discussions with various Treasurers today and we will be meeting tonight as well as tomorrow. I have concerns about what’s happening to Western Australia, obviously, and we’ll discuss those issues with the other Treasurers today. I have already met with Mike Nahan earlier this morning, and I met with him just a few days ago in Canberra as well and I’ve been speaking to him over Easter.

REPORTER:

So to Phil’s question – are there any plans to?

TREASURER:

And again I say that we are obviously going to discuss that at the Treasurer’s meeting. I’m not going pre-empt that discussion.

REPORTER:

Does there have to be a consensus amongst Treasurers or is it your decision alone?

TREASURER:

No, it is an expectation that it would be a consensus position. Look Western Australia is being hit very hard by not only falling iron ore prices, but also falling GST revenue and I totally recognise that. It’s been an issue that has been at the forefront of discussions with, not only the Western Australian State Government, but also the Members of Parliament from Western Australia and Senators. So we’ve been actively engaged in it. I’m not going to pre-empt any discussions on outcomes. But as they’ve been hit hard, so have we. Iron prices are at extraordinary levels compared to what they were and what they were expected to be and that has a very real impact on our revenue. And given Wayne Swan delivered his last Budget, and iron ore prices were around $120 a tonne, now they're hovering around $40 a tonne. So, you can imagine what impact that has on our income as a nation.

REPORTER:

You mentioned when handing down the Intergenerational Report that there'd be a road show and a national conversation. Is this the start of it here and how many other events have we got?

TREASURER:

No, I have done plenty of them so far and certainly from one end of the country to the other.

REPORTER:

Mr Hockey, sorry to get back on the GST, you said before the New South Wales election, New South Wales has nothing to worry about. Is that still the case?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't think New South Wales has anything to worry about as a general principle, particularly after the election of the Baird Government.

REPORTER:

There was a report from the IMF overnight about the potential growth not getting back to levels seen prior to the GFC. How much of a worry is that to you as you put your Budget together?

TREASURER:

Well, quite obviously, we've been facing significant and constant downgrades to world growth over the last 18 months. And, you know, it is a volatile recovery in the global economy. There's no doubt about that. Even though data out of the United States over the last month or so has been weaker than expected, I still remain hopeful that the United States will continue its path to recovery. Europe seems to have stabilised. Japan – with political stability is hopefully continuing its reform process and China is weaker than expected domestically, but next week, on Saturday, I fly off to New York and Washington for discussions with the IMF, the World Bank, the G20 and also importantly, discussions with various people in financial markets in New York and I will get an even better understanding of where that's heading and that will inform part of the Budget.

REPORTER:

Just back on Town Halls, can you give us examples of ones you've been to since handing down the IGR?

TREASURER:

Sure. I did the Town Hall in – you should've been there. It was a Friday afternoon; you might not have been…

REPORTER:

Sorry, where was it?

TREASURER:

On the Central Coast, the Gold Coast of Queensland. I've done chambers of commerce. I've done a range of different things. Ring up my office – they will give you a list and they were broadcast, actually. So, you could probably go back to wherever you're from – you can go back and have a look at the broadcast because they followed me everywhere.

REPORTER:

It’s normally a question for a few days out from the Budget, but could you give us a theme for this year's Budget?

TREASURER:

Well, it is about economic growth. It is about growth and jobs. It is about focusing on how we can empower families and small business to participate in work and create more work, growth and jobs. And as I said, the measures will be very responsible, very reasonable. They will be fair, but we are trying to do more with less money and that is very difficult to do but we are trying to do that.

REPORTER:

Do you share Scott Morrison's frustration with the business sector about just standing on the sidelines criticising rather than mucking in and…

TREASURER:

Yeah, I mean look, previously, the business community has not only been an advocate for reform, they've actually put their hands in their pocket and helped to argue the case. I remember most particularly when the business community argued for – through paid advertising, argued for change to the tax system back in early 1998. And also, when they actually paid for advertising to defend the workplace relations system in 2007. So, I do share Scott Morrison's position that, you know, there are plenty of armchair critics. There seems to be an enormous number of armchair critics out there. But, as Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘it's not the critic that counts, it's the person in the field getting the muddied hands’. I would encourage as many people as possible to join us on the paddock of reform. Thank you.