14 August 2014
Transcript - #2014078, 2014

Interview with John Stanley and Garry Linnell, 2UE

SUBJECTS: Budget, Fuel Excise

PRESENTER:

On the line right now, he’s there, Joe Hockey good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning, John, good morning, Gary.

PRESENTER:

Did you phrase your comments yesterday in an unfortunate way?

TREASURER:

What I was pointing out was that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the highest income households pay three times the amount of fuel excise than the lowest income households. Now people can construe that whatever way they choose to, but that is what the Australian Bureau of Statistics says. Now, everyone is going to [inaudible] and pass commentary on the way I say things and so on, I can only reiterate the facts.

PRESENTER:

Treasurer, would you agree though, that as a proportion of income, lower income families pay more for commuting and running their cars than higher income families?

TREASURER:

It’s also the case that people in outer metropolitan areas obviously do more driving, use their cars more than many people in inner metropolitan areas. That’s why every single dollar that is coming out of the increase in the fuel excise is going towards new roads such as WestConnex in Sydney, which improves the quality of roads, particularly in outer metropolitan areas. But we have to pay for it somehow.

PRESENTER:

Do you think your comments can be perceived by people on low incomes as pretty insulting?

TREASURER:

People will go to intent and there is lots of commentary on commentary on commentary at the moment. What we have is a challenge in the Budget that we have inherited from our predecessors. That is we need to stop the debt haemorrhaging and if we don’t do that everyone is going to have to make bigger contributions in the future. We need to take action now. We don’t know what is around the corner. A lot of the measurers are focussed on ensuring that over the medium and long term we can start to meet, head on, what will be an interest bill of around $3 billion a month in ten years’ time, unless we take action now.

PRESENTER:

You sound incredibly frustrated right now.

TREASURER:

Do I?

PRESENTER:

Trying to get this Budget through, it must be a frustrating process.

TREASURER:

Politics has its moments.

PRESENTER:

But at the same time you’re copping a lot of flak aren’t you? I mean, you’ve even got the Daily Telegraph today saying that you’re incompetent as a political salesperson and this is the head of the cheer squad for the Coalition.

TREASURER:

You know what Garry, the fact is that no-one is going to be cheering for less government spending on them and very few people come up to me and say can you please increase my taxes. But, we are doing it because it is right for the country. Because if we do not do it now, what will need to be done in the future will be far more painful. It is much like trying to convince a patient that has early signs of cancer that you need to take action now to address it, and address the problems in the Budget, and address the problems with your health, because if you don’t take action now the difference is going to be far more dramatic in the future.

PRESENTER:

There is a tone running through some of the conservative press who have been very pro the Coalition, which has been targeting you. Do you get the feeling that you’re being hung out to dry as the whipping boy for this Budget process?

TREASURER:

Garry it is not about me. It is actually about what is best for the country. There will be critics, of course there will be critics, because criticism is part of the nature of the business. But it is not about me, it is about what I am doing for the country, what we are doing, [inaudible] to create jobs.

PRESENTER:

I think most people would agree with that but some of the criticism does seem to be coming from within your own party.

TREASURER:

I have got no comment on that other than to say I am focussed on doing what is right for my country. I am focussed on giving everyone, and particularly those people most disadvantaged, the best opportunity to have better quality of life.

PRESENTER:

Can I just ask you, this conversation about one comment from yesterday, how much is the fuel excise increase? It’s just one cent over a few years isn’t it, a litre?

TREASURER:

It’ll be 40 cents a week, 40-45 cents a week.

PRESENTER:

So 40-45 cents a week, so that’s not a huge amount of money that we’re talking about here. So how did we get to this situation where this comment was made that poorer people don’t drive cars and suddenly you’re on the front page everywhere?

TREASURER:

It’s a good question. The fact of the matter is that I can only get the facts out there and explain the facts and how people interpret them is up to them.

PRESENTER:

But just saying poorer people either don’t drive cars or don’t drive cars very far, just as a bald statement, it does sound quite callous and insulting to them.

TREASURER:

I am sorry if that’s the case but the fact is that the Labor Party says that it’s an unjust initiative, an unfair initiative, higher income people aren’t paying enough. Well, here is an initiative where higher income people pay on average three times the amount of lower income households in the fuel excise. But Labor is obviously opposing it. Now, there is an enormous amount of inconsistency on their part, they’re not sticking to their principles. They’re voting against $5 billion of Budget savings that they took to the last election. The Greens, for example, are arguing against an increase in the fuel excise even through it’s their core policy. Why are they doing it? Because they are all playing politics. We have laid down our cards, we have laid down the principles, we are true to the argument that we need to, as a nation, live within our means, and that’s what we’re endeavouring to do.

PRESENTER:

You’ve said you need to get the major platforms of this Budget through as soon as possible. If you don’t, will you look at doing a mini-Budget come October, say, or September?

TREASURER:

No.

PRESENTER:

So there won’t be a mini-Budget at all?

TREASURER:

No, that’s exactly what some people want. They want that level of panic. We are not in panic mode. We are in the mode of delivering good policy. Now, let me be very fair dinkum here, most of the Budget has already passed through the Senate. Most of it has already happened. The Appropriation Bills have gone through, most of the revenue also has gone through, because that’s what happens every year. These initiatives that we are debating now, such as the co-payment on Medicare, it is about making sure that we can afford the future, that we can afford the year after next and the year after that. So these initiatives on higher education, on welfare, and on Medicare are all about insuring that we can address the $667 billion debt that was left to us by Labor and at the same time create jobs.

PRESENTER:

Alright, you’re meeting Clive Palmer today?

TREASURER:

No. Not that I’m aware of.

PRESENTER:

So, when do you meet him? When do you have a meeting with him, with his people?

TREASURER:

I met him a couple of days ago. We are in constant discussions. The thing is the Labor Party and the Greens have dealt themselves out of the debate. They’ve chosen to simply have a blanket no to everything and in doing so they have broken any bi-partisan commitment to try and fix the Budget, which is very sad because we wanted to get rid of the deficit when we were in opposition, we joined with the Labor Party to do it. Now the roles are reversed and they’ve broken that bi-partisanship. So, in doing so, they have dealt Mr Palmer and the others into the equation and we’re dealing with them.

PRESENTER:

Can you tell me honestly, do you wish you’d never smoked that cigar? I mean a five minute cigar has turned into, it’s everywhere isn’t it?

TREASURER:

Yes, but you know, you’ve always got to be who you are. In my case it is a terrible habit but I’ve done it since I was 16 years of age. Everyone keeps talking about how politicians are sometimes phony and they fake it. I mean, I am what I am, John. People will ascribe values to me that suits their cause. I am who I am and I’m doing my best for the country.

PRESENTER:

No regrets on the cigar, what about theā€¦

TREASURER:

Look we can go through a litany of things, there’s a conga line of criticism, and that’s self-deprecating humour unless someone wants to interpret that as well. But let me just say to you that you have got to be who you are, you’ve got to be fair dinkum. In my case, I care most about the most disadvantaged. I care most about people getting jobs. I care most about a sustainable economy and in this circumstance we are doing everything we can to fix the mess we inherited.