14 May 2015
Transcript - #2015120, 2015

Interview with Mark Di Stefano, Buzzfeed – Periscope

MARK DI STEFANO:

Okay, we’re now going live Mr Hockey. So, welcome to what is being billed as the #HockeyScope interview. A lot of people are very excited. What I do want to ask first of all is how are you personally? How’s this week gone?

TREASURER:

Good!

MARK DI STEFANO:

Do you think you’ve had a good week?

TREASURER:

It has been a good week, it’s a lot of preparation. You can see by simply the size of the papers that are out there, it’s a hell of a process to get it together, make all the numbers add up. But, it’s been a good process, literally thousands of people involved in preparing the documents so I get up there and read the speech and go from there.

MARK DI STEFANO:

How are you doing personally though? Like I mean, there were photos at the start of the week and you really did seem as though you were a bit stressed out. You seem so happy now?

TREASURER:

Well, because I think it’s a good story. You’re still, even at the beginning of the week, making sure it all adds up. I want to make sure it’s right and, so they’re very late nights. Sometimes through the night over the last few weeks, but it’s worked, I think it’s worked. Most importantly, I love the thought that we’re giving people hope, that you’re giving them a chance, that you know, people that have a go are getting a go and we’re backing them.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Yeah, I want to move to some of the questions that we’ve been getting from the internet. People that, some of the issues that really get people jazzed online. One of them is Netflix. I just want to ask first of all, do you have Netflix?

TREASURER:

Yeah I do.

MARK DI STEFANO:

You do have a Netflix account?

TREASURER:

Well I’m watching House of Cards [laughter].

MARK DI STEFANO:

So you’ve just put a tax on yourself as well?

TREASURER:

Well, that’s the way it is. I mean, I’ve got to pay my fair share like everyone else. I mean really, what you’re doing is buying the product and if it’s ridiculously expensive you can’t afford it no matter what. But if there was an Australian company that produced House of Cards and it was being broadcast over Foxtel or something like that, I’d want to pay my fair share, I’d want to give them a go. So, it’s really about being fair and ensuring that Australian producers and, you know, like you, you’re an Australian, you’d want to be able to compete with others in the world and I think it’s fair that everyone pays the same price. Not the same price, the same level of tax.

MARK DI STEFANO:

GST. What character in House of Cards do you feel like you’re most like?

TREASURER:

Oh, none of them, I think it’s…

MARK DI STEFANO:

Are you more into Frank or more into Claire? Who do you see as a better leader in House of Cards?

TREASURER:

Frank’s just an impossible character right. He’s there, you know, fancy throwing someone in front of a train. I’ve never met anyone in politics that has done that. A few of them have – not physically pushed someone in front of a train. Claire, I’m a bit torn about Claire because what a great actress. Robin Wright I think her name is…

MARK DI STEFANO:

Yeah that’s it.

TREASURER:

But, you know, she’s party to a very Machiavellian – really quite an evil character. Frank Underwood’s quite an evil character.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Do you see those personalities here in Canberra? Any of the people that can be a bit Frank and Claire?

TREASURER:

[laughter] Yeah. There’s a couple.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Who?

TREASURER:

No [laughter].

MARK DI STEFANO:

Nope, not going to say?

TREASURER:

No, how’s that Budget going?

MARK DI STEFANO:

Can I move you on to, you talk about Uber a lot. You talk about some of the really good companies that are providing a great service. Uber X is illegal in quite a few states and governments are going, transport departments are going after the drivers of Uber X. You’re a fan of Uber, can you do anything…

TREASURER:

Not so much a fan, it’s not an endorsement of individual companies. I’m just, what I’m just saying is that organisations like Uber, Uber wasn’t around a few years ago, it’s now the biggest taxi company in the world, it doesn’t own a cab. Facebook’s the biggest media company in the world, doesn’t have one journalist. You think about these things, Air BnB, the biggest hotel – or the biggest room provider in the world rather than hotel rooms. The biggest room provider in the world, it doesn’t own a hotel room. You look at these guys and you say, look at how they’ve disrupted the big historic players. In Australia, we’ve got that technology we’ve got that innovation, how do we make it come forward. So, we’re changing the rules around crowd source funding, we’re changing the rules around employee share schemes so that if you want to bring out, or get the best and brightest and you haven’t got the cash to pay them, then you can actually give them the shares and they don’t have to pay tax on it until they actually get a benefit, unlike what we inherited. Plus, if you’re going to invest in new computers or new technologies as a small business, you can write it off against your tax on the 1st of July. So we’re trying to lift that innovation.

MARK DI STEFANO:

So what can the government do to provide some sort of certainty? If you’re a young person who wants to say, drive Uber cabs, and they don’t want to get in the car because they’re worried they’re going to get caught and fined a certain amount of money by state governments…

TREASURER:

Well see that’s up to the states, I mean they individually licence. Don’t forget, what the states did was they charge huge licence fees for the existing cab network…

MARK DI STEFANO:

So should they scrap the licence fees for the cab networks?

TREASURER:

Well, I mean that’s up to the states. There’s hire cars as well as cabs, and look I used Uber X in Washington and I was…

MARK DI STEFANO:

So you got into someone’s random car?

TREASURER:

Yeah yeah, in Washington. Yeah.

MARK DI STEFANO:

So would you use Uber X in Sydney then?

TREASURER:

Well, no because I’ve already got someone in Sydney, a hire car driver, Rasheed. He’s a great guy and he does a terrific job and I don’t want to take the business away from him. But having said that, it’s not just about – whether it’s about Uber or one company. It’s about the disruption. Everything the government has licenced over the years is now under massive disruptive pressure. So whether it be a broadcasting licence – here I am broadcasting to the world live on a phone! What does that say? In a sense where does that leave free to air TV – who we charge licence fees to, given that we can compete with them directly with a mobile phone in one sense. So, the community gets great comfort in licensing, licensing of gambling, licensing of broadcasting, licensing of taxis, licensing of a whole lot of different things. But the fact is the disruptive technology means those licenses are worth less and less every day. So, either we can try and push against the tide or we can recognise the tide is moving and governments actually facilitate the future, it’s a balancing act.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Domestic violence funding is obviously one thing that has been a huge issue.

TREASURER:

Huge issue.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Dozens of women have died at the hands of their partners in this year alone. Do you appreciate that there is a crisis that’s going on in Australia with regards to domestic violence and that the government maybe could do more and stump up more money?

TREASURER:

We actually, we have in the Budget, we have specific programs that we announce. We also have funding that we put aside, but do not announce until the right period of time during the course of the year after consultation. We have put additional money aside that we have not yet announced in relation to domestic violence, to help to address the crisis. But it’s important that you work with the states and get the right outcomes. Everything doesn’t have to get announced on Budget night but it doesn’t mean you haven’t put the money aside for it.

MARK DI STEFANO:

So, you are saying as a government there is more money set aside for anti-domestic violence strategies that aren’t just ad campaigns? There are other things in the works?

TREASURER:

Correct.

MARK DI STEFANO:

You can’t give any sort of indication?

TREASURER:

No, because we’re working with the states. You’ve got to have a proper process but, when I say a proper process, to get the best outcome for what you’re doing. I don’t think there’s any lack of resolve, in fact I know there is no lack of resolve. In fact there’s an emphatic determination from the Prime Minister to do something about real outcomes. But you’ve got to make sure that you just don’t try and immediately respond to everything, you’ve actually got to have programs that work and things that work on the ground, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

MARK DI STEFANO:

What about university deregulation. Seemed as though in the Budget, it’s sort of the same policy that’s been rejected twice by the Senate…

TREASURER:

We’re pursuing it; we’ve got to pursue it.

MARK DI STEFANO:

You’re still going to?

TREASURER:

Absolutely. There’s campuses in Asia with a quarter of a million students. They have the capacity to get the best academics in the world. Our universities if we do not deregulate them will not be able to compete over the medium term. So, you know, you’re going to have some of the best and brightest Australians end up going to universities in Asia instead of going to university in Australia – because they’ve got high profile, leading-edge academics that are being paid a lot of money that Australians can’t afford to pay. So if we don’t deregulate our universities, if we don’t give our universities, which all but one vice-chancellor think must be deregulated. If we don’t do it, we’re going to be left behind.

MARK DI STEFANO:

Last question. I know this is going to be a strange one. Back in 2013 you tweeted, that “Why is everyone getting down on Nickelback”

TREASURER:

[laughter] Yeah I love Nickelback.

MARK DI STEFANO:

I wanted to ask, do you still love Nickelback?

TREASURER:

Yeah

MARK DI STEFANO:

Do you still stand by it?

TREASURER:

Photograph and a whole range of things, generator…

MARK DI STEFANO:

Is there any other music that you can tell us that you’ve been listening to recently, other than just Nickelback and Foo Fighters, because you seem like a classic rock kind of guy?

TREASURER:

Well, never walk away from Acca Dacca. Thunderstruck or Hells Bells or whatever the case might be. God, I can’t wait to see them in concert again, how good was that last tour? Back in Black, the whole lot, great stuff!

MARK DI STEFANO:

Thank you Joe, I really appreciate it.

TREASURER:

Great, good to see you.