18 May 2015
Transcript - #2015126, 2015

Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today, Channel 9

KARL STEFANOVIC:

That's how the Coalition is dancing this morning, the chances of securing a second term have increased quite dramatically with the Government and the Opposition locked at 50/50 on a two-party preferred basis in today's Fairfax poll. Newspoll tells a slightly different story with Labor ahead 53 to 47. One man who will be very pleased about the former result is Treasurer, Joe Hockey. This is him when he received that news in Parliament just a little bit earlier [MUSIC PLAYS]. There he is. A little bit of salt and pepper there playing as well. Joe Hockey joins us in the studio. Good morning to you.

TREASURER:

Great to be with you.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You’ve still got a job.

TREASURER:

I had one yesterday and the day before and just keep doing the job that you have to do.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Give me a sense of what must be relief for you.

TREASURER:

No, we are putting in place things that make Australia better, that's the relief. It's about implementing part of a plan. We've had an economic plan – we're delivering on it and the next step is giving small business and families a chance to get ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I know politicians say well it doesn't matter about the polls as there is only one poll that really counts. However, you still must look at those results and be buoyed by them considering what happened last year.

TREASURER:

Well, it is pleasing that people have looked at the detail and seen, yes, we are paying for what we promised and, yes, there is an opportunity to get out there and invest in their businesses and grow jobs. I mean, when people come up to me even this morning at the local coffee shop and the lady said, “I wanted to get some new furniture outside, I haven't had the cash flow to do it, I am going to have a go”. I thought, that's music. That's great.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Why wouldn't you go to an early election considering results like that in the poll?

TREASURER:

Because our work is unfinished. We've just delivered our second Budget. It builds on our first and builds on all the other decisions we’ve made. Karl, it's not about elections and polls. It's about policy. You don't fight for 19 years to get to this position, as I have, and then just say, oh well, you know it's about the next poll.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The issue is though, you get a result like that and it fuels the fire for an early election. You’re ruling it out though?

TREASURER:

It's not my call, but I would say to you we've got work to do, we've got things to build. I want to see that infrastructure roll out around the country. The Prime Minister is very keen on the families initiative and childcare. We're also very keen obviously on seeing the benefits of that small business tax cut. In fact, I was saying to one of your make-up artists outside that she can go out and get a new make-up kit, she can invest in a car if it's associated with her work getting around. She wasn't fully aware of what we're doing. So, there's still much work to be done.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Was that a freelancer or someone employed by Nine.

TREASURER:

No not employed by Nine. At Nine they give you everything, cars, houses, boats, travel first class. I’ve heard about it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

That's Lisa [laughter]. But if the PM was to make a decision on this though, on an early election, would you support his decision?

TREASURER:

Well, I support all the Prime Minister’s decisions. That’s what you do, you support all David Gyngell’s decisions, I support all the Prime Minister’s decisions.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Alright, that’s true. When the Prime Minister said though, he told us last week after the Budget there was never any discussion about you being replaced as Treasurer, did you believe him?

TREASURER:

Look, Karl, this is belt way stuff. We're actually focused on doing what is right. We have a small business package that cuts taxes and gives people the incentive to go out and invest. A families package, an extra $3.5 billion on childcare to make it more accessible, more affordable. They're the things that matter to people, not the belt way stuff.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. Let's clear up some of the preamble so we can draw a line through it before the Budget. Double dipping, was it fraud or not?

TREASURER:

The fundamental is this; the Government provides a paid parental leaving scheme that gives up to $11,500 minimum wage over 18 weeks. Now, if an employer is going to offer an alternative scheme and in the case of the Federal Government there's a very good scheme for all our employees and the State Government’s, then you shouldn't be able to get both and that's the point we're making. Especially when the women of Australia, the mums of Australia have said to us emphatically they want us to focus on the first six years, not just the first six months. So, we're putting all our effort into childcare, making childcare more affordable and accessible and having a fairer paid parental leave scheme where it doesn't duplicate what private employers do.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You’re not going to call it double dipping though anymore?

TREASURER:

Well it is double dipping. I mean, if you can go into one and go into another that’s what it is. But, I want to emphasise that this is about ensuring that we can afford more childcare which is what parents want, they want more childcare more affordable.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Just on that, semantics [inaudible].

TREASURER:

It is semantics.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Is double dipping fraud?

TREASURER:

No. If you're going into one scheme and going into another scheme, then ultimately there's not going to be enough money for us to be able to afford to pay for childcare.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, is it fraud though?

TREASURER:

Well, if it complies with the law it's not. I mean these are the semantics, the word games that everyone is getting involved with. We're actually looking at the policy detail.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, but we can rule out at this point, you are happy with double dipping. Well not happy with it, but happy to call it double dipping…

TREASURER:

No these are words Karl, I’m not getting into…

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Because you know the difference.

TREASURER:

We can play word games. Don't get caught into the Canberra trap. Oh you know, this word, that word. Look at the fundamentals of the policy.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I don't think it's necessarily a Canberra trap, it’s people saying well hang on is it fraud or not? Is double dipping wrong? Yes it is. Is it fraud? No.

TREASURER:

If you comply with the law it’s not fraud, right. But what we're saying is we want to change the system so that you can't get a government - a taxpayer funded - because it's not government money it's taxpayer money. You can't get a taxpayer funded paid parental leave scheme if you are getting a more generous private sector scheme, or if you’re a government employee, a government scheme.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Let’s just play the Laurie Oakes grab once more.

[PLAYS CLIP]

LAURIE OAKES:

But this is basically fraud, isn't it, taking an allowance twice effectively? Who is doing it?

TREASURER:

Well, it is, in many cases it’s mostly people who go on parental leave that earn more than $90,000 a year. But there are people at various levels who have been claiming parental leave payments from taxpayers, as well as from their employers. Given that our own paid parental leave scheme is not proceeding, we want to make sure that the system is fairer and that’s exactly what we are doing.

[CLIP ENDS]

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, over to you.

TREASURER:

Well, I said it. Who is it? It is people who are going into one scheme and going into another scheme. And we're trying to ensure that ultimately we have enough money to be able to pay for more childcare.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, but it's not fraud. Okay, Troy Bramston writes in The Australian today, this is what he said; “Poor Hockey who promised a surplus in our first year and every year after that, has gone from talking about ending the age of entitlement to producing a Budget that expands it. His debt and deficit figures are alarming. The Government is responsible for it, no one else. But it is taxpayers who will be footing the bill due to failure of reform courage.” What do you think about that?

TREASURER:

Well, we still have a number of measures in place that are about making sure the Budget gets better over time. We're not walking away from them. We can't have bonus payments to the states for hospitals because that was unfunded. We can’t have bonus payments to the states for schools, because that was unfunded. Yet, we're still increasing both by six per cent in real terms over the next four years. We can't have massive increases in foreign aid, because that was unfunded, so we're not doing that. We still have higher education reforms on the table. We want to get them through.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You’re not going to get them through though?

TREASURER:

Well, we're going to persist with it because if we don't free up our higher education system Karl, then our children aren't going to have the best available education here in Australia. I mean, there are massive campuses being built in Asia – a quarter of a million students with the best academics. We’ve got to be able to compete into the future and that’s what I’m focused on.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It would make it a whole lot easier if you went to another election?

TREASURER:

Oh, we’re back to this again.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Do you lack the courage to go to the electorate?

TREASURER:

Oh come on. Mate, can I tell you, I just want to deliver the policies. Let's get on with it, let's give people the chance to get ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Righto.

TREASURER:

That is what we are focused on.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Good to talk to you Joe.

TREASURER:

Great to be here.