22 May 2015
Transcript - #2015135, 2015

Doorstop interview, Brisbane

TREASURER:

Thank you very much Jane, and to Sav and the family, I mean this is exactly the sort of business I was speaking about in my Budget speech. Mum and dad, kids involved in the business and if someone is an employee and they’re not related, they become family at any rate. Sav’s a great story because he wants to expand his business, he’s had plans as he said, to expand next door and now as a result of what we’ve done in the Budget, with accelerated depreciation up to $20,000 per item, you can buy the equipment and [inaudible] that off the potential expansion of his business. So whether it’s coffee shops, whether it’s start-up IT businesses, small manufacturers, services providers, whatever the case, we’re asking people to have a go. We’re inviting them to have a go. We’re giving them the incentives to have a go. Whether they be businesses or families, and our larger childcare package, involving an extra $3.5 billion gives parents more affordable, more flexible, more accessible childcare. The reception I’ve received around Australia this week has been exceptional. There’s a real air of optimism across the economy. There’ll always be the odd doomsayer here and there, but it is quite clear in my mind that there is real momentum building in the Australian economy. That’s good for business, but it’s also importantly very good for jobs. I’d just say one further thing. I met with the Treasurer of Queensland yesterday and I said to him quite bluntly, Queensland is not in recession. He has got his facts wrong. There’s certainly no evidence of that from a national level, and he should be very careful about using that word. I’d write it down to inexperience and clumsiness but the bottom line is, we want Queensland to grow. We are putting $8.5 billion into infrastructure in Queensland. Importantly, we’re going to do everything we can to give Queenslanders a fair go. A fair go on everything except State of Origin next week, so there you go. I’m sorry about that [laughter]. Had to save myself somewhere there. Okay, so over to you guys.

JOURNALIST:

You were asked a few questions about [inaudible] taxi drivers last night and you talked about having to level the playing field, you were obviously talking about taxation, but the State Government is looking at the regulations around it, especially the [inaudible] or what not. Is it time to get rid of those regulations [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

Well, that is something for the Queensland Government to think about, but it’s something we have to think about as well. For example, we charge licensing fees to free to air television stations, but the free to air television stations are under increasing competition from everything from YouTube, to Netflix, to a range of others that are entering the market that don’t have to pay license fees. This is the changing nature of the world and so when it comes to taxis, a lot of people have invested a lot of money in their own small businesses. Taxi drivers work incredibly hard and this is an issue that needs to be sorted out by State Governments right around Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, when you had that chat with the Queensland Treasurer, he’s actually saying that public has to invest in building transport because the Commonwealth Government isn’t giving enough money to the states, what’s your response to that?

TREASURER:

Well, I pointed out and he readily recognised that the Federal Government is not involved in delivering train lines because public transport is in fact exclusively the domain of the State Governments. Having said that, under the asset recycling scheme in the ACT under a Labor Government, and in Victoria under a Labor Government, the proceeds have been directed from asset sales into public transport and the Commonwealth Government is contributing towards that. That’s part of the rules of the asset recycling scheme. Now the Queensland Government said they’re not going to access that scheme, that’s their call, that’s their call. But we have agreements with all the rest of the states and we are putting money into public transport. Having said that, we’re still putting $8.5 billion into infrastructure in Queensland from the Gateway Motorway North, right through to the Bruce Highway, and of course the massive opportunity associated with the $5 billion Northern Australia infrastructure facility which I talked about at length in North Queensland yesterday.

JOURNALIST:

There was an election result in January that to some extent was a referendum on asset sales, so they can’t go down that path. How else can you extend the conversation with them without going that way?

TREASURER:

Well, what we’ve said is there is still the opportunity for the Northern Australia infrastructure facility that obviously only two states and one territory can access, because of Northern Australia being partly in Queensland. So, there’s a $5 billion facility there that obviously New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia aren’t able to access. So, there’s swings and roundabouts in this. Having said that, there’s no reason why you can’t form public-private partnerships going forward. We are prepared to work constructively with the State Government. But they’ve also got to be prepared to lay down the political gun, stop playing politics, and focus on actually delivering real constructive outcomes for the people of Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, yesterday you released a statement saying that there would be no iron ore inquiry at this time. Why did you wait so long to end the speculation on this? Labor is saying it’s caused long-term damage to the industry, is that the case?

TREASURER:

Look, I don’t think Labor has any right to comment on anything to do with mining and any damage to mining given what happened to the mining tax and their treatment there. We have been saying all along that we would carefully consult with stakeholders. That’s what I did, I only finished those consultations yesterday afternoon. There have been many moving parts and there will continue to be many moving parts in the iron ore story and a lot of those parts are being moved offshore. We saw during the week the Chinese form a deeper relationship with Vale in Brazil, that has an implication for us because obviously, we send overseas at least 550 million tonnes a year. Supply 60 per cent of the seaborne iron ore of the world and frankly, as I said, there is no need for an inquiry at this time.

JOURNALIST:

Why did you use the words at this time?

TREASURER:

Well, because there is obviously – Senator Xenophon is determined to continue to move with his proposal for an iron ore inquiry. I notice that Bill Shorten never ruled out supporting Nick Xenophon’s inquiry. He’s been using weasel words Bill Shorten, but he uses them on everything, weasel words. Having said that, he didn’t rule it out at all, he just plays commentary games. So now it’s time for Bill Shorten to declare what his position is. From our perspective, we see no need for an inquiry at this time.

JOURNALIST:

It’s only been about a week since the Federal Budget was handed down and already there’s been a back down on health, on the increases to subsidised medications. If it’s going to blow a $1 billion hole in the Budget, how are you going to plug that hole? Did you consult with the Health Minister?

TREASURER:

Well of course I’ve been speaking to the Health Minister. The fact is, if one savings proposal isn’t going to pass through the Senate, then another needs to be found, because we are increasing our funding for new pharmaceuticals by $1.6 billion in this Budget. Now you’ve got to find the money from somewhere, you can’t put it on the Labor Party’s credit card, you actually have to find savings to offset new spending. If the Minister is unable to achieve the saving identified last year, then the Minister has the responsibility to find new savings, that help to pay for the new spending. That’s the rule in our Budget. If a Minister is unable to achieve a saving in one area, they have to find a saving in another before we undertake further new spending.

JOURNALIST:

How careful do we need to be to think about tinkering with the superannuation system, the sort of thing Labor is proposing?

TREASURER:

Well, there is a very clear difference between ourselves and the Labor Party. The Labor Party wants to introduce new taxes on superannuation. We are opposed to new taxes on superannuation, full stop. Superannuants are in a period of very low returns compared to what they might have expected previously, and that’s because interest rates around the world are much lower than would have been previously expected. So now is not the time to hit them with a new tax. Whenever Labor introduces a new tax it’s always the thin edge of the wedge, it keeps increasing and increasing. So let the Australian people be very clear about this, the Labor Party wants to introduce new taxes and increase taxes on superannuation. The Coalition will not touch superannuation and we are making the pension system fairer, so that those people with less assets get a full pension and importantly, those people that have the capacity to pay their way do, without losing the equivalent of pension card entitlements.

JOURNALIST:

Just on licensing fees, does there need to be a wholesale look by governments everywhere to see [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

Well there’ll be a competitive advantage. A lot of these areas in licenses are actually regulated by State Governments, so there would be a first mover advantage by any state that recognises the changing nature of commerce today and starts to give back small businesses some of the license fees that they’ve been collecting off them over the years.

JOURNALIST:

Just on road congestion, one of the complaints was the infrastructure spend in this Budget. Have you missed an opportunity here to deal with the problem it’s going to cause us long-term?

TREASURER:

Not at all. In fact, we committed $50 billion to new infrastructure in last year’s Budget. That $50 billion is a record spend. In fact, in last year’s Budget we announced that our investment would create the equivalent of eight new Snowy Mountain schemes over the next decade across Australia in new additional infrastructure, a record amount. So, this Budget actually helps to continue to fund that record investment in infrastructure. The Gateway Motorway North, the Bruce Highway. In New South Wales, WestConnex. In Adelaide, North South Road, and a range of other initiatives. Perth [inaudible], etcetera, etcetera. The only state to reject it is Victoria, which tore up a contact on East West and spent a billion dollars compensating for a road that’s not being built. Now you’ve got a Victorian Government that actually doesn’t know what to do. So we actually had a plan, we signed an agreement with the Victorian Government. They’ve now reneged on it, now they’ve got a congestion and they’re a billion dollars out of pocket, so it doesn’t work too well. So our plan, which is being rolled out, which is being delivered, is delivering real outcomes, real outcomes. I saw Gateway Motorway North last night, and I was impressed that the work’s already underway.

JOURNALIST:

So you’re satisfied that the Government is doing enough to tackle road congestion?

TREASURER:

We’re doing plenty. Now it’s time – look State Governments are running surpluses apparently. We’re not running a surplus, so it’s time for State Governments who have primary responsibility for infrastructure, to step up to the plate with the infrastructure Prime Minister. Thanks very much guys.