5 June 2015
Transcript - #2015142, 2015

Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM:

Now you have a bit of a link here with the Alto Group don’t you?

TREASURER:

I can see Anthony Altomonte over there, he’s – I went to school with Anthony and they’ve been great contributors to the North Shore for a very long period of time. In fact, in fact a long time ago I think my mother bought a Charger from one of the predecessors to…

BEN FORDHAM:

A Charger?

TREASURER:

A Charger. I think Alto Ford was across the road and she was thinking about a car and she bought a Charger…

BEN FORDHAM:

Did he give you a discount considering you were old school mates?

TREASURER:

You wouldn’t remember a Charger…

BEN FORDHAM:

No I thought you meant an iPhone charger…

TREASURER:

Charger, Chargers are like – they came out in 19 – anyone remember Chargers?

[audience responds]

TREASURER:

Yeah they do. Yeah that’s right, the big V, they had the big V, that’s right.

BEN FORDHAM:

Did he give you a discount considering he was a schoolmate?

TREASURER:

No, no.

BEN FORDHAM:

No discount?

TREASURER:

No discounts.

BEN FORDHAM:

Now today businessman Alan Bond has passed away following open heart surgery, three days ago he underwent that operation. I just took you through some of the feedback from his family. As the Treasurer of the country, what do you have to say about the life and times of Alan Bond?

TREASURER:

Well, Alan Bond was a colourful character. It was a period of great ambition in Australian capitalism at that time but geez, there was reputational damage to Australia from a lot of people like Mr Bond and Christopher Skase and others. Frankly, he left a number of positive legacies, but there were a lot of tears along the way.

BEN FORDHAM:

That’s a difficult thing to weigh up on a day like this isn’t it? Because when someone passes away we don’t really like to focus on the negatives.

TREASURER:

Well, true, and look when you think about Bond University and a number of legacies including winning the America’s Cup. But geez, a lot of people lost a lot of money as his businesses collapsed and he did go to jail.

BEN FORDHAM:

Did you meet him?

TREASURER:

You know I actually did Ben. I met him as a young solicitor. I remember going to his office. I was working for a law firm that was acting for Citibank. I won’t tell you the exact circumstances but I went to his office. He was incredibly polite, I was very young at the time and he showed me around his office and he didn’t have to do that for a young, you know, wanna be.

BEN FORDHAM:

What he did with the America’s Cup was extraordinary though wasn’t it?

TREASURER:

What an amazing day. You know I was actually – on that day very day we won, everyone will remember that day. But on that very day that we won the America’s Cup I was doing my final test to go into the Royal Military College Duntroon. Because I wanted to go into the Army…

BEN FORDHAM:

You?

TREASURER:

[laughter] Yes. I know that surprises you but I was actually, I wanted to go into the Army and the final test was that day. Immediately when we won the America’s Cup early in the morning, everyone had been standing around looking at television sets in the windows of David Jones and others and I remember we went to Victoria Barracks for our final test, and there was this, already the rumour was the Americans wouldn’t hand over the Cup. I remember the Regimental Sergeant Major saying if we don’t get that bloody cup we’ll invade America to get it!...

BEN FORDHAM:

So we should [laughter]. Now there’s been a very bizarre comment made today, are you across the comments that have been made by the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young today about one of her visits to a detention centre? The detention centre in Nauru?

TREASURER:

Look I did hear about…

BEN FORDHAM:

I might be able to play some of it for you I believe we’ve got some of it here, I’ll just set it up. There was a visit to Nauru in 2013 by Sarah Hanson-Young and she has said today that she was spied on while she was there. Let’s just have a listen to the Greens Senator.

[PLAYS CLIP]

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG:

The Prime Minister said that I was being taken care of. The Prime Minister, the Minister for women indeed. If he doesn’t understand that women don’t like to be watched. My gosh. It is just creepy, frankly it is creepy. Women don’t like to be watched and the fact that the Prime Minister, the Minister for women, doesn’t seem to understand that, beggars belief. I’d like to ask the Prime Minister how he would feel if his wife was being watched. How he would feel if his daughters were being watched going about their work. It is simply not okay.

[CLIP ENDS]

BEN FORDHAM:

What do you make of that?

TREASURER:

I don’t know. I don’t know the circumstances in which she was being watched, I’m not familiar with this…

BEN FORDHAM:

It’s bizarre isn’t it? If you’re going into a detention centre I would presume whether it’s the Prime Minister’s wife or daughter or anyone else…

TREASURER:

Or the Prime Minister…

BEN FORDHAM:

…a secure environment like that, chances are you are going to be watched and watched very closely.

TREASURER:

I don’t know what she was suggesting. I can guess at what she was suggesting but I don’t know so I can’t safely comment on this.

BEN FORDHAM:

She thinks it’s creepy that she was observed while she was in the detention centre. Do you agree?

TREASURER:

The way she was talking it was suggesting a different moment, I don’t understand what she was talking about. I don’t quite get it.

BEN FORDHAM:

You’ve had some encouraging news this week, some positive GDP figures out this week, so the economy grew at 0.9 of a per cent in the March quarter compared with the previous three months, which was above expectations, and a few other things pointing in the right direction. How do you feel about the way things are trucking along?

TREASURER:

Well, there’s a very positive feel in many parts of Australia at the moment, that’s very encouraging. The first three months of this year we had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We’ve got to get out of the negative commentary and focus on the fact that we are doing quite well. We can do better, there’s no doubt about that. But, you know, anecdotally and also from the evidence before us, the economy is lifting, and that’s really good for jobs and job creation. It’s really good for the prosperity of every day Australians.

BEN FORDHAM:

Credit card interest rates have been in the headlines this week. We’ve got a historic low of 2 per cent when it comes to the official cash rate on mortgages. But the gap between the interest rate paid on credit cards and on mortgages is extraordinary. It’s the widest it’s been since 1990. You’re the Treasurer of Australia, anything you can do about it or not?

TREASURER:

Well, there is already a lot of competition in credit cards. I mean there’s more than 100 different types of credit cards and they seem to have all sorts of different products attached to them. Some have long interest free periods, others have immediate interest. Some have points attached to them, and you can get everything…

BEN FORDHAM:

Why is the gap so high?

TREASURER:

Well, it is a good question and what I’ve done is I’ve asked the Treasury to provide me with further information on it. They’re going to consult with the Reserve Bank and with the prudential regulator and ASIC as well, to find out more information. But, we want to make sure there is proper competition in this area of banking.

BEN FORDHAM:

You’ve done a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to convincing the right people that we needed a second airport for Sydney at Badgerys Creek. The legislation for Badgerys Creek airport was entered into Parliament this week. So that means it’s on right? Even though we’re hearing some of these reports about people who are renting nearby, or who have properties nearby, and they’re not going to leave, they’re going to hang around like the Kerrigans did on The Castle? Nothing that can happen? I mean there’s nothing that can be done for those people…

TREASURER:

Well, don’t forget The Castle they did have an airport there, so…

BEN FORDHAM:

The airport was there already, it’s true, it’s true…

TREASURER:

[inaudible]. But, no this is not going to the pool room this one. This one is actually going to be built and we’ve been in fact in discussions. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Transport and myself this week, about getting on with the construction at Badgerys Creek. There’s a huge amount of earthworks that need to be done…

BEN FORDHAM:

You’ve pushed hard for this project haven’t you because you see it as vitally important?

TREASURER:

It is vitally important. Not just for Western Sydney where you’ve got two million people effectively without an airport. You wouldn’t allow a city of two million to be without an airport. But, it is going to be a massive job creator, a massive job creator for Western Sydney and for Australia. Frankly, the people in the community around Badgerys Creek are very excited. I’ve been out there now on a number of occasions. You’re hearing that they’re upgrading their plans for hotels and accommodation in the area and there’s innovation parks. Local businesspeople are really chuffed about this, they can see the potential.

BEN FORDHAM:

It’s just an argument between you and the Prime Minister over what it will be called?

TREASURER:

Oh, the Prime Minister and I never argue. You and I have a preference for Lawrence Hargrave…

BEN FORDHAM:

Yeah, that’s true.

TREASURER:

You and I should continue to be advocates for that great aviator. Given this is the – also the anniversary of Gallipoli. An interesting bit of important historical trivia is Lawrence Hargrave who had helped, he had been instrumental, he developed [inaudible] down in Stanwell Park, you remember that? And curvatures of wings and so on. Now, he was so distressed about news that the Germans were developing planes to use in World War One that he actually enlisted himself, tried to enlist, to go to World War One. His son, his only son died at Gallipoli and he was devastated by – not only the fact that his invention had been used to create a machine for war, but his own son had died at Gallipoli and he was…

BEN FORDHAM:

Incredible person.

TREASURER:

He is not lauded as he should be as the great pioneer of aviation from Australia.

BEN FORDHAM:

Let me bring you to Cabinet leaks. Because we know that has been an issue in the last week or so over the citizenship legislation. It’s reported that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce and Kevin Andrews raised concerns about sole-nationals and the measures surrounding them in Cabinet. A number of those Ministers have come out denying it was them who leaked. Malcolm Turnbull says it wasn’t me, Julie Bishop says it wasn’t me, Chistopher Pyne told me on air this week it wasn’t me. Was it you?

TREASURER:

[laughter] Well here’s a big confession Ben. Can I confess, being late on a…

BEN FORDHAM:

Hang on, we’ve just got the camera rolling, the camera’s rolling…

TREASURER:

Being late on a Friday afternoon. When no one’s listening?

BEN FORDHAM:

No, no, yeah go.

TREASURER:

I wasn’t at the meeting [laughter]. So I’m sorry…

BEN FORDHAM:

So who was it?

TREASURER:

Well, look I don’t know and I don’t really care from my perspective what matters is we have a policy position where if you’re a dual-national and you fight against Australia you can be stripped of your citizenship. Now, that’s exactly the right place to be and we’re putting it out to the community for consultation as to whether someone who has Australian citizenship but has an entitlement to another citizenship should also be stripped of their Australian citizenship.

BEN FORDHAM:

You’ve got to get going, thank you so much for coming in, have a great weekend.

TREASURER:

Well, you too Ben.