19 July 2015
Transcript - #2015159, 2015

Interview with Andrew Bolt, the Bolt Report

ANDREW BOLT:

On Wednesday the Prime Minister will go on a two day retreat with State and Territory leaders to try to nut out a tax system that won’t hold us back. Joining me is the Treasurer Joe Hockey, thanks for your time. If those leaders agree on one thing this week, what are you hoping it will be?

TREASURER:

Well, I hope that after more than 100 years we can streamline the Federation, stop the duplication of activity between the Commonwealth and State Governments. If we can have a more efficient Federation, if we can have a more efficient public sector, then that reduces the tax burden and makes us more competitive – particularly when we compete with the rest of the world.

ANDREW BOLT:

So you’re hoping coming out of the Summit on Thursday they’re saying what – that the Commonwealth will no longer fund anything to do with hospitals?

TREASURER:

That’ll be a matter for the leaders. But again, there are many areas where there is duplication and sometimes confusion. We need to work together with the States, there’s no doubt about that. The States have more of a coal face interaction with the community than does the Federal Government in Canberra, but Andrew it’s hugely important that we have a more efficient Federation and also we get more efficient taxes in place between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth raises most of the tax revenue and hands it to the States. The States will be more precious about the taxpayer money they receive if they go through the hard politics of having to raise the money in the first place.

ANDREW BOLT:

Are you embarrassed that a Liberal Government has the top tax rate of 49 cents in the dollar?

TREASURER:

Well, it’s a temporary measure at 49. It has been higher in the past, but it’s still way too high. The fact is, we are seeing more and more Australians….in fact, the Australian average worker on average weekly income will go into the second-highest tax bracket, as you pointed out earlier, in the not too distant future. That becomes a disincentive for people to earn more money. That’s unacceptable in the modern economy.

ANDREW BOLT:

When are you going to do something about it?

TREASURER:

The first step has been to try to reduce Government expenditure. We have come some way, we still have a long way to go. The second aspect is to have a fair dinkum national discussion about the future of the taxation system. We’ve already released our first part of that - the Tax Discussion Paper. We got more than 800 responses, we’ve been carefully going through them, and following the meeting of the Prime Minister and Leaders this week, we will have more to say about taxation reform. But it’s absolutely essential. You just have to look at what’s happened in Greece to realise that you cannot stop undertaking reform. You can’t stop responding to the changing global economy. And, reform of our tax system is one of the many areas that is essential if we are going to undertake the reform necessary.

ANDREW BOLT:

Suggestions, White Papers, submissions, this and that…49 cents in a dollar. A guy or a woman on average weekly wages, they’re going to pay the second-highest rate. Is there any hope of you guys actually cutting marginal rates before the next election? 

TREASURER:

Well, not before the next election, but certainly we’ll be taking a proposal to the Australian people at the next election.

ANDREW BOLT:

There’ll be tax cuts promised at the next election?

TREASURER:

That’s what we’re aiming for. Bear in mind, we have already abolished the Carbon Tax, we have abolished the Mining Tax. We inherited 96 announced but unlegislated tax initiatives. We wiped most of those and said they’re irrelevant. Today we are collecting less tax than would have been collected if Labor were re-elected at the last election.

ANDREW BOLT:

They’re still pretty high. Listen, in your speech this week, on tax reform, in the questions afterwards you said that in 30 years time we might not even have a GST. What was that about?

TREASURER:

Well the economy is changing rapidly and you look at some of the biggest companies that have a role in our lives and increasingly in the lives of younger Australians - companies like Facebook, or Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba. These are companies that weren’t around 20 years ago, but are now the biggest players in the world in their areas of endeavour – and they are all based overseas. Many of them haven’t even got a home base, if you like. So they are undermining our tax base, and what we’ve got to do is work with the rest of the world to ensure these companies charge the proper rates of tax and pay the proper rates of tax. That’s going to be increasingly difficult in an Internet-based global economy.

ANDREW BOLT:

I want to ask you more about tax reform, but let’s be honest. Bronwyn Bishop has sucked the whole oxygen from the Government for the last week. She’ll probably do it for another week, another two weeks, over these stupid expenses of hers. She slugged taxpayers, I can’t believe this, $5,000 to fly a helicopter from Melbourne to a Liberal fundraiser near Geelong – just 90 minutes away by road. This was a Liberal fundraiser, nothing to do with business. She should not have claimed it, but she yesterday said, oh no because I spoke about Parliament, I was entitled. She has given the money back, sure, she said it was too much. But, mate, she’s not entitled to claim for Liberal fundraisers is she?    

TREASURER:

Well, Andrew, obviously she’s recognised that it’s an error of judgement. She has repaid the money. She has paid a fine. 

ANDREW BOLT:

I said she’s repaid it. Even though, her stupid insistence that it’s a Liberal fundraiser and there’s two more that she’s gone to, even though it’s a Liberal fundraiser she is entitled to claim for it. False or not? 

TREASURER:

Well, my understanding is that you need to be doing your duties as a Member of Parliament. Now, the Speaker has a privileged position. As Speaker of the Parliament, the entitlements that she has need to comply with all the rules and guidelines. The Department of Finance is investigating it.

ANDREW BOLT:

You know it’s red hot don’t you? Are you trying to tell me that you, Joe Hockey, that you would charge taxpayers for expenses going to and from a Liberal fundraiser? Would you or wouldn’t you?

TREASURER:

Well, Andrew, Members of Parliament have a job to do and they should do their job. That’s the bottom line.

ANDREW BOLT:

Do you charge to go to Liberal fundraisers?

TREASURER:

Well, we all raise money for our political parties. We all have a duty to raise money as a Member for Parliament.

ANDREW BOLT:

I want to know. Is her behaviour of charging to go on Liberal Party business, charging that to the taxpayers, common among her colleagues? Do you do it?

TREASURER:

Well, no, I haven’t heard of anyone who has taken a helicopter to a fundraising event. I am saying Andrew to you this. There are rules that have been laid down, bipartisan rules, and there’s a fine in place. There’s a fine in place and Bronwyn Bishop has paid the fine. Quite frankly, what you said earlier is absolutely right. This has sucked up too much oxygen for the nation over the last few days. We need to get on with the issues that matter to people, such as job security, economic security and national security. That’s what I’m doing. You and I, Andrew, are falling into that trap.

ANDREW BOLT:

It is not a trap because the public are red hot about politicians taking from them for something that should be coming out of their own pocket. Listen, to your credit you were the first Minister to call her out, saying it’s a bad look. Bronwyn Bishop had the hide to have a go at you yesterday. Out of order, right?

TREASURER:

Well, she recognised what she did was an error of judgement, paid the money and is co-operating with the Department of Finance. That’s all happened since I had that interview with 2UE. 

ANDREW BOLT:

You were right and she was right out of line. Joe Hockey, thank you so much for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Andrew, thank you.