21 August 2015
Transcript - #2015174, 2015

Doorstop interview, Canberra

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] the GST threshold?

TREASURER:

I had very constructive discussions with the state treasurers last night. Clearly, we want to make sure that there is integrity in the tax system. If it is agreed today that GST should be applied to all online purchases, then that is a great outcome for Australian workers and Australian businesses.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that the RAAF should be involved in bombing raids over Syria?

TREASURER:

Look, I’m a member of the National Security Committee. We have a process with dealing with these sorts of requests from our allies, that’ll be properly considered. But, look, our enemies see no borders over the Middle East. ISIL sees no borders and we have an obligation to do whatever we can to stop the evil that they’re perpetrating.

JOURNALIST:

The US has made a formal request now. Do your comments indicate that you are, sort of, disposed to…

TREASURER:

I won’t pre-empt what’s discussed in the National Security Committee.

JOURNALIST:

Gladys Berejiklian writes today that a five point hike in the GST would be a win-win. What’s your response to that?

TREASURER:

Well, every treasurer is entitled to put forward a proposal. We will have a very, very detailed discussion. And it’s part of an ongoing journey for tax reform. I know everyone’s impatient for an outcome or a proposal, but I think it’s hugely important that all of the impact of possible tax changes, both at a federal and state level, are properly considered and thought through and that’s what we’ll do today.

JOURNALIST:

You say you’re a supporter of – or you think it’s very important to get the compensation right if you make changes to the GST. Victoria argues that the compensation would eat so much of the revenue from a five percentage increase in the GST that it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Have they got a point?

TREASURER:

Well, other states such as Victoria are proposing an increase in the Medicare levy and that has a very significant impact on people over $20,000 of income each year, and there would need to be compensation in one form or another for them as well. So, this is why you’ve got to think carefully about the proposals and the interaction of one tax with another. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re ready for it.

JOURNALIST:

Why shouldn’t taxpayers just see this as a cash grab today?

TREASURER:

Well, I’m at pains to emphasise that you don’t simply increase taxes with a purpose of just spending more money. You’ve got to get the mix right. You’ve got to get the economic outcome right. We’ve got to prepare our tax system for a 21st Century economy. I’m very confident we can get the balance right.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the GST was politically almost untouchable a short time ago, nobody could even talk about an increase in it. How far have we come do you think in terms of opening the minds of decision makers that this is politically achievable? Are we a lot closer?

TREASURER:

Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the reality check of the 21st Century economy is hitting state treasurers, it’s hitting us and others who are sensible about tax reform. You know, the worst thing that we could do is lock in ever increasing government spending and not leave a plan to pay for it. And that’s what’s happened over the last few years. What we’ve got to do is make sure that we can afford our future - and having a fairer and simpler taxation system is going to help us to leave a legacy for our children which ensures that they can pay for the quality of life that we want them to have.

JOURNALIST:

Just given treasurers have around the country seemed to have come to the same conclusion - that they need more money and it is politically difficult. Do you expect that there might be some sort of agreement before the federal election next year?

TREASURER:

We’ll see.

JOURNALIST:

Alexis Tsipras has resigned - what impact is that likely to have in relation to Europe, and in Australia?

TREASURER:

Well, it is certainly the case that the Greeks are paying a very heavy price for not undertaking the reforms that were necessary for their economy to grow, over the last few years. Now, if we need to be reminded daily of the failure to undertake the hard decisions when in government, look no further than modern Greece, where the government over many years, failed to make difficult decisions and as a result we have a country in chaos. The Europeans are standing by Greece and its economy, but I’m sure that their tolerance levels will not last forever.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think there’s an alleged appearance of bias with Dyson Heydon continuing as the Royal Commissioner?

TREASURER:

Look, that’s going to be decided in the Royal Commission over the next few days and if anyone has a problem with it, then they can appeal it to the Federal Court. Thanks very much.