28 August 2015
Transcript - #2015187, 2015

Doorstop interview, Tasmania

BRETT WHITELEY:

Well it’s great to be here in Burnie, in Braddon, and it’s great to have Joe Hockey, the Treasurer of Australia, in this region with so much potential. We’re here today for the official opening of AJL, a brilliant new facility showing tremendous confidence in this region and this state. So it’s fantastic to have the Treasurer here, to hear the stories of good news. We had a group of businessmen last night in Devonport, the stories are more and more positive every time the Treasurer comes to visit. And I’m excited about the prospects. Yes we have challenges, there are plenty of challenges, but there’s good news stories on every front. It’s a pleasure to be here today and to have Joe Hockey in the electorate of Braddon.

TREASURER:

Well, thank you very much Brett. It’s great to be here in Burnie. Not long ago the major employer in this town closed its premises. Today, there’s a new building being built on the site, it’s now operating. The grandson, the son of someone who worked in the paper mill has now started up a business employing 70 people, 12 apprentices, and it is a sign of a rebirth of north west Tasmania. Over the last 24 hours we’ve heard lots of great stories from businesses. People who have forestry businesses that are back open for business, employing nine apprentices, two years ago they thought they’d have to close. Hearing of new salmon producing businesses in agriculture and of course, they raise with us, the credible need, for a new Free Trade Agreement with China. I want to say now is the time to get on with the Free Trade Agreement with China. It’s hugely important for this region of Tasmania. It’s hugely important for Australia. Nothing illustrates it better than dairy farmers, carrot producers, people producing salmon and a range of other agricultural goods, such as berries, who are saying getting rid of the tariffs in China is going to help our businesses to grow. The iron ore producers here that employ more than 500 people in the north west of Tasmania, say don’t bring back the Mining Tax, thank God you got rid of it. Others have said thank God you got rid of the Carbon Tax. So I say to the Labor Party, listen to sensible Labor such as Bob Hawke, Bob Carr, Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson. Ignore silly Labor which is Bill Shorten and the CMFEU and back the Free Trade Agreement with China because it means Australian jobs, it means Australian exports, it means Australian opportunities. This is hugely important for Tasmania - jobs, jobs, jobs. The Free Trade Agreement with China delivers that. And now it’s time for Bill Shorten to come clean. Labor is all over the place. Sensible Labor under Bob Hawke says, yes, you must sign. Sensible Labor with Bob Carr says you must sign. Silly Labor under Bill Shorten is going to cost Australian jobs, even right here in north west Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:

Has China contacted the Government about Labor, about their possible opposition to the deal?

TREASURER:

Well certainly in discussions with me and Minister Robb, previously, questions have been raised about Labor’s position. The reason they’re raising these questions is because they’re perplexed. They thought that the Labor Party actually supported free trade and that the Labor Party actually supported the opportunities associated with freer and more open trade with China. So the Chinese are perplexed at the Labor Party’s position because, the labour agreements, the workforce agreements under the Free Trade Agreement with China are the same as what the Labor Party in government supported. But unfortunately, the Labor Party now is just playing silly games and it’s going to cost Australians their jobs.

JOURNALIST:

How recently did China raise those concerns, questions?

TREASURER:

Well, they raised them with me in the last two weeks.

JOURNALIST:

You’ve talked about tax cuts, how soon into a second term will people actually get those?

TREASURER:

We are determined to deliver have-a-go tax cuts to the Australian people. We want Australia to grow, we want the economy to grow. We want more jobs. Now, we’ve got to make it happen. We’re going to have to make prudent savings. We’re going to have to ensure that wherever we have tax cuts, they are targeted to those who are prepared to innovate and have a go. And of course, when it comes to bracket creep, when it comes to people being pushed into higher and higher tax brackets it comes at an economic cost to Australia, but most significantly it hurts those on lower and middle incomes most. And what we’ve got to do is give people on lower and middle incomes the chance to get ahead and that’s exactly what the Abbott Government is focussed on.

JOURNALIST:

So would people in all tax brackets get a cut?

TREASURER:

We are working through the issues at the moment. The starting point is, there has to be general agreement to reduce personal income tax rates to give people incentive to work. I haven’t heard anything from the Labor Party on this. I haven’t heard anything from the Greens on this. I haven’t heard anything from the Independents on this. So I would say to the other parties in Parliament, join with us on this tax journey, to provide incentives and support for people to earn more money, particularly those on low and middle incomes.

JOURNALIST:

Why do you think Australia should be a republic?

TREASURER:

Well, I’ve long held that view.

JOURNALIST:

Why do you hold that view?

TREASURER:

I’ve always held that view. It’s always been my view, that Australia is a nation that should control its own destiny. Frankly, it’s not something that is at this point of time, occupying my time.

JOURNALIST:

Australia Post is putting forward a bid to increase stamps to $1.00. Do you see this as the end of Australia Post?

TREASURER:

No, not at all. I actually see it as about the survival of Australia Post. Increasingly people are communicating by phone, by text message, by email, this is about the survival of Australia Post so it can provide the sort of safety net service that people would expect associated with mail delivery.

JOURNALIST:

So it’s not a bid to want to privatise it?

TREASURER:

No. No. Australia Post is not going to be privatised and I doubt it’s privatisable.

JOURNALIST:

What are the consequences if you lost the Free Trade Agreement?

TREASURER:

It would cost jobs if we lost the Free Trade Agreement. Importantly, it would cost Australian jobs and importantly it would close down the opportunities for Tasmanian businesses. I can't emphasise enough, how many business people in the last 24 hours - and we would have met at least 100 in this local region - how many of them said that they now have more opportunities as a result of the Free Trade Agreement with China. If the Chinese take their taxes off our produce, it means we can get more product over there and we can get it over there cheaper. This is a hugely important initiative for Australia and it's hugely important for north west Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:

You say a republic's not at the forefront of your mind. Why lead this group, if it’s not an issue?

TREASURER:

I've said everything I can about it. Do you have anything on the economy?

JOURNALIST:

Jacqui Lambie has supported the fast cat feasibility study, what are your thoughts on it?

TREASURER:

I would say to Jacqui Lambie, the starting point is to support the Australian Building and Construction Commission which gets the militant CFMEU under control and and construction enterprises and CEOs of builders last night said to me, Jacqui Lambie gave a commitment she would support the introduction of a strong watchdog for the building industry and she went to Canberra and voted against it. Now, those builders in Tasmania who got the commitment from Jacqui Lambie that she would support a strong watchdog on the beat for the building industry are perplexed that she then went to Canberra and voted against it. The universities here have said to me they are perplexed that Jacqui Lambie says she's supporting higher education, she wants to see more facilities built in Tasmania and then she goes to Canberra and votes against the higher education reforms that will deliver those sorts of projects in Tasmania. Jacqui Lambie can't walk both sides of the street. Either she backs jobs in Tasmania and backs the initiatives of the Government on the Australian Building and Construction Commission, on higher education reforms, or she is opposed to more jobs in Tasmania. You can't sit on the fence on this, because her own community has said to me today, they are perplexed about the way she is voting in the Senate.

JOURNALIST:

What your thoughts about the fast cat feasibility study?

TREASURER:

I haven't got any particular comment on the fast cat, other than to say this, this Government as a result of the efforts of Brett and others that has put more than $200 million into things like freight equalisation, $400 million into the Midland Highway upgrade, $60 million into the new irrigation facilities here in north west Tasmania, and we just visited a business that is going to supply the pipes for that irrigation. They're the things that deliver real jobs and we are focussed on delivering real jobs. Last one.

JOURNALIST:

Have the Tasmanian Liberals, including Senator Abetz, let down their Victorian counterparts by not asking enough questions about [inaudible] land tax spending?

TREASURER:

I'm sorry, that's not core to the Treasurer's job.