10 September 2015
Transcript - #2015196, 2015

Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra

JOURNALIST:

Mr Hockey, it’s estimated that our military and humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria will cost about $1 billion, can we afford that?

TREASURER:

Well there’s always a cost to these things but I think Australians accept that accepting refugees in this sort of situation, and spending the money to protect ourselves and others is money well spent.

JOURNALIST:

Is it coming at the expense of anything else?

TREASURER:

No, we will fully account for the cost in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

JOURNALIST:

Considering the unemployment rate, are you worried that some of these refugees might struggle to find work, and what industries do you expect them to go into?

TREASURER:

Well Australia each year accepts a number of refugees, more than 13,000 each year. There is a cost associated with training and housing, English language skills and so on. But that’s what we do as a compassionate nation, and we should do that, we’ve always done that as a compassionate nation. I mean I’m the son of a refugee and this is what we do as a compassionate nation and I hope to God we always do it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Hockey, can you give us a breakdown – I know Amelia mentioned $1 billion for the overall commitment. So, is that $700 million?

TREASURER:

Well, I haven’t seen that figure. The military operations are always on a no-win-no-loss basis and we’re informed that there won’t necessarily be additional sorties and we don’t at this stage envisage dramatically increasing our presence in the region. So, as for current expectations about the costs of military action, they’re not much different at all to our current costs…

JOURNALIST:

What is that current cost?

TREASURER:

Well, it depends on the number of ordnance that are dropped during the course of…

JOURNALIST:

Because it’s the same number of planes?

TREASURER:

Same number of planes, expected to be similar number of sorties. In relation to ordnance dropped, expected to be similar as well. In relation to the refugees – the costs depend ultimately on the speed in which we can process applications. There are some estimates that we could do it in a two year period. There are some estimates that it may take a little bit longer. But around $600 to $700 million is the cost associated with that, depending on the timeframe. Importantly, we need to get teams over there to assess applications and go through the proper process, and then there’s the resettlement process in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

We’re heading towards an unemployment rate by the looks of 6.5 per cent. Regardless of how you spin it, that’s not very good is it?

TREASURER:

We want to get the unemployment level down and in the Budget in May, we forecast that it would peak around six and a half per cent. There will be month-to-month variations in the unemployment rate and particularly given that we have introduced a Jobactive scheme that has seen about 40,000 people move from being inactive and on welfare to becoming active – which increases the participation rate as we saw last month. It can create some volatility in the data, but the bottom line is the Australian economy is creating between four and eight times the amount of jobs each month than it did when we came to Government.

JOURNALIST:

Does the figure give anymore potency to Labor’s anti-China FTA argument?

TREASURER:

No, because the China Free Trade Agreement is going to create jobs. New jobs in Australia, new prosperity for Australia. If we have privileged access to the fastest growing economy in our region, if we have privileged access to the second biggest economy in the world, it is a no brainer for Australia. Bear this in mind; for every dollar we spend on Chinese products in Australia, they spend two dollars on our products in China. So every dollar we increase trade with China is to our benefit by a ratio of two to one. That sounds like a damn good business deal for Australia. Thanks very much.