14 September 2015
Transcript - #2015200, 2015

Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will Malcolm Turnbull clear the air, put up or shut up?

TREASURER:

Neil, I’m going to disappoint you and not engage in commentary on commentary. I’m getting on with the job of helping to create more jobs and delivering good tax changes to make life easier for people.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, isn’t it all a bit perverting at the moment though?

TREASURER:

Well, not at all. In fact this week I’m going to introduce legislation into parliament to go after the multinationals that are not paying their fair share of tax. This is something I’ve been working on for quite a while with the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer. And we’re leading the world in many ways in this regard. So we’re getting on with the job. We’ve also got some significant legislation before the parliament on foreign investment which is an issue near and dear to many of your listeners.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So why does it seem most of the party, and most of the public, is obsessed by the leadership?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t think they are. I think people are expecting the government to get on with governing and that’s exactly what we’re doing. I mean 90,000 new jobs created in Victoria since the election. The jobless rate in Victoria just fell from 6.4 to 6.1 and you’ve got 62,000 dwellings under construction in Victoria in the last 12 months. This is the stuff that matters to people.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But Mr Nikolic has confirmed himself that he contacted Malcolm Turnbull and said please make a statement of support for the Prime Minister. Why would that be happening?

TREASURER:

Oh look, I’m just not aware of that and the whips…

NEIL MITCHELL:

He confirmed it publically.

TREASURER:

The whips do what the whips do. But from my perspective and that of the Prime Minister and the government, we are endeavouring to get through the static of commentary and focus on delivering things that actually matter. And the Prime Minister has already flagged that this week he’ll have a major announcement about dealing with domestic violence which is an issue I know that you’re keen to see properly addressed as well.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Let me put it this way. Is there a need for a statement of reaffirmation of loyalty for the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Again, Neil, the only statements we should be making are about how we can create more jobs and greater prosperity. And my multinational tax initiative this week – I’ll have a couple of other surprises this week and why? Because people want us to get on with governing. I know this is going to be frustrating for you but I just won’t entertain commentary on commentary. I’m not going to participate in that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, what about an early election? Is there any possibility of an election this year?

TREASURER:

Well, we’ve still got a lot to do. I mean I’ve got 850 submissions in relation to tax reform that have come in and we’re working our way through that. As the Prime Minister and your Premier have said they’re working away at federation reform. That’s very complicated, that links in with tax reform. We’ve still got a lot to do. We’ve still got a big infrastructure roll out and I’m endeavouring to work with the Victorian Government as closely as possible, to identity the big projects that are going to create the jobs, to fill the vacuum from East West which I still remain very annoyed about.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Where is the money? Where’s the money?

TREASURER:

Well it’s still sitting in the Victorian Government coffers. One and a half billion still there… 

NEIL MITCHELL:

So who’s got it on the books? Is it on your books?

TREASURER:

He has. Well he’s got it in his pocket, Daniel Andrews, and I’ve asked for it back if they’re not prepared to spend it. We still have, we’ve put it into our budget papers, a contingent liability for $3 billion to build the East West Link. We’re still waiting for the Victorian Government to give us the plans for the so called West Link - the western side which we’re all waiting for.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you haven’t got that yet? There’s no [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

No, I haven’t received it yet. So we’re just waiting. And in the meantime, the construction industry employs a quarter of a million people in Victoria. And thankfully the housing construction’s terrific in Victoria, but nothing lasts forever and we’ve got to get on with the major infrastructure projects and we’re still waiting on the Victorian Government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you see no need for an early election?

TREASURER:

Well, no as I said, we’ve got work underway. We’ve got a huge amount of work underway in relation to infrastructure, jobs, tax reform, federation reform, dealing with major social issues like domestic violence as you saw this week. This last seven days we took 12,000 extra refugees from Syria, were dealing with that. We’ve actually just started becoming involved in air warfare strikes in Syria. That’s a very significant issue that goes to our national security.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But none of that rules out an election?

TREASURER:

Well, the fundamental point is an election is not due until the end of next year…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, but it can be held earlier…

TREASURER:

Well Neil, as I said, we’ve got plenty on our plates at the moment. We’ve got plenty on our plates…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But that’s not what…

TREASURER:

We’ve got our fighter jets flying over Syria and Iraq. We’re dealing with 12,000 extra refugees. Tax reform. Federation reform. I’m dealing with foreign investment reform as well in my portfolio. We’re trying to get the infrastructure rolled out across the nation that builds more jobs. We’ve got the China-Australia free trade agreement. We’ve still got higher education reforms to go through the Senate. We’ve still got a backlog of welfare reforms that we’re working our way through. There’s plenty on, the job of government, rather than the cacophony of commentary…

NEIL MITCHELL:

So an election would interrupt all that would it?

TREASURER:

Well, again, I’m not going to speculate on elections…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

TREASURER:

I mean, there’s a by-election this weekend Neil… 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

TREASURER:

And in Western Australia, that’s enough elections for the moment in my view.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Can I ask you about the refugees you mentioned - where’s the money coming from? They’re going to cost a lot of money. I see the estimates are $700 million over four years. I think it could even be double that if you look at some of the estimates previously. Where do you get the $700 million, where do you cut back?

TREASURER:

This is why we’ve got to have savings to pay for it, we always do. We try and make sure that wherever we spend money we save money. When I deliver the Mid-Year update at the end of the year there will be a full account for that. The instinct is absolutely right of the Prime Minister and that is to step up to the plate to help out those most vulnerable in this circumstance. 12,000 refugees and you know, it is a significant ask, but the Australian people are compassionate Neil. We do the right thing, provided proper processes are followed. It will be between $600 and $700 million depending on the speed in which we can bring people to Australia. But this is what we do. This is why we’re a great nation.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What’s the mood in government at the moment, how would you describe it?

TREASURER:

I think there’s a steely determination amongst many to get on with the job. You know, everyone has a job to do. I was speaking to one of my colleagues in a marginal seat last night and she was just saying to me that we’re getting on with the job. She’s got stuff in her electorate that she’s endeavouring to roll out and I’m trying to help her with it and that’s what we’re doing.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I read that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Ian McFarlane are all a bit grumpy with you for cutting their budgets. Is that right?

TREASURER:

Well again, Neil…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Gossip? Speculation?

TREASURER:

No, no, no - the fact is that we’ve got to make hard decisions around the place in order to live within our means, so we can have the money to pay for 12,000 extra refugees. Where you can get rid of waste, where you can get rid of duplication, where you can reduce programs and have better outcomes that’s exactly what I’ve been endeavouring to do with the Finance Minister. Look, there’ll be a push back along the way but I’m very precious about taxpayers money. It’s not my money, it’s everyone’s money, it’s all your listeners’ money and I’m trying to be as precious and as careful with it as possible.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Those three didn’t take it well, didn’t they?

TREASURER:

I’m not going to get into the reactions of individual ministers but I’m sure when your chief financial officer comes around and says, Neil, we’re going to cut some of your budget, you get a little upset about it from time to time but you’re a team player and everyone else is a team player and we’re trying to do what is right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You’re full of team players - in cabinet?

TREASURER: 

We’re all team players Neil, all team players.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Hey, speaking of teams, not this weekend the following weekend there’s no Australian football being played in Melbourne, in the middle of the finals, it’ll be played in the west. However, Melbourne Storm’s playing here, we don’t know who they’re playing yet. Couldn’t we move them to the MCG? You’re a rugby league expert, what do you think? MCG for Melbourne Storm game?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t think there is any greater venue for sport in the world than the MCG. I don’t think there is any greater crowd following sport, all forms of sport, than the Victorian crowds and the MCG is the premier venue. I would think so. Having said that, rugby league doesn’t lend itself too well to a cricket oval. But I’ve been to the MCG for rugby tests previously and the venue is electric. I mean it is the greatest sporting venue in the world. Take advantage of it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thanks for talking to us. One last try - Tony Abbott has your unequivocal support?

TREASURER:

Always has, always will, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Does he?

TREASURER:

Always has, always will. We go back a very long way and I know Tony Abbott is absolutely dedicated to the best interests of the nation. I have absolutely no doubt about that. He is the most selfless and dedicated person I have met in politics.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Does he have unified support of the cabinet?

TREASURER:

Well of course he does. We’re all working together to deliver better outcomes Neil and I won’t be distracted by commentary.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It doesn’t feel like it out here.

TREASURER:

Well, Neil, put your hands somewhere else and feel all the jobs being created and the businesses that are underway and the infrastructure that is being built. Touch that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Neil.