25 September 2015
Transcript - #2015002, 2015

Joint press conference with Lucy Wicks, Member for Robertson, Gosford

SUBJECTS: Gosford site selected to start the jobs, housing affordability

LUCY WICKS:

Thank you for joining us today for what is an incredibly important announcement for the Central Coast. My I welcome the Treasurer of Australia the Hon. Scott Morrison. He is a great friend of the Central Coast, well known to many of us here today. It is an absolute honour to have him join us for this very important announcement. May I also acknowledge the Mayor of Gosford City Council Lawrie McKinna and the CEO of the Council Paul Anderson, the former Member for Gosford, Chris Holstein and also the President of the Gosford Chamber of Commerce Ali Vidler and many other people.

Can I say this day has felt like a long day coming. So many of us are pleased with the announcement the Coalition Government did make in the lead up to the last election in bringing 300 new jobs for Gosford. In the 2014 Budget we indicated we will double that commitment. 600 new jobs in Gosford in a purpose built building. Today of course we are able to reveal the location of where that building will be. Can I say this is actually the most important initiatives of the Coalition Government on the Central Coast because Coasties tell me every single day they want the opportunity to not only live in the best city and region in the world but also to be able to work here locally as well. And with 600 more jobs in Gosford there are 600 more opportunities for Coasties to be able to do just that. But we know it's not just about the 600 jobs. 600 people coming into the heart of Gosford every single day means more coffee shops thriving, means 600 more coffees every day or if you drink coffee like I do, perhaps around 1,200 coffees that will have to be made every single day. It means lunches, it means dinners, it means the newsagents will benefit, it means our drycleaners will benefit. It means our local businesses gain the benefit of this very, very important initiative. So I welcome the Treasurer here to the Central Coast. I thank him for being a great friend of the Central Coast and without further ado I invite him to address us today. Thank you.

TREASURER:

Thank you. Well thank you very much, Lucy, and to the mayor and other distinguished guests here today. It's great and exciting to be here with Lucy Wicks who has just revealed the real secret of her vibrancy which is her coffee drinking and I've always known Lucy to be incredibly vibrant, we're good friends and she has been such a passionate supporter and advocate for what we're announcing here today and that is the establishment of this Commonwealth hub, some 600 employees, to be working here in the site right behind us. I want to thank the NSW State Government as well for working together with us on this project and the Minister Rob Stokes and the Premier Mike Baird. This is what happens when a good Commonwealth Government and a great State Government work together to see things happen here on the Central Coast, together with the Gosford Council. This is what happens when Government works together to produce outcomes for people in regional areas here and metropolitan fringe areas like here on the Central Coast and we can see the dividends. But it doesn't happen on its own. What is happening here today is the product of Lucy Wicks' advocacy. This would not be happening were it not for Lucy Wicks having a plan for the Central Coast and having the backing of people in the Central Coast to make things happen. That's what can occur when you get these sorts of dynamics occurring; councils, State members, federal members, working together to get the right outcome. I'm glad Chris is here today because he's been a passionate supporter of this as well and he played an important role in getting us to where we are today.

This is a Government that is starting the jobs. We are starting the jobs. Those jobs have already been coming out of the system over the last couple of years, some 300,000 new jobs over the last 2 years but we need to move it into another gear and what we see here in this site behind us is we're going to see those jobs start here on the Central Coast. You may know plenty of things that we've been able to stop, whether it's on stopping the carbon tax or stopping the mining tax or stopping the bank deposit tax that Labor had, well we're starting the jobs here on the Central Coast and Lucy Wicks is at the forefront of bringing the community together – business, community leaders, the public, to ensure we can get strong support for what needs to happen right here on the Central Coast. So congratulations, Lucy. I know this will be important right up and down the coast; from Patonga all the way up to The Entrance and right across the region because it's not just the Commonwealth hub which is going to be established here, it's the works that will now take place and the planning and the design and the construction over the next couple of years which will see this as a hub of economic activity which will support so many other industries and so many other things right here on the Central Coast.

It was only a little while ago, wasn't it Lucy, we were together here at Somersby and we were talking about the commitment we had there to develop that part of the Central Coast. So it's all happening and I agree, if you can work and live in the place you love, then what's better than that? I know that in my own Shire, down in Sydney, we love to do that too and I know there's a very similar lifestyle and a very similar attitude to those things here on the Central Coast. So congratulations, Lucy, it's a great pleasure and privilege for me to come here today and announce what started under Joe Hockey and I'm able to come here today and say it's getting on under the Turnbull Government and that will ensure that this project is delivered. We're doing what we said we'd do, we're doing it in the way we said we'd do it and we're getting the results we said we would get. Thank you very much, any questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison is it really 600 new jobs or is it actually jobs being transferred from elsewhere so you're really robbing Peter to pay Paul?

TREASURER:

This is a massive project. Have a look at the site. It's a big site. It's going to be a big four storey building there and that's going to have people coming and working on it, building it. There's going to be 600 people working in it, that's going to bring, as Lucy said, people into this community. I mean people who come and have to deal with Commonwealth public servants in an array of different agencies, they will be coming here, they will be doing business here, they will be in this community, they will be in this CBD. All of that means jobs. Now, I think that's a good thing. Now people can quibble about the economic metric analysis but I tell you what, the businesses around here will see one thing - they will see more jobs. And that's what the Central Coast needs.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, this is 600 jobs, largely professional jobs, what's being done to address high youth unemployment in the area?

TREASURER:

Well, this is a construction project as well as being a new hub for excellence. I mentioned what was happening with Somersby. One of the other things we need to focus on is as we move through the process of tax system changes is we get this tax system right, that's going to be good for young people who want to be in jobs because we need a tax system that actually encourages young people to choose going into jobs and the sort of jobs that we're going to see here. You've got 600 people, they're all not going to be accountants sitting in this building, they're not all going to be highly professional tax officials. There will be people doing all sorts of work in this building. There will be couriers coming in and out of this building. There will be people organising meetings and working in administrative roles, there will be people who will be working here in traineeships, there will be people working here in a range of different levels and then the people working out and serving the coffees or the hospitality sector or supporting the plumbing businesses which will be working here. There will be opportunities for them too. This is a trigger, this is an initiator and I think it can really fire up the aspiration which I think there's never been any shortage of on the Central Coast but this, I think, will really fuel it.

QUESTION:

You mentioned that Lucy Wicks is a friend of yours. In the leadership spill why didn't you encourage your friends such as Lucy to vote with you?

TREASURER:

I'll really disappointed that you would want to focus on the politics of yesterday when what we're talking about here is the future of the Central Coast. Now here we are on the Central Coast talking about this really exciting opportunity and Lucy is a great friend of mine and she has a mind of her own and you know what that mind said, that said we need jobs on the Central Coast and it said that we need a project like this to get things going. So Lucy and I, we're always focused on the future and we're always focused on what's best for our country and what's best for the Central Coast in her case and as Treasurer I'm always happy to support her in that.

QUESTION:

Can we close the case once and for all then?

TREASURER:

The case is closed.

QUESTION:

Did you misled?

TREASURER:

I'm not going over that rubbish. If you want to talk about it my statement is on the record. I've never added anything to it or taken anything away from it.

QUESTION:

Treasurer Japan's announced it will build the submarines here in Australia, what does that mean for jobs and are you pleased with that announcement?

TREASURER:

Well I will leave those matters to the Defence Minister and the Defence Materiel Minister; I think that's appropriate where these matters are commented upon. We have a lot of big decisions that need to be made over the next 12 months. My focus is particularly on how we can get a tax system that can encourage Australians to work and to save and invest. That's the rule here. That's the rule for me as Treasurer and I know also for Lucy. We want to do things that inspire people who want to work more and work hard. We want to do things that help people get the reward for their effort in saving and make saving worthwhile for their future and for their retirement and we want to back people who want to invest in this country, who want to make the decisions that invest in new products, new opportunities, taking someone on because we know that Australia faces transition and challenge in our economy. Everyone knows that. We're going to back their ability to get through it. Bill Shorten wants to put people into bed, pull the doona over their head and read a bedtime story to them and turn out the lights. That's not what we want to do. We want to embrace the future and that's what's happening on the Central Coast here today.

QUESTION:

What makes you believe that you can grow revenue, increase revenue by growing the economy rather than by changes in the overall tax intake?

TREASURER:

Anyone who has studied economics will know that if you grow the economy you grow revenue. It's fairly obvious and I think it is very straightforward. I'm a Treasurer who believes we need to control expenditure, that we don't let it run away from us. If expenditure as a percentage of GDP, which was just over 23 per cent when Peter Costello left the office as Treasurer, if that were true today we would be in surplus today. But it's not, we are at 26 per cent and that figure is too high and we need to get that down and the savings measures, some $50 billion worth of savings measures that we've been taking through the Parliament over the last two years will see that start to fall back. It wouldn't have happened if we didn't make those decisions. Many of those savings, whether it was on pension reforms or things like this, kick in in the next couple of years. You've got to keep the pressure down on spending because if you don't, then I'll be turning up at press conferences like this and people will be saying to me why don't you raise taxes to keep pace with the spending? Well no, you keep control on spending and then you set your tax system accordingly. But the tax system has to inspire growth. It has to inspire Australian's aspiration. It shouldn't be there to put a burden on the economy and Labor's approach seems to be this - they think that tax reform is about increasing taxes. I don't think it should do that. I think it should help grow the economy because when you grow the economy then the tax take overall will rise because of the inspiration it's giving Australians, not because of the burden.

QUESTION:

Does that mean you can maintain your spending on services?

TREASURER:

Of course.

QUESTION:

No effective cuts to services?

TREASURER:

What I'm saying is that we're spending 26 per cent of our GDP today, 26 per cent. That's a lot of money. In my old portfolio we're spending $154 billion on social services. Now I defy anyone to tell me that we can't spend that money better and get a better result, that we can't spend money better in the area of human services, that we can't spend money better in the area of industry and science and innovation and that we can't design a tax system that raises taxes in a way which inspires people more than burdens them. We can do all of the things we're doing and control our expenditure and meet our commitments to the Australian people and that's what this Government is focused on doing. Because we're optimistic, we're positive, we're about starting things and particularly what we're talking about here is starting this great project and starting the jobs that will flow from that project and it's a very exciting day for the Central Coast.

QUESTION:

This question is for maybe Lucy or yourself. When will this project start? When will we start seeing sods being turned?

WICKS:

So we're going to see construction start by the end of June next year. I'm excited about seeing a crane in the sky over the city of Gosford, can I say. It's something that we've waited for too long. Under the Coalition Government this is going to happen. The building will be open by the end of 2017 so we should expect to see the jobs flowing in from the end of 2017.

QUESTION:

What jobs, specifically, from what department, what will be the role of this office in the tax office?

TREASURER:

Well of course the tax office will be a significant occupant of the building and that's the core and the hub of what you will see here and there are other agencies which we are still working through some of those arrangements with those agencies and that's best left to those announcements on other occasions. But there will be 600 employees here and there will be opportunity for others to participate in that as you would hope with a project as this but there will be 600 employees here. We will have the project; it's a timetable to be completed towards the end of 2017. So what you're going to see here for the next two years is a lot of work. It's going to be very busy. As Lucy said, it will be great to see that crane in the sky here in Gosford and let's hope we see many more of them.

QUESTION:

Have you figured out exactly what departments will be here or what roles will be in the jobs?

TREASURER:

Well I have confirmed the Australian Tax Office and other announcements will be made about others when those arrangements are finalised.

QUESTION:

Are these positions to be relocated from elsewhere?

TREASURER:

There's a mixture of arrangements for the people that will be coming into these premises. But what I said at the outset is you go and put a building which has 600 people in it, all in Commonwealth services predominantly, and the interface of people coming in and out of this hub, that's what drives the growth. That's what drives the jobs. It's just not the people who will be working in this building; it's what this relocation of this hub of activity will mean for being at the heart of the Gosford CBD.

QUESTION:

Does it mean that Commonwealth offices will be closed or reduced elsewhere?

TREASURER:

All the services are going to be maintained critically on the Central Coast and more than that they will have the benefit of being hubbed in a way which will ensure, I think, a greater level of service but at the same time just creating this economic driver here in the middle of the CBD which is exactly the sort of thing that I suspect people here on the Central Coast want to see.

QUESTION:

Unless you're proposing to employ more Commonwealth employees you will be drawing them from elsewhere around the country or around NSW.

TREASURER:

You're making a lot of presumptions in your question which I haven't entertained and I'm not about to entertain them. What we're doing here is putting 600 employees in a significant complex here, in the middle of the Gosford CBD and those jobs are real, they will be real people walking in and out of this building every day, going to work every day and doing a great job for the Commonwealth and other agencies that are involved in this project. That is going to have a multiplier effect, whether it's for construction or broader interface with the business community here on the Central Coast which can only be positive for the Central Coast. If the proposition is putting 600 people here in the middle of the Gosford CBD isn't going to have a positive impact for Gosford then you really need to reframe your analysis. This can only be good for Gosford on any analysis.

QUESTION:

A lot of locals had dreams of a performing arts centre on this site and it's a beautiful aspect, having water views, not everyone can have water views in their place of work. Was there some question over putting an office such as this on this site, prime real estate? Did it need to be on this prime real estate land?

WICKS:

Look, can I say in relation to a performing arts centre in Gosford, this is a dream I also share with our community. I'm a violinist, a very bad one these days as it turns out, but I was a student at the conservatorium of music just up the road. Can I say, as I have fought for 600 jobs here in Gosford, I will be fighting to see a performing arts centre in Gosford and I'm looking forward to hopefully even being given the opportunity one day to play my violin there as well.

QUESTION:

Labor has said this announcement has come sort of a number of times under the previous – since the election. What's different now? Why is this announcement different to previous ones?

TREASURER:

We're getting to the next stage of this project. We've announced the site. Here it is. There will be I'm sure there will be a next announcement when we've got through the planning and preparation stage and move to the next thing. But I can assure you none of this would be happening were it not for Lucy Wicks. If Labor thought this was a good idea in Government they should have done it. But they didn't do it. The reason this is happening is Lucy Wicks got elected at the last election and the reason it is happening and we made the commitment before the last election and we're getting on with doing it. Now I would invite the Labor Party, including the local Labor Party here, to get on board, to embrace the optimism of what is taking place here today. If people want to throw stones at it well they may but I think they're really missing out on the real spirit of opportunity that is provided by this project.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, another issue you've bought into in recent days is that of housing affordability in Sydney. Is that beyond your jurisdiction? Is that not a State matter that needs to be left in State hands?

TREASURER:

It is something I've had views on for a long period of time as I think people would know. I want to see people be able to get into a job and get into a house. That's what I want to see. I know people feel strongly about these two things. If you can be in a job and if you can get your family into a home and have stability in your housing, whether you are owning it or you are renting it, then you're set up to make good decisions in life. That's important for our economy and it's important for our society. At the last COAG leaders' meeting these issues were on the table and there are aspects that relate to Treasury portfolios, to my old portfolio in social services, aspects that relate to the new portfolio established and being led by Jamie Briggs. The whole Government will be working together to address this issue and I think is an important issue for Australians. They want to be able to have the aspiration to buy their own home. I think that's a good aspiration, I think that's something we should aspire to where we can achieve it and we want to be able to facilitate that.

QUESTION:

What can you as Federal Treasurer do about housing prices?

TREASURER:

The supply issues and working with the States is always critical to ensure that we don't get the pent-up pressures in the system and the announcements this week, particularly by the State Government here in NSW and in south-western Sydney, I was incredibly encouraged by. We do need to do all we can in the area of competition policy and regulatory reform which is a key responsibility of mine and in the area of competition policy to ensure we have a competitive regulatory system when it comes to housing development right across the country not just across NSW. This has been a blockage in the system and I want to commend Rob Stokes and previous Ministers, Brad Hazard and others and Pru Goward, who have been involved in NSW in freeing a lot of this up. We want to see more of it because if we have the pent-up supply issues and not being able to respond to the demand that is there then night follows day and prices go up so we have to address those supply issues and we have to work together to do it and I think that's one of the concrete and constructive things we can do.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, how much will this project cost the tax office? You can't build a building for free so how much will this cost?

TREASURER:

This project is one that's incorporated in the forward estimates, it's been in place now for a long time and it's fully offset…

QUESTION:

How much is that, Treasurer?

TREASURER:

Look, these are details that will be in the statement and I'm happy for those to be out there but today's announcement is to announce the site, to follow through on the project, and we're very excited about it going forward. Thanks very much.