Minister there is a pretty ugly pre-selection battle brewing in NSW, does Craig Kelly have your support in his seat of Hughes?
I said that pretty plainly yesterday in The Australian so I will refer you to those comments.
What I am focused on though is the Australian economy and jobs in the Australian economy. Of course we are seeing the volatility in the markets over the last few weeks. That is something I know would be very concerning, particularly to independent retirees and others whose wealth impacts will be put under pressure because of the volatility in those markets but what I am pleased about is we are starting to see some cool heads and cooler analysis about the broader context of what is happening here. Of course what we are seeing in China is not unanticipated. In last years’ mid-year statement the forecast that we made about what was happening in China is consistent with what we are now seeing. The forecast that we put in place for economic growth in Australia I think bear that out as well. The iron ore price for example is roughly in line with where we had it in the MYEFO statement and I think in the MYEFO statement we were able to have a very sober and realistic assessment of where the economy is at. That is holding out in terms of what we are now seeing.
What it does underscore though I think is the need to ensure we focus on jobs and we focus on growth. Growth is the most important thing in terms of securing the future of jobs in this country and to not get distracted by short term factors and remain focused on the real economy and the real economy is where more than 300,000 jobs were created last year. The real economy is where we have seen retail sales and motor vehicle sales rise. The real economy is where we see good business conditions, particularly when it comes to the low oil price and what that means for the fuel price for families is a positive. So I think in the real economy there are things to be very positive about but in the global economy of course there is volatility. None of that I think is unanticipated and I think what we are seeing is the reaction to these sorts of things both in the United States and of course in China and throughout the region but the Australian situation in our economy is one where I think we are improving, we are strengthening, we are diversifying, we are transitioning and that is positive news for Australian jobs.
One of your colleagues has suggested that students or young people should be able to pay off their HECS debt by using their superannuation, do you think this idea has merit?
The government is working through a range of options and policies in relation to where we can make our superannuation system stronger. I have said all along that the reason we have tax incentives for superannuation is to ensure that over the course of someone’s working life they can put themselves in a place of being independent in retirement. Independent in retirement to meet the lifestyle and the costs that they will inevitably bear throughout their retirement, whether health or living costs or other things they would like to do. The superannuation system needs greater choice, better governance, it needs better information out there to help people with the choices they are making, we already have measures before the Parliament which are seeking to do that and which are being resisted by the Labor Party and opposition more broadly because of their links with the union movement and union funds. Now we are going to stay focused on trying to give that greater choice for people on superannuation, greater flexibility. This is an option which is talking about greater flexibility and in our approach to policy we consider all of these issues. We don’t rule things in or out, we just soberly work through these issues and make good decisions for the benefit of the Australian economy.
Do you welcome the comments of Labor’s Premier Jay Weatherill today regarding an increase to the GST as being a possible way to pay for health and education costs?
Jay Weatherill is part of the genuine conversation that we are having about the future of our tax system and how it can grow the economy. The Labor Party isn’t. The Labor Party is engaged in their own rather unsophisticated conversation about scare campaigns. But Jay Weatherill understands the challenges that he is facing with the South Australian economy and the need for growth, as does his Treasurer and that is why I think we have had such a positive and constructive engagement with Jay and Tom Koutsantonis. We will continue to do that.
What we are interested in doing is pursuing policies that support growth because growth in this economy, with the strong global headwinds that we have, that we are achieving, is what is going to ensure the stability and security of Australians in jobs and to ensure there are more jobs. Now we have already seen the youth unemployment rate come down to a level lower than it was at the last election. That is great but it needs to go further. We need to grow jobs more. To grow jobs we need to grow the economy. To grow the economy you need a tax system that is up to that job. The tax system that Labor just wants to put more and more taxes on, not cut taxes like we want to do, that tax system they are talking about will penalise jobs in the future. Our changes that we would hope to achieve will be about growing jobs, reducing the income tax burden on Australians as they work, save and invest. So that is our focus this year. That is our focus as we go forward to the election. We want to be able to put forward the very clear plan that gives Australians continuing confidence about the government getting on with the job of governing with the principle objective in that to grow the economy and to grow jobs. Now others will be distracted by other issues, commentators will be distracted by beat-ups in various places around the country. They can do that. We are 100 per cent focused on jobs.