3 February 2017
Transcript - #2017007, 2017

Doorstop interview, Adelaide

SUBJECTS: South Australian economy; crossbench negotiations; Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen’s failure to support Budget savings; Refugee resettlement

TREASURER:

Happy to be here in South Australia and on such a beautiful day and I just had the great opportunity to catch up with Steven Marshall to talk about a range of things but particularly the need for infrastructure projects here in South Australia that go to both improving productivity but also improve the lives of South Australians. We have a very keen interest in looking at project opportunities and the infrastructure needs of South Australia in a way that boosts productivity but also ensuring that the living standards and quality of life of South Australians are also supported.

QUESTION:

Did he make any specific requests for funding for certain projects?

TREASURER:

Well he took me through their project plan that they’ve been working on, that they’ve been talking about now for some time, both rail and road. I think these are very exciting plans and I think they’re the sort of plans that you would hope a State Government, should they be able to form one after the next election, that they’d be able to pursue. Issue of funding and how that’s done and the partnerships that are necessary, I think Steven Marshall has always demonstrated a real innovation in this area, and that’s what needed for those types of projects.

QUESTION:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Look they were the main ones we spoke about today. But that’s a fairly big project, and fairly big integrated plan, transport infrastructure plan for South Australia. As a Government we’re very focused on those types of initiatives. To the extent to which the Federal Government has the ability to participate in these, well they will be discussions for down the track if they’re able to form a Government.

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

I’ll leave that to others in South Australia to comment on. What I know is that in Steven Marshall there’s someone who is thinking innovatively about South Australia’s future and its needs and the economic challenges that South Australia faces and I’m very keen to be working with my South Australian colleagues here in ensuring that our national economic policies mean that South Australians are brought along with the growth we’re hoping to achieve in the years ahead.

QUESTION:

You met Senator Xenophon today to talk about savings measures. What’s he asking for?

TREASURER:

I’ll leave those discussions between Senator Xenophon and his team, who I met with today, and myself. We will continue to work constructively with the crossbench. We will be introducing some important measures next week, and obviously they will ultimately go to the Senate and we will be seeking support from right across the Parliament. But I'm not going to give Bill 2

Shorten and Chris Bowen a leave pass when it comes to their first responsibility to be supporting the Government to bring the Budget back to balance. It was the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government that trashed the Budget, and now when they are in opposition, they are not doing what's necessary to support this Government, in bringing it back to balance. So, while I look forward positively and optimistically to what we hopefully might be able to achieve with Senator Xenophon and his team, that is not to relieve from Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten their responsibility to stump up. The only thing they are proposing is higher taxes, and there are savings that can be made and need to be made for expenditures that used to exist, that rose to meet rising revenues that we used to see from mining investment booms and commodities and so on, and expenditure has to be framed against the long-term outlook for revenue, not on the fantasies of Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, where does the refugee transfer process now stand since the publicity about Donald Trump saying it was a dumb idea?

TREASURER:

Well, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration are the ones who’ll speak more in detail about these things to the extent that they are in a position to do so. But what is clear, what we have seen from Bill Shorten is he has failed a test of leadership. When Bill Shorten's feet are put to the fire, they melt, and we saw that. There was a clear national interest in supporting the Prime Minister in the strong stand he has taken, standing up for Australian interests in these discussions with President Trump to ensure that an arrangement that will see legitimate refugees, people who have actually already been through a process and found to be refugees, to ensure that they can be resettled under the terms of the arrangement, which were put in place in an agreement with the Obama administration. Now, it is in the national interest of Australia for Australians to come together and support ensuring that we are able to continue to have that arrangement in place, and what we saw from Bill Shorten was just the usual rank opportunism of a political hack who wanted to spoil. That's where he fails the test of leadership on every occasion.

QUESTION:

What do you think of the way Donald Trump has spoken to Malcolm Turnbull?

TREASURER:

I wasn't part of that conversation. What I do know is that our Prime Minister stood up for Australia's interests, and I've known Malcolm Turnbull for a long time and he has never one to be

cowered in any way. He will speak politely, respectfully, but strongly in Australia's national interest, and that's exactly what he did and it is disappointing that Bill Shorten, rather than saying, "Well done, Malcolm. Good on you for sticking up for Australia's national interest," just had to get engaged in the usual rank politics that he is well-known for.

QUESTION:

Do you think the deal will fall through?

TREASURER:

I believe that there has been very good faith gone into this process by the officials who have been working away on this, and obviously from our end we have been able to get this agreement to where it is now, and I believe we will continue to work through that arrangement, based on the commitments that both President Trump has given to the Prime Minister and we've given to the United States. The agreement provides, appropriately, for a vetting process on the individuals, but I think it's important to note that these are individuals who have already been through a refugee assessment process in accordance with the UNHCR guidelines, and these individuals have been found to be refugees - they are people who, in the vast majority of cases are already living in the community, in Nauru, which is different to how that has been represented by others. So look, it is a constructive arrangement that has been put in place to solve a difficult problem. We have no solutions from the Labor Party on this, just a cynical culture of complaint and rank populism and politics. So Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton and the rest of the Government are just getting on with solving the problems for Australia. Thanks very much for your time.