6 February 2017
Transcript - #2017008, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Forced sale of over $100 million in illegally held Australian property; Senator Bernardi; Senator Hanson; Newspoll; same-sex marriage; Turnbull Government’s Enterprise Tax Plan to drive economic growth

TREASURER:

Today as you can see we’ve taken further action on ensuring that Australian home buyers get a fair go when it comes to buying whether it’s their first home or subsequent home by ensuring that our rules on foreign investment are enforced. Under the previous Government they had some rules but they didn’t enforce them. What we’ve demonstrated now as a Government, both myself and the former Treasurer Joe Hockey, is that we’re prepared to implement those laws, and enforce them. Over $100 million worth of residential real estate assets, owned and illegally acquired by foreigners, have been forced to divest. Another 15 properties today. And it’s not just at the high end of the market, it’s the low end of the market as well where many Australians are trying to get into the market. We’re trying to ensure, I think with some success, that our foreign investment rules are enforced on every occasion and for those who think they can creep in, and snatch away some property from the hands of Australian home buyers, well, we have got news for you, you will be forced to sell it and to do that forthwith.

QUESTION:

Are you disappointed that Senator Bernardi is leaving the Liberal Party?

TREASURER:

As far as I am aware there has been no such announcement.

QUESTION:

Do you think he should make his intentions clear?

TREASURER:

That is a matter for Senator Bernardi. Senator Bernardi is a former president of the South Australian division of the Liberal Party, a former vice president of the Federal Party. He has a long history of his service within the Liberal Party and Liberal Party members have supported him strongly in his roles as a Liberal Senator. At the last election he was elected as a Liberal Senator by Liberal voters to support the Liberal Party in this Parliament and be part of our team. What he chooses to do is for him to decide and for others to imply or suggest what he might or might not do, or the reasons for it, only Senator Bernardi can answer those questions.

QUESTION:

Do you still believe the Liberal Party is the broad church that John Howard said it was?

TREASURER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

On a Budget issue, are you prepared to grandfather the cuts to the Family Tax Benefit supplement if that is what is required to get your Bill through this week?

TREASURER:

I had another very, I think constructive conversation with the NXT on Friday, which dealt with a wide range of issues from everything from ensuring better tax arrangements for Australian companies so they can employ more Australians and give them more hours and make sure Australia remains competitive as a place for investment and because without investment you can't have security about jobs. So we talked about that. We talked about the many billions of dollars’ worth of social Services savings which are necessary to get the Budget back to the balance. Why is that important? Because we have to pay for the benefits we hand out today with today's money, not put taxes on future generations of Australians to pay for the welfare benefits today's Australians are getting. That is just simply unfair to future generations. We need to ensure that these things are aligned and we talked about that issue. We also did talk about the very important issue of child care, as you know as Social Services Minister we devised a series of reforms that have always been linked to paying for those reforms. You can’t solve Australia's problems by continually ramping up the deficit. That is Labor's approach. You solve it by ensuring that you better use public money and in this case how we deal with Family Tax Benefits to channel those funds into more affordable child care. So this year the government as always is focused on the things that are pressuring Australia's household and business budgets. The pressure is on their energy costs, the pressure is on their rents and the pressures on being able to buy a house, the pressures indeed on the increasingly unaffordable cost of child care. These are the things the Government is focused on and particularly now as we move towards the Budget in May. That is our focus.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, are you nervous about the rise of Pauline Hanson?

TREASURER:

What I am focused on is addressing the pressures that Australians are feeling, whether it is in metropolitan areas or whether it is in rural and regional areas. The impacts of things like globalisation, technological change, ideologically driven renewable energy targets from the Labor states and supported by the Labor Party here federally which cheer on the closure of coal fired power stations and the loss of jobs that go with it. It is for Liberal Party and the National Party as a Coalition Government to address the concerns of those Australians. This year, more so, I would argue than probably any other year, it is important that we tell those Australians who are frustrated that we see reflected in these results today that this government will address the concerns that you have. We understand them. We are highly sympathetic to them and we are working night and day to address our policies continually to address those needs. Now, we noticed today that Bill Shorten has gone backwards. Bill Shorten has gone backwards again and Bill Shorten has proved to be no alternative. Last week we saw his feet to the fire in a test of leadership and they melted. This is a bloke who frankly is not up to that job. He is a political hack leading a party of hacks.

QUESTION:

Why do you think that focus that the government has is not being reflected in, say, today's Newspoll?

TREASURER:

Governments don't govern on the basis of tomorrow's poll. Governments govern on the basis of a term of government delivering on our commitments. Over the summer we were delivering important changes that are restoring the Budget to balance. Difficult decisions which we know aren’t always popular but are necessary to get the budget back into balance for the reason I said before and that is that future generations don't have to pay for the benefits that current generations are receiving. Now, that is a core principle of equity to say that as a generation, my generation, your generation, is going to pay for the benefits that we are paying out to the current generation and not put that burden on future generations. That has required some difficult decisions. So we will govern for the term. We will govern for the long-term, govern to put Australia's economic strength, our national security front and centre because at the end of the day that’s what addresses the very real hurts and pains that Australians are feeling that is, I think, reflected in these numbers. So the response to it is good policy, strong economic management and a focus on national security.

QUESTION:

Are you saying that those difficult decisions that you have made are the reason for people's grumpiness that we are seeing in the poll?

TREASURER:

That is what you are saying.

QUESTION:

How do you explain the grumpiness?

TREASURER:

The way I just said, I am not here to interpret a poll. What I am here to say is that the way the Government will continue to conduct itself is to focus on issues like housing affordability, like rental affordability, like energy affordability, child care affordability, growing the economy and growing investment to ensure that companies that Australians work for actually can continue to employ them and give them more hours. Remember, there are 100,000 businesses, 100,000, employing 2.2 million Australians who we want the give a tax cut to this year. Right now. We will be pursuing that change, along with the rest of the enterprise tax plan through this sitting of the Parliament to ensure that those Australians get the best opportunity for job security, more hours and better wages. So that is what we are focused on.

QUESTION:

Your colleague Christopher Pyne has left the door open to abandoning the plebiscite if and when there is a Government bill on marriage equality, do you think that the Liberal party room should consider a Government bill and a free vote or is it plebiscite of bust?

TREASURER:

The Government made its position clear on this at the last election and that is where it remains.

QUESTION:

Is it fair enough you could debate your policy subsequent to the plebiscite not going ahead, no no sorry let me finish, and take a new policy to the next election? Is that plausible?

TREASURER:

You know what? This is not an issue that is focusing the Government's attention.

QUESTION:

It is focusing the attention of some in the Government.

TREASURER:

I’ll leave the fake news to others. This is not an issue that is focusing the Government's attention. What the Government is focused on absolutely is ensuring strength in the economy, growing jobs, growing the security of jobs and the extra hours people need to earn more, national security and the preservation and furtherance of our alliances and trade relationships to deliver those opportunities and to take the pressure off household budgets wherever we can, whether it is on energy, child care, housing affordability, rental affordability. That is what the Government is focused on and bringing the Budget back to balance so we can move forward from a position of strength. When we came into Government we were put into a position of weakness by the fiscal recklessness of the Labor Party and what today’s result shows is that no one has an appetite to go back to Labor. The Labor option is not seen as a good option. There’s no surprise about that, people remember what Labor did to the economy, what they did to jobs, what they did to this country and what they did to our borders and they do not want to go back there. They want the Government to more effectively address their concerns and that is what we will be doing and that is what we will continue to do. Thanks very much for your time.