7 February 2017
Transcript - #2017010, 2017

Interview with Leigh Sales, 7.30, ABC

SUBJECTS: Senator Bernardi; Turnbull Government's positive progress on Budget repair measures since the election; Turnbull Government's plan for more affordable and accessible child care; Senate crossbench

LEIGH SALES:

With me now is the Treasurer Scott Morrison. Treasurer, if we can start with the Bernardi matter, how worried are you that his new party could take enough votes from you at the next election to cost you government?

TREASURER:

Well, the Government isn't distracted, Leigh. Put aside the events of today and the personality politics that others are focusing on. What you heard from the Prime Minister today and other ministers, myself, is a government that is focused on some very important challenges and the most important of those is to get people in jobs, help them stay in jobs and relieve the pressure on the household budget. So your question to me is what am I concerned about, what I'm concerned about is what is concerning those Australians about their jobs, what they're paying for power, what they're paying for child care, what they're paying for a house and that's what we're focused on and we are not distracted by this.

SALES:

I tell you what people are concerned about when they come up to me in the street, they want to know why politicians never directly answer a question, so why didn't you then directly answer what I just asked you about Senator Bernardi and whether or not him setting up a new right wing party could cost you votes at the next election?

TREASURER:

Well, I will give you same answer, I'm not distracted by that and I am not concerned by that…

SALES:

I'm not asking whether you are distracted by that, I am asking you could it cost you votes at the next election?

TREASURER:

Well you are the commentator Leigh. You can make the assessments about it. I'm not making any assessments about that. What I know is this, to go specifically to your question Leigh, that the concern that is out there which gives rise to the sort of things we are seeing in our politics at the moment and in the community is driven by people's concerns about jobs, what they're paying for things like energy, what they are paying for things like child care and their house and other pressures that are on their budgets and can they get enough hours so they can earn what they need to earn to support their families and realise their own ambitions. That's what they are concerned about. People are worried that the mainstream parties are not addressing those concerns. Now no change of personalities and the politics of Cory Bernardi or anything else like that is going to address those problems. The Government can address those problems and that's what we will do.

SALES:

But the Government can only address those problems if it can get its legislation through the Parliament…

TREASURER:

Correct.

SALES:

And in particular in this Parliament through the Senate. Do you believe you can rely on Senator Bernardi's vote on economic policy other than supply?

TREASURER:

Well, I believe we can for this reason, but I will backtrack it this way, before the last election Senator Bernardi gave his commitment to preselectors to be a Liberal in the Parliament. He gave his commitment to Liberal voters at the election that he would be a Liberal member of parliament and he also signed up to the platform we took to the last election when he was elected for a six-year term. Now, there has been no change to that platform, Leigh. In the last six months we've been able to secure $22 billion worth of improvements to the Budget, we've been able to pass important legislation that restores the rule of law to the building and construction industry so people can go and work in that industry and get jobs.

SALES:

And your expectation is that he will still vote with you then?

TREASURER:

Well, there is no indication that he has departed in any way, shape or form, to the platform which he signed up to when put his name on a Liberal ballot paper at the last election and said, "Vote for me, I'm a Liberal. I'm standing for the Liberal platform." This is why it raises the issue, if Members of Parliament want to go and sign up to other political parties, well, it says to those who supported them, those rank and file members of the Liberal Party who I'm thinking about today - it's not about whether I'm disappointed or the Prime Minister is disappointed. My concern is for the Liberal Party members who go in there and support the party over a long period of time, they don't necessarily agree with everything that is put to an election, but they turn up, election after election, meeting after meeting and they are the ones that have the right to feel disappointed today.

SALES:

Let's whip through some other matters in your portfolio. The Reserve Bank kept interest rates on hold today. Rates are so low now, there is basically nothing more that the Reserve Bank can do to stimulate the economy. You've relied, your government, on the RBA to do most of the heavy lifting on the economy, haven't you, because much of your legislative agenda has struggled to get through the Parliament?

TREASURER:

Well, I just told you that we passed $22 billion worth of Budget improvement measures in the last six months.

SALES:

And that's quite a bit short of what you had hoped to pass over the term of your government.

TREASURER:

There is $13.2 billion left outstanding that we are prosecuting through this session of Parliament. So we are well over half and achieved that in just six months since the last election and so successful was it that we were able to retain the AAA ratings which had made a key issue of being able to work with the Senate and pass measures. Now, we achieved that in the last six months. The challenge is still there for that going forward. Tomorrow there will be new measures introduced in the Parliament in the area of child care and paid parental leave and a range of other measures and we will have more to say about that tomorrow.

SALES:

Can I ask you to elaborate on that now because there are actually some reports tonight that say you are making changes to what's been on the table about Family Tax Benefits?

TREASURER:

What we will be doing tomorrow is the product of discussions we've been having for some period of time and this goes back even to the time I was Social Services Minister when I introduced these reforms…

SALES:

And what will it be?

TREASURER:

Well, that will be outlined tomorrow, Leigh, but what it's the product of is listening to that crossbench about the issues they have raised to ensure we can get these bills in a form which will enable us to pass the biggest and the most productive changes to child care which go to the affordability of that child care, the availability of that child care and crucially enabling women in particular to be able to get into the workforce and support broader incomes in the family which has been the real success of our economy over the last decade and more.

SALES:

Why has this government, though, needed the crossbench to help you come up with, as Andrew Probyn just said in his story, a more punter-friendly pitch? Why haven't you been in touch with the electorate sufficiently yourself?

TREASURER:

Well this is a process of negotiation and it involves compromises in order to get measures through and that obviously requires compromises to the level of savings achieved. But I will tell you why we have to deal with the crossbench Leigh and that is because the Labor Party isn't serious about bringing the Budget back to balance. Having lit the fire on the Budget when they were in government, they now refuse to support the Government as we seek to clean up their mess. Now the Labor Party should support $13.2 billion worth of payment savings to get it back to balance. That's why we are dealing with the crossbench.

SALES:

Let's stick to what you're doing.

TREASURER:

You asked me, Leigh. Let me finish. You asked me why I'm dealing with the crossbench, the reason I am dealing with the crossbench is because Labor won't support these sensible measures.

SALES:

That's not what I am asking you, Treasurer. I asked you in fact why the crossbench is needed to help you come up with a more punter-friendly pitch. Let me ask you before we run out of time, your company tax, which is one of your big signature policies, when will we be seeing that coming up?

TREASURER:

That will be debated tomorrow.

SALES:

Ok. How confident are you that you now have the crossbench support to get that through?

TREASURER:

We will see how that plays out in the Senate, Leigh, but we don't resile for one second from bringing in measures which support investment, which support jobs. Even the French Socialist government has seen the wisdom of actually reducing corporate taxes to protect jobs and attract investment in their country. Now they are doing that post Brexit because they understand the competitiveness of the global environment. You have got the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and even India as well announcing similar changes. We will be stranded if we cannot get support for these measures and that will put at risk the jobs that will come from additional investment. Everything we do in this government is to drive investment because that's what secures people's jobs.

SALES:

Treasurer we will watch all of that with great interest tomorrow. Thanks very much for joining us this evening.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you Leigh.