1 February 2016
Transcript - #2016011, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Taxation, Labor’s reckless tax and spend approach to the Budget, immigration portfolio, social services portfolio, Australian – US relationship, Clive Palmer, Kurnell community barbeque.

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

G’day Ray, good to be with you.

HADLEY:

Good to be with you. Well, we start every week the same way.

TREASURER:

Yeah, good way to start the week.

HADLEY:

GST. One of the things I heard Kieran Gilbert comment on this morning on Sky News, and I think he has got it exactly right, you wouldn’t be unhappy with the Newspoll figures showing 37 per cent of people are in favour of it, 54 per cent opposed given that you haven’t told us what you are doing?

TREASURER:

Well, we’re still working through those issues, as we have said many, many times, but one of the things I recall, I mean you and I have been around things for a while, Ray. Turn-backs were far less popular than that – I remember that quite clearly over a long period of time – and what that means is, Ray, is we will do the right thing for the country. That is what is important. I mean at the moment we have got Japan doing negative interest rates, we have got a lot of uncertainty out there globally, a lot of volatility, which people, your listeners, particularly those who are independent retirees will be very familiar with, this is a time for making good solid decisions about our economy. Not taxing and spending the way that Bill Shorten says he is going to do with his lettuce economics. What we need to do is make good strong decisions that are going to support jobs and growth.

HADLEY:

It looks like the Labor Party, federal and state, is splitting over the GST. Senator Stephen Conroy is challenging South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill to call a state election over his support for a higher GST. You have got help today form, and what I am seeing here, without you announcing what you are going to do or how you are going to distribute the money, the premiers are just starting to warm to it and all of a sudden we have got debate from Weatherill, we have got Mr Baird saying the same things in New South Wales and you obviously have to have the Labor premiers on side to go forward with it.

TREASURER:

Well, we’re working closely with them, as you know and we have had several meetings with them and, look, we will work through those issues as we go forward. What is happening in the Labor Party though is I think it’s exposing the myth of Bill Shorten’s campaign. You have got Jay Weatherill, who actually has responsibility for running a state, and their state economy in South Australia, you know, is doing it tough. So, he is trying to find ways to do things to support his economy. So, his motives are pretty clear. Now, Bill Shorten’s motives are all about politics. That is what they are. It is just a straight out political campaign, it is not about what is good for the economy. I mean, people out there who are working today, next year your taxes are going to go up because income tax is going to go up. Bill Shorten doesn’t worry about that, neither does Tony Burke, or Chris Bowen. They are happy for you to keep going to work every year and paying higher and higher income taxes and they don’t want to do a thing about it. Now, we’d like to do something about that but we have got to find a way to ensure we can. That is what incentives for working and saving and investing is all about. I am interested in the compensation for people who are actually going to work every day.

HADLEY:

The Opposition has promised $4.5 billion for the 2018/2019 school years. We have got a $37 billion total package over a decade, that is only, what is that, that is couple of BERs, it’s about five pink batt schemes.

TREASURER:

Well, the full scheme raises about $37 billion or thereabouts and look there are lots of things people would like to spend money on. That is not the point. I mean we still haven’t been able to find the money to pay for the last thing – which was the NDIS, the disability scheme. Now, they are already, you know, they have banked that without paying for it and now they want to go and spend more. So, what this is really all about is Labor will just keep spending more and to pay for it they will just tax you more. I mean they could have gone out there and said, “we would like to spend more on this and to do that we are going to make a whole bunch of savings over here”. No. They have said, “we want to spend more and so we are going to jack up taxes here”. No savings – all spending, all taxing.

HADLEY:

Now, there is another story today, The Australian has it about the welfare bill for refugees. Now, this cuts across your previous portfolios and your current and I say current because new research shows that 7 per cent of a group of 2013 arrivals have jobs – only 7 per cent. The welfare payments for recent arrivals will exceed $100 million a year. Now, you’re paying for that as Treasurer.

TREASURER:

You’re paying for it – we’re all paying for it.

HADLEY:

Well, the question is – do you have a solution? How do you get more than seven per cent, which means that 93 per cent of the people in this group of 2013 arrivals are unemployed, therefore are on some sort of Centrelink payment?

TREASURER:

That is all true and that is why when the decision was taken to increase the intake by 12,000. A decision made by the previous Prime Minister, we all supported it – the whole country appeared to have supported it – but we were very clear at the time that this doesn’t come free. It costs a lot of money and in the last statement we had just before Christmas we had to go and find that money. Now, what has been set out in the papers today is in line with what the Budget and forward estimates show to be the cost for that. We knew it would cost this.

HADLEY:

Spot on.

TREASURER:

We knew this would cost. You can’t just go increasing refugee intakes and it is cost free. It costs money because people who come, who have come in the past, through the legal methods, those who have come through the right channels, I mean they still face challenges with language and getting jobs and all of this. Taking refugees and settling them properly costs money – it is not free. So, you know, if we are going to do that we have got to be prepared to pay for it. Now, I remember making that argument when people were saying to me we should lift the intake to 20,000 for all those years and apparently it was cost free, I was always very conscious of what it costs. Now, the situation we found ourselves in last year was quite distinct and we didn’t say to people, if you get on a boat you can come. No, you can’t come that way. You have got to come the right way and we created a bit more room for those who were most urgently affected by those crises in Lebanon and in Jordan.

HADLEY:

Could be worse, you could be Angela Merkel with 1.1 million people invited to participate there and now she is saying today that, oh…

TREASURER:

They’ll all go home.

HADLEY:

Good luck getting them…

TREASURER:

No, they won’t.

HADLEY:

Good luck. Now, I spoke to Christian Porter who replaced you as Social Service Minister and there was a big story, I think in the News Limited papers about the Government reviewing the disability support pension which may well have started under your stewardship.

TREASURER:

It did.

HADLEY:

Particularly for people under the age of 35. Now, he told me, quite happily, that they have assessed 22,800 pensions and one in seven has been cancelled, which, you know, we have got one in seven gone. But we have done a bit of research, the last figures I can ascertain, and these stun me, I mean I was trying to have a guess with my staff on Friday and again early this morning what they would be until they came in. As of September 2015 there are 135,554 people under the age of 35 on the DSP.

TREASURER:

It is a big job.

HADLEY:

And so we are looking at 22,000. I think that Mr Porter told me that they were extending that to 27,000, you know, where they are doing reviews. That means over 100,000 people are not being reviewed. Now, I have linked that to this lunatic that is mentioned today and you probably heard my introduction, the bloke who went to the Middle East and came back and spends his time now fishing, playing soccer and looking after his one year old child. He is 23 and I thought surely he can’t be on some sort of support pension where, otherwise who is paying the rent, is his wife working? How do they get by? The simple fact of the matter is if you can get the 135,000 [inaudible] you can then afford to pay the generally disabled people in this country. I don’t want them to say, “oh hard-hearted bludgers, Hadley and Morrison, look they want to take people off”. No, I don’t. I want people who are genuinely disabled to get more. And they can get more by getting the bludgers off it.

TREASURER:

Well, this is something we agree on Ray. Last year we made some changes to the part pension which I know some of your listeners wouldn’t have liked but as a result of making those changes we will be able to increase the pension for those who rely on it, for those who need the full pension and for those who were on modest levels of assets they will be able to get more and we paid for it by frankly tightening up the eligibility. Now, under this Government, for the first time, the number of people on the Disability Support Pension is going down. That is a very hard thing to achieve. Now, I am not saying we are finished, we have got a lot more to do. There is heaps more to do.

HADLEY:

[Inaudible], Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Now, it is a lot but it is heading in the right direction for once.

HADLEY:

When you take it as a percentage of the workforce, it is embarrassing.

TREASURER:

Well, no, I wouldn’t agree it’s that because it is not easy to get it to where we have got it to, Ray. If we had done nothing it just would have kept going up. Just like spending, if you do nothing it just keeps going up and that is why just trying to keep the lid on it and then trying to drive it down because we are going to actually reduce spending as a share of the economy from just under 26 per cent this year to 25.3. I know there are listeners out there who think we are not doing enough on expenditure restraint. Well, for the first time in a long time, in this Budget, expenditure is a share of the economy is going down because of the savings decisions that we have been taking. Now, they were taken when we first came to Government and they have been taken in the last four months. More than $10 billion of predominantly savings measures were announced just before Christmas. It is a never-ending task, as John Howard would say, the finishing line just keeps on popping over the horizon.

HADLEY:

Simon Benson has made a big deal about Tony Abbott being in the US and talking to the President, President Obama, and also to the US Director of National Intelligence. He wouldn’t just lob there and say, “G’day boys, I’m here, I am over doing something else, what about we have a yarn.” That would be by invitation, surely. I mean it is not for former prime ministers to knock on the door of current presidents and say I am in town, can we have a bite to eat.

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t know the details of his schedule or his programme but I do know that Australia and the United States have an excellent relationship and former prime ministers, I think, are always received well in the United States, as they should be, Australia has been a great partner of the United States and Tony, when he was Prime Minister, was certainly that as well, as is Malcolm. I am not surprised by that. I think it is a good thing that when Australians, particularly former prime ministers, are received as they are in the United States it says a lot about that relationship and how it is received and how it goes well beyond personalities.

HADLEY:

Now, I guess, the next question leads to Simon’s assertion that Mr Turnbull, the Prime Minister, would be put out. Now, I have got a staff member here, I have mentioned this to you before, when she gets really angry she looks at you and says “I am really cross. I am really cross about this.” I never get cross. I never get angry. I am not really angry but would he even be cross about this, the Prime Minister, do you think?

TREASURER:

No, why would he? Why would he? Again, the relationship is sound and no, I think these are all good things.

HADLEY:

Alright, now, one just off the wire service and it won’t be known to you because it has just been put in front of me. Companies associated with Clive Palmer, poured $9.6 million into his political party during the 2014/15 financial year. Their donations include, wait for it, nearly $6 million from besieged Queensland Nickel, financial disclosure documents revealed by the AEC show his mining company Minerology donated $3.6 million to the Palmer United Party. So, he peeled $6 million out of a company that he is not a director of and wasn’t a director of and now we have got 237 workers up there that can’t get their entitlements, including super that they contributed to their own super account that he hasn’t paid as well. I mean I don’t know how he has the hide to show his face in Parliament. Not that he does very often.

TREASURER:

Not that often. I mean it is a very shabby, very shabby show, that they are running. Look, I suppose the warning in all of this is this, at the last election, Clive Palmer ran around, putting out what he thought was simple answers to very complex problems and people put him on trust and they voted for him. Now, it has all fallen apart, it has all gone down the path that I think some of us always thought it would and there is a warning in that. If it is too good to be true it usually is. What he was promising and what he was saying and representing to the Australian people I think has been laid bare now and I would just offer that very respectful warning that, you know, the Coalition is there to provide strong and stable government in what is some very uncertain financial times. We’re making decisions in the national interest, they might not always be popular but we believe they are right for the country – not just for today but for the many years to come.

HADLEY:

Well, Mr Palmer promised the world and hasn’t delivered an atlas yet, so we will wait and see what happens.

TREASURER:

That’s a good way to put it, Ray.

HADLEY:

Ok, thanks very much for your time. We will talk next week.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray.

HADLEY:

Oh, by the way I am coming to Canberra on Wednesday.

TREASURER:

Alright.

HADLEY:

Commercial Radio Australia are making a presentation.

TREASURER:

I ought to take you to dinner.

HADLEY:

Well, I’d love to but I don’t know if that would be good for you. I don’t know whether that would be a good look, but I hope to see you there it is on about 5.30 in Parliament House.

TREASURER:

No, I think I will be there. Also, can I say thanks, particularly to Cronulla Golf Club, out in Kurnell on the weekend they had a big barbeque out there for the community. I was out there with Mark Speakman and a whole bunch of others. Now, Sydney Airport, Caltex, Hino, Dicker Data – all these guys dug deep to help the people out in Kurnell at the end of last year and they had a great family barbeque. It was put on for free for them just for the community to come together. So, to the Cronulla Golf Club and all those who were part of that thank you very much. It was very much appreciated.

HADLEY:

Well said. Anyway, I better come back straight after the function so dinner is out but I look forward to seeing you at the function.

TREASURER:

Ok mate, cheers.

HADLEY:

All the best.