16 February 2017
Transcript - #2017017, 2017

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Labor’s threat to the Budget; Turnbull Government delivering $3 billion boost to responsibly fund the NDIS; pensions; Australia Post salaries.

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

G’day Ray. How are you?

HADLEY:

Not bad a bit earlier than normal for you and me.

TREASURER:

Yes it is.

HADLEY:

They’ve taken the big stick to him in the Daily Telegraph today, Nick Xenophon, and I’ve made the point a couple of times this morning, the Senate is supposed to be a house of review. I think Nick Xenophon is suffering delusions of adequacy. He thinks he’s the Prime Minister.

TREASURER:

Well the position is, that when the Labor Party aren’t going to support the Government to get the Budget back into balance, well then the decision obviously then goes to Nick Xenophon and the other crossbenchers. So what they decide to do has a direct impact. It’s not an opinion anymore, it’s a direct impact on households all across the country. But, the reason he’s in that position, is because Bill Shorten and the Labor Party think we should spend more and more on welfare and they’re not supporting the Government to get that under control.

HADLEY:

You’ve suggested today in Fairfax newspapers potential tax rises, to protect our credit rating, you’ve also signalled the Government is preparing for the Senate crossbench to water down its $50 billion company tax plan. That’s another big…

TREASURER:

Well that’s what Massola has speculated. What I’ve simply said, on these things, is that we’re working to get the Budget back to balance with savings measures. The Senate is going to consider all of that. I mean, I have no desire to increase taxes at all. That should not be necessary because we’ve got a Bill in the Parliament which makes that not necessary.

HADLEY:

But if it’s all knocked back, and I think Massola is just channelling you, you may be forced to lift taxes to protect the credit rating. It may be the only option left to you if Xenophon and others don’t come to the party over a whole range of issues.

TREASURER:

This is why it’s so important that the Parliament actually support the Government to get the Budget back into balance by getting welfare spending under control, which is what our plan is. People want to know what my plan is? The plan is to get welfare spending under control, we have that in the Parliament. Now, the Labor Party hasn’t been supporting that, and now there are cross benchers who are saying the same thing. But we’re still working with them, Ray, and that remains my plan. The only people who want to increase taxes are the Labor Party. The Labor Party want to put on a new carbon tax basically. That’s what they want to do, they want to put on a carbon tax through an emissions intensity scheme and they don’t even know what it will cost. As you just talked about, Chris Bowen had an absolute shocker yesterday. As did Bill Shorten. And today, this morning, we’ve got Tony Burke who has no idea what it costs, when I comes to their RET programmes, or their emissions intensity schemes. I mean all of these things cost households; I want to take the pressure off households, not put it on them.

HADLEY:

Well I think we saw through the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd days that no one in the Labor Party has a real idea of costing over any number of issues in relation to spending whether it was building the education revolution or putting pink batts in rooves that eventually killed young people. But, just on this issue, the Omnibus Bill, now I mentioned in an editorial a short time ago, this relates to Carbon Tax compensation ending. Now, it was abolished in 2014.

TREASURER:

That’s right.

HADLEY:

Three years later, we’re trying to end it – the compensation that is. And Xenophon is putting a road block there.

TREASURER:

We announced this back in December. What we want to do, is anyone who’s coming onto the welfare system in the future, so, it doesn’t affect anybody already on the welfare, anyone who might be coming onto it into the future, that they would not get the carbon tax compensation for a carbon tax that doesn’t exist. So, we thought this was a pretty reasonable thing to do to get expenditure under control. And the Labor Party immediately opposed that. They refused to support that when we tried to get that trough. Despite the fact they actually put it in their costings before the Budget, before the election I should stress, they refused to support it, and now we’re trying to get the same outcome through the crossbench. These are very sensible, reasonable changes. It gets the welfare spending under control. And the Labor Party are just insisting, they’re going, no, we want you to spend more, and more, and more. Our plan is not to do that, our plan is not to raise taxes, our plan is to get expenditure under control.

HADLEY:

Another issue, and side issue here, is when pensioners remain overseas for more than six weeks, the pension is cut off. That’s what you want to do. And I get more complaints about issues about that than I get about anything. People are incensed by it. You know, if you can afford a 15 week holiday in Europe, why are we paying these pensions? Many times it’s people returning to their place of origin and the like, or having three months over there because the weather is warmer during our winter, or whatever, people are incensed by that and this is another area where you can’t get cooperation from the Senate.

TREASURER:

Yeah it’s another measure we’ve been pushing for – this is from last year as well. And again Ray, they just keep saying no. They just keep saying no every time we try and get, because I know your listeners, and Alan’s listeners who are listening this morning – they are very frustrated about these issues and I am too. The Prime Minister is. We are actually doing something about it. The way our system works is the Parliament has to legislate these changes. Now, we have already had over $23 billion or thereabouts, around about $23 billion specifically in savings in the welfare system which we put in place over the last few years. Particularly in terms of Budget improvement we got $22 billion of that before the end of last year. So, we have these remaining measures now before the Parliament and it is really important that they pass them because otherwise we just have a bigger welfare bill and you have got to pay for it.

HADLEY:

Why is there always this simplistic approach, that if you want more money from some people involved in Opposition and in Government and in other areas, let’s jack up the Medicare levy? Is it because people don’t quite understand that if they are wage earners a percentage of their wage goes to Medicare to support the Medicare system and people, if you jack it up from 2 to 2.5 or 3 to 3.5 to 4 or whatever you want to jack it up to that people won’t notice it? And what it is is if you are paying 49 cents in the dollar you are paying 51 or 52 or 53 or 54 depending on how far they want to push it.

TREASURER:

Well, that is a good observation and that is what Nick Xenophon has put forward because he is saying he would rather do that than deal with the spending issues of welfare. The Labor Party wants to put up taxes too because they don’t want to deal with the spending issues. We are very much desperately trying to deal with these spending issues. I mean, Nick Xenophon can talk about those issues because he is the one who has raised them but we are very focussed on trying to avoid the need for any of those sorts of things by making sure we focus on getting welfare under control.

HADLEY:

I notice he wants defence spending cut unless of course it impacts on submarines being built in South Australia.

TREASURER:

Those sorts of comments, and again the reason we are talking to Nick Xenophon is because Labor is not doing their job. He is caught in the middle and he has got to make a decision. I think that just highlights how absurd it gets. Once a benefit is paid at one point in time it is very hard to change it down the line. These are the changes that are necessary to make sure we live within our means. That is what we are trying to do. We don’t want to raise taxes, Ray, we definitely don’t want to do that. We have been fighting hard to ensure that those things can’t even come into consideration and the way you do it is by the Parliament and the Labor Party, frankly.

HADLEY:

They will definitely be having and obtaining what the directors are paid. Pauline Hanson sent me a note yesterday saying she had raised this in the Senate to enquire into how we got to Mr Fahour getting $5.6 million and Alan was jumping up and down when he came back to work on Monday briefly about the defined superannuation benefit. People have written to me today saying we thought that had stopped. That if you were a public servant you couldn’t get that anymore. As the Treasurer are you concerned at the largesse? And then we find out there are another five executives of Australia Post on between $1.3 and $1.8 million. It’s ok if you are a retired politician who wants to get to Australia Post but in the meantime people are offended by that.

TREASURER:

I think they should be and I am and the Prime Minister is and we have said the same.

HADLEY:

So, what will you do about it then having said something about it?

TREASURER:

Well, it is for the board of Australia Post, they set those arrangements.

HADLEY:

But who appoints the board?

TREASURER:

The Minister I know has been having some very direct conversations with them about those issues. I think they are in no doubt about the position of the Government. The Prime Minister certainly has been very clear about this and so for those who have that decision it’s for them to make it.

HADLEY:

That’s all well and good, Treasurer, to say it is for the board to make it. You have already indicated the Minister has had strong words with them. He appoints the board does he not?

TREASURER:

Yes, he does.

HADLEY:

Well, sack the bludgers. Get rid of them.

TREASURER:

I am not in the Communications portfolio.

HADLEY:

I didn’t say you were but you are a very key figure in Government. With a stroke of a pen just say your performance is unacceptable, chairmen, directors you’re gone and as a matter of fact Mr Fahour you can go as well. It is pretty simple. You run the show as a government – you would think.

TREASURER:

Well, Ray, you understand that issue very clearly and we have made our views about this issue very strong to the board as you would expect us to do.

HADLEY:

Well, I would think in most instances if we were having a shareholders meeting tomorrow and the shareholder is the Australian Government you would be calling for the resignation of the CEO and the five executives who are getting between $1.3 and $1.8 million and the dolts who signed off on it being the board – including the chairmen. New board. Call for tenders – who wants to be on the board of Australia Post? $180,000 a year if you are the chairman, $100,000 if you are just an ordinary director – who wants the job?

TREASURER:

I think your point is made very strongly, Ray.

HADLEY:

Ok, thanks for your time as always.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray.