7 March 2016
Transcript - #2016029, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Same sex marriage; housing; backing Australians in our transitioning economy; Labor’s rushed and reckless negative gearing policy to hit your home, hit the economy and hit rents; voting reform

RAY HADLEY:

Good morning to you.

TREASURER:

G'day Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Nice to talk to you. Look, I just want to deal firstly with an issue not part of what you deal with on a daily basis and that relates to the front page of the Australian. In fact the front page of every newspaper, the decision to announce yesterday by the Attorney-General George Brandis that there would be a plebiscite if you win the election between now and we expect Christmas time on same sex marriage. Now, a couple of things I want to establish with you. This was already a decision of your Government was it not or has is it being re-announced?

TREASURER:

The decision has always been to have a plebiscite and that was continued after the change of leadership and there is a simple reason for that, a binding plebiscite, and that is that my vote should be the same as your vote and anyone else's vote on this and the Australian people will decide whether this change should be made and that will be the binding decision and we think that is the best way to work through this issue and to resolve it. Now, people know my view as I am not in favour of that change, I would like to see things remain as they are – that has been my long held position. But that is my view, people listening might share that view, they might have different views. Our view is that the Australian people should decide this and no backroom deals or any of that or Parliamentarians making that decision on behalf of others. I think that is the most democratic way to resolve it.

RAY HADLEY:

Do you think the fact that the Attorney-General announced it on Sky News yesterday caught a few of your backbenchers off guard because it seems they have gone to The Australian for one, reporters there and they are jumping up and down about the decision without any reference to the Party Room. Is that the say you think they should be?

TREASURER:

If they change the policy, the policy is to have a plebiscite now I think…

RAY HADLEY:

But the announcement of it is a problem. The fact…

TREASURER:

But the Prime Minister announced that ages ago that there would be a plebiscite – a binding plebiscite so there is no issue about that. The details of how it is constructed, the question and all of those sorts of things that is still detail to be worked through and that will go through the normal Cabinet process including the ultimate timing of these things. I think there was a bit of conjecture around the timing. Those matters will be settled in due course. I think people when they go to the next election will have a clear choice that they get to decide this question or they get Bill Shorten to decide it for them.

RAY HADLEY:

Exactly because the Opposition if in government will certainly determine it inside Parliament. Just on your stated views and I notice that you are in opposition to the Attorney-General George Brandis who said he supports same sex marriage. Given that you have said now that it will go to the people can you see people from your side of politics who have your view lobbying the electorate to vote one way as opposed to the view held by the Attorney-General and many others within the Party. Will it be fought on those lines or will it be a case of you all keeping your own opinions to yourself.

TREASURER:

I don't plan to keep my opinions to myself on these issues and I don't think anyone should.

RAY HADLEY:

Oh, that's interesting.

TREASURER:

That's the whole point of having a plebiscite. We are not going to bind our members on these sorts of things. The Labor Party is, that is why Joe Bollock left Parliament because he just thought it was unconscionable that the Labor Party was going to force him to vote a particular way on that issue. We are not only not going to do that to our own members how this matter will be considered if we are successful at the next election. We are going to let all Australians make up their own mind and not have them directed one way or the other. Members of Parliament should be free to express their views on this as they see fit.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, referendums and plebiscites have a history of not getting up in Australia. This is just a view of mine without declaring my view because my view wouldn't perhaps be as important as someone else's view and nor should it be.

TREASURER:

Well, no one's is more important as anyone else's on this question.

RAY HADLEY:

I think at the end of the day it will be very hard for it to get up – I think.

TREASURER:

Well, a plebiscite is different to a referendum. A referendum requires a majority and a majority of states. A plebiscite is a simple majority but it is a compulsory vote too which is different to what was done in other places like Ireland. So, everyone will have to show up like they do in an election and I think that is important because we have got to make this decision. Everyone is going to have to live with whatever that decision is on the other side and the more people that can participate that in a respectful way I think the better. I am optimistic about people being able to have this debate sensibly. I have had my view on these issues and I have been attacked on it personally and publically over it. It is a robust place and if we treat everyone with respect and sensitivity then I have no doubt that we can do this probably and there will be a decision and we will all have to live with that decision.

RAY HADLEY:

Back to your portfolio, this is something you will confront as a father in years to come down the track. It is something that many fathers and mothers are confronting now and there is a story today across News Limited papers that it is the death of the Australian dream of owning your own home because of the level of mortgage debt into dangerous territory. Now, you would be appreciative of many people, many of your constituents they take their son or daughter in once they are married to save them paying rent so that they can somehow save for their first home. It wasn't the case when I was younger, I am older than you, and I don't think it was the case when you were younger either. It may be the case for my children and your children.

TREASURER:

Not in my own case but I had other family members who did similar things and it is always been hard to buy a first home but the figures show today, particularly for younger couples it is harder for them to buy their first home today and people are buying their first home a little later and all of the statistics back that up. When you have got a city like the one we are in today in Sydney where supply had been constrained for so long and land release and all of those sorts of things had been binding the city up then the laws of supply and demand will take their toll. Our first response to this has always got to be to ensure that we build more homes in this country and that is one of the things that will always try and alleviate that. The other thing that was done last year was APRA, the banking regulator made some changes to the lending criteria for investors and what that did was, it had the effect of actually tapering off those big increases we were seeing. The Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has said very clearly that that has had a desired effect. One thing that a lot of people do, parents do, small business owners do, mums and dads do is they go and buy an investment property and they do that to either try and leverage their own kids into the housing market or first home owners will do that first themselves and that is why nurses, teachers, police officers are one that comprise the majority of negative gearers in the country. Now, what Labor is proposing is to end all of that and remove one of the real opportunities that everyday people have to go and achieve this.

RAY HADLEY:

I don't know about your electorate but I have never seen so many units being built where I live in north-western Sydney. That has a bit to do, I guess, with the North-West rail link under construction. I used to think it was important to have a mix of housing, traditional housing blocks with traditional homes or estates of that type and town houses and home units. But it seems to me in my electorate, in my area, we are being overtaken by units – unit after unit after unit after unit after unit and sometimes at the cost of normal housing blocks. Is that your view?

TREASURER:

Well, you have got to have a mix of housing choices for people and councils and state governments will set down their planning rules. I will give you an example of people down my way. Where they have changed the planning laws down there is they have concentrated a lot of that apartment development around the train station and near the hospitals and all the health facilities which makes a lot of sense and some places they have got a plan to really do that around Sutherland which is the key train station but in the more traditional residential areas they're not allowing it in those parts. So, you have got a good mix. they are preserving the residential character and amenities of parts of my community while at the same time providing opportunities around some of the key train stations and things like that for that time of development. So, you have got to have a good mix and those things are rightly determined by state governments and local governments and people can vote on the issues in those elections. You need a good mix and my simple view is you do not fix housing affordability by constraining issues of demand. You make sure that supply can keep pace with demand. People want to buy houses, they want to buy apartments, they want to live in this wonderful city that we live in and one of the consequences of that is it can put a lot of pressure on. So, you need to continue to build the infrastructure, continue to build the housing and make sure that the regulations and all of these things don't gummy that up.

RAY HADLEY:

I get emails from my listeners in Brisbane saying there is a glut of apartments now. In fact I was in Brisbane two weeks ago, I have never seen so many cranes which is an indication the economy is going alright.

TREASURER:

Good for jobs.

RAY HADLEY:

Yeah, good for jobs, just on this issue however do you think it has changed the face of Australia in that parents who get to a stage of life where the kids are gone, they are empty nesters all of a sudden the kids are coming back and that suits some mums and Dads. It probably suits me – I love having my kids around.

TREASURER:

Yeah, I never want my girls to leave. Ask me again in 20 years' time. But…

RAY HADLEY:

Let me give you a story, I've got my young bloke and his fiancé living with me as they save. They are getting married in October. My youngest has just left to go to university away from home – I hate it. She came home this weekend and we had a fantastic time. She went and bought some things and did some things for her dormitory back at university but I am a bit like you I would like them to live with me for the rest of their lives if possible which can't happen obviously.

TREASURER:

Well, I think this has been happening for a long time, Ray. It's just one of the things which happens when your city grows and becomes a more significant city in the world. One of the things I am noticing. We released the December national – well the ABS released the December National Accounts last week – which is how the economy was performing in the last three months of last year and what it showed was that over the year the Australian economy grew at three per cent. This was a stunning result in world terms. We are growing faster than the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, the OECD, all of the G7 countries. We are growing as fast as South Korea. And we are doing that at a time when commodity prices have been falling, there has been a lot of transitions occurring, a lot of volatility and that means that Australians are actually making this transition in our economy work. The biggest thing, the biggest economic challenge we have is how we keep that successful transition going. Now, that doesn't mean it doesn't have its challenges and whether it is in housing matters or whatever it is but you have got to do things that don't interrupt and risk us being successful with this transition. This is one of the reasons I am really worried about what Labor has proposed on increasing capital gains tax by 50 per cent and the changes they are proposing on negative gearing which is just going to lock out a whole bunch of Mum and Dad investors who are just trying to get ahead themselves. Interestingly we found out last week, Chris Bowen had to admit that it didn't just apply to existing residential property. It also applied to things like shares and management investment schemes and potentially a whole heap of things that impact small business. Small businesses particularly those who are unincorporated will often leverage off their own home or other homes that they have invested in to try and sure up their businesses and ensure they can get through those bad patches. Under Chris Bowen's scheme they have just been kicked in the guts.

RAY HADLEY:

One final one, Senate voting reform – we looking at when this is going to happen?

TREASURER:

Well, we are seeking to have that get through in these last sitting weeks of Parliament before we rise again. That has always been the objective and there is no change to that plan. The Senate does have a bit of a mind of its own and they're obviously resisting these changes – the crossbenchers – why they are being supported by the Labor Party is beyond me.

RAY HADLEY:

But what about the Greens Treasurer. It is crucial they agree to a deal and then there were suggestions when we spoke last week that they might back out of the deal then they said the next day Dr Di Natale no we are not backing out. It doesn't matter what the crossbenchers say, nor Labor – if the Greens hold hands with you as a government it passes. That is the end of it.

TREASURER:

Well, that is true and that is… the difficulty, will be they are moving a lot of procedural and obstruction motions. Labor and the crossbenchers to try and frustrate this thing actually coming to a vote. They are the games that are going on but the whole reason we are trying to change how you vote for the Senate is just to put an end to all of that nonsense and all of that game playing that is going on because it is holding up good policy in this country. It is threatening the transition that is being made in our economy and this is the most important thing. We have just got to get on with it and this is why we think it is a good reform because it will mean that ordinary voters can decide who they want to vote for in the Senate.

RAY HADLEY:

Ok, thanks for your time. We'll talk next week.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot, Ray.