21 March 2016
Transcript - #2016036, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Polls; critical assets to fall within foreign review net; fixing competition policy to drive economic growth and jobs; Budget; senate reform; tax; Karen Nettleton; genital mutilation

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

G'day Ray, how are you?

HADLEY:

Good thank you! The latest Newspoll figures show the Government has a two-party preferred lead of 51 – 49 however the general satisfaction rating for the Prime Minister drops – a concern?

TREASURER:

Well, what it also shows is that the Prime Minister is by far and away the best person to lead the country when it comes to issues like the economy, taxes in direct comparison to Bill Shorten. So, people will read into this what they want. The key challenge we are facing as a country is how we keep this positive change going that is happening in our economy. Our economy grew at 3 per cent last year, that is, in calendar terms, that is the best in the G7 and above the OECD average. The challenge we have is how we keep that going. The policies we are pursuing are all about keeping that growth going so jobs keep growing.

HADLEY:

I made a comment at the top of the show, if Labor had someone who was electable. I don't think their leader is electable. I mean it is not a matter of being the best man for the job he is the better of the two people there. Mr Shorten is almost unelectable. It must be a worry that the dissatisfaction rating goes from 60 down to 39 since he assumed control from the former Prime Minister.

TREASURER:

People have all sorts of expectations some time ago. The issue is who is better to manage the economy, Ray. As people are driving to work today and my drive has been a little longer than usual – the Southern Cross drive hasn't been particularly flash this morning which is not news particularly when it is raining. But when people are worried about what is the future of my job, how are we going to keep the growth in the economy moving ahead? You don't do that by jacking up taxes to chase higher and higher levels of spending. Now, whoever is running the Labor Party, that is what their plan is. All you have heard from them is that they want to put up taxes so that they can spend more. Well, that is not our plan.

HADLEY:

Hang on a sec, but what are we hearing from you Treasurer? What are we hearing from you?

TREASURER:

Just this last week, just this last week we outlined the changes to the Competition Act which would give small business a better go. On Friday I outlined changes to foreign investment rules which meant that critical infrastructure owned by state governments if it is sold to a private investor it has to go past the FIRB rules. We have the changes to the Senate finally get through the Parliament and passed by the House of Representatives as well. There were the changes we introduced just this last week to ensure that start-up companies get a better deal on capital gains tax and tax incentives so that they can go and grow jobs. That is just in one week!

HADLEY:

You just mentioned that it passed the Senate – the voting reform – has it already been back to the Lower House, is that now not a matter for the future?

TREASURER:

No, it's done. We did it on Friday before we left.

HADLEY:

Ok, so that is done and dusted but what about the Senate, the crossbenchers, and these very important Bills in relations to holding unions accountable? What is going to happen with them?

TREASURER:

Well, they will have an opportunity to do that when we come back in a month or so time. We are due to come back on the 10th I think it is.

HADLEY:

Well, it might be the third – it might be the third, Treasurer. You seem to be a little hesitant there. You were searching for that date. You were searching for the date, Scott.

TREASURER:

May 10, May 10.

HADLEY:

But you are not going to be overseas on the third or anything are you? You are not going anywhere?

TREASURER:

I'm locked down preparing a Budget. That is where I am. I mean I am not travelling anywhere and I haven't been as you know. I mean I had to do one trip to China for the G20 which was an important meeting but as you know I have said, I have knocked back all those others because I have had to focus on…

HADLEY:

Look, I have had an email here from one of your old school mates.

TREASURER:

Oh, have you?

HADLEY:

This is an official lie by the way, but he says Scott was someone who always had his assignments done a week in advance.

TREASURER:

Oh is that right?

HADLEY:

A week in advance.

TREASURER:

Well, he clearly didn't know me. There will be teachers who…

HADLEY:

In year 12, if it was due on the 10th, Scott always had it ready to go on the third.

TREASURER:

Oh, is that right? I wish that were true. My parents would have been much happier.

HADLEY:

Maybe it will be true. I know you are not going to tell me but I just have this niggling suspicion that we are going to get a Budget a bit earlier than we thought.

TREASURER:

Well, we are preparing for May 10, Ray. I can't be clearer.

HADLEY:

I know that but because you are so good at getting things done early you never know. Now, what is Arthur Sinodinos on about here? Has he usurped you? The story by Daniel Meers today says, “as the prospect of income tax cuts for Aussie workers in the May Budget looked unlikely the Turnbull Government appears to be preparing to give the break to businesses instead.” Arthur Sinodinos is regarded as a close confidant of the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, yesterday mounted the case for corporate tax cuts. Saying they would lead to employment growth and higher wages. He admitted that giving workers more in pay packet would increase spending but he argued that the flow-on effect of corporate tax cuts would also benefit employees in the long run. Is he talking on your behalf there?

TREASURER:

Well, what is important is that in this Budget we have to do things that drive investment. If we don't drive investment we can't drive growth and that means we can't drive jobs. And so, there isn't a lot of room to move in this Budget. When we decided we weren't going to do the GST that meant the opportunity for major changes in income tax largely were removed. You can't pay for something with nothing. When that decision was taken you had to recalibrate. So, with the limited room to move that we had we had to focus on the things that are best going to drive economic growth because that is what is going to sure up people's jobs in what I was saying about this transitioning economy. If you just go out there jacking up taxes and spending more than that is what will put this transition at risk. So, the Budget is very much focussed on the things that can help drive growth because that is what will drive jobs.

HADLEY:

So, you agree with Arthur Sinodinos do you?

TREASURER:

I agree that the Budget is on May 10 and our tax policy and things of that nature will be on the Budget.

HADLEY:

You would have to find some money if you are going to give corporate tax cuts of any description you would need to find some money.

TREASURER:

Well, there isn't a lot of resources around and we are working through a range of issues on that but the most important thing is that we have got to keep spending as a share of the economy falling and that is very difficult to do in this environment but we need to keep on that path and the Government is absolutely committed to that and then we have got to look at ways that will help drive the economy forward and particularly for small business. In the last week I brought that proposal to the Cabinet to change the competition act which would give small business a better go and the Cabinet has supported us on that and we appreciate that and we have great support from Barnaby Joyce on that as well and the Nationals but those were important changes . We'll continue going down the path of doing things that help drive the economy forward and just spending more money and raising taxes like Labor are proposing puts all of that at risk.

HADLEY:

It emerged over the weekend that the 2 per cent deficit levy imposed on higher income earners will be removed, still be removed in the Budget. That means the only people getting a decent tax cut will be higher income earners. How do you think that will sit with Mums and Dads out there you are asking to vote for you – as a government?

TREASURER:

Well, I think that is being mischaracterised. I mean it was introduced as a temporary tax increase for three years or thereabouts. That is what it was designed to do and that is what the law was passed as and that is what the Labor Party also voted for. They didn't vote for a permanent change to that tax. They voted for a temporary one. So, if you were to change that you would actually have to put their taxes up again. So, that was the arrangement, that is what was put forward in the 14/15 Budget, that is what was made law and we are not changing that law. It will run out at the end of next year and that is what was always proposed. To do anything different to that you would actually have to be putting taxes up.

HADLEY:

Now, if they get the crystal ball out for May 3, May 10 – May 10 you say. Would I be silly for saying, having read The Courier Mail on Saturday that maybe businesses who hire apprentices would be rewarded?

TREASURER:

Well, Ray, I didn't see that piece in The Courier Mail but…

HADLEY:

Well, to help you, it suggested that you, as Treasurer, were looking at rewarding business who hire apprentices in order to reduce youth homelessness and help boost employment.

TREASURER:

Before a Budget you get every journalist under the sun writing a story speculating on goodness knows what. So on the other side of the Budget they have backed 100 horses over the entire day's races and if one of them gets home and wins then they will say they predicted it. That is basically…

HADLEY:

So, in other words it is a bit like the old urger at the dogs when there are eight starters and he goes to eight different people and says one will win here, and then he goes to the next bloke and says three will win here, and then seven will win here and then eventually he tips one winner to one of the eight and gets a sling from one of the eight.

TREASURER:

That is it, that is what is going on with Budget speculation. It happens every single year and the Budget on May 10 will outline what changes we plan to make. I think what is important is that sometimes there is an expectation that the Budget is some sort of Christmas Day. It is not. Particularly in this economy. I think your listeners well understand that they haven't got a lot of room to move with their budgets and their family budgets and their small business budgets and the Government and the country is the same.

HADLEY:

Give me something to hang my hat on. Just say yes we will look after the apprentices in the Budget.

TREASURER:

What we will be driving for is to support jobs and growth and the tip I will give you tonight is the Sharks will make it that [inaudible] at Brookvale.

HADLEY:

Thanks Scoop. To something not involving your portfolio, Karen Nettleton has travelled to Turkey in attempt to enter Syria and rescue her five grandchildren, the children of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf. Now, one of his daughters has said today in The Telegraph he is definitely dead.

TREASURER:

Yeah, I saw that.

HADLEY:

She is with a lawyer and would it be fair to say that both Ms Nettleton and the lawyer are at grave risk doing what they are doing?

TREASURER:

I think the Government has outlined the grave risks that are involved in this sort of thing and I know that Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton are acting very carefully and cautiously here and that is what is necessary. This is just an abominable situation.

HADLEY:

Well, the poor little girl is pregnant to the other lunatic and had a baby to him who she allegedly married at 14. I mean it is barbaric in the extreme. It's paedophilia.

TREASURER:

Well, it is just such a sick show over there that it is beyond our comprehension. What the Government has to be very careful about here is, as horrible as these circumstances are, there are some very significant issues at stake here. It is illegal to be travelling in those parts of the world under our laws and so the Government needs to go down a very careful line here to preserve the integrity of that. Obviously, the situation is, particularly for those young children, I mean they can't help who their Dad was.

HADLEY:

Oh, there is no doubt about that. I mean they're in a dreadful situation but it must be remembered that the grandmother did facilitate their arrival in Syria by pretending that they were going on a holiday to somewhere I think in Malaysia or Thailand next thing you know they are over there in the middle of the ISIS drama.

TREASURER:

It is a very complicated situation and whether it is in foreign affairs or immigration, as I recall, I mean these issues are incredibly complex and the best thing that can be done is allowing both Peter and Julie the room to move, to be able to manage this sensitively but I think very sensibly in terms of what is at stake here.

HADLEY:

Just one more thing and this has nothing to do with you really given you are a federal politician but it is quite serious.

TREASURER:

Right.

HADLEY:

It's happened in Sydney and it goes to what we were just talking about. It is about a court. Three Muslims walk free from a Sydney court on Friday despite being found guilty of female genital mutilation. It carries a maximum of 22 years in prison. His honour in the Supreme Court, Justice Peter Johnson sentenced a mother of four, a retired midwife to 15 months imprisonment for mutilating the sexual organs of the young woman's two eldest daughters when they were just six and seven. Instead of going to jail the woman will be assessed for home detention, as will be the former spiritual leader who was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact. He told the three who were part of a Muslim sect that they would have been punished more severely if they had committed the crimes after the maximum penalty for female genital mutilation was tripled to 22 years. So, it has gone from seven to 22.

TREASURER:

It's very frustrating.

HADLEY:

Where is the message judiciously going to people who want to be involved in this barbaric practice?

TREASURER:

It is a very good point because we know if you come here and you are a citizen here you come here you adopt our rules and you adopt our laws and you adopt our values as a country. There is nothing about female genital mutilation that goes anywhere close to being aligned with our laws, our values or anything like that. I am pleased that the law has applied here in terms, at least in terms of identifying the practice but you have got to follow through. Otherwise, I think, people get quite disillusioned.

HADLEY:

Well, it is what I speak about, Treasurer, all the time. It's admirable that many people, men and women, wear the white ribbon to stop violence against females but invariably in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT – matters I deal with on a daily basis – blokes are pinged for violence and seem to be hit with a feather by the judiciary in relation to the violence. So, we can wear all the white ribbons we like until the punishment actually fits the offence we're banging our head against a wall.

TREASURER:

Well, it is very frustrating and for all the issues we talk about Ray the one you have been so consistently such a strong advocate for is on this one and good on you.

HADLEY:

Ok, we'll talk next week. Thanks for that.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray, cheers.

HADLEY:

Scott Morrison, the Treasurer.