10 April 2018
Transcript - #2018038, 2018

Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 7.30

Subjects: Newspoll; coal-fired power stations; Budget 2018.

LEIGH SALES:

Scott Morrison, thanks for coming in.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Leigh. Good to be here.

SALES:

Whose fault is it that the Coalition has lost 30 Newspolls in a row?

TREASURER:

What the Government has been doing throughout that entire period of time since the 2016 election has been keeping our promises and delivering what we said we would do - jobs and growth.

SALES:

So the public has got it wrong?

TREASURER:

No, between elections, public mood will shift and it will change. What matters is when people come to make a decision at the next election. At the next election, they won't be expressing an opinion, they will be voting. The difference between voting and an opinion is when you vote, there are consequences. You pick Bill Shorten or you pick Malcolm Turnbull. You will pay more under Bill Shorten and less under Malcolm Turnbull. It will be a clear choice.

SALES:

What you are effectively saying is the only poll that matters is the poll on election day. Let's be real here, you have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. Whose fault is it?

TREASURER:

What we need to continue to do is ensure we gain the confidence of the Australian people and the plans that we have been putting in place and we have been getting those outcomes, but I understand there is a lot of frustration in the community, Leigh. There is a lot of frustration in the community. People, obviously, always will still want things to be better and we want it to be better, too. Leigh, we have the right set of policies, the right plan to make things better and there are 420,000 jobs created in the last 12 months which back up the fact that our plans are working, but for that to affect and improve the lives of all Australians, we need to stick to that plan and that is why the next election is about a choice. Do we stick to the plan that is generating the jobs and improving the economy which means that we can afford the services and hospitals and schools and Medicare and all of these things? That is what guarantees those services, a strong economy which is what we are delivering.

SALES:

The former Prime Minister John Howard was on the program last week and he said that Liberal voters are not happy with the disunity they constantly see on display on your side.

TREASURER:

That is a very good identification of one of the reasons why I think Australians have been frustrated and that is why it is important that every single member of the Liberal-National team who sit in the Parliament can always look themselves in the mirror and say, like anyone in any sports team for that matter or any team, am I doing everything that I can to ensure that the team is doing as well as it can?

SALES:

Which of the members of your team currently aren't doing that?

TREASURER:

That is not for me to judge. That is for them to judge. That's the point. I can look in the mirror Leigh and I can say that is where my entire focus is because I believe we have the right plan as Liberal and National parties for the country and I want to ensure that we are there after the next election and we don't have Australians paying more under Bill Shorten with his more than $200 billion in higher taxes.

SALES:

How would you describe Tony Abbott's conduct as a member of the team?

TREASURER:

It is not for me to run a commentary on Tony Abbott and I'm not about to tonight. I respect him as a former Prime Minister and I respect him as a former leader of the party. I respect him as a Coalition colleague and I will leave him to commentate on his own performance. I don't intend to.

SALES:

Could he be a Liberal leader again?

TREASURER:

That is matter for the matter for the party room, it's not a matter for me.

SALES:

Next time the position is vacant, will you run?

TREASURER:

Every member of Parliament who goes in and serves in the House of Representatives has that option available to them. Down the track I am sure if an opportunity presented itself, Leigh, but not while Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister because he's the right Prime Minister to lead our party, not just to this election, but beyond because we are delivering the right policies to have a stronger economy, more jobs and lower taxes.

SALES:

You are basically saying I would put my hat in the ring if the job became available, I'm not suggesting you're trying to…

TREASURER:

A politician would not be telling you straight if they said anything different, Leigh. I don't think you would accept the answer. That is just not material. I don't believe there is another colleague sitting in the Liberal Party at the moment who has any intention of doing other than supporting Malcolm Turnbull as the Prime Minister to the next election and beyond.

SALES:

OK. On some policy questions, on energy - the Prime Minister is constantly telling AGL how it should run its business. Given that it is a privately listed company and you are supposedly a free market government, how is that appropriate?

TREASURER:

Look, I think Australians have been a bit disappointed with how AGL have handled this.

SALES:

They are a privately listed company.

TREASURER:

Sure, but that doesn't mean they don't have any right to be disappointed.

SALES:

You are a free market government?

TREASURER:

I am not going to go in and compulsory acquire a private asset. Frankly, I don't have the power to do it for a start. Those powers rest with state governments for those purposes. Putting that to one side, we want to see existing coal-fired power stations continue to run for as long as possible. It is an important part, particularly of the short-to-medium-term solution for reliable energy and affordable energy because it is the existing stations that actually produce that reliable power at the lowest cost.

SALES:

But it is not up to you to distort the market by telling a privately listed company you have to keep this coal station open.

TREASURER:

Hang on a minute, you are assuming that AGL or any of our energy companies are operating in some sort of free market nirvana. They don't. They operate in a highly regulated market. And particularly when you get into transmission companies, they have guaranteed legislated rates of return. I am sure there are many private companies who wouldn't mind that as well. What I am saying and the Prime Minister is saying is that it is in the national interest, it really is in the national interest that these assets be able to function for as long as possible. I would hope that in the interests of how people look at AGL that they would hope they would be doing what was in the national interest and I think they worry whether they are and whose interests they are really acting in. We want to see them seriously consider a private sector proposal for someone else to own that asset. If they are fair dinkum and they have got to be fair dinkum with the Australian people they should give it fair dinkum consideration. That is all we are saying.

SALES:

Ok, we are a few weeks away from the federal Budget, will your personal income tax cuts apply to all brackets?

TREASURER:

The Budget is on the 8th of May and you will have to wait until the 8th May. But what the Prime Minister and I have consistently said is we are going into this budget with a priority to provide tax relief for middle income Australians.

SALES:

Scott Morrison, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Leigh.