20 March 2017
Transcript - #2017039, 2017

Doorstop Interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting; Omnibus Bill; Turnbull Government’s Enterprise Tax Plan to drive economic growth; securing Australia’s energy future with Snowy Mountains 2.0; energy; housing affordability

TREASURER:

I just got back from the G20 late last night and the good news is that the global economy this time this year is looking much stronger than it was a year ago and the forecast going forward is that things will get better. So things are better than they were and looking to get better going forward. There are many things that will be critical to seeing that growth realised and, of course, that means here that we need to remain competitive and we need to focus on things that drive investment because that's what delivers the earnings that provides higher wages and lifts living standards. And, critical in that is being an open, successful trading economy. At the G20 I was able to make that case very strongly.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, a couple of big bills in this fortnight, the Omnibus Bill and the company tax. On the company tax, assuming you're not going to get the whole 10 year trajectory through the Senate, will you keep the remainder of it as policy going through to the next election?

TREASURER:

I'm sure all of this will be clear over the next fortnight, Phil. I’m not about to pre-empt anything that’s about to happen in the Parliament. I think there's a very big test on the Labor Party over the next fortnight. That test is, are they going to stick to the position where they're going to force higher and higher welfare costs on Australian taxpayers, rather than supporting the very sensible changes that we're seeking to put through the Parliament that will do, importantly, things like paying for childcare and more affordable childcare? Now, I'm very passionate about this. I first brought these measures forward when I was Social Services Minister, and I think parents have been waiting long enough and the Labor Party should stop delaying this by supporting the Government to ensure that we can pay for these important changes that will make childcare more affordable. Secondly, it's important that they actually live up to what they used to believe in when it comes to supporting businesses so they can actually employ more Australians and pay better wages. Now, the Enterprise Tax Plan that was in the Budget this year, that will be put to the Parliament, finally, over the next fortnight, and importantly that includes measures for small businesses which we define as being a business that has a turnover of less than $10 million. Now, there are 100,000 businesses that have a turnover between $2 million and $10 million in turnover – 100,000 businesses. They employ 2.2 million Australians. And we're saying they should be paying less tax this year. The Labor Party is saying they should be paying more tax this year. So there are two important tests for the Labor Party. And my prediction is in most cases they will want Australians to pay more for welfare with higher taxes and that is no recipe for growth and higher earnings.

QUESTION:

Will you split the Omnibus Bill if it means getting it through the Senate?

TREASURER:

We'll work pragmatically and constructively as we always have. But let's understand why we're in this situation. These measures should have been passed. They should have been passed with bipartisan support. I mean, why the Labor Party wants Australians to pay more in higher taxes for a bigger welfare bill, they must explain. These should have been bipartisan measures if the Labor Party was serious about ensuring that we can get the Budget back into balance to reinforce and support our AAA credit rating which this Government was able to have reaffirmed again with our mid-year statement. The question has been asked over here, isn't it about others? Well, no, it's about the Labor Party. It's about the Labor Party because they're the ones standing there. Bill Shorten with his ‘stop’, ‘stop’ sign on every single thing the Government is trying to do to make energy more affordable, to make childcare more affordable, to make housing more affordable. He's standing there with his ‘stop’, ‘stop’ sign on every occasion.

QUESTION:

The reality is you will have to give up something to get the child care reforms through on the Omnibus Bill. What is the Government prepared to give up?

TREASURER:

This will be played out in the Parliament over the next fortnight.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, you've been saying for about a year now that if the Party focuses on issues like 18C which don't create jobs or generate growth – that's been your warning for about a year. Do you claim vindication from today's polls given that's come on the back of a couple of pragmatic announcements by the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

I think in the past week we have seen the Prime Minister doing what he has frankly been doing since the day we were re-elected and indeed before that, and we've been getting on with the job of government. Now, last year we passed $22 billion and had implemented $22 billion worth of measures that were improving the Budget. This was a significant achievement. On top of that, we were passing laws to bring the rule of law back into the building and construction industry, a rule of law that doesn't seem to be respected by the union movement. In fact, the boss of the ACTU thinks it's fine to go and break the law. Bill Shorten by his own vote in the Parliament, voting against those laws, would suggest that he would agree with that position. And now, in the last week in particular, the Prime Minister has been taking action on energy affordability, whether it was getting the gas producers in a room and getting them to guarantee supply, the Snowy 2.0 project. On top of that, the work we've been doing through the ACCC around gas transmission and pipelines and regulations around those issues which Josh Frydenberg has been pursuing. We've been focusing on the issues that matter to the Australian people, and when you do that consistently then over time I think you demonstrate a great track record as a Government, and I think that's exactly what we're doing.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, what do you make of Mr Keating's criticism of the suggestion that young workers be able to dip into super to buy a home?

TREASURER:

I'll leave his comments to your own analysis. What I'm focused on as we prepare the Budget is to deliver a package of measures that can reduce the pressures on Australian families who are looking to buy a house or looking to rent a house, who are looking to have more affordable access to housing in this country. A couple of years ago, at the end of 2014, the prudential regulators took action to curb the rate of growth in investor lending and those measures have been recognised, not just here but around the world as having been quite effective, and that was relayed back to me again on the weekend when we were talking about these issues. Now, there remain pressures that have built up again over the last few months. Australia has a very high proportion of interest only loans and these are issues that have been the topic of discussion, as I indicated last week. I had discussions with the Council of Financial Regulators and we've been looking at these issues on the investor side, on the demand side quite significantly, and that is the appropriate place for that discussion to take place. For those prudential regulators to be addressing those issues using the levers that they have – they've done it before, wisely, and it's for them to take any further action that they see as necessary. But the Labor Party's policy doesn't exist on housing. The Labor Party only has a policy to increase taxes. And they promise that by increasing taxes that everybody will be able to buy a house wherever they want. Now, that is a cruel hoax. That is an absolute cruel hoax. I mean, it's not like they're taking the money they're saying from raising the taxes and investing it in affordable housing or social housing or anything like that. They're not doing that. They're just stuffing the bag full of cash from their tax increases and just carrying it off to spend on higher welfare payments. Now, that's not a housing policy – that's a tax and spend policy.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, do you think business should have the right to speak out on issues and social issues?

TREASURER:

My discussions with business are entirely focused on what is needed to drive the Australian economy and that's where I engage with them and that's where my priority and focus is as Treasurer and you can expect that's the nature of the discussions that I have with business…

QUESTION:

Do you have a problem with them going off canvas and talking about other stuff?

TREASURER:

Again, I'll let others talk about that. I'm focused on the economy. Thanks very much.