9 November 2015
Transcript - #2015041, 2015

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Providing real opportunities for Australians who want to work, save and invest; National Platform for Economic Growth and Jobs; health system.

TREASURER:

I think we’ll just go straight to questions.

QUESTION:

Treasurer what do you make of the Greens’ idea to put the carbon tax back on the table if we are talking [inaudible] tax reform?

TREASURER:

The Government has never had plans to introduce a carbon tax.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, is it unrealistic, I know you're trying strategically, you’re trying to sell the reasons for tax reform before you get into the features but is it unrealistic to expect the public is not going to start immediately asking how, you know...

TREASURER:

Well, the only ones who've actually proposed an increase to the GST are state governments and former Labor Premiers and the odd Member of Parliament here and there. What we're engaged in is in economic leadership to grow jobs and the economy. What we’re doing is engaging in a process talking to states and territories, talking with other stakeholders, talking with the Australian people about what are the challenges that they have. Not just in our tax system, but how services are delivered and right across the economy, we have a major innovation statement which is coming up later in the year, all of this is about growing jobs in the economy. That's the conversation we're having. We're having a conversation about how we grow the economy and how we grow jobs. There are many elements to that. The tax system is one of the things that can hold Australians back and in particular for those who will be on an average wage next year they will go into the second highest tax bracket. They might not know that because they may not be getting a pay slip every week or every fortnight or every month any more. The money just goes into the bank account. You go to the hole in the wall, you go to the ATM, you pull your money out and you don't see the 19 cents that has already gone or the 32.5 cents or 37 cents or the 45 cents – let alone the Medicare levy on top of that. This is a silent tax, it’s a forgotten tax and this is something that is holding Australians back who want to actually work more, who are already working really hard and waiting for the tax system to come and back them and at the moment it's not doing that.

So, I've been talking about personal income tax. Others have been talking about other things, but our next meeting with state treasurers and territory treasurers – which we hope to have before the end of the year and I believe that will happen, we just have to lock down the date – that is actually focusing on state and territory taxes and charges. That's what we agreed at the last meeting and the Commonwealth Treasury has been doing work with the state Treasuries around the broad array of state taxes and charges. Now that's almost $85 billion a year they're collecting. Let's not forget that the states on balance as was reported in The Australian today are broadly in surplus. So this will be an important part of this ongoing discussion but economic leadership is not about rushing into things and jumping at this or that suggestion. It's about being calm and considered, about being collaborative, cooperative, working with people, understanding the problem and ensuring that you can solve it so Australians are better off.

QUESTION:

Will you take it to an election if you're going to be collaborative with the people?

TREASURER:

I think the Prime Minister has made it very clear that all the serious matters that require mandates require those sorts of endorsements.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, obviously bracket creep is one of the highest on your list of priorities but what about paying down the deficit where does that fit in?

TREASURER:

That's why you control expenditure. You control expenditure to address your budget issues and you grow the economy to grow revenues. I made this point on the weekend. Australia's problem at the moment is we're not earning enough and that's why the trade agreements are so important. That's why ensuring that people can realise their full potential in their business or as employees is important. That's what productivity is – so you can grow real wages. That's how you lift revenue. You don't lift revenue by just taxing people more. That's why our objective is very clear on this. We do not want to increase the tax burden on Australians. We want to grow the economy and grow jobs. That is the only reason we are engaging in this discussion. It's a good discussion, I think it's a positive discussion and the task of economic leadership is to really engage in it positively and collaboratively and try and draw together where there is a meeting of the minds and a consensus on some of these key issues. That's what we're engaged in doing.

QUESTION:

Is it possible to have large-scale tax reform without touching the GST?

TREASURER:

Well, we'll go through all the options Lane, and that's what we're doing at the moment and we're doing that with the states and territories and I think the answer to that question will become apparent once we've done all of that. That's the whole point of getting past what has been for the last eight years, the time of gotcha politics and rule in and rule out, which I said on the weekend has euthanised, I think, good policy debate in this country. It has held back policy, I think, development and implementation in this country that would have enabled us to grow our economy more strongly and to grow jobs more strongly. So, we're not going to go back to that conflict-driven time. There seem to be some who just can't break out of that mould in politics at the moment. They need to explain themselves to the Australian people on that. We are clearly in a new phase where we're looking at having a focus on policy discussion which is mature, which is collaborative, and which is focused above all on outcomes, not ideology.

QUESTION:

Do you agree that financial services should be looked at first if there are changes to the GST like Dan Tehan suggested this morning in the Fin Review?

TREASURER:

Not just Dan, but some of the states have suggested this as well. So that's part of a process of just looking at options but that's all it is. I mean the Government has not put any preferred option out. We have not put any proposal out. We are simply showing the economic leadership that I think Australians expect of us to engage in this conversation for one simple purpose – to grow jobs and to grow the economy.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, is the Government softening up the public for changing the universality of health care by seeking its opinion on community ratings for private health insurance?

TREASURER:

I will leave those matters to the Health Minister but what we want to ensure through what we're doing more generally in that area is that we have a fit for purpose, modern 21st century system that understands the new treatments, the new demands on the system and is responsive to that and Minister Ley, I think, has done an extraordinary job, again in engaging, in collaborating with doctors, with nurses, with those who work right across the health system, to make sure that it's fit for purpose for the 21st century. So, that's what Minister Ley is doing on health. What Minister Pyne is doing on innovation is the same as we move towards the innovation statement. That's what Minister Robb is doing when it comes to connecting our economy to the fastest growing economies in the world and it's what I'm seeking to do as Treasurer working with the other state and territory Treasurers to grow jobs and grow our economy by focusing on issues by having a better tax system, a better mix of taxes that frees people up where they're being held back now and linked to that is this issue of the Harper Report, which makes incredibly good suggestions about how Australians can have greater choice and better services and more efficient and effective service delivery, so that the money that taxpayers give us can always be better spent.

Thanks very much.