17 April 2018
Transcript - #2018043, 2018

Doorstop interview, Canberra

Subjects: Budget 2018; Enterprise Tax Plan; cyber security; Greens proposal to legalise cannabis.

TREASURER:

As much as The Daily Telegraph loves to play dress-ups with me on the front page, I can tell Australians I am not Santa Claus and there won't be a Christmas in May and the Grinch won't be making an appearance either. But, on a more serious note, this Budget – like the budgets of households all around the country – needs to continue to exercise the restraint that has been so important in ensuring that we bring that Budget back to balance in 2020-21, that we maintain the confidence certainly of the ratings agencies and others who continue up until now obviously to maintain Australia's AAA credit rating. Australians are continuing to make sure that their belts are tightened and the Government is no different so there will be a Budget that lives within its means but it will be a Budget that will actually be once again striving, working to deliver a stronger economy because it's through a stronger economy that you guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on. The same essential services that we guaranteed in last year's Budget and we'll do so again in this year's Budget. Through a stronger economy, you can also invest in important infrastructure that again drives stronger growth in our economy to support the jobs – the record jobs growth that we've seen – but also that that stronger growth delivers the infrastructure that busts the congestion in cities, that makes rural and regional roads safer and I have no doubt that is what the Acting Prime Minister is excited about and enthusiastic about and I welcome that excitement but I want to reassure Australians that this Budget will be like the Budgets Coalition Governments always deliver – a Budget that lives within its means, that promotes a stronger economy to guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on.

QUESTION:

It was the Acting Prime Minister that actually called you "Scott 'Santa Claus' Morrison", not The Daily Telegraph. Is the Acting Prime Minister wrong in saying this?

TREASURER:

He was enthusiastic about the important investments that have been made in infrastructure but I'm sure he would agree with me that our Budget will be one that lives within its means and focus on a stronger economy to deliver those essential services.

QUESTION:

Will it be a Government-saving budget? It will have to be a big spending budget.

TREASURER:

It will be exactly what I said it was – it will be a budget that will work again to deliver a stronger economy that we are growing – record jobs growth – to ensure that we can make the investments in the infrastructure that the Acting Prime Minister has pointed to. We've already made quite a number of announcements in this area and we've been making no secret about them – whether it's the Tulla Rail or the M1 up in Queensland or indeed in my home city of Sydney around Western Sydney Rail from the airport and the road infrastructure that goes around that in particular. We are making important national investments in infrastructure that will support growth, bust congestion in our cities and make our transport – rural and regional roads – safer.

QUESTION:

Can you today confirm that tax cuts for middle income earners will be in this Budget [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

The Budget will be on 8 May…

QUESTION:

So what are some of the gifts your Acting Prime Minister has…

TREASURER:

No, I don't believe that is – as I said, I'm not Santa Claus and I'm not bringing a bag of gifts in May and there won't be any Christmas in May – what there will be is a responsible Budget that invests in a stronger economy, ensures that we are relieving that pressure on middle income families, we flagged as late as last November that we would be focusing, targeting tax relief to middle income earners because that's important economically because of the support, we know that will continue to provide for the economy. In addition to that, it will most importantly, relieve that burden on families, on middle incomes who have been doing it tough and we understand that and that's why we'll be focusing on it and the details of that will be outlined in May.

QUESTION:

The Acting Prime Minister said there will be record infrastructure spending in this Budget – is that right?

TREASURER:

The biggest single infrastructure announcement in this Budget I've already announced last week in Melbourne. That is the single biggest infrastructure announcement in this Budget and the M1 was announced a day or so before so we have been making a number of announcements on infrastructure prior to the Budget and you can expect us to continue to do that.

QUESTION:

[inaudible]

TREASURER:

We stand by our original Enterprise Tax Plan that I introduced in the 2016-17 Budget, took to a Federal election, an election that we won, that was supported because we won that election and we continue to prosecute that bill through the Parliament. We've had significant success already in delivering tax cuts for small and medium-sized businesses and we're looking at being able to continue to pursue the full tax cuts right across the board because we know that if you tax your economy less it grows more, we know that if we don't insist on companies paying the Government more in higher taxes they can invest more in their businesses and pay their workers more, it stands to reason, it's a sensible economic policy, it's an economic policy that supports the growth and a stronger economy that guarantees essential services that Australians rely on.

QUESTION:

But if that will get Derryn Hinch on board and if you don't get Tim Storer on board, will you not… isn't that a good thing though?

TREASURER:

We don't discuss the negotiations here in the media gallery and the Finance Minister who is representing me overseas at the moment at a series of meetings in Washington, he is directly holding those discussions with the crossbenchers and I think he's done an outstanding job and he's patient, I'm patient, the Prime Minister's patient but we're also committed to this policy because we know it delivers a stronger economy that means more jobs, more investment and the guarantee for the essentials.

QUESTION:

Are you concerned about these reports that hundreds of Australian businesses may have been hacked by Russia. What can the Government do in response?

TREASURER:

I'll leave the details of that question to Minister Taylor and others who are directly responsible but otherwise to say that it is a timely reminder that the risks are real it's why we've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in cybersecurity measures and the cybersecurity strategy that was announced by the Prime Minister years ago and we continue to roll that out. But my advice is that no Australian department or agency has been affected by that and Minister Taylor is in the United States at the moment obviously working closely with our allies and partners there on these very issues, but it is a timely reminder for businesses that the world we live in and the precautions that need to be taken and the Government has been and continues to take those precautions by investing in the cybersecurity protections that necessary to protect the nation.

QUESTION:

Would the Government ever consider the Greens' proposal to legalise marijuana and use that tax and put it back into prevention [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

We don't support that policy.

QUESTION:

What do you think about Peta Credlin saying that she called Josh Frydenberg and that he will no longer be talking about Tony Abbott? What do you think about that?

TREASURER:

I'm totally uninterested in it. You know what? I think the Australian people are totally uninterested in it and I think there are a lot of people here who are totally uninterested in it too.

QUESTION:

Mike Keating is backing the Australia Institute's call for more taxes, you've talked about the economic benefit of lowering taxes, where do you stand on that push that's coming for [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

I think it's a numpty of an idea. The idea that you increase taxes to grow the economy is stupid. That has no quarter with the Government but I'll tell you who agrees with it. Bill Shorten agrees with it, Chris Bowen agrees with it, Chris Bowen thinks that the best way to grow the economy is to put $200 billion of higher taxes on the Australian economy. It's a stupid idea, it will result in Australians paying more, not just in higher taxes, but as we learnt yesterday they'll pay more in rents, they'll pay more for their private health insurance, they'll pay more for their electricity, they'll pay more for their taxes. Under Labor, Australians will pay more because Labor believes taxes should be higher because taxes should chase their spending and it's a never-ending chase, the taxes keep going up because Labor's spending keeps going up. Labor cannot live within their means, the Australian people know that and they know it means they'll pay more.

QUESTION:

Will this be a normal-fashioned John Howard-style Budget, Treasurer?

TREASURER:

I don't know how you'd describe…

QUESTION:

Well, there's plenty in it for families.

TREASURER:

The Budget is what I've said it's going to be. People rely on the Coalition to provide a sensible, constructive, sober, patient economic management which means we can deliver on the essential services that Australians rely on and that all comes from ensuring that we have a stronger economy. Now, higher taxes don't give you a stronger economy. Mismanagement of public finances, which is what Labor would do, doesn't give you a stronger economy. All that does is put at risk the services people rely on and increases the costs for everyday Australians. We are delivering when it comes to bringing the Budget back into balance, we are delivering when it comes to guaranteeing the essential services that Australians rely on and we are delivering on the stronger economy that guarantees all of those things so that's what we're working towards through the Budget. The Budget is in three weeks' time, I will have a lot more to say about all of those things there and they will be very pleased to see our very strong focus and targeted focus on middle income Australians who have really been doing it tough and we know there are things we can do to assist them at this time and going forward and we flagged that last November, we've been working steadily on it for months and months now and in a few more weeks, we'll be able to make our announcements in that area. Thanks very much for your time.