11 April 2016
Transcript - #2016046, 2016

Doorstop interview, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Backing Australians in our transitioning economy; Budget 2016; ensuring government lives within its means; road safety remuneration tribunal; Bill Shorten playing politics on Royal Commission; ABCC; infrastructure; Fair Work Commission

TREASURER:

The good news is Australia's economy continues to make its way, certainly conditions are tough around the world and later this week [inaudible] and others will be gathering in Washington and Kelly O'Dwyer will be representing me at that meeting because obviously as we prepare for the Budget this is where I need to be. I am sure that there will be further discussions about what's happening in the softening of the world economy, but Australia as an economy continues to make this transition from the investment phase of the mining boom to a more diversified and strong economy where there is more growth and there is more jobs.

All of this is a reminder of the need as we continue to prepare for the Budget that is calibrated to deliver jobs and growth. Australian businesses are living within their means, Australian households and families are living within their means and governments have to live within their means as well and that's what we will be doing as we put this Budget together. It means that you don't make promises for which there's no money. It means that you keep your expenditure control tight. It means that you reduce your spending as a share of the economy over time, which is our clear plan, to ensure that we support the Australian economy with the prudent measures that will be in this Budget and that will support investment. It means that you ensure that you don't tax and spend, that is not a pathway to jobs and growth. Bill Shorten wants to put $100 billion in additional tax burden on the Australian economy over the next 10 years. That is not a plan for jobs and growth.

What you need to do is you need to continue to clear away the path for businesses to employ people and to grow in what is a tough economy. That's why, on the road safety remuneration tribunal, we have our plan to get rid of it, but what we will do first when Parliament returns is ensure where we will have the support to ensure that that measure put in by the unions and the Labor Party won't be penalising owner drivers over the balance of this year and we'll go to the election saying we'll get rid of it. That is our plan. We want to support businesses, we want to support a more competitive and more productive transport industry, to support our growing economy.

It also means that you need a tough cop on the beat when it comes to the building and construction industry. This is an industry that employs more than a million people in this country and it needs to be at its best. We can help it be at its best again if we can get the Building and Construction Commission, which deals with the lawlessness in the building and construction industry, and get that back on track – as it was recommended by two Royal Commissions. What we have from Labor is just a complete distraction when it comes to what they've suggested with their proposal for a Royal Commission. Let's not forget, the Labor Party resisted a financial systems inquiry when they were in government for six years. When the financial systems inquiry was being conducted at the instigation of this Government, not once did you hear the Labor Party talking about Royal Commissions. When the report was brought down, did they ask for a Royal Commission? No. When there was a Bill, a motion in the Senate to support a Royal Commission into the banks, did they support it? No, they didn't. And when the Government released our response to the financial systems inquiry, did you hear the Labor Party calling for a Royal Commission? No, you didn't. When you hear Bill Shorten come on the eve of an election and call for a Royal Commission in this area, you know he's playing politics. You know he is being opportunistic and he's being opportunistic with something which goes to the heart of the performance of our economy. Of course there are issues that need to be addressed in the banking and financial industry. That's why we initiated the financial systems inquiry. That's why we're acting on its recommendations. That's why we continue to engage with the tough cop on the beat, which is ASIC, and to work with the regulators like APRA who I will meet again with later today and ensure that we have the right measures in place, the right resources in place to ensure that illegal practices are clamped down on. At the same time, we'll continue to work with the banks who have to deal with the culture issues that exist there and the Prime Minister was very clear about that, and we'll continue to do that.

So, the Australian economy, despite the strong headwinds we face, I think the Australian people have good reason to have confidence in what they're doing in our economy, and we want to continue to back them in as we prepare for the Budget.

QUESTION:

Does the Government have any plans to build a high-speed rail link?

TREASURER:

Well, these issues will be addressed in the Budget on May 3 to the extent we make announcements on this but we continue to work with the Infrastructure Minister and those state governments that are associated with these proposals. What we are interested in doing, though, is supporting infrastructure that boosts the productivity of the Australian economy. We have already made announcements about that in Victoria just last week, important new projects which will ensure that we can lift the productivity performance which means one simple thing: that means people can get to work more efficiently than they can now. They can get home more efficiently. That we can get goods to market not just in our mainland capital cities but in markets far beyond our shores – that's the sort of infrastructure we're investing in and that's one of the key ways that you clear a path for Australians businesses to make their way in this tough economy.

QUESTION:

You haven't answered the question though?

TREASURER:

Well, the Budget is on May 3. Thank you, next question.

QUESTION:

On the truckies issue – the owner drivers are saying that the legislation to ban the tribunal and the minimum pay rates should be introduced and passed next week not wait until after the election.

TREASURER:

Well, the Labor Party's opposing it and there's not enough support from the crossbenchers to support that legislation. That's what we want to do. We'd love to do that. And if the crossbenchers and others want to come and tell us that they're prepared to support that, then great. But what we do know we can do, when Parliament returns, the practical things we can do is we can pass legislation which will see that that boom doesn't come down, when it's currently planned to, and that can be put back to a time in January, and in the meantime, we can go into an election and we can say: we want to get rid of this and we're seeking the support of the Australian people to get rid of this, and the question that should be put to those who are contesting the election is: do you support the Government's plan to have legislation which supports the owner drivers? Now the Labor Party doesn't and quite a number of crossbenchers don't support it either. We certainly do, and that's what we'd like to see happen.

QUESTION:

So, the Government does have the support you think just to delay the minimum pay rate for the moment?

TREASURER:

That's where I understand we have the support for at this moment and that's why in Government you always have to focus on the things you can practically do each day to support Australians in their endeavours. Now, we think that that change, that can be achieved, we believe, unless people go back on their word on this, which I don't believe they will, there's no reason for that to happen, that we can get that done. But that's just step 1. Step 2 is get rid of it. Get rid of it. We have Mr Wang today come out and make it very clear that simply what was put forward by the unions and supported by the previous Labor Government was an arrangement to run owner drivers out of town. That's what their plan was and the former union official has blown the whistle on that. So, I think we can see what's happening here. We see the same thing in the Australian building and construction industry. That's why we need the ABCC back. That's what Royal Commissions have recommended and that's what the Labor Party should support when Parliament comes back together next week.

QUESTION:

The unions say they're going to wage a campaign during the federal election about the penalty rates issue. Will you agree with the business or will you agree with unions...

TREASURER:

That's a matter for the Fair Work Commission and they should talk to the Fair Work Commission. That's who sets those arrangements not the government.

QUESTION:

Do you believe that this will be an election issue and are you concerned about a scare campaign?

TREASURER:

I believe it's set by the Fair Work Commission. And I'm never surprised at the unions trying to run fear campaigns against things that aren't there.

QUESTION:

You've criticised Labor on their calls for a Royal Commission into the banking sector but there are at least five government backbenchers who want the government to at least consider a Royal Commission. Has the Government made up its mind too early on this?

TREASURER:

ASIC already has the powers of a Royal Commission and more. I mean, ASIC can actually do more than a Royal Commission can right now and so what the Prime Minister and I and the Assistant Treasurer are focused on is the action that can be taken now. So, that's what we'll continue to focus on. I mean, there are currently prosecutions that are being pursued in relation to these precise matters, and I think that's exactly what ASIC should be doing. That's its job, and we'll continue to work with ASIC and APRA and the other players that are involved in these issues to ensure that Australians can have confidence about the integrity of how they do business with banks. Now, that's the work we do every…

QUESTION:

Exactly how does ASIC have more powers? Can you explain that?

TREASURER:

Well, it has all the powers of a standing Royal Commission. There is nothing that ASIC can't do that a Royal Commission can do. I mean, ASIC can do it all now and I think that's the clear message to those who are proposing this arrangement: ASIC can do the job right now and is doing that job right now and we'll continue to work with them to see what additional matters they'd like to see addressed to enable them to do the job any better. My simple point about Bill Shorten is this: he has no form on this one. At every opportunity, whether it was opposing a financial systems inquiry, raising this issue during the course of the financial systems inquiry, supporting a vote in the Senate to establish a Royal Commission, raising it when the financial systems inquiry reported, raising it when the Government responded to the financial systems inquiry, he was as silent as a lamb, as was Chris Bowen, who commended the response on the financial systems inquiry. I don't think Chris' heart's in it frankly and I think Bill Shorten is just out there running one massive big distraction because he doesn't want to front up next week and explain why he wants to defend lawlessness and criminal behaviour in the construction industry.

QUESTION:

Do you think that value capture financing has...

TREASURER:

Sorry, I missed that.

QUESTION:

Do you think that value capture financing to fund infrastructure projects has merit?

TREASURER:

The Government is looking at all innovative ways that it can support better infrastructure for the Australian economy. We're looking at every single way we can do that better and in a more innovative way and in a more affordable way for tax payers and looking it to the long-term benefits that are there for the Australian economy. We're doing that with the states. I mean we set up the asset recycling fund to work with states to see how they could better use the assets they have to produce and build new and better infrastructure, and there is no better example of what's happening on that front than right here in New South Wales, where the Baird Government and our Government have worked closely together to be delivering this new infrastructure. Now, we'd like to see that around the country and we are open to all of the innovative ideas and proposals that will see better infrastructure on the ground, across Australia, which supports jobs and growth. The Budget is about jobs and growth. It's about an economic plan for jobs and growth. You don't get jobs and growth by taxing and spending. Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen want to put a more than $100 billion tax burden on the Australian economy over the next 10 years. That's their own figures, and they boast about it. It's not a plan for jobs and growth. You will see something very different in our Budget.

Thanks for your time.