18 November 2015
Transcript - #2015049, 2015

Doorstop interview, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Government orders forced sale of properties illegally held by foreign residents; Paris terror attacks; South China Sea.

TREASURER:

The Government is taking action to enforce our foreign investment laws particularly when it comes to residential real estate with the forced divestment of a very significant residential property in Melbourne. But in addition to that, a number of other properties as well as the denial of an application for a commercial property acquisition. The Government is doing what we said we'd do. We've strengthened those laws. We are enforcing those laws. We believe very much in the value of foreign investment in this country but it must be on our terms according to our laws and in a way that benefits all Australians. I think foreign investors do understand that and respect that. And we appreciate their investment in our country, but we also appreciate their great cooperation in working with the rules that we have put in place as a sovereign nation.

QUESTION:

How's the ATO actually tracking these people down?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to reveal the inner workings of the ATO and their investigative mechanisms. I'm not going to give those who'd seek to get around them the opportunity of knowing those details. But they are obviously working in a lot of different areas and they're seeing a lot of transactions and a lot of activities which gives them the opportunity, I think, to identify this. I think this is the key about today's – there have been other quite significant divestments of residential real estate as a result of the laws that have been brought in where people have come forward, but this was a pro-active investigation by the ATO and I want to commend Chris Jordan and the ATO on their fine work. Being the cop on beat when it comes to foreign investment in residential real estate, in their particular responsibilities, but obviously there are other agencies of the Government which are involved in this as well.

QUESTION:

One of the properties was only worth $154,000. So, are we looking at any level, from something as low as that to the millions of dollars?

TREASURER:

Look, those, foreign investors who want to get around our rules aren't going to get away with it. That's my simple message. We're not going to put up with it. I think people know I have a pretty strong history when it comes to enforcing the law in this country, whether it's on our borders or in our social welfare system or in foreign investment. The integrity of our laws and the integrity of all of these systems, I think, builds greater confidence in the legitimate operations of these areas. I want to encourage legitimate foreign investment in this country. I want to encourage foreign investment that adds value and grows jobs in this country and you do that by building public confidence that the rules will be enforced for those who don't want to play according to our rules.

QUESTION:

Just on another matter, do you think we're at war with Islamic State and do you think Australians might have to accept changes to civil liberties that we currently enjoy to protect us?

TREASURER:

I note the Attorney's comments on this today. As he said, Daesh has declared war on the world – Christians, Muslims alike. They are no discriminators when it comes to the evil that they want to inflict around the world. Australia has been taking, I think, all the appropriate and necessary steps to combat this. We will need to continue to monitor that very closely in terms of what additional measures are necessary. I mean, we did reverse the funding cuts to our security agencies when we came to Government and we did act to strengthen our border protection arrangements. We have acted to be part of the coalition in combatting Daesh in the Middle East and we have the second largest deployment of any country. I think, as a Government, we have responded strongly and wisely to ensure that Australia's interests are protected, and the interests of peace and freedom and liberty for all Australians and all those who love liberty are the foremost of our actions.

QUESTION:

Scott Morrison, just on what you've been speaking about today in particular the China relationship, there does seem to be a suggestion that Australia is now being forced to pick sides when it comes to the South China Sea, in particular choosing the American position, which is potentially doing pass-throughs in that area. Do you that makes the relationship with China difficult to manage, as you have just been talking about trade, and does Australia need to pick sides in that dispute?

TREASURER:

I don't accept the proposition that we are being forced to make any choices along the lines that you've suggested. They are both great friends. The United States are a country in which we have a long-lasting friendship – an alliance. China, apart from being a friend, is also a great customer – as I was just saying in my presentation. I think all of these interests can be well managed and I think are being well managed and I commend particularly Julie Bishop who's doing an outstanding job as Foreign Minister, together obviously with the Prime Minister and Andrew Robb, making sure we balance all these various interests. We are about securing Australia's interests; promoting Australia's national interest, securing Australian jobs and securing Australia's prosperity – that's where we're at. That's what we'll always pursue when it comes to these relationships.

Thank you very much.