23 April 2018
Transcript - #2018049, 2018

Joint press conference, Alice Springs

Joint press conference with

The Hon Nicole Manison MLA
Northern Territory Treasurer

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion
Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Senator for the Northern Territory

Subjects: New funding to boost services in the NT; Financial Services Royal Commission; Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory; Budget 2018

MINISTER SCULLION:

What a cracker day here in Alice Springs and we are here for a couple of cracker announcements. I am delighted to be here with the Treasurer for the Northern Territory Nicole Manison. I am also here with the Australian Treasurer, Scott Morrison and we are going to make some significant announcements about GST, about hospital funding and about remote housing. So, they are all much anticipated events. If I could just introduce the Treasurer of Australia, Scott Morrison.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Thanks very much Nigel and it is great to be here with Nicole, who I have been working very closely with, since she came into the role, and of course Nigel, and it’s great to have Jacinta Price here with me as well. It was just over a few weeks ago we were in Melbourne and that was after the distribution for the GST had come out and those numbers, when I saw them, I was very concerned about the impact that would have on the Northern Territory and the essential services delivery in the Northern Territory and Nicole shared that view. I immediately went up to her at that meeting and said, “we are going to have to do something about this.” She was obviously pleased about that and we have just been working through that process and we have a very good relationship that we have to work through all these issues.

So, having done that over the last few weeks what we have decided to do as a Commonwealth is to ensure that we provide a top up payment to the Northern Territory of $259 million and that will be going into the NT’s bank account. What that is, is a recognition that we will keep the Northern Territory’s share of that GST pool at what it was in the current year. If we had gone forward and just left things to their own devices the Northern Territory would have actually had a $130 million and more reduction in their GST distribution for next year. Now, that means they will actually have that as an increase. They not only get the benefit of the share that they previously had but on top of that it is a share of the bigger pool.

I noted at that press conference in Melbourne that because of the work that the Government has been doing in improving the integrity of the GST base that GST pool has actually increased and Territorians should get the benefit of that increasing GST base as well. We have done this because we are committed to ensuring that essential services for Territorians can be delivered. There are a lot of challenges here in the Territory. We have always known that, you've always known that. The remoteness, the population issues here, and population has actually been declining. It can be a tough place to run an economy and what has been achieved by Territorians over a very long period of time is remarkable. We want to ensure that Territorians can continue to do that and be guaranteed the services that they rely on. So, we're very pleased to come to that agreement with the Nicole and Michael to ensure that that could be delivered upon.

Now, more broadly, the GST issues are being worked through at the moment. There's a Productivity Commission Review, and we'll obviously look more at this question down the track once we get that review back and work on that over the back part of this year.

The other thing we have been able to do today in coming together is also finalise what is a very important agreement for the Northern Territory. And that is the remote Indigenous housing agreement here in the territory. The Commonwealth, we are putting in over five years around about $550 million, matched dollar for dollar with the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory Government is also absolutely committed to this. So, this is a real meeting of minds and hearts, I have to say, as well as budgets, to actually deal with what is a very serious problem.

I have visited many of these remote communities in the Territory with Nige. I have seen the degree of the challenge that's there. So, I'm pleased that we're able to come to a landing point on that. So, some certainty can be provided and we can reduce the overcrowding, we can improve the living conditions of Indigenous Australians, our First Australians. So, we are pleased to be able to deliver that as well. We can do all this because we're a Government that is running a strong economy and is running a responsible Budget. You can't step in to do these sorts of things unless you're doing just that. The Budget I will hand down in a few weeks' time will be very much ensuring that we continue to have a strong economy, so we can guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on, so there can be more jobs, and there can be more opportunities, whether it is here in the Territory, or anywhere else. So, I’m pleased to be here today in the Alice, on a beautiful Alice day and I’m pleased to hand over to my partner in this exercise, Nicole. Congratulations and thank you very much.

TREASURER MANISON:

Thank you Scott. So, I would like to welcome and thank Treasurer Scott Morrison and Senator Nigel Scullion because today is really good news for the Northern Territory. This is the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of conversations and a lot of discussion around the GST situation here in the Northern Territory and of course the remote housing issues that we have got here in the Northern Territory.

To have secured this $259 million top up in the GST is really great news for the Northern territory and it is something we have been fighting hard for and it is something that we have had many discussions with the Federal Government about. Again, I have got to thank Treasurer Scott Morrison because he has always had his door open. We have sat down. We have had many frank discussions about the GST situation, particularly after the last two Commonwealth Grants Commission reports. We have seen huge and unprecedented drops in the GST and so we really welcome this top up funding today and the commitment to keep working with the Northern Territory about looking at sustainable GST funding going forward.

Today it’s also really great to secure five years of funding for remote indigenous housing from the Commonwealth. The Northern Territory Government has a record $1.1 billion ten year remote housing program and we have been lobbying the Federal Government to look at matching that funding and they have done that for five years. I cannot stress enough how important it is to overcome the issues in remote aboriginal housing here in the Northern Territory. We know that if we get this investment right, if we help tackle overcrowding in housing out in the bush, it is going to mean better lives for the most socially disadvantaged Territorians. It is going to mean a better start to life for those kids out in the bush and most importantly if the people living out in our remote communities, if Aboriginal Territorians are doing well then our towns do well, the Territory does well, this nation will do better. This is a really important issue to this country and again I thank the Federal Treasurer for his work on this issue and working very closely with the Northern Territory on these two important matters and of course Senator Nigel Scullion as well. And we look forward to continue working with them in the future.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Thanks Nicole, Nige is the other minister on the remote housing agreement did you want to offer a thought on that?

MINISTER SCULLION:

Well, first of all can I thank and congratulate the Northern Territory Government and particularly Nicole around this agreement. We are re-entering the negotiations in all of the other jurisdictions and what I think we have landed on is the Northern Territory Government before this day have never committed any funds. The last ten years this was a Commonwealth contribution on $1.67 billion here and it is time the states and territories all stood up to mark. I am very proud to be a Territorian when our Territorians say ‘yes, we are going to step up to the mark.’ Yes of course the Commonwealth have matched this and that effectively doubles the money, or nearly doubles the money, for five years. There are going to be some other changes. This isn’t just a matter of providing this to the Commonwealth coffers. A series of Governments of all different flavours have failed miserably in that we haven’t got anywhere near the bang for the buck, we are still building $600,000 houses where they can be constructed for $450,000. We have white men with nail bags coming from different parts of Australia to build houses in remote communities. We need to use not only the indigenous communities for indigenous employment and procurement but we need to say that Territorians need to have first bite at any houses that are being built and maintained. So, there are some issues like that that have to be ironed out but I have to say the nature of those discussions are very, very positive. So, this is a great day for Territorians. Can I say a great thank you to the Treasurer, ScoMo, he is a pretty tough player and it is my responsibility to bat on for the Territory. He has been very thoughtful in this funding to the Northern Territory for their GST. It is just essential for Territorians. We can all play politics all we like but at the end of the day it is essential, irrespective of what Government has done what to our relativities, every one of us needs confidence that when our kid stubs their toe that they can go to a hospital. And they get up on a weekday they can go to school and we can get the best education. I think the decision here should give confidence to every Territorian that that is going to happen in the future. Thank you.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Thanks Nige, why don’t we take a few questions. Let’s keep them to the issues in the Territory and remote housing and also the Northern Territory coming on board with the National Hospitals Agreement and the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. So, happy to take those questions as there are two governments standing here. If there are other issues that you want to address to me on other federal issues I am happy to take those a little later.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, you said last week that Christmas doesn’t come in May. Does this mean for Territorians it comes in April?

TREASURER MORRISON:

What it means is that we are fair dinkum about essential services and we are fair dinkum when we think there are real problems that need to be addressed. Politics are put aside when people’s essential services are on the line and I think what this is a really good day for, and I am sure Nicole would agree, it is a triumph of good policy over politics here. Coming together from both sides of politics, governments at a Territory and Federal level focussing on what people want us to focus on and that is their essential services. So, we have stumped up, the Territory is stumping up, particularly on the remote housing agreement and the other measures and we welcome that. It’s just good common sense government.

QUESTION:

Would this have happened if the NT hadn’t lifted its fracking moratorium?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Those two issues were not related. The Northern Territory made their decision based on their own assessment, the report that they have received. We did not want to enter into any announcement that proceeded that because we didn’t want that to be necessarily swaying it one way or the other. They had to make their decision on its merits and they have and I welcome it actually. I wish other governments around the country were showing the direction that the Northern Territory has on this critical issue of gas. In other states, in Victoria, they have locked up conventional gas let alone anything else. That doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s just pushing people’s power prices up in the south-eastern states. So, I commend the Northern Territory Government for making what was, I know, a very difficult decision for them. A tough one. But they made it and good for them. Now, they have made another one to back in remote indigenous housing you know I will call it as a good thing when I see it as a good thing. So, well done.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, you were hardly on the sidelines in the fracking debate though. You were regularly talking about…

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, I am allowed to have a view.

QUESTION:

You are.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Is that ok?

QUESTION:

Of course! But can’t you see why in the minds of many Territorians that this announcement restoring GST funding the week after that announcement is made, can’t you see why people are looking at that and asking questions about whether the two are related?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, I am telling you they are not and I think any other view would be cynical.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, why did you decide to restore the NT’s share with an extra $123 million?

TREASURER MORRISON:

We used the same approach that we used in Western Australia when we stopped the drop on the GST to Western Australia. We froze their per capita distribution at that level and applied it to the pool and that is what we have done in this case. So, we have basically mirrored the treatment in the Northern Territory that we have done in other states. Why did I do it? Because I thought essential services were at risk in the Territory. A difference of this scale in a budget of the Northern Territory’s size means something very different to say if that had happened in one of the big states. I mean this really does and Nicole made the point strongly and effectively and I agreed with her.

QUESTION:

Territory governments have been accused of misspending federal funding in urban areas rather than in disadvantaged communities. Will you be watching where this money does get spent, are there strings attached?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, the public will always watch where money is spent and make judgments but when Nicole and I talked about this the Territory was very keen for this to be untied funding and we agreed to that because we knew that they know where they need to put it and that is to protect these essential services. So, that is what I would expect. I expect this to go to supporting hospitals and schools. I expect it to go into supporting the essential delivery of services here in the Territory that people rely on. I have no reason to think it would be different. This isn’t some slush fund for employing lots more public servants or anything like that. That is certainly not what they have in mind. So, it is about addressing what is a real need. So, when you have a real need that needs to be addressed we’re going to be there to support it.

QUESTION:

Can I just take you back to some comments you made after the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s carve up to GST funding.

TREASURER MORRISON:

This was last year wasn’t it?

QUESTION:

No, no, the one just earlier this month. You said, “we want states like New South Wales and Victoria and the Northern Territory to step back from their moratoriums on gas exploration and development of their resources. GST sharing arrangements are a potential lever to encourage and incentivise the states and territories to develop their economies to their full potential”. Wasn’t that saying to the Northern Territory and these other states, you lift these moratoriums and we’ll look after you as far as the GST goes?

TREASURER MORRISON:

No, I think you should pay the Northern Territory Government a bit more respect. You are suggesting that somehow they have been so weak kneed that they have just rolled over. I don’t think they have done that at all. What they have done is made a decision based on its own merits – and good for them. Equally they have come to us and outlined a real serious issue from the GST distribution which needed addressing and we have. So, I am not going to make that criticism of the Northern Territory Government. I actually think they have made the right call, on their own, on their own merits for setting up that decision and that is as it should be. It’s no secret about the fact that the Commonwealth Government wants to see states and territories unlock their gas because we want to see people’s power prices go down. Now, those decisions are matters for the states and territories.

QUESTION:

Would you agree that people will perceive this money as a reward [inaudible]?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, I wouldn’t agree with that assessment because it wasn’t related.

QUESTION:

Would you agree that people might perceive that?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, that’s not my job. That’s your job to talk about people’s perceptions. It’s my job to make decisions and support essential services here in the Territory, which is what I have done and I believe that Territorians, and Nicole you might want to offer a comment as well, we think they will support that.

TREASURER MANISON:

Let me be very clear, again, we absolutely welcome the Federal Government’s work with us on the GST situation. We all know that GST has a huge impact on the Northern Territory particularly on a per capita basis when we do see those changes to the relativity. They have worked with us to get to a very good space here today. I just want to be very clear about the fracking situation that the Northern territory Government made its decision with regards to fracking 100 per cent based on the Inquiry and what we thought was in the best interest of Territorians. There is no doubt that it was a very hard decision but I want to be very clear about that, that was what we made our decision on fracking based upon.

QUESTION:

Will any of this money be spent on doing the baseline studies that will come about after that fracking decision?

TREASURER MANISON:

We have already put funding commitments into looking at those important baseline studies to make sure that we have got the right data, not just environmentally but also socially and culturally as well. We have been looking at separate funding around that but that will be a very important body of work that we need to do in order to provide for an onshore gas industry.

QUESTION:

So are you hoping for separate assistance from the Commonwealth on that front then?

TREASURER MANISON:

Well, we have put some budgetary commitments aside and we will certainly look at other funding requirements for that.

QUESTION:

Was there any pressure put on you by either the Treasurer or anyone else from the Federal Government to lift that moratorium in return for that GST funding.

TREASURER MANISON:

No, with regards to GST funding but I think Scott and the other Federal Ministers have always been very clear with the Northern Territory that they wanted to see the moratorium lifted and I want to be very clear again to say, 100 per cent the decision around the lifting of the moratorium was based on that inquiry and also what we thought was in the best interests of the Northern Territory and zero per cent on the GST.

QUESTION:

Can you guarantee that this money won’t go towards something, a big ticket item in Darwin and will be spent in areas that need it?

TREASURER MANISON:

Well, this is going to go into the important revenue base that helps support everyday services in the Northern Territory, which is what the GST is all about. HFE is all about ensuring that every Australian no matter where they live get good access to important essential services and this is what this money will be used for.

QUESTION:

When the GST carve up was announced earlier this month and it looked like we were going to lose $136 million you said that over the forward estimates that meant that we were going to lose $1.4 billion. Does that mean we are now going to get $1.3 billion roughly over the forward estimates considering we are now getting more rather than less?

TREASURER MANISON:

So, when we had a look at what we wanted to do in this term of Government we, of course, looked at and used the last Budget that was delivered by the previous Government and the pre-election fiscal outlook and the Budget Estimates, the forward estimates that were in there. We have seen from the amount of revenue we were expecting to come into the Northern Territory those significant drops. This recognition that the Federal Treasurer has worked with us on today is good news for the Northern Territory. It is not going to fix all of those fiscal issues that we are facing. We are going to have to apply a lot of internal discipline, which I did announce on Friday with a range of savings and revenue measures but we have still got a long way to go. The other thing that I welcomed today was not just this GST top up of funding but recognition that this created a substantial issue for the Northern Territory and there has to be ongoing discussions around the GST here and making sure that we have sustainable revenue coming in to the Northern Territory. When you have a population of just under 250,000 people, you have one of the largest land masses in the country and you have a 30 per cent population of Indigenous Territorians and the most socially disadvantaged people in the nation with huge infrastructure deficits you need every dollar that you can get. Again, I welcome the Federal Government’s recognition that GST funding is very important for the Northern Territory and the fact that they have shown today that they are working with us on this very important issue. It is greatly appreciated.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Let me just comment on the question because I endorse everything Nicole has said. The GST is distributed on an annual basis, it is not distributed on a four yearly basis. So, the decisions only apply for one year. Anything that is projected beyond that one year is basically a forecast, or an estimate, or call it whatever you like but it is not based on what the Commonwealth Grants Commission has actually decided. That is done on an annual basis. So, the decision that we have taken here to provide this support is based upon that one year because it relates to a one year decision. This isn’t the first time we have had to do a top up. As you know we have been doing them for several years now in Western Australia. Here we are at $4.66 that’s where we have kept it at. In Western Australia on the current redistribution it was $0.47. So, this really did show, once again, the problems with this system. That is why we initiated the review through the Productivity Commission. That is why we have been working with the states and territories. It is not an easy situation to address but one of the problems that I think keeps getting demonstrated, the reason we are standing here today talking about a top-up which isn’t coming out of the GST pool by the way. It is coming out of the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth Government. So, income taxes, company taxes, all of those – that is what is paying for this today as well as the additional commitments on remote housing. So, one of the issues with the way it works is the higher level of volatility and uncertainty that we’ve seen. Particularly with some of the smaller jurisdictions in how the formula is working. That is one of the things the Productivity Commission is working on trying to smooth out. So, Nicole and her colleagues around the country can budget a bit more in the future with a bit more certainty about where it is going to land. It is not the Commonwealth who actually doles this out and works out what the dole out is. It is done by this formula which is, I think, proved to be overstrained in recent times and it warrants a complete look at. Now, we are proposing to do that. Our opponents are not but that is a matter for them we will keep on the process of trying to fix the GST.

QUESTION:

But, when the Territory Government says, we have been given a $2 billion GST cut over the next four years, they are being a bit clever with the numbers there aren’t they?

TREASURER MORRISON:

As I said, we only do it on a yearly basis. They have to make estimates about what they are doing over their own forward estimates. They will have to make those estimates so I can’t say that those numbers are right and I don’t think Nicole would ask me to say they are right. She will believe they are right for the reasons she has put in and we are not debating that point. What I am simply saying is that the distributions are done on an annual basis what we have done here today is based on an actual distribution that would have seen the nominal funding for the Northern Territory fall by over $130 million. What we have done is like the good old 12 point turnaround in a game of footy. Turns around, you stop them scoring and you score yourself. The Northern Territory has got back on that front foot with additional funding of just over $130 million on where they were last year. I acknowledge, and that is why we have gone down this process with the states and territories to really look at how the GST formula is worked out to provide greater certainty and remove some of this stability which does cause problems.

TREASURER MANISON:

I would just like to also add even when you do look at the GST that is coming in now. You look at the level it is going to be below those 2016 levels of revenue and our costs keep getting higher. Again, I can’t thank the Federal Government enough for the work that they are willing to do looking at this situation because we do budget, we do look forward, we do expect a certain level of revenue coming in. The last two Commonwealth Grants Commission reports have seen unprecedented drops in the level of GST coming through. We have not seen them at that magnitude before and as the Treasurer has been speaking about some of the complexities with the formula and calculating it, you are far more vulnerable to some of those changes and them hitting you a lot harder when you have a very small population base. That is what we have seen in the last two years and so it is really good to be working positively on this matter moving it forward.

QUESTION:

You have consistently said that we are getting a $2 billion GST cut. We are getting a $1.4 billion GST cut. I mean that’s not really true is it? As the Federal Treasurer says this is something that is reassessed every year and you are extrapolating that for a worst case scenario to try and make it political.

TREASURER MANISON:

Well, what we have looked at is that we had the books when we came into Government, we had a good look at those books and we based our election commitments based on what had been projected in the final CLP budget but also the pre-election fiscal outlook of what money was set to come in to the Northern Territory. You work with those numbers and you have a look at what you have got there. When you go back to those numbers and the revenue that we anticipated to come back into the Northern Territory through the GST distribution, it had dropped by billions of dollars. So, that is what we had forecasted, that is what we were working off, that is what the previous government was working off but nonetheless I do appreciate the fact that here we are showing that we are working in a very positive fashion going forward around the GST situation in the Northern Territory. When 50 per cent of your income comes from the GST it is an incredibly important source of revenue here in the Northern Territory and if we are to work on some of the issues that we have got here it is really important [inaudible] coming into the Northern Territory. It has been a very constructive previous 12 months of work with the Treasurer. We have had many conversations about this because my job is to make sure that I am doing my best to fight for the Northern Territory every day and advancing the Northern Territory every day and to get the outcome that we have is really good news for the Northern Territory.

TREASURER MORRISON:

So it is a day of agreement between the Territory and the Commonwealth and from both sides of the political fence. I think that is a good thing. I think Australians would feel assured by that, I think Territorians will be assured by that. With all of the politics you often see, it demonstrates that if you get people together acting in good faith you can get to a good outcome. I think that is great and I really appreciate Nicole’s approach and how we have gone about working this through. Any other questions on this issue? I think it is great to come to a press conference here in the Territory and I get a whole bunch of questions on the Territory. It’s fantastic. Fabulous.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, I was going to ask you, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce…

TREASURER MORRISON:

Before we go to those, I don’t want to involve Nicole in those matters. Is there anything else that you wanted to cover off with Nicole or I? She’s in the Territory all the time.

QUESTION:

So Barnaby Joyce is calling for an overhaul to the Parliament employment regulations so husbands and wives can work together. What is your reaction to his comments?

TREASURER MORRISON:

They are matters for the Prime Minister but I don’t anticipate there will be any changes.

QUESTION:

Was the Government too slow to call a Royal Commission into the banks?

TREASURER MORRISON:

The Prime Minister made some comments on that overnight and I certainly agree with him that when we were first elected our priority was always on taking the action on these issues. For example, one of the things I did when I first became Treasurer, was work on these issues of accountability of banking executives. Now, I wasn’t going to wait around several years to bring legislation into the Parliament that now makes banking executives accountable and their bonuses can be clawed back and they can be banned from working in the industry. We weren’t going to wait to respond to the Financial System Inquiry that we initiated right off the bat which has led to everything from the new Financial Complaints Authority and tougher penalties, which includes gaol time for people in banks, or insurance companies, or superannuation funds who are going out and engaging in the sorts of abuses and misleading conduct and abhorrent conduct that we have seen. We got on and have taken all those actions. I agree that we copped a lot of political flack for not taking the decision to go to the Royal Commission earlier than we did. But in that we are admitting to taking action and putting the benefits of customers first, doing the things that we needed to do first before addressing these political issues. Again, taking action took precedent for customers over politics. So, the Prime minister said if that is something that people have commented on us about, well so be it. We are always going to take action on behalf of the customers here. It was this government that ultimately initiated the Royal Commission. Yes, we didn’t enter it lightly. We didn’t rush into it. But I can tell you that as we framed the terms of reference for it, it was very much informed by the work and action we had already undertaken. Bill Shorten only ever had basically a blank sheet of paper when it came to the terms of reference for a Royal Commission. And the first time he talked about a Royal Commission wasn’t when he was the Minister for Financial Services in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. It was when he was in opposition. When he could have actually had done something about it – and there wasn’t any shortage of scandals going on back then in the banking and financial industry – but when he is in opposition he thinks it’s a good idea and when he was in government he didn’t. So, look, people will want to commentate and go on about the political point scoring on this. I’m not interested in it. I am interested in taking actions by ensuring that we have the toughest sanctions, the right regulations, the resources for our regulators, particularly ASIC. We have a new Chair of ASIC, we have a new Deputy Chair of ASIC coming in, Mr Crennan, in a few months’ time, or sooner than that I think, whose job will be to prosecute. So, the Royal Commission will get on and keep doing its work and that is good and we initiated the Royal Commission. At the end of the day I think that is what people care about. Did it happen? Yes. Had we taken action before that? Yes. Will we keep taking action on this? Yes. Did we put the levy on the banks? Yes. So, when it comes to addressing this issue there is a list a mile long of the action we have taken and that puts in stark contrast the do-nothing attitude of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government on that matter.

QUESTION:

Is it true though that you only committed to this Royal Commission once the banks actually demanded it?

TREASURER MORRISON:

We finally took this decision at the end of last year. The assessment was weighed that the risk of not proceeding in terms of all the issues that needed to be managed was greater than proceeding. The banking and financial industry is not something you address lightly. Everybody’s job, everybody’s wage, everybody’s mortgage, whether you can get a loan to run your business or an overdraft, all of this depends on the banking and financial system. You just don’t go around stomping around here. You make careful judgments, as we have done. The penalties announcement Kelly O’Dwyer and I made on Friday, that process began in October 2016. So, it was a very carefully assessed set of measures, just like the establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority which we have legislated. Just like the establishment of the Banking Executive Accountability regime, the increased resources for ASIC, the increased powers for ASIC. All of this has been done carefully and we will continue to act carefully because it is a very sensitive area of the economy. We are not going to play politics with it. What the Prime Minister basically said overnight was, yeah if you want to have a crack at us for not managing the politics then by all means but what we were focused on was what was the right action to take right then, right now and not kick it down the road. Do what we needed to do to protect consumers right away and not wait years.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, the Prime Minister has come out and said it was a mistake after you came out last week and said…

TREASURER MORRISON:

He was talking about the politics.

QUESTION:

But are there mixed messages coming out?

TREASURER MORRISON:

No, there is not.

QUESTION:

Are you sure?

TREASURER MORRISON:

I am very sure. I am totally sure. We prioritised taking action over politics. Bill Shorten always puts politics over consumers or anyone else.

QUESTION:

Will you apologise for delaying the Banking Royal Commission?

TREASURER MORRISON:

I have made my comment on that.

QUESTION:

Kelly O’Dwyer said yesterday that the two year delay in calling the Royal Commission showed that it was a sober and careful judgment from the Government.

TREASURER MORRISON:

Correct.

QUESTION:

What then does that make the Government’s decision to call a Royal Commissions into youth justice in the Northern Territory after ten hours?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Well, there are different types of Royal Commissions. In that case you were dealing with a very specific incident. Very specific. And a Royal Commission is well positioned, I think, to get to the bottom of quite specific cases, which that was. What we are dealing with here with the banking and the finance and the superannuation and insurance sector is something much more broad than that.

QUESTION:

It was ten years of justice issues…

TREASURER MORRISON:

You are talking about a particular case that was the trigger…

QUESTION:

Into justice and child protection…

TREASURER MORRISON:

No, I don’t draw a comparison between the two. I think they are very different and when you look over Royal Commissions in the past you will find they are called for different reasons on an array of issues but I think the one here in the Northern territory was quite pointed. You couldn’t have the government here inquire into itself. Could you? That would be a nonsense when it came to this issue. It did require a step back and one removed to get into those issues. Now, in terms of the banking and the finance sector one of the problems with dealing with a call previously for a Royal Commission is the Opposition never actually wrote a terms of reference. Ever. One day Bill Shorten jotted a few little things on a list on the way to an interview in Melbourne. That was it. It was only ever about politics for Bill. It was never about dealing with the real issues of customers. That is what we were dealing with and the Royal Commission that was instituted was instituted by the Turnbull Government and that is a fact.

QUESTION:

What terms of reference did the Prime Minister draw up before he called the Royal Commission in the Northern Territory?

TREASURER MORRISON:

Again I think you are conflating two issues that cannot be conflated and I don’t think you should. I think that does a disservice to the issue that you are actually referring to. That required that action at that time and the Prime Minister took it. I don’t think the two can be compared. Ok. Well, it is great to be here in the Territory. Great to be here with Nige and Jacinta as well and I look forward to other opportunities to get up here in the future. I appreciate the real refreshing way that we have been able to deal with a lot of local issues first before moving on to the Federal. Thanks very much. I’m looking forward to the Budget, obviously in a few weeks’ time, as I am sure Nicole is looking forward to hers. For us, our Budget will be about a stronger economy, which means more jobs and being able to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on. And as always with Coalition Budgets, making sure we live within our means. Thank you.