9 December 2015
Transcript - #2015065, 2015

Doorstop interview, Melbourne

SUBJECTS: Launch of Melbourne Airport T4 Terminal; National Platform for Economic Growth and Jobs; Tony Abbott

QUESTION:

Has there been any Commonwealth contribution at all to this Airport from the [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

This is a private airport and it is private investment and it’s great to see the vote of confidence that the owners of Melbourne Airport have placed in the Melbourne economy and particularly in this facility here. This is the hub. This is the connecting point of Melbourne to the rest of the country and to see the fruits of their investment paying off here I think is just tremendous to see. This is what a private economy looks like. This is what drives jobs and growth is when private companies, public companies go and invest in the future of our economy and that is what is happening here.

QUESTION:

Does a self-service airport replace roles that used to be done by people with computers?

TREASURER:

Disruption is occurring right across the economy. This is a fact of life. Customers, I said before, airports are about people. Markets are about people, they are about consumers, it's what they are looking for and they are looking for the best services at the best price. That's what is being put on show here. This is what's being put on offer. As an economy, we will continue to transition and we will continue to strengthen by focusing on what the customer is looking for, and being agile and adaptive to their needs, because that's where the jobs are. The jobs in the future are always going to be about doing the things that customers want, and that's what's happening here.

QUESTION:

Of the eight potential GST changes...

TREASURER:

Can we stay on the airport? If there are any other questions on the airport I am happy to take them.

QUESTION:

Is there any room to grow and change this airport based on customer needs, for instance, there is a very long walk from the restaurant precinct into some of the Jetstar gates and I can imagine that the disabled or impaired customers need a bit of assistance travelling that walk. Is there any scope to install travelators or is there any assistance available?

LYELL STRAMBI (CEO MELBOURNE AIRPORT):

Let me answer that question at the macro. People who designed Melbourne Airport over the many, many years have done a fantastic job of protecting this facility for years and years of growth, through additional runways, the sheer land bank we have and then the terminal construct we have and the ability to keep expanding and growing our terminals. I think you're just going to see a constant evolution of our airport. The point you make around the customer facilities, we'll always be responsive to that but you have to remember we also work with our partner airlines who really have a business proposition that they put out to customers and we have to be responsive to their needs. Always willing to help and to tune our offering to suit the propositions of the airlines and really it's for the airlines to come to us and say, “hey, we would like to do this” and we'll be more than happy to respond.

TREASURER:

If there are no other questions on the airport. I'm happy to take other questions.

QUESTION:

Is there a 15 per cent GST on the cards when you meet with state and territory Treasurers tomorrow?

TREASURER:

What has happened is that some months ago the states and territories asked the Commonwealth to provide them with information on what the implications and costings were on consumption tax changes. That's what the Commonwealth has done – there's no secret about that. That's been hiding in plain sight. I have made references to it in the Parliament, in press conferences, at my first state Treasurer's meeting. We provided that information to the states and territories at their request. At the COAG meeting there is the same information being provided to the leaders. So there's nothing new in that either. We have made it clear that we want a growth friendly tax system. We want a tax system that doesn't go out there to raise taxes, to chase ever higher levels of expenditure, whether it's by states or the Commonwealth. That's why you change the tax system, to promote growth and jobs. And that's the discussion the Prime Minister and I are interested in with the states. We are not interested in raising taxes to chase ever higher levels of expenditure, so what's on the table is what the states have asked to be looked at and to put on the table. They are not proposals by the Commonwealth Government, nor are they proposals necessarily by state and territory governments. I think it's just good information to facilitate the discussion that we are having. We'll have those later in the week, first again with Treasurers, where I'll be speaking to them about their state taxes and charges. There's $85 billion worth of state taxes and charges which are raised every year - that's more than the GST raises. If we are going to have changes to our tax system that has to happen in our view, if our economy is to be stronger, at state and federal level. That's what we are seeking to explore with the states and territories. We are talking about changing the tax system to grow the economy? Or is the discussion about raising taxes to pay for higher levels of expenditure. The Commonwealth is not interested in the second discussion.

QUESTION:

How would Australians react to a 15 per cent GST?

TREASURER:

That's a hypothetical question at the moment. What I think Australians always respond well to is policies that are designed to grow jobs and to grow the economy. And this week, we are announced over a billion dollars to spur innovation, and entrepreneurship in our economy, to back Australians who are out there innovating and creating the companies of the future, and the companies indeed of today and we are there taking them into the future through innovation. So whether it's that or the $50 billion national infrastructure plan or the most ambitious and successful trade agenda this country has seen from a Government, whether it's changing the tax system to make it growth friendly, all of these things are designed to grow jobs and grow the economy and that's what the task is. Changing the tax system is only about that goal and if it doesn't achieve that goal, there's no point in it.

QUESTION:

How important do you think it is to harmonise payroll taxes across states and territories?

TREASURER:

I think it's very important for states and territories. These have become competitive issues between states and territories and they have also raised those issues. To the extent to which the Commonwealth can assist the states and territories in that task, well, we are happy to work with them to that end. A lot of the economic reform that has to take place in this country over the next ten years for us to remain competitive sits within the jurisdictions of states and territories, planning and zoning laws, retail trading hours, how we run large areas of human services and engage other providers to deliver those services. Once upon a time these airports were owned by the Commonwealth Government. Today, they are owned by innovative private companies investing in new facilities creating great consumer experiences. There are always better ways of doing things, that's why our response to the Harper Report is all about how can we partner with the state and territory governments to drive those reforms – those changes at the state and territory levels which will boost productivity, which will create jobs, which will grow the economy.

QUESTION:

Are you frustrated that these ideas from the states and others have come out through the media and not at COAG, at the table where they will be discussed?

TREASURER:

It's an open discussion. I mean, there's nothing that has been reported today that is new. There's nothing reported today that is new. Newsflash, the Commonwealth is having a discussion with the states and territories about how we make our tax system better. That's what's happening. As a result you are going to need information to support that discussion and that's taking place. There have been no decisions taken, but there is some genuine focus being applied to these questions again for one simple reason; how do you grow jobs, how do you support growth in the economy and if you can change the tax system to see that taxes such as personal income taxes, and potentially even company taxes, can be cut – remember when the Howard-Costello Government did this 15 years ago they cut personal income taxes, they cut taxes, and they made our economy stronger, more competitive and created jobs and saw great improvements around the country.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott signalled he's going to stay in politics. Do you think it’s a good thing given the open claims that he has been destabilising the Government?

TREASURER:

Those claims are made by others. Tony is a great Australian who makes a great contribution. He brings a unique set of talent and experiences to the Parliament. It's always good to have Tony. Thank you.