10 May 2017
Transcript - #2017089, 2017

Interview with Leon Byner, 5AA

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

LEON BYNER:

Treasurer, good morning and thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Leon.

BYNER:

Let’s start with what Tom Koutsantonis has suggested today. Of the $70 billion allocated for infrastructure we will receive no new funding, no new projects, no new roads and, in fact, on the infrastructure construction schedule, the website shows the projects previously announced and in some cases are underway. So what are we getting?

TREASURER:

$198.7 million on the North South corridor is spent next year. On the North South corridor and on others sections we’ve got $238 million being provided on those projects. Flinders Link is getting money. Now on top of that there’s a $90 billion naval shipbuilding program. There’s $37 million specifically to deal with energy infrastructure works. Proving up cases for gas pipelines to South Australia from Western Australia and from the Northern Territory, there’s a $100 million advanced manufacturing package for South Australia in particular and on major projects like AdeLINK and things like this there’s a $10 billion national rail fund where those projects can be proven up to support those projects. This is an infrastructure Budget which invests right across Australia, including in South Australia, and this is about investing in projects that make a difference to jobs and we’re supporting heavily in South Australia, not just on this Budget but in previous Budgets as well.

BYNER:

So you’re denying that we’re only getting just over $3 billion of $70. You’re saying it’s a lot more than that are you?

TREASURER:

Of course it’s a lot more than that. I mean it’s in Tom’s interest to I think to peddle that message politically in South Australia, but I’ll leave that sort of political point scoring to others. What we’re focused on is investing in reducing energy costs in South Australia, we’re investing in improving the economic task of getting things to market through the ports along the rail corridors, along the road corridors. That’s what we’re investing in, in South Australia. We’re investing the transition of its manufacturing sector, we’re investing in defence shipbuilding, we’re breaking ground on the infrastructure to build those submarines in South Australia, so this is a Government that is heavily committed to South Australia.

BYNER:

$319 million allocated to the future sub project earmarked predominantly for the establishment of a resident project team in France, submarine design DCNS and then the rest is in the US.

TREASURER:

That’s not true, Leon…

BYNER:

It’s not true?

TREASURER:

There’s 5,000 extra jobs coming to Australia for building just the naval shipbuilding program alone, we’re breaking ground at Osborne in months…

BYNER:

When will these jobs materialise?

TREASURER:

We’re breaking ground at Osborne in months. The training programs to skill the workers for these jobs is already underway. We’re getting on with the frigates, we’re getting on with the Pacific Patrol Boats, we’re getting on with what is an enormous naval shipbuilding program of which South Australia is the primary beneficiary.

BYNER:

Let me ask you about this drug testing of 5,000 recipients of Newstart. When’s this going to start?

TREASURER:

We’re settling those details now as we select the location. You know when we introduced the cashless debit card which has been very successful.

BYNER:

And you’re expanding that aren’t you?

TREASURER:

We’re expanding that because the trial has worked.

BYNER:

Alright, where are you going to put it next?

TREASURER:

We’re expanding it in a number of other communities which we’re working with those communities specifically so I’ll leave that for the Minister to go into those details, which is Alan Tudge who’s been negotiating those things. But for the drug testing trial, this is just a trial. We want to see if this can work to ensure that people who aren’t getting jobs because they’re impacted by drug and alcohol abuse, to see if this will assist in dealing with that problem. So it’s just an honest attempt to deal with a real problem. We’re not going to be shackled by ideology. People said the cashless debit card wouldn’t work. But guess what? It did. So we’re going to have a crack at this as a new idea and if it works we’ll keep doing that too.

BYNER:

We’ve got a bill now of $600 billion and we’ve got a Budget, and we see this often, the Treasury estimates of recent years have been over optimistic. Haven’t they? And so you’re hoping for revenue where, for example, if there’s a flat wages growth and you’re looking for some benefit from bracket creep you’re not going to get it are you?

TREAURER:

Well we revised down our wages growth forecast in this Budget from what we said in the mid-year statement. Ever since I’ve been Treasurer we have been project a balance for 2021 and now in four successive statements we’ve held to that. I’ve continued to adjust our forecasts to make sure that they’re realistic and that’s been affirmed by credit rating agencies. Our forecasts in this Budget are more conservative than the International Monetary Federation and are in line with the consensus forecasts by Australian agencies.

BYNER:

So are you going to hold your hand on your heart and say we’re going to be in surplus by 2021?

TREASURER:

That’s certainly what we’re projecting and I’ve never overstated these things, it’s all dependent on what we put in the Budget and we believe that’s credible and we will continue to look at that every six months.

BYNER:

I have on excellent authority that there is a billion dollars in missing taxes from illegal tobacco sales. I know people in Adelaide, some prominent, who’ve reported this. And nothing happens because the agencies can’t decide who should do anything about it, so no one does.

TREASURER:

We’ve invested, particularly in the Australian Border Force, additional resources specifically for this purpose. That’s been happening over the last three years, Leon. Our crackdown on the black economy, which we’ve announced tonight, is also providing support to the Budget.

BYNER:

Scott, what I’ve been told recently suggests…

TREASURER:

Well please pass it on Leon, I’m happy to take those details off air and I’ll pass them on to the Minister and the Border Force officers and we’ll take that up directly, happy to act on it.

BYNER:

If somebody rang an agency and says I’ve got some details, cop this, and they’ve got addresses, places. Wouldn’t you expect them to act on it pretty quickly?

TREASURER:

Well, Leon, you’re asking me to comment on circumstances which are being relayed to me second hand, but if you want to provide those details to me or that individual does, I will hand them directly to the head of the Australian Border Force.

BYNER:

Ok, one other point. The public of this country, you're talking about housing affordability. Let me give you an idea on social media, one of our top small business people, Brenton Griguol says the $30,000 that people might save getting superannuation style benefits or benefits from a tax cut, won’t even pay for stamp duty in South Australia on most houses.

TREASURER:

What it does is gives people a 30 per cent accelerator on their savings, Leon, it’s a tax cut for your first home deposit savings. People are saving, they’re paying more tax on that than I’d like them to, so were giving them a tax cut on those first home savings. It’s their money, they’re earning it. They’ll pay less tax on it when it goes into the account. They’ll pay less tax on it on the interest and the earnings that they receive and they’ll pay less tax on it when they take it out of their fund. So that’s helping first home buyers to save more quickly.

BYNER:

Yes, except that Saul Eslake last night, one of his comments was we’re really only frittering around the edges with all this.

TREASURER:

Well no I reject that, what we've announced last night is everything from additional funding support for people that slept rough last night in Adelaide, additional tax incentives for people to build affordable housing in South Australia, great organisations like Common Ground and Shelter and others that I’ve met with in South Australia. We’re investing in finance for those community housing organisations to build more affordable housing. We’re insisting that Tom Koutsantonis and Jay Weatherill actually cut the time and the cost of planning and development to ensure that they build more homes in South Australia, which reduces the pressure. And on top of that, when you get into the small business area, Leon, we’re going to reward the State Government in South Australia if they do something about cutting red tape for small business. Additional to the tax incentives, additionally we've given to small business in this Budget.

BYNER:

We’ve got the worst unemployment figures and underemployment in the country it seems. What’s in the Budget for those people who need extra work?

TREASURER:

Well, $100 million has gone into our advanced manufacturing package that was announced and you saw that in the ‘Tiser earlier this week. The investments we’re putting into infrastructure across South Australia are positive. The support we’re giving to small business I think is incredibly important. But for those who are on a pension, for those who are on a fixed income, what we’re doing to guarantee Medicare, what we’re doing to invest in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. And for those 90,000 pensioners, former pensioners around the country who lost their pension concession card in January, they’ll be getting that back, so they can access those state discounts that were withdrawn from them by the State Government after those pension changes were introduced earlier this year.

BYNER:

Treasurer, have a good day.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot, Leon, always good to be with you.