11 May 2017
Transcript - #2017097, 2017

Interview with Tom Tilley, Triple J Hack

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

MATT TILLEY:

Alright, very excited to say that the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, is on the line. I think it’s his first time on Triple J, certainly as a Government frontbencher. Scott Morrison, thank you so much for joining us.

TREASURER:

G’day, Tom. I’m pleased to be with you.

TILLEY:

It’s fantastic to have you here and I know you’re a busy man, so let’s move quickly.

TREASURER:

Sure.

TILLEY:

I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a 21 year old Australian. From that perspective, how would you rate the Budget out of ten?

TREASURER:

Well, it’s respecting how much tax they’re going to pay for the next 20 or 30 years. One of the big challenges I think for young people, which I’m very conscious to try and protect them from, is that as our population ages it’s those 21 year olds who are going to be paying for more and more people and their services as more and more of them go into retirement age. And so it’s important that we make sure that our services are as tightly run as we possibly can, to ensure that the cost burden that they’re going to have to carry for the next 40 years won’t crush down on the economy and ensure that they can have, when they get to 65, they can have the same sort of supports that their parents and grandparents do.

TILLEY:

In most cases 21 year olds care about the impact of the rising climate because they’ll be around to ensure it. Why didn’t your Budget speech mention the “C” word even once?

TREASURER:

Well, we have a range of existing programs which are continuing and there were no new measures that we were pursuing in this Budget. We’re continuing the many measures that we already have.

TILLEY:

Ok, but given you’re the same guy that brought a lump of coal into Parliament earlier this year, do you think you might be creating a perception that you’re not really concerned about climate change?

TREASURER:

The Government’s policies ensures that our emissions targets are met. I mean, when the Prime Minister talks about affordable and secure energy, he also talks about sustainable energy and we’re meeting our targets and I’m committed to those targets and we’re getting it done. I’m just not very ideological about these sort of things. I mean, I’m just quite a practical person, Tom, and we’ve got our plan, and we’ve got our program and we’re implementing it and that’s fair enough and I just think the suggestion that, you know, energy sources that have been an important part of Australian’s competitive advantage over a long period of time, they still have a role going forward. They still can be done better in the future and it’s sort of, I’m just not an all or nothing sort of person when it comes to these sorts of issues. I think you’ve got to be pragmatic to get things done.

TILLEY:

Alright, you’re listening to the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, live on Triple J. We’re looking at the Budget from a young person’s point of view and Scott Morrison, a 21 year old hopes one day to be able to buy a home and your Super Savers Scheme was the key measure to help young people get into the housing market. Labor’s going to call it a fizzer tonight. Why did you cap the savings scheme at $30,000?

TREASURER:

Well, it’s an affordable program and what we’re doing is just saying, a couple would be able to do $60,000 then and look it’s hard to save that amount of money. I don’t know how many 21 year olds would be in a position to save $15,000 a year. So I think we’ve set the annual limit well above where most people would be at and for that $15,000 a year they will pay less tax when they put it into the account, they’ll pay less tax on it when it’s earning on the interest and the dividends that they’re getting and they’ll pay less tax when it comes out so…

TILLEY:

But why cap it at $30,000. I mean, you’re a Sydney man and that’s where houses are most expensive. The median price in Sydney at…

TREASURER:

Well, it’s expensive basically, Tom. I mean, we means test all sorts of benefits, as we should, and we have with this and we believe it’s an affordable measure to be able to provide this level of support.

TILLEY:

But, Mr Morrison, it’s a cap. I mean $30,000 where the median apartment price in Sydney is $700,000, it means that a deposit of 20 per cent is $160,000 when you include stamp duty, and you’re only helping people save $30,000.

TREASURER:

Well, Tom, tell me how many of your friends save more than $15,000 a year?

TILLEY:

I know a few people that do that.

TREASURER:

Look, those people…

TILLEY:

But it’s not about the $15,000, it’s about the $30,000, why limit it at $30,000? I don’t understand.

TREASURER:

Because everything costs money, Tom, and we’ve limited this initiative to that level and for people who are able to save. A couple who saves $60,000 in two years, they will have accelerated their savings by 30 per cent. Now that’s a lot better than what they’ve got right now and this is important. I mean, this measure – just so you know – that has cost taxpayers $260 million over the next four years. So, you know, it’s an important investment that other taxpayers are giving to first homebuyers to be able to reward them for the savings effort that they’re making. But that’s not the only thing we’re doing for young people, Tom. I mean, if you slept rough last night, we’ve put $375 million into making our homelessness programs permanent. Now, they used to run year to year and as social services minister I renewed them for several years but, as Treasurer, I’ve made them permanent, and I’ve said that that funding has to be focused on two things. One, young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. And secondly, families, individuals, who are the victims of domestic violence which can also affect many young people. So, this is a very big investment in supporting homelessness initiatives and on top of that we’ve given tax incentives to people to invest in building affordable accommodation. I mean how many 21 year olds own their own home? They’re all renting or they’re living with family…

TILLEY:

They’d like to one day. Hey, I’ve just got one last question on that housing deposit initiative…

TREASURER:

Let me finish on that, Tom, because you’ve asked me about young people and affordable accommodation.

TILLEY:

Sure.

TREASURER:

Thirty per cent of people rent and what we’ve done for those on low incomes, we are providing tax incentives and support so more affordable accommodation can get built. That means more accommodation for people on low incomes to get subsidised rent. That’s a good thing.

TILLEY:

Alright, let’s talk about the Skilling Australians Fund – that could be positive news for a 21 year old Australian who’s thinking about entering an apprenticeship or a traineeship.

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

TILLEY:

It’s $1.5 billion. But is this a new program or is it just a new way of funding an old program? Because the Budget papers say that the Skilling Australians Fund will be collected from taxing foreign work and skilled visas. But is this money going to be used for new programs? Or is it there to fund the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development, which is already in existence?

TREASURER:

Well, that was a particularly unsuccessful program I should stress. It wasn’t a program that was working and its funding actually ran out. There was no funding which had been scheduled beyond the end of this financial year and so we need to do it very differently and we need to do it a lot better and so we’ve done a couple of things. First of all, what used to happen is that companies would pay one per cent of their payroll, or were supposed to anyway, for training initiatives within their own company if they employed foreign workers and if they didn’t do that, they had to pay two per cent of their entire payroll into an industry training fund. Now, the policing of this and the compliance with this had proved incredibly inclusive and so we had the problem where technically these funds were supposed to be going to training but we weren’t still training the apprentices so the Governments, state and territory and Commonwealth, need to be able to plan and undertake this training for the whole economy. So, we said well let’s get rid of those other training levies. Companies should still invest in training because it’s in their interest to do so as a successful business, but we will take a levy each year for each foreign worker and we will invest that into the new commonwealth state Skilling Australians Fund that states and territories can draw down for practical programs which they will get paid for on results.

TILLEY:

Ok, so what are those practical programs? How will it impact someone on a day to day level?

TREASURER:

Well, every state and territory’s different, so the Commonwealth doesn’t go around always telling the states what to do. I mean, they are actually responsible for delivering these programs and every state and territory will take a different approach. So in Victoria you’d have to ask Tim Pallas and Dom Perrottet in New South Wales and Curtis Pitt up in Queensland and Ben Wyatt over there in WA and Tom Koutsantonis in South Australia. So every program will be different in the states and I want them just to be able to deliver the trained people and it’s their job to actually do that and we’re giving them a permanent skills fund to draw down to do those jobs. That’s what working together with state and territory governments should be all about. But it’s got to be on an accountable basis, they’ve got to deliver.

TILLEY:

Alright, you’re listening to the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, asking him questions about what the Budget really means for young people. On the text line, “I’m honestly just excited something is being done about making it easier to buy a house, even if it is just a start” – Michael from Birkdale. So a bit of support there, Treasurer. Someone else says, “Compassion, collaboration and corroboration cost nothing.” Someone’s written in a question about the drug testing of welfare recipients, Treasurer, “Will you test them for being drunk?’ is the question.

TREASURER:

This is for drug testing.

TILLEY:

So, not alcohol?

TREASURER:

That’s my understanding and it’s for 5,000 people. What we won’t do though, is if someone fails to comply with their – and this applies to everyone going forward – if someone fails to comply with their mutual obligation requirements, so that means I didn’t turn up to that job interview that I was supposed to, or I have that meeting with my employment service provider or refused what was a you know a reasonable offer of a job, but particularly on these other ones or I didn’t turn up for the work for the dole requirements and they said well I didn’t turn up because I was drunk. Well, if you’re a repeat offender on that front we won’t be copping that excuse going forward…

TILLEY:

Alright, how much is this, how much is…

TREASURER:

But that’s a different issue to testing. The testing is just as a trial in a couple of locations, which are still to be determined, for 5,000 people. And it’s a trial and why do you do a trial, you see if it works…

TILLEY:

Sure, how much is it going to cost because I guess the big question here is, could it cost more than you actually benefit by reaping back some of those welfare costs?

TREASURER:

Well, there’s two issues of how you assess the cost here, I mean this is a very modest cost. It’s 5,000 people, it’s not a particularly in the scale of the Budget…

TILLEY:

And what is that cost?

TREASURER:

I don’t have that on hand but it’s a very small item. I mean, we’re talking about a $440 billion Budget. The reason we’re doing it for 5,000 people is to contain the cost and to assess how this works on the ground. Now, we often do programs like this, we’ve done the cashless debit card for example which we trialled in a number of communities, we started off at a small scale level and it’s proved to be highly effective, supported by those communities and we’re going to extend it. Now, in this case we’ll see how this travels and whether it’s helping and what’s the point here? The point here is to try and identify where people have difficulties in this area and ensure that we can get them on the right track to getting into a job and not being burdened this way.

TILLEY:

Scott Morrison, this has been a great chat. I think that we should do it again some time.

TREASURER:

Well, I’m always happy to, I mean it’s a busy job this one, I get around, but I’ve appreciated the issues that you’ve raised. And on the housing one, I’m mean I’m quite passionate about this and the best way to make housing more affordable is we’ve got to build more homes.

TILLEY:

Sure.

TREASURER:

And we’ve got to do that. And the last one, if I can just make this appeal, because I know your listeners would actually totally get this. On the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, when it was first set up, as a Parliament we all could agree to get behind it. All sides of politics, and that still remains in terms of the intent of the scheme but you’ve got to pay for it and we’ve said that we want to increase the Medicare levy by 0.5 per cent in two years’ time, that’s when the money starts, sorry, the bills start going up for the NDIS and I don’t want to  have any more political fights about this. I mean, we wanted to do it through savings, the Labor Party and the Parliament said, “No, we reject that.” I respect that decision, so we said, “Let’s do a levy, but let’s tell disabled Australians, their carers, their families, their mates, that this is going to happen and it’s fully funded and you don’t have to worry.” So I hope the politics can be put aside on that and I think Australians who’ve got a big heart and are prepared to support those sorts of things, we certainly are, and I really do hope the Parliament can rise to that challenge.

TILLEY:

Scott Morrison, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER:

Thanks Tom, all the best.