18 May 2018
Transcript - #2018097, 2018

Joint doorstop interview, Kogarah

Joint doorstop interview with
The Hon. David Coleman MP
Member for Banks

Subjects: Budget 2018; medical research funding; by-elections; Ruddock Review; live animal exports; Australian economy creates one million jobs under Coalition Government

DAVID COLEMAN, MEMBER FOR BANKS:

Good morning and welcome everyone here to the microbiome research centre here in Kogarah in the heart of Southern Sydney. It is great to be here today to talk about medical research and in particular the microbiome research centre based here at St George Hospital. The Government has provided $4 million in funding for this centre and it is a very important investment in the future of medical research here in Southern Sydney. Just chatting with some of the researchers this morning and the comment was made that this centre is becoming a magnet for medical research in Southern Sydney and that is very good news for our community here in this region. What I'll do now is hand over to Professor Emad El-Omar who is the head of the centre to make some remarks about the important work that is being done here.

PROFESSOR EMAD EL-OMAR:

Good morning. Thank you very much David. It is a great pleasure to be here to talk about the micro biology centre. It is something that we have set up with the support from the Federal Government. We are very grateful for that. It allowed us to set up a centre that deals with one of the most exciting developments in medicine which is the microbiome. The microbiome [inaudible] the trillions of bugs that live on us and within us and have a major impact on our health. We are able to put together a research program that utilises the best available science. It is inspired by our patients, it's inspired by our clinical needs. We do our best to take this to the laboratory and then from the laboratory back to the patients. So, ultimately we hope that the vision of the MRC will be a collaborative interaction with all of our colleagues across Sydney, across the nation and across the world to try and make benefits that goes back to our patients.

TREASURER:

Thanks Emad. Well, it is great to be here with Emad and with David Coleman, the Member for Banks. We are very pleased to be here at southern Sydney together. St George and Sutherland Hospital across the river there is where our communities go. I particularly want to commend the state government for the work they have been doing here on St George and Sutherland Hospital and the increased investment they have put in here, the Berejiklian Government, to really improve the standard of care and support we are seeing at both the Sutherland Hospital and the St George Hospital. But that's not why we are here today. Why we are here today is this microbiome research centre.

Australia is an amazing country and we are an amazing country because of the economy we have built and we continue to build to make it stronger so we can invest in industries like this. I refer to it as an industry. This is Australia's medical industry that you are seeing here. Australia's medical industry will be an important employer of Australians into the future. In the Budget we announced our 21st century medical industry plan. That includes half a billion of investment into genetics and the genome project. Now, I am reliably informed by Emad and the other scientists and researchers here that when it comes to microbiome – these are the bugs in your guts – these are the things that can determine so much of your health. The genetic make-up of those are actually things that you can influence as opposed to what is part of your own genes.

So, the research that is going on here is transforming medicine, it's transforming how people can live healthier lives and live longer, healthier lives. That's important from a health perspective and that's why we have supported this project here to the tune of $4 million. But as part of a broader 21st century medical industry plan, which is investing in scientific collaboration, which is investing in research, which is investing in new diagnostic tools, investing in the development of new medicines and clinical trials – all of this is actually establishing and building a new and vibrant medical industry.

14 per cent of the jobs that we're seeing in our economy today are actually in the health sector. Yesterday, we marked more than one million jobs that have been created since the election of the Coalition Government back in 2013. A big driver of those jobs, particularly more recently, has been in health. When you look at industries that drive Australia, of course we're very well aware of our agricultural sector and what that has meant over centuries and in the mining sector. These have been sectors that have been very important to our economy. You don't need to don the miner's hat to know the mining industry is important to the Australian economy. But it is similarly true that you don't have to wear a white coat, a lab coat here like those working in this facility to understand that if the medical industry continues to grow and expand and lead the world in areas like we are here in microbiome research or in genome research, where we are investing, that that will also bring great benefits of an expanding industry of real commercial application, generating income, creating jobs.

That's what this Budget is doing, it's creating a stronger economy to support the essential services that are also provided right here at St George Hospital and Sutherland Hospital, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, all of the drugs and other things that actually come out of the sort of things we're investing in the research side, then made available to Australians by a stronger economy. So I want to commend the institute here for the tremendous work they do. I, as a local member from across the river, in fact just across the road here, and together here with David Coleman as the Member for Banks but also the Assistant Minister to the Minister for Finance, we're very excited about this project and the support we have been able to provide here.

It is about creating a stronger economy. The research that is going on here is all about our plan for a stronger economy, to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on. Happy to take questions, as is Professor Emad and John and others. If I could ask you, before we go to other questions of a more political nature, why don't we just focus on the issues we're here talking about first and then we can go to the others. Questions about your guts? It's a fascinating topic. You'd be surprised to know. We are at gut central here in St George today, in Kogarah, and very proud to be part of gut central here in southern Sydney. It is an exciting area.

QUESTION:

How important is it for Australia to use new technologies and be on top of that new technology bandwagon when it comes to health?

TREASURER:

Professor Emad would you like to make a comment on that?

PROFESSOR EMAD EL-OMAR:

This is incredibly important because countries where there is investment in research, this translates back into health benefits and also translates into commercial opportunities and engagement with industries is very important to sustain this drive towards excellence and development in research. I see the two as being so interlinked it is a no brainer to go for this.

TREASURER:

The ecosystem that's been created here between scientific researchers, clinicians, academics, the business community and actually being attached to an actual hospital treating actual patients, this is the sort of thing we have seen overseas that has transformed their own medical industries. Earlier this year I was at the Texas Medical Centre in Houston. That is one of most phenomenal cohabitations of every form of medical practice, science, research, treatment, clinicians of anywhere in the world. That has put them in an incredible position and the amount of jobs it has supported in Houston as a result of that Texas Medical Centre, it blows you away. So, the eco-system, the scientific commercial collaborative ecosystems that have been created through centres like this is why we are investing into them. We want to see them grow and we want to see them build and the wonderful people who are working here have come from all sorts of different backgrounds. Some trained here locally at the University of New South Wales and Sydney University. Others from the UK. Howard there, he is from Hong Kong. He is bragging to his mates about the wonderful research here as well as the wonderful lifestyle and beaches of southern Sydney.

QUESTION:

Are we happy to move onto other issues of the day?

TREASURER:

If there are no other questions on this I might get Professor Emad and the others to take their leave, I'm happy to take other questions.

QUESTION:

Just on the Budget, one of the key factors to ensure those circumstances as you say is the reliance on wage growth. But we have had some really stagnant wage growth activity happening. How can the public trust that we will have those certainties [inaudible] if that wage growth remains stagnant?

TREASURER:

Well, first of all the commentary I've seen on that massively overstates the impacts of those out-year forecasts. They're talking about forecasts in 21-22. The balance comes in in 2019-20. That is one point. The Budget forecasts on revenue are particularly driven by what's happening with nominal GDP and what is particularly driving that and what is driving a lot of the income is actually people getting in jobs. Regardless of the wages being paid, where we have seen real growth in the last year or so has been the increase in what is called the compensation of employees in the national accounts. That's the total wages bill, that's everybody who is in a job. When you have more people in a job then that actually lifts the Government's revenue because they're paying taxes and not receiving welfare cheques.

So, while the wage price index, I acknowledge and have for a long time, is moving at modest levels and we want to see that improve and we believe it will improve. One of the interesting things that was pointed out by one of the economists yesterday is when you take into account what is increasingly happening at the moment is sign-on bonuses for people going into new jobs. So there is wage and a sign-on bonus that comes on that. Bonuses are paid by many organisations including the ABC, it turns out. What that means is when you take into account bonuses as well, particularly those sign-on bonuses for people coming into organisations where the competition for getting good people is getting tougher, that growth was actually 2.7 per cent over the course of the year.

So what actually underpins these numbers is not just one forecast on wages. The sensitivity on that is actually quite small at the end of the day in terms of what underpins the Budget forecasts. The Budget forecasts have been well received. Our Budget forecasts on growth are actually more modest than the Reserve Bank of Australia, more modest than the International Monetary Fund and in fact it has been a set of forecasts that has been better received than any that I can recall. It was our predecessors who used to bank on iron ore prices staying at US$175 per tonne. They were banking on that and that never materialised. We have had it sitting down at $55 for a long time, underpitching where it was in the market and that is why we have been able to retain our AAA credit rating so well in recent years.

QUESTION:

How do you rate the chances of getting your full corporate tax cuts through the Senate in the coming weeks [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

Mathias Cormann leads those negotiations, as he always does with matters before the Senate. We have been involved through my team in supporting Mathias Cormann, as you'd expect us to. He has had tremendous success, $41 billion worth of Budget improvement measures and savings have been passed through the Senate since the last election alone. We remain in this discussion in the parliament and we conduct that directly and respectfully with those senators. It is always a disappointment that these measures could be quickly passed, just like many savings measures could have quickly been passed, without having to actually call on the crossbench senators to ensure the passage of Budget improving legislation and things that actually grow jobs and support growth in the economy make our businesses more competitive.

But the Labor Party is attacking business. They have $220 billion of extra taxes they want to put on the Australian economy. They don't want a speed limit on taxes. The biggest single tax they're putting on Australians that they would announce in their first Budget, if they were elected, is actually on retirees. More than $5 billion in higher taxes on retirees through ripping away their tax refunds from their share investments. They say they are hitting the top end of town but in their first Budget, over the Budget and forward estimates, they won't be getting one extra dollar out of large businesses, not one, they will be ripping it out of small and medium sized businesses and they will be ripping it out of Nanna, Nonna and Yaya with their big self-funded retirees tax.

QUESTION:

Just on getting those tax cuts through, getting those passed is it likely that you will be dealing with One Nation perhaps to get them over the line and can you rule out any changes to the immigration cap to enable that?

TREASURER:

We have got a clear view on how we set that cap and it's a cap, it's not a target and where it falls underneath that target, so be it. It did last year at 183, it wasn't 190. We will have the discussions we have with crossbenchers. We'll have those respectfully and privately. We don't conduct those negotiations through the media or respond to hypotheticals or anything like that. We make our responses directly to those members as part of those discussions. That is what you'd expect to happen. This is where, I think, we've been so successful. We don't feel the need to turn dealing with the Senate into some sort of reality television show. We deal with it respectfully and that's why we're able to get results.

QUESTION:

The Liberal Party isn't running candidates in Perth and Fremantle and hasn't yet chosen one in Longman. Is the Government planning an early election or does this show the Coalition is only worried about one part of the country and not others?

TREASURER:

I don't quite understand the question or what sits behind it. But let me say this, the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party is focusing on the state by-election and the seats held there in WA by the Labor party have always been Labor party seats and the Government is focusing its attention on some of other seats in the by-election whether it is down in Tasmania or in Longman or as you've said down in South Australia in Mayo where Georgina Downer has been selected as the candidate. Brett Whiteley is running down there in Braddon. Brett and the Prime Minister were making some good points, we are here at a medical facility here today. At the last election, in all these places, Bill Shorten went out there and told them, "you better not vote Liberal or they'll sell Medicare". It was just a lie. It turns out they were lying about the citizenship status of their actual members at the same time. They can't be trusted on this stuff. They really can't be trusted when it comes to these things. I would ask voters, in particular, in Longman and Braddon where the Labor party have the standing members, to think about that. I would ask them to reflect on that. They lied to you at the last election about that. That's their form.

QUESTION:

The Ruddock Review into religious freedoms is due to report today. What are you hoping to see coming out of that?

TREASURER:

The Ruddock Review will report in due course and the Government will consider that when it comes forward. Religious freedoms are important to all Australians. I'm sure that Philip, who both David and I know extremely well, has a deep understanding and a deep sensitivity to the issues at stake and I would expect to see that reflected in his report.

QUESTION:

Sussan Ley's private members bill, if that gets up, will that be an embarrassment for the Government?

TREASURER:

You've just made a whole bunch of assumptions that I don't intend to entertain about how that issue has been managed. What I do know is that the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been handling this issue very strongly, very sensitively, very carefully and very prudently. There are no kneejerk reactions from the Government when it comes to this. This is a serious issue, I know of great concern to people in rural and regional Australia as it is here and David would know in his own electorate next-door and as I do. We take it seriously but it's not something that we are going to act irrationally about. A lot of peoples' livelihoods depend on this, as does Australia's reputation when it comes to the welfare of our live stock. We take that seriously as well. The Minister has struck the right balance here in how he is managing that and what you've seen on display from him, the Government, the Prime Minister is responsible leadership in this area – very responsible leadership.

It is the same responsible leadership you are seeing in the Budget. What we have is a clear plan for a stronger economy because from that stronger economy, that's what everything else flows from. More than a million jobs have been created since we came to Government. More than a million. It's about almost six months ahead of what we promised in terms of when that would be achieved. Chris Bowen used to say, when we made that pledge, that it could never be achieved. He doesn't believe in the strength of the Australian economy or the ability of this economy to create jobs, neither does Bill Shorten. If they did, they wouldn't be seeking to suffocate it with higher taxes. We're not going to suffocate it. We will ensure that the money that people earn, whether it's here working as researchers in this wonderful institute or outside on building sites all around the country or teaching in schools or working in hospitals as nurses, we want to ensure that they keep more of what they earn. That's what our Budget is delivering for them, rewarding their effort, that's why the Budget is a strong plan for a stronger economy.

So, thanks very much Professor Emad and John Edmond for having us here today. David, it's great to be here with you here today. It is great to get such a good reception to the Budget this year. As I've moved around the country, people have seen it as a very strong plan for a stronger economy. That is what it was intended to be and I believe that is how it is being received. We are both particularly pleased to see more than a million jobs created under this Government and we congratulate all those Australians who created those jobs and went out there and got those jobs and under a Turnbull Government that will continue. Thanks very much.