14 May 2017
Transcript - #2017103, 2017

Joint press conference, Maribyrnong, Victoria

Joint doorstop interview with
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne
Minister for Defence,
The Hon. Michael Sukkar MP
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, and
The Hon. Angus Taylor MP
Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

MINISTER PAYNE:

Thank you very much for joining us here this morning. Before we talk about the reason for this media conference this morning, let me just make some brief observations in relation to news recently that North Korea has fired another missile in the region. Let me make it very clear that Australia regards this as both a reckless and provocative action that leads to instability, both regionally and globally, and has condemned clearly in the past North Korea for this sort of behaviour and does so again today. We are working with our partners and our allies in the region and more broadly, the Republic of Korea, with Japan, with the United States, and others to press upon the North Koreans that this continuing course of action is not sustainable and that it is absolutely opposed by the broad international community. Let me also make it very clear that we call on nations to redouble their efforts to impose the sanctions agreed through the UN processes on North Korea. We know that there are some nations which have a significant influence in this regard and that would include China in particular. The Prime Minister spoke with the new president of South Korea, President Moon Jae-in, on Friday. They of course discussed the issues of insecurity, current insecurity on the Korean Peninsula, and the President welcomed Australia’s engagement in the region and of course our condemnation of North Korea’s actions. May I turn now, this morning to...

REPORTER:

Just quickly, on that…what technicals are known, if any, about the missile itself? Was it successful, was it part of its nuclear program?

PAYNE:

Well we will work with our partners and allies to determine the nature of the missile itself. It literally was news as I got off the plane in Melbourne this morning. Ok. Alright, ladies and gentlemen, now I’d really like very much to welcome my colleagues the Treasurer, Assistant Minister Taylor, Assistant Minister Sukkar, here this morning to Defence Site Maribyrnong, which as you can see self-evidently is a very prominent site in suburban Melbourne. We’re only ten kilometres from the Melbourne CBD and we’re standing on almost 128 hectares of Defence land, which has not been used for Defence purposes for some years now. It has a very rich history, though. As well as its rural and racing history, including a link to the Cox Plate, it was also the site of the Remount Depot which fed the cavalry and horses for the Light Horse Brigade in World War One. In fact, the only Light Horse that returned to Australia, General Bridges’ horse Sandy, not only came back here to live out his days but is also buried on the site, which is a lovely piece of Australian and Defence history. After that process it became an explosives factory site and that continued through to the Second World War and for some decades after that. But as urban development encroached, it was unsuitable for that purpose and that activity ceased. At the time, at its peak, 8,000 people were employed here, during World War Two and because of the nature of the nature of the employment profile in those years, 45% of the workers who came here to Maribyrnong every day were women. After the explosives factory period ceased, it became a focus of Defence, Science and Technology work and that wrapped up around the early 2000s. We’re now in a position where we’re able, in welcoming my colleagues here to the site today, to have made a very significant announcement concerning the future of Defence Site Maribyrnong, an announcement which will enable it to be part of Melbourne’s urban redevelopment in a key location where the colleagues behind me have a significant focus on the development of cities and on housing affordability and I look forward to Defence making a very significant contribution by the allocation of this site to that sort of work and I will hand over to my colleagues. Thank you all for coming this morning.

MICHAEL SUKKAR (ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE TREASURER):

Thanks, Minister Payne. It is quite momentous to be here today with Minister Payne, the Treasurer and Minister Taylor to discuss the future of the Defence site Maribyrnong. On Tuesday night, the Treasurer outlined the most comprehensive housing affordability package ever handed down by a Federal Government. And as Australians saw on Tuesday night, we have a plan for housing affordability for everybody on the housing spectrum. From first home buyers to renters to those in social and public housing and, of course, additional money for those suffering from homelessness. And today, this site represents a very tangible way in which we want to achieve an outcome of increasing supply to the market. We have said for months, the way you get pressure down on house prices – particularly in our major cities, in Sydney and Melbourne – is to increase the supply of housing. And what better example of the Federal Government leading by example and saying, “We are going to use our surplus Commonwealth land, in this case surplus Defence land, to build up to 6,000 new homes.” As Minister Payne has said, these 6,000 new homes will be located within 10km from the Melbourne CBD – somewhere that is well-connected to public transport. So this will be, we think, increased supply, the right supply and, hopefully, the supply at the right prices for the right people to ensure that we do put downward pressure on housing affordability. And this is no better example of that, and I suppose I want to finalise my comments by saying that this is our way of saying to state and local governments this must be the example that we adopt. Minister Taylor through his city deals and, in the future, precinct deals I think will be setting the benchmark for how we utilise these kinds of spaces for what is so important to the Australian people and that is the realistic aspiration of owning, living in and purchasing their own home. Thanks very much.

ANGUS TAYLOR (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CITIES AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION):

Thanks, Michael. Well, it’s terrific to be here in Melbourne as the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister with responsibility for cities, because we have just seen a Budget that has a real focus on affordable housing and, of course, development of our cities. Our cities face great opportunities but also challenges. We know we have more congestion than we would like as we travel around our cities. We know we would like our housing to be more affordable and we know we would like more local jobs being located closer to where we all go to work everyday. And, of course, there’s a range of initiatives, a broad range of comprehensive initiatives in the Budget to address exactly these issues – including the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, the Western Sydney housing package, and the investments we’re making in great projects like Bagderys Creek, the Western Sydney Airport, and the $10 billion commitment to urban rail. But right here in front of us, we have one of the best opportunities which is to develop this land here at Maribyrnong. What we have is a parcel of land here which is within 10km of the city, but also a short hop to the airport. It has transport, a tram line right to here and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to create a development alongside the private sector, of course, which will connect to jobs and we’ll have transport right here. This is as good as it gets. Now, more broadly, we’re creating an online register for Commonwealth land because we see that there is broader opportunity for us to take the many thousands of parcels of Commonwealth land around Australia, make that transparent and ask state and local government to do exactly the same alongside us – generating ideas from the private sector about how we might better utilise that land. More broadly, the development of this land and any other Commonwealth land parcels will require cooperation with state and local government and we really look forward to working with them here and elsewhere across Australia.

TREASURER:

Thank you, Angus. Well, this is where the Budget gets real. You look around here, this is where the Budget literally hits the ground because here, as a result of the announcements we made in the Budget, we will see Australians coming and making their life here on this site. It doesn't get more tangible than that. The Commonwealth land bank is open and it's open for business and it starts right here on this tremendous site as we look out across the vista and reflected on its history. Michael has talked to you about how the package of measures that we announced on Tuesday night work to realise this site and Angus, the nitty-gritty of working with state and territory governments to make all this happen. Can I particularly thank my colleagues here with me today, starting with my Cabinet colleague, Marise Payne? The work that Defence has already done to get us to this point, the remediation work that has already commenced and the work that will continue and the job now really falls to the Assistant Ministers who stand behind me on this and together with myself and Defence going forward to make this site a reality. On Tuesday night, not only did we say we're going to open this Commonwealth land bank, but we announced a series of measures to actually help people come and buy homes here. We talked about the Super Savers account yesterday out in Craigieburn and for people who want to know how they can benefit from that, just go to “budget.gov.au” and click on the calculator there and see that $70,000 a year – if you're earning that – you put $7,000 a year aside then you'll be $7,000 better off at the end of your saving. That's a great tax cut for you to ensure that you can come and buy a home right here. But as Michael said, it goes right across the spectrum and what we're excited about doing on this site is we'll be able to ensure the realisation of the new tax incentives we've put in place to develop affordable housing. There will be affordable housing on this site. There will be social housing on this site. There will be housing for key workers on this site. There will be housing for private buyers, private renters, first home buyers – all of that can be realised on an integrated development on a site like this. With good planning, working with local councils and the state government, this is a partnership effort and to ensure that we channel foreign investment, particularly in the right area, which is in affordable housing and we have a particular investment vehicle for foreign investment to invest in developing affordable housing. That’s where we need the capital and that's where the tax incentives we've developed direct that capital in that area. And also we have abolished all capital gains tax exemptions for foreign investors. All of them. We've also reintroduced the rule that the Labor Party lifted when they were in Government. We're reapplying the cap that no more than 50 per cent of developments such as these can be sold to foreign investors so we've dealt with the demand side there, ensuring that those who would come and bid on a site here won't be  up there bidding against foreign investors unfairly. What they'll be able to do is they'll be able to come up and rent affordable housing here and all of the other housing types. So this is the site where all of these initiatives come together and we're very excited about that and I thank my colleagues again and we're happy to take questions.

QUESTION:

So this will be a private development? The Government won't be putting bricks and mortar here?

TREASURER:

It will be a private development but not that's not to say, as I just said with affordable housing, community housing associations who are able to access our new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation which provides long-term, low-cost finance, for those associations to build affordable housing here at discounted rents. On top of that, there will be the social housing that can work alongside with that and community housing associations run those sort of housing ventures now too. They have a great relationship with their clients and their tenants. The other thing that we've done is we've introduced income management for rent. So that means that the Commonwealth rental assistance can be paid directly to the landlord. Now, that massively increases the investor certainty for investors to invest in affordable housing. We need more people investing in affordable housing in this country. It has been a great disappointment to us that there has been virtually no increase in this stock over the last decade or more. And the reason for that is we need to have better ways of attracting private capital, institutional capital, super funds. Super funds in this country are investing in affordable affordable housing in the United Kingdom. We need them investing in it here. But to do that, we need to have the right vehicles to enable them to do that. I don't think that there's a greater obstacle than them wanting to do it, but I think that there are obstacles to having the right financial structures that provide an opportunity to do it. And Angus knows a lot about that from his previous experience. So, getting more money into affordable housing right here in Maribyrnong. It's a very practical plan.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, just on some other Budget issue, noting your complaint on Insiders about Labor's plan to take the top marginal tax rate to almost 50 per cent. Does this mean that you would never, ever accept any alteration to the Medicare levy increase that you outlined on Tuesday?

TREASURER:

The only reason that we're increasing the Medicare levy in two years’ time, there is only one reason and that is because we have to pay for the NDIS and make sure that it is fully funded and give Australians living with a disability and their families and their careers and their friends and all who know them, the assurance that it is 100 per cent funded – and that's what our plan does. It 100 per cent funds it. It does that absolutely. And that's why we've done that. The sole reason. The Labor Party is not putting their increased Medicare levy into funding the NDIS. Andrew Leigh made that very clear just a couple of days ago. Labor doesn't think there is a block hole on the NDIS. They still want to argue about the politics of that. I can assure you there is. It is $55.7 billion over the next ten years and it needs to be filled. And so what we've done is come up with a plan to fully fund it. Labor is lying to the Australian people. By extending the deficit levy, which is what they're suggesting, that's what they said at the last election. They've already spent all that money to fund the things – well, they didn't fund it actually because they still ended up with a $16.5 billion higher deficit. But they’ve already spent all that money. They’ve spent all the money from reversing the company tax cuts. They did that at the last election and what Bill Shorten and the Labor Party never understand is you can’t spend money twice, Bill. That’s how you ended up with a funding black hole for the NDIS in the first place, and that’s why the levy is necessary in two years’ time when the bills start coming in. So, we’ve got a fully funded pool plan for the NDIS. Labor just has a plan to put up taxes again and to hit those who are seeking to do better, earn more and at the end of the day, the great reward for your effort of starting a business that one day becomes very successful is you get to work one day for the Government and one day for yourself. That’s not fair to anyone.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, you’ve said the bank levy will increase competition in the sector. What’s the purpose of the levy? Is it primarily a mechanism to improve competition between banks or is it a tool of budget repair?

TREASURER:

Well, it does all of these things but it’s a permanent measure. It’s a structural measure, it’s a measure that reflects the way major banks are treated all around the world – particularly in Europe and the United Kingdom. There’s nothing terribly new about that. What has been unique about the Australian situation is that the major banks have benefitted from a regulatory system that has given them a real advantage over smaller and regional banks. And what this simply does, at six basis points, and their assessment of the competitive advantage they have is about 20 to 40 basis points. That’s not a bad start for the banks over the smaller and regional banks. So this evens it up to the point of 6 points, and we think this is absolutely something that the banks should absorb, must absorb or, frankly, they’re treating their customers like mugs.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, the notorious white supremacist, Mike Enoch, is planning a visit to Australia. Would you be seeking to block this visit?

TREASURER:

I’m not aware of any of that and that’s not a Treasurer responsibility. They’re matters for the Minister for Immigration and I’m sure he’ll deal with that in the normal way.

QUESTION:

Just on this site here, is there a timeline for when people will be living here and how many do you expect to populate it?

TREASURER:

Well, Angus and Michael might want to comment on this because this will all be a function of just working through the process with the local councils, state government, this will be a cooperative effort. There’s a lot to do here. A lot of work has already started, but you’ve got to start with this process we’ve announced today and so, we will work through those timelines. There are sections of this site, larger than the one we’re standing on now I think, Marise, which are remediated. I mean, there’s homes just over there. So, there are elements of this site which will be able to move forward more quickly. Others after the pool remediation occurs and other parts of the site and more sensitive areas. So this is a plan that will roll on for many, many years. Was there anything you wanted to add to that? No? Sure.

QUESTION:

[inaudible] probably best handled by the Defence?

TREASURER:

I have no doubt they’ll be better handled by the Defence Minister…

PAYNE:

We’ll see how we go.

TREASURER:

[laughs]

QUESTION:

Well, this is about hacking, how satisfied are you that no national security systems in Australia have been compromised by this ransom-ware attack – this cyberattack that’s happened in the last few days?

PAYNE:

Well, I think the Prime Minister’s Cyber Security, Adviser Alastair MacGibbon, has indicated that we are looking at possible implications in relation to Australia. There don’t appear to be at this point in time, any reported implications. But given its extensive nature, I think Mr MacGibbon indicated overnight he would not be surprised if there was some. But what this goes to show us is the importance – the absolute importance – of cyber security, in the private sector, the public sector, in Government and in fact across the community. Making sure that your cyber security integrity is up to date, your passwords, as simple as this, are up to date, that you’ve applied all patches that need to be applied, that you’ve taken all security steps that you need to take – the ASD, the Australian Signals Directorate sets these out in clear detail – that is imperative in a day and age where we see people who think that this is an appropriate way to go about their activities. Clearly it’s not, clearly we absolutely reject it and condemn it, but it is a salutary reminder of what we all need to do to make sure we are protected – ourselves, and our cyber domains.

QUESTION:

I need to change my password. [laughs]

PAYNE:

If it’s “Administrator”, you most certainly do. [laughs]

QUESTION:

Or “Password”. [laughs] Do you have any reason to suspect Australian extortionists or hackers are in any way behind this global attack over the last few days?

PAYNE:

Not that I am aware of at this point and not that I’ve been advised by the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

QUESTION:

Presumably though, people would have had those measures in place, wouldn’t they? They seem to be one jump ahead?

PAYNE:

Well, not everybody does. I wish I could be as optimistic as you that the measures one would expect, are in place. It isn’t always the case and in fact if people decline updates and people decline patches and critical remediation and then it does cause a problem across systems. I am not a cyber security expert, however. I do leave that to the professionals at the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre. But it’s pretty simple advice. Keep yourself protected.

QUESTION:

Yes, but when you have the British health system being hacked – you would have thought they would have had something better in place to protect themselves…

PAYNE:

Well, I don’t think I want to get into commentary on the NHS. [laughs]

TREASURER:

Ok, very good. We’re out of questions? Well, it’s Mother’s Day. I think we’re all wishing our mothers, “Happy Mother’s Day”…

PAYNE:

Indeed.

TREASURER:

And to all those mothers watching, and it’s a beautiful day here in Melbourne and we thank you for coming out today and we’re looking forward to realising their dream right here on this site. Thank you very much.

PAYNE:

Thanks very much, everyone.