17 May 2017
Transcript - #2017107, 2017

Interview with Nick Rheinberger, ABC Illawarra

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

NICK RHEINBERGER:

Scott Morrison, the Federal Treasurer coming to visit in Bomaderry and he’s on the line now, Mr Morrison, good morning.

TREASURER:

G’day, Nick, it’s good to be with you.

RHEINBERGER:

What do you say to Fiona Phillips suggesting that the Federal Government has pulled $600 million out of TAFE which has led to inevitable cuts in the system?

TREASURER:

Well, as you rightly said, TAFE is a state government responsibility. What she didn’t tell you is we’ve put $1.5 billion into a Skilling Australians Fund which is going to be training apprentices with the states and territories. I mean, that was not funding the Labor Party had committed to. At the last election there was an agreement with the states which terminated on 30 June this year and what we’ve put in place is ongoing and permanent funding to get Australians skilled up to take jobs that might, that would otherwise potentially go to foreign workers and so $1.5 billion over the next four years and into the future permanently thereafter to train Australians in skills. So that’s being funded by the foreign worker levy, which we’re putting place, and we’re covering that off for the first six months ourselves to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to support training of Australians to take Australian jobs.

RHEINBERGER:

So if there are cuts, job losses or closures of TAFEs is that down to New South Wales putting in place its Smart and Skilled Program and it being up to competition?

TREASURER:

Well, look, they’re matters for the state government as they are in every state and territory government. I mean, every government has to be responsible for the things they’re responsible for, but what we’re doing, where we have a responsibility, is to fund this Skilling Australians Program and that’s $1.5 billion and that’s a huge injection of investment into getting Australians having them have the skills so they can take the Australian jobs that are there for them.

RHEINBERGER:

There are a couple of unfortunate statistics about the Shoalhaven which I would imagine you’re well aware with, the high youth unemployment of over 24 per cent, plus Ann Sudmalis has been looking at the issue of ice in the Shoalhaven. Does this logically mean that it could be one of those areas in Australia that would start drug testing new applications or new applicants for welfare?

TREASURER:

Well, we haven’t made that decision yet as to which areas, you’re absolutely right about the challenges in the Shoalhaven, I know the area very well, I’ve been visiting there and have had family there for a long period of time and I know those challenges around ice, I know the challenges around youth unemployment. Last year, when I introduced the Youth PaTH Jobs Program, that’s the program where we’re getting young people who’ve been unemployed for a period of time, over six months, twelve months and we’re giving them pre-job training, we’re giving them internships, we’re giving them subsidies with employers to get into those jobs and then they can take on permanent jobs. Now, that program was very much modelled on the experience I had with the local jobs training program in the Illawarra which we had funded when I was social services minister, in the, with hope ministries down there in the Illawarra, it’s a fantastic program, I’ve visited it many times and we’re backing in those types of programs to ensure that young people in the Illawarra and the Shoalhaven can get the support they need to get into these jobs. If you’ve been out of work for a while and you’re a young person you need a bit more help, you need to learn what you need to do when you turn up at an interview and the basic skills you need to function in a workplace. And we’re putting funding support into that with the youth path program, which the Illawarra and the Shoalhaven will be key centres where we’ll be driving that program.

RHEINBERGER:

Also on drug addiction, you mentioned on Budget night that you would refuse disability pensions or people whose disability comes directly out of their addiction to drugs?

TREASURER:

Solely as a result of that, yes.

RHEINBERGER:

Who’s going to pick up the pieces for people who are disabled out of drug addiction? It’s going to be their families isn’t it?

TREASURER:

Well, what we need to do is ensure that where people have taken decisions in their own lives where they would have a disability which is solely, and I stress solely, so that limits I think the application here I think very significantly as a result of that behaviour. Then no, the disability support pension will not be something that they will have access to. There are other income support measures through the social security system where they’ll continue to have support, job seeker payments which have been streamlined in this Budget and those other systems of support that are there. But the higher payment disability support pension is there for those who through life’s cruel fate has left them in that position. And it’s also why people exactly in that situation who are affected by disabilities through no fault of their own that we’re fully funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it needed a $55.7 billion hole that was left behind by the Labor Party, it’s fine to promise these things, just like they promise all sorts of things, when you don’t fund them the services don’t turn up and that’s what our government is doing, we are funding these important services.

RHEINBERGER:

Ok, so it’s about people making a choice and that has led to their disability and you are going to withdraw funds for them?

TREASURER:

Solely, where it is a cause of that behaviour.

RHEINBERGER:

Ok, I’ve got it. Imagine someone has an acquired brain injury that they got because they were speeding, will their disability support be withdrawn? That is their choice.

TREASURER:

Well, this is solely about the substance abuse…

RHEINBERGER:

But it’s the same thing, they’ve made a choice, they’ve chosen to speed, they’ve gotten into an accident, they’ve got a brain injury, they need looking after for the rest of their life. That’s their fault, that’s their choice isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be logical to withdraw their funds from them?

TREASURER:

We’re focusing just on the issue of substance abuse in this Budget.

RHEINBERGER:

Well, would you be extending this issue of personal choice and acquiring your disabilities?

TREASURER:

We haven’t made that decision in this Budget, what we’re doing is focusing on the issue of substance abuse and drugs in the same way we’re saying to people who are repeat offenders on not meeting their welfare obligations that if you say, “I didn’t get to that interview because I was drunk or drugged”, we won’t cop that as an excuse for not meeting those obligations for repeat offenders. Because you know Australians in the Shoalhaven, in the Illawarra, who are paying taxes to support the welfare system, it should be a two way street and if people aren’t going to meet their obligations on welfare well, we’ll be introducing that demerit point system, we won’t be accepting excuses which says couldn’t get to that job interview because I was drunk or drugged, we’re not going to put up with it cause we don’t think taxpayers should.

RHEINBERGER:

And finally on the bank tax, the banks say they’re not going to absorb the tax and it’s going to have to be passed on to customers, do you have any way of making sure they do not?

TREASURER:

Well, we’re putting tremendous pressure on the banks, the ACCC – the banking regulator – will be tasked with monitoring them very closely. We’ve announced you might have seen it in the papers today, that we announced this on Budget night actually that there would be a special unit in the ACCC to police competition in the banking sector. But the best form of protection is competition and you know you’ve got local banks like the IMB down here in the Illawarra which also services my area of Southern Sydney in the Shire and Saint George, now these regional banks they’re not touched by the bank levy at all, and so if people don’t like what the banks do and if the banks choose to reinforce the worst perceptions that people have of them and do that, I’d suggest they look at another bank. But we’ll be keeping the pressure on them. In the UK, when this was introduced the banks absorbed it, the banks put extra charges on small businesses every day of the week and they expect small businesses to absorb it and my view is that the banks should absorb this and they can.

RHEINBERGER:

Mr Morrison, good to talk to you this morning, thanks very much.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much, good to be with you.

RHEINBERGER:

Scott Morrison is the Federal Treasurer heading towards the Bomaderry Bowling Club today, you’re with Nick Rheinberger, this is 97.3 ABC Illawarra.