17 May 2017
Transcript - #2017108, 2017

Interview with Chris Firth, 2ST

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

CHRIS FIRTH:

Treasurer, Mr Scott Morrison. Morning, sir, how do you do?

TREASURER:

Good morning, I’m very well. Happy to be back in the Shoalhaven and been here many, many times. I spend a lot of my time down here actually, it’s a wonderful part of New South Wales.

FIRTH:

Yeah, well, thank you for saying my thoughts, as the Federal Member for your electorate Cook which borders the Shire, of course, so you would be familiar with the F6 drive.

TREASURER:

Yes, very much. Very much and it’s a project that we’ve been working on for a long time, obviously it’s a State Government project but our fortunes are all connected all the way from the Shire, all the way down through the Illawarra down to the South Coast, and I’ve got a lot of family who live down here so I’m a frequent visitor.

FIRTH:

Very good, concurrent with those remarks a brief statement from State Member for Kiama, Mr Gareth Ward.

GARETH WARD:

Now, I know you’ve been lobbied very hard by our Federal Member Ann Sudmalis for funding for Shoalhaven roads, and particularly the Shoalhaven River Bridge, and as you come into Nowra today I hope that the need for this infrastructure is impressed upon you and I hope that the work the New South Wales Government has done will be supplemented by work that the Federal Government will continue to do.

FIRTH:

Federal Treasurer, the close enough to $14 million allocation for the Far North Coast Collector Road secured by the Federal Budget, we’re really grateful. Thank you, it’s a big deal.

TREASURER:

Well, it’s a very important road – the North Collector Road – for a couple of reasons, not only does it collect thousands of new homes, one of the things you do to improve housing affordability is you connect the homes you’re building to the services and the schools and the jobs and the rail links and all of these sorts of things and that’s why it’s an important road. But the other reason it’s an important road is when you get to the task of actually doing the work on the bridge you need the North Collector Road in place because your [inaudible] road will actually have to be closed during that period of time. So if you’re focused on actually the longer term project of the bridge, then you’ve got to fund this $13.8 million to actually get the North Collector Road issue sorted in the first place. And so, that’s where Ann Sudmalis has come to us and said, “This is the plan, this is how you actually get both projects done.” And we’re backing her in on that plan, just like we’re backing her in on over $260 million in extra funding for schools in the area, on the new sports complex and a whole range of projects and particularly the jobs program which Ann has championed on the South Coast. And the other big issue in the Budget we announced, and I can absolutely guarantee you on this one, the reason we have decided to put the pensioner concession card back in for those 90,000 Australians was because Ann was the one who came to me and said we must do this, and she’s dead right, and we’ve done that. When we changed the pension assets test at the start of this year the State Government actually stopped funding all of those concessions for those pensioners and it wasn’t just here it was right around the country and so we’ve decided to put that pensioner concession card back in so that they can gain all of those concessions from the state and local government going forward again. So well done to Ann, she’s tireless on this stuff, she’s on my case all the time, so I think that people can really appreciate the work she’s done there.

FIRTH:

Additional to the pensioner concession card, which was a big tick, another one in the smaller fine print but let me impress upon you grass roots services provided by Meals on Wheels and that money is still being set aside.

TREASURER:

Absolutely, the Meals on Wheels funding’s there and right across the social services grants area, I’m actually a  former Social Services Minister, and I remember working through many of the issues on the social services grants with Ann at that time to secure that additional funding right across the board for services so I think that’s very important. But the other thing we’re doing in the Budget is we’re guaranteeing Medicare. We’re absolutely guaranteeing Medicare. We’re guaranteeing the funding for schools, I mean, we’ve got schools in this part of the country which are seeing funding per student increase to 60 per cent over the next ten years. Illaroo Road Public School, Shoalhaven High, they’re both going up by 60 per cent per student over the next ten years and what’s even better about it is it’s all funded. The money’s there, it’s not an empty promise. There are others running around the Shoalhaven from the Labor Party saying we’re throwing money around like confetti, but the Labor Party always does this. They make these big promises, like they did on the NDIS and then they don’t fund it and that’s cruel.

FIRTH:

The Gonski funding for years five and six – pardon me, Federal Treasurer – 2018-19 it’s in Gilmore and more specifically in the City of Shoalhaven, Nowra East Public School, is it to be worse off on needs-based funding?

TREASURER:

This is absolute rubbish, this is complete rubbish…

FIRTH:

Shoalhaven High School on needs-based funding worse off by $1.3 million?

TREASURER:

These are lies from the Labor Party with money that was never there, what we’re doing is we’re increasing funding for Shoalhaven High by 60 per cent per student over the next ten years. People can go to the website and they can see it for themselves, they can see the funding increases that are there. Don’t fall for the lies of the Labor Party, if there are listeners there who – the Labor Party make promises with money they don’t have, that’s why we’ve had to do what we’ve done on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They told Australians it was fully funded, there’s a $55.7 billion black hole and so that’s why in two years’ time, and I think Australians have responded very generously to this, we’ll make those changes to the Medicare levy so once and for all we can say that National Disability Insurance Scheme is 100 per cent fully funded. So don’t believe Labor when they say that they’re spending money because they never have the money there to spend, they just make the promise and hope you’ll believe them…

FIRTH:

Speaking to the NDIS…

TREASURER:

Not you personally, I’m talking to your listeners.

FIRTH:

No, I understand, sir. The funding of the NDIS, it gives the impression that this half percent fully funds it. That’s not the case, it’s not even the case with the Medicare rebate that doesn’t fund Medicare. It’s the contributions that we make that go to consolidated revenue that then are determined through your Budget papers.

TREASURER:

No, what we’ve done is we’ve set up the NDIS special account, we already have the existing contribution from the original half per cent on the Medicare levy for the NDIS, we already have the contributions from two other major capital funds which we’ve put into the NDIS special account which we’re doing in this Budget and so what will remain to ensure that the money was there in those special accounts for the NDIS was the further increase of a half percent in the Medicare levy two years from now. So it’s very clear there in the Budget papers, all of it fully funds the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there is no gap anymore once we put this additional change in place two years from now which is when the bills come in. The Labor Party is saying that they want to increase the Medicare levy but it’s not one cent of that is actually going to the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Andrew Leigh, their Shadow Assistant Treasurer said this the other day. He said not one cent is going to go to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They think it’s fully funded, they’re living in fantasy land. He just wants to raise a tax.

FIRTH:

Conversation this morning with the Federal Treasurer, Mr Scott Morrison, my guest on his way to Nowra, specifically the Bowling Club actually for the Shoalhaven Business Chamber luncheon today. A revenue problem, Treasurer, as you are the designer of this paperwork – Australia, do we have a revenue problem? That’s the question and, if not, why the $20 billion in new taxes?

TREASURER:

Because we have a Senate problem that’s why. Expenditure in this Budget is growing at less than two per cent and we’re getting expenditure as a share of the economy down to 25 per cent and it hasn’t been there for a long time so this is a Budget which is controlling expenditure but, as your listeners will know, we have had to reverse $14.7 billion in savings which the Senate point blank refuses to pass. So we don’t have a revenue problem, we’ve got a Senate problem and when you’ve got a Senate problem then you have to make up that with revenue from elsewhere…

FIRTH:

National – I beg your pardon again – national media have taken the conversation of the banks and I think as we’ve all got an idea now about the ruling or the reasoning to it, could I learn from your Treasurership again within the design of the paper, was it about the first one or two things that went into the planning that is that we will be putting this levy upon the banks? Or did you design the Budget and realise actually there isn’t enough for us and it was about the last suggestion that you thought, “I better chip in with a bank levy”?

TREASURER:

No, again, that’s something the Labor Party’s been putting around. They don’t know how to balance budgets. They never did when they were in Government where they promised surpluses that never turned up. We’ve got the Budget returning to balance projected in 2020-21, it was very clear as we were framing this Budget, that the Senate had formed its view on a number of measures. That would mean that we’d be needing to reverse those measures in the Budget to credibly maintain the Budget’s position with the ratings agencies and others and so we considered a whole raft of issues and we settled on going forward with a levy on the banks. Now, this is a very reasonable levy and I note when they put the levy on the banks in the UK, as it was confirmed by one of their bankers today, they absorbed it. The UK banks absorbed it, they just got it, absorbed it and moved on. And what we’re hearing from the banks now is Ken Henry said just 18 months ago that we should be raising taxes as a government. He just doesn’t think we should be raising taxes on the banks, he thinks we should be raising taxes on your listeners and we don’t agree with him. The banks are in a position to absorb this, they force small business to absorb costs every single day, that if it’s good enough for small businesses it’s good enough for them.

FIRTH:

I’m mindful of my limited time, Federal Treasurer, thank you. Mr John Lamont is a gentleman you’ll meet today, management committee member of our Shoalhaven Business Chamber also business proprietor of Nowchem – which is the chemical and pharmaceuticals manufacturer, his remark.

JOHN LAMONT:

Yes, well, with our smaller baby care business, the Cherub Rubs business, we went out and got some new laptops, because we needed them and we wanted to take advantage of the instant asset write-off immediately. We’re also looking at a new piece of filling equipment that we can claim on the instant asset write-off. So, yeah, we’ll be using it to our advantage as well to help enhance our business and grow our business.

FIRTH:

Extending the immediate tax write-off of another $20,000 for the financial year, music to your ears when you hear business proprietors making remarks like that?

TREASURER:

Well, it does because that’s exactly what we’re encouraging them to do, and when this measure was first introduced a couple of years ago it was only available to businesses with a turnover of over up to $2 million, we’ve extended that to businesses with a turnover up to $10 million, so that’s covering all our small businesses and that’s what a real small business is – it can have a turnover up to that level. The Labor Party opposed us on that, by the way, and what listeners should appreciate is that Bill Shorten is going to reverse the tax cuts for small businesses, he’s going to reverse this decision and take the small business definition back to $2 million. He’s going to put his hand in the till of every business in the country, particularly small businesses. He’s a total till raider when it comes to taxes on business and that’s cost local jobs. The other thing that means is that when you’re a small business now up to $10 million you can do your GST on a cash basis. Now, that provides enormous cash flow advantages for small businesses, cash flow, managing your cash flow on a small business is one of the toughest jobs you’ve got and it takes a lot of attention and there are big risks, and so this helps small businesses better manage their cash flow and we’re very proud of that. The other thing we’ve done is we’ll be incentivising the state government so I look forward to the strong support from the Member for Kiama for what Ann’s been able to achieve on this, I look forward in supporting the fact that we’re going to be incentivising state governments to cut red tape for small businesses. They will get reward payments for cutting small, red tape for small businesses and we’re lifting the freeze on the indexation of local government funding and that will be good news for local councils in the Shoalhaven as well.

FIRTH:

A closer question to you, Federal Treasurer – pardon me – as a simple Google search reveals a recent birthday, many happy returns for last Saturday.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much.

FIRTH:

And the oncoming significant birthday of the old “Hawaii Five-0”, I think we term it, don’t we? The fiftieth?

TREASURER:

Yeah, it’s not too far away I was reminded I was now in my 50th year, so.

FIRTH:

If I could ask of you, as our federal Treasurer, in respect to HECS, in respect to affordable housing, in respect to global warming and the environment and issues mostly I suppose for 18 to 24 year olds, approaching your 50th year, would you prefer to be 50 now or 20 now?

TREASURER:

I think the opportunities for Australia today are more significant than they were 25 years ago, more significant than they were 50 years ago. If you’re 25 today, you have grown up in an Australia which has never known a recession. We are now in our 26th year of consecutive economic growth. For those of us who are a bit older than 25, we remember recessions and for those who are older than me they remember even worse, and so the economic opportunities that are there for young Australians today are significant and we have to secure them and take them for them. That’s what this Budget is all about and the opportunities are there we want to support them, I know that there’s a real issue with youth unemployment in the Shoalhaven. The Youth PaTH Program which I devised and announced last year is going to be very important here in the Shoalhaven. That’s going to give young people a go, people who’ve been unemployed for quite a while, give them a go to get them into a business, give businesses the opportunity to get those people in there and get used to them and see the opportunities for them and I think that’s going to be a really good program. We’ve also got the ParentsNext Program which is being expanded, which helps young mums largely who have had kids very young and find themselves potentially on a life of welfare, we want to break that cycle for them because the best way to get your welfare budget under control is to get people off welfare into a job, the best form of welfare is a job and that’s what is at the heart of our welfare reforms.

FIRTH:

Sincerely again, a welcome to our city. Enjoy your luncheon and, I hope, an opportunity by Nowra Bridge a little later today somehow and thank you again for the contribution to the North Collector Road which for our Shoalhaven City Council is an enormous relief.

TREASURER:

It’s great to be here as always. Thanks.

FIRTH:

Thank you, Mr Morrison.