17 May 2017
Transcript - #2017109, 2017

Joint doorstop interview, Nowra

SUBJECTS: Budget 2017

ANN SUDMALIS (MEMBER FOR GILMORE):

Alright, so we’re here welcoming the Treasurer to Gilmore today as part of the roadshow of the Budget, to actually talk to some of our small businesses in town and let them know the benefits to our community, to our businesses and ultimately to the nation. So I’ve brought him here to one of the best places on earth which is just here down at Greys Beach and welcome, Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much, Ann, it’s wonderful to be here in the Shoalhaven today on this beautiful South Coast Day. We’re here for a particular reason and that is in the Budget we announced that we’ll be spending $13.8 million on the Far North Collector Road here, which is a critical road project which paves the way to ultimately do the upgrade of the bridge that you can see standing behind us here. You’ve got to do the Far North Collector first because the other road will have to be shut down during the course of doing the major bridge upgrade. And so you’ve got to do first things first when it comes to building infrastructure that supports our local regional communities and so that $13.8 million for that Far North Collector Road is step one. And we’ll continue to work with the State Government and others on the bridge upgrade, and that’s a project which is worth several hundred million dollars and more, and so that will be an important project that we are working closely with the State Government and the other authorities to ensure that we can upgrade that bridge. But first of all the Far North Connector, which is not just going to be the essential pre-works to do the bridge upgrade, it is also the essential works to connect to fast growing areas of this local Shoalhaven community. More than a thousand homes are being built not far from here and that road will be connecting those homes to services, to other transport connections, to schools, to hospitals, to all of the important services and the town services that are here in Nowra. So this is how we do infrastructure, we think about it, we plan it, we connect communities, we ensure that it builds into future projects to get the real economic growth that is the central story of this Budget. This Budget is about growing our economy to support more and better paid jobs. We’ve got $75 billion in programs and projects over the next ten years, we’ve got another round of Building Better Regions fund, we’ve got an overall regions fund approaching $500 million which will be there to support regional projects whether it’s here in the Shoalhaven or right around the country, to support our regional economies. There are some real strong challenges here in the Shoalhaven, and I understand them well, I’m no stranger to the Shoalhaven and issues such as youth unemployment we’re targeting with our Youth PaTH Program that we announced in last year’s Budget. In this Budget we’re supporting small business again and I’ll be sharing that message with the small business community here today and that includes the extension of the instant asset write off, this is an important program that not only now supports businesses with a turnover of up to $2 million, it supports businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million. Now that’s a major change, we’ve been at businesses this morning that are in that $2-$10 million range who will really get that support for things like GST on a cash basis, that makes a big difference to small businesses. So this is an important small business Budget, we’re also investing in cutting red tape for small business, incentivising state governments, the New South Wales Government here to cut that red tape for Shoalhaven small businesses, for Illawarra small businesses, for businesses all around the country that need that red tape out of their business so they can get on and make the profits and employ more Australians.

QUESTION:

Labor claims its income tax policy is fairer and more progressive than yours, what do you say to that?

TREASURER:

Bill Shorten’s income tax policy will resign the economy to ruin. I mean what Bill Shorten is saying is this, he’s saying that if you go and start a business, you take a risk, you work hard, you invest, that he wants you to pay at the end of the day a marginal tax rate of 49.5 cents out of every extra dollar you earn. Bill Shorten is saying that when you do well in this country you should work one day for the Government and one day for yourself. I mean that’s not fair, that’s not fair to anyone and I think Australians understand what a fair go is when it comes to putting that extra effort in and where you’re able to have some success in life that the great reward shouldn’t be having to spend one day working for Bill Shorten as a Prime Minister if that’s what he wants in the country and one day working for yourself, that’s not how it will be under a coalition Government. What we are focused on is trying to get taxes lower to ensure that there is more incentive in the system, I mean Bill Shorten sees a future in Australia where you’ve got one of the highest company tax rates in the world and one of the highest personal income tax rates in the world, that’s no way to run a growing economy, that’s a way to shut an economy down and at the end of the day that hurts jobs, it hurts jobs here in the Shoalhaven, it hurts jobs all around the country.

QUESTION:

What sort of time frame are we looking at for the announcement on funding for the Nowra Bridge, understanding of course that planning and all that sort of stuff is still underway right now.

TREASURER:

Yeah, look…

QUESTION:

Is it still going to be an 80/20 split?

TREASURER:

Well I’ll ask Ann to comment on the process, but I stress again the first thing you’ve got to do is the North Connector Road, that’s what important.

QUESTION:

Do you think people are really going to travel ten minutes north…

TREASURER:

I’m just going to let Ann respond to the question, I’ll let Ann respond to the question.

SUDMALIS:

So you all know that we put in $10 million in the 2013 election which is almost expended for the planning and the other environmental studies and engineering studies but you also know that the State Government hasn’t finalised those costs yet. So until we get those numbers I can’t go knocking on Scott’s door and saying I want x amount of dollars until I know what the x is. We’re expecting that number sometime before the end of this year, and then as soon as I’ve got that number, and yes I am going to be barracking for an 80/20 split, and I’ll be knocking on Scott’s door for that.

TREASURER:

And every time Ann knocks on my door she gets a very good reception as you can see with the connector road here in the Shoalhaven and not only that but I’ve got to say it was Ann who particularly brought to my attention and the Social Services Minister’s attention the issue being faced by people who were formerly on their pension. We’re giving 90,000 former pensioners in this country their pensioner concession card back and that is significantly due to the advocacy work of Ann, understanding the needs of older Australians here in her own community and we’re very pleased to have been able to say yes to Ann on that and well done Ann to bring that to our attention, and that means they’ll be getting all of those state and local government concessions that go to pension card holders and that’s an important thing we’re doing to put pressure down on the costs of living for older Australians.

QUESTION:

Treasurer what have you asked the ACCC to do in relation to the banking probe?

TREASURER:

They’ve got a number of tasks, the first one is to make sure the banks do not lie to people, that they don’t mislead people. This is a very modest levy and there is no reason in our view given that the UK banks when they have had a similar impost imposed on them, they accepted it, they got on with the business, they absorbed it and they have a much lower level of profitability than the Australian banks. So I think the banks argument on this is frankly a bit of an overstretch and so the ACCC will be making sure that if banks want to go and charge different prices to their customers, they can’t tell Australians that they’re doing it because of this impost, they’re doing it because they just want to charge their customers more. And we know that over some period of time now the banks have been opening up their margin on what it’s costing them for their money and what they’re charging Australians. So I think the banks need to think carefully about their customers and how they’re treating them. The second thing we’ve done is we’ve put a standing team within the Australian competition regulator to be investigating and monitoring and pursuing competition issues within the banking sector. So it won’t be subject to any sort of single inquiry or anything like this, this is a permanent team established within the competition regulator to ensure that we police competition in the Australian banking sector.

QUESTION:

What powers will the ACCC have?

TREASURER:

They have all the powers currently to, where banks have been misleading, where banks don’t conform with the regulatory requirements on competition then they can, they can pursue all the remedies they have under the existing Act. It’s a standing power and it’s a standing enforcement. I think you just need to step back because they can’t see through you.

SUDMALIS:

And last question.

TREASURER:

So the point about having this standing operating group within the ACCC is you’ve got to follow through on your regulations. We showed this on foreign investment, I mean under the previous government they had some foreign investment rules but they never enforced them. What we’ve done on foreign investment is we’ve forced the sale of $120 million worth of residential real estate with foreign investors who’d illegally acquired that, and we’re doing the same thing in the competition area, we’re doing the same thing when it comes to ensure that we have a proper accountability regime for senior bank executives. I mean if senior bank executives do the wrong thing they should be deregistered and what I announced on Budget night will do exactly that. And so whether its ensuring that there is, yes I want unquestionably strong banks, but I want unquestionably fair banks and I want unquestionably accountable banks and I want to make sure that the banking system is competitive, and is competitive as it can be because that is the best protection that Australian banking consumers can have. Over the last 12 years the banks have really increased their grip over the Australian banking market and I think what we’re doing here goes some way to ensure that we can have a more competitive banking system which means a better deal for customers.

QUESTION:

We’ve got a very vocal, local state MP Gareth Ward on Princes Highway funding, wants to see more federal funding for the various Bombaderry upgrades and Albion park, have you had any discussions, any chance of that?

TREASURER:

Well I’ve been very impressed to see, I mean I travel down this way very regularly, I’ve been doing it for from 20 to 30 years and I tell you the road that’s here today is very different than the road that’s been there over a long period of time. And I welcome the fact there’s been such strong investment by the State Government in New South Wales, particularly by this State Government on investing in these important road infrastructure, these are State roads at the end of the day. We’re investing in our roads, we’re investing in our rail, we’ve got a $10 billion National Rail Fund, we’re investing in railways, we’re investing in airports, we’re investing in roads, we’re investing in the Snowy Hydro Scheme so the Australian Government is investing in these national projects which drive our productivity and drive our growth. We’re investing in a $20 million regional jobs package here in the Shoalhaven, we’re investing in projects which lift productivity in businesses that ensures that those jobs are there for the young people so…

QUESTION:

But will you invest in the Princes Highway?

TREASURER:

We’re investing in all of these projects and we’ll continue to work with the State Government. Let me tell you about the Snowy, on the Snowy…

QUESTION:

No we don’t want to hear about the Snowy, we want to hear about the Princes Highway.

TREASURER:

Well you, the answer actually relates to that, that’s if you’d give me a second. The Snowy 2.0 Scheme, what we’ve said to the State Government is we’re interested in talking to them about increasing our shareholding in the Snowy Hydro. Now we’re interested in doing that on one condition, well several actually, but one important condition, and that is that the state government will use those proceeds to invest in important state infrastructure projects, now that can include the Princes Highway, there’s no reason why it can’t. And so we’ll continue to work with them on all of these things. It’s first and foremost a State responsibility and I think the State Government has been living up to that responsibility, I mean this is a much better road, the works are there for all to see and I think that’s something that should be commended and we’ll keep doing our job and we’ll keep keeping our part of the bargain. Thanks very much.