1 June 2017
Transcript - #2017113, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: House prices, Medicare levy, National Disability Insurance Scheme, Immigration.

QUESTION:

Is the softening property market a good thing or is it something people should worry about?

TREASURER:

It’s what’s happening in the property market, and I think, the point I was just making at CEDA today was that you don’t want to engage in policies that force a hard landing in the property market. The Labor Party is proposing policies that will do just that. I think the wisdom of the approach the Government has taken, with the very measured and calibrated approach of working through the regulator with issues of investor and interest only loans has been yielding a positive outcome. There has been a tempering of that rather enthusiastic sentiment amongst investors in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. But at the same time, we’ve sought to be careful to ensure that doesn’t flow on to markets like in Perth. Now, if people want an even harder landing in Perth, or to see those sorts of results in other markets like Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and so on, then they should support the policies of the Labor Party, because Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten’s prescription of the housing market is a hard landing, and that not only hurts home owners, but it also very much hurts the economy.

QUESTION:

Do you think there’s a bubble burst?

TREASURER:

Well I haven’t used those terms, I know others have, what’s important is that we continue to have a very sober and calibrated approach to issues surrounding the housing market. In the Budget I announced a comprehensive package that dealt with everything from people who slept rough last night, to first home buyers looking to save for their first home, through to those who are looking to downsize. It addressed social housing, it addressed affordable housing, it addressed those who are renting. 30 per cent of the country rent. They’re often forgotten in the housing debate, particularly those on low incomes. Our measures address supply issues for them, and so while much focus is on Sydney and Melbourne, if you’re on a low income in Hobart, you’re struggling with your rent. Our policy addresses that, as much as the other issues.

QUESTION:

What’s your response to this ANU modelling showing that 60 per cent of households would be worse off under the Government’s changes to the Medicare levy, compared to 27 per cent under Labor’s policy, including reinstating the deficit levy.

TREASURER:

Our policy on the National Disability and Insurance scheme is based on the principal that Julia Gillard herself announced: that everybody takes out and everybody puts in. Our policy to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded is by having a half a per cent increase in the Medicare levy for all of those who pay the Medicare levy. There are carve outs already in the Medicare levy that provide protections for those who are on low incomes, for older Australians, and I just introduced last week, into the house, the Bill which further indexes those thresholds to ensure that there are protections for those people. What the Labor Party is proposing to do, is not raise the Medicare Levy to fund the NDIS, in fact they’ve admitted it. They’re just raising a tax. There is no need to raise the Medicare levy, at all, if there is no funding black hole for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We know there is one. It’s $55.7 billion. And if that funding back hole is not filled, then the certainty that people with disabilities deserve, cannot be provided. Only the Government is offering that, Australians understand, this is an insurance scheme. It’s an insurance scheme. And we’re all touched by it in some way or another. I told my own story at the National Press Club. It’s not a unique story. There are millions of Australians who can tell similar stories. So we all benefit, no matter at what level of life we’re in, our income or our circumstances. It’s a fair way of ensuring that is covered off. I think Australians understand that. I’m very disappointed that they Labor Party that introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme is now playing politics with it.

QUESTION:

As a former Immigration Minister do you agree with Duncan Lewis that the refugee program is not directly linked to terrorists?

TREASURER:

I will leave those matters to the National Security Ministers directly responsible. What we do know is that, as a country, we must be ever vigilant. We must, as these agencies do, particularly ASIO and the Australian Federal Police work very closely with these communities to ensure that we can protect Australia against the sort of attacks that we are so sadly too often seeing in many other places. The Prime Minister announced in the House recently, a dozen attacks have been foiled in this country. Quite serious ones. And the best defence against these attacks is the strong intelligence networks we get from within communities where we can gain access to this intelligence. Now, this is a very sensible approach for a country to take if you are interested in National Security and protecting people. Islamic terrorism is an evil – it is an absolute, abhorrent evil and those of the Islamic faith I think would share that view; that Islamic terrorism is an evil. I think it is important that we call these things out where they are. It is a fact that the biggest risks presented are in second generation – not first generation. I think to try and confine it just to one area is to misunderstand the broader problem. I suspect that is what the Head of ASIO is trying to say.

QUESTION:

Is it worth considering this proposal to set up a special court solely to deal with foreign fighters returning to Australia?

TREASURER:

Well, I was one of those, when I was Immigration Minister, that first proposed that we ensure that people got stripped of their citizenship if they were dual citizens and I am very pleased that we are the Government that introduced those changes. I am always interested in the ways that we can ensure that those who go and fight with terrorists never return. My preference is to see that they are dealt with on the battlefield.

QUESTION:

Are you concerned that our [inaudible] ranking has dropped down of the top 20 for the first time in 20 years and how can you counter that?

TREASURER:

We are reducing taxes for businesses across the board. We are investing in infrastructure. We are investing in innovation. We are opening up trade opportunities for Australian businesses all around the world. We have got a comprehensive National Economic Plan to address the very issues you are talking about. And the only people standing in our way is the Labor Party. The Labor Party are saying ‘no, no, no’ to a National Economic Plan to support more and better paid jobs. They have decided in this Parliament not to accept our invitation to meet in the middle. We have 22 Bills that we have introduced to implement this Budget already and Labor just keep saying no. They have decided to go down the path of cheap politics rather than work together in the National interest and I think Australians will be disappointed in their decision and they will look to other Members of the Parliament to do what they have been sent here to do and that is to get things done. So, if the Labor Party’s view is to try and undermine our competitiveness, to increase taxes on small businesses, to have uncompetitive tax rates, to work against us even when we have opened up trade agreements. This is a very negative, cynical Opposition and a Leader of the Opposition who puts his own political interests ahead of the national interest.

Thank you.