30 August 2016
Transcript - #2016114, 2016

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill; Australia's banking system; plebiscite on same sex marriage; foreign investment; Section 18C; debt

TREASURER:

Over to you.

QUESTION:

Good morning Treasurer. We have heard from Tony Burke this morning who has described the Government's approach with the Omnibus legislation, they have only just got a copy of it late last night, and didn't have time to actually debate it in their Caucus meeting and this is policy on the run and they didn't want to make a firm commitment to passing this legislation before seeing the detail. How do you respond to that?

TREASURER:

Well, Tony Burke has just got to stop making excuses as the Labor Party has to stop making excuses. We're simply asking the Labor Party to support measures they've already agreed to. How do I know they agreed to them? They put every dollar of the savings that's in that Omnibus Bill in their forward estimates at the election. Every single measure that's in that bill, as confirmed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, was contained in their costings before the election. So, all of those measures were in there. Now, the Bill will be introduced later this week and then it will be subsequently voted on after debate. So, there's plenty of time for Labor to now look at what they agreed to do before the election and decide if they want to backflip on that or they want to honour their commitment that they made before the election and follow through on those commitments.

QUESTION:

They say they never supported the cuts to welfare for psychiatric patients?

TREASURER:

Why did they put them in their forward estimates then? The estimates for that measure were included in their projection of their deficit at the election. So, what they were trying to do is sneak the savings in there, in the election campaign, and not mention it and hoping everyone would forget about it on the other side of the election. So, what I'm saying to the Labor Party is what you put in your costings and told the Australian people and despite that, they were saying that the deficit would be $16.5 billion worse than what the Government was putting forward. They need to honour at least that. As the Prime Minister has said, we're not asking them to support things that they didn't support at the election, we're asking them to support things that they supported by putting them in to their costings at the election.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, Labor's going to move a motion on a banking Royal Commission by Wednesday or Thursday. Are you confident that everyone on your side will hold the line and there will be no floor crossings and B) this tribunal which you've flagged, any indication of how you might want this tribunal to look like or are you prepared to be, you know, accept the full advice of the Ramsay Review?

TREASURER:

What I know and am confident about is Bill Shorten always plays cheap politics when it comes to the banks. Bill Shorten isn't motivated by supporting anyone's case or achieving anything positive in this space, he is just looking to pursue his own cynical political interest in all of this and to exploit people's legitimate concerns about issues in this area and trying to use them for his own political advantage. That's what Bill Shorten is doing. So, what he's proposing on a Royal Commission is only designed to pursue that objective. Now, what we have done is we've increased the resources of ASIC. We have ensured that ASIC has the additional powers to deal with, you know, specific issues and ASIC is taking banks to court as we speak about serious matters. In addition to that, we've ensured the transparency and accountability that will go with the regular appearances permanently of the banks joining both the RBA and APRA at regular appearances before the House of Representatives standing committee on economics. And in addition to that, we've initiated through the Ramsay Review in recent weeks the process to put in place a 'tribunal', in inverted comas, a tribunal that will enable Australians to have a level playing field and have access to seeing their cases dealt with and addressed in a more meaningful way than currently occurs now. It's not a question about, if, but it's an issue of, how, and that's what the Ramsay Review has been tasked to do. It's a complicated area, there are many different tribunals dealing with superannuation, financial services and the like. So, it's important that we have a well-constructed forum for that to take place and that is exactly what Minister O'Dwyer has done by initiating that review. So, what's the difference? We're doing practical things to deal with the genuine issues that exists within the banking and financial system. Bill Shorten is just playing cheap politics as always, to score a couple of points, to play it off the break, to get himself a headline, whether it's here in Canberra or anywhere else. That doesn't help anyone except Bill Shorten. We're interested in making our financial and banking system stronger because remember a strong banking and financial system was a, if not the key reason why Australia withstood the financial storm of the GFC. Our banking, it was a financial crisis, remember, and our banking and financial system stood very strong during that crisis. Now, we need to ensure that our banking and financial system remains strong. All that Bill Shorten is doing is undermining not only domestic confidence in our banking and financial system, but he raises questions in the international community and in the international community they're asking what's wrong with Australia's banking and financial system? Is there some weakness in the system? Now, that is playing with fire and he should, frankly, not be so reckless and he should support the practical measures the Government is implementing.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, the confinement savings, is that booked in there by Labor?

TREASURER:

Every single measure that is in the Omnibus Bill, every single measure was included in Labor's costings before the election.

QUESTION:

Just on same-sex marriage, if the Senate blocks the plebiscite, in your view, should that be the end of it and get back to business?

TREASURER:

We made a promise that this matter would be determined by a plebiscite and you've heard me say very clearly that if a plebiscite were to be carried, then it must pass the Parliament and I certainly would do nothing that would disrupt its passage through the Parliament and I know that would be the case for many colleagues. And so, if it were passed at a plebiscite, it would pass the Parliament. That is the promise we made to the Australian people. Now, we're going to keep that promise. Now, if the Labor Party and others want to play politics and not allow that to happen, I mean we couldn't have been clearer about how we intended to handle this issue and as you all know from your own readings of this issue, the idea, the process of a plebiscite did have community support and always has since it has first been put forward by the Government. Now, that's how we plan to deal with that issue. If the Labor Party want to derail that for cynical political purposes and not allow this issue to be progressed, well that's a matter for them and then we will just get back to business, stay on the business of what we were re-elected to do and that is to manage and arrest the critical rise in debt. This debt, over this term, we have the opportunity to arrest its growth. But to arrest its growth we must get the savings measures and other budget improvement measures through the Parliament to do that job and that has my absolute focus.

QUESTION:

Will you be releasing the ATO's latest report on foreign investment in farmland this week and if so, how will that be released?

TREASURER:

We intend to do it very shortly.

QUESTION:

What do you mean by that?

TREASURER:

I mean very shortly.

QUESTION:

This week?

TREASURER:

I mean very shortly.

QUESTION:

Forgive me if you've already answered this, but what's the difference between the original estimate between 6.5 and 6.1?

TREASURER:

Timing. The dates of the commencement of a number of measures were rescheduled obviously to make them prospective.

QUESTION:

Why did you not know that about two weeks ago? It seems all a bit last minute if the numbers are all shifting around...

TREASURER:

These have been developed for weeks and some of them are quite technical measures. The original costing was based the original measures and the measures have been updated. This is a standard process. You see this with bills all the time so I don't think there's anything remarkable about that whatsoever.

QUESTION:

Treasurer apparently Senator Bernardi now has 22 signatures to back changes and a relook at 18C and changed to 18C. I know the Government says it's now not Government policy but isn't there a point where internal demands for change on this warrant a rethink from the Government?

TREASURER:

When I was asked about 18C a while ago, it doesn't help me pay back one cent of debt, it doesn't help me reduce the deficit, it doesn't help me get one more person in a job, it doesn't help me get welfare under control, it doesn't help me improve the tax system. These are things I'm focused on. There's a discussion occurring on those matters, that's where that will take place. As Treasurer I'm focused on arresting the debt.

QUESTION:

Seeing as that's your focus, do you then think that there needs to be a message sent to Senator Bernardi and these other Coalition back-benchers who are pushing this agenda to get back into line and focus on the Budget rather than these side issues?

TREASURER:

This is the home of our national democracy. We're at the Parliament open today. Members and senators of all parties and from all walks of life are free to express their views. That's a wonderful thing, and we celebrate it. I'm saying as Treasurer, my focus is on arresting the debt. Debt is growing by, on average $1.4 billion a week, a week. And we need to arrest the growth in this debt and the way we do that is by passing measures in this Parliament, whether they be the savings measures that will be introduced this week or whether they be the revenue measures like on tobacco excise which will be introduced this week. These are measures that help arrest the debt that is going to debt beyond us unless we take this action. And the Prime Minister is right, this is an intergenerational challenge. And we have to look our kids and grandkids in the eye and be accountable for the debts we leave them and the higher taxes they will pay if we do not do that, and indeed, in the erosion in the quality of services they might have to suffer because this parliament right now isn't prepared to deal with the challenges that we must deal with together. And that's why we are reaching out whether it's across the aisle to the Labor Party or whether it's across to the crossbench or the other parties to ensure that this parliament can do what the Australian people sent it here to do.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison Glenn Stevens said a couple of weeks ago that overseas visitors for some years have been more worried about household debt than about public debt. Do you agree with that position?

TREASURER:

You will be aware that Australia's current account position particularly our international investment position is weaker than other triple-A rated countries, and that is the reason why government debt in Australia receives much more focus than say in Canada or in some of the Scandinavian countries and other countries that are triple-A rated. And so, from my perspective the debt that I need to focus on most is government debt. And that's not just at a commonwealth level although it's the majority of the debt, but at a state level as well. We need to manage what's in our house. We need to manage what's in this house. And this house, whether it's the house of representatives or the senate, needs to manage the debt that is being driven by decisions in this place. And so I'm going to focus on my backyard first, I'm not going to start lecturing Australians in their backyards about how they're managing their finances because we've got an issue to deal with right here, in this parliament, starting today. Thanks very much.