8 September 2016
Transcript - #2016125, 2016

Doorstop interview, Sydney

SUBJECTS: National Accounts – Australia's 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth; Glenn Stevens; Senator Dastyari

TREASURER:

I am here today for what will be my final meeting with Governor Stevens and the leadership team here at the Reserve Bank. Each month it has been my great opportunity to do that and work through the various data and releases and take those insights from the bank. Obviously we had the National Accounts data yesterday which has very welcome news in it but at the same time has elements that are a reminder of the need for us not to be complacent. Yes we have had 25 years of annual economic growth. This is an extraordinary achievement for the Australian people, Australian businesses, people going out, getting jobs, creating jobs, building businesses - that is the product of their efforts. It is the best growth figure we have seen in four years. That is also true and we welcome of the up-tick particularly in the terms of trade but one swallow doesn't make a summer when it comes to those issues and we won't read too much into that at this stage. The real hero though of the National Accounts figures is export growth, net export contribution. Net exports growth over the last year has been 9.6 per cent. That is the strongest rate of export growth since the Sydney Olympics here in this very city. So, that is the real hero of those figures over the last 12 months. We will have the opportunity to unpack that more again this morning in that last set of insights I will get from Glenn certainly in his capacity as Governor but I will swap the view over Martin Place, when he has had a bit of a break, for a view over Cronulla Beach and we can continue to engage and get his views on how things are moving.

On other issues, I note again the resignation of Senator Dastyari last night. As I said last night, who would have thought that Sam Dastyari was going to set higher standards than Bill Shorten and the real question for Bill Shorten is this – what steps did he take when Senator Dastyari advised him of this issue to inform himself of what action should be taken? What Senator Dastyari did was advise his leader of the situation. Now, what Senator Dastyari should have led Bill Shorten to do is to refer this matter to the National Secretary of the ALP. The National Secretary of the ALP should have provided some third party advice to Bill Shorten so he could understand what was going on. What we saw from Bill Shorten was to completely dismiss it, say everything was ok and he could move on. There was nothing to see here. Let's start talking about other issues. Bill Shorten was the one who failed to act on Sam Dastyari. He is the one who said the standard of allowing people to allow donors to cover off debts was ok by the Labor party. So, that is the problem for Bill Shorten today. He needs to explain what questions did he ask of Senator Dastyari, how did he inform himself independently that what he did enabled him to remain as a Shadow Minister in his Executive and occupy the third most senior position in the Australian Senate for the Labor party. So, it really is a question for Bill Shorten. Sam Dastyari has shown that he has higher standards than the Leader of the Opposition.

QUESTION:

Do you think Mr Shorten left the door open for a possible return [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

What the Labor party seems to be saying about Senator Dastyari is he didn't have to go because he did the wrong thing, he had to go because it was becoming politically inconvenient for the Labor party. That just tells me that they still don't get it. The problem with Sam Dastyari and Bill Shorten for that matter isn't just that he crossed a line, it's that the Labor party doesn't even seem to know that there is a line when it comes to these things. They just amble across it, day after day, without even noticing. This is the real test for Mr Shorten. Mr Shorten should have taken third party advice to inform himself of the facts of this matter and then come to a conclusion whether it was appropriate for Senator Dastyari to remain in his position. He didn't do that. He just had a cup of tea, said, 'it's alright Sam, we will just press on and we will bludgeon this out and you watch they will all back off'. But what happened was the political heat got a bit high and so Sam Dastyari fell on his sword. So, it shows a pretty shoddy process from Mr Shorten. Now, if you are a Prime Minister and you pretend to be a Prime Minister as Mr Shorten does, these things matter. Your standards matter. The way you inform yourself of things like this matters. Our Prime Minister has demonstrated his ability to deal with these issues and to take independent advice on these things, to get to the facts and then take the hard decisions. What we have seen from Mr Shorten on this issue is that he is completely missing in action when it came to setting standards in the Labor party on these issues.

QUESTION:

Do you think the rules covering political donations and gifts to individual politicians should be overhauled?

TREASURER:

That is a matter for the joint standing committee on electoral matters and the Special Minister of State. What we must be very clear about here is the issue of donations is not the same thing as what's gone on with Senator Dastyari here. What we have is clearly a very, very close relationship between Senator Dastyari and this individual. Who else do you ring up and ask for someone to cover off your debts? That is the issue. That is the issue here and that is the issue that needs to be addressed in terms of the standards that Bill Shorten is prepared to accept. There was no new information yesterday. The facts of this case were well known. No change to that information. So what happened yesterday? The political heat got too hot and for their own political interests they decided to do what they do. They have not learned their lesson. They do not know what the actual problem is or what the offence here that has been committed. I don't mean in a criminal sense, I mean in terms of a breach of standards. Ministers are held to high standards. It is clear that Bill Shorten wasn't prepared to apply high standards to his own frontbench.

QUESTION:

How long might it take … [Inaudible]

TREASURER:

The Joint Standing Committee on electoral matters is the place where both sides of politics, all sides of politics come together in a formal way to deal with these issues. It has a good reputation. I once sat on that committee myself, I was its deputy chair many years ago. There is a spirit of discussion and dialogue on that committee which is the appropriate place for that to occur. They will pursue this matter as they see fit and I'm sure if the Special Minister of State has any suggestions for them, then they will be more than happy to look at that.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

Again, that is a matter for the committee.

QUESTION:

Going back to the economy…

TREASURER:

Sure, please.

QUESTION:

You were mentioning the exports growth and GDP, resources exports don't tend to employ many people. Are you worried you are going to wind up with fairly jobless growth?

TREASURER:

Not at all. The export story is also driven by services exports, as you would know. The services exports story for Australia, the growth on that figure from memory was just over 6 per cent for the year. Now, that is healthy growth in service exports which is a job-rich export growth and we're seeing the transition particularly in the Chinese economy to a consumption economy. That sits well with the growth and services exports. We have seen the very strong growth in tourism earnings, education earnings, things like this and they're generating jobs here in this country. While I am optimistic, I am not complacent and we can't be complacent about our economic future. We never have been to produce the 25 years of consecutive growth that has been achieved to date. But we can't assume that will continue without continuing to do the things that are needed to drive that growth into the future. Critical to that, to build our financial resilience, is to arrest the debt and that is why as we go back into Parliament next week it will be important for the Parliament to pass the measures that will deliver the savings that will strengthen the Budget and will arrest the debt.

Thank you very much.