8 September 2016
Transcript - #2016126, 2016

Interview with Paul Murray

SUBJECTS: Senator Dastyari; first tranche of superannuation exposure draft legislation; making superannuation more sustainable; National Accounts – 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth; importance of paying down debt; New South Wales Liberal Party

PAUL MURRAY:

Treasurer G'day and thank you for dropping by my city apartment.

TREASURER:

I'm still puffing from that run mate.

MURRAY:

(laughs) This is it! I thank you very much for the honesty of that moment. You didn't want to hide it, nobody from your office is ringing saying "kill it off". That Thursday night, I know we are a week on and all the rest it, but it is amazing. I mean you showed us how it's done. Bell rings – go vote.

TREASURER:

That's pretty much the rule. And you can be sure when we all get back there next week that's what everyone will be doing.

MURRAY:

Obviously politicians at the best of time don't like a bollocking. But it seems one or two of them have got it. Is there anything that's slightly annoying to you, that they needed that bollocking it all?

TREASURER:

We've gone over this over the last week. It was disappointing they know it was. The peer arrangements in the parliament I think will ensure that we don't find ourselves in that situation again and certainly we shouldn't. As you can see over the last week, we've just got straight back into it. Now, the next day, I was sitting down with my FinTech advisory group, and moving forward on other matters and you know, Christopher Pyne was down in South Australia meeting with the South Australian Premier there over defence issues. The Government got back to work, yeah they pulled on a stunt, and they were all very pleased with themselves. Bill Shorten went and did another victory lap, to take up from the one he did after the election he didn't win. That's all just politics. I think people were looking to say, ok, that was a stunt, the Government needs to get on with the job, and that's what we've been doing. This week we've been doing that, we've had a very busy agenda this week and of course we'll have another one next week when we're back in the parliament.

MURRAY:

About Dastyari. Cory Bernardi started it, and you finished it off. Both of you, good conservative book ends, were able to fight a good cause here. The question for me is two-fold. I just find it amazing the number of people in the media, and the political circles who are already talking about a comeback story. Should there not be a level of punishment for what he did?

TREASURER:

They still don't understand what happened and what the issue was. I mean, basically Shanghai Sam as he became known, and we acknowledge Ben Fordham for originally coining the phrase, he stood down ultimately, he resigned because of the political inconvenience of the Labor party. Well, that's not why he should resign. He should have resigned because he got off the blower to a donor who he obviously had a very good relationship with. You don't just ring anyone and say 'oh by the way can you cover of this debt, I don't want to pay it' apparently was the reason and have the form he did. This is why he should have resigned. It's clear to me at least that they still haven't got that. Bill Shorten never got it. He was happy to give him a leave pass from two minutes after he walked in the room. He said to Sam 'oh you had me at hello'. He was quite happy to clear it off. What Bill Shorten should have done, because this is what Prime Ministers do, Prime Ministers, when issues like this present, as Malcolm Turnbull has done, will get an independent verification of what the facts are, and then he'll form a view. He won't just sort of rush to give someone a leave pass on this. He'll be methodical about this. That's what Malcolm did, what Bill Shorten did was just try to say 'nothing to see here folks, let's talk about donations instead of Sam Dastyari' and move on.

MURRAY:

Well that's what I find amazing too, that the political conversation has been on donation reform, donation reform. Now there is a conversation to be had about that. But, these weren't donations. There's a 5 to $40,000 legal bill, there's $90,000 worth of his own expenses that he maxes out so he needs to fill $16,000 and there's talking against national security in front of a room that might want to hear that. None of that is a donation.

TREASURER:

And none of it is explained. There's the odd bottle of Grange in there as well and let's not forget, this is the bloke who when he was the secretary of the New South Wales Labor party, who got the Labor party to pay for Craig Thomson's legal bills. There's a lot of form here. Why Bill Shorten didn't ask more questions, didn't pursue these things more fully, because between the time he had a conversation with him, and the time that Sam Dastyari resigned, there was no new information. So I assume that his defence still stands and he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

MURRAY:

Even in the statement he made fine minutes before the sic o'clock news yesterday was 'I'm going because I'm an embarrassment not because I've done the wrong thing'.

TREASURER:

That's right. So those things don't go away. He's gone, but the really serious questions here are for Bill Shorten, and they'll continue to be raised. We'll raise them but importantly though, next week we'll be back, as we have been all week, just getting on with the job. Because while these things are very interesting and go to serious issues of standards, the job of Government must continue and has.

MURRAY:

Two parts to that. The company tax legislation, when it's presented, is the full package over the full ten years going all the way to the top or through negotiation is it only going to be small to medium?

TREASURER:

Well I presented that in the last week, and that went in as the full package to go all the way through. Now that's before the parliament now. Now in this parliament, you work it. And you work it to get the best possible result and that's certainly what I and Mathias Cormann will be doing and Kelly O'Dwyer and the whole team, we work very much as a team on these things. Particularly Matthias on this legislation. It's our view that we need it all because that's what we think will drive investment, and yesterday's national accounts underscored again, the real critical need to drive investment, private investment in this country. This is a big part of that plan.

MURRAY:

I like the cross bench. I think it's a better cross bench than you might have had before.

TREASURER:

I think it is.

MURRAY:

But, at any one time if three say no, with Labor and the Greens, it's all over. I think a lot of the media spends too much time focused on the eventual decision of the cross benchers. The only time they actually kick in, is if Labor and the Greens say no. That seems to have been lost on a lot of people about this Parliament. For you to get a knock back, the alternative government has to say no.

TREASURER:

That was true in the last parliament too. That's why I and Joe said over that period of time that the Labor party were engaged in Budget sabotage. They set the thing on fire, and then when we turned up with the fire engine, they wouldn't let us turn on the hose. That continues. Now let's hope in this parliamentary term that there is more of a process and more of a willingness. So the omnibus bill is there. But that's just the first one. I understand that six billion dollars is not the whole task, it's the first instalment on the first instalment really. There is a big task there, but that's where we start and the test is that.

MURRAY:

On superannuation, I've got to say that you've slowly won be over, with the simple argument that if you don't like the changes that are being presented, come up with something that saves the same amount of money. Has there been a Liberal MP who has actually been able to produce an alternative saving to the Budget?

TREASURER:

The process we've had now over three or four weeks, and there's been a lot of those consultations, the feedback we've had I think has been along those lines in many cases. Now they're not the full answer. They're often a part suggestion which you can marry with other things that other colleagues have put. Obviously a lot of work we have been doing ourselves, but we've honed in on the things where we think we can make some improvements, and there's still a bit of distance to go there. But the thing that everybody's committed to is that this is a package of changes which needs to make superannuation more sustainable, more flexible and by making it boast two things it actually does make it fairer particularly for generations coming through. Not just those who have had the benefit of what we all know have been pretty generous concessions for superannuation and there is a bit of a generational debate in all of this as well just like there is on the debt debate and that is why I talk about the need to arrest the debt. If we don't get control of Government spending, and that is why we have got these bills in the Parliament, and if we can't address the deficit and get us back to where we want to get to, well our kids pay the debt and they will pay higher taxes for that debt and they will pay in lesser services as well. That is just not a good deal.

MURRAY:

Two quick things I want to bring up before I let you go. Expectations, I always think that we have not just a spending problem, a revenue problem but in some ways an expectations problem. Now, I don't want you to respond to an individual but a couple of weeks ago the Australian newspaper, there is a woman who has got eight kids, she is in Melbourne saying, 'walk a mile in my shoes.' She gets $1,000 a week from the Government to help her. My retort at the time was, 'you know it's not compulsory to have sex'. Expectations, it seems endless the expectations on Government that you should cut from everywhere else but just don't cut it from me. So, how the hell do you actually marry up expectations that are that out of control with the reality of the task that you have got?

TREASURER:

You start with principles. The principles are Australians, I think, recognise that our welfare system should be a safety net. It should be a safety net for people who really, really need it. I have certainly got no gripe with that. In fact as Social Services Minister I was a big believer in it. I believe in the safety net which actually helps you bounce, bounce up and move off it and go forward. Now, sadly, for some people that will never be the case and the system will always need to be there for them. So, you have got to bring everything back to – well what is the purpose of this? One of the big discussions we are having in the Parliament is say on family tax benefits, the supplement payments. There are 53 different welfare supplement payments – fifty-three. There were 55 when I started being Social Services Minister, I got rid of a couple, but there is still a long way to go. Now, these payments were designed to deal with administrative issues on balancing overpayments in the system. Well, we have solved a lot of those problems but we have kept all the supplement payments. So, I am happy to have discussions about what does the safety net really need to be and how do you make it sustainable and how does it really help people. I think all Australians agree with that. Where it gets out of control, or is outdated, or you are making payments on things that don't need to be paid for anymore well, you have got to bring that up to speed. Now, tax measures are the same. People work out how to get around the tax system. Well, you fix it, you tighten it up. The same is true for the welfare system. On the whole expectations thing I would say this Paul – we have just finished, as I said the other day in the National Accounts, 25 years of consecutive growth. That is an extraordinary achievement and it has been achieved – sure Governments make policy settings and reforms on both sides of the Parliament over a long period of time but the heroes of it were the people who went out and got a job, the people who created the jobs, the people who started businesses, ran those businesses, made the sacrifices, found the new products, went overseas, found those markets, convinced them to buy. That is why we have had 25 years of consecutive growth. It is our job to make sure that keeps continuing. Twenty-five years of growth, it is a bit like, we had an unbeaten run of 16 games with the Sharks – 15 wins…

MURRAY:

I knew you were going to bring it up.

TREASURER:

And if you want to keep winning them you have got to keep doing the things that you need to do week in and week out. The economy is no different. So, expectations, yes it has been good but our future growth cannot be guaranteed by anyone other than ourselves and that means Government needs to do the reforms that we need to do and the economy and the people in the economy need to keep doing the things that they are doing. Otherwise it just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen on its own. It must happen based on arresting the debt, putting the reforms into our economy and allowing those people who actually drive the economy to get on and do what they do every day.

MURRAY:

Well, good luck to the Sharks this weekend.

TREASURER:

Yes!

MURRAY:

Now, last one, Angus Taylor has come out and said some pretty straight things that I agree with about the need for the New South Wales Liberal Party to get on top of its game, to open itself up to Members having more of a say. Anyone who has watched the show knows that we have talked about this up hill and down dale with Ross Cameron. Basically, Angus Taylor said nothing different to what Ross Cameron did and Ross Cameron got suspended for it. So, my question is this, do you believe that any attempts to sanction Angus Taylor for what he would be saying should be met with absolute resistance?

TREASURER:

Well, Angus is a Member of Parliament and there is a difference there. Ross is a good mate of mine, I often will go to a function and say Ross sends his apologies tonight not because he is not here but he just thought he should as a general statement of practice. Ross is a great mate of mine and good for him. I remember when I was State Director he was just as outspoken. On these organisational matters, the organisation has to deal with them. When I was Director of the Party I was a great believer in the organisation dealing with things. Parliamentarians will have their views and they will express them and the organisation is always very thankful for those contributions. But it is for the Party Executive, it is for the Party membership, for them to drive these things. So, I have always been keen to let them have that debate. Look, I am a fan of plebiscites, not just in the Liberal Party but I am a fan of a plebiscite on other matters as well but I think that is a good process but really it is for them to make those decisions, for them to reform and deal with all the changes that they want to make. I am not a big one for a parliamentarian, whether you are the Treasurer or you are a backbencher or an Assistant Minister, let them get on and do their job. We have got a job to do and that is to run the government and that is where we are focussed.

MURRAY:

Alright, enjoy the footy.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot Paul, good to be with you mate.