22 June 2018
Transcript - #2018126, 2018

Interview with Leon Byner, 5AA

Subjects: Lower, fairer and simpler taxes for all working Australians; Enterprise Tax Plan; GST distribution

LEON BYNER:

Scott Morrison, good morning.

TREASURER:

G'day, Leon.

BYNER:

I bet you've got the biggest smile on your face because yourself and Mathias Cormann have negotiated something that many might have predicted was almost impossible.

TREASURER:

Well, the smile that I'm pleased about is on the face of Australians who are going to work today. Who know that they're going into an economy that they'll pay less tax on in the future and that's good for them, it's good for their families. It starts with low and middle income earners first, they're the priority to provide that relief and it goes through right across the economy because we're not looking to pick and choose here, create winners and losers, we're not engaging in this sort of class envy nonsense that the Labor party's going on with, we think all Australians work hard. You work hard, you pay tax, well, we're giving tax relief to all Australians but we start with those who need it most which is low and middle income earners.

BYNER:

Now, Labor says that your income tax cuts, that is over the longer stages of this, are not affordable. Do you agree?

TREASURER:

Labor wouldn't know what was affordable if their life depended on it. These are the people who just basically set fire to the Budget when they were in Government and drove us into debt and deficit so I wouldn't be taking any advice from the Labor party on economic management. What I outlined in the Budget – which is now passed through the Parliament, our Budget is being delivered – is a plan that at the same time brings the Budget back into surplus one year ahead of schedule, gets us to a surplus of more than one per cent of the size of the economy over the same period of time in which this tax plan's running. The personal tax plan, as well as our Enterprise Tax Plan which is to make business taxes more competitive, are about creating the stronger economy that makes all of this affordable.

BYNER:

Yeah, but the $144 billion that's going to be spent over ten years, you're really relying on the economy going gangbusters all that time, aren't you?

TREASURER:

Not gangbusters, no. Just the economy continuing to respond to the positive policies that we have in place and we're not spending anything by the way, Leon. I'm sure you'd agree because it's their money, we're just letting them keep it. That's another big difference between us and Labor. They think tax cuts are spending. They haven't spent anything. The way tax works is people pay tax to the Government, not the other way around and so we're allowing – as we should – more reward, more incentive for people to keep the money that they themselves have earned. Now, Labor have a different view. They're going to put $70 billion in higher personal income taxes on Australians if they are elected. It's a strange pitch. Vote for Labor, pay more tax. Good luck with that.

BYNER:

The opposition says they'll repeal the tax cuts if they win the next election, do you think there's a chance that this package could be scrapped?

TREASURER:

No, because I believe we're going to win the next election and that's the way that people preserve the lower tax environment which will be good for the economy, good for jobs, particularly in South Australia – Steven Marshall turning the state around, he's got off to a great start – and these sorts of changes, and the other changes we'll be seeking to legislate next week, all go to strengthening our economy. Now, that's important for people's pay packets, it's important for their wages, it's important for their jobs but it's also important for how you fund hospitals and schools and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We learnt yesterday in the Parliament, because Labor were so hopeless at managing the economy, they couldn't list life-saving drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Now, we've done the opposite with things like Spinraza and other drugs that we put into the Budget. They are life-saving drugs that we can afford to do because we're running a strong economy.

BYNER:

I want to talk about these company tax cuts because they're going to be a much bigger challenge for you to get through. Now, at this stage, only companies with a turnover of up to $50 million get tax relief, One Nation appears to be your biggest obstacle on this matter. So how are you going to handle this?

TREASURER:

We'll continue to engage with them in the way we've done on personal income tax and on so many other measures. Since the last election, we've had $41 billion of budget improvement savings measures that we've been able to get through the Senate – which people said we wouldn't be able to get any of that through, people said we wouldn't be able to get the personal income tax cuts through and we've been able to do that – so, look, we're just going to keep along with our persistence, our determination because we believe that they're the right plans for our economy and for Australians and to engage with those on the crossbench. It's a shame the Labor party doesn't want to make business taxes more competitive to protect jobs but that's why we'll have to deal with those who sit on the crossbench and seek to continue to convince them as we've been working to do.

BYNER:

Now, Ms Hanson has left herself some wiggle room in the press conference yesterday when she talked about dealing with tax avoidance – particularly with those big, big, big multinational giants. Any reflection on this?

TREASURER:

First of all, we've done a lot on this area and we've discussed it on your program many times, Leon. We've brought $7 billion of multinational sales revenue in Australia into our tax net because of the changes we've brought in – changes that Labor opposed, by the way. And so that has been a good achievement, we're obviously briefing those who sit on the crossbench about what we've already been able to achieve but also where we're going. I'll be releasing, in a few weeks, a paper which looks at how the new economy operates and that's big multinationals, digital companies in particular, and what other things can be done there. We've got an agenda there, always have had and it's an important issue, I know, to Australians that multinationals pay their fair share of tax but under us, billions of dollars in extra tax has been raised out of multinationals because we've made the system have greater integrity to capture them.

BYNER:

Are you disappointed that in South Australia alone 1,800 Telstra jobs are going to go? They're not at call centres because we don't have those, they're in another country.

TREASURER:

I am.

BYNER:

There are going to be a lot of people wondering where the hell they're going to get the kind of work that they've now got in that very big building and it's not just them, it's also some of the subcontractors as well. What's your reflection on the 8,000 jobs that are going to go from Telstra?

TREASURER:

I think it's a very important reminder on just how important it is to ensure your economy is as strong as it can be because I feel for those whose jobs are impacted by that decision – some 8,000, some of whom are actually, some of those are offshore jobs actually but there's no jobs going offshore as a result of this but the changes they're making at Telstra reminds us that it is a tough environment out there and whether you're a large business like Telstra or if you're a small family business, it's important that we have a tax environment that helps them to be more competitive. Now, we've created, the economy's created over a million jobs since we were first elected. We had 415,000 jobs created in a record year of employment growth. We had 80,000 young people get a job in the last 12 months so the economy we're presiding over is going to provide more opportunities for people who are affected by what has happened at Telstra than the alternative under Labor because if you put taxes up, how do they think that's going to make the economy stronger in South Australia? If businesses have to pay higher taxes, if individuals have to pay higher personal taxes, what do they think that's going to do for consumption in the economy which is the biggest component of how the economy operates? Higher taxes does not equal stronger economic growth.

BYNER:

Treasurer, there's another point here, GST. Currently, SA get $1.47 for every dollar spent. Is that likely to change?

TREASURER:

Under the current formula, the relativities change all the time so under the current formula things will change. They're done each year as we've discussed so it's not a question of whether it changes or not but that's a feature of the system as it currently exists. The issue is how is the system working? Is it working fairly? Is it dealing with the things like how the mining investment boom has knocked figures about? And I think what Australians expect us to do as a Government is look at those things, respond to them maturely and have a long-term plan to make sure that these issues are dealt with fairly into the future. So look, the PC have done a report and we'll be releasing that soon. The Government is looking very carefully at its own response to that but what I can say to South Australians is we're very mindful of the need to absolutely guarantee the essential services that they rely on coming out of the state government and we'll have a plan that absolutely addresses that.

BYNER:

Treasurer, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot, Leon. Great to be with you.