12 September 2016
Transcript - #2016127, 2016

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill; plebiscite on same sex marriage; National Accounts – Australia’s 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, what might a deal with the ALP actually look like? What would you as a Government be willing to give away in the Omnibus Bill?

TREASURER:

Well, one thing I don't do is I never engage in discussions and negotiations about these matters through the media. I just deal directly as do my colleagues and that is what we continue to do.

It is incredibly important that we make these strides forward on arresting the debt by getting expenditure under control. This is really the challenge for this Parliament. This period of time where we are seeking to consolidate and to get the Budget back into balance, as the Treasury Secretary was pointing out over in the UK, is a tougher job now because there aren't those tail winds of strong nominal growth and strong upward revisions and revenue and resources so the job really does focus more and more and rely even more heavily on getting expenditure under control. That's why the bills we have in the Parliament and the bills we will continue to bring forward are the ones the Labor Party said they agreed with before the election, the ones they said they still weren't going to support, they all remain necessary and we will continue to prosecute the space and seek passage of legislation that gets expenditure under control so we arrest the debt and we avoid the outcome where future generations pay higher taxes and don't get the same standard of services that we enjoy today because this Parliament was unable to support the Government in getting expenditure under control and arresting the debt. That is what the objective is. That's what our focus is. A year ago, we were looking at expenditure as a share of GDP going back over 26 per cent. Now we've got that back under control over the last 12 months and we are ensuring that we are back on that downward trajectory as expenditure as a share of the economy but it is critical to get the support of the Parliament in passing these measures that keep us on that track.

QUESTION:

Is it accurate to say Treasurer that the $6 billion headline figure is the most important thing for the Government and within that there is some room to negotiate? Secondly, what would the ratings agencies say if that savings task wasn't landed?

TREASURER:

The ratings agencies have made their position crystal clear and that is they accept and support the trajectory of reducing expenditure as a share of the economy and moving the Budget back into balance that we laid out in this year's Budget. The question they have is will the Parliament support achieving that trajectory. They have made it very clear that it is a matter of getting things passed and actioned. Now, should we be successful in that exercise, in our discussions, whether it's the Labor Party, the Greens or crossbench, then obviously, obviously that improves the case that we make to the ratings agencies. I met them with them last time when we were here in Canberra and I will be meeting with them again within the next month or so overseas and it will be a very good story to tell to be able to say we have our Budget and we are getting support for savings measures in this Parliament to help us achieve what we have set out in that Budget. So, that really is a test for the Parliament but we are engaging in those discussions practically, in good faith, as I think the Australian people expect us to, to get a result. They elected this Parliament. It's the Government's job to work with that Parliament to get the result.

QUESTION:

Given the current fiscal environment and the call to rein in spending, would an extra $20 million for the same-sex marriage plebiscite – the for and against camps – would that break the Budget or is the Government considering whether or not that's money wisely spent?

TREASURER:

I will leave those matters to the Special Minister of State and the Attorney-General who are managing those issues. Obviously I will participate in whatever discussions we are having internally about those things in the appropriate forums and this isn't one of those.

QUESTION:

There is a lot internal discussion about this. Warren Entsch and Eric Abetz have both come out on opposing sides today. Isn't there a damaging split within the Party over this issue?

TREASURER:

Well, that is your commentary, I don't share it.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, with the discussions with Labor about this Budget savings bill, do any of those discussions include some way of not having a cut to the lowest income people in terms of Newstart?

TREASURER:

Again, I'm not here to provide a running commentary on these discussions, only to say that we are engaged in them and we are focused on the objective and that is getting savings through this Parliament which assists the Government bring the Budget back to balance in accordance with the trajectory we set out in the Budget and that will aid our case in our engagements with the ratings agencies to ensure that we are able to put our best foot forward. That's what we will continue to do. I don't think you really expect me to go through the ins and outs of that. You may well like me to do that, I'm sure you would, but what matters here is getting the result. Getting the result is helped by us following the process that we are following and not entertaining the questions you are putting to me today.

QUESTION:

You mentioned it's up to the Parliament to make decisions when it comes to the economy. Why can't the Parliament make a decision when it comes to human rights?

TREASURER:

It's up to the Parliament to make decisions on the legislation the Government puts before it – and that is what we are doing. The Government decides what legislation is put before this Parliament. When you are successful in an election, you put your agenda to the Parliament. That is exactly what we are doing. Whether it's on the economy or on the issues you have raised, we are getting on with delivering our agenda. A year on, where are we today? Growth is at 3.3 per cent. Nominal growth is actually higher than real growth for the first time in a couple of years. Business confidence, business conditions, all up and consumer confidence up 8 to 9 per cent over the course of the last 12 months. On top of that we have around 200,000 extra jobs in the economy over the last 12 months with a very strong year of jobs growth. Export performance over the last 12 months to the end of June was the greatest we've seen since the Sydney Olympics. Now, these are very strong results in our economy. Every day you will hear the Prime Minister and I and my colleagues talk about the importance of jobs and growth and what we're doing to achieve those outcomes. Now they are the issues that are important to raising the living standards of Australians around this country and we won't apologise for focusing on jobs and growth and making sure that that is our absolute priority in lifting the living standards of Australians, coupled with, as the Prime Minister's most important responsibility, of protecting our national security which he continues to do day out and day in, in increasingly risky circumstances.

QUESTION:

How was the meeting today with Government MPs and Nola Marino and Christopher Pyne about making sure we don't have a repeat of what we saw earlier this month in terms of those divisions?

TREASURER:

Very constructive.

QUESTION:

What was the mood then?

TREASURER:

It was very constructive.

QUESTION:

In terms of the growth figures you mentioned, one of the figures that came out last week, what the National Accounts actually showed was that government suspending is helping sustain the growth figures in the economy, right, the improving growth figures. Wouldn't it be the case that actually withdrawing that Newstart clean energy supplement would be withdrawing Government spending and therefore amount to a hit to growth?

TREASURER:

James, your analysis is based on one quarter of National Account's figures which you know is not the full year's story. In fact the full year's story does not have new public final demand being the predominant contributor to growth over the last 12 months. The things that primarily drove growth over the last 12 months were net exports and household consumption. New public final demand was much below that. Now, there were particular factors in last quarter's National Accounts, whether it was the Hep C drugs or Chinooks which factored into those figures. What is driving our economy and what has driven our economy over the last 25 years is household consumption. That's what has actually been the mainstay of contribution to growth over the last 25 years. That depends on an economy that is confident, on an economy that is working to ensure Australians can earn more, have more in their pockets, to be able to contribute to consumption and drive our economy into the future. That's what we are focused on, jobs and growth is what we've been achieving over the last 12 months and will remain our key focus over the balance of this term and hopefully beyond.

Thank you.