29 June 2017
Transcript - #2017128, 2017

Joint press conference, Perth

Joint press conference with
The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health, and
Mr Steve Irons MP
Member for Swan, Western Australia

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government delivering on Kalamunda Road/Roe Highway grade separation; GST distribution; Productivity Commission inquiry into impact on national economy of Australia’s system of horizontal fiscal equalization; Turnbull Government

MINISTER WYATT:

Can I thank you all for being here. This initiative is a significant one for this intersection. Grade separation is absolutely critical here. We’ve had 201 accidents in the last five years. Of those, 175 have been rear-enders, we’ve had 31 casualties. The Commonwealth’s commitment to this intersection and grade separation is important in terms of quality of life for people living in the area, certainly for the trucking sector and industry, but more importantly it will give families an opportunity to use this intersection safely, get to work and get home and spend time with family. So Scott, welcome to Hasluck, and I also want to acknowledge my colleague Steve Irons who also borders my electorate. We work together on looking at infrastructure initiatives that are important to the people who live within our communities. So Scott, I invite you or Steve to come forward.

STEVE IRONS, MEMBER FOR SWAN:

Thanks Ken, it’s great to be here with the Treasurer and my parliamentary colleague Ken Wyatt to confirm the deal for the Kalamunda Road and Roe Highway separation. Over 350 of my constituents across the road in High Wycombe have contacted my office about this particular issue, and many of you who might have been here 10 years ago would remember a kilometre down the road, John Howard promised this same funding for this project 10 years ago which unfortunately Labor didn’t commit to and it’s great to see that the Coalition Government has now recommitted to this very important separation of this particular highway. We’ve seen from Gateway, which mostly goes through Swan, we’ve seen these separations, the benefits for flow through transport and benefits for the local community. So Scott, it’s great that you’re here today, along with Ken and I, and I’ll give you a chance to take over.

TREASURER:

Thanks Steve and thanks Ken. It’s great to be here with both of you because the Western Australian Liberal team is a very strong and united one, and they work closely together to pursue so many of the big issues for Western Australia. It’s great to be here in WA to give them that encouragement for the work that they’re doing, and to listen to their issues. I’ll be here for a couple of days and doing exactly that.

What you see here on this site with this project is a number of things. First of all, you’re seeing two local members working together to solve a problem in their community. For community safety, for the infrastructure here, this is a significant achievement on their part for their community. $69 million is being put in here, by the Commonwealth, into this project together with the State Government, but the lion’s share of the funding is coming from the Commonwealth Government. That is being done as part of an arrangement we were able to come to quickly with the new government here in Western Australia as part of our additional top up to GST funding that we have now done three years straight. So $1.2 billion has already been provided to the Western Australian Government as a top up to the GST. Now that’s been done in recognition of the rather bizarre outcome as I’d describe it, that we’ve had in terms of GST distribution here in Western Australia. We understand that, and we’ve been acting on that with real commitments of real dollars for projects just like this. Tomorrow morning I’ll be having a bit more to say about this issue, and there will be a longer opportunity to talk about that then.

The other thing it demonstrates is what I outlined in the Budget. In the Budget we have a $75 billion, ten year program investing in the infrastructure that builds our economy. No less so here than in Western Australia. This is creating jobs, it’s driving productivity through important projects like this that will drive the jobs and stronger economy and the higher wages that we all need here. Now Western Australia has been at the cutting edge of what has been a very difficult transition from the mining investment boom. We have seen wages grow in Western Australia less than in many other parts of the country, and it’s vital that we continue to focus on policies that boost the economy so there will be more and better paid jobs here in Western Australia. Our Budget was focused on this goal, and this project demonstrates our commitment to that goal.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, your comments in Darwin yesterday suggest you favour some sort of system that penalises states and territories that don’t promote the development of their natural resources. How can that actually, practically how can that take effect?

TREASURER:

Well in addition to giving the top up payments to Western Australia, some $1.2 billion over the last three years, the other thing I did just before the Budget was I tasked the Productivity Commission to look at this issue of the GST distribution across Australia. I’ve asked them a pretty straight up question, is how we distribute the GST costing our economy? So I’m looking at it from a national perspective, and I understand and respect that every state and territory will have their own view on this and I know there is a very strong view and a very strong grievance from Western Australians about how that formula has not been working for them now over some period of time. But as the Federal Treasurer, what I first want to know, in the way we distribute these funds based on the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s formula and recommendations, is that costing our economy? Now it’s one thing to ensure that Australians, wherever they live in whatever state and territory can get the same access to the same quality services. We’re all Australians and it’s fair enough that that process is respected in terms of how we distribute GST money. But at the same time, if states and territories aren’t going to realise the opportunities that they have, particularly with their resource base, like Western Australia has here, if they’re not going to do that, then you’ve got to ask yourself, is it a fair enough thing that states like Western Australia which have taken those steps would be penalised. So this was put in the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission. I’ve asked them to look carefully at this. I’m deadly serious about it. We want all states and territories to be making the right choices to secure the better days ahead that are there for our economy. Western Australia over many years has been doing that in making sure they take advantage of the resource opportunities that are here, and if other states and territories are going to turn their back on that, well, this is a serious question which the Productivity Commission I’m sure will give me advice on.

QUESTION:

What do you think of the McGowan Government’s submission to the Productivity Commission for per capita distribution then top up payments for equalisation?

TREASURER:

Well I’ll let the Productivity Commission examine the submissions that are being made. The Turnbull Government is the first government to say to Western Australians in particular, we’re prepared to hear you on this issue and we’ve already backed that up in our sympathy for $1.2 billion to date and counting. Now, we’ve given Western Australians and all Australians the opportunity to share with the Productivity Commission their view about how the GST should be distributed. There’s been a lot of Western Australian interest in that inquiry, as I’m sure you would expect. We welcome that feedback, and we are listening carefully to what Western Australians and all Australians are saying about this issue. So whether it’s the McGowan Government’s submission, or Mike Nahan’s submission, or certainly the strong advice I get from Western Australian colleagues, Julie Bishop and the whole Western Australian team here. Western Australia is well represented on this issue. It’s the Turnbull Government that has actually stepped up and is seeking to try and address this issue. So look, we’ll look at all of these submissions and we’ll look at what their recommendations are and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION:

Mr McGowan says it you don’t reform the GST, if you don’t WA something more then federal Liberal MPs will suffer at the next election.

TREASURER:

Well, I’m going to address this issue from an economic perspective and I’m going to take it one step at a time. This is not a process of haggling, this is a process of working out what’s the best thing to do for the entire country. So we’re going methodically through that. No previous government has engaged with Western Australians in this way on this issue. The cases are being made, and I think there are some strong cases to be made. We will listen to that, and then we’ll take it one step at a time. Western Australia has not been getting a great deal out of this for some period of time. We’ve sought to alleviate that with the additional top up funding that is funding important infrastructure projects like the one we’re looking at right here. On top of that, Steve knows full well the Forrestfield Airport Link, which I understand now is being caught up in the whole Metronet description, and that’s fair enough, but the Forrestfield Airport Link is the product of the top up payment from the Turnbull Government that was secured by Steve in particular in his advocacy for his community in the lead up to last year’s Budget. These are the things we’re doing to address the concerns, but we need to take one step at a time and we need to make decisions in the national interest to grow our whole economy. You know what, when the whole economy grows, Western Australia benefits too.

QUESTION:

You’re a realist and a pragmatist. Do you understand what the consequences will be for your party if you don’t fix the GST in Western Australia?

TREASURER:

What matters is getting the right decision.

QUESTION:

The right decision is to address the inequity that has been foisted upon Western Australia.

TREASURER:

And this is exactly what we’re doing. This is exactly what the Turnbull Government is going.

QUESTION:

So do you understand the consequences of that?

TREASURER:

The Turnbull Government is addressing the issue of GST relativities by getting the Productivity Commission to firstly answer the question; is this costing our economy? Not to look at this from a parochial point of view, not to look at this from a partisan point of view, not to look at this from a political point of view. Australians are over all of that political rubbish. They want politicians, governments, to make decisions in the national interest and in the best interests of our communities. Now we’ve put in place a way I think to arrive at that outcome, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re fair dinkum about it. If others don’t want to be fair dinkum about it, and play politics with this, well that’s up to them. What I’m focused on is trying to do the right thing by our national economy, do the right thing by all Australians, and that of course includes Western Australians.

QUESTION:

The Productivity Commission inquiry requires no action on your behalf. The Commission could find it is wrecking the economy but you have, you’re not compelled to do anything about it.

TREASURER:

Well the purpose of doing the Productivity Commission inquiry is so I can be informed about what the cost to the national economy is of the issue that’s before us. Now I’m not going to respond on this issue out of any sort of parochial sentiment, what I’m going to do is respond on the basis of the facts and respond on the basis of what’s best to grow our economy, to support jobs, to support higher wages. That’s what you’d expect from a national Treasurer, a federal Treasurer. We’ve got to get this issue into the right place, and the right place to debate this is not states and territories throwing rocks at each other, saying ‘we all want more money.’ That’s not how you have a rational debate about this. We’ve got to have a serious debate about this. I’ve been very concerned about how this has been running for several years now, before I was Treasurer, and was very supportive of the action taken by our government to provide those top-up payments for the GST to Western Australia. That was a sign of absolute good faith on behalf of the Turnbull Government. We’ve put real money on the table to demonstrate our serious identification with the concerns of Western Australians on this issue and I’m following that up now by doing my homework on the issue, to make sure I understand, what is the issue we have to solve for? It’s not just about more money, it’s about ensuring that we distribute this GST revenue in a way that encourages states and territories to realise their opportunities and grow their economics to support more and better paid jobs. So that’s my focus, I’ll leave the politics to other who want to chase politics.

QUESTION:

Peter Dutton says that the Coalition needs to put internal disputes aside or risk being consumed by them. Is that good advice?

TREASURER:

I’m not distracted by those things. I agree with Peter, that’s an obvious point to make but it’s not distracting us getting on with what we’re doing. What we’re doing is building infrastructure. What we’re doing, is on Saturday this week there’s about 1,200 Western Australian businesses, 1,200 Western Australian businesses from this Saturday will get a tax cut. Businesses up to $25 million, [inaudible] between $10 and $25 million, they’ll be getting a tax cut as of this Saturday. We think that’s an important initiative, along with what we’ve done particularly for small and medium sized businesses. We’ve already given them a tax cut up to $10 million and that goes to $25 million on Saturday. That’s great for Western Australian businesses and businesses all around the country. What I do know is that Bill Shorten and Labor Party are going to reverse those tax cuts for small and medium sized businesses if they’re ever elected. Now I don’t think that will be good for the Western Australian economy. I don’t think that would be good for the Australian economy. That’s why it’s important that we remain focused on growing the economy for more and better paid jobs, not only here in Western Australia but all around the country.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, how do you fix the Tony Abbott problem?

TREASURER:

We don’t have one. What we’re focused on are the problems that are being faced by Australians around their kitchen tables. I said this yesterday, honestly Australians don’t care about the personality of politics, right? It’s not about me, it’s not about Ken, it’s not about Steve, it’s not about Tony any more than it was about Kevin for goodness sake, and you all obsessed about Kevin forever and now you’re obsessing about other individuals and personalities. I got a message for you guys; they don’t care about these personalities, they care about what they care about, and that means this road here, this road here that has been the subject of accidents, serious injuries, they expect us to fix this stuff. And they expect I think, the rest of us to focus on those issues, not on the soap operas of personality politics which frankly I couldn’t give a stuff about.

Thank you.