30 June 2017
Transcript - #2017129, 2017

Doorstop interview, Perth

SUBJECTS: Arrium; GST distribution; Productivity Commission inquiry into impact on national economy of Australia’s system of horizontal fiscal equalization; Bill Shorten’s shallow self-interest; Coalition Government

QUESTION:

Arrium, can you tell us where the sale of Arrium is up to please?

TREASURER:

On Arrium, obviously KordaMentha is in the final stages of where they are at with the sale and I don’t really want to offer a commentary on this. This is a very serious issue in South Australia and particularly for the Whyalla community. It’s something that the Government has been very focused on now for several years. We are working closely with all of the companies that have expressed an interest. We have been dealing with potential foreign investment issues with FIRB and to make sure, at the end of the day, that the jobs in Whyalla are assured and a future for that community is provided.

QUESTION:

Are Australians going to be worse off come tomorrow when the Budget changes come into effect?

TREASURER:

The people paying more tax on 1 July are multinationals and the big banks. That is what is happening on the first of July. Next year, our economy is forecast to continue to grow and what is absolutely essential is that we make the right choices to secure the better days that we are seeing ahead. We are seeing the global economy, all positive indicators about where that is heading. Australia is well placed to share in that global growth. Our economy has performed well compared to the rest of the world for many years now. As we come out of the mining investment boom which has been most acute here in WA, those opportunities only increase. Let's not forget, in May 50,000 Australians went out to get a full-time job and they got one. That is a real sign of confidence. In the last 12 months here 28,000 West Australians went out to get a full-time job and they got one. So we are seeing an improved performance when it comes to employment. We want to see an improved performance when it comes to wages. Everything the Turnbull Government is doing is designed to ensure we grow the economy more strongly which means more and better paid jobs. That’s why I am optimistic.

QUESTION:

We just heard Deidre Willmott say she was heartened by your comments on the GST in WA. Is she right to feel hopeful?

TREASURER:

Yes. We have to talk about the GST. We have to deal with the issues that are germane to the GST and how it is distributed. The point I was making today is this, the way the GST is distributed can't draw back on economic growth. It can't be holding economic growth back. What I want to ensure is that we address this issue in a way that means we get a system that is durable, that will stick, that is fair, that makes sense and ensures that we grow our economy. That in particular means that all States and Territories have to make the most of the opportunities that they have and certainly don't get rewarded for taking decisions that hold the economy back. Western Australia, I think, has been critical to Australia's national economic performance for the better part of three decades. We want to ensure that all States and Territories are making the right choices to secure the better days ahead and that means we need a GST distribution system that is honest about the weaknesses in the system and I think I have been pretty candid about that today. We have a lot more work to do. I am not going to raise expectations. What I am simply going to do is do the work and continue to deal honestly, whether it is with the people in Western Australia or around the country to make sure we come up with a solution which is fair, which is sustainable, which is durable and supports the growth of our national economy and is in the national interest.

QUESTION:

On the cutting of, or the idea of penalising States that push back the exploration of unconventional gas exploration, what is the thinking behind that?

TREASURER:

I don't share the terminology you have just couched it in. What shouldn't happen is that states like Western Australia that make the most of their opportunities, they shouldn't be penalised. That is what concerns me. The system currently has been penalising Western Australia. I think that is very apparent. The way to fix that is to take a step back and look at what this means for the national economy and clearly, what WA has been doing for many years has been in the interests of the national economy. We need to look carefully at how the current system has produced this result and ensure that in future that is not repeated.

QUESTION:

So are you prepared to cut the GST to states like New South Wales?

TREASURER:

I am prepared to act in the national interest to grow our national economy.

QUESTION:

Bill Shorten says Australians will overall be worse off as we tick into the new financial year with tax breaks for the rich but cuts to penalty rates for ordinary workers. Is he right?

TREASURER:

Bill Shorten is a phony. Bill Shorten is always saying things to talk down Australia. He acts only in his own political self-interest. I don't know a more self-interested politician than Bill Shorten.

QUESTION:

When did you last speak to Tony Abbott?

TREASURER:

I saw Tony on Saturday, I think it was, at the Federal Council.

QUESTION:

You were in his cabinet, did he ever express an interest in Australia having nuclear submarines before yesterday?

TREASURER:

I don't talk about what happens in cabinet. I don’t think you would expect me to. The policies of the Abbott Government, of which I was a part, were very clear in terms of the direction we were taking on the submarine build. The Turnbull Government has followed through on those decisions of the Abbott Government and that submarine program, together with the broader naval ship building program, which I am glad you asked me about, this is a massive investment in building our naval ship building strength here in Australia. As you know, that is benefitting WA here. It is benefitting South Australia, it is benefitting North Queensland. It is a major investment in Australia's advanced manufacturing and technology. This is a Government that has taken decisions to build submarines in Australia, to build frigates in Australia, to build patrol vessels in Australia. The previous Government didn't decide to build anything when it came to defence naval ship building. They basically sat on their hands and let a major gap open up, not just in our defence capability but on top of that, they allowed our defence naval ship building to wither on the vine with its capability. As a Government, we have acted on that. We have put that as a central plank in our national economic strategy, our defence ship building program. We continue to get on with it, breaking ground in facilities in South Australia and over here in Henderson, we are seeing the results of that leadership when it comes to our defence capability and our manufacturing industries and our naval ship building industries.

QUESTION:

I don’t know if you answered it properly before, will Australians be worse off…

TREASURER:

I did answer it properly. Bill Shorten is a phoney.

QUESTION:

Outside of Cabinet though, did Mr Abbott talk about nuclear submarines before yesterday?

TREASURER:

I’m not here to provide a commentary on him. You guys have a lot of opportunities to do that and you seem to be taking them.

Ok, thanks very much.