13 September 2016
Transcript - #2016130, 2016

Interview with Paul Murray

SUBJECTS: Government secures support for over $6 billion in Budget savings; Turnbull Government; plebiscite on same sex marriage; GST

PAUL MURRAY:

Scott Morrison, the Treasurer of Australia. G'day mate, good to see you.

TREASURER:

G'day Paul. Good to see you.

MURRAY:

Ok, first things first congrats on $6 and a bit billion – that wasn't easy to do.

TREASURER:

No, it wasn't and it has been over a process of pretty much the last year or so. Over the course of the last year, the Labor Party have walked away from over $47 billion of things they promised they were going to do, or savings they were going to reverse and all of this. They had to come clean on the School Kid's Bonus, they had to come clean on the changes to the Pension Asset Test. What today was, was really a culmination of all of that by being dragged, if you liked, positioned, to actually have to accept these savings but, they also went a bit further. They went further in this Omnibus Bill to actually accept savings that they described as 'zombie' savings before the last election. So, they breathed a bit of life into that as well. Today is a good outcome for the Budget, it's not a day for scoring points because it was a day that we were able to get some real progress on reducing the debt. $30 billion of debt will be saved by this Bill.

MURRAY:

Because that is the thing that's worth noting. Obviously, with a deficit of $37 billion and this is $6 billion over four – I am not great at math but it is not the whole way there.

TREASURER:

No.

MURRAY:

Has Labor said anything to you about trying to fix the rest of this about trying...

TREASURER:

No, they just want to put up taxes. They are pretty much tapped out. There are a few measures which we are still working with them on and the HELP debt and there was the dental issue which we have taken offline and dealing with somewhere else. There were a few of these on private health insurance, some issues that they raise and we will look at those but they are largely tapped out on the issue of things they are prepared to do on savings. One thing they are very enthusiastic about doing is actually lifting taxes. Now, our view is tax and spend doesn't arrest debt – it arrests growth and jobs and that aint a good plan. We will continue to work constructively with them but you have got to get control of spending and that is what this Bill was about. It was about spending.

MURRAY:

I understand that you have got to cut a deal so nothing is quite perfect here but it is ridiculous to me that we are still compensating people for a tax that doesn't exist. Now, you had to do a deal that basically pensioners, older people, they will still get essentially compensation for the carbon tax but when you sat opposite the Labor Party and inevitably just said, "hey the tax doesn't exist, why should the compensation stay?" what did they say?

TREASURER:

Well, look, without going into those details they did put this entire measure in their costings before the election. That is what they did do. We did have a measure that would say we got rid of the carbon tax, so going forward we are not going to give you the compensation for a tax that doesn't exist. Now, we are not walking away from that measure. Just because the Labor Party chose not to support that doesn't mean that we no longer. We still do support it and we want to see that passed so we will obviously now go and deal with the crossbenchers in the Senate to see if we can continue to pursue those measures. That's our proposal, that is the law of the spending that needs to be dealt with.

MURRAY:

I am sure you are far too modest to take me on the inside of a deal here but you got temporary protection visas through the Senate when you were the Immigration Minister, you got things through the Senate when you were the Social Services Minister. Now, you and Mathias Cormann were able to do this with the political enemy. What is the key to the Scott Morrison negotiating style that seems to work?

TREASURER:

In this case Mathias Cormann has been the key partner and we…

MURRAY:

A politician giving another one credit?

TREASURER:

Mathias and I are a team and the Multinational Tax Avoidance Bill was the other one we got through late last year and of course the pension assets test before that. It has got to be a good measure, it has got to be a good package and you can't basically give those who you are trying to negotiate with too many leave passes. Now, you make your case on why it needs to be done. Now, we have made the case to the Australian people that arresting the debt is the number one goal in this term fiscally for the Government but it also has to be for the Parliament. Now, the ratings agencies are saying the same thing. They are on board with the trajectory we have to reduce the expenditure as a share of GDP, to reduce the deficit and of course arrest the debt. What they are not convinced about is that the Parliament is going to support that. Now, that I think is a very strong argument to put to the Parliament. Now, the Australian people elected this Parliament and it is our job to work with it to get the outcomes. That is why today I think it was a good example of the Turnbull Government actually getting stuff done in the 45th Parliament.

MURRAY:

You have opened the door about the idea of this being the Parliament that people chose. Well, of course the reason the crossbench was able to grow was through a Double D and that was the choice of the Leader. We had an election where many members lost their seats. Is wining enough? What is the calculation one year on from what was a pretty traumatic time for the Liberal Party?

TREASURER:

We get on with our agenda and we are in a position having won the election to keep pursuing that agenda which includes in particular pursuing the ABCC restoration which has been a core part of the Coalition Government since our election since 2013 and continuing to pursue Budget savings to get the Budget in repair. To ensure that we continue the strong position we have on border protection, to ensure we continue to crack down on multinational tax avoidance. We responded to the Financial System Inquiry in the last 12 months, to the Harper Review and we have talked about that on your program, the changes to the Misuse of Market Power laws. Even getting rid of those really annoying credit card surcharges which we were able to get through just before the footy finals started and people started booking their holidays for Christmas. These are the things we are getting done but the test of any Government is that you just keep on governing and you get on and do it. You don't complain about it you just do it and today I think we demonstrated how we are doing that.

MURRAY:

A couple of other quick things; the same sex marriage plebiscite, is it your view that this is the only shot at same sex marriage for the next three years – plebiscite or nothing?

TREASURER:

That is what we took to the Australian people and that is what we returned on the basis of doing. The only person standing in the way of this mater being dealt with in the way that was approved by the Australian people at the election is Bill Shorten.

MURRAY:

Do you care about this, again it is press gallery nonsense, but a number of them trying to really read into this idea about the number of conservative MPs who won't back the plebiscite if it happens. Look, I can do basic parliamentary math and if this thing passes, even if 10 MPs decided to cross the floor the thing would absolutely fly. Let's make it nice and clear as a Conservative person, your advice to fellow conservatives who may vote no in the polling booth but when they walk into the Parliament what do they have to do?

TREASURER:

Well, I will be voting no in the polling booth but I proposed the plebiscite – a compulsory attendance plebiscite because I want the Australian people to make this decision. Now, I will respect their decision, I will do nothing, if it passes, then I will do nothing to frustrate its passage through the Parliament and people can rely on that and other members who have similar views to me have said the same thing. I think that is the right thing to do. Equally if it doesn't pass than the Australian people have spoken and I think that should also be respected.

MURRAY:

Just finally, there is a story on news.com.au that is a bit curious but I have to follow it up on behalf of the people in my household who are very passionate when they saw this story. Is the Government about to close some sort of loophole or bar the purchasing of products by Australians and online shopping in overseas entities that don't end up paying GST? Is there some sort of special plan that you have got to close the net on online shopping?

TREASURER:

What we are doing is lowering the threshold in terms of how the GST applies. That provides a level playing field for Australian retailers. The tax office has any number of ways of enforcing that arrangement. The one that's referred to is the ability to shut down a website. Now, that's been around for decades. It's a power that has been there, we haven't created it, it's just one of the many things that the tax office can use. It hasn't been used, so there's nothing to suggest to me that this is something they'll put on the top of their list. Chris Jordan will deal with these matters sensitively. What we've done here – another thing we've done over the last 12 months – is ensuring that we're implementing this plan which means retailers here at home are on a level playing field when it comes to the GST with those they're competing with offshore.

MURRAY:

Alright. Treasurer, again, congratulations and thanks so much for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Paul, it's good to be with you and mate you need a scarf – I will give you a Sharkies one.

MURRAY:

Alright, good luck, I can smoke out here perhaps that's why I am here. I am doing my but for the Budget, mate every time I light up. Alright thank you very much, Scott.