5 July 2017
Transcript - #2017134, 2017

Doorstop interview, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government welcomes sale of Arrium; G20; strong full-time jobs growth; housing market; First Home Super Saver Scheme to give first home buyers a tax cut; Labor’s tax hike for first home buyers; spending growth at the lowest level of any Federal Government in the past 50 years.

TREASURER:

The announcement in South Australia today by KordaMentha that the Liberty Group will be purchasing the Arrium Group and ensuring that the steel workers of South Australia will be able to continue on is great news. It is a tribute to the way everybody has worked together, the workers in the plant, the management, the administrators, all levels of government and the Federal Government has been particularly pleased to be playing its role in ensuring this outcome. Being patient, working through the issues. Getting to this result is great news for Whyalla, it is great news for the Australian steel industry. I particularly want to pay credit to Rohan Ramsey for the excellent advocacy he has put out there on behalf of his constituents there in South Australia and particularly in Whyalla. This is a very good outcome.

The next steps are the approvals of the creditors but also the Foreign Investment Review Board process which will move speedily. We have already been in a position to agree the conditions around the Foreign Investment Review Board process and I expect to be able to sign off on that later today which I think will give the added certainty for the workers in Whyalla and the community in Whyalla which demonstrates a very positive future for them. It would have been a very anxious period of time for those workers and for the families in those communities and we are very pleased about the outcome.

In addition to that, the Prime Minister later tonight heads off to the G20 and he will have a good story to tell about where the Australian economy is heading. On my way at the moment to my regular meeting with the Reserve Bank, yesterday they made their decision and, I think, reinforced the better days ahead story that is there for the Australian economy. Just this week we have seen the positive news, whether it was the retail sales figures we saw yesterday, up 3.8 per cent through the year, unemployment at four-year lows, 175,000 job advertisements in June and that is a six-year high. We have seen the bank acknowledge the improvement in business conditions and the fact that also around the world we are seeing the global economy turn the corner which I am sure will be the focus of much discussion at the G20 as the Prime Minister heads there later this evening. We have also got a good story to tell about the economic reforms we are putting in place to ensure businesses can remain competitive in a global tax environment, to ensure we are encouraging investment with our $75 billion infrastructure program which is investing in the productive capacity of our economy. That is a reason to invest in Australia, just as Liberty Group has taken the decision themselves to invest in the future of Australia's steel industry.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott has told a branch meeting in Victoria that you and other Government ministers don't believe in the second best taxing and spending Budget, your response?

TREASURER:

Background noise is a feature of Australian politics. There is a bit of background noise going on in construction here in Martin Place today. The Government is not interested in the background noise of politics. The Australian people are turning down the background noise in Australian politics, the personalities, all of those sorts of things. I expect there will continue to be a bit of background noise here and there but Governments don't focus on the background noise. They focus on the issues that matter to Australians and that is the jobs of workers in Whyalla, where an outcome has been secured for them today by governments working together, by the workers at Whyalla working with the management and administrators to attract that investment that gives them a future. That’s what matters today, not the background noise.

QUESTION:

The Government’s confirmed that two duel citizens were wrongly put into immigration detention…

TREASURER:

You would have to raise those matters with the Immigration Minister.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

Again, I am not here to talk about the background noise. I am here to talk about the growth in the Australian economy, the fact we had 50,000 people go out to get a full-time job in May and got one and that the Australian people are interested in the things that matter to them. That is, electricity prices and our plan to get electricity prices and the pressure on those down. Whether it is what we are doing on Snowy 2.0, ensuring Australian gas is here for the Australian market. We have got an inquiry underway into the way the big energy companies are setting retail energy costs in this country. That is what the Australian people want us to focus on, not the background noise. We all know what that is about, it is just background noise and you turn the sound down on the background noise.

QUESTION:

Just another distraction?

TREASURER:

I have made my point about all that stuff. I think you get my point.

QUESTION:

The superannuation savings scheme announced in the Budget, will it be applied retrospectively?

TREASURER:

It applies from 1 July.

QUESTION:

Are you confident it’s going to pass?

TREASURER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

What about the recent Tax Office draft ruling extending to small business tax and private investment trusts...

TREASURER:

The report on that was a beat-up.

QUESTION:

Any revenue implications?

TREASURER:

The report on that was a complete beat-up.

QUESTION:

Why did the Government defer action on stapled securities until after the Budget?

TREASURER:

It is a complicated issue and we are working through that in consultation with all the various parties. These issues are important because they apply to big infrastructure projects. What the Government does is we work through issues methodically with patience. This is what has been demonstrated with our actions on the housing market. We have put in place a comprehensive package on housing. Everything from homelessness, guaranteeing the continued support for homelessness programs in this country on a permanent basis. That is not what the previous Government did, they made it a year to year proposition. We have made that funding permanent. All the way through to the quite judicious move by our regulators with the support of the Reserve Bank, Treasury, ASIC and of course the Government as the executive to restrict access to interest-only loans for investors. What we know is that if you do that, you take the heat out of the top end of the market and that is what we have seen in the latest housing figures. In the latest quarter housing figures, when these new regulations came into place, we have seen the top end of these markets cool, without having the impacts across all of the other markets which is what you have to avoid. So it has been patient. It has been measured. It has been targeted and as a result, we are getting the results and that is what the Australian people want their Government to focus on which is what we are delivering.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott has called your Budget a second...

TREASURER:

Background noise, sorry. Anything else?

QUESTION:

On the super savings scheme, you’re confident it’s going to pass, but if it’s blocked, what’s your plan B, in terms of housing affordability?

TREASURER:

Plan A is the one that is going to work because people saving for their first home, we are giving them a tax cut on their savings, which means which means they can accelerate their path to a first home 30 per cent faster. Why would the Labor Party want to vote against that? But they are. I am very confident that the Senate will see the wisdom of this and they won't want to deny first home buyers out there right now, wanting to save their own money that tax cut. Labor is denying first home savers a tax cut which will get them 30 per cent quicker to owning their own home. That just seems mean and I don't know why they are allowing the big union funds to pull their chain on this but that is certainly what is happening.

QUESTION:

Is the background noise annoying you?

TREASURER:

No, not at all. Background noise is part of modern politics and has been around for the last 10 years. Governments that ignore the background noise of politics and focus on the issues that matter to Australians, like solving difficult problems. Working through this issue at Arrium has been difficult. I want to pay particular credit to Arthur Sinodinos, Greg Hunt before him and Christopher Pyne before him. All those three ministers worked very closely to get this outcome. They were working with their counterparts in South Australia and with the administrators. The Prime Minister and I are very pleased about this and we want to honour the work of those three ministers in securing the jobs of steel-workers in Whyalla. Our energy policies are all about ensuring that steel jobs continue to be maintained, whether it is there in Whyalla or elsewhere in the country. It is the Labor Party's aversion to traditional energy sources that will cost steel workers' jobs in the future, not the Coalition's policies which will secure their jobs.

QUESTION:

Final question, do you believe in the Budget?

TREASURER:

Of course I do. The Budget does four things, it grows the economy for more and better paid jobs. That is what I believe in. It guarantees essential services like Medicare and hospitals and schools and the NDIS. I believe in all those four things passionately. I believe in putting the pressure down on rising costs of living, on housing and electricity prices. I believe in that and I believe that the government needs to live within its means. Our government has the lowest rate of increase in real spending of any government in the last 50 years. They are the facts and that is what I believe in.

Thank you, cheers.