27 September 2016
Transcript - #2016137, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks reach NRL Grand Final; welfare reform; same-sex marriage plebiscite; public service strike action; budget repair; infrastructure investment

RAY HADLEY:

You have been, and I say you, as a Cronulla supporter along with all the other Cronulla supporters through the worst of times.

TREASURER:

Yeah it’s a long way back from that cellar two years ago. To Shane Flanagan and Paul and all the boys, they’ve really put themselves in this position for this weekend. The feeling in the Shire is just fantastic. Kids out there, with their gear on, the shops are getting their act together today. The club and I, we’re launching a new comp for all of our Shire retailers and offices to dress up their offices and their shops, and they’ll be two tickets to the grand final, for the one we judge to do the best effort, we’ll announce that on Friday night on Facebook, so, take a photo of your shop down there in the Shire, and put it on Facebook or Instagram. Just use the hashtag #whynotus or the @cronullasharks on Facebook. Lyall Gorman and I and Damian will have a good look at them on Friday night, and we’ll say who’s off to the grand final. It’s a great time for the kids Ray, it’s like being nine years old again. It’s terribly exciting and this will be a great week in the Shire.

HADLEY:

Well people have got to understand that given their limited appearances in grand finals, you’ve got to be my age to remember.

TREASURER:

I bumped into a few blokes on Friday night as I was leaving the game and they would have remembered the last time round in ’78 and they had a great night and it’s going to be a great week. Everyone in the community really enjoy it, make sure the kids really get in the spirit of it as well. I brought you a scarf Ray just in case.

HADLEY:

I’ll tell you something. It’s grand final number 30. I’ll proudly wear it and in those 30 grand finals I’ve never had the pleasure of calling Cronulla.

TREASURER:

So there you go.

HADLEY:

So there you go.

TREASURER:

Sydney get behind the Sharks…

HADLEY:

I’ll wear it when I call it on Sunday night.

TREASURER:

Good man.

HADLEY:

I agree with you, I can remember Parramatta in the ’81 ’82 ’83, the whole town of Parramatta, the city of Parramatta changed complexion and I do think, that emotionally, and strategically it will be a really big fill up for the Sutherland Shire if the Sharks can actually win a grand final. I think that it will make people sit up and take notice of the area, just because of a football team. It will add a bit of self-worth to a lot of people in the Shire.

TREASURER:

The best we’ve done before is drawing one, so there’s only one more step to go.

HADLEY:

We don’t count the draw, because back in those days….

TREASURER:

… they had replays (laughs).

HADLEY:

You’re not getting away with that. You’re not saying we drew one so that the non-rugby leaguers still think you already…

TREASURER:

I had to have a crack.

HADLEY:

…. You’ve got a half premiership. Now, to business. Christian Porter today in the Telegraph uses the phrase ‘edge of sustainability’ in relation to Centrelink payments. They’re just Centrelink payments. That’s a nice way of saying ‘edge of sustainability’. That means they can’t be sustained. That means we’re in big strife, unless we make some changes.

TREASURER:

This is true.

HADLEY:

It looks, for all the world, like the Labor Party and the Greens won’t come to the party. I can’t understand why, the fact that the Labor Party is supposed to be economically responsible. They’re the alternate government. But then you look into the cross-benchers again to get some of this stuff through.

TREASURER:

Well we will. There’s over $6 billion worth of savings measures that we’ve got in this area that have been before the parliament for some time. We’ve had very good meetings with Pauline Hanson on those measures, previously Senators Leyonhjelm and Day, they’ve showed an interest in supporting those measures. So having dealt with the omnibus bill, this is what we now need to move on to. There’s a really good reason to do this obviously from the Budget point of view, but there’s an even more important good reason to do that. We have people in our community who regrettably do rely on this type of support. I think Australian support a genuine safety net for those who genuinely need it. To make sure they can have that safety net in the future, you need to make sure that safety net is tight as possible and it is targeted and it is supporting those people who really need the help. So that work was begun when we were elected back in 2013, it’s been followed through under Kevin Andrews first, and myself and now Christian in that role and we need to make these changes to make the system sustainable to it’s there for people in the future.

HADLEY:

The Telegraph, Daniel Mears reports, growing at six per cent and predicted to hit 190 billion in three years.

TREASURER:

Eight out of 10 income taxpayers, you remember I used to say, go to work everyday, and those income taxpayers are required to pay for the welfare system.

HADLEY:

Eight out of ten.

TREASURER:

Eight out of ten. And that includes things like childcare and aged care and things like that, which were in the portfolio when I was in the portfolio. And that was over $150 billion a year. That’s what it was now. And it’s growing. We owe it to those who need it to make sure it’s sustainable.

HADLEY:

You see the point being, and people will say oh there they go. A couple of Tories bagging people who need help. If we get the bludgers and the leaners off it, there’s more opportunity for the people that genuinely need our help to get the help, and perhaps a little more help.

TREASURER:

That’s right. We’ve already been able to reduce the number of people on the disability support pension. The changes we introduced over the last few years to achieve that. I think are a step in the right direction. What Christian is talking about now, is the other way to reduce your welfare burden down the path, is make sure you have good social policy that gets people into jobs now, and gets them off welfare so they can actually become independent and self-supporting. That’s the other way you reduce the size of your welfare budget, you help people get into the economy and participating, which is what the thrust of what we’re doing is call about.

HADLEY:

If we don’t fix it, it remains broken, and eventually it just succumbs.

TREASURER:

It swamps the Budget. It’s that simple.

HADLEY:

Now, George Brandis the Attorney General is meeting with his counterpart Mark Dreyfus, over the plebiscite on same-sex marriage. I noted a story in the Courier Mail today, where, Barnaby, and it’s also carried in the Telegraph, Barnaby Joyce the Deputy Prime Minister said, no. We went to the electorate with a plebiscite in mind, they’ll be no compromise. We need to go to the electorate. What I don’t quite understand is, if we have a plebiscite, and they’re chorusing the people who are opposing the plebiscite, oh yes but it’s non-binding. You’ve already said, as a person that doesn’t support same-sex marriage that you, as an individual, would accept the will of the people, and as far as I can see, every other person with one or two notable exceptions, but the majority of people on both sides of politics have said, we’ll accept the will of the people.

TREASURER:

That’s right, I mean Tony Abbott said the same thing and Tony and I were big advocates of the plebiscite. If the people pass this issue, then it will pass the parliament. I have no doubt about that. But, it’s a matter for the Australian people. We took it to the Australian electorate. There was no surprise about our policy, we got endorsement of it and we just want to get on and do it. The only person standing in the way of that happening is Bill Shorten. Now I suppose the challenge to the Labor Party is, there is a meeting today – if the Labor Party doesn’t turn up or won’t start articulating what the things they say need to be changed in order for them to support it, well I can’t find that they are being terribly genuine in really trying to resolve this issue. So if there are issues they think that need to be addressed to pass it then list them, provide that list. But our view is pretty clear. We took this to the electorate. We won the election. There is no doubt about our policy on this. It is the most democratically way to resolve it and they should stop peering down their nose at Australians who they don’t think are capable of having an adult conversation about this issue.

HADLEY:

If they don’t it is not spoken about for the next term of Government and probably the next time it gets revisited is 2020 or 2021.

TREASURER:

Yeah they are just playing politics with it Ray. That is it. There is a clear way forward here. Bill Shorten has to stop obstructing that way forward and enable Australians to get on and deal with it and we can all move on.

HADLEY:

One of my listeners said regarding the strike of the public service in Sydney, well not just in Sydney but everywhere, but Sydney particularly the ABC reported that even the unions admit that today travellers had a faster service at the airport due to management taking the place of strikers. Maybe it is time those strikers were replaced by those in management. So it is bad look when the workers go on strike because they want better wages and better conditions but the management, fewer in number, come and get the job done quicker.

TREASURER:

Yeah and they bring in the casual staff and so on. The Border Force is a good operation and Roman Quaedvlieg runs a good ship.

HADLEY:

But it has been going a long time. I know it is not your baby…

TREASURER:

It has been around, it started when I was Border Protection Minister and we are seeking to resolve it but these are tight fiscal conditions and the same rules are being applied across the board.

HADLEY:

Just back to the same issue we started with – the renewed warnings from the former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry about the slow pace of budget repair. Now this is again, I mean all these little things make up budget repair that we talk about, all small cogs in a greater wheel. But he is saying that something has to be done about the billion dollars a month in interest on our debt, particularly if interest rates do rise and heaven forbid they do. The new Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe has urged the Government to borrow big to fund infrastructure. Can you see the benefits of that to stimulate the economy? Haven’t we gone done that path once before?

TREASURER:

Well let’s deal with Ken’s comments first. That is why you need to get the Budget back into balance. You need to get the Budget there so you can arrest the growth in the debt. I mean our debt is increasing, this is true. The reason for that is we are still in deficit. That is why you have to get out of deficit. That is why we have put these savings measures and as I said there is over $6 billion alone in just social services we have in front of the Parliament that need to be supported. We got the other $6.3 billion through in the Omnibus Bill so the government is certainly not short of things we need to do to get the Budget back into balance. We have $40 billion in total in measures that are designed to drive the Budget back into balance and that is what we are seeking to get the support of the Parliament on. On increased debt on infrastructure I think there is a general view in the community that if you are going to borrow you borrow on things that will actually improve the economy and improve our earnings but at the moment the borrowings are actually to pay off things like recurrent payments, whether on the welfare system or on other things. You have got to be able to stop doing that so you can be in a position where if you do want to borrow on infrastructure you can borrow on things that are actually going to grow the economy. Now borrowing money to pay for welfare doesn’t grow the economy. That is why you have to get the budget back into balance and that is exactly what we are working to do. In our second week back in Parliament we have been able to secure around $11 billion in budget improvements – super will add another $3 billion to that – and there will be other measures that are coming through when we go back into Parliament that we will be seeking to get support on.

HADLEY:

I am just worrying about Mr Lowe’s suggestion, the new Governor of the Reserve Bank, that we should borrow big to fund infrastructure. The previous government, the Rudd Government, did that and we are still paying for it. We had I mean inflated prices for …

TREASURER:

School halls.

HADLEY:

School halls and COLAs costing $1 million and used to cost $200,000 because the government had all this money.

TREASURER:

Rooves got set fire to.

HADLEY:

It was billions of dollars. From memory the Building the Education Revolution as it was then known was $16 billion. The nbn which was part of a big spend and they couldn’t determine if it would cost $40 million, $70 billion or $240 billion. It is closer to $240 billion than it was previously.

TREASURER:

Well Ray those are all really good points. The real issue is about having good projects that you can deliver at the right price that are really going to boost the economy. Now the Prime Minister is out talking about some of these infrastructure projects today. You will hear more from him about that. But the nbn you make a good point. Under Labor it was going to cost $4,400 to connect every premises. Under us it is costing $2,300 to connect every premises. We have got 1.3 million connections now in place. When we came to office there were just 51,000. We are going past some 90,000 premises per month. We are achieving now almost double in a month what they achieved in six years. So the nbn is rolling out. It is a massive program and it is one of the real important corporate turn arounds we have seen in public sector companies. Of course that was the Prime Minister when he was Minister for Communications who drove that.

HADLEY:

Just on the nbn I get more complaints still about the nbn than I do anything else and my eyes start to glaze over now because I write back to the people and say look it took me about ten months to get that connected and that is at a place on the Central Coast I have. It will never come to where I live in Sydney. I mean we still don’t have the sewer on. We have a septic tank as well as all my – and we are in Dural in the metropolitan area. All that building going on to the west of us have the sewer on. I am not complaining I am just making the point. So the nbn is the least of my problems. I want to get the sewer on my place. You won’t believe this. Around Box Hill in North Western Sydney right, I was at a mate’s place recently for dinner and he said I have to get a generator. I said what is the problem? He said if the electricity goes I have no water. He said oh we are on tank water. Now about three kilometres west of him there are thousands of homes being built . These people in the middle on five acre properties still don’t have the water or sewage as well. On that I want to come to this story today about an nbn executive taking home almost $2 million for six months’ work, the former Chief Operating Officer. It’s not his fault. I am not blaming him, Greg Adcock. But $1.5 million in termination bonus when he left them two years into a job. I mean how does all this work? Who determines the wage structure for the nbn?

TREASURER:

Well the board. It is a company and the board makes those decisions. Those sorts of issues raise questions and they frustrate your listeners and frustrate governments too. This is a round about $30 billion project and on that scale where you are contracting and how you contract is on private sector terms. Now these things have occurred and it is regrettable but I think the real focus is what is really happening with the nbn more broadly? By the end of next year some 5.6 million or thereabouts premises, about half of what the overall target is, will be complete. By 2020 the goal is to have them all hooked up. So we are just getting on with the job of delivering the nbn and that’s where the focus is.

HADLEY:

Thanks for your time as always.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray. Up the sharks!

HADLEY:

Good luck the Sharks and I will be here on Monday but you won’t be. It will be a public holiday and may I say you might be nursing a sore head.

TREASURER:

I hope that – well not the sore head but the reason for perhaps many people having one.

HADLEY:

Ok.

TREASURER:

Cheers.