28 September 2016
Transcript - #2016141, 2016

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Better Working Holiday Maker tax arrangements; same sex marriage plebiscite

QUESTION:

Treasurer on the backpacker tax Senators Lambie and Xenophon have raised concerns it makes Australia uncompetitive in comparison to other countries. Given that they are obviously on the crossbench and you need to get through the Parliament, do you need to listen to those concerns?

TREASURER:

Well the analysis which has been done on the measures demonstrates we are on a level playing field. The wages that are paid in Australia are greater than in a lot of these other economies and the analysis shows that the money in the pocket of the backpacker after this change would be the same here as it would be in New Zealand or the United Kingdom, Canada or other competitor countries. The other great advantage is this is Australia. This is the best place in the world to have a holiday and do a bit of work while you are here and make sure you have spent every single cent you have earnt while you are here in the Australian economy So it is a competitive package and once they have the opportunity to see that I hope they would support it. It is important that now we have come to a landing on this issue that we just get on with it, pass the legislation when it comes into the Parliament. There has been a bit of discussion yesterday with the opposition on this matter through Joel Fitzgibbon so we will continue to engage with them and Anthony Albanese as well and Chris Bowen and hopefully ensure there is the certainty that the tourism industry and the agriculture sector would expect.

QUESTION:

Would you caution against achieving the perfect despite the good as you said? Obviously you don’t want uncertainty around this given we want the message to get out overseas that Australia is open for business.

TREASURER:

Backpackers should have a working holiday, not a tax holiday. If people are saying we should be allowing foreigners to come and work and not pay tax or pay lower rates of tax than Australians would, I don’t think Australians would share that view. I think the measures we announced yesterday strike the right balance and ensure that the budget is not compromised at all and that is very important. We can’t go around paying for backpackers by having Australians pay higher taxes on their incomes or other things like that. So I think this is the right balance. It was an issue that has been around for most of this year. It was attempted to be addressed before the budget. There wasn’t a satisfactory outcome to that process. We then went into the election. We committed to resolving it on the other side of the election. Our policy was actually the same as the Labor Party at the last election. They said they would review it after the election as well. They didn’t have an alternative at the election so I think they will agree this is a common sense resolution.

QUESTION:

Treasurer has modelling been done on the new rate as well as the increased departure tax as well as the increased superannuation tax and will that be released to Labor?

TREASURER:

It already has been to you, it was released yesterday and it was the income comparisons on the new tax rates between Australia and other jurisdictions. So that work is there to demonstrate we are on the same footing. The superannuation element of this, we have the superannuation guarantee to ensure that Australians’ retirement incomes are provided for, not Norwegians retirement incomes provided for and I think backpackers understand that too. What they want is the money in their pocket while they are here so they can spend it and have a great time. That is what this package does.

QUESTION:

On the plebiscite, Newspoll suggests that support for a public vote has almost halved since the start of the year. Are you on the right track on this?

TREASURER:

At the election the Australian people elected this government on the platform of the plebiscite. I will always back a general election over anything else.

QUESTION:

Surely these numbers will fuel Bill Shorten’s argument though that the government should abandon this policy?

TREASURER:

Well Bill Shorten is not interested in a resolution on this issue. He talks about same sex marriage every single day. He doesn’t talk about a plan for the economy because he doesn’t have one. He doesn’t talk about defence procurement because he doesn’t have a plan for that and we know that because when they were in government for six years they didn’t make any decisions on naval shipbuilding. He doesn’t have a plan for innovation and science like we do. So what he does is every day he gets up and just goes out there and talks about same sex marriage every day but he doesn’t talk about how it is resolved. He can resolve this with the government by putting forward what he thinks should be changed in the bill in order to secure its passage. Our position on the bill is on the table. We presented it. I have no doubt there are many people on both sides of politics who have very genuine views about this issue, on both sides of the debate. But as every day goes past and I see Bill Shorten play politics about this issue it makes me wonder about his genuineness on this issue. On every day if it is not that he is engaged in some other scare campaign emboldened by what he did at the election, what I could call cynical bogeyman politics. That is what Bill Shorten is offering the country at the moment and that is not a plan to improve people’s real wages or do any of the things that are necessary to lift their living standards.

QUESTION:

Do you accept that public support for the plebiscite is dwindling and that the people are not listening to the Turnbull Government on the way forward on same sex marriage?

TREASURER:

I accept that the government put to the Australian people the proposal for a plebiscite that was endorsed at the general election and I back the mandate of a general election.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, should Stuart Robert be reading out someone else’s words in Parliament?

TREASURER:

Well you would have to inform me of what you are talking about.

QUESTION:

A property lobbyist wrote his speech to Parliament.

TREASURER:

Well that is something you are suggesting to me. I haven’t seen any details on that.

QUESTION:

Should he be answering questions about the allegations?

TREASURER:

These are matters for him. I am not aware of the mates you are referring to.

QUESTION:

Is it appropriate for Parliamentarians to read speeches from…

TREASURER:

Again, I am not aware of the matters you are referring to so it would be inappropriate for me to offer any sort of response.

QUESTION:

On backpackers lastly, the Deloitte report, will that be released and Labor haven’t obviously guaranteed support for these changes, if they reject them do you have a plan c?

TREASURER:

We are happy to share the material with the Labor Party. Those proposals that came forward out of that consultation have been taken up in what we have done so there are no issues there. I think on the backpackers initiative at the end of the day this is a common sense resolution to the issue. It demonstrates the government is able to work through these issues. It has been less than 100 days, less than 100 days. We are getting on with the defence procurement plan, we are getting on with export trade deals and we have Steven Ciobo in Iran as we speak making sure we move forward on the next agenda on those issues. We have passed $6.3 billion in savings through the Parliament, we have resolved the superannuation issues, we have resolved the backpacker issues all by preserving the integrity of the budget. This is a government that is governing. The Labor Party said at the last election they wouldn’t even have an economic plan for 100 days. Well we have been implementing ours for those 100 days and we are just getting on with it like the Australian people expect us to.

Thank you.