27 July 2017
Transcript - #2017143, 2017

Doorstop interview, Adelaide

SUBJECTS: Address to AI Group – Guaranteeing the essentials, a foundation for fairness; Bill Shorten’s inequality lie; the Turnbull Government’s plan to deliver more reliable, more affordable and more sustainable energy; ACCC electricity price review

TREASURER:

Australia has a lot to be proud of. South Australians have a lot to be proud of. Over many, many years, we have achieved a great deal of things, and we're not going to have Bill Shorten talk down our economy and we are not going to have him talk down Australia's achievements when it comes to fairness. Australia is a prosperous country. Australia has also worked very hard to be a fair country. We are not going to let Bill Shorten run this con so he can masquerade his ideological commitment to things, to masquerade as a fairness policy. That's not what it is about. He is just running another con on the Australian people. We have worked hard on fairness in this country, just like we have worked hard to become a prosperous country and the Turnbull Government is committed to growth and we're also committed to fairness, but not a fairness which is all about saying that you can only do better if someone else does worse. That's not Australians' notion of fairness. We're about the fair go, the fairness of opportunity, and the fairness of people being able to get on and live their lives and earn their living, and not be punished or penalised because of some ideological view of Bill Shorten. We know Australians are out there who haven't shared in the growth that others have, we know that, and that's why in the Budget we acted to put downward pressure on rising costs of living and guarantee the essentials that they rely on. That's why the Budget did that because we know that that's the case. But we're not going to engage in this populist approach of Bill Shorten who is chasing votes like an ambulance chasing politicians when it comes to exploiting people's frustrations and fears. We are replacing that frustration with hope. We are replacing the politics of envy with the economics of opportunity.

QUESTION:

The Reserve Bank Governor seems to think that wealth inequality is on the rise.

TREASURER:

My comments have been in relation to income inequality and how it’s been particularly since the GFC. Now, the Reserve Bank Governor was talking about income inequality over a 30-year period. I myself in my speech this morning acknowledged that when you look at things over a 30-year period, then things have changed. But I also said they haven't grown, in terms of inequality, in Australia as quickly as they have in other parts of the world. But since the GFC and the data on income equality since the GFC and particularly even taking into account the most recent Census, doesn't bear up, doesn't bear up what Bill Shorten is saying. Bill Shorten is trying to sell you a pup so he can give you bigger taxes.

QUESTION:

Your commentary this morning around taxation particularly around high income earners, are you trying to set the battlelines here for an election on this issue?

TREASURER:

I'm simply saying, Bill, we're not going to cop you talking Australia down when it comes to fairness. We’re not going to allow you to just spin another lie so you can give Australians bigger taxes. This is all he was doing. At the last election he said we were going to sell Medicare, for goodness’ sake. It was just a blatant lie. Here he goes again trying to sell another lie. If you are a rural family, you’re a farming family, if you’re a business family and you have a trust, he thinks you're dodgy and he wants to rip it up for you and wants to tax you more on it. This is his worldview, tax you more and try to have a tax system that seeks to settle scores rather than try to grow the economy. He has given up on growth. They do not have an economic growth plan. They just have an envy plan.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, just on local matters, you seemed to damn Jay Weatherill with faint praise, saying he’s given some credit for his battery storage...

TREASURER:

That was a very generous interpretation of my comments.

QUESTION:

Well, would you like to repeat it? Why is it a Hollywood solution?

TREASURER:

Because it is so at the margin, it barely is worthy of a mention. I mean, honestly. By all means have the world's biggest battery, have the world's biggest banana, have the world's biggest prawn like we have on the roadside along highways around the country. But that is not solving the problem. That's just trying to say, "bright shiny thing over here, don't look at the problem over there." That's an old trick from a politician. What we're talking about here is something that, as I said inside, 30,000 South Australian households could not get through watching one episode of Australia's Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let's not pretend it is a solution. We will take it, but it is not solving the problem. But what we need to do is address the big picture, the big structural energy issues. There was a terrible experiment here in South Australia, a shocking experiment and we all saw where it ended and we are now working as a national government, working with the states and territories to turn this around.

QUESTION:

With great respect, Elon Musk has got more money than you have.

TREASURER:

Good for him.

QUESTION:

Well, he must have some reasonable ideas?

TREASURER:

He is very good at promoting them, too. I think he saw Jay Weatherill coming.

QUESTION:

So he suckered us into this did he?

TREASURER:

I'm simply saying it doesn't solve the problem. By all means have the world's biggest battery, congratulations, but it’s not solving your energy problems.

QUESTION:

It’s not just that. He’s trying to create more generation, gas generation…

TREASURER:

I don't think the world's biggest battery solves Australia's or South Australia’s energy problems. I don’t think it does. I don’t think it comes with a…

QUESTION:

It’s part of the solution.

TREASURER:

No, it is such a small piece of the pie that it is barely not even...

QUESTION:

So you hate wind energy as well?

TREASURER:

No, not at all. I'm for all of them, but it has to solve the problem. I don't care if it's wind, coal, the world's biggest battery, but you've got to measure it on its contribution, and it just doesn't measure up to a big solution…

QUESTION:

So you don't rate Elon Musk at all?

TREASURER:

No, look, it's not about Elon Musk. It’s not about Jay Weatherill, it’s not about me, it’s not about you. It's about does it solve the problem? And it doesn't solve the problem.

QUESTION:

When it comes to showing federal leadership though, why shouldn't the nation be moving towards a clean energy target as recommended by the Finkel Review?

TREASURER:

Well, we are working through you that issue, as I said inside. We commissioned the Finkel Review.

QUESTION:

At COAG, 49 of the 50 recommendations which were agreed to.

TREASURER:

And we haven't resolved on the final one yet and we're working through that issue.

QUESTION:

So the door is still open for a clean energy target?

TREASURER:

We are working through the report we have received and we haven't come to a final position.

QUESTION:

Can I ask, Matt Canavan, your latest position on that? Do you feel if he hasn't signed a citizenship form that lets him off the hook?

TREASURER:

I'm not the High Court. The High Court will determine this. I'm very disappointed for Matt and his family. He has been doing a fantastic job in the Cabinet and I hope he can be back in the Cabinet and back part of the team as soon as possible. I hope this matter is able to be resolved in his favour but that is ultimately a matter for the High Court. So I’m going to respect that process and we will get on with the good work that Matt was doing. Matt has been a critical part, particularly when it comes to gas. Matt was the one who was taking carriage of making sure we have our gas back here in Australia to deal with the gas shortage which has been self-imposed in the country by decisions made in the past. We’ve been turning that around and Matt did a great job of getting it to where it is and now Barnaby will be following through on that good work. Also, I should say, while we’re just talking about energy, the ACCC’s inquiry of which its hearings started this week, Rod Sims has been making some comments along these lines as well, he will be looking very closely at whether there’s any profiteering going on in energy pricing whether that be by state governments in Queensland or private operators elsewhere. That is a key part of our response to putting downward pressure on electricity prices. Thank you.