17 October 2016
Transcript - #2016145, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Union action costing the construction industry; Bill Shorten’s Senate captain’s pick; Post-sentence preventative detention regime; Medicare; ACT election; Labor’s push to increase taxes; Pauline Hanson; Labor’s refusal to back tax relief for Australian small businesses.

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning to you. The Prime Minister writes in the Australian today about the threat posed to the whole country by unfettered union power. How significant is that threat?

TREASURER:

We have 113 CFMEU officials currently before the courts. In the last quarter we had some 50 per cent increased in the working days lost in the construction industry. That accounts for two thirds of working days lost across the economy. This is costing the country an extraordinary amount. Forget the union issue more generally, just think about it economically. This is why it costs more to build a hospital, why it costs more to build a road, a bridge, right across the economy. It’s costing taxpayers more because of the lawlessness in the building and construction industry. Let alone what it costs to build a block of apartments or a commercial building or a retail shop or whatever.

HADLEY:

What about this legislation are we getting closer to it being passed? The Building and Construction Commission legislation?

TREASURER:

We’re putting obviously maximum pressure on the parliament. That will come through the House of Representatives this week. It’s an important piece of legislation. Not just to ensure that the rule of the law is everywhere in this country and the building and construction industry isn’t exempt from it. As Treasurer, in charge of the economy, these changes are critically important to boosting the productivity of our construction sector, which is a key sector for our economy and for jobs moving forward. A million people work in this industry. We can’t have their jobs, undermined by lawless unions and lawless behaviour. We have now, it’s a different sector, it’s the HSU. But Bill Shorten’s captain’s pick for the Senate, is an individual who was recommended by the Royal Commission to have charges brought against them. That’s he’s captain’s pick to replace Senator Conroy in the Senate.  If you don’t think that the unions are running the Labor Party, exhibit A.

HADLEY:

I look quite often at what happens in Queensland. Palaszczuk is beholden to the CFMEU. It’s apparent through legislation they tried to get through that’s been usurped by the Federal Government in Victoria that Daniel Andrews goes cap-in-hand to the unions as well.

TREASURER:

We dealt with that last week in the parliament with that CFA legislation. This was the legislation where the firefighter unions in Victoria were seeking to sideline rural volunteer firefighters. The unions were driving the Andrews Government, and they’re driving the Shorten opposition. We were successful with that legislation last week, we are getting things done. It was a very busy week last week, also the income tax cuts passed last week for those who were earning between $80,000 and $87,000 will now no longer go onto the second highest tax bracket.

HADLEY:

The Government pushing ahead according to News Limited papers today with laws to strip dual national tourists of their Australian citizenship. Invariably, we’re talking about the worst of the worst. We’re talking about people fighting the free world as part of Islamic State in Syria. Yet, it’s almost done and dusted that there will be legal challenge to the High Court if you tried to stop people from coming back to this country because they are no longer citizens of this country.

TREASURER:

That’s no surprise. I remember when I first proposed these laws when I was Immigration Minister several years ago, these are the issues that you always have to take into account. It doesn’t matter what you do in this space, they’ll always be those who raise objections in the courts. It’s a free country, they can. The laws were passed and introduced late last year and I have no doubt that they’ll be advocates and others funded by goodness knows who, who will take forward those challenges. These laws are in place. We put them in place as a Government. They are being implemented. There is a process which is being tightly followed to ensure that those people who may be subject to these laws will have these laws applied to them.

RAY HADLEY:

I say that the lawyer is acting pro bono yet we can find a point of difference I feel a certain way as you do about illegal boat people. They feel a different way. They say we lack compassion, they have compassion. How in god’s name can anyone have compassion for people who have been in that part of the world decapitating people, having their images put on social media doing exactly that. Killing children. I just don’t understand how anyone, lawyer or anyone else can say ‘oh well, we gotta protect these people’s rights’. The bastards have no rights.

TREASURER:

They are dual citizens as well. It’s not like they’re left stateless under these laws. By their own actions they would have been disqualifying themselves to the values of Australia. I’m very proud of the fact that our Government put these laws in place. I think it’s an important signal to everyone that citizenship matters, there are obligations that are attached to it, not just rights. Those obligations mean holding to our values and clearly going over there and fighting over there is against every value an Australian would hold dear, doesn’t pass that test.

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, we’ve spoken before about service centres in New South Wales which I wasn’t a great fan of, but I’ve been proven wrong. The Baird Government put them in place, where they’re the one stop shop, you go there, your births, deaths and marriages. You do your rego, you do your licensing, you do a whole range of things there. It would appear to me, that the traditional Medicare offices are gone and they’re all under the Centrelink banner. For instance people in my area who used to go to Medicare now go to some sort of kiosk in the shopping centre. What I’ve come up against, not personally, people have written to me so I did a bit of investigation the last week since we spoke, and people who’ve got sizable amounts to claim back from Medicare, for various services used to be able to go in, fill in a form and within 24 to 48 hours the money would be back in their account because they’ve already paid the money out in terms of hospital and different issues which are not covered by private health insurance but covered by Medicare. It now appears that people are waiting weeks, and in some cases two or three months to have that money put back in. I checked with one of my staff who recently had a claim on behalf of one of her children, and she copped a tip from someone, go into these Centrelink offices and insist on it being done there, they’ll do it. More often than not they’ll fob you off and say no, just fill in the form we’ll put in through. Is there a deliberate attempt to delay the payment to these people or are they just slack?

TREASURER:

No, there’s been no ending to the Medicare face-to-face services. What happens now is 96% of all Medicare claims are actually lodged electronically. That’s how the vast majority of people do that these days. The service for people who are unable to use digital services remain the same. About four out of five of all those claims lodged manually at the service centre, they’re processed within 10 days. There’s no change to that. Obviously some claims are a bit more complicated than others, but one of things that the Government is working hard on is we know that the services are important and we’ve got to maintain the quality of level of services and we have to be able to do that in a way which ensures that taxpayers aren’t paying more and more for those services. It’s kind of like a business, I mean, business customers expect to pay less for something and the quality to be better. The same is true of government. That’s what we’re working through which Medicare.

HADLEY:

I’d suggest to you it’s not working. It’s not one or two, everyone I’ve spoken to. It’s mainly older people. They’ve got access to computers, they’re happy enough to do it online or put a form in the traditional sense, but they’ve been kept waiting. I can give you, off air, the cases in question where people have waited three months. And they’re still waiting.

TREASURER:

Happy to take them Ray. The figures I have is about four out of five of the face to face services, those lodged manually, they’re processed within 10 days. But I’m not saying that the one in five that are outside of that, there will be a spread of experience on that and if there are particular cases, happy to take that up with…

HADLEY:

I’ll give you the example of someone who’s waited for a long time, and obviously respect their privacy by just passing it to you, within making a song and dance about it. Why has Pauline Hanson been able to increase support for One National as is shown in the Newspoll today in the Australian?

TREASURER:

You’d have to ask her, but I think…

HADLEY:

I’m asking you.

TREASURER:

(inaudible)

HADLEY:

But you’d understand why because you’re a conservative member of a conservative government and it would appear that an even more conservative member of the Senate is garnering a lot of support.

TREASURER:

Government is not an easy thing. Government is a difficult thing. You’ve got to make decisions all the time which are not always going to please everybody. Those who sit on the crossbench and other places don’t quite have the same pressure applied to them in terms of the decisions that they make. I was making this point last week, and I was making it overseas as well. And that is; I understand that people feel anxious about what’s happening in the economy, I mean people’s wages have not have not been growing like they used to, back in the days of John Howard and Peter Costello and so on. Since the GFC wage rates and growth in wages have been very flat. The same is true for businesses in terms of what business providers take home. So people are feeling anxious about those things, they feel anxious about trade, they feel anxious about foreign investment and they feel anxious about immigration. What we have to do as a Government is to assure people through our practice, whether it’s controlling our borders so people can feel confidence about immigration, to ensure that on foreign investment applications that it is in the national interest and there’s real value being added. And in trade deals, whether it’s China or others, that it’s Australians who are getting the benefit from this. That’s the task we have set ourselves to show why that is making Australia richer, it always has frankly over the last 200 years. I know that they’ll always be some who are anxious about those issues. Now, I suspect that translates into support for other political parties. What we have to focus on are the reasons why people are anxious and that’s why we’re working to try and boost people’s wages, and one of the ways you can do that, is what we started talking about today. That is, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Its absence is holding back people getting ahead in the construction industry, because of working days lost and the lawlessness in that sector which is holding out economy back. Now that’s a practical policy that can really address the concerns that those people have.

HADLEY:

Just a question back on the dual citizenship, one of my listeners says, was there weakening of the policy that you and Tony Abbott formulated by the Turnbull Government? Have things changed in relation to…

TREASURER:

No.

HADLEY:

That’s exactly what was presented by the former Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

The joint standing committee on intelligence in order to get the support of the Labor Party for the Bill, that was the same process that was initiated under Tony Abbott. So whether it’s on that, on border protection, on our position more generally on national security, there has been no change, no change between what Tony Abbott was doing and what Malcolm Turnbull has been doing.

HADLEY:

Do you think you’ll ever live long enough to see a conservative government in the ACT?

TREASURER:

I hope so….

HADLEY:

Well you’re down there a lot more than me so I’m just wondering what the mindset is - five successive Labor/Green victories?

TREASURER:

They’re voting for tax increases down here. I got a question in the parliament last week, Chris Bowen got up in the Parliament last week and asked me why won’t I increases taxes. He thinks that’s the answer to Australia’s Budget challenges. I said no, the answer to Australia’s Budget challenges is to help Australians earn more, help businesses earn more, and this is why we really want the Labor Party to support the changes to small business taxation, which would lift the threshold for a small business from $2 million to $10 million. There’s a hundred thousand businesses in that area. That’s 2.2 million Australians who work for them. We want to cut their tax rate to 27.5 per cent and give them access to a whole range of instant asset write-offs and depreciation provisions which will help those small businesses grow. The Labor Party are blocking this. Not just last week, but they’re blocking it again next week. I don’t understand why they are working so hard against the interests of small businesses.

HADLEY:

Well given his questions it’s hard to think they’re going to reverse their decision isn’t it?

TREASURER:

I’m working with the cross benchers on that. Labor thinks that the answer, like they did here in the ACT, they think the answer is to not deal with Government spending, where the Labor Party continue to block us on getting welfare spending under control, they won’t vote for that. What they want to do is they want us to increases taxes instead and we’re saying no.

HADLEY:

OK we’ll talk next week, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks for your time Ray.