24 October 2016
Transcript - #2016152, 2016

Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Cabinet; firearms; Kidman & Co; Address to the UDIA; Healthy Welfare Card; housing affordability

RAY HADLEY:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Ray, good to be here.

HADLEY:

Good to have your company. What’s behind going to Queensland over the next few days? Is this part of an ongoing process where you’ll go to various capitals?

TREASURER:

We often take Cabinet meetings to other capitals. The Prime Minister’s actually in Brisbane for most of this week, so the opportunity to be up in Brisbane tomorrow is a good one. There are other activities that the rest of us will be getting about to up in and around Brisbane. It’s just a good opportunity to get out and about.

HADLEY:

One Nation is garnering support in Queensland; it wouldn’t have much to do with that would it?

TREASURER:

No, no it wouldn’t.

HADLEY:

Are you sure?

TREASURER:

I’m absolutely certain.

HADLEY:

Come on.

TREASURER:

I’m deadly serious Ray.

HADLEY:

You’d be a bit worried, because their numbers up there are very good.

TREASURER:

We’re just focusing on…

HADLEY:

No, no, no.

TREASURER:

But it’s true.

HADLEY:

Every time you look at me and say that, ‘we’re focusing on core issues’ and all that stuff…

TREASURER:

That’s because we are.

HADLEY:

No, no. Don’t tell me at some stage someone in government hasn’t said, geez, Pauline’s doing well in Queensland.

TREASURER:

Well no-one’s said it to me.

HADLEY:

You didn’t overhear it somewhere?

TREASURER:

No I didn’t. It might come as a great shock to you, but when you’re a Treasurer or a Prime Minister or you’re a Cabinet minister, you’re actually just focused on doing your job.

HADLEY:

But you must have read the papers, you must have seen reports that they’re polling particularly well in Queensland.

TREASURER:

I’m not distracted by these things Ray.

HADLEY:

But you did see it?

TREASURER:

Well it doesn’t affect how we run the government. What we do is we just get on with delivering. I mean this week, last week, the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Bills went through the lower house. We had the changes to the backpacker tax arrangements which we’ve discussed on the program. We had the big changes to the VET Help scheme which I know you were talking about earlier before I came on, you want to have a chat about. So we’re just getting on with it Ray. There’s a lot to do. Income tax cuts – passed, 500,000 Australians better off. We’re just getting on with it. I’ll leave all of the distractions to all of those who love to talk about them and can fill endless copy going on about it, talking about personalities.

HADLEY:

I’ll bet you have a few more Cabinet meetings up there when she gets four seats in the next Queensland general election.

TREASURER:

We’ve had Cabinet meetings in Melbourne, we’ve had them in Brisbane, we’ve had them in Adelaide, we’ve had them even in Sydney. A lot of the time you have them in Canberra, so you know…

HADLEY:

You sound exacerbated.

TREASURER:

No, you sound a little…

HADLEY:

No, I’m not, I’m not worried about it. I delight in, just, we’re going there because we’re going there.

TREASURER:

You guys are far more interested in that than we are.

HADLEY:

Obviously.

TREASURER:

Yes.

HADLEY:

Now, after I spoke last week about Medicare delays, it appears that we have two views of thought from my listeners. Those who say, fantastic, the app is wonderful. And then the poor buggers who fill in the old fashioned form and get left on the shelf. So what I’ve ascertained since we spoke last week, that most people seem to get their money in a very quick space of time via the app.

TREASURER:

They do.

HADLEY:

That’s 100 per cent, as you said. But it appears to me that there are cracks in the system from people who go in and fill the old-fashioned form in and put it in. That’s not just not older people who don’t know how to work it out, that’s a whole range of people.

TREASURER:

Well they should be improving that, and the Human Services Minister who has responsibility for actually delivering those payment systems and those processes, that’s an important part of the service.

HADLEY:

Yeah, the gun debate last week, I had a view of this and I expressed it a number of times. I spoke to Robert Borsak from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in New South Wales, and he didn’t seem to think it was as a bigger deal as a lot of people, including me, made it earlier in the week. He said you can get the Adler five-six shot already, under that classification, and this is about the Adler seven-eight shot, and then by the time I got to the end of the week I was getting phone calls from farmers who said, we don’t know what this is all about. We can get pump action shotguns under classified D, and that’s not just for police officers or professional shooters, that’s for farmers. As long as you’re a primary producer you can get that licence. So I’m thinking, we spent the whole week instead of concentrating on really important things, and this gun debate is important, but it’s about one lousy gun that can be replaced by another lousy gun with an ever greater capacity to shoot feral pigs.

TREASURER:

We’d banned it coming in, and the states are the ones who actually categorise these things under the various classifications. They had a meeting last Friday and didn’t arrive on an agreement on how it should be classified so obviously the ban remains in place. When you talk about gun crime, whether it’s here in New South Wales or in Queensland, you would remember 220 glock pistols that came into the Sylvania Waters Post Office in my electorate under the previous government because of their lax gun controls in terms of cutting funds to what was then Customs and Border Protection. NSW Police are finding those glocks on crime sites to this day. When it comes to getting tough on guns, this government has done it. We’ve got a permanent ban on the Adler seven-eight. On top of that, we’ve increased the resources for what is the Australian Border Force, and that has ensured a much tighter control and picking up – increased screening for example on containers, and I’ve been down to Port Botany, I’ve seen how the screening works and we gave them significantly more resources to ensure that things don’t come in.

HADLEY:

My concern was the government gave it far more oxygen that it deserves, because the argument at the start of the week was that, oh the farmers can’t shoot feral pigs and then I find out from the farmers they can shoot feral pigs with pump action shot guns. That allows the nonsense we saw on the building site on the Gold Coast, the Grocon Commonwealth Games site, to basically be swept away, we didn’t find out the bloke’s name until Thursday, because instead of giving it to the Labor Party about the ABCC we had this gun debate for an entire week.

TREASURER:

Well that was started by Bill Shorten, it was his weapon of mass distraction when he raised this because I and the Prime Minister and others were focusing on the lawlessness in the building and construction industry. I mean I talked about one case in the Parliament last week, where they were going to shut a site down in Adelaide because they wouldn’t fly the CFMEU flag from the crane. This is how absurd it’s got. Now I’m pleased that Bill passed the lower house, and now the wood is on the upper house…

HADLEY:

Will it get there?

TREASURER:

Well I note that Ms Sharkie from Mayo, from the Xenophon Party, voted with the government on both the Registered Organisations Bill and the ABCC Bill in the lower house. But that doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to play out in the Senate, but that was encouraging. As the Prime Minister said on the weekend, it’s not about union bashing. It’s about productivity-boosting, it’s about economy boosting. Yes the lawlessness and thuggishness we’ve seen from militant unions gives a lot of armoury to the discussion about militant unions, but this is actually about productivity. It’s costing us to build things 30 per cent more because of this. That costs jobs, it costs investment, it costs people increases in their real wages, and that’s why it needs to be fixed first and foremost.

HADLEY:

It of course, led to one Prime Minister, basically calling a former Prime Minister a liar. It was pretty ordinary stuff, I’m not going to take sides about who was right and who was wrong, but you sort of got led down that path by Shorten. Had someone just said look, this is a stupid debate – and I’m not going to attack people for not knowing enough about guns, because I knew bugger all about them on Monday. By Thursday I was a semi-expert thanks to all the people ringing me. It should have been shut down on Monday-Tuesday, and said look hang on a sec, the primary producer can use a pump action shot gun if they want to. Go away. Let’s get to more important things.

TREASURER:

Well that’s what we were saying in the Parliament Ray, others were focusing on these other issues. There’s no doubt that Ministers Keenan and Peter, who appears regularly on your program, weren’t acting alone on these matters, they were doing their jobs in accordance with the processes which are long established.

HADLEY:

Couldn’t it be possible that someone in the Prime Minister’s office spoke to them without the Prime Minister being aware of it? I’m talking about the former Prime Minister.

TREASURER:

I don’t know…

HADLEY:

Can it happen? That’s what I’m saying.

TREASURER:

Anything can happen. All I know is that every time I was negotiating a bill through the upper house with senators, I always kept people closely informed and knew that they were always aware.

HADLEY:

I suppose you, over the weekend, had a restful time when you saw that the Kidman cattle properties are now being sought by an Australian group of graziers.

TREASURER:

I think this is all great. This is why I knocked it back not just once, but twice.

HADLEY:

You knew they were going to do it, did you?

TREASURER:

I’m encouraged because what I said was: “No that won’t do, we’re not allowing that.” And I’m very pleased that these bids are coming forward. Now the Government isn’t selling it, Kidman & Co. are selling it.

HADLEY:

You’ve got to approve it unless it’s bought by Australian interests?

TREASURER:

That’s right. And whoever is put forward as the prospective purchaser, that’s for the Kidman board to determine. But if there is a foreign investment element to that, we’ll deal with it. That may not be the case but I think it’s great that Australian interests are actually stepping up to the plate when it comes to this transaction. Just as it was the case with Ausgrid where everyone, after I made the decision on Ausgrid, said: “Well that’s the end of foreign investment in Australia as we know it. And this was a terrible inconsistent decision.” Well what do you know? We have Australian super funds which we called on to step up to the plate and they did and good on them.

HADLEY:

You called for them on this program.

TREASURER:

Yes, on this program.

HADLEY:

Now the BasicsCard, we had a short conversation on Friday off-air about it and we found some holes, then I spoke to Christian Porter. The point being, this is not your fault as a Government, but you try to do the right thing and give people the BasicsCard because they’re found to be pretty ordinary in looking after their own money. They spend it on drugs, alcohol or gambling. So you give them a card and say: “Look, you can only use that where you can buy food and clothing for yourself and your family.” So now we find it a rort where they go in and buy things and go back and say: “I’m not happy with it. Give my money back.” And the only thing the retailer can do is give them the cash because they can’t return it. Do you think there could be a system where the PIN card that they have could be actually re-credited with any refunds that they have?

TREASURER:

I’ve spoken to Alan Tudge about this – who looks after this.

HADLEY:

Was he aware of it by the way?

TREASURER:

Not that specific thing but he was when I brought it to his attention specifically. Alan has also been pursuing another type of card which is the Healthy Welfare Card, which he tells me the technology on that which was developed after the BasicsCard potentially would have that capability. It’s a technological problem. But you’re right, Ray and I’ve found this whether it’s in tax, immigration, social services, wherever it is, you’re trying to do the right thing by tightening things up because every time these things get abused, it costs the people who actually want to pay less tax and are working hard or people who are in genuine need of the support they receive from the social security system. It costs them. That’s who they’re robbing from: hard working taxpayers and people in quite serious financial stress who need the support we provide them. And it’s a dog act.

HADLEY:

You want to increase the pressure, we’re told today, on the states to slash planning regulations to release more land amid fears – and I’m in this position now with married children trying to get into the property market with…

TREASURER:

– The ‘bank of dad’ in this case or the ‘bank of mum and dad’ or whatever.

HADLEY:

It will be the ‘bank of dad, I can assure you of that. Anyway, the ‘bank of dad’ when it comes to it. And I’m in a fortunate position where I own another property where my adult children can reside and save for their own. But not everyone is in a property position like we are. So the only thing I’d say to you is that I’d like you to one day come out and have a look with me in North Western Sydney – which is far different to where you live in Sydney. It’s just exploding and the question that my mates ask me when I go to the pub for a feed with them is: “Who’s going to buy all of these places?” Forget the price, who’s going to buy them? You’ve got now apartments being built in the middle of paddocks and the infrastructure’s terrible. The roads that convey people to that property are no better than that of 20 years ago, so it’s one thing to say to the state government and therefore councils: “Look, pick up your act with planning. Get more releases. Get more land. Let the developers go mad and do what they want. Stop putting the stop sign in front of them.” But the problem is they build it, they sell it and then the poor buggers that buy it have no way of getting there.

TREASURER:

This is what I’m actually saying in my speech today, Ray. It’s not just about planning and zoning. It’s about infrastructure. It’s about roads. It’s about transport. It’s about integrated city deals. Just last week, the Prime Minister and Mike Baird announced one of those city deals for Western Sydney which is about all of those things. The point that I’m making today, and there will be further policies announced down the track, what I’m saying today is that it’s getting harder and harder to buy a home, particularly in this state but also in Victoria and in Queensland. In WA prices have actually been falling. So there is no one single housing market in Australia. It’s different all across the country. The problem is different all over the country. I should also stress it’s always been pretty hard to buy a house. You go back 50 years down in the Shire, people would buy their block and they’d put up a canvas tent on the site where they’re building their house. I’ve heard those stories. So it’s always been hard but it’s even harder now. The mortgage as a share of your median income, particularly for families under the age of 44, has more than doubled since 1981. So it’s getting harder but what we have to do is make sure that there’s plenty of supply which is well serviced by infrastructure and employment, because that’s important as well. There’s no one single issue. I know the Labor Party goes out and offered up what I thought was a very ill-considered, ill-thought through policy on negative gearing. There’s no one shop that actually fixes this and I would argue that that doesn’t. There are plenty of cheap homes in Detroit at the moment. You don’t crash your economy to make housing affordable. What you do is you work with states. You deal with where there might be some heat in the investor market – which APRA has already done. We’ve seen the growth in investor participation in the housing market fall from over 10 per cent to under 5 per cent in their participation. So that was a good initiative and the banks have followed up on that. So it’s a very complex issue. The Government knows that it’s important. We’re going to be spending a lot of time on getting this right and we’re not going to go off on one-issue solutions.

HADLEY:

So in finality, there’s one thing you’re up against, right? An old bloke said to me once – and this isn’t a shot at young people because now I’m viewed as one of the old blokes – the 20-something year olds and the 30-something year olds getting married now: they want their first home to be their last home. When my mum and dad lived in a housing mission house at Dundas and then were able to get £3000 off the rural bank – which was a fortune with no deposit – which was a bank owned by the state and get into that house, well, there was no landscaping.

TREASURER:

It was a lot harder to get the loan too.

HADLEY:

There were no curtains. There was no carpet. There were just timber floorboards but a lot of young people think: “well, that’s my home.” They don’t appreciate that they get into the market at a lower level and when they secure that, then they go up in the market the next day.

TREASURER:

I think that’s always been the case and many of them will actually use negative gearing in an investment property to help and build up their capital. Because the key problem for people trying to buy a home today – with mortgage rates being where they are, which is low – is not the serviceability necessarily of the mortgage when you get one, it’s being able to crack into the market in the first place. It’s taking, in Sydney now, two years more to save for a deposit than it was five years ago and in some parts of Sydney, the prices are nine times what people’s incomes are. This is tough.

HADLEY:

If you come up with a solution, you’ll get knighted.

TREASURER:

We got rid of those, mate. We got rid of those.

HADLEY:

Sir Scott Morrison, knighted by ‘Prime Minister Pauline Hanson’.

TREASURER:

In Queensland.

HADLEY:

That’s where you’re going. Thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Good on you, mate. Cheers.