28 October 2016
Transcript - #2016154, 2016

Doorstop Interview, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum; Welfare reform; Reducing Violence against Women and their Children; Turnbull Government’s Try, Test and Learn Fund to help people live independently of welfare; Youth jobs PaTH program; fairer paid parental leave; Senate negotiations.

TREASURER:

I am pleased to be here today, joining my ministerial colleagues, particularly Steven Ciobo the Trade Minister as we meet together with our New Zealand counterparts. Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a fairly lengthy meeting with Bill English who is one of the standout Finance Ministers in the world today and has done an extraordinary job in New Zealand. There are so many lessons from the way that New Zealand has worked to restore their fiscal situation, grow their economy and to engage in very meaningful changes, in particular in the area of welfare reform. It is a crying shame that some Australians would have to take a pay cut to get a job in this country because of the way our welfare system works. In New Zealand they initiated a process some years ago which we are adopting now to ensure that we are proving ways for Australians to be able to get themselves into work and for that to be their best option so they can actually take control of their financial futures and to have the choices and the hope that their families want. But that system is working against them at the moment. That system is actually saying to them you will take home less if you actually go out and get a job, for some and for many.

That is why in the 15-16 Budget we adopted the New Zealand investment approach which looks at the long term cost of welfare dependents and how Australians can become trapped in a welfare system that doesn’t allow them to escape and take the opportunities that are there for them and their future. It is true that if a young person grows up in a family which is welfare dependent and if they are not in a job by the time they are 22 to 25 then their risk of remaining on welfare for the rest their life is only increased, and that's something we have to turn around. It is still true in this country today that we have welfare benefits that are still not means-tested. It is true that in this country today we have some $6.3 billion worth of savings and improvements in our welfare system that we are seeking to pass through the Parliament and to reinvest in many cases those savings back into ways that help people get into employment, in particular to reform the system of childcare to ensure that those incentives and those rebates are better targeted to those families who need them most, to be in a job and to stay in a job. So, the Government is seeking to move on these issues. We have measures before the Parliament that we are encouraging the crossbench to support us on because the Labor Party have said they like the welfare system the way it is, they like the fact it would seem, because they refuse to support us in reforming it, to have people in a situation where they are better off taking welfare than actually getting into a job and taking a wage.

We want to change that. That's part of our agenda in this term of government, and we want to continue to work to that end, working collaboratively and constructively with the crossbench. So today, as we meet with our New Zealand counterparts, this among many other issues, standing up to ensure that our export trade deals not just for Australia, but New Zealand as well, mean that this part of the world and these two economies, Australia and New Zealand, remain one of the highest growing advanced economies in the world, the most dynamic, the most outward looking because we know that's where our future prosperity resides.

QUESTION:

Going back to the welfare question, is spending another $96 million on a Try, Test, Learn fund really the best answer?

TREASURER:

The Try, Test and Learn fund is part of the New Zealand investment model approach. We started in 2015-16 by doing the actuarial research which identified those groups which are most likely to be at risk of being lifetime welfare-dependent. Once you've done that, you actually have to go and find the best possible solutions to break that welfare cycle for those individuals and that's what the Try, Test and Learn program is all about, it’s about getting the right answers, not continuing with the mundanity, which says there is nothing wrong with the welfare system, we just keep doing what we have always been doing and hope there is a different outcome. Well, there won’t be a different outcome, we are going to trap hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Australians in a welfare net they will never escape from. So the Try, Test and Learn program which was initiated in the Budget that I handed down in May based on the program of adopting the investment approach which I initiated as Social Services Minister and I'm so pleased to see Christian Porter taking this up so enthusiastically and so effectively. This is a big area of change for our country, but it's so important so we don't trap young Australians, older Australians, families and others, those with disabilities, trap them in a welfare net that they want to get out of but can't escape from.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, it is obviously very concerning, as you have emphasised, that people are earning more in welfare than they are in a job. How did we end up in this position in the first place?

TREASURER:

Well, the welfare system has crept and crept and crept, and it's important that governments actually attend themselves to that and stop the welfare creep that is occurring right across our community. That's what we are doing. This Government, since we were elected in 2013, has been chipping away at the welfare system and the way that its growth and costs have got out of control, making it more targeted, having it better means tested, and ensuring that we’re looking for the answers, working particularly with the not-for-profit sector, that are trying to change the outcomes for people. Whether it’s the Youth PaTH Program which I announced in the Budget this year, which is trying to get young people, particularly longer-term unemployed people partnering up with small and medium sized businesses to get them into work through internship and training programs, leading to real jobs. Or whether it’s the reforms we’ve undertaken and seeking to undertake at the moment, whether it’s on family tax benefits where we’re trying to take the savings of once a year cash splash payments, and put them into more affordable child care. These are the changes we’re about. We are being frustrated by the Labor Party, who simply what to keep the welfare system as it is and to continue to trap generations of Australians in a welfare net that they can’t escape from, but they want to escape from.

QUESTION:

What do you make of the [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

That’s a matter for the Kidman family to make a decision on who their top bidder is and who their purchaser is going to be. If there are foreign investment implications from that decision, then that will be considered by the Government in due course. On two occasions I rejected the foreign investment applications for previous bids. I’m pleased to see that there are now a number of Australian bids for this iconic empire. It’s now up to the Kidman family to make a decision on how they want to proceed and the Government will take it from there, if the Government is required at all to consider any of those matters.

QUESTION:

Warren Mundine has slammed the Government’s attitudes of inquiries over action when it comes to ending Indigenous disadvantage. What is your response to that?

TREASURER:

Well I haven’t seen his comments so I’m not in a position to respond to them because I don’t understand the context of what, or the nature of how he might have put those issues forward. What I do know is that the Government is working, I think in a bipartisan way, and not just with the Labor Party but right across the Parliament to ensure we get better outcomes for indigenous people in this country. Ken Wyatt is working assiduously away in his areas and Nigel Scullion in his areas. Today, later today, the Prime Minister will be making further announcements on domestic violence issues which sweeps right across our country, and is one of the great stains on our country, and so many developed and advanced economies. I’m very pleased that we’ll be able to commit that additional funding to that domestic violence package, the third tranche of this. Just over a year ago, there was another $100 million announced. Now, we’re moving into the next phase. This is an area on domestic violence that our Government, the Turnbull Government, is following through on. The Abbott Government was very strong on this, the Turnbull Government has been equally committed to these issues. That is true for reducing Indigenous disadvantage as well. This is something I think the entire parliament is focused on, and we’re trying to get the right results. There’s no lack of goodwill or commitment, we’ve just got to get the right outcomes. I tend to avoid, wherever possible getting into any sort of conflict on this matter because the way we solve this will be making sure we all try and stay on the same page going forward.

QUESTION:

Just on paid parental leave quickly, will you be moving the start date back to July or October [inaudible].

TREASURER:

I’ll be sitting down again with Nick Xenophon and his team, we hope next week. The paid parental leave package is just one of a series of the social service reforms and changes that will improve the Budget by over $6 billion. This is very necessary, not just for the Budget position but for the reasons I said before; improving the overall effectiveness of our welfare system and the important safety net that we have. So, we are very open to what’s been put forward by Nick Xenophon on PPL. In this parliament, you work through the issues, you come to an agreement, and you move forward. But what the Australian people expect from the Government, what they expect from Nick Xenophon, what they expect from One Nation, what they expect from the Labor Party is outcomes. Now, I’m pleased that Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson and David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day and Derryn Hinch all want to sit down and talk about getting outcomes in this area. The Labor Party, I’m afraid, are not sitting down and talking about outcomes in this area. One again, their answer is just no, no, no. For us it’s about working through this issue with Senator Xenophon, his team, the other crossbench senators, to get the results and so we’re very open to those discussions.

Thanks very much.