31 July 2018
Transcript - #2018154, 2018

Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

Subjects: By-elections; Enterprise Tax Plan.

LAURA JAYES:

Treasurer, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Greetings from the Shire, Laura. You're always welcome here. You know that as a Shire girl yourself.

JAYES:

Thank you. Now, we've all been picking over the Super Saturday results. What do you make of the results? Do you see this as an endorsement of your economic policy or otherwise?

TREASURER:

It's fair to say that the results were not consistent. I think that's fair to say. I mean, the result in Braddon was very different to the result in Queensland. The result in Queensland – as the Prime Minister has said – was consistent with the sort of swings you see against the Government. Let's not forget that just a few weeks before there was a by-election actually in Western Australia which swung against the Western Australian Government to the tune of about 9.6 per cent. So swings against governments in Opposition seats are not uncommon. So, I think there's different lessons from different by-elections and the Government obviously will be carefully considering all of those. What we always see after by-elections is the Labor Party and advocates trying to retrofit outcomes to suit their purposes as well. So, look, we'll distinguish between those two things and look carefully at those results and one of the things about our Government is it doesn't knee-jerk respond to anything, it considers things carefully. The Prime Minister has always run a very careful, collaborative Cabinet process and that's what we'll always do. At the end of the day, you have to have a stronger economy and we're always committed to that.

JAYES:

So, is it still your intention to reduce the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for all companies by 2026-27?

TREASURER:

Yes.

JAYES:

That hasn't changed?

TREASURER:

No, it hasn't. That's our policy. We put it in the 2016 Budget. We took it to an election. We won the election and we've sought to legislate that ever since and we've had success in legislating for companies up to $50 million and we will take that legislation to the Senate as we have all of our other measures, including the personal income tax cuts that we were successful in legislating before Parliament rose in June and we'll work constructively with the Senators as we always have.

JAYES:

How do you intend to deal with the hostile Senate though? Because these results – particularly in Longman – seem to have hardened Pauline Hanson's stance against passing the remainder of the package.

TREASURER:

We'll deal with the Senate the same way we always do and that is respectfully listening, engaging and seeking to get the best possible outcome for what the Government is trying to do and that is to ensure that we have an economy that creates more jobs and gives people higher wages, that takes the pressure off living costs for Australians and enables them to get ahead because we basically do not believe that if you tax people more, if you tax individuals more, if you tax businesses more because you can't control your spending – which is Labor's way – then you've hurt the economy. At the end of the day that hurts people's jobs. Bill Shorten doesn't have a plan to give anyone a job or to increase their wage or to protect them from rising costs of living. He just has a bunch of hot air that he pushes out and tries to frighten people at every electoral opportunity he gets.

JAYES:

So, when will you be re-introducing this legislation…

TREASURER:

He tells lies, basically.

JAYES:

We'll get to that because we've heard that from a number of your Cabinet colleagues but when do you plan on introducing the remainder of the package – in the next sitting fortnight, in the next month in August – and if it doesn't pass, do you just take it to the next election as your signature economic policy?

TREASURER:

We'll take it to the Parliament – as we have had it in the Parliament, we were hoping to deal with it at the end of June and were unable to proceed with it at that point – and we'll do that when Parliament resumes in a couple of weeks' time. We'll work with the Senate there and that's the next step in this process.

JAYES:

Sure, but I'll look beyond that, I've got to look beyond the Senate because it looks very hostile at the moment. I know you've had some success in convincing Pauline Hanson in the past but it doesn't look all that bright, I've got to say, for the Government at the moment in this particular policy. So this is the economic plan – I want to be crystal clear here – this is the economic plan to reduce the tax rate for all companies and you will take that policy to the next election – nothing has changed after Super Saturday?

TREASURER:

We took it to the last election, we won that election and we've continued to seek to legislate and nothing has changed. We're continuing to seek to legislate that plan and that's what will happen when the Parliament comes back again…

JAYES:

But if you don't…

TREASURER:

Our economic plan…

JAYES:

If you cannot legislate that plan…

TREASURER:

I don't get into that because we've shown steadfastly, for more than two years now, that we've being committed to more competitive taxes for Australian businesses and that hasn't changed and that's not going to change. We are always for more competitive taxes for Australian businesses. That's what we'll continue to put forward from now and for as long as I'm a Liberal – which will be forever – I will be arguing that businesses, individuals, Australians are not assisted by having to pay higher rates of tax. That's the Labor Party's policy. It's not our policy. So we will always argue and will always make the case and have policies to support tax levels that don't drag on the economy and cost people's jobs. It's no good Bill Shorten running around promising to spend money that he doesn't have or he's only going to get by putting his hand in your pocket and thinking that's going to save your job – that's not going to save your job. That's going to risk your job. Every time Bill Shorten puts his hand into your pocket for $200 billion in extra taxes over the next ten years that will cost you your job.

JAYES:

So, I know you just said that you took this plan to the last election – will you be taking it to the next election and seeking to double down on that mandate unchanged?

TREASURER:

We've been pretty clear all along, Laura, and I am again today…

JAYES:

I know but some of your colleagues…

TREASURER:

It's been our policy, we've continued to pursue this policy…

JAYES:

…are concerned about these tax cuts…

TREASURER:

We've never moved away from that, we've never erred from that and I don't see why there'd be any suggestion about our commitment to this and that's what we're taking into this next sitting of Parliament. We want to see competitive tax rates for Australian businesses and will work with the Senate to that end and then…

JAYES:

What about beyond the next sitting in Parliament? What about your policy up until the next election? You said on 22 June, "We will continue to prosecute our case on corporate taxes, that's beyond next Friday and to the next election." Has anything changed from that statement you made last month?

TREASURER:

No.

JAYES:

Ok. I think that's pretty clear then. You and the Prime Minister see this as a pretty important economic reform for the country as you've explained. Why can't voters see that? Have you failed to sell this message?

TREASURER:

I only note from the published opinion surveys on this, which has shown that the longer we've made the case for this, the support for these changes has only increased. As recently as just a month or so ago, over 60 per cent of people were in favour of more competitive tax rates for Australian businesses and this is just one of many policies that we have in place and are seeking to take further that are actually leading to the record results we're seeing in our economy – 3.1 per cent real GDP growth, 85,000 young people getting a job in the last 12 months, the strongest youth employment record we've seen in a fiscal year since 1989. That is an extraordinary jobs outcome that is a product of the policies we've been putting in place – whether it's the youth PaTH jobs initiative or what we're doing around taxes for small and medium businesses which have already received those tax cuts. It's also the tax changes we made for angel investing in new start-up businesses, it's the trade deals that we stuck to which Bill Shorten was happy to walk away from which means that our exporters – and we saw this particularly in Braddon – the strength of the economy in Tasmania, and particularly up in that Braddon electorate where Labor didn't even get a swing to it of any substance – and we'll wait to see the final outcome when all the votes are counted. One of the reasons people are confident in the economy in Tasmania is because of those great trade agreements for those agricultural exporters who are seeing them expand their business. So, my point is this – whether it's the medical industry, the defence industry, right across the board; exports, research and development, rebuilding our infrastructure with highways and motorways and rail right across the country – that's the economic plan. The more competitive taxes for business is part of that plan and that's what we've been saying consistently now in the last three Budgets.

JAYES:

How can you expect to convince a voting public when you have a former Prime Minister in Tony Abbott conceding yesterday, he says there's just no votes in corporate tax cuts. Luke Howarth who holds the marginal Queensland seat of Petrie who says, "Yes, the economics for this policy is right but take it to the Senate and if it can't get through, well, rethink it, re-cast the policy into the next election." What do you say to those members of your own team?

TREASURER:

I say that we took this policy to the last election and they were elected on the basis of those policies we took to the last election and you're right, Luke has been one of the strongest advocates for this policy and will continue to advocate for that policy…

JAYES:

He's no longer as strong as he was though.

TREASURER:

Well, I believe he's still a strong advocate of this policy and he's very keen for us to see that legislated through the Parliament and that is exactly what we're seeking to do.

JAYES:

Ok, on Sunday, Mr Turnbull on the back of these results also said that the Government has to do a better job of countering Labor's lies. What lies were they telling?

TREASURER:

They said that we were cutting funding to Caboolture Hospital – that was just a complete lie. Bill Shorten was caught out on radio talking about where people had to go to medical services from Bribie Island by someone on Bribie Island who told him directly that he was lying. Bill Shorten is going around scaring people with lies because he doesn't have a plan to grow the economy. If you vote Labor at the next election, your job will be less secure, you will pay more for everything, not just more taxes, you'll pay more for electricity and you won't see a greater wage rise under the Labor Party. In fact, you'll be lucky to hold on to your job and because a stronger economy is what produces funding for hospitals, funding for schools. It's what actually delivers pay rises for workers. It's what secures 85,000 jobs for young people. I mean, the HILDA survey today made a very interesting finding and that was that people who were most affected by a slower rate of economic growth are people on low incomes. You know why? Because they lose their job and that's what Bill Shorten is promising them. Vote Labor, lose your job.

JAYES:

On hospital funding, this has been a key part of this by-election, particularly in Longman and at the last general election, Labor is – you know, depends how you cast this question – Labor is promising more funding into the future, can the Government afford to neutralise that message? Can you afford to match Labor on it?

TREASURER:

Labor's lying. Where's the money coming from? The money is coming from – and it won't be enough because it's never enough – the money is coming from Bill Shorten putting his hand in your pocket. Every time you hear Bill Shorten saying he's going to spend money, he's spending your money and the way he's going to get it is by taxing you more. He's not giving you anything. He wants more money out of your pocket. That's why they have $200 billion in higher taxes. His taxes are going to undermine the value of people's homes, they will push up rents, they will push up electricity prices, they will put up private health insurance fees. Right across the board, their economic plan is for higher costs. Now, how that actually helps businesses keep people employed and give them a wage rise is beyond me. It is a massive con. Bill Shorten is seeking to con people with outrageous lies and we'll hold him to account for it and we challenge everyone else to do the same.

JAYES:

It hasn't worked so far. So, how seriously are you taking this by-election result? Because if the swing in Longman is replicated in some of those Queensland seats, you know, you can have all the hope for your economic agenda, you say it's important reform for Australia but if you don't win at the next election, you've got no hope of implementing it at all. So what lessons have you learnt?

TREASURER:

You make a very good point, Laura…

JAYES:

What lessons have you learnt out of this by-election and what do you need to change?

TREASURER:

We are – sorry, I'm sorry, I thought you had finished. We are examining each of these results, I think, very carefully. And when you look at Braddon and you look at what was a very strong result for the Government in Braddon – I mean, Labor ran an independent strategy down there and they were able to hold on to the seat – just. So, I don't think they've got anything to crow about in Tasmania so it's hard to say that in Tasmania, apparently, they were lukewarm on the issue of Labor but they – you know – what happens in Queensland says something quite different and you appropriate that nationally around the country. I don't think you can make those general observations, I think you've got to look at each individual seat and listen carefully to your candidates and those who are running those campaigns and taking that feedback and that's what we're in the process of doing and listening. A sensible Government doesn't throw out a knee-jerk reaction the day after a by-election and completely run in the opposite direction. That's what Bill Shorten would do because he's driven completely by populist politics. We're driven by what we believe is right for the country. We'll listen carefully to what people are feeling in those electorates and it's borne out again by those HILDA surveys today which show that issues of poverty have fallen and the issues of inequality have not worsened – in fact, the issues of inequality have improved, particularly over the last few years and certainly since the Global Financial Crisis but people aren't necessarily feeling that. So it is a matter of bringing back to reality what some of the choices are going forward and you made this point yourself, at the next election, if the Coalition is not successful then you will get Bill Shorten as Prime Minister. He arrogantly said on the weekend, "Leave the keys to the Lodge." You know? What sort of aspiring Prime Minister is arrogant as to say that? This is a guy who thinks he's got one foot in the door and Australians know that if Labor wins the next election, Bill Shorten will be Prime Minister – and that's the choice.

JAYES:

Ok, you say you're willing to listen and you don't want to make any knee-jerk reactions – fair enough – but for quite some time, your colleagues have been talking about the angst that's been caused in electorates like Longman about population growth. These are commuters, these are working class, these are the same socioeconomic profile of many seats in Western Sydney. So are you willing to do more about population growth? Is Peter Dutton willing to do more and I know it's down, the annual migration intake was 160,000 but perhaps voters would like you to go further?

TREASURER:

A couple of points here. The first thing we have to do is make sure that we're managing population growth and you're investing in the important infrastructure that Australians need to support that growth and so whether that's the record funding we're putting into hospitals, the needs-based record funding we're putting into schools, the $75 billion and more we're putting in infrastructure – not just city deals but keeping rural and regional roads safer as well. These are the things you need to do to support a growing economy and that's been a key part of our economic plan. It has been our policy as a Government for five years now to ensure that the way we seek to disperse our population and get it into regional areas and places where they need more people – like Tasmania, like South Australia…

JAYES:

Do we really need so many people on skilled visas though? Can those jobs go to Australians?

TREASURER:

Let me tell you, the number of people here on temporary skilled visas has fallen by 31 per cent this financial year – sorry, in the financial year to 31 March of 2018. So, that's another one of Bill Shorten's lies. He's saying there's more temporary skilled visa workers here but the percentage of those visas granted in the nine months ending March – so that's the most recent financial year data we have – it fell by 31 per cent. Since the last election, the number of people here on the equivalent of those 457 temporary skilled work visas is down by 20 per cent. So, I mean, the facts never line up with Bill Shorten's lies. I could use another phrase but it would be impolite but Australians know what that phrase is and this guy's full of it.

JAYES:

Ok, one final question, how do you propose to get back the One Nation vote? This is not a new problem, this is again borne out in Longman. In your view, should you take them on? Fight them on their policies or placate them in some way?

TREASURER:

Number one, our opponent and the alternative Government to ourselves is the Labor Party and that's who we contest those elections with and we are not the One Nation Party. We are not seeking to be the One Nation Party and we have many significant differences with the One Nation Party and those differences are well-known and will continue to be well-known. At the end of the day, we stand on our record as a Government of what we're achieving and what we hope to achieve in the future and it all comes down to this. Who do you think is going to run the country in a way that your job is more secure, the value of your home is more secure, the wage rise that you're looking for is more likely, the business you work for is likely to stay in business and the Government that is going to be able to afford the hospitals and the services that Australians rely on – who's going to be better able to manage that? Now, if you think it's Bill Shorten, vote for him. If you think it's Malcolm Turnbull, vote for him. But that's the choice at the next election. There are no other choices to lead the country and be able to ensure those outcomes are there and that's the contest we're focused on.

JAYES:

Treasurer, a lot of books there behind you. Which one is your favourite one? It wouldn't be that Obama one back in the left-hand corner, would it?

TREASURER:

Which one, sorry?

JAYES:

Obama?

TREASURER:

No, no. I have a collection of a lot of US biographies. My favourite one, for what it's worth, is the Teddy Roosevelt series, who's someone I read a lot about but you see a bit there from Captain Cook there as well but you'd expect that as someone from this part of Sydney.

JAYES:

Alright, Treasurer, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot, Laura. Good to be with you.