17 August 2017
Transcript - #2017158, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government acting to fully fund the NDIS, providing certainty for Australians with a disability and their families; Bill Shorten’s politics of envy; citizenship

TREASURER:

Today I will be introducing into the Parliament the changes to the Medicare Levy. The reason for doing this is to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The revenue from that change will come in in the 19-20 year. That revenue is needed in that year because that is when the Bills come in, in that year, for that National Disability Insurance Scheme. There is a $55.7 billion funding hole for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Australians who live with a disability, and the families and the carers and the friends who care for those with disabilities, deserve the certainty from this Parliament that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded. This isn’t about Bill Shorten’s politics of envy. It is not about redistribution of incomes. It is not about any of those issues. It is about Australians who live with a disability and an important national scheme which started off with bipartisan support, not just on what it was going to do but how it was being, at that point, funded through the Medicare Levy. I would like to see that bipartisanship for disabled Australians be re-established in this Parliament so we can get on from the debate about the funding of the NDIS and move on to the even more important debate about the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There is the opportunity for the Parliament to do that. We have been working constructively with the crossbench but I would not want there to be a suggestion that any arrangement or agreement has been reached. That is not the case. But we are in constructive discussions and will continue to be engaging with people in the Parliament in good faith who want to do the right thing by Australians with disabilities.

QUESTION:

Are you prepared to move on the threshold, to give some ground to get it through?

TREASURER:

I am not going to get into a running commentary about the discussions that we are having but, as I just said on Fran Kelly, protecting the integrity of how the Medicare Levy works is important. If you start having different cut-in rates and trying to make the Medicare Levy a progressive tax rather than what is effectively a flat tax, where it is the same rate but the more you earn the more you pay in actual dollars, when you move away from that you create real complexities with effective marginal tax rates and that is a real problem. People will lose an incentive to earn more in that situation because if they are on $87,002 then they are paying an extra levy over their entire income. Not just that extra dollar, every dollar from 0 to $87,000. Now, we will work through the technical issues but the threshold issue is this, it is about disabilities and doing things for disabled Australians.

QUESTION:

Is there another way the Government could lessen the impact on low income earners?

TREASURER:

The Government can be very innovative as we have demonstrated in taking things through the Senate and listening carefully to the issues being raised by crossbenchers and I will continue to do this. What I am disappointed about, is that once again, the Government is put in the position where we are trying to do the right thing for the Australian people, the Labor party should be supporting this Bill. Remember it was Bill Shorten who said that increasing the Medicare Levy was the right thing to do when the Labor party was doing it and to now play this cheap politics around people with disabilities I think is just incredibly disappointing. This guy changes his mind on everything when it suits him. That is why I described him as a snake in the Parliament the other day. He is snakey, he’s sneaky. He will say one thing when it suits him at one time and another thing at another time. The only common denominator in all of these things is he will do and say whatever it takes to suit him. With Bill Shorten, Bill Shorten always comes first.

QUESTION:

Does the Government have a timeline on this? Because it doesn’t look like happening this week.

TREASURER:

It’s not intended to happen this week. The Bill we introduced into the Parliament today that is the fairly normal process that had been my intention for quite a period of time to introduce it in the first sitting fortnight after we came back. The matter will then be debated in the House, it will make its way to the Senate and we will follow the normal course of events.

QUESTION:

So what you are saying, Treasurer, it does sound as though you are giving yourself some room to move?

TREASURER:

Well, we are a very pragmatic Government when it comes to getting things through the Senate. Before we started this week this Government had passed 134, I think, pieces of legislation, 136 in a Senate where apparently you couldn’t get anything done. Our Budget legislation, some 19 pieces of legislation have already passed the Senate since the Budget was handed down. So, our laws are passing this Parliament despite the negativity and cynicism of the Labor party. We are making it work and this is a very important Bill and I appreciate the very good faith discussions I have had with crossbenchers and the Greens and others as we seek to work through this issue and get some certainty for Australians living with a disability and their families. That is who is foremost in my mind. When you have got former senior Labor identities like John Della Bosca who are prepared to stand there with the Prime Minister and Treasurer and say this is the right thing to do, well, I am disappointed the Labor party have taken the approach they have by playing politics with disabilities.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, why do you say the Labor party looks like a bunch of children over citizenship? Don’t you all look like a bunch of children because there are so many who have not got their paperwork right or just aren’t sure?

TREASURER:

My point was this. I know that some people around this place think the Labor party is terribly clever when they do these things and they chortle away like they are in a cheap pantomime at the end of the year. I am not fooled by it. I don’t think the Australian people are fooled by it. What happened here basically was you had members of the Labor party here, clearly had some association with members of the Labour Party in New Zealand. They have raised that issue in a very sneaky way rather than deal with it up front here in the Australian Parliament. And it just doesn’t smell right and it doesn’t smell right because it is not right. It wasn’t up front. It wasn’t a true blue way to deal with this sort of thing and I think the Australian people have sniffed that out. It just, again, demonstrates that they’re just sneaky. This was a very sneaky, underhanded way to go about this. This is the same bloke who gave $100,000 through his union to GetUp for goodness sakes. The same bloke who gave, allegedly, it would seem, $25,000 to himself in his own campaign through the union. I mean this guy is dodgy.

QUESTION:

If Barnaby Joyce can produce his renunciation papers should not Michael Keenan produce his papers?

TREASURER:

I think Michael has dealt with the matter this morning. He actually dealt with it a long time ago. So the Government is getting on with our business. In the business of the Parliament today I am introducing a Bill to ensure that Australians with a disability can have certainty about the funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme which is designed to boost their living standards, give them opportunities. Australians help out their mates, we give them a fair go. That is what this Bill is about and I call on the Labor party to reconsider their position on this. I think that’s highly unlikely. They are determined to play politics over every single issue to pursue Bill Shorten’s self-interest and even when it comes to Australians with a disability they can’t flinch away from that path.

Thanks.