28 November 2016
Transcript - #2016170, 2016

Press Conference, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Working Holiday Maker tax arrangements; Bill Shorten’s disregard for rural communities and the Budget; Labor forcing Australians to pay for foreign worker tax cut; Attorney-General

TREASURER:

Well for the past several weeks the Labor Party have been playing childish games with a very serious issue which the Government has been committed to working to resolve and that is the issue of taxation of backpackers. The Labor Party’s objective here has just been to play wrecker. On one hand they come into the Parliament every day and say that we need to address revenue issues, and then on the same day they attack the Government for a resolution of the backpacker issues which actually protects the revenue. The hypocrisy and phony nature of the Labor Party on the backpacker tax has been absolutely appalling. But it's for the Government to make sure that we provide certainty and we get outcomes and today the Government will be working to put in place a bill which will propose 15 per cent on the backpackers' arrangement. We will honour the arrangement that we've come to with Senator Xenophon and we appreciate his continued support on this, as well as Senator Hinch. That means this week hopefully even today, this matter is resolved. But this matter has gone through needless difficulty because of the bloody mindedness and the political game machine playing of the Labor Party which we see writ large every single day. It is not an opposition committed to actually helping people in rural and regional Australia, or in areas that are deeply affected, deeply affected, by the changes taking place in our economy. It is just an opposition led by a phony who wants to cause havoc on every single occasion. Now, I want to thank in particular my colleagues like Tony Pasin who have been working constructively behind the scenes with the Government to ensure we practically resolve this issue and I want to thank all those members who have done that quietly, working with the Government. They have believed passionately in representing their communities and their interests and the Government has been listening to those members, the ones who have been working carefully with the Government to seek a resolution. I've obviously put that position to Senator Hanson this morning and I will leave it for Senator Hanson to give her response to what the Government has chosen to do, and I don't think anyone will be disappointed with that outcome. It means that we will be able to move forward and the Parliament will now have a $120 million bill to deal with as a result of making this change, and so that is something I expect the Labor Party to come to terms with. Every time they engage in this bloody mindedness and these political games with the Budget, they put our triple-A credit rating at risk. The villains in this process, once again, are a wrecking Labor Party. I want to thank my colleagues, those who have worked quietly with the Government, and indeed the crossbenchers we've been able to engage with, to practically get an outcome on this issue. The villain in this, the phony in this is Bill Shorten and the Labor Party who are quite happy just to blow up the show, blow up the Budget on every single occasion, without any regard to the impact that has on hard-working Australians every single day. The Labor Party should be ashamed of themselves.

QUESTION:

Where are you finding the $120 million?

TREASURER:

Well, that process will be worked through in MYEFO and those announcements will be made on the 19th of December.

QUESTION:

Just to clarify, is the $120 million over four years?

TREASURER:

That's only over four years, that's exactly right, because this has an ongoing cost to revenue as a measure. The Government had put forward a compromise package already that ensured, as I like to say, it washed its face and unfortunately the actions of the Labor Party meant we were in a position to work with the crossbench to get an outcome. It is pretty much close to 80 per cent of something rather than 100 per cent of nothing and this is a government that is involved in getting outcomes at the end of the day.

QUESTION:

Sorry, is that down from the 30 per cent or down from the 19 per cent, the cost of $120 million?

TREASURER:

That is the cost from 19 to 15.

QUESTION:

Senator Hanson was flagging something about idea about starting at 12 per cent and going up to 15 per cent.

TREASURER:

No, the Government's proposal, 15, done.

QUESTION:

Do you believe that Labor will support this?

TREASURER:

Well, it doesn't matter what the Labor Party does now, because they've already had their fun at the expense of the Australian taxpayers, they have already had their fun at the uncertainty in rural and regional communities, and frankly the Labor Party can go and take a flying leap. If they wanted to be constructive about this issue they could have been, but they chose not to. They chose to play cynical, childish politics, but the Government is the adult in the room and we've got together with some other adults in the room on our own side, particularly people like Tony Pasin and we have got together with the crossbench and we have been able to sort this issue out. But it will come as a cost to taxpayers, let's not misunderstand that. What the Labor Party have done is they've said they want a lower rate of tax - remember, they were asking for 10.5 cents - they wanted a lower rate of tax for foreign workers and they wanted that to be paid for and it will have to be paid for, by Australian taxpayers. So, don't give me all this rubbish from the Labor Party about standing up for Australian workers and Australian taxpayers. They have just given them a kick in the guts. Now, the Government has sought to mitigate that impact and we will have to do more work as we go into MYEFO now to ensure that we can cover this off, but that's my job, to make sure we work the Budget, get outcomes and we move forward.

QUESTION:

Treasurer the Government sparked all of this in the first place. It failed to consult in the first place, it refused to compromise or discuss things with people for more than 12 months. Are you seriously suggesting…

TREASURER:

Well I don't agree with your characterisation. What happened was this measure was put in the 15-16 Budget and as we worked through the issues of this year's Budget a different set of arrangements were put forward which didn't meet the Government's objectives. So what we did is we gave a commitment that we would consult again after the election and we would come to a finalisation on this matter by the end of this year, which is now. Now we actually got ahead of that timetable and we put forward a different compromise proposal which the Labor Party has played politics with. Now, I stress the Labor Party, at the last election, had exactly the same position as the Government. They did not put forward 10.5 cents before the election, just like they didn't go to the election saying they wanted to tax super more than the Government, just like they said at the last election that they weren't going to claw back, carry forward contributions for carers and women who had been out of the workforce or write off superannuation tax deductions for people running a home-based business or working as contractors. They lied about all of that. They booked in their Budget at the election the same revenue as the Government did, saying that they would go through a six month process of consultation. They lost the election, and they went through a six month process of childish politics and wrecking. Now, the Government has sorted it out that. That will be sorted out this week and we can just get on with it.

QUESTION:

Just to clarify, how can it be sorted out this week though because Senator Xenophon has said he won't vote on any legislation unless the Murray-Darling Basin plan fiasco has been sorted?

TREASURER:

I'm very confident that the backpacker tax will be sorted out. I've spoken to Senator Xenophon this morning saying we are obviously honouring our arrangement we had come to with Senator Xenophon at 19 cents and Senator Xenophon was prepared to accept the more responsible 19 cent rate, but in this Parliament, the 45th Parliament, it's about what you get done.

QUESTION:

So you don’t think this threat applies to the backpacker tax measures?

TREASURER:

Look, I will leave that to other Ministers, but what I know is that Senator Xenophon is very committed to ensuring that this matter gets resolved. How that works its way through the Senate I will leave to my colleagues who understand the mysteries of the Senate far better than I do, as a mere humble Member of the House. But this is an important matter to be resolved this week. The Government has put forward our position on 15 cents, together with the package that I had arranged with Senator Xenophon and that means the issue can be squared away.

QUESTION:

To make up some of that $120 million, are there any measures in the 14-15 Budget presented by Tony Abbott that you would look at reviving, and secondly, should Mr Abbott be returned to Cabinet?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't make that decision, as you know, and they are matters for the Prime Minister. We have a very strong team which is getting on with the job of delivering and we are going to keep doing that. In terms of the measures that we look at to address this, we will address that in the MYEFO statement which comes out on 19th of December and I will leave those announcements to that time.

QUESTION:

Do you agree with Tony Abbott that some of those 14-15 measures should be revisited?

TREASURER:

I don't think a re-run of the 14-15 Budget is what the Government is looking at, no.

QUESTION:

Minister today a Brisbane Coroner will begin an inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei on Manus Island detention centre…

TREASURER:

Are there any other questions on the issues of backpacker taxes, economics or the financial affairs of the nation

QUESTION:

[inaudible] answer that question Minister…

TREASURER:

No, I'm just prepared to deal with matters related to my portfolio first.

QUESTION:

It was your portfolio two years ago.

TREASURER:

My current portfolio.

QUESTION:

Is the 95 per cent superannuation package...

TREASURER:

Yes, that's done. That's already been passed through the Senate contingent on these other matters.

QUESTION:

You criticise Labor but farmers have been furious at the Coalition's handling of this issue throughout...

TREASURER:

That's the Labor Party's line which you seem happy to repeat,

QUESTION:

No, it's what farmers have been telling me for 18 months, so what do you say to those farmers at the Coalition’s handling of this?

TREASURER:

That the matter is sorted this week.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, as you said about making up the foregone revenue, can you outline a broad approach you would take, would it be in the tourism portfolio or program area as was previously the case or...

TREASURER:

Well, the Government is always working through measures to improve the position of the Budget and we do that right across, line by line, across the entire Budget and that's done every six months and of course there is the Budget which is the more substantive process through which that exercise is undertaken, so there is nothing new about that process. There is an additional revenue matter that we now have to address that we didn't previously have to address, and so we will now have to address that through the ERC and I would hope that the Labor Party and the Senate, given that they have come to the position they have on this matter and this is where we've landed that we will have to make up $120 million and I look forward to their support in ensuring we are able to do that in the MYEFO.

QUESTION:

Does this impact on the departure tax at all?

TREASURER:

No.

QUESTION:

Is that $120 million over the forward estimates?

QUESTION:

Yes, we have already been through that.

TREASURER:

Yes [laughs]. Lane has some catch-up notes for you.

QUESTION:

On revenue, the alleged sweetheart deal between the Federal Government and WA would have cost the Government $300 million, do you think George Brandis owes the Senate an explanation over whether the Government did that deal and do you think it was appropriate?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't agree with your summary of the facts.

QUESTION:

What do you disagree about it?

TREASURER:

I don't agree with your presentation of it. Next question.

QUESTION:

Do you think the Commonwealth did agree not to run a certain constitutional argument so that WA could [inaudible] the ATO?

TREASURER:

The ATO actually proceeded with the case.

QUESTION:

Did George Brandis make that promise to WA and did he give that instruction to Justin Gleeson?

TREASURER:

The ATO proceeded with the case. I look at what happens and what the outcomes are and what I'm standing in front of you here today explaining is an outcome that we are going to achieve on the backpacker's tax and you can jump into the sausage machine all you like, but what matters is what happens, and what has happened on these matters, I think is fairly crystal clear.

QUESTION:

So the sweetheart deal is ok because Justin Gleeson disregarded the direction?

TREASURER:

No, that is your exaggerated and enthusiastic misrepresentation and so I don't agree with it.

QUESTION:

When did the Government come to a landing on 15 per cent given 24 hours ago Mathias Cormann said, ‘no, we're done compromising’?

TREASURER:

I made the phone call to Pauline Hanson this morning.

QUESTION:

She said she spoke to you yesterday, how did that discussion go?

TREASURER:

It was a convivial and friendly and warm conversation, as my conversations with Pauline Hanson are. I wished her a Merry Christmas, as she did me. Good, thank you.