19 December 2017
Transcript - #2017255, 2017

Interview with Chris Uhlmann, Today

SUBJECTS: MYEFO 2017

CHRIS UHLMANN:

The Treasurer himself Scott Morrison joins us now from the Sydney markets. Good morning.

TREASURER:

G'day Chris.

UHLMANN:

You've done a good job keeping a lid on spending but most of the improvement in the bottom line is coming from an improving economy, isn't it?

TREASURER:

Well, that's jobs and growth delivering for the budget, not just for the thousand jobs that are being created every day. That's 200,000 jobs since the budget alone. I mean, this is the strongest year of jobs growth we have ever had in 40 years. That is having a big impact on getting people off welfare. We have the lowest percentage of working age Australians on welfare in about 25 years. And that all helps keep the welfare budget under control. That's what we are seeing. But last year, we came in 4.4 billion dollars better on the budget. And this year we are looking to come in around $6 billion better. That's all because of a growing and stronger economy and more jobs.

UHLMANN:

The budget might be looking better but you know very well that average Australians aren't feeling rich because their wages are flat.

TREASURER:

Well, what we want to see is that obviously increase into the future. As you get more and more people getting jobs, that is going to put pressure on the labour market. We are seeing company profits starting to lift after many years of where they were going backwards. So small businesses who are dipping into their own pocket to keep their employees in jobs are now actually getting a bit of joy themselves and we want to see that increase. If that can continue, I would expect to see wages improve in the future.

UHLMANN:

So you've made a bit of space in the budget. Are we going to see personal income tax cuts next year?

TREASURER:

Giving tax relief to middle income Australians is the mission the prime minister's given me. So there's a bit of work to do on that between now and the budget, and the budget after that. But that is what we want to see. We understand that middle income Australians are feeling the pressures. That is why we've got the national energy guarantee. That is what we have done on housing affordability. It is all about trying to relieve some of that pressure and stress and where we can do that in the tax system as well. That's exactly what we will do. But at the same time, we have got to pay for things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I see Labor continuing to oppose that great Australian principle that you help out your mates and for a scheme like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, everybody benefits so everybody contributes. I think that has strong support. For them to put that in the context of a tax increase, I think, is a pretty cheap way of describing what is a pretty fair measure.

UHLMANN:

You've tried a number of different ways to try to make savings in higher education. Nearly $2 billion worth of saving coming from cutting some of that education spending. University Australia says this will leave their funding frozen in time. Isn't education an investment in the future?

TREASURER:

It is but when you've had the funding growing for about five years at 15% and their cost per student running at 10%, we know that the institutions are building up a bit of a chest there. What we also know is that you've got a third of students who aren't completing their degrees. You've got 25% of the debts that aren't going to be repaid. So freezing it for two years we think can be accommodated. We wanted to have longer lasting reform. That was resisted by the Labor Party in the Senate. And so if you can't get there one way, you've got to go the other way because that's how you balance a budget. And we're balancing the budget back in 2021 on projection and we have improved it this year. One other point I wanted to make Chris is from right now, Australia will no longer be putting on the credit card every day expenditure. Like putting the national grocery bill on the credit card, that no longer happens from now. We brought that forward a year in this midyear statement.

UHLMANN:

You would never expect to get good reviews from shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, just have a bit of a listen to what he to say yesterday.

BOWEN:

It appears the Treasurer wants a gold star and pat on the back for having debt which is $23 billion lower than previously predicted. That debt continues to rise under this government.

UHLMANN:

Gross debt and net debt does continue to rise for the next couple of years.

TREASURER:

Net debt actually falls, Chris. It will peak next year at 19.2% of GDP an then it will fall over the forward estimates, about $11 billion lower than what we had forecast it to fall by and down to 7.7% of GDP by the end of the decade. So I mean, we are turning Labor's debt ship around. They are the ones who loaded it up with the debt, with their reckless spending and massive deficits. They are the ones who turned a $20 billion surplus left to them by Peter Costello in just one year to a $27 billion deficit. So for Chris Bowen to talk about debt is a bit like a drunk driver talking, saying that he wants another drink.

UHLMANN:

Talking about some of the movements going on, George is off to London as our next High Commissioner, that's an open secret. Who will be the next Attorney-General?

TREASURER:

Well, they are matters for the Prime Minister but can I...

UHLMANN:

You can give us a preview?

TREASURER:

It's for the Prime Minister to make these announcements, but I think look, congratulations to George on a stellar career in Australian politics and for his leadership of the Senate. It's been great to work with him and I'm sure he will do a great job where he's heading off to. But it's for the PM to make the calls about the team. And Steve Smith did a pretty good job with his picks over the last few days. Australia is proud of Steve Smith and the boys and so is the shire because he he's a good shire boy.

UHLMANN:

You've had a couple of good weeks. How you do turn a couple of good weeks into a good year next year?

TREASURER:

Staying on track, doing the right thing and making good choices. That is what we've been doing. That is why the budget is coming back into balance over the next few years. That is why we are seeing 1,000 jobs created a day. That is why we are putting downward pressure on coast of living, on energy, because we keep making the right choices. You make the right choices like the people who have been running small family businesses for decades an decades out here at Sydney markets, you make the right choices, you get the right outcomes, and that is what we will continue to do as a government.

UHLMANN:

Scott Morrison, politics can be a thankless task, and I hope you and your family get some time together this Christmas.

TREASURER:

To you also Chris. Merry Christmas everyone. Fantastic result on the Ashes. Absolute ripper.