10 November 2015
Transcript - #201543, 2015

Interview with Michael Brissenden, ABC AM

SUBJECTS: Providing real opportunities for Australians who want to work, save and invest; National Platform for Economic Growth and Jobs; superannuation

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

The debate over tax reform continues to dominate the political arena with particular focus on a potential increase to the GST. Yesterday the government dismissed what it described as not a particularly scary campaign about the tax from Labor but reports out today suggest there is some nervousness growing from some in the Government about the GST debate. For more on this I'm joined in the studio in Canberra here by the Treasurer Scott Morrison. Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

G'day, Michael.

BRISSENDEN:

So Christopher Pyne quoted in The Australian today telling a private meeting of Coalition MPs that the Government wouldn't be taking a GST to the election. Surely you're not now taking it off the table, are you?

TREASURER:

Well Christopher Pyne denied those reports.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok so there is no concern growing amongst some about this?

TREASURER:

The Government is focused on the policies that are needed to remove the impediments to growth in our economy. This is not a debate about tax or GST or anything like that. It's about how we grow our economy. Just last night the OECD said we can make our tax system more growth friendly. That’s why we are having a discussion about tax because it’s about how do we grow our economy and jobs. How do we lift real wages, how do we reduce unemployment, how do we boost our living standards, how do we ensure that growth can support our strong social safety net and we're focussing on the things that achieve that, whether it's the trade agreements, which was passed last night in the Senate, whether it's our $50 billion national infrastructure plan, the innovation statement that's coming forward, competition policy reforms, all of these are focused on one thing. The problem we're trying to solve is how do we grow our economy faster and support jobs more. That's what the debate is about.

BRISSENDEN:

Sure, that's understood but the GST –

TREASURER:

I don't know if it is, Michael. I don't know because people tell me it's a debate about the GST. It's actually not a debate about the GST. It's a debate about how we grow our economy. Now the Government hasn't proposed anything on the GST. The only people that have proposed something on the GST are state governments and former Labor premiers and a number of Coalition members.

BRISSENDEN:

A number of Coalition members have, yes.

TREASURER:

One has got one proposal which -

BRISSENDEN:

But you certainly haven't shied away from discussing it. You're happy to come on and talk about it and it's certainly been floated hasn’t it as one of the things that the -

TREASURER:

The Government hasn't floated it. The Government has responded to a request from the States and Territories to develop some options in response to their question. Now we're not ruling things in or out, and the reason - I think the fact that we've done that as a government, the Prime Minister has done that is being respected by the Australian people because we're respecting them and I think what we saw in question time yesterday from the Opposition was just old conflict politics which treats the Australian public with contempt. We understand that they're more sophisticated than that, we understand that they're quite capable of allowing Australians to discuss these issues and know that just because something is being discussed doesn't mean it's going to be introduced.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok but you set the parameters for the discussion. Clearly some backbenchers are getting some blow back about people's concern, pensioners and those on fixed incomes concerned about what the implications of a GST rise would be.

TREASURER:

What the Prime Minister made very clear yesterday, and what the lived experience is Michael, is that when you do change the tax system you put in place all the necessary adjustments to ensure that vulnerable people are not worse off. So why would we contemplate doing something that would leave people who are vulnerable worse off? The GST experience from the early 2000s did not demonstrate that that was the outcome. I mean show me the research that you're aware of, or anyone else is aware of, that these things can't be dealt with when you put a proper package together.

BRISSENDEN:

Sure, but whenever anybody introduces, whenever any government introduces a new tax, they talk about compensation measures…

TREASURER:

The carbon tax they talked about it…

BRISSENDEN:

Exactly. You can't blame Labor for pointing out that this will be a big new tax on everything, an increase to the GST and your side under Tony Abbott were the champions of doing this.

TREASURER:

I can say that yesterday they raised issues about a proposal the Government hasn't even put forward. I mean Bill Shorten famously, when he was in government, said he agreed with the Prime Minister when he didn't even know what she'd said. Now he's opposing something that the Government hasn't even proposed.

BRISSENDEN:

Well I know we're in this ridiculous situation where you're not ruling anything in or ruling anything out but the GST -

TREASURER:

You think that's a ridiculous situation?

BRISSENDEN:

Well no because the GST is the one thing people are talking about and if we can't have a discussion about -

TREASURER:

Well it is what you are talking about.

BRISSENDEN:

The government is talking about it too.

TREASURER:

I'm talking about personal income tax, I'm talking about state taxes that are actually retarding growth. I'm talking about what we need to do to grow our economy and that's what Australians raise with me. They want to know how are we going to grow jobs, how are they going to earn more? How are they going to take more home rather than having it all being soaked up in tax that they pay every day of the week in personal income tax and some of the taxes they pay at a State and Territory level. They want to know how we're going to deal with all of those problems.

BRISSENDEN:

So what other solutions are there? A GST increase yesterday was described as lazy by one of your backbenchers yesterday. What else is on the table other than the GST?

TREASURER:

Again, Michael, you're putting words into people's mouths and not putting them in context. What Angus Taylor said yesterday - just doing that on the GST would be lazy, and it would be lazy. If you weren't going to go down a package of reducing other taxes and improving the tax system and doing what the OECD said last night, which was to make our tax system more growth friendly, they say that has positive impacts for growth in our economy. That's why we're talking about it. We're not talking about it to balance the budget. There is no need to increase the GST to balance the budget. We will balance the budget by controlling our expenditure and growing the economy. That's how we will balance the budget. It's Labor who thinks you need to raise taxes to balance the budget. We don't think you need to raise taxes to balance the budget.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok. So are you looking at other things now? Is there a realisation that superannuation has to be an easier target for you?

TREASURER:

Well we’ve already said superannuation is on the table.

BRISSENDEN:

Right, so what in particular are you looking at because there are reports around again today about a single tax rate idea?

TREASURER:

Well all these measures are on the table.

BRISSENDEN:

It's an interesting idea, isn't it?

TREASURER:

It's a very interesting idea and that's why whether it's that or what we're already doing on multinational tax and so on - all of these things are important to get the right set of mix of taxes at state and federal level. I mean States and Territories can't be left off the hook here. They raise $85 billion a year in state taxes and charges. So that is a big whack of tax and of the top 10 taxes in this country, I think around three of them are at a State and Territory level, and they raise 90% of the revenue in this country. So it's important that we get the right mix of those taxes because we need to focus on what is holding the Australian economy back. That's what this debate is about.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok, I know it's important to have the debate but when do we start clearing the table?

TREASURER:

Well as we continue to engage with the Australian people. I mean I recall in New Zealand when they went down this process they respected the New Zealand public by allowing them in the discussion that went for almost a year. Now I'm not proposing that is necessarily where the Government is going. There's a budget next year, there's a green paper we would be looking to release next year. There are other iterations in this process, but I don't understand where the rush is here, whether it's from the Labor Party or the media. We are engaging in a good faith process with the States and Territories…

BRISSENDEN:

But will we be ruling things in or out before the next election?

TREASURER:

We will have a very clear plan that we'll take to the next election. People will know at the next election what they're voting for when it comes to these issues and the one thing they will know about is the economic leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and the direction that we're taking this country to grow jobs and to grow the economy and the fact that Labor has no credible plan.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok, Scott Morrison, we'll leave it there thanks very much.

TREASURER:

Thanks Michael, always good to be with you.