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Budget 2018: Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Rockhampton, QLD: 16 May 2018: Budget 2018; Turnbull Government's investments into Rockhampton and Central Queensland

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Treasurer





Subjects: Budget 2018; Turnbull Government’s investments into Rockhampton and Central Queensland

MICHELLE LANDRY, MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA: Look it’s fantastic to be at Coxon’s Radiators today with Julie and Gary, and importantly Treasurer Scott Morrison. So the Treasurer is up here in central Queensland, has been doing a tour of Australia talking about the Budget. Now the Budget was released last Tuesday and I think it is absolutely fantastic. There’s $10 billion for the Bruce Highway. And I’ve been talking his ear off today about more passing lanes between Rockhampton and Mackay, which I think I’ll have to take him for a drive up there one day just to show him what it’s like. But another really good asset of the Budget was the $20,000 instant write off for small business. We’ve just been to a business breakfast and people are very excited about that. That’s been extended. And it’s about small business being able to buy things like another vehicle or another coffee machine or you know different sorts of tools for a business like Coxon’s. I must congratulate Coxon’s Radiators. It’s a business that has really started from the ground up, and they’re just building, and with the different tax cuts that are available within the Government that actually helps this business thrive. They’ve looked at innovative ways to actually to get this business up and going, and they’ve got major contracts with the mines, so I do congratulate them for the hard work that they’ve done with that.

I think it’s great that the Treasurer’s up here and we’ve been showing him around a bit to some of beautiful central Queensland. I’m telling him about the economy here. But also we have mentioned about what the State Government has been doing with the land vegetation and tree clearing, and the enormous effect that that has had on our agricultural community, which over the last couple of years has certainly been helping the Australian economy get through difficult times. So there’s been a lot to talk about and I’ll now hand over the Treasurer to tell you a bit more about the Budget. Thank you.

TREASURER: Thanks very much Michelle. It’s great to be here with Gary and Julie at Coxon’s. The business we’re at today from 1 July next year will pay less tax as a result of the legislated tax relief that we’re providing for businesses in Australia to make them more competitive. They have a turnover of less than $50 million a year, and they are a business that has been expanding. They’ve got 35 employees. They’ve got two other sites, one in New South Wales and another one here in North Queensland. And they’re a business that’s growing, and they’re a business that is growing not just in the mining sector where they’ve been able to continue to maintain the pace there for those enormous radiators that you would’ve seen. That’s one of the biggest bits of equipment I’ve seen. But in addition to that, they’re expanding into the other parts of the radiator business for more general consumer uses. So they’re a smart business that’s doing well and we need to make sure that they remain more competitive, and the way we’re doing that is we’re giving them lower taxes. Now this is a business that will pay higher taxes under Labor. They’ll pay lower taxes under the Coalition and the LNP, and they’ll pay higher taxes under Labor. Now I’m not making that up. The Labor party have made that quite clear that they will be reversing the tax cuts for businesses like Coxon’s. And


they’re not a multinational. This isn’t a big bank. It’s not Google. It’s not Microsoft. This is Coxon’s Radiators here in Rockhampton. They’ve got a turnover of just less than $50 million a year or thereabouts and their business depends actually though on a lot of those big companies. Customers are companies like Glencore, companies like BHP. Now when all businesses are more competitive, Coxon’s is going to do better. And that’s good for Rockhampton. It’s good for the people who work here. It’s good for the people they train. It’s good for the local economy. It’s good for the national economy. Ensuring that businesses like Coxon’s don’t have to pay more money to me as the Treasurer so they can spend more money, a family business, their two sons are running their other two shops, and they’ve been running this one, the less they have to pay to the Government, means the more they can invest on growing that business, providing great services, training people, better wages. It’s all upside. So why you’d want to put a bigger tax on this business is something that Chris Bowen should be explaining today at the National Press Club. Why does he want to increase the tax on businesses like Coxon’s? He can’t go around telling people that they’re big multinationals and banks. They’re not. It’s a family business with 35 employees, and they’ll be paying less tax as a result of the tax cuts we have already legislated from 1 July next year. Now I have no doubt that Coxon’s will grow even more and they’ll go above that threshold. That’s why we want to see the rest of the plan put in place. So, this is an important part of why we’ve been able to create a stronger economy, by having the sort of business tax arrangements which means they can be competitive.

We’ve got a personal plan which means over 57,000 people here in Michelle’s electorate on the Capricorn coast will be paying lower taxes. Lower taxes straight away as a result of the personal tax plan we’ve put out. Now we’re also investing as she said in important infrastructure throughout North Queensland, but also particularly here. People already know what we’ve done with Rookwood Weir and we’re pleased that finally the State Government has caught up and is matching that support and they’re getting on with that project, and that’s getting under way now. That’s an important project. $10 billion is there for the boosting of the Bruce, and there’s a range of projects and yes, you have been in my ear on those and many others as Michelle always is…

LANDRY: I have.

TREASURER: And we’ll make further announcements about the Bruce Highway over the course of this year and before the next election. But what is really important, is you’ve gotta invest in a stronger economy in Rockhampton. You’ve gotta invest in a stronger economy in North Queensland, in Queensland, all around the country because it’s the stronger economy which delivers the essential services like hospitals, schools, and Medicare and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the pension, and all of these things. Only a stronger economy delivers that, and if you put bigger taxes on businesses like Coxon’s, you won’t have a stronger economy. You’ll have a weaker one. And that puts everything else at risk.

QUESTION: Treasurer, do you know where central Queensland is on the map?

TREASURER: We’re standing here.

QUESTION: Well why didn’t we get a single cent for any new projects in the central [inaudible] in the Budget?

TREASURER: I’ve just told you there’s $10 billion in additional funding to new projects on the Bruce Highway. And we’ll be making more announcements about that, and the timing about those announcements is a matter for the Government. But we’ve just told you about the Rookwood Weir…


QUESTION: Why isn’t it…

TREASURER: $175 million. And we had to wait, how long was it? 18 months?

LANDRY: Yeah nearly two years.

TREASURER: Nearly two years for the State Government to come and actually match that commitment and get this project going…

QUESTION: The Rookwood Weir…

TREASURER: We’ve put a, we’ve put…

QUESTION: wasn’t even mentioned by name in the Budget…

TREASURER: That’s because we’d already funded it. The money’s already there. We’ve already put it down. $175 million. We had to wait for the Queensland State Government to have an election because they didn’t want to upset the almond latte set in central Brisbane because they were going to spend money on the Weir up here in Central Queensland. We’re getting the same thing now with the land management practices as well. It’s getting even worse because what they’re doing here in Queensland with the land management practices is about how farmers can actually manage their own land. I heard a farmer say, ‘it’s like getting to buy a property and not use the house’. That’s what they’re doing and now the Federal Labor Party wants to do what they’re doing here in Queensland to the whole country. Now that’s not going to make a stronger economy. 57,000 people living right here in this electorate will be getting tax relief from 1 July of next year.

QUESTION: Back to the Budget though why wasn’t…

TREASURER: That was in the Budget.

QUESTION: In the Federal Budget, in like the start of it, you mentioned that mining and resources is the most important part, one of the most important parts of the economy yet there was no funding promise for any initiatives to drive that apart from what’s already been promised in NAIF. Are you planning on bringing some more funding forward to drive one of the most important sectors in the country?

TREASURER: Well what I said at the start of the Budget was the come down off the mining investment boom was the biggest shock to the Australian economy that we’ve seen in a generation. And that is true. Despite $80 billion being ripped out of the Australian economy because of the fall in the terms of trade and commodity prices, and what’s happening with mining investment in this country, has put our economy under a real strain. And that’s why I find Coxon’s performance here so incredible. They’ve been able to grow through that process and expand, and diversify. Now whether it’s the NAIF, or whether it’s our investments in infrastructure, whether it’s lower taxes for all of these businesses. Remember we want lower taxes for all businesses that supports all of them. Coxon’s here get their bills paid because of the clients they’ve got in the big mining sectors. Now we think the tax relief should go right across the whole economy. The Labor party thinks all of them should pay higher taxes. We think they should pay lower taxes. That’s only going to support investment. Having a ten year plan that we outlined in 2016 for lower taxes for the whole economy means that those mining companies when they’re looking at Australia, and BHP have said this, Rio have said this, they’ve said our tax plan is a key reason why they would invest in Australia. And if


that were to be reversed by Labor, that would be a key reason why they wouldn’t invest in Australia. So our tax plan, our infrastructure plan, what we’re investing in infrastructure is all backing in the investment of large companies and small companies alike.

QUESTION: Andrew Forest has criticised [inaudible]…

TREASURER: Sorry I missed the start of that.

QUESTION: Andrew Forrest has been quoted criticising Australia’s media coverage of China. He says that it breaks his heart when it’s republished in China. Is the media, should they tone down their coverage?

TREASURER: Well I don’t run the media. You run the media. So I’ll leave what you say up to you.

QUESTION: And regarding the athletes who have gone AWOL since the Commonwealth Games. What happens to the ones who apply for those bridging visas?

TREASURER: I’ll have to refer you to the Home Affairs Minister. He’s looking after those things very capably. I used to look after Immigration, and when we stopped the boats, and I’m pleased that Peter’s kept them stopped, and I noticed yesterday that Bill Shorten said, ‘we’ll turn back the boats’. I remember Kevin Rudd saying he’ll turn back the boats. Yeah right Bill. Yeah right. We all think you’ll turn back the boats. I’m sure you will. You and Tanya. You’ll all be sitting around there. I’m sure you’ll do it. Seriously, he tests people’s credibility on most things but on that one, I had to shake my head.

QUESTION: Do you know what will happen to those who’ll miss the deadline to apply for those bridging visas?

TREASURER: Well I was saying I’ll refer you to the Home Affairs Minister.

QUESTION: Treasurer. Many people have told me they think you are leaving the local member out to dry in one of the most marginal seats in the country with this Budget. Why?

TREASURER: Well I disagree. And so does Michelle…

LANDRY: Yeah I do I do.

TREASURER: And she can tell you why.

LANDRY: I do. And look since the 2016 election, we’ve had over $400 million in projects here and a lot of that has been in road projects. In the next couple of months, there’s $60 million going to the Capricorn Highway between Rockhampton and Gracemere. Up at Walkerston in the northern part of the electorate 75…

QUESTION: The Walkerston funding was reannounced. It was in the last Budget.

LANDRY: Yeah it’s coming out in this Budget so there was a small section of it last time and then it’s actually work up there. So some of this was in the forwards of the Budget. There’s $56 million around the Ring Road. That’s money that was in the forward…


QUESTION: Again Michelle that was in the last Budget.

LANDRY: Yeah but these projects take many years to come about. I mean when we look at Labor in the past, nothing was spent in this area. My first term, we spent $550 million here. We got Yeppoon up and going. We’ve put significant money into roads. We’ve spent nearly, spending nearly $400 million this time. We’ve just made announcements about funding the juice plant down on the coast for Tropical Pines. That was $7 million. The crocodile farm, $600,000. $1.5 million for Mount Archer. $5 million for Signature Beef. Not everything was announced on Budget night. These are things that are rolling out in this Budget. And it is significant funds for this area. And that will continue. As the Treasurer has said, there’s $10 billion for the Bruce Highway and I’ve been talking to him about where we can put the passing lanes on the road between Rockhampton and Mackay. So there’s significant funds. It’s not all announced on Budget night. A lot of this is rolling out of this Budget and the next Budget. And within the next 12 months we’ve got an election coming up so I’ll be putting the heavies on them and once again then to fund some of the projects.

QUESTION: While you’re both here, we’ve seen like I think two or three fatal crashes on the Fitzroy Developmental Road in the past three months. I mean that’s a pretty rural road that a lot of trucks use and a lot of drivers use. Can you say that you’re lobbying for that funding? And Treasurer will you promise some funding for one of the most dangerous roads in this region?

LANDRY: That road is actually a road that is controlled by the State Government. What happens there is that the local and the State Governments put in applications for funding big projects like that. We put $165 million into the Peak Downs Highway on the Eton Range and that was a project that the State couldn’t afford to do. So, they need to talk to us about that. They need to talk to Michael McCormack and his team about that and that certainly could be something that we could be looking at. There’s funding that the Treasurer’s announced with strategic roads. Last time that was about Beef Roads but this time it’s about important roads like the Beef Development Roads…

TREASURER: Yeah it was about $3.5 billion.

LANDRY: Or money out at Clermont and all those sort of things. So look we are certainly on the case of that. I travel those roads all the time. Douglas and I have only just come back last week or the week before from out there. So I certainly know the issues of those roads and that’s something that we’ll continue to fight for.

QUESTION: You’ve claimed that someone’s entire income comes from dividend imputation credits on Sky News. How can you claim that?

TREASURER: They did.

QUESTION: No but how can you claim that on their behalf?

TREASURER: Because she told me that’s what her entire income was based on. So that was directly from that taxpayer. She told me that herself when I visited her retirement village in Brisbane. So I had no reason to doubt her. She actually shared that experience with me just like you’ve just shared the experience of what happens on some of the local roads here. I don’t think you’re misrepresenting that and I don’t think she was misrepresenting that to me either so I don’t know why anyone would doubt her.


QUESTION: Can I just ask one question? There’s $50 million promised for the Better Regions Funding. Will we see the flood levy for any money for that? And we now know that Landry is supporting it. Can we see any money coming out of the Budget for the flood levy?

TREASURER: On the Building Better Regions Fund, there’s a further round that’s going into that, and we welcome. That provides opportunities all around the country. But Michelle can talk about the levy.

LANDRY: So the Council has put an application in for that and I’ve given them a letter of support. Obviously there is a lot of people that apply for funding for these projects so you know I’ve done all I can at this stage to promote that project. There is, as the Treasurer said, another round that has been announced that will be opening shortly I believe…

TREASURER: Yep that’s right.

LANDRY: And if they’re unsuccessful this time we’ll be certainly pushing for it then.

TREASURER: Yeah look there’s a proper process for how these things are decided. You know people make applications and the Members rightly support them, and they’re properly assessed and the benefits are weighed up and I mean money, you don’t just go round throwing money around like confetti. That’s not how it works. That’s not how we run the country. What we do, is we keep a very tight control on spending, and a very tight control on how much tax is being put on the Australian economy. That means the economy can thrive and we can afford these sorts of things. I mean if there was not a further round of the Building Better Regions Fund, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for this. In the Budget I’ve provided for an opportunity for this and I’m sure that project will go through all the proper analysis and a decision will be made in good time. Just like the decisions that will be made in good time on the Bruce Highway and the urgent needs that there are for the coast here and Central Queensland. Just like there is for North Queensland. Just like there is for other parts of Queensland.

QUESTION: Would you support the takeover of gas provider Santos by Harbour Energy?

TREASURER: Well these are matters that are currently going through the FIRB process and they’re very sensitive matters and it’s not my practice to give any public commentary on those matters. It would not be assisting with what is a proper process.

QUESTION: Economist Saul Eslake has joined the list of those claiming the Government is fudging the figures by bearing infrastructure spending off Budget to make the balance sheet read better. What would you say to that?

TREASURER: There are no new projects being funded off balance sheet in this Budget. None. The same ones that were in last year’s Budget are in this year’s Budget. So there are just no additional projects that are being treated in that way. So I don’t know what he’s basing that comment on. But the things that we’re doing in that way, the NBN, that was one that was started by the Labor party. And the Melbourne to Brisbane rail, the Inland Rail link was another one that was being treated that way. Snowy Hydro has always been off balance sheet. It’s a separate company. Where there are investments that are made by these entities, the Western Sydney Airport Corporation, that’s another one. That was in last year’s Budget. So none of these things are new. And what it means is this, is where a project can actually stand on its own feet and fund itself, so where it can borrow money and finance and support those borrowings as a business, well it can, and it doesn’t then lean


on taxpayers. It actually enables it to be supported through its own commercial existence. That’s a good way. That’s a good thing. That actually helps taxpayers. That’s a smart way to actually run your finances. So no I don’t know what he’s basing that on given there are actually no additional infrastructure projects that are actually being dealt with in this way in this Budget.

QUESTION: Labor’s also accusing the Government of swindling the elderly by taking $1.6 billion from nursing homes and rebadging it as new money for home care packages. What would you have to say to that?

TREASURER: Well I think that’s a pretty cynical thing for the Labor party to say. We’re putting in an additional 20,000 home care places, in-home care places, that are there to help Australians to make the choice to stay in their own home. I mean why doesn’t Labor just support it? Honestly? This is helping people make a choice to stay in their home. For once, could we not have a fight about something like that? Couldn’t the Labor party just say, ‘Look that’s great, we support that, we think it’s good for people’. Let’s not have a political fight about everything.

QUESTION: And a new survey from Deloitte has found younger Australians think big business and politicians do more harm than good. How do you change that perception?

TREASURER: Well, what I think is really important is that for all Australians the economy we live in in the next ten years will determine so many people’s choices. It will determine your choices. Everyone’s choices here. You know what job you get, what sort of economy you live in, what you can earn, saving for a house, looking after parents. All of this. It’s massively impacted by the economy you live in. I remember when I left university I went into an economy where interest rates went to 17-18 per cent. Almost one in four working age people were on welfare, and we had unemployment of more than a million people. That’s the job market I went into back in the 90s. I don’t want that for anyone here, and I don’t want that for anyone around this country. The way you ensure that you deliver for Australians is by having a stronger economy. Now Governments have a role to play in that and all the things that Michelle and I have talked about. Businesses like the one we’re at today are playing an important role in that. Even larger businesses like the ones that you’re referring to are actually delivering when it comes to the tax revenue and the jobs that are created in our economy. You take your economy for granted at your great peril. When you do that, you say, ‘we don’t need large businesses and we can have higher taxes and we can spend lots more money’. You know what happens at the end of that story? It’s not pretty. I’ve lived that before when Governments did that, so has Michelle, I’m sure so has Julie. We all remember what that was like, and we do not want to visit that on another generation.

QUESTION: Is the future of our economy small business or big business?

TREASURER: It’s all business. It’s all business. Because all businesses create profits, employ people, pay for the services that are provided by Coxon’s here, and create those jobs. Jobs don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t come from the Government. They come from businesses like Coxon’s. I don’t think they should be paying higher taxes. Bill Shorten does and I think he’s wrong. Thanks a lot. Cheers.

Contacts: Andrew Carswell 0418 505 376, Kate Williams 0418 872 921, Sonia Gentile 0455 050 007 The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney