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AM Agenda -

View in ParlView

30 AUGUST 2013

Subjects: Coalition costings; McMahon candidate.

JOURNALIST: With me now the Treasurer, Chris Bowen. Mr Bowen, not only doesn’t it look good, it has backfired spectacularly on you and the Prime Minister hasn’t it?

BOWEN: No, let’s be clear about this Kieran, we stand by every word that we said yesterday. In the press conference we said we had asked the Treasury and the Department of Finance to cost these things before the election. We said that. We also said that assumptions can change the costings, we said that, and the Treasury and the Department of Finance have said the same thing. Now if the Opposition is so sure of the facts here, they can clear this up today by releasing their costings in full detail -

JOURNALIST: - Mr Bowen, it is extraordinary for public servants, it is unprecedented for independent, senior public servants to issue statements, I’ve got them in front of me, to clarify their position that they have nothing to do with the numbers you’re saying.
They couldn’t have said it clearer, Treasurer. I’ll read it to you and our viewers: ‘Different costing assumptions such as the start date of a policy, take up assumptions, indexation and the coverage it applies will inevitably generate different financial outcomes’. How could they state it any clearer, other than saying Mr Bowen you are wrong?

BOWEN: Different assumptions in terms of start dates and other things can make a difference. I will give you one example, it’s an example I used yesterday in the press conference. The Opposition is promising to abolish the low income superannuation contribution, now that’s been costed by the Department of Treasury at our request at $1.7 billion in savings, the Opposition is claiming $3.7 billion in savings, now if they are going to claim $3.7 billion in savings maybe they are going to make it retrospective, maybe that’s how they get to $3.7 billion.

JOURNALIST: But this is all speculation Treasurer, because the Department has had the PBO costings, they had the Parliamentary Budget Office -

BOWEN: - And what are the assumptions? And what are the assumptions that have been given to the Parliamentary Budget Office by the Opposition?

JOURNALIST: - They issued a statement -

BOWEN: - They could release them -

JOURNALIST: They could release them sure, but we are hearing from these senior public servants, saying “we have seen the coalition costings” which you haven’t. They’ve seen them, they’ve decided to issue a statement yesterday afternoon saying “we don’t want a bar of what the government is saying, we weren’t involved in it”. And they are distancing themselves from you and Prime Minister Rudd -

BOWEN: - That’s not right Kieran -

JOURNALIST: - It’s basically blown your argument out of the water?

BOWEN: That’s just not right. We said yesterday that this was costings done at the Government’s request before the election was called and that’s what the Treasury and Department of Finance have said. Now if there are assumptions about take-up rates, about start dates, the Opposition could release them not to the Treasury or the Parliamentary Budget Office but the Australian people and be up front about just exactly the details of their policy and how they got to those costings. If they haven’t and they won’t, what have they got to hide?

JOURNALIST: Why then would these senior public servants, explain to me, why would they release these clarifying statements if what you are saying is so innocuous?

BOWEN: Well, what we’re saying is that we asked the Treasury and the Department of Finance to cost this before the election and Treasury and the Department of Finance have said that’s right, we have done it for the Government and not the Opposition.

JOURNALIST: - And the numbers are very different is basically what they’re saying.

BOWEN: - Yes, that’s right -

JOURNALIST: - They couldn’t have said it any clearer -

BOWEN: - So why are they different? Why is there a big black hole of $10 billion?

JOURNALIST: - Hang on, Treasurer they are saying there isn’t a black hole, that’s the bottom line, you are saying that. They are saying there isn’t because the assumptions are different.

BOWEN: No, they’re not saying there isn’t. Where has the Opposition over the last 24 hours been able to point to an error in the figures we released? They have not, that is the key point here Kieran. They have not. They have changed the rules and said ‘we will do it on an accrual basis, not a cash basis’ which is changing the budget rules. There is savings they have claimed which won’t even hit the budget bottom line. We’ve made that point. They haven’t been able to deny that. And the Treasury again and the Department of Finance confirmed that in their statement last night, the advice they provided us was on a casual basis -

JOURNALIST: Why does the Opposition have to clarify anything Treasurer because the Departments have done it for them -

BOWEN: - No they haven’t -

JOURNALIST: - The Parliamentary Budget Office, the Department of Treasury and Finance, saying their numbers are wrong, the Government’s numbers are wrong, your claims are false -

BOWEN: - Where does it say that Kieran -

JOURNALIST: - Well I’ll read it to you -

BOWEN: - Where does - It does not say that Kieran. That’s not right.

JOURNALIST: - Treasurer, they couldn’t have said it any clearer. They’re public servants, senior public servants they’re saying - well this is the Parliamentary Budget Office: ‘Unless all of the policy specifications were identical, the financial implications of the policy could vary markedly’. Now this is from the head of the Parliamentary Budget Office without saying, ‘Mr Bowen and Mr Rudd are flat out false’, that’s as close as a public servant is going to get.

BOWEN: With respect Kieran, that is just not right. We said in the press conference the assumptions and the variables can make a big difference.

JOURNALIST: So why have they sought to clarify it then? You’ve got senior public servants issuing a statement.

BOWEN: Well they’re making clear that they costed these policies at our request and we had a reason for that.

JOURNALIST: But have you ever seen them do that before though? It’s unprecedented -

BOWEN: - We’ve already said that Kieran. Now as I say, if the Opposition is so sure of their facts then release the paper. We released the Treasury and Department of Finance paperwork yesterday; they can release their paperwork today.

JOURNALIST: You’re fudging it though because you’ve got senior public servants and I’m asking you, have you ever seen, in an election campaign, senior public servants issue statements seeking to clarify their position that they have nothing to do -

BOWEN: - Well I’ve never seen an election campaign Kieran - the Opposition issue a table of $30 billion of alleged saves, us being able to point out within 24 hours that we believe there’s $10 billion of errors in that. Now last time we saw this after the election we saw the Department of Finance identify an $11 billion black hole after the election, this time we’ve released our paperwork which we believe shows a $10 billion black hole before the election, we’ve released the paperwork, why wont the Opposition?

JOURNALIST: I’m going to put it to you, that was last election, this is this election. And this is - isn’t this the most thorough effort by an Opposition in terms of costings with independent Parliamentary Budget Office involvement which your Government set up and with a panel of eminent Australian’s overlooking it including Peter Shergold, Geoff Carmody and the former Auditor-General of Queensland.

BOWEN: No, well they say it’s the most thorough process they’ve ever had and that’s exactly the words they used last time just before the Department of Finance found an $11 billion black hole and their accountants got fined $5000 each. They are the exact same words they used at the last election about thoroughness. I’ll tell you what’s thorough, the Charter of Budget Honesty - set up by Peter Costello, which we’ve complied with and Joe Hockey has trashed.

JOURNALIST: Your candidate, the Liberal candidate in the seat of McMahon has faced claims, he’s a former police officer, he’s faced various claims against him. Now Geoff Schuberg, he’s a former well-respected Assistant Police Commissioner of NSW, the Director of Investigations at the ICAC, he said: ‘During the years I investigated organised crime in the 70s and 80s, and my secondments to the National Crime Authority, the State Crime Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption as director of investigations, Ray King's name was never adversely mentioned in respect to any improper relationship with known criminals’.
Is it time for Labor to back off?

BOWEN: Well, all we’ve said Kieran is that Mr King should explain his position. I’ve held a press conference every day, I’ve been to debates in the electorate, I’ve been invited to four debates and I have accepted four invitations, Mr King has declined every single invitation. He’s done one radio interview.

He said he had for example nothing to do with Roger Rogerson. I read in the paper this morning, the Sydney Morning Herald that Roger Rogerson was at his campaign launch. He could clear this up, he needs to explain his position, that’s what we’ve said, I read again in the paper this morning, this report of his campaign launch back in May, at which senior Shadow Ministers were present and I read what was said and who was present. The Liberal Party, I think, does owe the people of McMahon an explanation as to what was said and who was there and what the explanation for that is. That’s all we’ve said -

JOURNALIST: - Is it implying something when you’ve got senior officers like Geoff Schuberg saying this man served for many years subsequent to the Royal Commission, he wouldn’t have stayed in the police force if there was anything to answer?

BOWEN: Well Kieran, as I say, I mean I read the reports this morning about his campaign launch, in the Sydney Morning Herald, I read the suggestion of what was said, I read the suggestions of who was present. Roger Rogerson isn’t welcome at my campaign functions and if he’s welcome at Ray King’s that’s a matter for him to explain.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer Chris Bowen, thanks for your time.

BOWEN: Cheers.