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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: ABC Newsradio: 9 November 2012: Macroeconomics report; Opposition costings

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David Bradbury MP Assistant Treasurer

Minister Assisting for Deregulation

Transcript of interview with Marius Benson

ABC Newsradio

9 November 2012


Topics: Macroeconomics report, Opposition costings

HOST: I’m joined by the Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury. David Bradbury, good morning.

BRADBURY: Good morning Marius, good to be with you.

HOST: Has Labor, in fact, locked Australia into a decade of deficits?

BRADBURY: I haven’t seen the detail of this report but my answer to that would be no. Obviously what we have seen is a headline on the front page of one of our newspapers today. It’s not unusual these days that private forecasters are out there hawking their wares, making all sorts of new and dire predictions and it seems that there’s no shortage of newspapers prepared to give them all sorts of coverage.

I think the point remains here that if you look at some of the statements made in this report, suggestions that Australia will need to embrace some sort of financial austerity package, this is completely out of whack, not just with the government’s forecasts but with the expectations of some of the premier forecasting institutions around the world. If you look at the IMF, they have forecast that we will be the standout performer this year and next. You look at the ratings agencies, Australia has the triple-A, gold plated ratings trifecta, if you like, from all three of the big ratings agencies. This has never occurred before in our history.

So people can make their own assessments about where they think the domestic economy is going, but I think there is a very strong chorus of support for the underlying strength of the Australian economy moving forward.

HOST: Short of any austerity packages that have echoes of Greece about it, what about the idea that Macroeconomics says that middle-class warfare has to be dealt with. Pretty much in step with the government’s view?

BRADBURY: Well we have for a long time been out there trying to find ways of making the Commonwealth budget more sustainable over the longer term. Let’s be clear about this Marius that the thing that we stand for is building a strong and sustainable economy but we want to make sure we have a fair society as well. That is what has characterised our approach to economic management. Can I make this point though, that we have made consistent efforts to chip away at various entitlements that were put into the system at a time when the Howard Government was in office, at a time when the rivers of gold were flowing in and the international economy was gang-busters. We have sought to put the budget back on a more sustainable footing. We’ve introduced measure after measure, whether it be removing certain entitlements around baby bonuses; whether it be removing certain entitlements around private health insurance with means-testing; whether it be making sure we have a higher contribution to superannuation for employees so that they have less of an impact on the budget when they retire; whether it be deferring the age of retirement period to the age of 70, which will come into effect in the future. These are long-term reforms but every time we’ve introduced one of these reforms we have been shouted down by our political opponents. And I have to say there hasn’t been a lot of support out there from any of these private forecasters that seem only too willing to get a front page headline, but when it comes to backing in good, sound public policy that this government has delivered, budget after budget, it often seems like a pretty lonely experience.

HOST: Can I take you away from the Macroeconomics assessment of the economy and to an issue that has been following the government over the last few days, which is the Treasurer asked Treasury to assess some Opposition policies and then released the material. The Treasurer says that’s quite a legitimate thing for the Government to do. The question that’s been raised about this is, if it’s legitimate to do this, to assess Opposition policies with public servants, to use them for that purpose and to release the material, if it’s legitimate to release it, why didn’t you just release it? Why leak it semi-anonymously?

BRADBURY: I think it is important that this information is out there in the public domain. Obviously there’s been a bit of discussion and contention about the way in which it’s made its way out there. I remind you Marius and all of your listeners that this is not an extraordinary thing.

HOST: Yeah, but why leak it? Why not put it out, if it’s an ordinary thing why not put it out in an ordinary way?

BRADBURY: Well the information is out there, if the issue is now about how it got out there, well let people occupy themselves with that debate.

HOST: Do you have an answer about why it went out that way?

BRADBURY: Can I make the very clear observation that the underlying fact of this has not been rejected or repudiated by the Opposition and I think that is of much greater significance to the Australian people: that the Opposition has a plan to jack up taxes on business by more than $17 billion. Now they haven’t been prepared to get this costed. You have to ask why they haven’t been prepared to get their policies costed. The Opposition have told us, even though when they were in government they introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty, you can get your policies costed by Treasury. They then said they didn’t trust the Treasury. We’ve gone out, we’ve set up the Parliamentary Budget Office and to this day they still refuse to get their policies costed. Now I think if we want to have a sensible debate about the sorts of issues you were talking about just a few minutes ago, if people want to haul me onto the radio to talk about Macroeconomics reports and about structural deficits into the future, I think central to that debate has to be a consideration of the alternatives that are on the table and what we have from the Opposition is a $70 billion black hole.

This is not a figure that someone has fictitiously inserted into the Financial Review, Mr Hockey on repeated occasions has conceded he has a $70 billion black hole, he has a raft of policies out there that will exacerbate that. We just want him to get them costed so the Australian people have the opportunity to know that if they want to vote for him they are voting for an unsustainable proposition that will end in tears, it’ll end in cuts to education and health and all sorts of other nasties that they’re just not prepared to put to the Australian people before the election.

HOST: David Bradbury, thank you very much.

BRADBURY: Good to talk to you Marius.