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Transcript of doorstop interview: Melbourne: 23 October 2012



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DOORSTOP MELBOURNE

TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2012

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

JOE HOCKEY:

In an article in today's ‘Age’ Phil Coorey has belled the cat on the Government's true intentions. It is now clear that the Government is not really committed to a budget surplus but they don't know how to explain that to the Australian people. Instead they're fudging the numbers in the budget and moving money around and creating greater uncertainty for business and for consumers. The Government can't be let off the hook here, they have made it a political signature that they are going to return the budget to surplus. Now Wayne Swan is running away from that commitment. It is typical of Labor, you can't trust them with their promises and the bottom line with Labor is that wherever they have an opportunity, they are going to increase taxes.

It is going to shock you but there is something that we actually think the Labor Party has got right. They have today announced that they're setting up a register for foreign investment in agricultural land. We praise this policy initiative from the Government because we were the ones that came up with the idea in the first place. We have had that policy position out there for some months. We welcome the fact that the Government is doing it and whether it is their policy or our policy, I think greater transparency in relation to foreign investment in agricultural interests will alleviate a lot of concerns across the broader community about agricultural investment from overseas and the motivation behind it. I think this is a step in the right direction. We would urge the Government to pick up the rest of our policy and put in place a notification threshold to the Foreign Investment Review Board for agricultural land purchases of $15 million or more. I think that, in turn, would also alleviate a lot of legitimate expressions of concern from people in regional and rural Australia. So there are good things that the Government has done today but there are very disappointing things and I think Australians will be wondering what yesterday was all about now that the Government is conceding that it will not deliver a surplus this year.

JOURNALIST:

Can you explain what you meant by your comments this morning that if the Government had more experience with children, they would have a better understanding of the financial impact. What did you mean by that?

JOE HOCKEY:

They actually weren't my comments but I will take them as if they were for the purposes of the question. I have three children and I had three children under five and, as Tony Abbott pointed out this morning, anyone who had been through that experience would know that you have to have two cots, you have to have a double pram and it is pretty damn hard to fit the much bigger car seats across the back of a normal sedan car. So there are cost pressures associated with having children born close together. Tony Abbott was referring to the whole Government, if they had more

Doorstop - Melbourne Tuesday, 23 October 2012 Errors and Omissions Excepted

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experience on a range of different areas, they would understand the pressures. Julia Gillard said if Tony Abbott got off the North Shore of Sydney and spoke with families he would better understand families, well he has done that and that is why we are so concerned about discriminating against families that have second and third children when it comes to the Baby Bonus.

JOURNALIST:

You're not the only one in the Government, or in Parliament to have three kids. There are plenty of Labor MPs and Government Ministers that have three kids. How do you explain the comments in that context?

JOE HOCKEY:

How do you explain Julia Gillard saying to Tony Abbott ‘get off the North Shore and understand what families are doing’? This is pathetic. This whole rhetoric is just pathetic. Come back to where it starts. The fact is the Government gives us a lecture on families. If we're at the point now where we can't refer to the Government and families in the same breath, surely the debate has got to an absurd point. Tony Abbott said today if the Prime Minister is aggrieved about this, he's happy to apologise to her but he wasn't directing it at her. He was directing it at the Government. The Government talks about families, we respond talking about families but it seems as though we are near the point where we're not allowed to discuss families and Government in the same breath.

JOURNALIST:

You recently gave a very interesting speech saying we have to end the age of entitlement but yet…

JOE HOCKEY:

It was a good read.

JOURNALIST:

It was a good speech. But you have also been critical of cutting the Baby Bonus for the second and third kids. How do the two things fit together? Isn't this sort of going through the process of ending the age of entitlement at the moment?

JOE HOCKEY:

The Government hasn't flagged that this is part of a wind back of entitlements. My comments were targeted particularly at Europe but also my comments were targeted at potential growth in the entitlement era in Australia. The fact that the Government has announced that you will be getting a school kids bonus no matter what - even if you don't spend money on education, you're going to be getting the payment - that is a classic example. The Coalition has said it doesn't support that initiative. Why? Because it is just handing out money to people whether they like it or not. There is no link to the education system at all. A Baby Bonus comes when you have the birth of a child and, quite frankly, in my case, having had three children under five and any family out there that has been in a similar position, if you knew what those funding pressures were, you would understand that discriminating against the second and third child does have a financial impact on the household.

JOURNALIST:

You have likened the policy to China's one child policy, I think it was last night on 'Lateline'.

JOE HOCKEY:

In terms of discrimination, when you start getting into the costs associated, there is a punitive penalty

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for having a second and third child.

JOURNALIST:

Are you suggesting that people who don't have children don't understand the pressures that families are under?

JOE HOCKEY:

No, but I refer you to Julia Gillard saying to Tony Abbott that he has to get off the North Shore of Sydney and go and speak to families, suggesting that he didn't understand families. He understands family pressures, that is why we have such a concern about a wind back of the Baby Bonus for a second and third child. As I said, in my case - I don't want to offend anyone - in my case, when we had three children under five, we had to go out and buy new prams, new cots, car seats seemed to be bigger and you have to go through all sorts of different car seats now at different ages, the costs of raising children today is far higher than it has been previously. A lot of that comes down to Government regulation. Frankly, when I was a kid growing up, all the kids were piled into the back of the car and there were no car seats. I am not saying that was right but it has been Government regulation that has made it more expensive to have children. It is one of the reasons why we initiated the Baby Bonus in the first place to help to alleviate some of the cost pressures.

JOURNALIST:

The Victorian Treasurer has warned that front line health services are likely to suffer as a result of the changes announced yesterday. Is that a genuine concern?

JOE HOCKEY:

Absolutely. Whenever the Government attacks private health insurance, they drive people away from private health insurance and into the public hospital system which is funded by the states. The Government is cutting $1.1 billion out of private health insurance and that continues the direct attack on private health insurance. I just note the fact that Wayne Swan said this is not going to affect poorer or lower income families. There are one million Australians with private health insurance that have a household income - or have an income - of less than $24,000 a year. I don't see that as middle class welfare at all. If you are driving those people into the public hospital system, then it is a cost shift to the states and this is what this Government does, taking $1.5 billion out of education means the states are going to end up having to find the money and ultimately, we're all the same taxpayer, whether we're paying tax to the Feds, to the State or the local Government, it is the same taxpayer payer all the way.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

JOE HOCKEY:

Wayne Swan is running away from a surplus faster than the road runner is running away from the coyote. No surprise there.

JOURNALIST:

Have you made a decision about whether or not you're going to support the punitive cuts in the parliament?

JOE HOCKEY:

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No. We will go through the proper processes in our Shadow Cabinet and in the partyroom. That is what we do after every statement. After every Budget that I have been the Shadow Treasurer, we're asked in the first 24 hours "What are you going to support? What are you going to knock back?" We come up with the same lines and we get to the same point. We know the Government has a fiscal mess on its hands and when they get down to fiddling the books and playing accounting tricks, obviously the truth behind the numbers is more alarming than what was displayed yesterday.

[ENDS]

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