Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Fran Kelly: Radio National: 30 August 2013: Costings; and FBT.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Campaign Transcript


E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Costings; FBT. _____________________________________________________________

FRAN KELLY: Senator Wong, good morning, thanks for joining us.

PENNY WONG: Good morning, Fran. Good to be with you.

KELLY: Minister, Joe Hockey says there that your Government’s been caught lying to the Australian people, what do you say to that?

WONG: Well, Joe Hockey’s been caught out on his costings and he’s now resorting to personal abuse to cover it up. Let’s be very clear about what has happened here. What we did in government, because we anticipated that Joe Hockey would do what he’s doing - which is hide his costs from the Australian people - is ask Treasury and Finance to cost stated policy, stated Coalition policy, and that’s what we released transparently yesterday. And what that shows is that of the $31 billion in so-called savings Mr Hockey announced $10 billion doesn’t exist.

Now, if Joe hockey says that is wrong he has a very simple response - he can put up or shut up. He can set out the costings, which he has boasted he already has, that he’s showing to some media outlets, but he’s refusing to show to the Australian people.

KELLY: It’s not just Joe Hockey who says it’s wrong though, they didn’t exactly say it, but didn’t the department heads imply it when they said in their press conference, as I’m reading it here, from their press statement rather, ‘at no stage prior to the caretaker period has either department Treasury or Finance costed

Opposition policies - different costing assumptions such as the start date of a policy take up assumptions, indexation and the coverage that applies will inevitably generate different financial outcomes’.

WONG: That is precisely right. They haven’t costed Coalition policies because the Coalition won’t give them to them. Let’s be clear -

KELLY: But they put that out there to rebut you.

WONG: No, look I don’t accept that -

KELLY: Well, why else would they have done it?

WONG: What has happened is that Treasury and Finance have made clear they did not cost the detail of what the Coalition would actually do because the Coalition hasn’t given it to them. What they did cost, we asked them to cost, which was stated policy.

But look, there’s a very simple response to all of this, Fran. We’re very close to an election. There is a very simple response and that is Joe Hockey can release the costings that he’s sitting on. And I think the salient question is: ‘why isn’t he?’ because if he’s got them the only reason he wouldn’t release them is he wants to leave it as close as possible to the election so the Australian people don’t have the opportunity to scrutinise them.

KELLY: Well, if that’s the question haven’t you just taken the pressure off Joe Hockey by having this intervention, quite an extraordinary intervention, by public servant heads of departments in an election campaign - basically undermining you claim which was, oh yes you had caveats on it but you did table documents suggesting this would be - these are the costs of the Coalition policies and as the head of departments have told us. They are not necessarily the costs of the Opposition policies.

WONG: No they’re not necessarily the costs, the costs could be different and the only people who know that are the Coalition and the whole point of this is this: very close to an election I think people are entitled to know what the policy costings are. We submitted ours, we had an Economic Statement and outlined our budget bottom line, we submitted 46 policies under the Charter of Budget Honesty - do you know how many the Coalition has submitted? Zero.

KELLY: But you’ve also come out yesterday and said this is a $10 billion black hole in Coalition costings, a $10 billion fraud on the Australian people and you don’t have proof of any such thing.

WONG: Well, I don’t agree with you. Have you read the minutes? I mean the advice is very clear that some of the things that Joe Hockey claimed as savings simply don’t add up -

KELLY: But that’s based on your assumptions, we don’t know that it’s based on theirs.

WONG: Well, very simple response to that, Fran: if that’s what Joe Hockey is saying, why won’t he release them? I mean, the nation would not be in this position of having arguments about costings if the other side of politics actually did what Peter Costello’s Charter of Budget Honesty contemplated, which was being up front with Australians about their policy costings. As I said, we’ve lodged 46, we’ve had an Economic Statement, people know what our policies cost, what savings we’ve taken. What have the Coalition done? Zero.

I mean, they have announced billions of dollars for a paid parental leave scheme and the only reason Australians know a little bit about how it is to be funded is because questions kept being asked. Over the days after that was announced we found out that mum and dad investors, self-funded retirees, charities were going to bare part of the burden for funding that. But that wasn’t because anybody was up front about it, it was only because people in public, the Government, and some in the media asked the question and I think democracy requires a little more transparency than that. We’ve been transparent, Abbott and Hockey are hiding.

KELLY: And your frustration at that is clear but that does not give you the right to go out and claim that they’re perpetrating a $10 billion fraud on the Australian people when you don’t have the detail to back that up and that’s exactly what the department heads have said, that they haven’t given you the detail to make that claim.

WONG: Well, we absolutely stand by that press conference and that statement and what we said was we had costed stated Coalition policy, on the basis of their public statements, and that shows a $10 billion hole. Now, if the stated policy doesn’t accord with the real policy the person who can answer that question is Joe Hockey.

KELLY: Can I just ask you, finally, about another issue, your changes to the Fringe Benefits Tax on salary packaged cars that was announced not long before the election was called. Charities are now campaigning hard against this, in fact they’ve made a recorded message phone call to 750,000 households last night suggesting that this change to the FBT rules will mean charities are out of pocket to the tune of - some of them $0.5 million, The Salvation Army $4 million, are they entitled to feel aggrieved and do you fear that kind of intervention by the charities?

WONG: Well, what I’d say is this: this is a tax break which we’ve changed because we’ve said if you’re going to claim a tax break for business use of your vehicle then you should actually use it for business use. It’s a bit like saying you want the child care rebate, you should have your child in child care. I understand people’s concerns but I think in context of a disciplined budget, which this side of politics has been committed to, I think these sorts of responsible savings have to be made.

KELLY: Penny Wong, thank you for joining us.

WONG: Good to speak with you.


Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600