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Transcript of joint press conference: Melbourne: 5 September 2013: Coalition costings



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Transcript

The Hon Joe Hockey MP Shadow Treasurer Coalition Campaign Spokesman

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Finance, Deregulation and Debt Reduction Chairman of the Coalition Policy Development Committee

Thursday 5 September 2013

Press Conference, Melbourne

Subjects: Coalition costings

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

JOE HOCKEY:

Ladies and gentlemen, today the Coalition is releasing its final Budget costings. Today we confirm our pledge to the Australian people.

We will put in place the tools necessary to help to grow the Australian economy. To give Australian families job security. Importantly to give them more control of their lives.

We are going to do this by improving the Budget bottom line by over $6 billion. We are going to start paying down Labor's mountain of debt by more than $16 billion. The Coalition has already announced over $31 billion of savings. Today I'm announcing a further $9 billion of savings.

As I said 10 days ago, we released the bulk of our savings. This all puts a lie to Mr Rudd's claim of a black hole of $70 billion. It makes a lie of Mr Rudd's claim that we're cutting everywhere. In fact we are increasing expenditure in health and education. It makes a lie of Mr Rudd's claim. The Coalition is serious about laying down a package of reforms that actually grow the Australian economy because everything we have announced during this

campaign and we announce today is about growing the productive capacity of the Australian economy.

I want to emphasise the process that we have been through. We have been through one of the most comprehensive fiscal policy development programs in Australian politics. It's not an overnight program. We haven't made it up as we've gone along as Labor has.

What we have done is have an eight-month long process overlaid on the three year term in Opposition. We’ve focused on having sensible, internal policy processes. We’ve taken those policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office and we’ve set up an independent panel to verify it. Importantly all the numbers that are presented today show that we are living within our means. The Coalition has released over 700 pages of detailed policies during this election campaign compared with 200 from Labor.

Now, by contrast, Labor has failed to release its costings. In fact, 13 policies are yet to be verified from Labor by anyone other than themselves. So, all of our policies are fiscally responsible and independently verified.

Now, I'm going to ask Andrew to say a bit about infrastructure, importantly, but I want to say how we're going to pay for infrastructure. There is a reallocation of funds on infrastructure. This is a hugely important package to improve the productive capacity of the Australian economy.

We are going to cut the growth in foreign aid to pay for necessary infrastructure here in Australia. We need to do this to grow our economy. We can only be a more generous nation to the rest of the world if we have a strong Australian economy. We are reducing the growth in foreign aid by $4.5 billion over the forward estimates to fund essential infrastructure here in Australia.

There are modest additional savings. We are re-phasing the Murray-Darling water buy-back scheme and we are obviously and how important it is going to focus on removing waste in the public sector.

I say to the Australian people, if you're looking for cuts, the Coalition is going to cut carbon tax, the Coalition is going to cut the mining tax, the Coalition is going to cut the waste. On Saturday I urge the Australian people to cut Kevin Rudd and a broken Labor Party. Throughout this campaign they have lied. They continued to do so today. We are the only party that is delivering a program for growth, for job security, and giving back the Australian economy to the Australian people.

ANDREW ROBB:

Thanks, Joe. I'd just like to make three points on infrastructure and one on policy. The net effect of this package is an increase in growth. We're going for growth and going for growth in jobs while living within our means. One crucial element of this going for growth objective is the infrastructure program that's outlined in these documents.

Let me make three points about the infrastructure program. Firstly, the coalition has committed over $90 billion in road, rail, freight and bridge funding around Australia. And we'll get to work immediately, if we're elected on the weekend, and over $10 billion of that money will be spent within the forward estimates across literally dozens and dozens of

projects. This will all be fully funded, as Joe has said, by setting new priorities within existing Budget resources.

Firstly, there's $6.3 billion of existing government funding in the nation-building program and, secondly, again as Joe has mentioned, $4.5 billion will be redirected from the overseas aid Budget. Because Australia can best provide sustainable assistance overseas when our economy is strong and the Budget is in a sustainable surplus.

That's why we propose to cut the growth of foreign aid and put the $4.5 billion into infrastructure. It is the responsible thing to do when you consider that we are currently borrowing from overseas to fund our foreign aid commitments that Australia is making. It is not sustainable to maintain that situation.

Secondly, you'll see that we're front-ending loading a lot of the infrastructure spend so that we get projects up and away. This compares with Labor who are promising funding of so many projects but so many of them are on the never-never, such as the very fast train project which I think is programmed to be introduced in 2035, would you believe.

Yesterday's national growth figures confirmed that the economy is stalling. So there is an imperative that the incoming government does whatever it can to boost economic activity and job growth. Getting projects away quickly will boost productivity, it’ll boost growth and it will boost growth in jobs.

Thirdly, on infrastructure, we've committed to funding 80 per cent of all nationally significant road projects with the States committing 20 per cent. This compares with the Rudd Government, which has been funding an increasing number of projects of a 50-50 basis rather than the traditional 80-20 basis. And in this way a Coalition Government will free up funds

for the states to invest greater amounts in their traditional responsibility of urban rail.

And finally, just on the policy, the lies and the nonsense peddled about the policies and the costings by Mr Rudd and Mr Bowen and Ms Wong have been blown away by the release today of these Coalition costings. Today as Joe said, the final step of a three year journey of progressive policy development with all of our 30 shadow ministerial colleagues, then the costing of those policies, and then the constant review of this work as the government's Budget has steadily fallen apart.

In fact, there are many policies, quite a lot of policies, that we've had to put aside because the Budget would no longer sustain a lot of that policy work. We have 50 election policy documents totalling nearly 720 pages on the Liberal Party web site. By contrast, the ALP has released 32 policies totalling nearly 180 pages. So, we clearly put out a lot more policy detail and today we've confirmed that all of our policies are fully funded and the net effect will be $16 billion reduction in debt, a $6 billion improvement in the Budget bottom line, and an increase, an increase, in jobs and growth. Thanks.

HOCKEY:

Questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Robb, can you define what are projects of national significance and examples of them?

ROBB:

Well, we've got many examples if you look to the documentation. Projects which are going to - yes, indeed, the Coalition’s plan to reduce traffic congestion, the EastWest Link...

QUESTION:

Are you going to pay for 80 per cent of EastWest Link?

ROBB:

We're going to pay $1.5 billion of that project but with key projects like the Bruce Highway and others as we enter into negotiations, we will be looking to pay on the, on the national roads we will be looking to pay, like the Bruce Highway, which is the main artery into the North of Australia, we will be paying an 80/20 contribution with the States over time.

QUESTION:

Mr Hockey, a $6 billion turnaround is pretty - it’s hardly a Budget emergency.

HOCKEY:

No, I don't see a $6 billion improvement in the Budget bottom line as trivial. I see it as significant and we’re turning around the direction of the Budget. Under Labor the deficits are getting bigger, the debt’s getting bigger. Under the Coalition, from Opposition, we're putting forward a proposal that turns the deterioration in the Budget around and starts to deliver a saving to the Budget bottom line and we start to pay down Labor's debt.

QUESTION:

That’s a very fragile adjustment; a small change in any metric will just wipe that out.

HOCKEY:

I wouldn't trivialise it at all. That's $6 billion of real money and taxpayers' money. We’ll go to other questions.

QUESTION:

Your foreign affairs spokeswoman said it was appalling last year when Labor changed its foreign aid spending. This is a fairly big broken promise from the Coalition, isn’t it?

HOCKEY:

No, it's Labor that's broken its promise every year in relation to foreign aid, every year. What we are saying is we can't continue to fund a massive increase in foreign aid at the expense of investment in the Australian economy to get the Australian economy to grow at trend and hopefully above trend growth. So, we have to cut the growth in foreign aid to fund Australian

infrastructure because the stronger the Australian economy, the more generous we can be in the future.

QUESTION:

You’ve talked today about increasing jobs and increasing growth. Do you expect to do better than the unemployment figures put forward by Treasury and the RBA? Do you expect to see unemployment lower than 6.25 per cent and do you expect to see growth reaching back to trend and how quickly?

HOCKEY:

You see in our package we have focused on bringing forward infrastructure spending to try and get the growth story going in Australia. Now, part of the growth story is the 1st of July next year, we abolish the Carbon Tax and we abolish the Mining Tax. And the 1st of July the following year, we reduce company tax.

Now, there’s a clear pathway there together with upfront infrastructure spending that shows we are putting in place the dynamics necessary to have a growth trajectory for the Australian economy. If you improve growth, you start to take the unemployment rate down, from what the governments currently forecasting.

QUESTION:

Do you think we will reach the levels of 6.25 per cent unemployment?

HOCKEY:

I hope we don't. The worst thing you can do to an Australian family is cause a loss of jobs. Kevin Rudd inherited an unemployment rate with a four in front of it. He’s leaving Australia with an unemployment rate that’s heading with a six in front of it - up to 800,000 Australians unemployed. Now, we’ve got to do everything we can to arrest the increase in the unemployment rate.

QUESTION:

Mr Hockey, what percentage does a $6 billion turn around represent? That’s about 1.5 per cent...

HOCKEY:

Look ...

QUESTION:

Are you happy with it being just a 1 per cent...

HOCKEY:

No. I am leaving our Budget numbers in better shape than what we're spending, which is a stark contrast to what Labor's done. The fact is Labor - in its costings yesterday, which it released and only partially released - had billions of dollars that was unfunded from some mysterious pool in the Budget that they haven't told anyone about.

But Kevin Rudd's thought bubbles haven't been funded. His thought bubble on the Northern Territory: unfunded. His thought bubble on a railway between Brisbane and Melbourne: unfunded. His next thought bubble I was expecting was going to be to put Australians on the moon by 2050. Thank God he didn't announce that. But that's the thought bubble process that remains unfunded as part of the Labor Party's plan - so-called plan - for the future of Australia.

QUESTION:

You’ve been saying that the Budget is in crisis. $6 billion, with respect, doesn’t actually fix a crisis, does it?

HOCKEY:

We cannot fix the Budget crisis from Opposition. Only an emphatic decision by the Australian people on Saturday to get rid of the chaos, to get rid of the minority government, and to give a strong vote to the Coalition, that's the only way we can fix the Budget. Over to

you, sir.

QUESTION:

What happens when the Commission of Audit comes down and says, look there’s a Mother Hubbard situation, there might be even more to go, though, surely.

HOCKEY:

The Commission of Audit is going to focus on getting rid of the waste and having a more efficient public sector in Canberra. Now, even from opposition we’ve been able to identify projects like $160,000 on an examination of sexuality and Islamic interpretations of reproductive health technologies in Egypt. I don’t see that as a good spend of Australian tax payer money. Or a $443,000 study into the God of Hegel’s post-Kantian idealism. I don't see that as a good spend of Australian taxpayers' money. I don't see a good spend of Australian taxpayers’ money, five years after the Global Financial Crisis, sending out cheques for $900 to backpackers overseas.

We’ve got to get rid of the waste, we’ve got to have a more efficient public sector and that's what our Commission of Audit will do.

QUESTION:

You’re talking about $42 million, sorry billion, of savings, sorry, by re-prioritising indigenous policy reforms, which is a third of the savings...

HOCKEY:

Sorry, 40. Sorry, which number are you referring to? 9.3.

QUESTION:

The last page, the reprioritisation of indigenous policy programs. What does that mean and is that in breach of the...

HOCKEY:

That effectively deals with legal aid services delivered by contractors at various sites. There has been some change in that program. What we've said is we're scaling it back by about 20 per cent. Indigenous aid. Yes sir.

QUESTION:

Back to the foreign aid issue, you say you’re committed to meeting the Millennium Developments [Goals] of 0.5 per cent of GDP on foreign aid. You don’t say when and is there a timeframe?

HOCKEY:

The first thing we have to do, is to strengthen the Australian economy, strengthen the Government's balance sheet, and that means we can be more generous with foreign aid.

QUESTION:

So, basically you won’t do it until you get back to surplus.

HOCKEY:

We are still committed to the Millennium Goal but we’ve got to fix our Budget first. The best way to fix the Budget is to grow the Australian economy.

QUESTION:

Your commitment therefore stands that you won’t until you get back to surplus.

HOCKEY:

No. We are determined - if I can emphasise again - to fix the Australian Budget, if we fix the Australian Budget, we can be more generous with foreign aid. I can't give you a timetable on that.

QUESTION:

Does that not make sense, if you follow me? You say that you want to get back to surplus when you’ve fix the Budget, yes?

HOCKEY:

I said and I’ll say it again, we want to strengthen the Australian economy, to strengthen the Budget to be more generous into the future. Any other questions?

QUESTION:

Will there be either redirection of money within that...

HOCKEY:

Julie Bishop will be announcing our foreign aid policy as we speak. You’ll see a focus more on support for non-government organisations than investment in multilaterals.

QUESTION:

The existing funding allocated from the national building program, $6.1 billion. Is this existing funding that was allocated to particular projects or is this a pool that has not been allocated yet or what is it?

ROBB:

The $6.1 billion is the current commitment of funds by this government in projects, right. So, in many respects, if you look above that figure, all of those projects, some of them are new spending, some of them are total new spending on projects, some of them have extension, so we're spending more on the projects than the Commonwealth, and some of them we put a different nature of the project, like the South Road in Adelaide we’re doing one section, the Government is proposing to do another as a priority. So embedded in that $11 billion is some Government spending, right. So, in order to get a net figure so we don't double count we take that six billion of existing project spending, some of which is embedded up top, so that we end up with a bottom line increase down the bottom of the page of $4.676 billion.

QUESTION:

Right, but apart from the specific ones you’ve mentioned, there are no other projects.

ROBB:

No. No. That's right.

HOCKEY:

Two more questions.

QUESTION:

Nothing is off limits?

HOCKEY:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Does that include health and education?

HOCKEY:

We are actually increasing the funding for health and education. That's what we're doing. Now, Kevin Rudd said cut, cut, cut. We're not cutting health, we're not cutting education, and we're not cutting Defence. As you can see, our numbers are plainly there. Now, if there is waste of course we will get rid of waste. I think that's the appropriate thing to do. Yes ma’am.

QUESTION:

Mr Hockey, can you say whether the Coalition claims that they will release a mini-Budget before the end of this year?

HOCKEY:

Look, we're focused on Saturday. If the Australian people endorse us on Saturday, I'd say we'll talk about that afterwards. I’d just say, let's end the chaos. Let's end the chaos in Canberra. And the only way to do that is to have an emphatic vote for the Coalition on Saturday.

No more minority party, no more waste, no more lies from Labor. The Labor Party is broken. The Australian people have the chance on Saturday to reclaim their country and we have proven yet again that the Coalition is the only one that is going to pay down Labor's debt, start to fix the budget, provide job security for Australians and deal with

the cost of living issues that everyday Australians are concerned about.

Thanks very much.

ENDS

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