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Transcript of interview: 2UE Breakfast: 17 June 2014: Polls; Medicare co-payment; Tax avoidance; youth unemployment; Clive Palmer; Budget



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Hon. J.B. HOCKEY

Treasurer

TRANSCRIPT - 2UE BREAKFAST SYDNEY TUESDAY, 17 JUNE 2014

E&OE…………………….

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning.

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey thanks for joining us, you would have expected, and I think you braced yourself for, bad

polls post the Budget, but did you think they’d be this bad? And particularly for the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Well, sorry, to be 53-47, you’re deeming that to be very bad are you?

PRESENTER:

No, I’m particularly talking about the Prime Minister’s personal dissatisfaction rating.

TREASURER:

Well individual polls will always move up and down as they have with Tony Abbott for years, and he

is, he has had an incredibly successful trip overseas on behalf of the country, but somehow the

suggestion that 47-53 is a devastating blow to the Government is kind of absurd. [inaudible] the

commentary that’s come out in the last few weeks.

PRESENTER:

A personal dissatisfaction rating up to 61% for a Prime Minister who hasn’t even made his first year

into government, it’s not a great result though is it?

TREASURER:

Well, he and I are making the hard decisions that need to be made in the national interest. We were

elected to, make the hard decisions to fix the economy and we’re doing that, to stop the boats and

we’re doing that, to build infrastructure right across the country and we’re doing that, and to get rid

of the Carbon and Mining Taxes and we’re doing that.

PRESENTER:

Can Tony Abbott, though, recover from a personal dissatisfaction rating of 61%?

TREASURER:

Of course he can, Tony Abbott continues to defy the sceptics and rightly so, because polls go up and

polls go down, but please, let’s deal with the substantive issues here. The fact is, we were elected to

deliver a strong purposeful Budget to fix the economy and that’s exactly what we’re doing. And the

good news is, more than 100,000 new full time jobs have been created since the beginning of this

year. So, the economy has momentum, NSW in particular has strong momentum, and I look forward

to the State Budget today.

PRESENTER:

If we just have a look at the Federal Budget, particularly some of those key planks like the Medicare

co-payment of $7, will you get that through the Senate?

TREASURER:

Well, we’ll negotiate, we’re prepared to discuss it with the Senate, but we’ve laid down the best

possible policy to make the Medicare system sustainable. Now I was out at Concord Hospital the

other day and I was given extensive briefings about the fantastic medical research out there. And as

the great team at Concord Hospital pointed out, if we can get our Medical Research Future Fund up

and away, which is funded by the $7 co-payment on Medicare, we are going to make great strides in

helping to address some of the very worst afflictions affecting the ageing population, or affecting

people with mesothelioma. These are the things where we take a great lead in Australia and Sydney

in particular. Let’s invest in it. But you can’t invest unless you raise the money, and the only way to

raise the money is to have a co-payment on Medicare.

PRESENTER:

But you’ve got to get this through the Senate, what are the indications right now? I mean, if you’re a

betting man?

TREASURER:

That’s up to you guys, you’re commentators, we are putting the legislation to the Parliament, it’ll be

up to the Parliament and the Senate to consider it.

PRESENTER:

Well you’ve said you’re open to negotiation, so have you discussed the options, parameters, for

which you’d have those negotiations?

TREASURER:

Well I never discuss…

PRESENTER:

Not publically, but I’m saying have you discussed it privately?

TREASURER:

We always discuss things, but having said that, don’t think we’re just going to roll over on our

Budget initiatives because we are firmly of the belief that they are exactly right for the economy and

the country. The thing is, no one is providing an alternative. No one is actually offering an alternative

and saying, ‘look why don’t you look at $5 or why don’t you exclude this?’ No one is suggesting

anything. All our opponents are is a massive complaints desk.

PRESENTER:

No, but that’s your opponents, but the people who will make the decision, the crossbenchers, are

they suggesting any alternatives?

TREASURER:

Our political opponents, the Labor Party, have the power to support this immediately, let’s not

forget that. They said they’d do that. First of all they said on the Deficit Reduction Levy, they weren’t

going to support it, now they’re saying they’re supporting it and it’s going through. The Greens don’t

know whether they’re Arthur or Martha in relation to the increase in excise on fuel. They’ve had lots

of various positions on that. If they all say no in the Senate it will end up as a Coalition of Irrelevancy,

and why? Because they will make themselves irrelevant to the public policy debate. It’s easy to say

no, but if you really care about the country and you care about the sustainability of Medicare and

the Pension system and our quality of life, then you have to engage in the policy debate.

PRESENTER:

Joe, will you have a look at the CEOs of say Apple here, and Google, should they be embarrassed at

how they minimise and avoid paying tax in Australia?

TREASURER:

Well, this is something that needs to be addressed, and at the G20 meeting in Sydney in February, I

firmly put it on the agenda for the G20, to deal with this on a global basis. I mean, you can’t just

cherry pick at a national level here in Australia. I mean, a handful of businesses in Australia pay a

large chunk of company tax and those that you mentioned, I suspect are, and I don’t know exactly,

but I suspect they are not amongst them. What I have asked is for the OECD, Angel Gurria, to work

overtime to deliver to the G20, by the end of this year, at its meeting in Cairns, a clear pathway to

address the tax minimisation by various companies around the world. It is no use us cracking down

here and then having a different type of leakage offshore. It also means that we’ve got to be careful

that Australian companies who are amongst the very largest taxpayers, like BHP and Rio, pay their

fair share of tax wherever they may be operating as well.

PRESENTER:

Right, what about the youth unemployment crisis that is gripping much of this country, what are you

doing about it?

TREASURER:

Well, the starting point is we’ve said, ‘you have to earn or learn if you’re under the age of 30’.

Clearly, the existing policies don’t work. We recognise that in the Budget and that’s why we’ve laid

down a program to earn or learn. Now, in for example, Higher Education, for the first time we are

extending the concessional loan scheme that applies to university students, we are applying to

people that study sub-bachelor degrees, do courses at TAFE and a range of other things, so there will

be an extra 80,000 people - 80,000 young people - in particular, who will get access to the

concessional loans that lawyers, doctors, and dentists have got. And secondly, we are going to the

apprentices of Australia and saying, ‘we will give you $20,000 over a full year period as a loan, to lock

you into finishing your apprenticeship, and if you finish that apprenticeship, we’ll give you a $4,000

discount on the loan at the end of that time.’ So we are working overtime to try and get people to

study. For those that are on Newstart we have got Work for the Dole schemes. We’ve got wage

subsidies, so we will provide a wage subsidy to an employer that picks up a young unemployed

person, at the appropriate time. These are the things, there are a multitude of things that have been

put in place, but you’re right, the level of youth unemployment is alarmingly high.

PRESENTER:

Are those measures going to get through the Senate, have you gauged what the view is of the

crossbenchers there?

TREASURER:

Well, again, you’re asking me to speculate on the mindset of a whole lot of Senators, some of which

haven’t even arrived here in Canberra. I mean, we can only lay down the policies that fix the

country.

PRESENTER:

Do some of those people frighten you? Some of the Palmer Senators in particular?

TREASURER:

No one frightens me.

PRESENTER:

I don’t mean frighten you in a physical sense, I mean frighten you in terms of what you hear from

them?

TREASURER:

You frighten me occasionally, but no...

PRESENTER:

Does Clive Palmer frustrate you?

TREASURER:

Well, look, you’ve got to deal with all sorts of people and you’ve just got to deal with what’s handed

to you. They’re all elected, I mean Ted Mack once said to me, he said, ‘you look around the chamber

and wonder how people got there, but don’t ever underestimate them because they’re there,’ and

that’s the same with all these Senators, they’re there, they got there, never underestimate them.

PRESENTER:

But you’re also dealing with the unpredictable, aren’t you here? Because they seem to change their

focus and policy almost on a daily basis.

TREASURER:

Yeah.

PRESENTER:

With Clive Palmer, who’s doing the negotiating with Clive Palmer on behalf of the Government?

TREASURER:

Well, there are various discussions that Mr Palmer said he doesn’t want to talk to us until he gets

extra staff, he already gets eight extra staff, but he wants more employees, that’s his call.

PRESENTER:

That’s still being negotiated, can I ask you? You’ve got young children, there’s a situation with

meningococcal B, there’s a vaccine just become available, there’s a young two year old who died in

Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital last week, I know this isn’t part of your portfolio, but there is talk

of trying to get this on the National Immunisation Program, do you know much about that?

TREASURER:

No I don’t, that’s a first for me.

PRESENTER:

Could you have a look at it?

TREASURER:

I mean, if you can get me the details I’m happy to raise it with Peter Dutton. In fact, I didn’t realise it

but a friend and neighbour of mine actually, their child had meningococcal, and it was only the good

work of the local GP that picked it up. Which, is just, as you know, it’s a terrifying thought for a

parent, particularly for young children.

PRESENTER:

Treasurer, would you agree, that given your Budget that you just handed down, that you are in the

midst of running a giant social experiment, that you’re trying to change Australia?

TREASURER:

No, I don’t set out to change Australia, I mean, the destiny of Australia is in the hands of its people,

the decisions we make today are the ones that are going to shape our future. So in terms of the

Budget we are being up front about the fact that we need to fix it. You know, what is most alarming

for me is, people run around saying there’s no problem. Well, thank God there is no catastrophic

problem at the moment, but God knows what lies ahead, and we need to prepare now for the

economic cyclones of the future. That’s exactly what we did when we were last in government which

allowed us to get through the Global Financial Crisis. This time around, the weather is heavy in the

distant future, we need to prepare now. I am doing everything I can in the interest of the country.

Why would we do this if we were focussed on polls and if we were focussed on popularity? I mean,

why would we actually do this? Well, the only reason is that we’re trying to strengthen the economy,

we’re trying to create jobs.

PRESENTER:

Mr Hockey, we’d like you to get in there and get to work, thank you for your time this morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much guys, thank you.

[ENDS]