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Transcript of interview with David Speers: Sky News Agenda: 13 April 2016: Bill Shorten and Labor's $100 billion in new taxes; Budget 2016; Bill Shorten playing politics on Royal Commission; ABCC; ASIC; Financial System Inquiry; Electorate of Mackellar; Prime Minister's visit to China

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Treasurer




Subjects: Bill Shorten and Labor’s $100 billion in new taxes; Budget 2016; Bill Shorten playing politics on Royal Commission; ABCC; ASIC; Financial System Inquiry; Electorate of Mackellar; Prime Minister’s visit to China.

DAVID SPEERS: Joining us now is Treasurer Scott Morrison, live from Sydney. A very good afternoon to you, Treasurer. Thank you for joining us. Can I just start on company tax? Today we've seen Bill Shorten back a public letter, an open letter from union leaders, academics and others saying now is not the time for a company tax cut based on a personal income tax cut as well. Instead, money should be spent on health and education. Do you accept at all that now is not a good time to be cutting company tax?

TREASURER: Well, Bill Shorten always believes he should be taxing people more and that's what that letter says. What that letter says is that Australians should be taxed more and more and more. And Bill Shorten agrees with them and he agrees with them so much that he's already announced that over the next ten years, if he is elected, he would increase the tax burden on the Australian economy by over $100 billion. So, I'm not surprised that Bill Shorten agrees with that view. It is his view. He is the architect of that view, as is Chris Bowen. They believe Australians are not paying enough tax and if they are elected they'll increase the tax burden on Australia by $100 billion over ten years and that's their own figures and it’s actually their boast.

SPEERS: Well, his point on bigger companies though, is that a company tax cut would deliver them, particularly the banks, he highlights, a big windfall. It would, wouldn't it?

TREASURER: The Budget is on May 3. Bill Shorten is the one who is saying that he wants to increase tax. We will outline our measures on May 3 in the Budget and it is only a few weeks away now. So, I look forward to announcing our measures. What our measures will be doing will be driving investment, they will be driving growth, they will be driving jobs. And you can't drive investment, growth and jobs by increasing the tax burden on the Australian economy by over $100 billion. That's Bill Shorten's plan. It's not a good plan.

SPEERS: But to drive investment and jobs, I appreciate you'll announce on May 3 what's in the Budget, but can you guarantee a company tax cut in principle would do that and how do you ensure it's not simply lining the pockets of shareholders?


TREASURER: Well, David, I know you'd like to draw me on what measures are in the Budget. But the Budget measures will be announced on May 3 and what our Budget measures will be designed to do is to drive jobs and growth - not to drive taxes and spending.

SPEERS: Alright. Now, Labor is of course calling for a royal commission into the banks as well. You've argued that ASIC has more than enough powers, more powers than a royal commission, in fact, to tackle wrong doing…

TREASURER: It's true.

SPEERS: …in the banks. Are you willing to actually restore some of the funding that was taken out of ASIC - $120 million, and then a further efficiency dividend on top of that in the 2014 Budget?

TREASURER: Let's be clear over the history. All agencies, whether it is ASIC or anyone else was subject to efficiency dividends under this Government as they were under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. Efficiency dividends are designed to do just that with the significant deficit we have been confronted with which was left for us by the previous government then you cut your cloth to suit your circumstances. But in relation to ASIC, what we did about a year ago in July of last year, is we instigated a capability review of ASIC. So, at the time that the Labor Party was voting against a royal commission into the banking and financial sector, what we were doing, the action we were taking, was to initiate a capability review of ASIC. That process has been working through now for some time. We're now working through our response to that review with ASIC and I've had a meeting today with Greg Medcraft about those issues, a further meeting on these types of things, as Greg has been also meeting with the Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer as well. We're working through those issues to ensure that ASIC has the capability and the forward plan and the focus that's necessary for them to fulfil their charter. Now, they do have more than the powers of a royal commission. I mean, Chris Bowen has been caught completely out on this today. He doesn't understand what the powers of ASIC are. I'm not surprised he's called for a royal commission when he doesn't already understand that he pretty much already has one in the form of ASIC. I think he's shown a dreadful lack of understanding about the powers of ASIC. I think that's exposed his knowledge on these very important issues. It once again shows that Labor is just playing politics with this, David. On the eve on an election, having not talked about this, even voting against it, and not talking about it when the Financial System Inquiry came up - now, on the eve of an election they want to do stunts. Well, that doesn't surprise me.

SPEERS: Can I just pick up on your talks today with Greg Medcraft from ASIC. Is that just talking about the resourcing, about the funding of ASIC, or are you also talking about the powers that it has, giving it more teeth potentially?

TREASURER: We've already acted in those areas in our response to the Financial System Inquiry, adopting 43 of those 44 recommendations and we've been progressing all of those. Remember, this is the Financial System Inquiry that Labor refused to do when they were in government. They actually rejected the advice of Treasury to have a financial system inquiry when they were in government. Now, we've undertaken that inquiry. We've adopted, overwhelmingly, the recommendations that are in that report and we're moving forward. Around a year ago, as I said, in July we initiated the capability review of ASIC to ensure that


it has the capability not only to follow through on these recommendations, obviously, but on its broader charter. Look, it's been a very busy organisation. In the last five years they've been able to get outcomes of over $550 million in settlements for agreed parties. They've looked into matters which aren't necessarily breaches of law but they've investigated matters off their own bat to ensure that they can get outcomes for people who have been aggrieved. So, ASIC is the cop on the beat. What we don't have is a cop on the beat in the building and construction industry. That's what this is about. Bill Shorten does not want to have to defend lawlessness and criminal behaviour in the construction industry next week. So, he's thrown this up in the air as a massive weapon of distraction.

SPEERS: Ok, just a couple of quick ones, The Australian newspaper reports you're working behind the scenes to stop Bronwyn Bishop getting preselected again in Mackellar - is that true?


SPEERS: No phone calls, no lobbying, no pushing, no backing of another candidate?

TREASURER: No. Could I be clearer?

SPEERS: Ok, and a final one. That is clear. We're here in China, of course, and the PM arrives here tomorrow morning. There's great potential and great stories on the trade front but some concerns, as you know, about steel. What do you think about what China's doing? Would you say it has been dumping cheap steel on the market and is this being tackled by the Australian Government at the right level?

TREASURER: Well, Christopher Pyne, I think, has taken some very strong steps on the anti-dumping issues, particularly as it relates to steel. He's been talking about those particularly over the last few weeks in relation to matters on Arrium and I commend him for that very strong work. David, wherever you look, whether it's on dealing constructively and with difficult issues like with Arrium or Queensland Nickel or any of these issues, or working through the issues that are occurring in our banking and financial system. We understand there are issues there and a lot of the issues that arose came up as a result of what happened with the Comm Bank takeover of Bankwest and the issues that have been going through the PJC. We understand there are real issues around all of that. But what you do is you just get on and do the job. For the last two and a half years as a Government that's what we've been doing; initiating the Financial System Inquiry, doing the capability review of ASIC, looking at the way that we can better improve the laws. Here’s another one, we're the ones who took action and took the decision on the misuse of market power out of the Harper Review. That was designed to ensure that smaller companies, medium-sized companies, got a more level playing field when dealing with large companies, including with the banks. The Labor Party opposed that decision. They backed the alternative view which was to leave section 46 as it is. We took the view which we thought was better for competition, and ensured greater accountability in our markets, including our financial markets and the Labor Party did what they did. There is no consistency in the positions they're taking on these matters. The one thing they are consistent on, David, they will increase your tax. That's their plan.


SPEERS: Ok. Alright. Treasurer Scott Morrison, we’ll have to leave it there, thank you for joining us this afternoon.

TREASURER: Thanks David.


Further information: Julian Leembruggen 0400 813 253 or Kate Williams 0429 584 675