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Transcript of interview with Jon Faine: ABC 774 Melbourne: 24 June 2011: National Broadband Network; Cabinet; Economic reform; Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Employment; Budget 2011



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of

THE HON WAYNE SWAN MP Deputy Prime Minister Treasurer

SENATOR THE HON STEPHEN CONROY Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

 

INTERVIEW WITH JON FAINE ABC 774 MELBOURNE

24 June 2011

E&OE

SUBJECTS: National Broadband Network; Cabinet; Economic reform; Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Employment; Budget 2011.

FAINE: Good morning to you Wayne Swan.

TREASURER: Good morning Jon, it is great to be with you.

FAINE: I have a surprise guest for you in the Melbourne studios gatecrashing my program is the Senator from Victoria, the Labor Party Senator, Stephen Conroy, who is a Ministerial colleague with you Wayne Swan. Good morning to you Senator Conroy.

CONROY: G’day Jon, g’day Swanny.

TREASURER: Well, it’s really good that’s Steve’s there because it was a very big day we had yesterday in Canberra. It’s going to make a big difference for Australia getting those NBN arrangements in place.

FAINE: It gives me a chance to ask both of you the same question though as Senator Conroy has gatecrashed my studio. Wayne Swan, when did you last have a one-on-one conversation with Kevin Rudd?

TREASURER: I think I had a brief conversation with him about a week ago. I talk to all of my cabinet colleagues. I’ve spent a lot more time with Senator Conroy in the last couple of weeks however, because we’ve been working on the NBN.

FAINE: It’s a dysfunctional relationship that you all have with your former leader now, is it not?

TREASURER: No I don’t accept that at all. I think our Cabinet works very well. It works professionally. I think we all have very good relationships with each other because what we’re on about is making a difference for Australia.

FAINE: And you’ve got Kevin Rudd cardboard cut outs being toted around the Parliament as the Liberal Party make hay out of your particular political agony this anniversary?

TREASURER: Jon, I think it says more about Joe Hockey that he’s carting cardboard cut outs around the Parliament than the fact that he doesn't have any policy whatsoever. You know, when it comes to policy he’s just an empty shell.

FAINE: Senator Conroy, when did you last have a one-on-one conversation with Kevin Rudd?

CONROY: Look, a couple of days ago. We’ve had a number of chats after Cabinet, he’s been chatting with me about a couple of portfolio issues that we’re working on together, and he continues to make a valuable contribution.

FAINE: It’s to every observer, every independent observer, a dysfunctional front bench?

CONROY: Look that’s not the case at all. Wayne was absolutely right. Cabinet works very professionally. That’s not to say people haven’t had differences in the past as you know. You’ve often talked to me about some of the differences I’ve had with some of the other front bench colleagues, but the Cabinet works professionally because we’re committed to driving the Budget back to surplus because that’s what this country needs. We’re committed to rolling out the National Broadband Network. We’re committed to resolving the mining tax industry and the climate change debate. We’re committed to resolving those issues, and people put aside their personal differences to deal with those issues that Australians know need to be fixed.

FAINE: Wayne Swan the mining industry continue to be the undermining industry, they continue to attempt to undermine your credentials as Federal Treasurer and showing every sign of achieving some success on that front?

TREASURER: Well, I don't accept that for one minute. The MRRT design is now in draft legislation; we reached agreement with the industry on that last year. It is out there for further consultation with the business community. It will go to Parliament later in the year. It’s a very important piece of legislation because it will provide the revenue stream to make sure we build up national savings and increase the superannuation accounts of low income Australians. It will provide very significant tax cuts for small business. It’s a very important piece of legislation on which we’ve made great progress.

But Jon, last night we got the Budget bills through the Senate and through the Parliament. This is very important. Bringing the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13, continuing to see strong employment growth in Australia - 250,000 jobs in the past year - these are all very substantial achievements, and we have got through this Parliament and through the House of Representatives almost 150 bills. So I think we’re making a lot of progress. So I don't accept your characterisation of the Government for one second.

FAINE: The high Australian dollar continues, according to the trend lines, to cost us jobs. No reaction. No change in policy settings. No suggestion from you or your colleagues that you’re dealing with major policy reform. All the Henry Review recommendations put in the ‘too hard’ basket. Instead you cave in to a campaign from the mining industry?

TREASURER: Well, I don't accept any of those characterisations Jon. We have been talking about the patchwork economy, we’ve been talking about the mining boom and what we must do in terms of policy to respond to it, and the MRRT is part of that policy response.

And of course, the Budget went to the core of how we maximise the opportunities which will flow from mining boom mark II. And of course, that is why it had such an emphasis on skills and workforce participation so that we spread the opportunities of the boom. And of course, the Budget talked extensively about the impacts and the structural changes on the Australian economy of a higher dollar which flows from, in the first instance, the strength of our economy, but also the fact that our terms of trade are at 140 year highs. All of those things were at the core of the Budget and have been at the core of economic policy making for the past year.

And you’ll have to look at the record - 250,000 jobs created in the past year, and of course, a really strong investment pipeline into resources in particular.

FAINE: And my time with you is very limited, but final question - whilst missing out on the economic reform opportunities available to you, you also have disappointed the Labor faithful by failing to deal with social reform by continuing to oppose gay marriage, mucking up refugee resettlement and disappointing people both in the business community as well as the Labor heartland. It is not exactly a great first year?

TREASURER: Jon, I don't accept that characterisation. Very substantial economic reform, very substantial job outcomes, and of course, if you want to talk about social reform look at the mental health package in the Budget. The Budget was strongly supported by the business community, strongly supported by the community sector, and of course, the mental health package strongly supported right across Australia. I’ve rarely seen a Budget which has had stronger community support from business on the one hand for example, and from community groups on the other, and unions.

FAINE: I’m grateful to you for your time this morning, and thank you.

(Ends)