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Transcript of interview with Tim Webster: Radio 2UE, Sydney: 4 February 2009: Securing our economic future.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH

4 February 2009

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP INTERVIEW WITH TIM WEBSTER RADIO 2UE, SYDNEY

Subjects: Securing our economic future.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………...

WEBSTER:

Malcolm Turnbull is on the line now. Hi thanks for your time again.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah hi Tim. Great to be with you.

WEBSTER:

Are you playing politics with this or are you genuinely concerned about this package?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We’re very concerned. We’re standing up for what is right. Tim I know that the position we’re taking by voting against this package is going to be unpopular. I know we will get bad polling…

WEBSTER:

You will.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

…but it is right. Because we’re standing up not for ourselves but for our children and their children, because the debt Mr Rudd is running up will have to be paid off by them.

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WEBSTER:

Alright now the ideological side of it I’ve been mentioning for the last couple of days, we’re going back to this silly old thing of social democrat versus neoliberals. Putting that aside…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’ve never heard of a neoliberal by the way, until Mr Rudd said I was one.

WEBSTER:

In the essay, I thought it was a fascinating, fascinating essay, wasn’t it? So putting that aside, and I’d really like to, economically why is it not a benefit to inject all of this money into the economy, particularly things like infrastructure and building?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Tim firstly the size of the package in our view is too big at this time. We’ve got to remember that every dollar we spend today is going to have to be paid for. Right now the budget is in deficit so every extra billion dollars that is spent is going to go onto the national debt which future tax payers, those kids I talked about, are going to have to pay off in the future. So therefore you shouldn’t spend any more money than is absolutely necessary.

We think $42 billion is more than we should or need to be spending at the moment. We have suggested that we should spend between $15 billion and $20 billion; we think that’s about the right approach. That’s a judgement call. There isn’t, you know, a mathematical formula that tells you the precise answer. But of course it leaves some more ammunition, some more shots in the locker to use later if needed. So that’s the first point.

Secondly we do welcome investment in infrastructure. It has got to be effective and you’ve got to make sure the infrastructure you invest in is infrastructure that is going to give you the best outcome. Now in this programme, this $14 billion is directed mostly to assembly halls and libraries in primary schools. Now we are very committed to spending money on schools and as you know…

WEBSTER:

We should, yeah.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

…we spent a lot on schools when we were in government. But $14 billion is a lot to try and spend on primary schools, not all of it on primary schools but most of it, over the next few years. We think a more realistic approach would be to reinstate and expand the Coalition’s Investing in Our Schools programme which was very effective and very popular. And put a smaller financial target on that. We’ve suggested around

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$3 billion, and that over three years, that would be a significant amount and of course you can increase it if you choose to do so.

WEBSTER:

Okay now the $10.4 billion stimulus package over Christmas, now the figures are out saying that retail sales are up, a record $19.2 billion. That would seem to suggest that Mr Rudd’s package over Christmas worked.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it seems to suggest that people spent more money over Christmas but there are a couple a things you’ve got to bear in mind. Firstly was that just a one-off sugar hit? Number two, a lot of people had more money in their pocket by Christmas time because those people who hadn’t lost their jobs or whose businesses hadn’t declined were paying less for petrol and they were paying lower interest rates. So there was more money in the system anyway. Now most economists estimate - and we won’t know until all the final numbers are in - estimate that most, two-thirds in fact of that money was in fact saved. And therein lies the problem. If you give people one off payments, windfall payments at a time of economic uncertainty they are more likely to save it…

WEBSTER:

Yeah.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

…or use it to pay down debt. And that’s why we think that a better approach is to bring forward the tax cuts from 2010.

WEBSTER:

I have to say that’s been troubling me. That’s been troubling me because you know you had those awful figures that quite a few hundred million dollars of it ended up in the pokies.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well no doubt. I’m sure most people used the money wisely but obviously a percentage did not.

WEBSTER:

Now if that’s the case, is having a second, if you like, mini budget in early February too early?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well this is a sort of a budget you have when you’re not having a budget I suppose. The Prime Minister would do well to have a more comprehensive approach but this is

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a very substantial economic commitment, financial commitment. It’s difficult to see what he could do in the budget that would match this in terms of its scale. But the real issue though Tim is that we are not opposed to a stimulus. And we don’t think, unlike the Prime Minister, we don’t think we have all the answers. We have views about the size of the package and its composition and we want to sit down with the Government and discuss it and go through it and see if we can agree on measures that will have the most effective outcome.

Now the Prime Minister introduced this proposal yesterday and gave us a few hours notice of it, and said we had 48 hours to pass it through the House and the Senate or else. $42 billion in 48 hours, now just think about it.

WEBSTER:

Yeah.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It is a staggering amount of money.

WEBSTER:

It sure is.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

To think that the Parliament of Australia should just wave it through with that scant consideration is an insult to the Parliament and an insult to the Australians who paid the taxes and who will have to pay that money off in due course.

WEBSTER:

Okay, so that’s it, voting against it.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We are indeed but we are very open to, in fact we are seeking to consult with the Government, and what we would like to do is to reach an agreement on a package that would be a more effective one. We are not saying, as far as our proposal is concerned, take it or leave it, but we wanted to put down some indication of our views both as to the scale and the composition so that people had an understanding of where we were coming from on this important issue.

WEBSTER:

Okay, thanks for your time.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Thanks Tim.

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[ends]