The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

12 March 2008

Interview with Alexander Kirk

ABC Radio AM Program

12 March 2008

SUBJECTS: Carer's Bonus; ACTU Wage Claim; Skills Crisis

KIRK:

Treasurer, can carers and seniors now rest assured that from now on they can count on the extra money every year?

TREASURER:

Well, all bonuses will be paid upfront this year. We've made that very clear that carers will not be a dollar worse off. We've also made it very clear that as we proceed into the future we want to put in place a more sustainable system for the future in the best interests of carers.

KIRK:

Why couldn't you say this five days ago when, you know, the first report surfaced that the bonuses would be scrapped instead of allowing the uncertainty and the angst to fester?

TREASURER:

Well, there's obviously been a very big campaign waged. You see, all details of the Budget are always announced on Budget night. And as you know, the previous government sat around the Cabinet table last year and didn't allocate a single dollar for bonuses in the forthcoming year. So, we decided to end the angst, if you like, and the concern in the community by guaranteeing all of those bonuses for this year but I think making the most important commitment to look at this and make it sustainable in the long-term. You see, we put our bona fides on the table right at the beginning of this year when we made the commitment to the additional utilities allowance, a permanent payment that the previous government could never allocate any significant funding for.

KIRK:

Another call on Commonwealth funding has been made by the unions on behalf of the one and a half million lowest paid workers in Australia. Will the Government back the ACTU's $26.00 a week wage rise?

TREASURER:

We will be making our own submission to the Fair Pay Commission and we will be mindful of the economic circumstances that we are in, as well as the fact that many people who are lowly paid are also facing significant costs of living pressures.

KIRK:

You've called for wage restraint to help the Government deal with inflation. Do you consider $26.00 a week for the lowest paid is responsible and represents wage restraint?

TREASURER:

Well, I think we would be calling for a measured increase which is mindful, on the one hand, of cost of living pressures, but on the other, of the broader economic circumstances, because we do have a fight against inflation on our hands. We have called for restraint right across the board but we are putting in place income tax relief for low and middle income earners in this community. We are also committed to significant assistance when it comes to childcare costs and so on. We understand people on modest incomes are doing it tough and that's why we are so committed to the tax cuts which go predominately to low and middle income earners.

KIRK:

Your Opposition number, Malcolm Turnbull, is saying today that Australia doesn't have a chronic skills crisis, as claimed by Labor, because the high wage pressures aren't being represented right across the economy. Does he have a point?

TREASURER:

I think Malcolm Turnbull's got his head in the sand.  I don't know what planet he's living on.  If he doesn't think that there are skills shortages right across Australia from small firms through to large firms then he is simply completely and hopelessly out of touch.

KIRK:

But not all the areas of the economy, not all skills areas, are facing high wage pressures, therefore there is no skills crisis right across the board, is there?

TREASURER:

There is a very substantial skills crisis in Australia, and on top of that, there are labour shortages in particular industries.  These chronic skills shortages are responsible partly for the elevated level of inflation that he denies Australia is experiencing.  This guy is completely out of touch and he simply won't front up to the central economic challenges that the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Treasury have identified as a primary source of inflation and a challenge to growth.