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

8 May 2008

INTERVIEW WITH MARIUS BENSON

ABC News Radio

8 May 2008

SUBJECTS: Budget, Nelson/Turnbull Inflation Split, Industrial Relations, Petrol, Nelson/Turnbull Baby Bonus Split

BENSON:

Wayne Swan, the guessing game about the Budget is intensifying. There's all sorts of headlines being written in anticipation it'll be a Robin Hood Budget, a soak the rich Budget, a traditional Labor Budget, a responsible Budget. I suppose you'd settle for responsible?

TREASURER:

I certainly would because we are preparing to deliver a responsible Budget that finds the savings so we can tackle inflation, but also make the room to deliver on all of our election commitments which deliver for working families. Which is why, at the moment, I'm pretty stunned about the attitude of our opponents, the Liberals. They can't seem to agree on whether tackling inflation is a problem or not. You've got Dr Nelson saying that it's a charade, there's no such thing as inflation. You've got Mr Turnbull claiming inflation's a big problem. So, you've got these splits all over the place with the Opposition as well.

BENSON:

Can I just check on that term 'working families', because it seemed to be redefined by the Prime Minister last week? You're a member of a working family, in Labor terms, even if you're not working and you're living by yourself, is that correct?

TREASURER:

Well, we have a very big Australian family. But what we've been talking about in recent times, Marius, is delivering those tax cuts that we promised to those working families who were left behind by the Howard Government over 11 long years. And when inflation is elevated those people are under tremendous financial pressure, also from eight interest rate rises in three years. So, delivering those tax cuts to those people and delivering the additional childcare assistance is particularly important. What we want to do in the Budget is make savings. Make savings so we can deliver those benefits for those working families and still achieve our objective of putting downward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on interest rates. And I guess this does mean the debate about working families and about the resources for working families.

BENSON:

Now, speaking about the pressures on inflation, there is some talk in union circles being reported today that especially in light of the decision by the Victorian Government to allow a 15 per cent pay rise for teachers in Victoria, unions are now looking for pay rises well in excess of the inflation rate, maybe with an inflation rate around four per cent, pay rises of six per cent are reasonable. Are they reasonable expectations in your view?

TREASURER:

Well, our view is a very strong view – that any wage rises have to be linked to productivity at the very core of industrial relations. So, we put forward a system of enterprise bargaining where wage rises have to be linked to productivity. That's the central element of our industrial relations system that we are putting in place.

BENSON:

Petrol is also an issue in inflation, and petrol's in the news this morning because the ACCC has named Coles supermarkets as the price leader in the weekly price petrol cycle at the pump, that Coles-linked supermarkets are leading the way. Is that a concern for you?

TREASURER:

Well, that's why we put the Petrol Commissioner in place in the ACCC to actually deal with these issues out there to make sure that motorists don't pay a cent more when they go to the petrol bowser than they should be paying. This is the work of the Petrol Commissioner, put in place by this Government, at the core of the ACCC. That is the delivery of another election promise from the Rudd Government. And you're seeing the outcome of that in those reports today.

BENSON:

And what do you think of Coles being identified as the price leader?

TREASURER:

Well, I think that's just identifies the value of having the Petrol Commissioner there and I think the public will make their judgement about the behaviour of that particular firm. But unless you have a Petrol Commissioner on the beat in the ACCC, the public are denied that information.

BENSON:

What's your advice to Coles?

TREASURER:

My advice to Coles is to look very closely at what they're up to and look very closely at what the Petrol Commissioner has had to say to them.

BENSON:

Last night on the 7.30 Report, Lindsay Tanner made it pretty clear that the surplus is coming in around the $20 billion mark. Is that correct?

TREASURER:

I couldn't comment on what the surplus is going to be. What I can say is that we will have to make substantial reductions in spending in this Budget, and we are looking at a range of programs to do that because the previous government went on a reckless spending spree. I also noticed yesterday you had Mr Turnbull out there on another television program saying that he favoured taking the baby bonus away from millionaires, whereas you had Dr Nelson, the other day, saying it should go to everybody. So, you've got the Opposition all over the place when it comes to the key issues of inflation and welfare payments in the welfare system.

BENSON:

Wayne Swan, thank you very much.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much.