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

26 June 2008

Doorstop Interview

Parliament House, Canberra

26 June 2008

SUBJECT: Budget Legislation; Sinosteel/Murchison Metals; Democrats

TREASURER:

Well, last night in the House of Representatives we saw a faint glimmer of responsibility from the Liberal and National parties. Last night in the House they relented on blocking essential government measures which were stamping out rorting of welfare benefits, and which were contained in the bill which was delivering some justice to those workers in the not-for-profit sector. But this was only a faint glimmer of economic responsibility, because bills worth $280-odd million are still being delayed in the Senate. And of course the delay of these bills - the impact on the surplus - threatens inflation, threatens higher interest rates. It's essential the Government passes its Budget in full.

So, today the Liberal and National parties could put their hand up and act economically responsibly by bringing those bills to the floor of the Senate and passing them. At the moment they're being delayed deliberately by committee and the cost to the surplus of that delay alone is $280-odd million.

So, they should stop their economic vandalism. They should pass these bills in the Senate so we can have some certainty with the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

Why did you block Sinosteel from acquiring Murchison Metals, at least for the next three months?

TREASURER:

I think you should actually look closely at the stories that are published today because essentially the situation is this: there has been an interim order issued by the Foreign Investment Review Board. That interim order actually establishes a firm timetable for final decision. So, that final decision will be taken in the next 90 days. What there is out there now, issued by the Foreign Investment Review Board, is a firm timetable. I don't comment on these matters whilst they are being handled by the Foreign Investment Review Board and the applicant, because all of those matters are commercial-in-confidence. So, when the final decision is taken, I certainly will be making public comment. All I can say for now is that the Government will take its decisions in Australia's interest under the foreign investment guidelines that we've published. We welcome foreign investment but the national interest guidelines also apply, and I'll be happy to make final comment once a decision has been taken after all the Foreign Investment Review Board processes have gone through in up to 90 days' time.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) ... there a delay involved here?

TREASURER:

As I said, I'm not going to talk about individual cases. But what we have today is an interim order that establishes a very firm timetable - a timetable of 90 days.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) ... you'll face a hostile Senate after July 1.

TREASURER:

We'll work with the new Senate after July 1. But there's one thing we really need - we really need the certainty of having this Budget passed in full. A $22 billion surplus is absolutely essential to put downward pressure on inflation, and in the long term, put downward pressure on interest rates. The economic vandalism we've seen from the Coalition via the Senate, and again in the House of Representatives, should not be tolerated because it really puts uncertainty into the process. We need to have this surplus delivered, it's essential in the fight against inflation, and the Liberal and National parties ought to today finally pass the Budget in full.

JOURNALIST:

You're not going to get the bills through today, though. That's the reality, isn't it?

TREASURER:

I don't think they can be let off the hook for this act of economic vandalism. There is absolutely no reason to be holding these bills up in the Senate and costing the surplus around $280 million just for the delay.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) ... the national interest in terms of foreign investment. What are the risks to the national interest of a Chinese-owned company investing too greatly in our resources sector?

TREASURER:

I don't comment about individual company applications.

JOURNALIST:

More broadly, though.

TREASURER:

Well, more broadly, we published our foreign investment guidelines last February. We set out the criteria by which we will judge individual applications. We take our decisions in Australia's national interest. We will do that - we do that on a case-by-case basis. What the FIRB has done is gazette an interim order; that will take 90 days. So, there is a very firm timetable for the decision and I will be talking about that decision once it's been taken. But in the meantime, matters to do with individual applications are commercial-in-confidence.

JOURNALIST:

Will the Government act on a CSIRO report that says three million workers will need to be retrained when this carbon emissions trading scheme is introduced?

TREASURER:

The Government is already acting when it comes to skills and training, more generally. It's part of the Education Revolution. It's a central part of the proposals that we took to the Australian people at the last election.

JOURNALIST:

But three million workers, are you shocked by those figures?

TREASURER:

I haven't read the report so I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of a report that I haven't read.

JOURNALIST:

One commentator said that the current situation with Sinosteel reflects the fact that the Chinese can play in our sandpit, they just can't own it. Is that a fair assessment?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to comment about individual applications. I've already made my comments about the application of our national interest test. We welcome foreign investment, we welcome it from everywhere, including from China, but we will apply decisions on a case-by-case basis in the national interest.

JOURNALIST:

Today marks the end of the Democrats' 31 years in the Senate. Do you think it's a loss for Australian politics?

TREASURER:

Well, I'm sad to see my old mate, Natasha, go, I've got to say. But over and above that, parties do come and go. No-one's guaranteed a life forever in politics.

JOURNALIST:

Will Labor ever pitch up to Natasha to come and run as a candidate? She'd be a fairly strong candidate, you would've thought, in South Australia.

TREASURER:

I'm not going to buy into that. She's just retiring. She's going to go and spend some time with her family. Good on her.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it was the GST which damaged them beyond repair?

TREASURER:

I don't really want to be out here providing a running commentary on the death of the Democrats really.

JOURNALIST:

A Canberra woman has been charged with child neglect. It's the second such case in a week. Should the Government step in, and if it did, what could it actually do to protect children?

TREASURER:

I think you'll find if you talk to Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, she has a very comprehensive agenda in this area.

Thanks very much.