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

9 December 2008

Interview with Steve Price

Radio 2UE, Sydney

9 December 2008

SUBJECTS: Economic Security Strategy Payments; Jobs; Newspoll; CPRS White Paper

PRICE:

The Rudd Government popularity has soared and Malcolm Turnbull's figures have slumped. Bad news this is for an Opposition, I think. And up to now they've convinced themselves this might be a one-term Labor Government. Well, they can forget that. And I would imagine that Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello are just sitting back smiling at how an uncomfortable position Malcolm Turnbull is in. How much has this got to do with the rescue package announced by the Federal Government? And the cheques started arriving in the post this week. Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, is on the line. Good to talk to you again.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Steve. How are you going?

PRICE:

I'm fine, thanks. You might have heard in that commercial there, Virgin Blue is urging people to travel. We had Myer, full page ads in the newspapers yesterday calling Kevin their Santa. Is that the sort of mood that you want to encourage with those cheques?

TREASURER:

I certainly think it's vital that families and pensioners spend responsibly because we do need that to strengthen the economy and to support jobs. So, that's the whole point of the Economic Security Strategy - to give some money, some additional money to pensioners who've been doing it tough, and carers, and also to families to spend responsibly. It's an important time for the economy, and many of those have been battling to make ends meet. I'm sure they can think of thousands of ways to spend that money responsibly. As I move around my electorate there are plenty of people out there that have got plans for the money and they'll be spending it responsibly, and we're encouraging them to do that because it will support Aussie jobs.

PRICE:

You and I have said this before, it's not our business to tell people how to spend their money.

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

PRICE:

But how risky is the strategy, given that a whole lot of that money might end up being spent on imported electrical goods?

TREASURER:

Steve, I don't think it's a risky strategy at all. This strategy is absolutely essential given the scope and the size of the global financial crisis and its impact on this country. It is quite dramatic. You've seen the falls on the stock market, the impact upon confidence. What we want to do with this strategy is to support people out there who will spend responsibly and in so doing, they'll be supporting Australian jobs.

PRICE:

How does it work that will mean jobs will be protected? I mean, we have already seen a raft of sackings across Australia. We just hope that doesn't get worse, but I get a sense from what you're saying is you fear it may next year. How do you keep people in work?

TREASURER:

We're certainly not immune from the fallout of the global financial crisis, and you can see its impact now when it comes to, for example, employment in parts of the financial services sector. And that's why this strategy is so important right now. It is highly targeted at people who have a higher propensity to spend, but to spend on those things that are essential for life. Families, for example, with children, they've been doing it pretty tough through the year and therefore we think it's important that this money will strengthen the economy precisely at the time that we are beginning to feel the further impact of the evolution of the global financial crisis.

PRICE:

There's not much you can do, though, is there, if the resources boom stalls and growth continues to stall and we start losing jobs in the mining sector?

TREASURER:

Well Steve, we're going to tackle this global financial crisis head-on. We've made that very clear. There will certainly be an impact in that sector. Myself and Simon Crean were in China just over the weekend. There's certainly going to be an impact in that sector but that's what makes this Economic Security Strategy all the more important at this time.

PRICE:

Do you take comfort from those polls today that would indicate that the electorate supports what you're doing?

TREASURER:

I don't think anybody at the moment is particularly interested in opinion polling. What they want their leaders to do...

PRICE:

Malcolm Turnbull might be.

TREASURER:

Well, what they want their leaders to do is to lead and to tackle the challenges head-on. That's what Kevin Rudd and the team have been doing. And as you know, Malcolm Turnbull and his team have been entirely negative about the Economic Security Strategy, the Bank Guarantee and so on, and I don't think that's particularly appreciated by the Australian public who want their leadership to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And increasingly, Malcolm Turnbull is part of the problem.

PRICE:

Those polls do show that you are retaining the popularity that you had back around the election. That must give you, though, some confidence that the electorate thinks that you are capable of managing the economy. That was one of the big questions when you were elected as to whether people had confidence that you could do that?

TREASURER:

Well Steve, opinion polls come and go. What really counts in the end is whether people assess that you are pursuing the national interest. And we have been solely focussed during this global financial crisis on pursuing the national interest, and the politics of that comes last by a long, long way as far as we're concerned.

PRICE:

Just one quick question, I know you've got to go. Cabinet, it's reported, that it will approve greenhouse gas targets for 2020 next week. Is that right?

TREASURER:

Well certainly we will be announcing the White Paper early next week. This has been the subject of intense discussion in the community and within our Cabinet over a long period of time. But sadly I can't announce the end point of those deliberations on your program this morning.

PRICE:

But we will know next week what those targets will be?

TREASURER:

You will certainly know next week the White Paper proposals that we said we would bring forward this year and they will be all out there next week, including the target.

PRICE:

Has your thinking on that changed given what's happened around the world?

TREASURER:

I think the underlying fundamentals of what we're doing must proceed, and certainly we do take into account current economic conditions. But the most important thing to do is to prepare the country for a carbon-constrained economy which will impact also upon employment, and we've had an eye right through this whole discussion about how we can strengthen employment in Australia for the long-term and how we can best position Australia given the way this issue will evolve over the next few years and the decades beyond.

PRICE:

Appreciate you time. Thanks for your help this year. I appreciate it.

TREASURER:

Good to talk to you.