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

21 May 2009

Doorstop Interview

Perth

21 May 2009

SUBJECTS: WA Chamber of Commerce Budget address; Dutton Private Health Insurance Comments; Employee Share Scheme; Tax Bonus; Medicare Rebate; Senator Xenophon/Petrol Discounting

TREASURER:

Can I just say I enjoyed my discussion with the Chamber of Commerce this morning, to be the first Federal Treasurer in many years to come to this great wealth-creating State and talk about our nation-building Budget and our investment in the fundamental infrastructure required here for the recovery. Nation building for recovery, investment in road, rail and port is the central feature of the Budget and it's very important for the Western Australian economy as it has been buffeted by the global recession and of course the downturn in commodity prices. So, it was good to be here and have that discussion with the business people here who are involved in creating wealth in this great State.

Can I also just make a couple of comments about other issues that are around this morning. I notice the Opposition's Health spokesman, Mr Dutton, has said today that under the Liberal Party policy they would ban people with private health insurance from having access to public hospitals. This must be a further example of the Liberal approach to health, which is to Americanise the health system in this country. For many years there had been a bipartisan consensus that we have a dual system. We have Medicare, its absolute commitment to provide services to all, and of course people who are privately insured, as I have done all of my life. But what Mr Dutton appears to be indicating now is the Americanisation of our health care system and it would be a travesty and in fact a debacle if people with private health insurance were banned from access to public hospital treatment, because as many of you know, some of the best facilities, particularly for trauma, are actually located in public hospitals.

JOURNALIST:

You stuffed up on employee share schemes it would seem. Are you going to leave them alone now?

TREASURER:

I certainly don't accept the premise of your question at all. We are strongly supportive of employee share schemes but we are not supportive of those schemes being rorted and exploited so much so that it plunders the public revenue by tens of millions of dollars. We've made it very clear we intend to put an end to those practices. But as we do with any new piece of legislation, tax legislation, we go out and consult with industry, and that is what we're doing. But I know one thing that the average worker wants us to do. They want us to make sure that people on higher incomes are not exploiting the tax system at their expense. And we're going to make sure that that doesn't happen in the case of employee share schemes.

JOURNALIST:

Why should backpackers and prisoners get the stimulus package when people who worked and paid tax as they went but were at the bottom of the threshold?

TREASURER:

People who paid any tax in the relative year received, if they qualified, the Tax Bonus. That's the rules, if people paid tax, that's the way our tax system works, and it works…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

If people paid tax and they were under $100,000 a year they would have received the Tax Bonus, and if they didn't receive it, then I'd like to hear from them and we'll find out why, because if they paid tax they would've received the Tax Bonus.

JOURNALIST:

People who got less tax, paid less tax and salary sacrificed up to $100,000 a year in income and earned up to $200,00 a year and (inaudible)…

TREASURER:

You'll have to provide me…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

No, I'm more than happy for you to provide examples of your claim that that's occurred. People who paid tax in the relative year have received the Bonus. That's the way the tax system has worked since the beginning of time.

JOURNALIST:

I'm talking about people who pay tax but then their tax (inaudible) got all their tax back because they didn't earn enough money during the year. They didn't get the stimulus.

TREASURER:

Well, I'd have to look at the examples you're using. If someone paid some tax in the relative year they qualify for the Tax Bonus. If they didn't pay any tax they didn't qualify for the Tax Bonus.

JOURNALIST:

Are you saying that people who didn't salary sacrifice didn't get the (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

I'm not saying that at all. Until you show me the individual example, I can't comment on what you are saying. What I can give to you is the fundamental organising principle put in place by the Tax Office. That's what I've done.

JOURNALIST:

Rural optometrists say that people in the country are going to miss out on crucial cataract operations under the (inaudible) in Medicare rebate. Is that something that you'll be reconsidering?

TREASURER:

No, we're not reconsidering our measure there. We have taken a number of measures in the health system where excessive amounts of money have been earned by some practitioners at the expense of their patients, and we are going to put an end to that, because I think the Australian public wants value for their dollar. Now, we're happy to consult as we do on any measures in the Budget. We always consult on any decision we take, and we're happy to take the feedback that's coming in and we'll consult.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Xenophon apparently is looking at a private member's bill whereby a scheme would exist where fuel stations could not discount prices. They would all the same price within a 35 km radius. Apparently he's red-hot for it.

TREASURER:

Well, we'll just have to wait and see the detail of it.

Thanks.