The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law

9 June 2009 - 14 September 2010

Transcript of 11/05/2010

Interview with Marius Benson

ABC News Radio

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

SUBJECTS: Budget, Tax Reforms

MARIUS BENSON:

[inaudible] pretty grim for Labor lately.

CHRIS BOWEN:

Well, the Budget is of course framed with the national interest. I don't think people should get too carried away about any particular political impact from the Budget. It's framed in the national interest to ensure that we capitalise on the strengths of the Australian economy as the best performing major advanced economy through the global financial crisis, and we capitalise on that and ensure we're the best performing economy going forward. But it's based on that set of decision frameworks, not on any other.

BENSON:

But the national interest is one thing. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying this is a critical day in turning around the fortunes of the Government itself.

BOWEN:

Well, I'm not going to go through what happened in the caucus meeting, Marius, other than to say the Prime Minister certainly acknowledged that it's been a difficult time in terms of some of the decisions we've had to make. We've had to make some tough decisions and that had an impact on the Government's standing and he was very focused on the job going forward, as was the caucus.

BENSON:

Those tough decisions you refer to, they were tough because you were basically doing backflips on your own policies; it was a toughness of your own making.

BOWEN:

Well, I think you've got to look at the whole picture, Marius: the decision to increase the tobacco tax which I know upset a lot of people.

BENSON:

Very popular, that. It's in the papers today; 75 per cent like it. It's probably one of the few pluses you've pulled out of the political barrel in recent times.

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, I think the people who are in favour of it were unlikely to change their vote on it; the people who are against it, who presumably are smokers, would feel more strongly about it.

BENSON:

Even smokers love it.

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, I can tell you in my electorate and other electorates that people who smoke have found that decision, if you like, frustrating. But we knew that, when we took it, we knew it was the right decision to take to fund our very significant health reforms and that's the only fiscally responsible thing to do.

BENSON:

What are people in your electorate telling you about the Prime Minister, about their loss of enthusiasm for him?

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, I think people in my electorate and elsewhere recognise that the Government did very well through the global financial crisis in keeping our unemployment rate low, in keeping us growing. They also want to see the Government's long term agenda going forward, and that's what we're focused on delivering to them and talking to them about between now and the election.

BENSON:

And the word out from the Government this morning is that you'll be returning to surplus in the Budget much earlier than expected, within a couple of years.

BOWEN:

Well, I'm not going to give you or your listeners a scoop on the Budget.

BENSON:

But that's been put out by the Government, that's clearly a leak from the Government. They want that in the headlines this morning.

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, all I will say is this: when we were in the midst of the global financial crisis, we made the point that stimulating the economy would not only reduce the severity and duration of the downturn, but in the long run would be good for Government finances. In the long run, by reducing the severity and length of the downturn, the Government finances would be in better shape, that you needed to invest in stimulus early in order to ensure that the Government's finances weren't adversely affected for many, many years to come. And the Treasurer will be having more to say about that tonight but we'll just have to wait another few hours before the Treasurer's Budget speech to get the details.

BENSON:

Well, the Treasurer's been putting out headlines already and the word is in a couple of years you'll be out of deficit.

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, as much as you'd like me to, I am not going to give you the Budget figures tonight, other than to say that we have taken a very fiscally conservative and responsible approach through the Budget process. It's been a difficult task in order to keep Government spending growth down but we have been committed to that task as part of our Budget rules, and Marius, you'll see the rest of the figures tonight.

BENSON:

The Opposition says the Budget will be largely a fiction because it's based on, to some extent, a $9 billion miners' tax which is not a real thing yet.

BOWEN:

Well, Marius, of course when we released the Resource Rent Tax proposal we made it clear that we would spend that money on reducing corporate tax for all businesses in Australia, and for infrastructure, and importantly, for setting Australia up for the future through superannuation. So the money raised by the Resource Rent Tax goes to those very important measures to improve investment, to grow jobs by reducing the corporate tax rate, and improve the retirement incomes of Australians through superannuation.

BENSON:

Chris Bowen, many thanks.

BOWEN:

Great pleasure, Marius.