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 09/09/2010

Interview with Steve Price

MTR

Thursday, 9 September 2010

SUBJECTS: Independents' decision, health and hospitals funding, Minerals Resource Rent Tax, tax summit, Cabinet, Greens, Federal Labor campaign

STEVE PRICE:

Minister, good to talk to you again.

CHRIS BOWEN:

And you, Steve. Good morning.

PRICE:

You're pleased, obviously, the way that the Independents decided to go the day before yesterday and you're ready to govern the country again?

BOWEN:

Yeah, absolutely. I think they acted in the national interest for good, stable government and we're prepared to deliver that. We want to deliver on what we said we would in the election campaign and we want to deliver a Parliament for three years with good, stable government over those three years.

PRICE:

Do you have a communications issue, this issue that a lot of the newspapers are suggesting that to funnel money heavily into those Independents' seats ignores other areas of Australia? And there's some examples – I know you won't have seen them – in the Melbourne Herald Sun today. But the people commenting – and they've got a doctor and they've got a nurse and they've got a local farmer – seem to be confusing lack of action by state governments with federal government areas of concern. So they're blaming you for what the state governments are not doing.

BOWEN:

Well, there's always an issue about that; there's always an issue about which government's responsible for various things. I think the key point is this, Steve: you have to look at our total program in context. Yes, we've made commitments to regional areas and I think that's an appropriate thing to do. And it's important to note that Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott didn't ask for particular things for their particular seats. They didn't say, 'Look, you know, can you build this in Tamworth or this in Port Macquarie?' They asked for more of a focus on regional areas across the country.

PRICE:

So that hospital funding in those two areas is just incidental, is it?

BOWEN:

Well, what we've said is that we will bring forward the health and hospitals next round and that will be open for all regional areas to apply for. But you've got to see that in context, Steve, of our 50 per cent increase in hospital funding which applies to the whole country. So, you know, we are putting money in across the country and let's talk about hospitals and health, for example, because it's a good example; we're doing that across the country. Now, the Independents who represent rural and regional areas, I think, very responsibly have said, 'Well, look, there are particular pressures on rural and regional hospitals. We'd like to see an extra focus on that'. And that's why we've said, 'Well, let's bring forward the health and hospitals funding round and let's make it applicable for rural and regional areas.'

PRICE:

I mean, you and I are suburban dwellers but I think we both go to the country enough to know that rural Australia has for a long time, through a lot of governments, not had a fair deal in terms of some of its infrastructure.

BOWEN:

I don't think anybody who lives in the city would deny that somebody who lives in the country deserves to have access to a really good hospital.

PRICE:

They pay the same taxes as you and me.

BOWEN:

Now, obviously you're always going to have, you know, certain health services that are only available in capital cities. That's always going to be the way, but you've got to be able to provide very good services in rural and regional hospitals. And I don't think anybody objectively, regardless of whether you live in Bourke Street or Bourke, would disagree with that.

PRICE:

The Opposition leapt on this idea yesterday that already there's cracks appearing in your relationship with the Independents over the suggestion that the super profits mining tax would not be included your now to be held tax summit. Are there cracks appearing?

BOWEN:

No, and I think Tony Windsor made that clear yesterday afternoon. He said, 'No, it's not a crack.' This is just frankly the Opposition making a bit of mischief. We've been very clear about this, Steve: we think that the Minerals Resource Rent Tax is important, it's part of our agenda and we'll put it to the Parliament. And obviously in this environment we need to get it through the House of Representatives and the Senate, and that will involve discussions with all sorts of crossbenchers. But it's our policy and we're sticking to it, and it's an important one. What people want to raise at the tax summit is up to them, but the Minerals Resource Rent Tax is part of our policy because it funds the reduction in the corporate tax rate, the tax breaks on superannuation and the infrastructure fund; all things that we think are important.

PRICE:

When do you expect your new frontbench line up to be announced?

BOWEN:

Look, to be honest, Steve, I'm not sure. The Prime Minister's going through that at the moment. It's always a bit of a complex task, constructing a Cabinet and a ministry. The Prime Minister's working away on it but I'm not sure when she'll be in a position to finalise that.

PRICE:

You'd welcome Kevin Rudd back into the team?

BOWEN:

Yes, Julia's made it clear that he'll be playing a very senior role and I think that's appropriate. He's still got a lot to contribute to the country.

PRICE:

How do you think your relationship with the Greens is going to go, given that come the middle of next year they have control of the Senate?

BOWEN:

Well, look, there'll be things that we agree on and there'll be things that we disagree on. The Greens and the Government entered into an agreement on things which I think the vast majority of people, reasonable people, would say are sensible: things like a debates commission so we don't go through the sort of circus we did in the last election of Tony Abbott calling for a debate and then rejecting a debate so that there's an independent process to go to that; so that there's a parliamentary budget office so that, again, we don't have the sort of debacle we had of the Liberal Party refusing to put their costings in to the Treasury; all sorts of sensible things on other matters. There'll be times where the Greens and the Government agree; there'll be times when we disagree. They're not part of the Government. They've agreed to provide support for the Government on supply and confidence, and we've agreed to some of those reforms. But we're different parties with some common beliefs but with other areas where we disagree on many things.

PRICE:

Just finally, Chris, there's always fallout after elections. Do you think that your national secretary Karl Bitar will survive, given the campaign was widely seen as not being great?

BOWEN:

Look, Steve, I'm a Cabinet Minister; I'm not involved in the organisational side of things and I think our focus at the moment is on building a stable government. There'll be a review which goes to the performance of the campaign and what we did right and what we did wrong, you know, what could have been done better here and there, and that will be a thorough review and that'll be done, you know, in the appropriate way at the appropriate time. I think there were a lot of things we did right in the campaign. Clearly we had some difficult days, but it's how you respond to those difficult days that counts at the end.

PRICE:

Good to catch up and talk about superannuation next time.

BOWEN:

Love to.

PRICE:

Thanks a lot. Chris Bowen there, Financial Services Minister.