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

7 February 2011

Interview with Sabra Lane

AM Program, ABC Radio

7 February 2011

SUBJECTS: Disaster Recovery; Flood Levy; Welfare

JOURNALIST:

Wayne Swan, welcome to AM.

TREASURER:

Good morning.

JOURNALIST:

Parliament resumes tomorrow. How confident are you that your flood levy bill will get through parliament?

TREASURER:

Well, I'm looking to parliament coming back, I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to what is a very big reform agenda for Australia. And of course, the biggest task and the most immediate task is rebuilding Queensland, doing the right thing by the people of Queensland and people elsewhere in the country who need our help because of the devastating floods and cyclones that been experienced not just in Queensland but elsewhere as well.

JOURNALIST:

How confident are you that it's going to get through?

TREASURER:

Well we're going to do our best because rebuilding Queensland is the right thing to do. The flood levy is a very important part of that. But we've got a balanced response. We've found savings elsewhere in the budget, but of course we need some additional firepower because the task before us is huge.

But I tell you what, what has been so important in all of this has been the community spirit out there. People volunteering their time, helping their neighbours, driving 1,000 kilometres from Sydney to Brisbane to help people, driving to North and Far North Queensland to be part of the clean up. We've seen such a fantastic community spirit in this country, and I believe Australians do support the levy and the parliament will support the levy.

JOURNALIST:

The costs of Cyclone Yasi haven't been included in that bill of course, and we've got continuing floods in Victoria and the bushfires in Western Australia. How much more money do you think you're going to have to find to pay for damaged infrastructure?

TREASURER:

Well, we'll have to take our time to get an accurate estimate. I've been in North Queensland and Far North Queensland. I've seen the damage in places like Tully and Mission Beach – it's extraordinary. So we've got to take our time to have a look at the size of the bill. That's why we said that when we announced the levy as well as the savings some weeks ago, what we had to do is keep our finances in good shape because we didn't know what would be around the corner. And of course we've now seen that even worse can happen. That's just another reason why we need the levy but we've said then and we say it now that we'll have to change priorities in the Budget, we'll have to find further savings in the Budget.

In three budgets and two mid-year reviews, we've already found and changed priorities in our Budgets to the tune of $80 billion over that period of time, and we'll have to do more given the size of the damage that we're seeing in North Queensland and Far North Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

And that more, you're talking billions here, it won't be millions?

TREASURER:

Well certainly it's going to be a lot of money, it's not just the damage to the towns, of course it is the damage to the critical infrastructure ,and of course it is the damage to some of those critical primary industries as well.

JOURNALIST:

How hard will it be to achieve those additional savings? Are you going to examine cuts to the Education Tax Rebate, for example, and a tightening of the eligibility criteria for family tax benefit payments? Are those the sorts of things you're looking at now?

TREASURER:

Every year in the lead-up to budget we get this type of speculation and I don't respond to it. But I would make this point: that whatever we do, we will do it in a way which is fair - that is very important. I personally have all of my political life been a very strong supporter of the family payment system that we have a system that supports families on modest incomes.

JOURNALIST:

Modest incomes there – that's the word. Do people earning $150,000 deserve a helping hand from the Government?

TREASURER:

The next point I would make is that I don't go on and speculate about the nature of what might be done.

JOURNALIST:

Will welfare reform be the hallmark of this year's budget?

TREASURER:

Well welfare reform is ongoing under this government. And we already have a pretty impressive record. But we've done in the past and what we will continue to do in the future is to remove those roadblocks in the system which may impede participation in the workforce. That's always important. It's also important that people have incentive to participate, that when they work hard, they get an extra dollar in their hand. All of these things are important, and reform in this area has been ongoing over the last three years

JOURNALIST:

On the flood levy bill, Senators Fielding and Xenophon are still uncommitted and you need those two guys across the line to get the levy through.

TREASURER:

Well, we'll just keep working at it. This is the right thing for Queensland, it's the right thing for Australia. It is fair and most importantly it gives us the capacity to do the right thing by the people in Queensland, but keep our economy strong and our public finances strong.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got the numbers?

TREASURER:

Well, we're keeping working at it.