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

12 May 2011

Doorstop Interview

Parliament House

12 May 2011

SUBJECTS: Budget 2011-13; Opposition Leader's Reply; Commonwealth Government Securities

TREASURER:

I just wanted to say a couple of things today. I mean, today is D-Day for Tony Abbott. He should support the surplus. If he doesn't he'll put pressure on the cost of living and that will impact on Australian families.

Secondly, I'd like to say I'm a very, very strong supporter of the family payments system. Always have been and always will be. But in this Budget we are making savings. Making savings is important because we bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13, build surpluses after that and in so doing that we make sure we don't add cost of living pressures on Australian families. That's why this Budget is so important.

Mr Hockey said the Liberals can come back to surplus next year. Well, Tony Abbott should tell us how tonight, but they can't have it both ways. They can't complain it's too tough on the one hand and on the other hand go around making all sorts of claims that there should be savings. Where do they stand? They're walking both sides of the street.

JOURNALIST:

What do you want to see from Tony Abbott tonight?

TREASURER:

What I want to see form Tony Abbott tonight is where is he going to find the savings to bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13 and build surpluses after that? Already they're out there opposing Government savings. Where does he stand? He's got an obligation tonight to put down the marker as to where he would make the savings to bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13. Joe Hockey has already said that he can bring it back a year earlier than that. Well, we'd like to see that tonight.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan the relentless focus on Mr Abbott. Doesn't it give the distinct impression that the Government is a little bit skittish about him and his position in the polls?

TREASURER:

Hardly. We're having a conversation with the Australian people about how we sustain prosperity, create jobs, spread that opportunity around to every corner of our country and to every postcode. This is a really important discussion. At the core of our Budget is how we sustain prosperity, living standards, and jobs. Mr Abbott pretends to be an alternative Prime Minister but what we need to see tonight is an alternative Budget but, of course I don't think we're going to see that because they can't do their sums. They can't do their sums and that was demonstrated last year when the departments of Treasury of Finance found an $11 billion hole in their alleged savings. So what we want to see tonight is the savings because savings are important to bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, you copped a lot of flack last time you lifted the debt ceiling. Are you expecting a similar campaign this time?

TREASURER:

Well, I've got to say I'm at a loss to understand some of the statements that the Opposition has been making about lifting the borrowing requirement. It has been there in the Budget update last year. It sits there on the website of the AOFM. The reason we are lifting the borrowing requirement is that there has been an impact from the natural disasters on our Budget bottom line. I spoke about those on Tuesday night. There have been revenue write-downs greater than we expected from the global financial crisis and the global recession.

Now of course when we lifted the borrowing requirement last time we expected that net debt would be higher at this stage, but we've revised down all of those estimates over time. There is no secret that the borrowing requirement was going to have to be revised at some stage in the past. So we are raising it because of the impact of the natural disasters and a write-down in revenue. There's nothing extraordinary about that. The markets are aware of it. The credit rating agencies give Australia a big tick. One of the biggest ticks of any developed economy in the world. There is nothing extraordinary about it at all and we put it in the appropriation bills in the normal way. It was there in the Budget on Tuesday night and it was widely expected in the markets. There's actually been a discussion going on in the markets about the issuance of government securities. So I'm just surprised that the Opposition have suddenly discovered it and they're making something of it.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, we've heard from the Greens and we've now heard from Tony Windsor that there are certain areas of this Budget they'd like to work with the Government to change. How willing are you to work with the Independents, the Greens, the other minor parties to bring about some change?

TREASURER:

Well, the bottom line is that we are bringing this Budget back to surplus in 2012-13 for all of the reasons that I've outlined before. That's important. This is a Budget which makes the essential savings for the future and we're going to fight for it in the Parliament and make sure that it passes. It's in Australia's national interests that this Budget passes. It's in the interest of certainty and we're happy to be working in a constructive way with those in the Parliament of good will who understand the economic objectives of this Budget.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well, here we go, another scare campaign. A whole lot of distortions about the scheme. This has been rolled out predominantly so far in Coalition electorates. There are 38,000 that have been rolled out. It's not just the set-top box as it's been presented in the media, it's the whole installation. And anyone here that's got an elderly mum or dad or grandad or grandmum knows just how difficult and confusing these things can be. This goes to the core of the rollout of digital television in Australia. There's an essential need for it. It's a program that's been out there for some time and it's a program that's been working well. By the way I don't apologise for one minute for the Government's decision to put this program in place for the elderly and for pensioners in our community.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

The Coalition is all over the place. They need to clarify their position on a whole range of issues. This is the point I was making before. In one breath, Mr Hockey says that he won't support the savings in the Budget such as the ones we were discussing before, and then on the other breath he says it's all too tough. I mean, they can't have it both ways.

They're walking both sides of the street and it is just a repetition of the incompetence we saw in the Budget reply last year where we had pass the parcel. Mr Abbott said he was going to do it, he didn't do it, he passed it to Joe Hockey. Joe Hockey didn't do it and then of course it wasn't done by Andrew Robb and then, of course then we had the debacle of the $11 billion black hole. So what that suggests is just gross incompetence. Thanks.