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

13 May 2011

Doorstop Interview

Goodna

13 May 2011

SUBJECTS: Queensland Recovery; Budget 2011-12; Opposition's Budget Reply

TREASURER:

It's good to be here with Bernie Ripoll and Shayne Neumann this morning. This area was devastated in the floods in January, and I was out here at the time of the floods when a lot of this was underwater. I was back out here later when they began the early stages of the recovery. It was really tough then. I think anybody who knows families out here, who knows business people out here, knows just how tough it's been, so it was great to be with Steve Bateman this morning over there at the butcher to get a family pack, to see that he's back on his feet. He's got three sons in that business, he hopes to pass that business on to them one day. And things are still tough but they're back on their feet. They've been knocked down but they've got up, and they're working hard.

I thought it was really important to come out here today to see how things were going, particularly as in this week's Budget we've made a very substantial allocation for flood recovery, not just in Queensland but in other parts of the country as well. In terms of Queensland, something like $4.7 billion in this week's Budget to rebuild particularly the critical economic infrastructure, but there were also very substantial Commonwealth payments which were paid to people living in areas like this whose homes were flooded, whose jobs were affected. It's going to take a while yet to recover; it's still tough. I was talking to Steve - he says business is back, it's about two-thirds what it was before.

But you can see there's a resilience, you can see there's an optimism, and that's good to see as well. People are back in the shops here today even though it's a public holiday here in Ipswich. So I'm out here today to also talk a bit about the Budget, because the most important thing about the Budget is we were able to bring our budget back into the black in addition to making very substantial allocations for flood recovery. And that's important to come back to surplus in 2012-13, it's very important because we don't want to put Australian families under price pressures when the full impact of that mining boom and the investment from it comes along.

And that's why Mr Abbott last night failed the most fundamental test. He failed to say how he would bring the budget back to surplus. We basically got 30 minutes of mindless, negative behaviour. Very little was said about the Budget at all. And I think last night Mr Hockey was particularly embarrassed because he had said last week that he could bring the budget back to surplus this coming year, but we didn't hear anything of that at all.

And I see today Mr Robb today is also embarrassed because he's out there attacking Treasury officials, Treasury officials that provide advice to this Government, worked for the previous government. They are professional and last year following the election, they had a look at the alleged savings that the Coalition said they had then and they found there was an $11 billion hole in those savings and that's why we didn't see last night any funded proposals from Mr Abbott or Mr Hockey or Mr Robb because they're simply not up to the job.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, having seen what you've seen over the last few months here, the level of progress in Queensland, would you be bold enough to make a prediction, put a timeline on how long it's going to take Queensland to recover, not just here but North Queensland?

TREASURER:

Look, I think it's going to take some time. I spent Easter up in Far North Queensland because as you know Far North Queensland was smashed by Cyclone Yasi. There are also challenges in the tourism industry which were made worse by the cyclone. The good thing at Easter up there in Cairns was that the tourists were back. That was good. It doesn't necessarily mean their problems are over. But we are gradually recovering. You can see yesterday in the employment figures that came out that Queensland employment jumped in those figures. So Queensland is gradually recovering but if you drive around here, as indeed if you walk through the shops here you can still see there are shops that are empty , they are closed, they are not up and running yet. But I think what we see with Steve Bateman today is an example of someone who's back on his feet, he's got about two-thirds of his business back, he's optimistic and he's working hard in this community to rebuild the business that's going on in this shopping centre. And he's also extensively involved in wider community activities as well. So what I would say is that I reckon Queenslanders have got the resilience, I reckon they've got the optimism, I reckon they've got the energy to get this going really strongly again. It's a bit early to put a final timeframe on all of that. I myself am optimistic, but if you lost your home then that take a long time to recover from. And I was talking to a gentleman over there before whose house was flooded. Steve's shop had water in it up to 6 foot 7, so plenty of homes around here if you go down the streets they were just completely under. That takes a while, but I reckon there's enough optimism and resilience here to see that it will happen.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, do you think there are businesses that won't reopen, and there are some that simply aren't coming back, were in trouble before the floods?

TREASURER:

Look I'd have to go and talk to the individuals, I couldn't give that judgement. But one of the important things that we have in our budget proposal which is yet to pass the Parliament is something which is of major benefit to small business - if we can get it through the Parliament because Mr Abbott opposes it - and that is a $5,000 instant asset write-off for their purchases. This is a big improvement for small business. It really helps with their cash flow, and they can get that write-off on more than one item. So in the cause of Steve back there if he wants to buy some of that equipment in there and it costs under $5,000, a new fridge for example he can write it all off at once. And in the Budget we added a new dimension to that $5,000 asset write-off: we said they could write off the first $5,000 they spent on the purchase of a new vehicle, let's say it's a ute for the business. That's a really important measure understanding that we are in a patchwork economy as well. Whilst the mining boom is coming along and that's going to get stronger, not everyone is going to be in the fast lane and we've got to give others particularly the sort of small businesses like we've got around here a bit of a break.

JOURNALIST:

Tony Abbott says he outlined an alternative vision for Australia last night, what's your response to his vision?

TREASURER:

Well he didn't give a budget reply at all, he didn't say how he would come back to surplus. Look if you can't run the economy, you can't run the country. And I wouldn't dignify a description of what he said last night as a `vision'. It certainly wasn't a budget reply. If you can't run the economy, you can't run the country.

JOURNALIST:

But isn't it the Government's job to get the Budget back into surplus, and his job (inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well he's supposed to be the alternative Prime Minister so he most have an alternative budget. He's very critical of the Government when it comes to economic management, but he didn't outline the alternative last night. Mr Hockey said last week he would bring the budget back to surplus next year. We heard nothing of that last night. I think Mr Hockey was acutely embarrassed last night as indeed was Mr Robb

JOURNALIST:

Andrew Robb's attack on Treasury is pretty serious, isn't it?

TREASURER:

Yes it certainly is.

JOURNALIST:

Why?

TREASURER:

Well it's regrettable, it's unprofessional and it's inaccurate. And I think that just demonstrates how unqualified Mr Robb is for high office. Thanks very much.