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

18 May 2011

Doorstop Interview
With Amanda Rishworth, MP

Christies Beach High School, Christies Downs, South Australia

18 May 2011

SUBJECTS: National Rewards for Great Teachers; 2011/12 Budget; Joe Hockey failure to produce economic policy or budget reply; Treasury Secretary's speech; carbon pricing

TREASURER:

Ok, well it's great to be here today with Amanda Rishworth, but it's also good to be here today with so many of these highly motivated teachers and students. Just behind us here is a new state of the art Science Centre which has been fully federally funded. It's a really important part of making sure we've got the best educated and trained workforce in the world.

Now, of course, elsewhere at the school there are other federal investments as well. There's a Trades Training Centre down here which is utilised by something like twelve other schools in the area as well. This just demonstrates the Commonwealth's commitment to lifting standards in education through better facilities, but also better trained teachers and, of course, rewarding those teachers that are highly motivated and work really hard.

That's part and parcel of our commitment to making sure that we take maximum opportunities which will flow from the mining boom. We need a better trained and bigger workforce to take up the jobs of the future and in terms of this Budget, we're bringing the Budget back to surplus and we're also absolutely going to see the creation of over 500,000 jobs in the next couple of years. We've got to make sure the opportunities that come with those jobs are spread to every corner of our country, including to communities such as this. So making sure that our workforce is well trained, making sure it is well educated is a key element of the Budget this year.

But, of course, none of that is achievable [unless we] get the fundamentals right and, of course, getting the fundamentals right means we'll get the jobs of the future. And of course, the Opposition today are giving their Budget Reply in Canberra, well - supposed to be giving their Budget Reply in Canberra, because Mr Hockey has today said in the newspapers that he has no intention of presenting an alternative Budget. Fair dinkum. We've got a Shadow Treasurer going to the Press Club saying he's not going to deliver an alternative Budget.

Well if he doesn't have a plan for the future, if he doesn't have an economic plan, then he ought to simply say so. If he can't today put forward alternative savings, or if he can't put forward an alternative plan, he will simply demonstrate that he is incapable of doing the job. Simply not up to it. This is what Mr Hockey has had to say in the paper today, he said “we don't agree with the direction of some of their cuts. We believe they should have cut harder”. So on the one hand he's not supporting the saves, and on the other hand he's saying we should have cut harder. This just demonstrates that the Opposition are simply not up to it, incapable of doing the job.

JOURNALIST:

What is your response to claims by the Treasury chief in the Australian today that ultimately China is going to go bust if it keeps manipulating the exchange rate and therefore Australia is ultimately doomed as well because we're so dependent in the Budget on China?

TREASURER:

Well the Treasury, the head of the Treasury gave, I think, a very significant speech yesterday where he, in a mature way, addressed the opportunities and challenges before the country. He made the point that we've put in place the savings that are necessary to bring the Budget back to surplus so we maximise the opportunities that will flow from the mining boom. He also made the point that China is a very important part of a growth story for the region as well as for Australia and he made the point that China's growth, along with growth in the region, is sustainable, but he also pointed to some of the downside risks as well. And, of course, in doing so, that was the responsible thing for him to do, but it wasn't his approach - as it has been reported by some in the media - that events could go that way. In fact what he was saying was China - the growth of the region - is very good for Australia, our forecasts are sound, but of course there are risks on the downside.

JOURNALIST:

What's the insurance policy if anything does happen?

TREASURER:

Bringing our Budget back to surplus, making sure we get the economic settings right for the future, doing precisely what we are doing in this Budget and that's precisely what the Treasury Secretary said.

JOURNALIST:

In the Herald today there's a story saying that petrol will be exempt from the carbon tax. Is that indeed the case?

TREASURER:

Well we are consulting with industry, consulting with the community, consulting with the Multi-Party Committee about the design of our carbon price and the emissions trading scheme. That's what we're doing. When we've done all that, we'll put all the detail out there and we'll have a public discussion about it.

JOURNALIST:

So what guarantee can you give that it won't blow out in the future?

TREASURER:

Well what we are doing is consulting on the final design of the scheme. So it is far too early for people to be making predictions about a scheme which has not been finalised or finally designed. It's that simple.

JOURNALIST:

The Greens have backed a call in a Deloitte report that a $40 price per tonne on carbon is needed to make electricity generators move from coal-fired to gas-fired. What are your thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Well as I was saying before, we don't have a final design or price, but the figure that was bandied around yesterday is not the type of figure that we will end up with when the scheme is finally designed. It will be well south of the figure that was mentioned yesterday.

JOURNALIST:

You said that you were expecting or hoping that the Liberal Party would do a Budget Reply and when you were in Opposition did the Labor Party do any Budget Replies with an alternative Budget?

TREASURER:

Too right. We presented alternatives in all of our Budget Replies. I did that as the Shadow Treasurer. The problem the Opposition has is they're simply not capable of presenting an alternative Budget or an alternative economic vision. It's not that they don't want to, it's that they are absolutely incapable of presenting an alternative. You've seen in those quotes from Mr Hockey today just how incompetent they are. On the one hand he's saying that the cuts are too harsh and on the other hand he says we haven't cut hard enough. You can't have it both ways. The problem the Opposition has is that they are incapable of developing a response. If they were to be credible they would have to either support our saves or put up alternative saves because bringing the Budget back to surplus is imperative, but the way they are going, and given what they have said, under them Budgets would be in deficit right through the forward estimates and on from there as far as they eye could see. Thanks.