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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

19 May 2011

Doorstop Interview

Rio Tinto Operations Centre, Perth

19 May 2011

SUBJECTS: Mining Boom; Budget; Carbon Price; Regional Processing

TREASURER:

Well, it's great to be here at the Rio [Tinto] operational centre.  This is the epicentre of mining boom mark II, and of course the Federal Budget is all about dealing with the opportunities and the challenges of mining boom mark II.  This operational centre is responsible for running something like 14 mines and thousands of kilometres of rail network. 

In the Budget we're bringing the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13 because we know how important it is not to add to the capacity pressures which will flow from mining boom mark II.  In the Budget we are also investing in the skills of our workforce and also ensuring that we lift our workforce participation rates because this country is running out of people.  We have a strong employment creation record, a strong pipeline of employment into the future - something like 500,000 more jobs in the next couple of years - and projects like this right across the country are crying out for skilled workers. 

So in the Budget we put great emphasis on training apprentices and lifting our training effort for the future and particularly working with industry to make sure that we get the right skills for mining boom mark II, but also great concentration on investing in infrastructure.  And here around the airport there's a very big commitment from the Commonwealth Government to invest in the Gateway Project.  Something like $[480] million of revenue from the Mineral Resource Rent Tax will be spent here lifting the quality of life for locals, but also making our transportation systems more efficient.

But we also understand that in mining boom mark II not everybody is going at the same speed.  We very much have a patchwork economy.  Even here in Perth small business for example is finding it very difficult.  So the other objective of the Budget is to spread the opportunities flowing from the boom to every corner and to every postcode.  That's why there is great emphasis in the Budget on giving small business a tax break for example, once again using the revenue from the Mining Resource Rent Tax. 

Now, I noticed there's been a lot of commentary overnight about carbon pricing.  Mr Turnbull, I think, has let the cat out of the bag.  He's confirmed that Mr Abbott is going to slug Australian families with an additional tax and he's also confirmed that the approach of Mr Abbott is not a market mechanism.  We need to see some honesty from the Liberals about their plans for carbon pricing.  This issue is very important for the future prosperity of our economy but Mr Abbott of course has got it all wrong.

JOURNALIST:

Just on that Mr Swan, yesterday Simon Crean said petrol would not be affected by the carbon tax.  Is that right or not?

TREASURER:

Well, we're consulting with industry about the final design of the carbon price.  We are engaged in a genuine consultation with industry across the board, from trade-exposed industries all the way through.  When we've completed those consultations and taken our final decisions I'm happy to discuss all of those with you, but the final design is not completed.  It's not completed because we are engaged in a genuine consultation with industry.

JOURNALIST:

Well, there are two options; you can either include it or you can have Mr Rudd's view.  Which one do you favour?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't debate these things.  What we do is consult with industry, take on board the views of industry and take on board the views of the community and take our final decision.  When we've done that I'm happy to talk to you about it.

JOURNALIST:

And just on Malcolm Turnbull.  He didn't exactly give the Opposition's climate change policy a ringing endorsement on Lateline last night.  What do you think he was doing?

TREASURER:

Well, I think what Mr Turnbull did last night was repudiate Mr Abbott.  He said it wasn't a market mechanism and Mr Abbott claims it is, and he told the truth about the policy.  It's going to be a very big slug on taxpayers. 

JOURNALIST:

On the Budget, you've recently delivered your Budget and a massive deficit.  The state Budget is down today and we are expected to go into quite a healthy surplus.  What's your view on that?

TREASURER:

Well, we're bringing our Budget back to surplus in 2012-13 and we're doing it by the biggest fiscal consolidation we've seen in the history of this country, almost 4 per cent of GDP over two years.  The Budget in the short term has been affected by the global financial crisis and of course the global recession, but because we've put in place very strict limits on spending - 1 per cent real per year for five years - we are coming back to surplus in 2012-13, which is what we must do given the very strong investment pipeline we are seeing in Australia for years to come.

JOURNALIST:

You must wake up every morning and thank your lucky stars that WA's mining industry is just booming at the moment.

TREASURER:

Well, the mining industry is booming right across Australia.  WA is very important in that, my home state of Queensland is important in that, but it's also important we understand that there are multi-speeds in our economy.  Not everybody is in the fast lane even here in Perth, or in Brisbane, or in the regions, and what we have to do is to spread the benefits of that boom, and the way in which we can do that is by training up and skilling our workforce more effectively, making sure that those that have been excluded from the labour force for various reasons are participating in the labour force, making sure we give a fair go to small business that's not in the fast lane and giving them a tax cut.  Spreading the benefits of the boom is what we must do.  We are truly a fortunate country given the resources that we have, but what we've got to do is take the right decisions for the future, get the settings in place that maximise the opportunities that will flow from what is the Asian Century.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, just on another issue, Malaysia is saying it's not taking any asylum seekers that arrived recently - the hundred.  Is this deal going to stack up?

TREASURER:

This deal will be completed in the weeks ahead and of course those that come by boat to Australia will be sent to a third country.  I expect that this deal will be sorted out in the near future.

JOURNALIST:

What about the people who've already arrived, the people that have arrived recently?

TREASURER:

We've already said that they will be sent to a third country.  We're working on arrangements with Malaysia, we're in discussions with PNG.

JOURNALIST:

But Malaysia doesn't want them.

TREASURER:

No, I'm sorry that's not a correct interpretation on the situation with Malaysia.

JOURNALIST:

I thought Malaysia was saying that the deal hasn't been struck yet so none of those people -

TREASURER:

No, our Minister has said what their Minister has said is that when the deal has concluded then people will be returned.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you Mr Swan.

TREASURER: 

Thank you.