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

26 September 2011

Doorstop Interview

Washington DC

26 September 2011

SUBJECTS: Global economic outlook; Australia's strong fundamentals; Finance Minister of the Year award

TREASURER:

Well, today I've been talking to investors and other commentators about the underlying strength of the Australian economy: the fact that our public finances are strong, our public debt is low, unemployment is low and strong job creation over the past four years, a very strong investment pipeline and strong financial institutions. And I think those investors and other commentators do understand the importance of these underlying strengths in the Australian economy, particularly at a time of global economic uncertainty.

JOURNALIST:

Andrew Robb says you need to be honest with the Australian public and say that Australia is in a vulnerable position and that a surplus is now highly unlikely in 2012-13.

TREASURER:

I think Mr Robb at a time of global economic uncertainty should stop talking down the Australian economy and stop trying to wreck confidence more generally. The fact is there are underlying strengths in the Australian economy. We should have confidence in those strengths. We should highlight those strengths and at the same time acknowledge that there is uncertainty and volatility in the global economy. The IMF has revised down its forecast for global growth but of course it will impact upon growth in Australia, will impact on Budget revenues for example. But the Government is determined to bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13. We're determined to do that but commonsense says that conditions have changed and that task gets more difficult because of global economic conditions and that's precisely what I've been saying as a commonsense observation. What the country doesn't need is Mr Abbott and Mr Robb talking down the country, talking down the economy all of the time.

JOURNALIST:

You said before you came to Washington that you would check the pulse of the global economy while you were here at meetings. You've checked the pulse, how's it beating and what is the risk of another global recession?

TREASURER:

Well, I think the IMF has acknowledged that the global economy is in a dangerous new phase and that there is turbulence particularly when you look to Europe for example. Sovereign debt risk there in Europe is feeding into the banking system. Everybody around the table here in Washington is concerned about that turn of events. The Europeans have said they're going to act on all of their commitments to deal with challenges in their economy and everybody around the table is absolutely determined to work with the Europeans to do whatever we can possibly do to support them in dealing with their domestic challenges. All of this has produced a degree of uncertainty in the global economy and turbulence so what we saw yesterday with the IMF and the day before with the G20 was the determination for finance ministers and others to work cooperatively to make sure that we do everything we can to restore growth and confidence. It just doesn't help when people like Mr Robb for example wander around talking down the economy and try to wreck confidence.

JOURNALIST:

Well, you saying that you have to – it's up to you to fireproof the Australian economy.

TREASURER:

Well, I think the strength in the Australian economy can be seen in our strong public finances which Mr Robb has not acknowledged. It can be seen in our low public debt which Mr Robb does not acknowledge and indeed he goes around the place making incorrect statements and inaccurate statements about the underlying strength of the economy. The problem is that he's just got his facts wrong and he's out there undermining confidence.

JOURNALIST:

I'm sure Mr Keating would have been happy to get a mention in your speech today but no mention of Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Look I acknowledge and have continued to acknowledge the important reform work done by past governments, the Hawke/Keating Government and then of course the Howard Government have all played a role in strengthening the Australian economy over time. But there's no doubt in my mind that the fundamental reforms that Mr Keating put in place were very important in strengthening the Australian economy for the long term. He was the last to receive that award 27 years ago and I mentioned that today. But I openly acknowledge it's very important that in Australia we continue with the long-term reforms that build resilience in our economy and of course we are doing that with the pricing of carbon, investment in the NBN, many other reforms. Those long-term reforms are necessary and the award today demonstrates to me to get on with those long-term reforms.

JOURNALIST:

Have you spoken to Paul Keating since you were announced as the winner of the award?

TREASURER:

No, I haven't spoken to him since the award was announced but I do talk to him from time to time.

JOURNALIST:

Right, do you have any idea about his feelings as to you being the recipient of this award?

TREASURER:

Well, he's made it very clear in his comments to Euromoney magazine that he's very supportive of the award and very happy about it.

JOURNALIST:

With the persistent reports that there's a growing band of Labor caucus members pushing for Kevin Rudd to return to the Labor leadership, do you think Julia Gillard will be the Prime Minister at the next election and what do you say to the backbenchers who may be making this push?

TREASURER:

Well, the first thing that I say is that I don't respond to those sorts of unsourced speculative reports and I don't give any credibility or credence to them for one second.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Julia Gillard will be the Prime Minister at the next election?

TREASURER:

Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister. She is a very good leader and she is going to lead this party and Government for a long time.

JOURNALIST:

At the next election?

TREASURER:

I just said – I've given the answer to that.