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

23 December 2011

Interview with Jon Faine

ABC Radio 2011

23 December 2011

SUBJECTS: Asylum Seeker Policy, Tony Abbott's Leadership Failure

FAINE:

Acting Prime Minister, good morning to you.

TREASURER:

Good morning Jon.

FAINE:

Tony Abbott playing Santa Claus. He's offering you the chance to do a deal with him on asylum seeker policy. Do you accept the gift?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't know that he's accepted anything unfortunately at this stage. We're putting a proposal in good faith. We said we were prepared to have all options on the table. He then said he wanted that proposal in writing. We put a proposal in writing and we come to the table with good faith, determined to actually get an outcome here because really people's lives are being lost.

FAINE:

Has he out manoeuvred you here?

TREASURER:

No, I don't believe so. I think he's been unreasonable to date. I don't know and can't pre-judge the outcome of the discussions today but I certainly hope the Liberal Party comes to the table in good faith and has a sensible discussion about an outcome here because that's what all Australians want. They want this sorted out, lives are being lost, people are appalled that we have not been able to reach an agreement with the Opposition on this vital policy.

FAINE:

Tony Abbott says the Malaysian solution, he thinks it's time has passed and there is a solution for you if you still want to go down that path. Here's what he said earlier this morning.

ABBOTT:

If the Government is desperate to get Malaysia I'm afraid they'll have to approach the Greens to get that.

FAINE:

Have you approached the Greens?

TREASURER:

Well, that just proves that Tony Abbott is still playing politics with this issue and I think what it really indicates, if that is his final position today, that he wants the boats to keep coming because he wants to seek political advantage from this situation. I just think that attitude is deplorable and I think many people right across Australia will be discussed with that comment from Mr Abbott.

FAINE:

Well, it might be about the people in the boats or it might be about who is running Australia what he's showing is that you're not capable of implementing your own policies which is what he wants everyone to notice.

TREASURER:

No, what is being provided here is leadership and what we're seeing in that comment from Mr Abbott is an abject failure of moral leadership. He obviously wants the boats to keep coming. Mr Abbott knows that the regional Malaysian arrangement that we have put in place is the most effective way to break the people smugglers model. Now what we've said in our presentation which will go before the Ministers today is that we are prepared to look at other options on the table such as Nauru but of course Nauru doesn't work without Malaysia. Mr Abbott knows that and Mr Morrison knows that.

FAINE:

Scott Morrison on AM this morning on ABC radio said that Kevin Rudd was prepared to meet with his counterpart Julie Bishop. Is Kevin Rudd undermining the Gillard Government response here?

TREASURER:

No, the situation is, as I understand it, that Mr Morrison asked that the Foreign Minister and Shadow Foreign Minister could attend the discussion. We come to the table in good faith. We're perfectly relaxed about their attendance at the discussion and if Mr Morrison made that comment, really what he is seeking once again to play politics with this issue.

FAINE:

Well, what he's highlighting is that if Julia Gillard and her deputy, Wayne Swan, that's you, you can't sort it out, maybe Kevin Rudd can come to the table and he can sort it out.

TREASURER:

No, look the time for excuses from Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison is over. We've put a proposal on the table. We come to the discussions today with good faith. If they want to keep playing politics then I think they are going to be judged very harshly by the Australian people.

FAINE: So Kevin Rudd will talk to Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison, you won't talk to the Greens, have you spoken to them at all.

TREASURER:

Well, hold it one second. What we've said is that we want to have a discussion with the Liberal Party so we could resolve this issue because lives are being lost. The fact is that we do need to get this bill through the Parliament and we do need an agreement with the Opposition to get the bill through.

FAINE:

But he's said again this morning, Malaysia is, as far as they're concerned, not going to work. They're not going to talk about it.

TREASURER:

Well, I think what we've done is flush out Mr Abbott who now, I think, is guilty of an abject failure of moral leadership. If he said this morning that he is not prepared to come to the table and talk in good faith through Mr Morrison, if he has said that he is going to rule out Malaysia and he's going to stick with his original position, I think he has been exposed for all of the politics and game playing that he has been putting in in recent days and that is an abject failure of moral leadership.

FAINE:

Alright I've got Scott Morrison waiting and I'll speak to him on this is just a moment but as Acting Prime Minister and also of course as Federal Treasurer there are two other big issues I need to discuss with you also Wayne Swan and we'll get to calls in a moment 1300 222 774.

Harvey Norman have thrown in the towel. They've been complaining, whinging, whining, kicking and screaming about people buying online and offshore and now they're doing it themselves. Is this a threat to revenue if the online shopping experience is (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, I can't Jon, remember a Christmas where Gerry Harvey wasn't whinging. You might well recall back when we put the original stimulus package in place he spent a lot of time whinging about that, but ultimately it did lift consumption in Australia and he did very well out of it. Look we've had a productivity inquiry into all of these issues and the fact is that there are some retailers doing it tough at the moment and it's not just the internet that is responsible for the fact that retail is very patchy at the moment. The Productivity Commission looked at all of these issues and it didn't find that the cause of the problems with retail across the board was this $1,000 threshold.

FAINE:

This isn't about Gerry Harvey though, what this is about it the ongoing trend for a lot of Australians to discover the financial benefits and the convenience of shopping online.

TREASURER:

Sure, that's right.

FAINE:

You only have to go and queue up at the Post Office to see the people collecting parcels to realise the enormity of this.

TREASURER:

Well, not all of that those parcels come from overseas. There's internet shopping in Australia there's internet shopping from without Australia as well.

FAINE:

This is leakage from GST revenue. Ultimately this affects your bottom line.

TREASURER:

Yes, well it does, it actually affects the bottom line of the states because they receive the GST revenue but the point I want to make is that we had a Productivity Commission inquiry into this and it found that the cost of actually applying the GST to sales below $1,000 was prohibitive and it didn't make a lot of sense. We're still working our way through with the retail sector about a series of these issues but it's not a panacea for some of the challenges retailers face at the moment as some would say.

FAINE:

And finally Wayne Swan, just two weeks ago the Labor Party triumphantly voted to introduce nuclear sales, uranium sales to India and part of it, we were told, was that India had all relevant safeguards in place even though it hadn't signed the non-proliferation treaty. Today's news out of Delhi is that the Indian Government has dismantled its already inadequate nuclear regulator to replace it with a government controlled body of experts answerable to Ministers and subject to political control.

TREASURER:

Well, I think we made it very clear at the time when we made an announcement about this and that was that India was expected to meet a number of conditions and we won't be selling uranium to India unless the Australian Government is satisfied that those conditions will be met. So we've got to really commence those negotiations with India and go through that process. So it's a bit early to be reaching that conclusion Jon.

FAINE:

So will you, as a government, hold off uranium sales to India until you review their new regulatory regime?

TREASURER:

Well, what we're going to do is to work our way through the negotiations and get a decent safeguards agreement.

FAINE:

Thank you for your time this morning.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you.