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

21 March 2012

Interview with Marius Benson

ABC Radio, AM Program

SUBJECTS: MRRT; Liberals Against Tax Cuts; Carbon Price, The Three Stooges

BENSON:

Wayne Swan, the Government has had a win with its MRRT but the win is not resolved entirely. There are challenges ahead. One criticism is that you should have negotiated better with the states to avoid the stand‑off you're now facing.

TREASURER:

Look there's plenty of people around who will make all sorts of claims on the sidelines. The fact is that we've got this through both Houses of Parliament in difficult conditions, opposed by some very powerful vested interests. So we've been through an extensive process of consultation. The tax design comes out of a consultative group which was led by Don Argus. We have proceeded on the basis of that advice. There are some issues to be sorted out with the states and we're working through those issues but the fact is we've got this on the books. We've got a revenue stream to respond to patchiness in the economy, tax breaks for 2.7 million small businesses, a very significant boost to super, investment in infrastructure. It's a very important reform for Australia.

BENSON:

With this money you are, in part, going to be paying for company tax cuts but those company tax cuts are in doubt because you don't have the Greens on side.

TREASURER:

I'm sorry - they're in doubt because the Liberal Party is opposing them. The Greens were never supporting a general company tax cut. They made that clear some time ago. Mr Abbott said he was supporting company tax cuts at the end of last year and now he's changed his mind because he wants to wreck this vital reform.

BENSON:

So, given the numbers though, when you say the Greens are opposing them, are you resigned to the Greens simply opposing them and therefore the company tax cuts for the biggest companies won't go ahead?

TREASURER:

Well, we're going to fight for our program in the Senate and we're going to try and convince both the Greens and the Liberal Party to vote for this. The point I would make is the Greens' position has been known for a long time. Mr Abbott has recently changed his position. The Party of Menzies opposing tax cuts for business, that's just quite extraordinary and shows the lengths to which Mr Abbott will go to wreck economic reform.

BENSON:

The Prime Minister yesterday in claiming a win on the mining tax said look at the scoreboard, I've had a lot of wins, one of those is the carbon tax. A lot of people would see that as an own goal because the carbon tax was never a Labor idea. It was an idea that Labor opposed before the election, an idea the Labor Government adopted at the insistence of the Greens and negotiating that minority.

TREASURER:

Marius, that's just wrong and silly. The fact is that we have always favoured carbon pricing. The Liberal Party went into the 2007 election favouring carbon pricing.

BENSON:

Let me just clarify that point though, that you've just made. You say that carbon pricing; you were against a carbon tax.

TREASURER:

Well, let's go through it. What we've got is a fixed price for three years. The previous scheme we had which we were about to get through, and supported by the Liberal Party, had a fixed price for one year. The fact is this is a carbon pricing scheme with a fixed price for three years, nothing unusual about that, and entirely consistent with everything that we've argued for and entirely consistent with what the Liberal Party argued for in 2007.

BENSON:

Okay, let me go onto the events of yesterday. You made a bit of Parliamentary history seemingly, by becoming the first Deputy Prime Minister, the first Treasurer to be kicked out by the Speaker.

TREASURER:

Well, you know, I was basically referring to the Liberal Party economic team as the Three Stooges because as you know they've been a bit of a shambles over this $70 billion crater they've got in their budget bottom line and of course Mr Robb resembles most, Curly, and I simply referred to him as Curly.

You see I won't take a backwards step in these very big debates about economic reform. The Prime Minister and the Government has been there fighting for working Australians for increased super and for small businesses, and we won that battle in the Senate. Mr Abbott has been in there siding with Mr Palmer and other mining billionaires against the workforce and businesses of this country and he lost.

BENSON:

You don't seem terribly contrite about calling Andrew Robb one of the Three Stooges or identifying the Opposition front benchers, The Three Stooges. Are you going to be tossed out again today?

TREASURER:

Well, it's been a comedy act for some time now and I've called it for what it is. But no, look, I'll do my best to comply with the standards of the House and I'll do that today.

BENSON:

Do you think Peter Slipper is doing a good job as Speaker?

TREASURER:

Yes I do.

BENSON:

I'll leave it there Wayne Swan, thanks very much.

TREASURER:

Thank you.