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

12 June 2012

Interview with Sabra Lane

ABC Radio, AM Program

SUBJECTS: Prime Minister's Economic Forum, Melinda Taylor

LANE:

Mr Swan, good morning and welcome to AM.

TREASURER:

Good morning. Good to be with you.

LANE:

Barry O'Farrell's busy with his budget today, the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett says it sounds a lot like a forum you held in April and the Queensland Premier says he has more important things to do. They obviously think your summit is not worth their time.

TREASURER:

Well I think they'll take their own decisions but this is a very important discussion, because the challenges and opportunities that come with the Asian Century are challenges which demand not just a government response, not just a business community response, but a response from right across the community.

We had such a great week for our economy last week: strong growth, lower interest rates, strong job creation. There are great opportunities and challenges ahead for us, particularly in the Asian Century, and that's why it's important I think we get together, representatives of the wider community, particularly the business community, but the union movement, non-government organisations and so on, to talk about how we maximise the opportunities of the Asian Century.

But also to make sure we spread the opportunities that come from that to every corner of our economy because not everybody is in the fast lane of the mining boom.

We know, when we look to our north there's a huge shift of economic power from west to east, a growing middle-class in Asia, that brings with it not just the mining boom, but a boom in services and other goods and so on, which can flow to the region. But that won't come to us, we can't just rest on our laurels, we've got to go out there and maximise those opportunities and having the discussion about the policy settings to do that is what this is all about.

LANE:

The Australian Financial Review have already dubbed this a talk-fest, some in the business community have told me they have forum-fatigue, the government's already had a tax review, a regulation round table, the Gonski review. They say that it's time to stop talking and actually get on with it.

TREASURER:

Well we have been getting on with it. That's why we brought down a budget recently which put in place a whole range of responses. This is not just about the daily or monthly cut and thrust of political debate. We have a fantastic future ahead of us in this country and it does require a response which is wider than the day-to-day political debate.

LANE:

What will be a measure of success? There are a number of business figures who believe the government will simply use this to restate the policies that they've already got underway.

TREASURER:

When I talk to business leaders they are keen to continue the discussion..

LANE:

What will be the measure of success?

TREASURER:

Well what we've got coming up is an Asian Century White Paper, all of the discussions here will feed into that process. We've been running also a Manufacturing Industry Taskforce as well, the government is preparing a response which will come later in the year. The discussions, if you like, will feed into all of those processes.

I'll tell you what, the opportunity for Australia and the challenges are great. I think getting people together, in the way in which we've done on this occasion is what people are crying out for, and that's why we've convened it.

LANE:

Will it lead to more action, or more talk-fest and reviews?

TREASURER:

The fact is we have a lot of action and there'll be a lot more to come. We sit here on the cusp of the Asian Century, fantastic opportunities but also big challenges. Industry for example, looks at the higher dollar and wants to know: what's the response here? They say a productivity agenda.

The Government's got a broad productivity agenda, and that'll certainly be up for discussion tonight. I'm sure we'll have a wide exchange of views about what we ought to do to lift our productivity growth.

LANE:

Unions want more co-investment by the Federal Government. They want you to kick in more money to help out struggling manufacturing sectors, similar to the deal that you did with General Motors Holden. Is that a reasonable expectation they have?

TREASURER:

Well I'm sure that they'll put that on the table, and I'm sure there'll be plenty of views put on the table..

LANE:

Will you accept it?

TREASURER:

Well we'll hear what they've got to say. We are going to have a higher terms of trade as we go forward, what that does mean is we need to lift our productivity growth, but it also means that we have to have a look again at what industry assistance we provide, how we provide it. All that's on the table and I've got an open mind in that discussion.

LANE:

You weren't tempted to invite Clive Palmer?

TREASURER:

Well, I think we've got a pretty broad representation from Australian industry on the panel, I think people will be pretty happy with that.

LANE:

What can you tell us about Melinda Taylor? There are reports that she and her ICC colleagues have now been placed in prison. Some wire agencies report that they're now being detained for 45 days. What do you know?

TREASURER:

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has issued a statement about this matter this morning. He said we should be very careful about how we talk about this publicly. Australia is doing everything we possibly can to assist Ms Taylor and we'll continue to do that.

LANE:

There are indications that the Libyan Government regards her as something of a bargaining chip for Saif Al-Islam's right hand man. Is that how you see it?

TREASURER:

Well I certainly wouldn't be commenting on that. That would be entirely inappropriate.