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

31 July 2012

Doorstop interview

Canberra

SUBJECTS: Visit to The Woden School, National Disability Insurance Scheme, Mr Abbott's $70 billion budget crater, Brough/Ashby affair, allegations against Mr Ashby, FOI, media reports regarding the Ambassador to the US, Coalition differences on foreign investment policy

TREASURER:

Can I thank The Woden School for having us here this morning. To the Principal Mr Copland, thank you very much for hosting us this morning. Can I also say it's great to be here with Joy Burch, the Community Services Minister in the ACT. And of course my two Canberra colleagues, Gai Brodtmann and of course Andrew Leigh.

What we're doing here today is looking at quality education which is provided to students with disability at this school and it's important that children with disabilities get a quality education in every school. We need every Australian child to get the best start in life, and of course that applies to Australian children with disabilities as well.

But it's not just about education, which really brings us to the NDIS. Because what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is about, is providing a lifetime of support for Australians with disability who have been left behind for far too long. That is why the announcement last week from five state leaders with the Prime Minister, right across the political divide, to get behind launch sites across five states was just so important.

This is a really significant breakthrough in Australian public policy to give some justice to Australians with disability and that's the reason we're here this morning because from the very beginning the ACT put up their hand to be a launch site. So I'd like to thank particularly the ACT Government for their commitment to Australians with disability and of course here in the ACT they are making, given their size, a significant contribution to the launch sites.

Can I say that's been in stark contrast for example to the attitude of the Queensland Premier, Mr Newman, who is refusing to put even a dollar on the table. I think the approach of the Queensland Premier has been cold, heartless and we do need to see the Queensland Government get serious and join the other states in Australia in participating in these vital launch sites for the NDIS.

So it is good to be here this morning. It's great to see some innovative techniques on the iPad, not just the music but the alphabet. There are many ways to learn at school these days and the harnessing of technology is just lifting education standards across the board and you can see this morning here the importance of having the latest technology to make sure that kids here are really getting a first-class education.

Over to you.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, in the last budget and in previous budgets you've gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that spending and tax are quite low. To deliver though long-term funding, a full NDIS, will you be able to maintain those same levels given the big extra costs?

TREASURER:

We've got a demonstrated record of finding savings in the budget and basically putting in place our priorities for the future and doing that in a fiscally responsible way. In our last budget we put a billion dollars on the table for these launch sites. One year earlier than was recommended by the Productivity Commission.

The reason we did that in a difficult budget was because we've got to bring our budget back to surplus and I'm bringing it back to surplus in 2012-13. There have been significant savings found in the budget so we could make room for a vital priority such as the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and we'll continue to do that.

JOURNALIST:

You're criticising Campbell Newman for not putting up any funds. The Coalition says they would find the money themselves, they wouldn't ask the states for money. Wouldn't that stop the need for squabbling and wouldn't it be better for a single funder?

TREASURER:

The problem here is that Mr Abbott has a $70 billion crater already in his budget bottom line before he even gets to the point of funding the launch sites for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. That's why Mr Hockey has been out there adamant that he wasn't necessarily going to be supporting an NDIS. I saw him on the record saying that last week. So the Coalition is sending some very confusing signals about their attitude to the NDIS.

JOURNALIST:

Andrew Robb suggested that (inaudible) Government would fund it long-term. How would you fund it long-term?

TREASURER:

We'll work our way through all of these issues over the years ahead. What we've found in our budget is a billion dollars to get the launch sites going. That's critical. Because what we learn from the launch site process will inform our assessments of what comes in the years ahead.

But we are determined to make the NDIS a very significant priority for social policy in this government. And as we go forward we will find the savings in the budget to make sure that this is affordable, sustainable and implemented in the interests of all Australians with disabilities and their families.

JOURNALIST:

So you're saying that there'll be responsible savings. Will a levy be on the table or can you rule that out today?

TREASURER:

It's a non-issue. The Prime Minister dealt with this last week.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Mal Brough said that his every contact, every piece of information related to his dealings with Mr Ashby are either out in the media or out in court documents. Do you believe him and what do you say to Tony Abbott's claim that Labor will muckrake?

TREASURER:

Now that Mr Brough has become the candidate for Fisher and was the first choice of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, it's incumbent upon Mr Abbott to detail his involvement and the involvement of his office with both Mr Brough and Mr Ashby when it comes to all of the issues that have been raised in the Slipper affair and wider.

JOURNALIST:

What do you make of these latest claims involving Mr Ashby?

TREASURER:

These are very, very serious allegations. They are going to be investigated by the authorities. What I was referring to before to Mr Abbott, Mr Brough and Mr Ashby, I wasn't referring to those allegations on the 7.30 report last night. They should be dealt with separately and are an entirely different matter.

JOURNALIST:

Does that discredit James Ashby as a witness?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to go any further. I think the allegations last night on the 7.30 report were extremely serious. They should be investigated by the responsible authorities.

JOURNALIST:

The Opposition recently failed in an FOI bid to get costings of Greens policies. They were knocked back on a Cabinet exemption. I understand that this decision was made by the Treasury. Can you tell us what sort of things have been costed?

TREASURER:

It is the Treasury that does take those decision it's not myself. I don't detail what goes on in Cabinet.

JOURNALIST:

Doesn't the public have the right to see those costings?

TREASURER:

What we've got is Freedom of Information laws which are administered by the Treasury and they've done so in this case. I don't detail what goes on in Cabinet.

JOURNALIST:

Back to the NDIS you can't definitively say how you're going to fund the scheme. So how can you say you're not giving people false hope?

TREASURER:

First of all we've got a billion dollars on the table for the launch sites.

JOURNALIST:

But that's for the launch sites.

TREASURER:

Yeah of course and this will be a program rolled out over a significant number of years. As we go through that we'll be announcing funding details that come with it. It's a perfectly logical way to do it. It's the way that these programs are done.

JOURNALIST:

How do you feel about Kim Beazley saying you might only have 30 seats left at the next election to the Americans? Is he right?

TREASURER:

It's my understanding that the report today is not an accurate reflection of the discussions that were held in a closed meeting.

JOURNALIST:

What was an accurate reflection?

TREASURER:

It was a closed meeting and (inudible) meeting. It is my understanding that is not an accurate reflection of what occurred in the meeting. I'll just make this point. I come and do doorstops like this regularly, both in Canberra and around the country. There are frequently stories that are written about polling and so on, and generally most of them are wrong.

JOURNALIST:

You're saying that Kim Beazley's comments are inaccurate, that he didn't say that…

TREASURER:

I've just said what I've said. I don't have to repeat it. I've already repeated it twice.

JOURNALIST:

But is it a pretty dire situation for the Labor Party…

TREASURER:

You've just asked me a question which I've just rejected the premise of the question.

JOURNALIST:

How would you feel about the Chinese owning New South Wales power assets?

TREASURER:

We are having a national discussion on matters on the back of some very ill-advised comments made by Mr Abbott when he was recently in Beijing and those comments were repudiated by the Opposition Treasury spokesman, Mr Hockey.

The first point to be made is that when it comes to foreign investment policy, the Liberal Opposition are simply all over the shop. I'm not aware of what the Premier of New South Wales has said to state-owned enterprises in Beijing.

I'll make this point; I, at the beginning of 2008 put in place guidelines for state-owned enterprise investment in Australia. Not just in China, but from state-owned enterprises around the world. Those guidelines have been very, very effective and have struck the right balance between scrutiny on the one hand and the countries need for investment on the other. They've been very effective and those guidelines would govern any state-owned enterprise investment from China to Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any chance that those guidelines, which I think in the case of a state-owned corporation are, the threshold for investment is zero..

TREASURER:

The threshold is zero for screening.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any chance that thresholds for screening being increased in the case of state-owned corporations or general investment..

TREASURER:

No. We screen from the very first dollar, every dollar of state-owned enterprise investment in Australia. Whether it's in resources, or whether it's in agriculture or wherever it is. It is a comprehensive regime when it comes to investment from state-owned enterprises.

JOURNALIST:

And it won't change. Is that right?

TREASURER:

No. But there was a change announced by Mr Abbott when he was in Beijing only a week ago and that change was opposed by Mr Hockey. That's where I think that there's a very big problem in Coalition. Because essentially what has happened is that Mr Joyce and others in the National Party are grabbing control of foreign investment policy within the Opposition.

JOURNALIST:

There are reports today that high level meetings between Sri Lankan Navy and the Australian Government may have influenced a decision to deport a Tamil man. Is that accurate at all?

TREASURER:

I haven't seen those reports. Thanks very much.