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

2 August 2012

Interview with Bruce Guthrie

ABC 774 Melbourne

SUBJECTS: The music of Bruce Springsteen, last night's John Button Lecture, a fairer public debate, the Olympics, the NBN, reports regarding a potential US defence base in Perth

HOST:

On the line is the Acting Prime Minister, Wayne Swan. Are the hairs standing up on the back of your neck after hearing that?

TREASURER:

Good morning Bruce.

HOST:

Did you hear that, Born to Run?

TREASURER:

Yeah. I play it pretty regularly actually.

HOST:

I gather that. Now are you a bit surprised at the response to this revelation of yours?

TREASURER:

No, I'm not that surprised at all. What I wanted to do is talk about the values that underpinned not just the economic policy of the Government, but also our approach to building a stronger community. Springsteen really highlights the dangers in his music of growing inequality in the United States, and I wanted to make the point that here, contrary to what's happening in the US, we've grown our economy since the Global Financial Crisis. We protected our people, we supported employment and we've kept in place the basics of a fair go, which you see receding in so many other developed economies, swamped by massive unemployment and social dislocation.

HOST:

Now the video, was that perhaps ill-advised? Who did that? Was that a family member that got the video together and posted it on YouTube?

TREASURER:

My daughter is a pretty talented singer, and a member of my staff, who's a pretty talented producer, so it was a combination. There are all sorts of ways we can communicate politically and in this day and age I think it is important to communicate in many diverse ways and particularly given what we see happening in the establishment of media, even more important to be out there communicating your values and your ideas through social media.

HOST:

On a serious note. What are you trying to achieve by essentially bashing people like Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer? I mean, you can't go on doing it forever, can you?

TREASURER:

I'm not out there trying to bash them, they're doing a pretty good job of that to themselves. The fact is that they've inserted themselves into the political debate, wanting to have a disproportionate say in the debate and a disproportionate influence on policy.

HOST:

But that's their right.

TREASURER:

Yes it is. But it's my right to highlight what they are doing. I absolutely celebrate people in Australia who have contributed to wealth creation. But let's just cut to the chase here.

Ms Rinehart is reportedly worth $30 billion and she's going to be getting a very significant tax cut from Tony Abbott who is fighting and opposing like she is, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. That's the point where this debate began. Their intervention into this debate cloaking their opposition to the Mining Resource Rent Tax in the national interest when they're sticking up for their vested interests.

Because the MRRT is going to spread the benefits of the boom, it's going to provide relief for households, it's going to give tax relief for small business and it's going to support better retirement, particularly for many young Australians. That's the contrast I want to draw.

HOST:

They employ a lot of people, they put a lot of money into the economy. They're good Australians aren't they? I'm just surprised that you've made your point in The Monthly and you're coming back to it again and again?

TREASURER:

I'll tell you why. Since I wrote the essay, they proved the point that I was making. Since I wrote the essay, Ms Rinehart is attempting to take over Fairfax newspapers and to repudiate the code of editorial conduct. We've had Twiggy Forrest take out paid advertising in the newspapers and also now the High Court challenge to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. And of course, we've had Clive Palmer completely take over the LNP in Queensland and now a paid campaign of advertising against me in my electorate. Thereby proving my point that they are using their very deep pockets to have a disproportionate influence in the debate.

HOST:

Are you getting ready for the AIS to ask you for more money by the way given our performance at the Olympics?

TREASURER:

There's a very, very substantial investment that the Australian people make in elite sport in Australia and we've made that again in the lead up to the Olympics. But I'm sure that we'll have a healthy discussion about these matters.

But at the moment I'm very proud of our athletes. I'm really proud of what they do, I'm really proud of their conduct. I'm just out there like all Australians giving them my full support.

HOST:

I just want to play you something. Yesterday Jon Faine interviewed the Opposition Leader about the NBN. I just want to play you one section of that interview and get your response:

AUDIO OF TONY ABBOTT:

"Nationalised telecommunications is the way of the 1960s. It's not the way of the current century. We've said all along that we don't need nationalised broadband, what we need is better national broadband and you can get that using the private sector with a lot less government funding that the 50 odd billion dollars that this government has committed."

HOST:

My reading of that Wayne Swan was that Tony Abbott was pretty much flagging that a Liberal Government would sell the NBN.

TREASURER:

This would just be very destructive, it's just typical of the wrecking ball tactics of Tony Abbott. The fact is that the separation of Telstra and the creation of a wholesale super-fast broadband network is one of the most significant micro-economic reforms in our history. Just as significant as the building of the railroads many, many years ago.

What we are witnessing here is his failure to understand the importance of investment in nation-building infrastructure. So he wants to try and flog it off before it's completed and lead us back in the horse and buggy era of very slow internet and broadband.

HOST:

It's eating up a lot of government money though, isn't it?

TREASURER:

It will produce a return for the Australian tax-payer. But more importantly than that, what it is going to do is super-power our economy with the technology of the future. It's going to lead to immense productivity improvement. If you go out, particularly in the major cities and talk to anyone in small business they understand the importance of broadband and the network.

Tony Abbott doesn't get it. This is just typical of his negativity, which we see in just about every area of public policy, thinking he can go through to the next election, just saying no to everything. The fact is we've got a nation building agenda. This is vital to the future of our economy and as in so many areas of public policy, he simply doesn't get it. He wants to put a wrecking ball through it.

HOST:

So as Treasurer would you guarantee we would get all that money back and more, that investment?

TREASURER:

And we've put out business plan and that's all on the public record at the moment. But Tony Abbott really doesn't care about the future of Australia, he hasn't got a set of plans. He's got a lot of scripted lines, where he just says no to everything. But no alternative plan.

HOST:

I should just say that in a moment we'll talk to the people behind the NBN and get their response. Just finally while I've got you, and in your role as Acting Prime Minister. Reports this morning that we would consider allowing the US to put a nuclear aircraft carrier into Perth. Is that seriously on the agenda?

TREASURER:

No. Bruce I think these matters were dealt with by Steve Smith on the radio this morning. I've been in a breakfast with business people and haven't heard his comments. But we are not contemplating an American base in Australia if that's the gist of the question.

HOST:

Thanks very much. Personally I'm a Jungleland man rather than a Born to Run..

TREASURER:

It's a great number, there's so many you can choose. But I would recommend the latest album 'Wrecking Ball' because it's not as Tony Abbott describes it – how surprising would that be - Wrecking Ball is actually about the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and economic change in America and working Americans and what we're on about here is supporting working people in this country in a way in which his country has not been able to do.