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

29 August 2012

Joint Doorstop

Joint interview with
Bill Byrne
QLD Member for Rockhampton

SUBJECTS: Regional Infrastructure Fund, MRRT, Campbell Newman and Tony Abbot's Plans to Slash Jobs, Commodity Prices, Dental Scheme, Carbon Pricing.

TREASURER:

It's great to be here at this very important infrastructure project. Bill's a big supporter of projects like this because the region has been crying out for this project for some time. It's sorely needed and it's been made possible because the Federal Government has included a contribution of $40 million from our Regional Infrastructure Fund. There's some state funding as well, but it's predominantly Commonwealth funding here made possible by the revenue from the mining tax.

The mining tax is there to spread the benefits of the mining boom right around our country, but most particularly, in those areas which are feeling the stresses and the strains of development in the mining industry. This is a classic project which should come to areas like this, funded with revenue from the mining industry to put it back into local communities. So a lot of cars on this road every day, but this improvement here to both the bridge and the roundabout is very important for safety but also very important for confidence in the local region.

I might just say a couple of other things as well. I think when you come to a region like this I think you also understand how important it is that there are good services for people with disabilities. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is absolutely essential so that nationally we see that families who have family members affected by profound disabilities get the support that they thoroughly deserve. We had a very big breakthrough recently in Australia where the Federal Government agreed with five of our State Premiers to put in place the initial trial sites for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. And sadly the Queensland Premier, Mr Newman took a cold hearted view of that and decided that he wouldn't participate. I think many people with disabilities in this great region will be bitterly disappointed with the refusal of the Queensland Government to come to the party and get involved with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The fact is for a modest amount of money, there could have been a trial site in Queensland. But Mr Newman in his usual style has refused to participate and I think that approach is particularly cold-hearted and I think it has been rejected by residents in regions like this as it has right across the state of Queensland. So with those few words I might just throw to Bill.

BILL BYRNE:

This is a great project to see coming to fruition. It's a result of collaboration between two levels of Labor Governments because remember this project commenced when Labor was in state government. And it's going to deliver very, very substantial (inaudible). It's one of the great features of this project that the morning stack up, that occurs every morning between 7.30 and 9.00 the traffic coming from Gracemere is going to disappear with this project. And on that basis alone I could not be more happy to see this project commencing and eventually come to fruition.

TREASURER:

Over to you.

JOURNALIST:

The MRRT's funding part of this project. Are there any concerns with the falling prices of commodities and the announcement by BHP Billiton and Anglo Coalrecently downsizing some of their things that you may not get the money that you're expecting?

TREASURER:

I'll make a couple of points here because we've a discussion about the nature of the resources boom in Australia. As I review the number of projects being constructed in this region today on my trip, there is a very large increase in investment coming into this region, into coal, but also into those gas projects in Gladstone as well. So strong investment here, millions and millions of dollars in new investment still coming into this region. Now I make that point because Mr Abbott was here last year and he said that the carbon pricing scheme would destroy the coal industry. The coal industry's going strong and getting bigger and the investment coming into coal and also gas in this region is stupendous. It's large and it's ongoing - that's the first point.

The second point is that we said in our budget last year that commodity prices would come off somewhat this year and continue to come off because we reached the peak in commodity prices for our terms of trade last year. But we haven't reached the peak in terms of investment and we certainly haven't reached the peak in terms of export. So yes, commodity prices are off a bit at the moment. I made the point yesterday that it is wrong to take a spot price at the moment in iron ore or coal and then do a six month or twelve month calculation on that. Prices are down in terms of the spot market, people shouldn't be making instantaneous conclusions about the outcome. In terms of the MRRT, it is always affected by volume, by price and by the exchange rate. And that remains the case today as it was when we announced the original design.

JOURNALIST:

Your government's announcement for a $4 billion package for dental reform today, how are you going to pay for that?

TREASURER:

Well those matters will all be accounted for in our mid-year budget update which we'll deliver at the end of the year. We're also closing down a very costly scheme that Mr Abbott put in place some years ago. We'll account for that in full in our budget.

JOURNALIST:

You criticise the opposition for not being clear..

TREASURER:

We are clear about where we're directing our priorities and how we fund them. We do that in our budget and we do that in our mid-year update and we'll do that again.

Mr Hockey is the person who said on breakfast television twelve months ago that there was a $70 billion crater in the Liberal Party's budget bottom line. Now we've seen in Queensland what happens when a party like the Liberals under Mr Newman makes unfunded electoral promises. Mr Newman made $4 billion worth of unfunded election promises and the consequence of that has been huge cuts to health and education and the loss of up to 20,000 to 25,000 jobs.

Unlike the Liberals we are bringing our budget back to surplus, we're doing it in a responsible way and it will be outlined in full in our mid-year budget update.

JOURNALIST:

Yesterday you made some changes to the carbon tax. Does the removal of the floor price mean Treasury will have to remodel the expected effects of the carbon tax both on the economy generally and the government's own bottom line

TREASURER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Are you still on track to reach surplus?

TREASURER:

Of course. We are on track to reach surplus on time as promised.

JOURNALIST:

What are the risks of linking our emissions trading scheme to the European Union while the European economy stumbles?

TREASURER:

Well I've been reading a lot of bizarre commentary about this matter today. The fact is that linking with European Union is very good for Australia and very good for the future of carbon pricing in this country. I don't see how people are drawing the conclusions that they've been trying to draw. There's been some long bows drawn in this discussion today but to be part of a larger block of carbon trading is to Australia's advantage in the long run and it is generally welcomed by most people who understand carbon pricing.

JOURNALIST:

Tony Abbott was in Rockhampton yesterday and there's reports that he's been let in on how many jobs will go under the Newman Government..

TREASURER:

Yes I've noticed that Mr Newman said that he had not only fully briefed Mr Abbott on the cuts but that he had Mr Abbott's approval and he also had the approval of Mr Hockey. So I think the more Australians learn about Mr Abbott the more they know how potentially dangerous he is. Mr Hockey has said the $70 billion crater in their budget bottom line, well that's some very, very, very big cuts to health and education if Mr Abbott wants to have a responsible fiscal policy. This is the Mr Abbott that did come to Rockhampton and say that the coal industry was going to be obliterated - well it's here and it's growing strongly - and said that Gladstone would be wiped off the map. I think Gladstone's still here as well. So Mr Abbott's got a real problem, he's got no credibility.

JOURNALIST:

Do you believe this could be evidence of job cuts under an Abbott Government?

TREASURER:

Well I think we're already seeing here a taste of what will come with Mr Abbott from Mr Newman. Job cuts in this area of around 1,000 is the figure that I've heard. Of course if Mr Abbott is to fill that $70 billion crater that Mr Hockey mentioned on breakfast television then there's some very, very big cuts to come if there were to be an Abbott Government.

JOURNALIST:

A study came out yesterday saying that it would be feasible to have a rail line service between Bundaberg and Gladstone and Rockhampton (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

I'd have to talk to Infrastructure Australia because those sorts of proposals all have to go to Infrastructure Australia and I'm not aware that such a proposal has ever been placed before infrastructure Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Yesterday Mr Abbott labelled Kirsten Livermore a doormat. Do you think she is adequately represented [sic] by the people here in Central Queensland?

TREASURER:

The very reason this building is going on here behind us is because of Kirsten Livermore. $40 million from the Regional Infrastructure Fund because of Kirsten Livermore. See all that digging back there? That's the work of Kirsten Livermore.

For Mr Abbott to blow in, I mean he really does have a hide doesn't he? To turn up here yesterday after he'd been here previously to say the coal industry was going to be wiped out, that the carbon price was going to see Gladstone gone. All these sorts of bizarre comments from Mr Abbott really show what little credibility he has. So standing here today is but one of many demonstrations of the good work that Kirsten Livermore has done here, including not only this project but the upgrade of the Peak Downs Highway and many, many, many others.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any reason why Kirsten Livermore isn't here ?

TREASURER:

She's away on parliamentary business.

JOURNALIST:

The LNP's using a comment made by Christine Milne saying that the European prices will be as high as $50 a tonne for the carbon tax?

TREASURER:

Are these the same people that made the comments about Whyalla and Gladstone being wiped off the map? Are these the same people that are saying that a lamb roast is going to cost $100? Is it the same people who said that?

JOURNALIST:

What are your forecasts at the moment of what the European carbon price will be in that time period when we expect to go that way?

TREASURER:

What we know historically is that European carbon prices have moved up within a range. The price six months ago was higher than it is now. But we expect that the reforms that the European Union is making to its scheme will see its price will move up but I'm not here to speculate on what that will be.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

I tell you this. I know what's happening at my local hospitals in my electorate, they're being cut, cut by Mr Newman. Essential services taken away in all sorts of areas so I wouldn't be surprised if that's actually what's happening here.

Thanks very much.