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

3 January 2013

Doorstop interview

Sunshine Coast

Joint interview with
Senator Claire Moore
Labor Senator for Queensland and
Bill Gissane
Federal Labor Candidate for Fisher

SUBJECTS: University of Sunshine Coast Engineering Hub, Sunshine Coast economy, interest rates, global economy, Newstart Allowance and the QLD Government's proposal for voluntary voting

TREASURER:

It's great to be here at the University of the Sunshine Coast, particularly with Senator Claire Moore who's been a strong advocate for this university in Canberra, and Bill Gissane, the Labor Candidate for Fisher. I'm really proud today to announce this engineering learning hub and $30 million of Federal money which will go into this project and we're standing on the site right here. Engineering skills are absolutely critical to maximising the opportunities and the jobs which will flow and have flowed from the mining boom.  But as we go forward, to make sure beyond the mining boom that we maximise the opportunities which will flow from growth in the Asian century, we've got to invest in education. We've got to invest in education from preschool education all the way through to tertiary education. Because we know that investing in education is the key to maximising all the opportunities that can flow to our country from growth in the Asian region over the next century. And the University of the Sunshine Coast has got a very big role to play in that as we've heard today from the academics here that are talking about graduating engineering students in the next year or so and building on that with this fantastic facility.

We can see here what a contribution a university like this makes to ensure that people from regional areas get a first class education. And that's why it's so good to be here today to make this announcement You can hear, talking to the locals, how important they regard this investment to the future of the local economy. The local economy here has, from time to time, done it pretty tough because it's relied on tourism and it's relied on construction. Through this university there'll be another building block for the local economy to generate jobs and opportunities, particularly for young people that are growing up in the region.

MOORE:

I'm just really happy to be here to work with the wonderful people of Sunshine Coast University. They have such pride in their achievements, their professionalism and also their competiveness across our whole country. So I want to congratulate all the people who were involved in this bid. I've watched it develop and it's just wonderful to see that our Government can support them in the work they do for our whole community. This University belongs to the Sunshine Coast. There's a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership and they do us proud.

GISSANE:

I'm really pleased to hear the announcement today for a couple of reasons. The first one is that I'm an engineer. 30 years ago I was doing 30 punch cards to solve a quadratic equation. And then I see what's happening today, in my lifetime the advances that have happened in engineering are mind boggling. And it was fantastic to see the announcement today that is going to further the whole discipline and what it can do for people.

And I'll bring that to the campaign here in Fisher, because the ethos of engineering is solving people's problems in all sorts of matters. And that's what we do, and I want to do that here in Fisher. And I've spoken to people and there are real problems. Problems that relate to all facets of their life and we're listening to them and we're going to generate solutions with the support of our people in Canberra. So that's the tenor of the campaign and it's really fantastic, Wayne, to hear today the real support for a critical piece of infrastructure here on the Sunshine Coast and people might keep that in mind as we hit the hustings over the next couple of months

JOURNALIST:

What did you think about seeing your competitor Peter Slipper there today, did you have any words with him?

GISSANE:

I said hello, of course, and always happy to see anyone who is prepared to further the democratic process.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think this engineering hub will increase the Coast's chances of becoming a thriving fly in, fly out zone because of engineering [inaudible] mining?

TREASURER:

Too right it will. The Coast is doing very well in that area already and I'm sure it can do even better. I mean, where else would people want to live if they had the choice? The lifestyle around here is fantastic and it draws people back and it draws new people to the region to discover it. And when you have a facility like this you're going to draw more people to the region because it will be, as I said before, another building block in the local economy. You know, when I was growing up here it was basically sugar and developing tourism and construction of accommodation and units. It's so much more diverse now but it needs to be even more diverse because you'll find that those centres that have a more rounded economy inevitably have significant investment in their educational institutions.

And that's why the University of the Sunshine Coast has been such an important development. And the way it's grown over the years is exciting for the region, it brings new opportunities, people look at the region differently when they see an institution like this. The aim of the region and the aim of the council as I understand it, is to make this the most sustainable region in the country. And of course I think it's got all of those opportunities ahead of it. I mean, interest rates are now down and that should be good for a lot of people on the Sunshine Coast. They've come down quite significantly. That should be important for the construction sector, and here we'll be creating jobs as we'll, not just on this new project, but the one that's being constructed over there at the moment. That's an important source of jobs. That's all Federal funding coming into the region helping to broaden the local economy and giving parents the security to know they've got a first class institution here where their kids might go to university. It's a big development for the Coast, it's very exciting.

JOURNALIST:

Paul Howes has called for the RBA to cut rates again after the manufacturing sector contracted for the tenth month in a row. Should the RBA act soon?

TREASURER:

Well these are matters entirely for the RBA, but the RBA has cut rates significantly. They take their decision independently from the Government. But one of the reasons the RBA has been in a position to cut rates is because of the tight fiscal ship the Federal Government has been running. And because we've been running a tight fiscal ship they've been in a position to actually cut rates quite significantly, they've been doing that, but future decisions are matters for the RBA. But I'll make this point: if you've got a $300,000 mortgage you're paying $5000 a year less then you were paying when the Government came to power, when the previous mob were in power. $5000, that's how much rates have come down on the average mortgage of $300,000.

JOURNALIST:

How will developments in the US impact the Australian economy?

TREASURER:

Well they have a significant impact on the global economy and anything which impacts on the global economy impacts on the Australian economy. I certainly welcome the decision taken by the Congress overnight. President Obama has managed to secure an interim solution but it's only an interim solution and there is some way to go. The IMF has made this point today as well. It's a good step but more action is going to be required in the United States over the months ahead. But I certainly welcome the decision that has been taken as a first step to resolve these problems which have been impacting not just the US economy, but on the global economy, affecting confidence in the global economy and that always impacts on Australia. And we can see the impacts of that lack of confidence on Australia particularly in the third quarter of last year where we've written down our revenues quite substantially, where commodity prices came down because confidence was lost which hit our budget and, in turn, had dramatic effects on our revenue. Now when these matters are worked through, as I hope they will be over the next few months, hopefully there is greater confidence in the global economy because that's going to be good for Australia if that happens.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have any comment on the Newman Government's idea to introduce voluntary voting in Queensland?

TREASURER:

Well it was absolutely stunning, I thought I was back in the Joh era as I got up and read the paper this morning. I thought, you know, has Queensland just gone back 30 years? It appears the new Government is going to do everything it possibly can to stop Queenslanders from having a say about their cruel cuts to public services which they never outlined prior to the election. So they appear to be determined to stop voters from having their say at the ballot box, because as I understand it, not only is there a proposition for voluntary voting, there's a proposition to make it harder for Queenslanders to go and vote in the first place irrespective of whether it's compulsory or voluntary. You know, these are the tactics of the Tea Party in the United States, trying to stop people from exercising their democratic rights and I think that's what lies at the core of this Joh era style proposal which has emerged from the Newman Government today.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan are you concerned that interest rate cuts don't seem to be reducing the high Aussie dollar?

TREASURER:

Well there a couple of elements there. I don't comment on the pathway of the Aussie Dollar, I don't ever do that. But interest rates have come down substantially. That's a good thing, as I indicated before. That means that someone with a $300,000 mortgage, which is around the average mortgage, is now paying something like $5000 a year less than what they were paying when the Liberals where last in power. That certainly will have an impact on the non-mining sectors of the economy which will get some stimulus from that, and that's a good thing, but I don't comment on the pathway of the Aussie Dollar.

JOURNALIST:

What's the forecast for the deficit this year?

TREASURER:

Well I think as I made very clear at a comprehensive press conference I did in Canberra, not only just before Christmas, but also when the National Accounts came out, the fact is that we will assess where we are in the new year. Where we will be in the new year depends on the impact on revenue from what's going on in the global economy, and we'll make a comprehensive assessment of where we are in the new year.

JOURNALIST:

Will we see the figure before the May budget?

TREASURER:

We will make a comprehensive assessment of where we are in the new year, and we will deliver a forecast in the May Budget in the normal way.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan could you live on the dole?

TREASURER:

Well look it's tough to get by on a low income. But we have to understand that the dole is a temporary payment. The Government's number one objective from day one has been to support employment and to create new jobs in Australia. Since the time we've been in power over 800,000 jobs have been created. And what that means is that people have been getting work in this country unlike many other developed economies where unemployment rates are far higher. So it's tough to get by on the dole, but the Government's objective is to make sure that people get into work as quickly as they possibly can, and that's been our objective.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it's a smart idea for politicians to be trying to live on the dole?

TREASURER:

Well I said before, it's tough to get by when you're on a low income. There's no doubt about that. Which is why the Government has put in place a very significant number of benefits to assist people on low incomes. For example, the initiative that I announced in the Budget, the Schoolkids Bonus, goes to all people with children including people on the dole. A very significant benefit which is going to be paid to them in the next little while. Family Tax Benefits for example, which we've adjusted from time to time, to assist families with kids including people on the dole. So there are a whole range of payments that we put in place to support people on low incomes to make sure they can get by. I mean, as a member of the Labor Party, the reason I joined and got involved in the political process was to ensure people on low and modest incomes had a say and a stake in our future prosperity and that they should get opportunities for their kids, irrespective of what postcode they came from. And from that flows the Government's number one objective and priority which is to support employment creation. The Government copped a lot of criticism for the very important package we put in place during the Global Financial Crisis and the global recession to keep people in jobs, to keep the doors of small business open. That worked and the consequence of that was that unemployment in this country has remained low relative to the rest of the world. And our objective as we go forward is to maximise the number of new jobs created so that people don't spend too long on those temporary payments

JOURNALIST:

Is the Gillard Government considering increasing Newstart?

TREASURER:

Well I just made the point that what we're going to do is put our number one priority in place. That's what we've been doing and what we'll continue to do, supporting the creation of jobs. The dole is indexed every year in terms of inflation and in addition to that we provide very substantial assistance for people on low incomes, in particular the Schoolkids Bonus and Family Tax Benefit Part A. They're very important payments for people on low incomes and they're very generous payments. And we make them because we're a Labor Government that absolutely understands it's tough to get by on low incomes, which is why we support jobs and which is why we support such a strong social security safety net which expresses itself in Family Tax Benefit Part A, Family Tax Benefit Part B, the Schoolkids Bonus, the healthcare cards that are provided to all of those people and a host and a range of other benefits which are really important for people on low incomes.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think what Adam Bandt is doing is a waste of time?

TREASURER:

Well I'm not getting into a commentary of what others are doing. I'm telling you the central philosophy and policy of this Government, which is directed first and foremost at creating jobs for Australians so they can stand on their own two feet, and secondly, when they can't get a job the sort of support that we are providing to them so they get by.

JOURNALIST:

What's the Gillard Government doing to assist the manufacturing sector in the face of the high Aussie dollar?

TREASURER:

Well quite a bit actually. We have worked very closely with the manufacturing industry over the last six months. We've had a Manufacturing Industry Taskforce. Just before Christmas we announced a range of initiatives which will deal with dumped goods coming into this country and threatening jobs here because of unfair import competition which comes from subsidisation of those goods overseas – that's a very big initiative. And as the Prime Minister has indicated and as the Manufacturing Minister has indicated, there's more to come in our response to the report that came to us from the Manufacturing Industry Taskforce and you'll see that this year.

JOURNALIST:

Getting back to the non-compulsory voting. Don't you think there's some sense in having those people who won't turn up, and perhaps a bit more informed, actually deciding who the leader was?

TREASURER:

I find that offensive, I really find that offensive. Your suggestion is that somebody like myself should make a judgment about how informed a voter is. The whole point of one vote one value is that everyone has a chance to have their say. And as a politician what I do is I respect their say. It's entirely up to them as to how they make up their mind about how they will vote. What we've got here is a fundamental challenge to the principle of one vote, one person, which is the very basis of democracy. And what this report from the Newman Government today is really about is taking votes away from people who may be unhappy with them. That's what it's all about. They know that the people of Queensland are very unhappy with their cruel cuts which they have made. Their cruel and callous cuts to a whole host of public services including here on the Sunshine Coast, including health, particularly here on the Sunshine Coast and what they have decided to do is to restrict the right to vote and take it away from some people. Don't be fooled by the notion that all they are on about is voluntary voting. What they're on about is making it harder to vote and the very core of that proposition is they don't have the confidence to face the full voice of the people because of the way in which they have behaved after the election, which is completely contrary to the way they said they would behave before the election, and that's what this is about. I mean I'm old enough, and many people here won't be old enough to remember, the Bjelke-Petersen era, and the rigged voting that went on in the Bjelke-Petersen era. This is a Bjelke-Petersen-style era of a proposal from the Newman Government to try and escape the judgment of the people.

JOURNALIST:

Why did you ditch cuts to single parenting payments when you've dropped the surplus?

TREASURER:

Well let's be really clear about this. The fact is the Government runs a tight fiscal ship when it comes to expenditure. And we are continuing to run a tight fiscal ship when it comes to expenditure. What I announced before Christmas was that because of revenue downgrade caused by events principally in the global economy, caused by the high Aussie dollar, caused by a cautious consumer, that it would be unlikely that we'd come to surplus. And what I said was we'd let the automatic stabilisers work and we wouldn't seek to further cut public expenditure to make up for the fact that revenue was being lost. That's the announcement I made. There is no change to the tight expenditure control that this Government has had in place for a long period of time. That's the responsible thing because it would have been irresponsible to have cut further to make up for those revenue downgrades that would have hit growth and hit jobs. And as I was explaining before, the number one priority of this Government, what drives this Government at its very core, is the notion that people should have secure employment that's why the terms and conditions of employment are so important and why industrial relations will be such an important part of the next election. The terms and conditions of employment, the capacity of the economy to not just create more jobs, but good jobs, and the capacity of families to get affordable health and education for their kids. That's what this Government is on about and it's a clear contrast with what's on offer from Mr Abbott and Mr Newman whose only course when it comes to economic policy is to get out the scalpel and hack up essential public services that people on modest incomes actually need.