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

14 May 2013

Doorstop interview

Canberra

SUBJECTS: Budget 2013, Coalition IR Policy

TREASURER:

Well, what a beautiful morning. Tonight I will deliver my sixth Budget and I'll be doing in this Budget, what I've done in every one of my last five Budgets - and that is putting jobs and growth first and always making sure we make the necessary investments for the future. Tonight's Budget is really about the future. It's about keeping our economy strong, keeping our economy up there in lights as one of the strongest developed economies in the global economy. You know if you think about where the Australian economy is now and where it's come from over the past five years, we've created 950,000 jobs. We've got a AAA credit rating from the three major global rating agencies. We are one of the few developed economies to avoid recession and we've got low unemployment and we've got solid growth. What tonight is about is keeping our economy strong but as we do that, making the very big investments for the future that make our economy more prosperous, our economy smarter and of course our society fairer. So tonight is very much about some very big investments which will deliver for our country for decades to come.

It's about investing in the education of our young people and making sure that they get the best possible start in life. You know, you can't invest in education on a four year forward estimate cycle. You can't do that - you've got to put these investments in place for the long-term. So when we talk about the long term we talk about long-term investments which will be at the core of this Budget. And of course, the other long-term investment to deliver a fairer society is delivering DisabilityCare. If you've got a permanent or severe disability you don't have it for four years over the forward estimates - you have it for life. And what's required is certainty, support and the knowledge that that will be there for you as you grow old. So the Budget tonight is about a stronger economy, a smarter and stronger society and a fairer society, that's what this Budget tonight is all about.

JOURNALIST:

How would you defend your forecasts tonight? The Opposition's already saying that you can't believe anything, any forecast, any number in the Budget.

TREASURER:

The forecasts I'll be delivering tonight are forecasts that have been prepared by the Treasury, the same people who did the forecasts for the Opposition when they were in government. These are the same officials who prepared their forecasts. But the truth is that the global economy is capable of changing dramatically, quickly and having different effects on the economy at different times. So first of all, just after I delivered our first Budget, we were hit with the Global Financial Crisis and global demand fell off a cliff and the Government responded. The Government said we've got to put jobs and growth first. We did respond. The outcome then was that we came through the Global Financial Crisis and the global recession in the best shape of just about any developed economy in the world. And now we have a new challenge and this Budget is about responding to that new challenge.

Global volatility and a persistently high Australian dollar is putting enormous pressure on our economy, on the profitability of businesses, on the price structure of business inputs right across the economy and that has smashed government revenue. For the Opposition to pretend that that hasn't happened, for them to try and stick their head in the sand as they did during the Global Financial Crisis and pretend that global demand hadn't fallen off a cliff, now they're seeking to pretend that government revenues haven't been smashed by a persistently higher dollar, a fall in the terms of trade, to do that shows their economic ignorance.

JOURNALIST:

Just over a month ago you said, and I quote, 'Can I just say this about decades, it's very difficult to do absolutely reliable 10-year figures'. So will your 10-year predictions carry any meaning?

TREASURER:

Absolutely they will and you will see all of the detail contained in the Budget tonight.

JOURNALIST:

That was only a few months ago, what's changed now? You said it was difficult.

TREASURER:

I did say it was difficult. What I also said was, along with that comment, that we would make structural changes in our Budget to make room for other or new structural changes in the Budget. So if you're going to put in something like funding the school improvement program as was recommended by Mr Gonski, then you have to find room in your Budget. If you want to put in DisabilityCare then you have to find room in your Budget and what I said and what I was referring to is we would make room in our Budget through structural saves and we would demonstrate how that could be done. And that will be there tonight.

JOURNALIST:

Tony Windsor says that this is probably going to be your last Budget, is he right?

TREASURER:

That's entirely up to the Australian people. I've run for Parliament on any number of occasions and I'll continue to run, proud of what has been achieved and going to the next election with the expectation we will win that election. Because you see, there's a real challenge here tonight for the Opposition. What we are putting in place is a detailed funded plan for the future, based on Treasury forecasts and, of course, the Opposition is going to have to come clean as to what their program is going to be. Now, they have been saying that they're going to conduct an audit after the next election if they're elected. That is, they want to try the Campbell Newman approach of trying to run to an election and then get elected and then in that process not tell the people what they're going to do. The task for them will be to demonstrate how they're going to bring a Budget on a pathway back to surplus, how they're going to fund the investments for the future and how they're going to keep an economy strong. That is the debate we need to have in this country as we go forward to the election. There will be a clear choice and in that choice we will win.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, clearly we've got a key Gillard backer who is saying this morning he doesn't think you will be Treasurer come September. That's not the best way to start Budget day, is it?

TREASURER:

That is the least of my concern. What this Budget is actually about is the future of the country. It's about what we do to keep our economy strong. It's how we make our economy stronger and smarter, it's about how we make our society fairer. That's what I'm concerned about. When I get up every day, I don't think about what the opinion polls are saying or what the political commentary is saying.You know what I think about? I think about making our country better and stronger. I think about what we do for future generations and that's what this Budget is about. This Budget is about making our economy stronger, making our economy and society smarter and making our society fairer. That's what it's about and that's what I'm concerned about and that's what's driven me every moment I've been involved in politics and been elected to this national parliament.

JOURNALIST:

What can you expect to see in terms of Medicare and bulk billing tonight?

TREASURER:

You will have to wait and see tonight. One of the reports I've seen around today is not accurate.

JOURNALIST:

Andrew Robb said this morning on penalty rates that there would be an opportunity for various flexibility of arrangements under the Coalition.

TREASURER:

Andrew Robb has just let the cat out of the bag. What he is saying is that individual agreements will rip away basic worker protections such as penalty rates. He's just let the cat out of the bag this morning. You see, they hope that they can put out an industrial relations policy under the shadow of a Budget and nobody would actually have a look at what it really meant. Well this morning Mr Robb has obviously indicated what it means.

JOURNALIST:

When you say the report this morning is inaccurate, does that mean there will be no changes to the Medicare Benefits Scheme?

TREASURER:

What you will have to do is look at the Budget this evening. I'm not going to go into commenting about a whole lot of speculative stories. Some will be right, some will be wrong, some will have elements of truth. There are a whole range of stories out there this morning and I have no intention of going into the ins and outs of them. It's only a couple of hours before we all go into the lock up. Let's go into the lock up, check it out and talk about it tonight.

JOURNALIST:

Just on Andrew Robb and penalty rates, he said this morning that under individual flexibility arrangements under the Coalition you would be able to change penalty rates but both parties would have to agree and it would have to meet the better off test. Isn't that what the current state of play is?

TREASURER:

Are you here advocating for the Liberal Party?

JOURNALIST:

I'm here asking you a question. Isn't that the current state of play, Mr Swan?

TREASURER:

The current state of play is penalty rates are protected under our system and won't be protected under Liberal Party as they were not protected under WorkChoices. You see in their DNA what drives the Liberals is WorkChoices. Ripping away at workers' rights and jacking up indirect taxes. That is where they're at. That's their real policy. It's the one they won't tell the Australian people about but that's their real agenda.

JOURNALIST:

So just to clarify, under Labor's individual flexibility arrangements you can't change penalty rates?

TREASURER:

Penalty rates are protected. Penalty rates are absolutely protected under our arrangements.