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

20 May 2013

Doorstop Interview

Perth

SUBJECTS: Budget 13-14; Gateway Project; Polls; Western Australian Budget; GST

BISHOP: 

Folks let me introduce the team here today. I am Senator Mark Bishop, Senator for Western Australia. On my left over here, John Bissett, candidate for Swan. Immediately behind me here today is Adrian Evans, our candidate for Hasluck, and of course our special guest, the Treasurer of Australia, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Wayne Swan.

Over to you Wayne.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Mark. Look, it look it is great to be here today on site today at the Gateway project. This is $700 million investment in improving the transport infrastructure in Perth. It is going to make a huge difference to this city over the years ahead. And for locals it is going to separate the freight traffic from the domestic traffic so it will improve the quality of life for so many people living in the region.  But it will also lift the economy. And this is an ongoing project which we've committed to some years ago, because we understand in Western Australia how important investment in economic infrastructure is to assist with economic growth and also to improve the quality of life in so many suburbs around the city of Perth. It is going to be one of the great cities of the world as we go forward and it needs first class infrastructure and that is why we have been investing here for a long period of time. And that is why I am so pleased to be here with all of my colleagues because we are really proud that in the Budget we announced an additional $1.6 billion of investment in critical economic infrastructure right across the great state of Western Australia.  And we look forward to working with the State Government to ensure that this becomes a reality. These new investments in addition to these existing investments can make such a difference to this state. We are committed partners to improving infrastructure here - have been for the whole time for our five and a half years in Government - and you have seen some many more projects already completed, and projects like this one becoming a reality.

I would also like to say a couple things about the Budget and its relationship to Western Australia because it is disappointing to the Commonwealth Government that the West Australian Government has not yet joined DisabilityCare. The only state remaining outside this fundamental reform that can do so much for the 40,000 West Australians with a severe or permanent disability. I hope the Western Australian Government has a change of mind and joins DisabilityCare because it will do so much to improve the lives of so many people who have done it really tough over a long period of time.

And it is also disappointing to see that the West Australian Government won't join up to our school improvement program. This will make a huge difference over the years ahead to lift the quality of education right around Australia, and to make sure that no child is left behind in school. It will mean significant increases in funding for schools across Western Australia. There's around 1,000 schools, or 1,000-plus schools, in Western Australia and it is disappointing that the West Australian Government won't sign up, and that will mean that schools in Western Australia as we go forward won't be getting significant increases in funding that they thoroughly deserve and are required to make sure we lift the quality of education for all the students in this State.

I'd also like to say a couple of things about a few matters floating around in the national discussion today. Overnight, we've seen Mr Hockey admit that he has got further cuts coming. We had a sneak peek in Mr Abbott's Budget Reply the other night of some of the cuts that the Liberal Party are going to implement. Cuts to education -we are not going to see under the Liberal Party the significant improvement which will flow from the school improvement program that we are putting in place. And of course, we know they are going to get rid of the SchoolKids Bonus.

But today we've seen Mr Hockey admit that he is also going have further cuts to family payments. The sad truth is that the Liberals have a secret cut agenda which they won't reveal to the Australian people but which is dribbling out almost day-by-day. Only a couple of days ago, they said they were opposed to our means testing of the private health insurance rebate, now they've changed their mind on that. And now they've come out today and said there is going to be further cuts to family payments. I think what this really shows is they are not being frank with the Australian people about their secret agenda to cut to the bone when it comes to health and education. What we are beginning to see that agenda of theirs, which they want to keep hidden from the Australian public, just dribble out day-by-day.

JOURNALIST:

Why are there so many Budget measures from twelve months ago that haven't been legislated. What else could be under threat? 

TREASURER:

Well, we are putting in place our legislative program. Legislative programs take a while to go through the Parliament. We've put through the Parliament more Bills in this Parliament than you've seen in many Parliaments for years and years because we are a very active government. We're a reform government that wants to make life better, wants to grow the economy and put in place good social and economic policies and that requires a big legislative agenda.

JOURNALIST:

This Gateway project is a joint project between State and Federal. Why is there nobody from the State Government here today? Is that a sign of ongoing tension between Canberra and WA?

TREASURER:

Not at all, I'm here as the Deputy Prime Minister and I'm really proud of our investments here and I'm really happy that we are partnering with the West Australian Government in vital project likes the Gateway. As Minister Albanese said here yesterday, we want to partner with the West Australian Government and a whole host of new investments here in Western Australia. I can just go through them, the Perth public transport package, that is the rail to the airport, Perth light rail, Swan Valley by-pass, Tonkin Highway, Great Northern Highway, North-western coastal highway. And that's all in addition to the existing investments that are going on elsewhere in the city. Sometimes when I'm here I will be with someone from the State Government and sometimes when I'm here I will be here with my Labor colleagues who are all really proud of these fundamental investments that are improving the life and the economic prospects of this great city.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think a discussion needs to be  had about broadening the base or the rate of the GST?

TREASURER:

No. Look, the Liberal Party has had a long-held view that they want to broaden the base of the GST, and include items like food, for example, a whole lot of services, and to lift the rate. It's just in the DNA of Liberals and that's why you're seeing Liberals all over the country coming out and saying they favour that course of action. But people ought to be very clear: this Labor Government will never lift the rate or touch the base of the GST.

JOURNALIST:

Given WA's falling revenues, could we expect a change to our share of GST in the future?

TREASURER:

Well, when you throw in all Commonwealth payments to Western Australia it is 79 cents in the dollar, not the figure that's frequently quoted by the West Australian Government. You see, in terms of the GST monies that is returned to the States, there's also a lot of other money that the Commonwealth pays to the States. Monies for health, monies for infrastructure, monies for school. So there is a lot more money coming to Western Australia than sometimes people over here like the State Premier care to indicate is coming. And this project is but one example of that very substantial investment that comes to Western Australia in addition to those monies that come to the State from the central pool that lifts up the Commonwealth contribution to Western Australia and takes it to 79 cents in the dollar.

JOURNALIST:

You're saying that Colin Barnett's Budget pressures are of his own making?

TREASURER:

Well I will leave commentary to Mr Barnett's Budget up to the locals. What I do know is that the Commonwealth, through projects like this, through the really substantial investment we want to make in schools, through the substantial investment we are making in hospitals, through the substantial investment we are making in infrastructure is putting a lot of money back into this great State, which deserves it.  It is a big economic engine in Australia and it deserves the Commonwealth investment it's getting in infrastructure, and we're pleased to work with the West Australian Government, whoever they may be, to make sure that we get these investments in place for the good of Western Australia.

I'm a Queenslander. I understand these things. I come from a great resource-rich State as well. I understand what it's like for States that are really hungry for infrastructure and wanting to develop and grow. And that's why we are here as we are in my state of Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

What do you make of the fact that the Premier's already broken some of his election promises inaudible) 

TREASURER:

Well that is just a matter for Mr Barnett. I'm here talking about the priorities of a Federal Labor Government for Western Australia to invest in infrastructure, to invest in schools, to invest in DisabilityCare. These are our priorities. And we'll put them forward because they're good for the State.

JOURNALIST:

You have here with the Candidates for Hasluck and Swan. And the last Community Cabinet was in WA in Hasluck. How desperate are you to win back those seats, especially Hasluck?

TREASURER:

Well I think we have a great story to tell on the ground in Western Australia which is why I am proud to be here with our candidates from Swan and Hasluck.  I'm proud to be here with them because if you look at what has been delivered for these two federal seats by a Federal Labor Government, look at the investment in education right across these two seats over the past five and a half years. Look at the investment in health and hospitals and all the vital infrastructure across this great city. Look at all of these investments that we're talking about today. A great story for Federal Labor in WA, and we will be here all of the time banging the drum about it, because we have done the right thing by Western Australia, we'll keep doing the right thing for Western Australia and we will keep  coming back to talk to people about it. You see, you know, people out there want to talk about opinion polls all the time. I just love talking about policy. I love talking about policy on the ground, in places like this, because we're doing great things for local areas to grow their economy and improve their quality of life.

JOURNALIST:

Another bad opinion poll is out, particularly for you. Do you have a response to that?

TREASURER:

Well, as I just said, I don't talk about opinion polls, but I love - I really love - talking about policy. This is some great policy that we're putting in place.

JOURNALIST:

Just back to earlier issue, and the Coalition says there are up to $75 billion worth of savings that haven't been legislated. Is that an accurate figure?

TREASURER:

I haven't seen their list, but as I said, they've been all over the shop. I mean, on the weekend they were saying that they didn't support the means testing of private health insurance rebate and apparently today they do. On the weekend, they were supporting what we have done in family payments, and today they're saying they want to cut harder. You see, they want to cut to the bone. They've got a very big hole in their budget bottom line and it keeps getting bigger by the day and we all know they've got a plan to skate through the election without telling people what they really want to do after the election. This is the Campbell Newman playbook. He went through an election in Queensland, didn't front up to the people and tell them what he wanted to do. After the election he came in and he cut to the bone . Cut to the bone in health, and education, and infrastructure. And that's the plan of Tony Abbott and the Liberals.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the local news today, a $2 billion write-down in the State revenue. Is that a sign of a new fiscal reality with the mining boom coming to, perhaps, peeking down , and does that require more money from Canberra, I suppose, to even that?

TREASURER:

Oh look, I haven't seen the reports about the State Budget, so I'm not aware of what's going to being in their Budget or not. What I'm held accountable for, as I rightly should be, is for the Federal Budget. And I'm prepared to front up right around the country and talk about what our Budget is doing to support growth and jobs. Because we won't go down the austerity road that so many State Liberal Governments are going down, which is slashing expenditure, cutting to the bone in vital areas such as health and education. What we want to do is support growth and jobs, make the necessary investments for the future, and bring our Budget back to surplus on a responsible path. All of those are the things that we did in our Budget last Tuesday night. Thanks a lot.