18 December 2013

Interview with Alison Carabine, ABC Radio National

Note
SUBJECTS: MYEFO, NDIS, spending cuts, support for Holden workers

This is a transcript of the Assistant Treasurer's interview with Alison Carabine on ABC Radio National. The main topics discussed were MYEFO, the NDIS, spending cuts and support for Holden workers.

ALISON CARABINE

Arthur Sinodinos, good morning.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Hey Alison, how are you?

ALISON CARABINE

Very well thank you Senator. All options are on the table. The Opposition says you are laying the ground work for deep and brutal spending cuts that will affect every Australian. Will those cuts include the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

The point I want to make to the Opposition and to your listeners is that we will do nothing which cuts across our election commitments. It is important that people understand that for example on the National Disability Insurance Scheme we're fully committed to the rollout. What we are doing is carefully sifting through the evidence that's coming through from the launch sites about the potential average costs of delivering the scheme, the potential coverage in terms of eligibility, and we're seeking to make sure that we deliver a scheme which is as cost effective as possible while meeting the needs of the constituency that we've identified, a very important constituency, that we want to look after going forward. But we won't be able to look after them if we design a scheme that is not fiscally sustainable. So today for example, Mitch Fifield and I are chairing the Standing  Committee on Disability Reform in Melbourne, which involves the State Minister for Disability and Treasury to talk about how the NDIS is going and how we make sure we strengthen its capacity to meet the needs of our fellow Australians while making sure that it's done in a value for money way.

ALISON CARABINE

And that value for money way, could that involve some sort of a cap on support or maybe slowing the rollout of NDIS as you have a close look at the early results?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Well what we are doing is committed to rolling it out to meet the legitimate and appropriate needs that have been identified, but we're going to do it as efficiently and effectively as we can, because if we can't do that, we will disappoint those people, because we won't have a sustainable scheme.

ALISON CARABINE

In another area the Government has pledged not to cut health or education, but the MYEFO confirmed a number of measures announced by Labor such as $100 million for Westmead Hospital and a billion dollars for new trade and training centres, they won't go ahead. How does that fit with your pledge not to touch either or health or education?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

My recollection is that in the Forward Estimates in health our policy decisions involve a net increase in spending of about 38 million or so…

ALISON CARABINE

Then why are you cutting money to Westmead Hospital?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

What we have done is we've not proceeded with some commitments of the previous Government and substituted some of our own commitments, including around areas like juvenile diabetes, for example. So if you go through the list of items you'll see that there have been areas where we have cancelled decisions of the previous Government because we are making savings, but on top of that also committing redirected funds to our own priorities in those areas.

ALISON CARABINE

Now a couple of the other areas that may be in your sights, the Treasurer was saying yesterday that much of the projected growth in spending is from social programmes, not just education and health, but also welfare. Joe Hockey has previously called for an end to the age of entitlement, so where does that leave payments such as family tax benefits and childcare support, both of which have blown out, could they be targeted by a Commission of Audit?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

The Commission of Audit has broad terms of reference [inaudible] subject to meeting out election commitments, they will have the job of looking through the efficiency and effectiveness of government spending across the board and making sure that we deliver it in a way which is cost effective and appropriate. And where there is inefficiency, and where we can make genuine savings and long term savings subject to meeting our election commitments, we will do that.

ALISON CARABINE

And that includes family tax benefits and childcare?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

I am not going to get into the ancient political game of ruling things in and out. What I can give you is an assurance that we will do things consistent with the election commitments.

ALISON CARABINE

And the Government doesn't want to also get trapped into setting a timetable for a return to surplus, but the Treasurer was also calling on the public to support the hard decisions that are in the offing. Arthur Sinodinos, if you want to take the pubic along with you, then doesn't the public have a right to know when there will some gain from all the pain.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

A couple of things on that, we can bring forward when we can return to surplus if Labor agree to $20 billion of savings that are locked up in the Senate, which they and the Greens are refusing to pass. So everybody has a role to play. Yes, we have to have a conversation with the public about what is needed to be done and that conversation will occur over the next few months. There is not going to be a vacuum till the Budget. We're going to be talking to the Australian people further about the challenges we face and how we meet them, but Labor can come to the party as soon as today or tomorrow and agree to pass a whole series of savings options that are tied up in the Senate, including some measures which they in Government themselves proposed. If they want to be consistent, if they want to start a new line in Opposition of being consistent, then the way to do that is to stand by savings measures they themselves proposed in Government.

ALISON CARABINE

But without a specific surplus target how much discipline will there be on the Government to actually do what you say you are going to do?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

The whole point of the process of Commission of Audit will culminate with us laying out in the Budget our medium term strategy, our budget rules and from that you'll be able to see how quickly we can potentially return to surplus and under what conditions. But it's very important that we have the benefit of that work and as I've said before there will be no vacuum. In the meantime we will engage in an ongoing conversation with the Australian people about the challenges we face and the best way to deal with them.

ALISON CARABINE

And now that MYEFO is out, Joe Hockey says he has drawn a line in the sand from the Labor years, does that mean we can now call an end to the blame game, the Government now has ownership over the Budget whether it's the good, the bad, the ugly?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

We didn't create the mess, but we've taken the responsibility for fixing it. I am paraphrasing some lines that Peter Costello used in 1996 and we are in that position again. And we are taking the responsibility from now. These will be our decisions as to how best we do bring about [inaudible] budget balance and the surplus, and over what period, while meeting the commitments we made to the Australian people.

ALISON CARABINE

The Government also has responsibility for the Holden closure in 2017 or at least the responsibility for the policy response. The Prime Minister will today announce support measures for Holden workers, will there be significant dollars attached to the package?

ARTHUR SINODINOS

I can't go into the package, I am not across the full details. The Prime Minister has been working hard on this, he will announce it in due course. The point I want to make about our policy on manufacturing generally is that this is about managing change. We are living in an economy where we have to keep increasing our productivity and competiveness, because the other ways, the traditional ways of increasing our income over the next few years are not going to be as easy to rely upon as they have been in the past, like the terms of trade. So our manufacturing policy is, how do we create sustainable competitive advantage in this new globalised economy. So for us this package is about how we promote building on our strength in areas like South Australia and Victoria and it's about how we recognise the attributes of those workers and focus on achieving real jobs in this new more globalised environment.

ALISON CARABINE

Good luck with that. Arthur Sinodinos thanks for your time and all the best for the Christmas season.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

You too Alison, thank you.

ALISON CARABINE

Thank you.

ARTHUR SINODINOS

Bye.