3 October 2018
Transcript - #2018030, 2018

Interview with Tom Elliott, Drive, 3AW

Subjects: Removal of GST on feminine hygiene products; GST reform; Matthew Guy’s regional rail announcement; banks and schools

TOM ELLIOTT:

Josh Frydenberg, good afternoon.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you Tom and looking forward to a better year for the Blues.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Yes, well, yes. As I said to your new leader Scott Morrison, when I made him a Carlton member, things can only get better.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well he's got too close, I think, to the Eagles in the last few days, so we might have to have another word to him.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Well that is a job you can do, better than me.

Now, a few issues today, you caved into the political pressure and abolished the so-called tampon tax. Can I just ask you, why don't you undo the mistakes John Howard made back in 2000-2001 and just put the GST on everything, have no exemptions. Wouldn't that be a good idea?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well as you know any changes to the rate or the base does require the support of all the states and the territories and to date there has been no mood to expand the GST. And the issue with feminine hygiene products has been seen as an anomaly and out of step with community expectations. And as you know condoms and lubricants are exempt from the GST, so it was only appropriate that was also extended to feminine hygiene products.

TOM ELLIOTT:

I know, but you chip, chip, chip away. I mean, pretty soon, you know, you will say men's shaving cream should be exempt because men have to shave each day.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well I don't think there is going to be any other wholesale changes. I think this is an issue that has been bubbling for some time and we took the lead, we put it on the agenda and we got the states and territories to follow suit.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Was it Paul Keating who once said, don't get between a state premier and a bucket of money?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, that still applies…

TOM ELLIOTT:

So if you promise them a bigger bucket of money by putting the GST on everything, wouldn't they grab it with both hands and run?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, it's not a debate we are having and not one we are planning to have. We have in this case though removed the GST from feminine hygiene products – it is going to cost the states $30 million a year and we are not going to replace it by putting the GST on products that currently don't have it.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Alright, now what about your state colleague Matthew Guy. He's come out today and says we're going to spend $19 billion on a fast rail project, there's no business case as yet for example we don't know how much the fares might be or whether or not it's even possible but he did say this morning here on 3AW that he'd quite like the feds to come to the party with the funding.

Have you got some money to give Matthew Guy to make this very fast train proposal different from all the others and when I say different I mean one that is actually built rather than just talked about?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well I'd say firstly good on Matthew Guy for putting this idea and this plan forward about a European style high speed regional rail link which as you know can deal with some of the population pressures that we're seeing in Melbourne

If people can make their way from Geelong to Melbourne in 32 minutes or Melbourne to Ballarat in 45 minutes or half the travel time from Melbourne to Traralgon that's more likely to lead people to live outside the city, set up their business outside the cities and increase their quality of life.

So I think that is a good outcome. It will create 10,000 jobs and these type of fast rail links we've seen around the world and Australia is probably been relatively slow to take them up…

TOM ELLIOTT:

Sure but how do we make this one a reality? It's just that I did some research and I found very fast train proposals that were aired politically by federal and state in 1979, 1981, 1984, 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2008 all talked about, all promised, none of them came to fruition.

What's going to be different about this one?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well this is a firm commitment from Matthew Guy. When we've talked in the past about the Melbourne to Sydney fast rail link as you know there has been some business case studies but no one is actually making that firm commitment as Matthew has said. He has also said he won't be sending the bill to Canberra but of course we'll continue to talk to him and I spoke to him earlier in the day and congratulated him on this visionary project.

TOM ELLIOTT:

And did he ask for some money?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

He didn't

TOM ELLIOTT:

He didn't?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

He didn't.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Oh, he said this morning he'd quite liked it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

He's also made it very clear that this is important for Victoria, it will be a priority project for him and he will continue to talk to me and to my parliamentary colleagues because the doors always open for him.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Ok, so let's say he comes back with a fully worked out plan and the $19 billion is better fleshed out number with fares and you know, what rail will be built and all that sort of thing. I mean is there a chance that you as the new Federal Treasurer would actually part fund this plan? This promise?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well look Matthew Guy has put forward this proposal. I think it's a good one. I think it will be well-suited to Victoria. I think it would be creating more jobs, more businesses and dealing with the fact that we're seeing 270,000 people come into Melbourne each and every week. This is something that I'm happy to talk to him about but he's also made it clear he wouldn't be sending the bill to Canberra.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Ok, so there won't be any money coming from Canberra then?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I haven't said that. What I've said is happy to talk to him but he has a plan to fund this project and he rightly sees this as being good for Melbourne and for Victoria.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Ok, now final issue – we are going to speak to the consumer group Choice later on in the program – they have said it is time for kiddy accounts like Dollarmites to be kept out of classrooms. Now, the Commonwealth Bank has come under a lot of criticism for paying some schools in some cases to actually sign kids up to Dollarmite accounts. My view is a bit different, I reckon banking is just an inevitable fact of life, you know you are not going to be able to get through your teenage and adult years without having one or two bank accounts.

Don't you think it will be a good idea for kids to have a bank account? Instead of banning them from the classroom?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I think the principle is that state governments need to take great care in entering into marketing arrangements with public institutions, particularly those involving children. But I think at the same time you are right to focus on financial literacy, the importance of savings. And just the other day, Tom, I launched Scott Pape's new book 'The Barefoot Investor for Families' which is all about building financial literacy among young people and at a federal government level, through ASIC, we have put in place the MoneySmart program, which is providing 6000 schools and more than 30,000 teachers with the materials and training to enhance their financial literacy.

So, in this case I don't have a big problem with it. I remember as a young kid getting my own bank account, it hasn't grown much since then I have to point out, but anyway…

TOM ELLIOTT:

What with all the money you are making up in Canberra…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I've got plenty of expenses, young kids like many of your listeners, but I am not crying poor that is for sure, I am working hard and I do know that many, many families are doing it tough.

But this sort of financial literacy is important in our young people and I'd encourage it. But I would also flash a warning sign to state governments that they need to take great care in entering these marketing arrangements.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Just going back to the Prime Minister briefly, two or three weeks ago I gave him his own personalised football jumper and it was a Carlton jumper. Have you seen him wearing it around Canberra?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

No I haven't, but every time he mentions the Sharks, I mention the Blues.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Alright, thank you so much Josh.