2 April 2019
Transcript - #2019053, 2019

Interview with Brett Mason SBS World News, SBS

Subjects: 2019-20 Budget

BRETT MASON:

$302 billion can buy a lot of things, are you confident it can buy your Government another three years in power?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

This Budget has all been about the Australian people, delivering a stronger economy and securing a better future for all Australians. That's what this Budget does, by delivering the first surplus in more than decade. We're no longer borrowing on the nation's credit card and we're paying back Labor's debt by investing in infrastructure, $100 billion; a massive tax package which will cut taxes for millions of Australians; and of course the half a billion dollar skills package to equip our young people with the skills they need. That's about the future of Australia.

BRETT MASON:

Are we paying back that debt quickly enough? We now know that the gross national debt is around $361 billion, it's 18 per cent of our GDP. Wouldn't that $302 billion have been better spent paying down some of that debt, clearing that debt more quickly than the 10 years forecast in tonight's Budget?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we are paying back Labor's debt, in fact we're seeing…

BRETT MASON:

We could have paid it back much more quickly if we put more of that money towards that goal tonight rather than a pre election income tax cut for…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it's all about getting the balance right. See, we as Liberals and Nationals believe people should earn more and people should keep more of what they earn and we look for every opportunity to reduce their taxes and that reduction in taxes will actually increase the economic activity and therefore jobs across the economy. I mean, an important point is that a couple who are earning $60,000 each, let's say a teacher and a tradie, they will get $2,160 in their pocket when they put in their tax return in just 13 weeks' time. That's really significant. That will go to their quarterly energy bill, that will go to their monthly mortgage, that will go towards their yearly car insurance.

BRETT MASON:

You haven't yet delivered a surplus. This is a projected surplus. In the Government's first Budget, Joe Hockey predicted a surplus by '17/'18. That Budget was a deficit Budget. Given the economic uncertainty that was outlined in today's Budget papers, how can you seriously be confident of delivering one surplus, let alone four?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, this is a 2019/2020 Budget and that's what we've delivered, a surplus for that year. We have seen a very credible trajectory where deficits have been reduced and now we're coming into surplus. It's been a steady course. We have under promised and over delivered when it comes to our previous Budgets and we've also been very conservative around commodity forecasts going forward.

BRETT MASON:

We today learned that reopening Christmas Island has cost $150 million. We also know that no one's been transferred there for medical treatment and if you win the next election you intend to close that centre down for a second time before 1 July. This has been a very expensive political point for the Government to make, hasn't it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, actually for our political opponents to make. They're the ones who have pushed this through. We're the ones who objected it because we believe in having a strong, rigorous border protection policy. Of course, we didn't want this legislation to get through and we're committed to abolishing it. Our focus has been on getting every child out of detention and we've done that. Our focus has been on closing detention centres and the key message from us is we want strong borders and we want to maintain the integrity of our border protection system.

BRETT MASON:

Just finally, Treasurer, I watched back your maiden speech today and in that you pay tribute to your former boss Alexander Downer, the former Foreign Minister. You said he that told you that "in politics nothing is as good or as bad as it seems”. 50 Newspoll losses in a row looks pretty grim. What's the reality of the Coalition's electoral chances now, possibly days out from the next election?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it's very clear there will be a choice for the Australian people at the next election, between the high taxing Labor Opposition where they want to put the militant unions in control of the workplaces and that they will run the economy down. Tonight, we've put the next stage of our economic plan, an economic plan that’s created 1.2 million new jobs, that's reduced the rate of spending growth, that got people off welfare, a plan that is working and tonight we saw the social dividend out of that plan. We've done all of that without increasing taxes. That's the contest at the next election.

BRETT MASON:

Treasurer, thank you very much.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

All the best.