1 July 2019
Transcript - #2019086, 2019

Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Labor’s high tax agenda; Coalition’s tax relief; AFP raids; interest rates; Newstart; global trade tensions.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Confirmation today that Labor remain opposed to the Coalition’s tax cuts that we took to the election. It shows that Anthony Albanese has learnt nothing from his election defeat and heard nothing on his listening tour. The Australian people voted in favour of the Coalition’s tax cuts and rejected Labor’s $387 billion of higher taxes. This was Anthony Albanese’s first test and he failed, and he failed badly. But his should come as no surprise because the Labor Party is the party of higher taxes. Always was, is and will be.

You see, the co-architect of Labor’s $387 billion in higher taxes was actually Jim Chalmers, who’s now the Shadow Treasurer. The Labor Party’s Shadow Cabinet, which endorsed the $387 billion of higher taxes, remains largely unchanged, with Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen still in that Cabinet. And Labor’s national policy platform, which explicitly rejected a tax to GDP cap, is actually still their platform today.

So only the Coalition can be trusted to reduce taxes for low and middle income earners. That’s what our tax cuts will do. Both short-term relief, with those who are earning up to $126,000 getting up to $1,080, and long-term reform which will see 94 per cent of all Australian taxpayers pay a marginal rate of tax that is no higher than only 30 cents in the dollar.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, have you spoken to the cross benchers at all, have you had a chat with Jacqui Lambie and the two Central Alliance Senators who appear, now, crucial?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, earlier in the process I did speak to a number of crossbenchers including Jacqui Lambie, particularly to congratulate her on her re-election to the Senate. My colleague Mathias Cormann has been handling direct negotiations with the crossbench Senators, and we are obviously doing everything that we can to ensure this legislation goes through. I’ll be introducing the legislation to the House tomorrow.

QUESTION:

If it goes through by the end of the week, as seems quite likely, when would the offset be available? A week? Later?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it will be available very shortly thereafter.

QUESTION:

How long do you think?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it could be a matter of days, a week. The systems have been changed by the ATO in preparation for this legislation. The legislation needs to go through, the Royal Assent needs to be given and then people need to put in their tax return for 2018-2019 and obviously once they put in their tax return, and if they’re eligible for that tax offset, then it flow shortly thereafter.

QUESTION:

On your mandate, Labor says you’ve spent very little time talking about Stage 3 of the tax cuts in the election campaign. If you had such a mandate, why not spend more time articulating this plan?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well the Labor Party are a joke. I mean, they’ve come up with a different excuse not to support our policies nearly every day since the election. I mean, we’ve heard that the tax cuts are too far out. Well we know there’s short term relief but also long-term structural reform, and we know they took to the election a series of funding commitments as well as tax hikes that were going to be baked in for perpetuity. They say the Budget can’t afford it, and we know that again it’s baked in to the Budget forecast which will see the economy continue to grow and surpluses continue to be delivered.

Then yesterday in a train-wreck of an interview, you had Senator Katy Gallagher, the Shadow Finance Minister, saying that Labor can only vote for this tax package if they can’t oppose it. Namely, they have to wait and see what’s going to happen with the crossbenchers. So, Labor’s position changes every day. Everyone knew from the day I announced these tax cuts in the Budget this was our policy. It was central to the campaign. It was the Labor Party who were running around talking about mandates and moral authority. Jim Chalmers mentioned it no fewer than 12 times into the lead up into the election that he was seeking a mandate. The Australian people knew what they were voting for at the election. The Coalition and its lower taxes, and Labor with its higher taxes, they made their vote and their voices heard and now we are seeking to act and implement what we took to the Australian people.

QUESTION:

Are you happy to provide some concessions on gas?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we are obviously doing everything we can to lower electricity bills and we’re been having some success there. In relation to gas, we obviously want to get more gas into the market and yes, there has been discussions with crossbenchers about energy related issues and they’ve received the appropriate briefings. One of the quickest ways, by the way

to get more gas into the market would be for the states to life their moratorium and bans on unconventional and onshore gas development because they’re sitting on decades worth of gas, particularly in the state of Victoria.

QUESTION:

Returning to this discussion we’ve had in recent months about leaks. In 2003, of course, a top secret report was leaked by someone in the Government to Andrew Bolt. It was marked ‘top secret in confidence.’ You were interviewed by police in relation to that leak. Did you leak classified information to a journalist when you were working in Mr. Downer’s office?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

No, I didn’t.

QUESTION:

Are you aware if anyone else in the Government did?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

No, I am not.

QUESTION:

You’re doing the tax cuts because you want to stimulate the economy. Do you think an interest rate cut tomorrow will be a good thing for the economy? Do you think it should be?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, as I’ve said on interest rates, that is a matter for the independent Reserve Bank of Australia. And what I’ve also said, and this is important, for whatever the Reserve Bank does tomorrow, is that we do expect the banks to pass on in full to the Australian people the benefits of sustained reduction in their funding costs.

QUESTION:

Just on that. Do you think an increase in Newstart will stimulate the economy and is that something you would consider?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, this was a question that was asked many a time in the lead up to the election and I did point out to the vast majority of people on Newstart are people who are also on other entitlements. So it’s different from those other payments but it is very clear that those people are also getting other benefits. But the best thing you can do for someone who is on Newstart is to create more jobs and to get them into a job and that’s been one of the great successes of the Coalition, with more 1.3 million new jobs being created, eight out of every 10 new jobs being created being full-time and that has been something that has seen the unemployment rate come down from 5.7 per cent when we came to Government, that was under Labor, to 5.2 per cent today.

QUESTION:

Just on trade. Donald Trump has said that America’s (inaudible) on Huawei will be up for discussion as part of renewed trade talks with China. Does Australia support an end to that trade war even if that ultimately meant that America waters down its policy on Huawei? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, decisions in relation to the telecommunications sector or the like, of course they are decisions for the American Government and they will take those decisions in their own national interest as Australia takes our decisions in our national interest. When it comes to trade, we welcome any alleviation of some of the tensions that we’ve seen between China and the United States. And we know that trade tensions are leading to a deferral of investment decisions and we know that volumes of exports and trade volumes have also been down. So for Australia with one in five jobs related to trade and with the Free Trade Agreements now locked in with our major trading partners under the Coalition; Japan, Korea, China and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership, most recently, Indonesia, there is great benefits for Australia from free trade. So we want to see an amelioration of the tensions between China and the US, at the same time, Australia will continue as the Prime Minister and Minister Birmingham made very clear, we will continue to make the case very strong for a rules based trading system with the WTO being very important. 

QUESTION:

On that issue, the Treasury Bluebook, the incoming brief to you…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Which you haven’t read.

QUESTION:

(inaudible) got it under FOI…But, it was heavily redacted but it did show that Treasury was war-gaming the impact on domestic GDP had Trump gone ahead with that extra round of tariffs on the $325 billion worth (inaudible) That was redacted. Can you tell us what that was?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Phil, good try.

QUESTION:

They gave us the graph.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, obviously…

QUESTION:

We got a global estimate of three point…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We’ve actually seen a reduction from both the IMF and the OECD in the global economic outlook and Australia would benefit greatly from the continuation of the rules based trading system. It’s in our national interest, that’s why we continue to make it. Now, obviously, that new round of tariffs didn’t go ahead that some had speculated on and from our perspective, we’ll just continue to make the case for free trade but we welcome any amelioration, alleviation in some of those trade tensions. Thank you.