5 July 2019
Transcript - #2019095, 2019

Interview with Michael Rowland, News Breakfast, ABC

Subjects: Alek Sigley; tax relief for 10 million Australians; RBA

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Treasurer, good morning to you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

We'll go to the tax cuts shortly but Alek Sigley, the Australian, is now safely back in Tokyo after being released from North Korea. Are we any closer to understanding why he was detained by the North Koreans in the first place?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Oh, look, I'm not going to go into the detail of that, Michael, other than to say this is a great relief for his family and for the Australian Government. A lot of work has been done behind the scenes, the Prime Minister has made very clear that the good officers of the Swedish Government have been instrumental in achieving this result. The Prime Minister, obviously, discussed this issue with a number of other leaders at the G20 recently in Japan and to hear that the young man is back with his wife and ultimately with his family is wonderful news. And the Prime Minister last night spoke to both his family as well as the Swedish Prime Minister.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

We're very grateful to the Swedes, clearly too.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Absolutely. They performed an instrumental role and they obviously have a presence there in North Korea and that was very helpful because we know that regime is a very closed one.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Let's go to the tax cuts, they have passed the Senate. For those eligible, what is the quickest date, the earliest date, they could receive that rebate?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I've spoken to the Tax Commissioner and his staff will be working through the weekend. So from next week, people will start to see the money flow. They obviously need to put in their tax return for the 2018-19 year. For those people who have already put in their tax return, Michael, they don't need to do anything else. The tax office will update their records and send them the cheque. And for those who are going to put in their tax return, I would encourage them to do that as early as possible because over 10 million Australians will receive up to $1,080 and that will be of great use to them and will also be of great help to the Australian economy.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

The tax cuts stretch well into the future. Stage three doesn't take place until 2024 and at a cost of $137 billion. Can you guarantee there will be absolutely no cuts to government services to pay for any stage of these tax cuts?  

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we've made very clear that there are no cuts…

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

And can you guarantee there will be no further cuts?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We're not planning on any cuts. What we're doing is growing the Australian economy and Michael, as you know, spending on hospitals has grown by 59 per cent as a result of the five-year agreement that we've struck. And spending on schools and per student is up 62 per cent over the decade. So we will continue to spend more on the essential services, to grow the economy but our tax cuts were fully funded, were baked into the budget forecasts and those forecasts and our budget was ticked off independently during the election campaign as part of the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

The Reserve Bank Governor knows the tax cuts are coming but he still wants the Federal Government to do more to help pump prime the economy. When are you going to start to listen to Philip Lowe?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, Michael, firstly we have a fantastic, constructive and productive relationship with the Reserve Bank Governor and very much respect his opinions and we do agree with him that it's not only monetary policy that needs to do the heavy lifting here, it's actual fiscal policy and that's why we set out in the Budget the plan for tax cuts which he has welcomed and will boost the household disposable income by putting around $8 billion a year into the economy. But also our $100 billion infrastructure spend will be very significant, it's already making a difference on the ground. You combine that with the work that we're doing on apprenticeships, creating 80,000 new apprenticeships. The work we're doing on trade, deregulation agenda, the support for small business with a $2 billion securitisation fund and the extension of the instant asset write off which has been already used by more than 300,000 companies…       

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

He's seen that but he wants you to fast-track it. He's made the point in his speech this week that the Government can borrow for 10 years at 1.3 per cent. He's virtually begging you to borrow to do more to help improve this economy, why won't you take him up on that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we are spending very significant amounts of taxpayer's money on infrastructure to boost the productive capacity of the economy. Now, states can also do their part. For example, we'd love to hand over $4 billion to the Andrews' Government to build the East-West Link, as long as he just gave the tick off. So that's one big project we'd like to see go ahead and go ahead fast. At the same time, the Reserve Bank Governor statement just a few days ago said employment growth was strong in the economy, that their central scenario about trend growth remains and that the investment in infrastructure is having an impact in offsetting some of the challenges we're facing in other parts of the economy, namely household consumption, the softening in the housing market as well as the impact of flood and drought.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay, you're on a tight schedule as we know this morning. We're out of time. Thank you very much for your time on Breakfast this morning.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Great to be with you, Michael.