18 December 2018
Transcript - #2018101, 2018

Interview with Tony Jones, Mornings, 3AW

Subjects: Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook; and federal election.

TONY JONES:

Little embarrassing to think that the Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been sitting on the phone listening to all that garbage. But anyway, not your garbage, Jane, more mine. He does join us on the phone because the Mid-Year budget review was out yesterday. It was all pretty good news, I’ve got to say and boy, don’t the Coalition need it.

Josh Frydenberg, good morning.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you, Tony.

TONY JONES:

Yeah, good to talk to you again. Well go on, brag. Because the figures did look pretty good.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the results that we released yesterday in the Mid-Year Budget Update shows that the books are in the best shape that they’re been in over a decade, and Tony, it’s not luck or by accident that we got there. It’s actually the product of over five years of hard work, disciplined decision making, and at the same time, we’ve provided tax cuts.

I mean when we came to government, unemployment was higher than it is now, growth was lower than it is now, investment was falling off a cliff and now it’s rising and increasing, and the deficits were predicted for years to come.

And now we’re going to have a surplus next year and we have significantly reduced the deficit for this year and that is good news for Australian taxpayers and families.

TONY JONES:

Well, what has to give to get to that point?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we’re on track.  What we’ve done is being quite conservative and realistic in our commodity forecast. I mean, when Labor was last in government, they had the best terms of trade. You know the highest prices for coal and for iron ore and for other commodities than Australia had seen in decades.

We’ve been much more realistic in our commodity forecasts, so we’re on the right track and we’re committed to ensuring people keep more of their hard earned money by reducing taxes and we’re also committed to having very targeted spending programs, not wasteful spending.

TONY JONES:

Well, what does it mean though, for workers who are hoping for wage increases, because the message coming from you yesterday is that those wages growths probably aren’t going to be as good as what we were hoping they would be?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well the wages growth has been 2.3 per cent over the last year and we saw that announcement just a few weeks ago. That was the best result in three years and it compares to inflation which is at 1.9 per cent. But obviously we want it to be higher and the way to get it higher is to invest in productivity-linked infrastructure, enable more competition and to cut taxes – all the things that we’re doing. And the word from the Reserve Bank Governor is that wages will increase over time, particularly as the spare capacity in the labour market is eaten into as more people get jobs and the economy continues to grow.

But I’ll tell you what will hurt people’s wages. That is a couple of  hundred billion dollars of extra taxes that our political opponents are promising and that is where the next election will be fought – between their high tax, high spend agenda and our much more prudent, responsible approach which is delivering results.

TONY JONES:  

Well, speaking of the next election, are you going to be around?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I certainly will be focused on winning my seat of Kooyong….

TONY JONES:

… are you sure about that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well absolutely, I’ll be putting my best foot forward and I’ve been very very grateful to the people of Kooyong who have, Tony, elected me in 2010, 2013 and 2016 and in each case, with an increased majority. But it’s not about being complacent. There’s no such thing as a safe seat. I will be working hard to deliver for the people of Kooyong the services and the projects, the programs that they expect out of the Government and that they expect out of their local member.

TONY JONES:

The reason we’re bringing this up of course is because the ReachTel poll which was released is showing that on a two-party…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

commissioned by the CFMEU, by the way…

TONY JONES:

… showing that on a two-party preferred – Liberals 48/ALP 52. So based on that, you’re not worried about it, because of the CFMEU factor?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well look, you know, the Labor Party is running around, acting as if they’ve won the next election and if they think that they’re going to win Kooyong, they’ve got another thing coming.  It’s a seat that the Coalition or the centre-right of politics has held for more than a century and I’ve…

TONY JONES:

… yeah, I know, but the Liberals saw that with Hawthorn in the state election, didn’t they? And Hawthorn does become part of Kooyong.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:  

And we won Kew and we’ve seen that Federal and State results are very different and we’ve also seen that the issues are very different. That being said, you know, I’m going to miss my good friend and parliamentary colleague John Pesutto in the seat of Hawthorn, just as I will the colleagues in Burwood and Box Hill, but Tony the real issue for the listeners and the real focus for me as the Treasurer of Australia is to deliver a strong economy to allow us to spend more on health, education, infrastructure and the defence of the nation. And that is what you can do with a strong economy.

Labor is out there promising the world, but they’re also promising much higher taxes. That will be a wet blanket over the economy and they won’t be able to deliver. We’ve shown that we can deliver. We’ve cleaned up their mess. Howard and Costello bequeathed them a gold of pristine balance sheets which they then squandered. We will make sure the Australian people understand the real contest at the next election.

TONY JONES:

With this continued growth as I mentioned earlier, something needs to give. Now, does that mean there will be putting the brakes on spending?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:  

Well, we’re obviously always focused on prudent spending but…

TONY JONES:

… so what areas will be affected?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, for example I’ll tell you where we saved over a billion dollars in the announcement yesterday, which was on the jobseeker programs. Not because we were giving less money to people who are looking for employment. It’s because more people were in employment. You see, we’ve created over one million new jobs, which meant that people are now paying more taxes so there’s more on the revenue side, but also less people are getting the payments, the welfare payments, they’ve looked for work and are actually in a job. That’s the benefit of a strong economy.

You know, the Labor Party runs around foolishly and falsely claiming that we’ve cut healthcare spending when in fact, we’ve done nothing of the kind. We’ve increased hospital funding by around 50 per cent and we’ve put 2000 new drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, drugs that help people deal with lung cancer or liver cancer or high cholesterol. These are drugs that people otherwise could not afford, your listeners could not afford the tens of thousands of dollars that these drugs cost, but because we have a strong economy, we’re able to put aside money to ensure that they go on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

That’s what you get from a strong economy; it’s not a trophy in a cabinet.

TONY JONES:

Treasurer, given the polls, and I’m not talking about the one affecting Kooyong specifically, but overall, the polls have been horrendous for the government. You had another scandal yesterday that we’ll get to in a moment, everything is conspiring against the Federal Government.   Maybe even the Federal Government is conspiring against itself.

So these set of figures from yesterday was that more about PR than it was responsible fiscal policy and the like?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

You can’t be serious Tony. You seriously can’t be serious asking me that question.

TONY JONES:

Well hang on, but you needed a PR fix didn’t you?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Tony, the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook has been part of the budget process since Howard and Costello.

It’s always a mid-year update and it has been planned for that date.

TONY JONES:

Yes, I understand that Treasurer but what I am saying it is was imperative for you to actually have a good one.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well actually we wanted to have a good one for the Australian people.  We don’t make these numbers up, I mean, I can’t believe you’re asking me this question.  This result, right – and the Treasury do the numbers by the way – are a product of five years of hard decisions.

I mean, the Labor Party will have you believe that you mysteriously produce surpluses.

TONY JONES:

No, Treasurer, I’m not saying that you’re concocting the figures but I’m saying it’s very handy at a time where you needed some good news.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, of course we are good economic managers and of course, we’re delivering good economic news. But that’s what people should be focused on. If you want to talk about what’s on the front page in the New Idea…. I’ll talk about what the big idea is for Australia.  

TONY JONES:

Well, let’s talk about what’s on the front page of every paper this morning and that’s the sex scandal to rock the Nationals and the Federal Government.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, obviously that behaviour was completely inappropriate and unacceptable. The Deputy Prime Minister has commented on that, but what I’m focused on in my role as Treasurer is not giving currency and allowing radio announcers and newspaper columnists who want to write about sex scandals.

What I’m more focused on is actually lowering people’s taxes, getting them the health and the education spending they need, busting the congestion that we’ve seen in the city of Melbourne, providing, you know, new vessels and submarines and aircraft that we need to protect our nation, and cutting their taxes so that the crane drivers and the cafe shop owners who are listening to your program, know that they’re going to keep more of their hard earned money.

TONY JONES:

But the Andrew Broad controversy did hijack your message yesterday, didn’t it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, of course the timing was very unfortunate but at the same time I am saying to you that the things that really count are the strength of the economy and the benefits that brings, not as a trophy in a cabinet, but really as an economic divided for the people of Victoria and the people of Australia.

If more people are in jobs than they live more fulfilling lives. If we can get people to work in quicker time by busting the congestion then, again, they get more time to spend with their family. If the shop owner can keep more of the hard earned income that he earns then he can grow his business. If we can enter free trade agreements then they can go and explore new markets.

That’s what governments do, lower taxes, create more jobs… or at least that what the Liberal and National Government does and we do it well.

TONY JONES:

Okay. Alright then.

We’ll find out when we go to the polls next May.

Nice to talk to you Treasurer.