Transcript of joint doorstop interview, Canberra
THU 10 MAY 2012
Subject(s): Budget 2012-13; Schoolkids Bonus; Craig Thomson; Business tax cuts; Peter Costello; President Obama; Same-sex marriage
PM: I’m here today at the Calwell shops with the Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan. We’ve had the opportunity this morning to meet some working families, some people invited by the local Member Gai Brodtmann to come and meet with us this morning. Unfortunately Gai wasn’t able to get a pair from the Parliament, so she didn’t get to come too.
But it’s been great to meet some people who are looking forward to receiving their Schoolkids Bonus and who have been talking to us about the real world pressures that are on them.
I just had a conversation then about replacing a school jumper, a young girl lost her school jumper, $40 for a new one. These are the real costs of getting kids to school and that’s what the Schoolkids Bonus is for.
We’re here two days after Treasurer Wayne Swan delivered the Budget. A budget that comes to surplus exactly on time as promised, a surplus that’s necessary to give us a buffer and a surplus that’s necessary to give the Reserve Bank the maximum room to move on interest rates if it chooses to do so.
And we know from last week’s interest reduction how important an interest rate reduction can be for families relieving the costs of the mortgage.
It’s a Labor Budget to its bootstraps, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said. A Labor Budget that delivers the first instalment on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, funding the launch sites. A Labor Budget that delivers a better aged care system for the future, enabling people to spend longer in their own homes. And a Labor Budget that delivers a public dental waiting list blitz to help those people who have been waiting far too long for dental care, often some of the poorest people in our nation.
And it’s a Labor Budget that delivers for working families, that delivers the Schoolkids Bonus to help with all of the costs of getting the kids to school; $410 for primary school students, $820 for high school students and the parents this morning have been explaining to us just how bigger help that kind of money is and how difficult they were finding it to collect their receipts under the old system.
And it’s a Labor Budget that is going to spread the benefits of the mining boom, increasing family payments through money coming from the mining tax, making sure that Australians around the nation feel their share of the mining boom.
The fundamentals of our economy are strong. We know, though, many families are finding it hard to make ends meet. They look at the mining boom and they think to themselves ‘I'm not really feeling any benefit from this.’
Well, this is their benefit from the mining boom, spreading to them the wealth of our nation through new family payments.
I’ll turn now to the Treasurer and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.
TREASURER: Thanks very much Prime Minister. I’ll just make a couple of brief points. I think before the words "cost of living" pass Mr Abbott's lips tonight he must explain why he is opposed to the Schoolkids Bonus.
He has got to explain why he is opposed to the Schoolkids Bonus. I was talking to Callum, having a cup of coffee there before, 16 years old, had to replace his calculator, $80.
Parents sitting around the kitchen table are having that experience all the time with their school-age kids and particularly when they get a bit older, they get much more expensive, particularly if you have got a couple of 16-year-olds, and 15-year-olds, or 14-year-olds in your house. So this money will be delivered when parents need it most and that's pretty important.
Also, Mr Abbott has said that he is going to abolish the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and give a huge tax cut to the mining billionaires. Well, he will need to explain tonight how he intends to fund any commitments he gives, given that he is going to give such a big tax cut to the mining billionaires.
And given that there is a $70 billion crater in the Liberal Party's budget bottom line, he needs to explain tonight what he is going to do to deliver a surplus in the future.
I guess, given the $70 billion crater in the Liberal Party’s budget bottom line, people like Mr Costello now are simply wringing their hands at the wreckage of the Liberal Party's economic credentials in the hands of the three stooges who currently run Liberal Party economic policy.
PM: Thank you very much, we’re happy to take questions. We will go down this side and then, yes, so we’ll start with you.
JOURNALIST: Was it appropriate for the ALP to be paying for Craig Thomson’s legal costs?
PM: Look, this is a matter for Mr Thompson and for the New South Wales Branch of the ALP.
I see in today's news reports, there is a suggestion that Mr Thomson made a late declaration on this matter. Members of Parliament should be declaring, appropriately, things on time, not waiting and declaring late.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer or Prime Minister, you mentioned before the tax cuts. Business groups are increasingly angry with this budget, particularly the decision to drop the company tax rate. One of them yesterday said that 110,000 businesses will benefit from the loss carry-back arrangements, whereas 770,000 would have benefited from the tax cut.
What is your message to the 660,000 businesses that have missed out in this Budget?
PM: Well I will say something first and turn to the Treasurer. And the very simple message here is Mr Abbott's negativity has a price. People actually pay the price when Tony Abbott constantly says no.
So he decided he was going to say no to company tax cuts. And as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, maybe it's that kind of reckless approach to economics that is causing Liberals to yearn for a return of Peter Costello.
So he trashed the Liberal Party's brand. Over the course of history they have stood for things like lower company taxation but Mr Abbott is so reckless and so negative, he just said no.
That's got a cost. It meant we couldn't get the legislation through the Parliament. So what we’ve decided to do in this budget is spread the benefits of the mining boom directly to families through increased family payments and to some of the poorest people in the country through new allowances for people on Newstart, for example.
Now, in terms of Mr Abbott's negativity, he said no to the mining tax which means really, before he says anything about cost of living tonight, he’s going to need to explain to Australian families that if he ever becomes Prime Minister, he’ll be knocking on the door to grab that family payments money back, to give it to Clive and to give it to Gina, to give to some of the biggest mining companies in our nation.
Wayne might want to say a few things too.
TREASURER: I’ll just make a couple of points. I think business should be expressing their frustration to Mr Abbott, because Mr Abbott was opposed to the company tax cut and so too were the Greens.
So the Liberal Party has a policy of increasing company tax. I think business ought to be expressing their frustration at that matter to the Liberal Party as well.
I made it very clear yesterday that we are committed to tax reform. We’re in the cart for corporate tax reform, that we will sit down with the business community and look at the report from the Business Tax Working Group and see what we can do to get some good reform in the system.
But for the here and now, they should be expressing their frustration directly to the wrecking ball tactics of Mr Abbott.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott says this is a class warfare budget. What’s your response to that?
PM: We’re the Labor Party and we make absolutely apology for saying we’re here to serve low and middle income Australians, and Mr Abbott is here to serve the rich, that’s right.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you support a code of conduct for MPs and if not, why not?
PM: I believe MPs should behave properly in accordance with the highest standards. We have all manner of standards now, like declarations and people should abide by those rules.
If there is an aspiration for a further code of conduct, then I'm very happy to look at it. We should have high standards in Parliament and we should have MPs abiding by them and we should have people behaving consistently, too.
There are others in the Parliament, Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey in particular, who have been late with declarations in the past.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this morning in an interview Rob Oakeshott said bugger the numbers, the Parliament needs to take action if Craig Thomson doesn't make an adequate explanation to Parliament. That’s some fairly strong language from one of the key independents.
PM: Mr Thomson is going to make a statement to the Parliament, as he indicated yesterday. I would just say we have would have to be a bit careful here. It is not the role of the Parliament to prejudge things that are going before the courts.
JOURNALIST: Is it right for the Labor Party, if they did, to continue to pay the legal fees once he stood down or was suspended from caucus?
PM: Look, this is a matter for Mr Thomson and the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party, but as I understand today's reports, they relate to a period before Mr Thomson was suspended from Labor Caucus.
I announced my decision about that a couple of weeks ago.
JOURNALIST: Just following up on Matthew’s question, do you think the Parliament does need to take some form of action against Craig Thomson?
PM: I think we’ve just got to be a bit careful here. It is not the role of the Parliament to pre-judge matters that are going to be dealt with in the court.
And if I can put that proposition in the general for you, rather than the specific matter about Mr Thomson - if, for example, a parliamentarian was charged with theft, is anybody suggesting it would really be appropriate for the Parliament to pass a resolution as to whether or not they’d done it before the matter was properly adjudicated in the courts?
We have had a parliamentarian charged with theft and assault in this Parliament, a Liberal Senator. Now is anybody suggesting it would have been appropriate for the House of Representatives or the Senate to pass a resolution, either saying she was guilty or innocent, before the courts had the ability to properly work through the matter?
I think people just from a really commonsense perspective would say ‘No, that wouldn't be the right thing to do.’
JOURNALIST: As the Leader of Federal Labor, do you have no advice or no guidance at all for the New South Wales Branch on Craig Thomson?
PM: Look, this is a matter for Mr Thomson and the New South Wales Branch.
JOURNALIST: But it is a concern, obviously, from the independents if Rob Oakeshott’s coming out saying bugger the numbers on the floor of the Parliament.
He is someone who is obviously very concerned about the issue and you rely on his support.
PM: I am very concerned that any money that is raised by trade unions from their members is used for proper purposes. I've made the point over the last few days and I’m happy to make it again.
Trade unions in this country are overwhelmingly professionally run, financially sound, doing a decent and proper job for their members, bargaining for them in workplaces, engaging in campaigns like the campaign to get rid of WorkChoices because of the harm it was doing to working people.
So trade unions in this country doing their job. To the extent that any union member's money has been used for a purpose other than a trade union doing its proper job, then it's wrong. Just wrong, full stop, and appropriate action should then flow.
Fair Work Australia, whatever, under the law, needs to happen, Federal Court should then happen. But it is not for the Parliament to dictate to the courts what should happen next. That's not our system of Government, that's not our system of the separation of powers.
JOURNALIST: President Obama is saying that he supports same-sex marriage. Are you looking at changing your mind (inaudible)
PM: No, I've made my mind up and my position on this is well known.
JOURNALIST: You’re not going to evolve on this issue?
PM: I’ve made my mind up.
JOURNALIST: Do you think though it makes Australia look behind when you have got countries like the United States looking at (inaudible)
PM: I think it just reinforces this is matter that people form their own views on, deeply personal question, people will think about it, work their way through it. Obviously President Obama has and he’s announced a decision in recent hours.
Thank you very much.