Council of Australian Governments Press Conference

Transcript
09 Feb 2018
Prime Minister
E&OE

JOURNALIST:

A question for Mr McGowan, you’re the only Labor leader so far who has signed up to the health deal, was that decision in any way driven by knowledge that you may be getting some more GST soon?

PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

Well I wish that was the case.

No, as I indicated the state needs certainty in relation to our finances.

Since I was elected 11 months ago, we have lost $5.5 billion from our budget with a write down in royalties from the mining industry, $2.5 billion lost from our GST share and some other losses of softness in taxation revenue.

So the basic situation facing Western Australia, is I need certainty in our revenue. If the GST was fixed, well then obviously things might be different and what I'd like to see is an acknowledgement across the board by all levels of government across Australia that the GST system is broken because it obviously is.

JOURNALIST:

Just further to that Mr McGowan, can you explain to us why this has been good enough for WA to agree to but not the other Labor states. And secondly, just further to Phil's question, if this is not about the knowledge of getting further GST in future, do you think perhaps it improves your bargaining position for when the PC report comes out on the GST distribution?

PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

Well I hope it improves our bargaining position but again, that’s in the hands of others sitting around me.

But you know, we just had to do the best we could in the circumstances. There is a no disadvantage test in the Commonwealth’s office so if the Commonwealth decides to provide more support for the states, Western Australia will benefit from that.

PRIME MINISTER:

A very generous deal this, you act in the best interest of your state, you saw that, as you said and accepted it.

PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

Prime Minister, I’ll just add to that if I can. It seems that I am going to have to go back to South Australia and ask to be sent back here to keep an eye on Mark, because what I have heard today does not fill me full of confidence that we won't be having a continuing fight over South Australia's share at least of the GST.

JOURNALIST:

A question for some of the Labor state premiers, Daniel Andrews, Annastacia Palaszczuk - how confident are you that you might actually agree to a deal by the end of the year, given that you have walked away today saying, "This isn't good enough?"

PREMIER OF VICTORIA:

We had a pretty productive discussion today about the fact that - and I'll be frank, I am not wanting to be partisan about this. In fact, I think we’ve got an opportunity to finally put some action beside the words that we keep on writing down and keep on uttering.

We have become very good, we, all of us, we have almost become eloquent in describing the problems in our health system and they’re problems that relate not just to the amount of money but where it’s spent.

And I could not today sign up to a capped funding contribution from the Commonwealth without an agreement to look at reforming Medicare so that people are managed out of hospital, not where hospital's the only option. I could not sign up today unless there was an agreement to do further work around age care and making sure that we're providing the best care at the best time in the best and most efficient circumstances. That's good for patients, it’s good for those who wait to get into hospital and can't get the care they need because inefficiency is throughout parts of the system.

It’s also good for the bottom-line.

Pleasingly, there’s an acknowledgement that we have to finally get some concrete reform, some agreed targets and agreed effort around those areas and more. The point that Jay made about chronic disease management and incentivising health professionals, not just GPs but allied health professionals as well, to manage people into the most effective and often the cheapest form of care, the best form of care for them as well.

All of that, there is an acknowledgement that there is a problem, with have to do more about it. I am encouraged by that. We will do the work. We will absolutely do the work over the coming months.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can I go slightly off topic?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, can we focus on COAG please.

JOURNALIST:

Well actually Prime Minister, this is about the spending of taxpayer money, can I get a response from you to explain why it is that you think that everything is aboveboard in the removal of the Deputy Prime Minister’s girlfriend from his own office into another office with a promotion?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can we just focus on COAG, we’ve got Closing the Gap, we’ve got heath, we’ve got schools-

JOURNALIST:

And I’ve listened to those answers-

PRIME MINISTER:

Well let’s exhaust that, and then when you’re bored with those issues you can go back to the Deputy Prime Minister. Any other questions on the COAG agenda?

JOURNALIST:

Can you commit today to keeping company tax cuts on the budget all the way through until the election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, absolutely. Our goal, our intention is to get them passed through the Senate, through the House and they will be going into the Senate next week. Look again, I'm sorry that the agenda - the COAG agenda is dealing with some pretty important issues. I'm sorry it has run out of interest with you.

In terms of company tax, the reality is that we must have a company tax system that is globally competitive. I mean everyone understands that. It wasn't even a particularly partisan issue until relatively recently. Some of the most eloquent statements in favour of reducing company tax to be globally competitive were made by Paul Keating, by Bill Shorten himself, by Chris Bowen who wrote who wrote a book about it as we all know.

So we are in a position where because of reductions of company tax in other countries, and most recently in the US of course we now have one of the highest - I think we are now actually the second highest in the whole OECD. So, you know, capital is mobile, a very competitive environment.

We are backing Australian businesses and Australian companies. We've already succeeded in reducing tax on Australian businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million a year. That’s not a giant business. They’re overwhelmingly family-owned Australian businesses but they employ half of the Australian workforce and that's where we are seeing very strong growth in jobs, and as we all know we got 403,000 new jobs last year and that is a response to the incentives, the encouragement and the leadership that we’re providing.

So this is all about jobs. It is not about, you know as my opponents would say, a hand out or anything like that to business. This is about maintaining a strong economy and the jobs that we need.

We talked about children and grandchildren today and keeping them safe and well-educated but we also need to ensure that there are great jobs for them. And having a thriving private sector, a thriving business sector is vitally important for that.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, can I ask did you - can you confirm that you personally counselled Barnaby Joyce to remove a staff member from his office, a staff member he was having an affair with?

PRIME MINISTER:

I was asked about this matter this morning and I've got nothing to add-

JOURNALIST:

Not that question.

PRIME MINISTER:

To what I said this morning.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it appropriate that once Barnaby Joyce did take your counsel-

PRIME MINISTER:

Well wait a minute-

JOURNALIST:

That she received higher pay for her new role?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm sorry, you’re rushing to facts and assertions.

This is a deeply personal matter relating to Barnaby Joyce and his family and I do not wish to add to the public discussion about it. I am very conscious of the hurt-

JOURNALIST:

But a personal matter that you were dragged into Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very conscious of the hurt this has occasioned his wife Natalie and their daughters and I have nothing further to add to what I said this morning.

JOURNALIST:

But the question is has public money been misspent? Sorry, Prime Minister, the question I asked earlier was have you absolutely assured yourself and how have you done that, that no public money has been misspent as a favour to or in aid of somebody who was the Deputy Prime Minister's girlfriend?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not aware of any inappropriate expenditure of public funds-

JOURNALIST:

She got a promotion.

PRIME MINISTER:

And Barnaby Joyce addressed this matter directly when he went on the 730 report last night. Okay?

JOURNALIST:

No he didn’t, I’m sorry he didn’t.

JOURNALIST:

On the hospitals agreement.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, okay back to health.

JOURNALIST:

One for Annastacia Palaszczuk.

PRIME MINISTER:

Back to health.

JOURNALIST:

Premier would you sign up – do you anticipate signing up once the reconciliation issue you mentioned has been resolved?

PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

Yes, if that back pay comes in because we’re owed about $170 million. If that is forth coming, we would be satisfied.

But like I said, the impact of not getting that $170 million could lead to a loss of $4 billion to Queensland. So we have an open mind.

JOURNALIST:

I wanted to talk about GST here, so we know that the Western Australians do not agree with the Commonwealth formula and the South Australian's do not agree with the Western Australians. Andrew Barr the Premier, do you have any solution yet on which there is common agreement among the states on how the GST should be distributed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Who is that addressed to?

JOURNALIST:

To Andrew Barr and any of the other premiers, given that they hold the floor and-  

CHIEF MINISTER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY:

The short answer would be no, so the status quo will prevail in my view.

JOURNALIST:

And just on the hospital funding, when were you made aware that offer was on the table? Because given the size of the fund it seems targeted to New South Wales and WA?

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

It seems what?

JOURNALIST:

Targeted to New South Wales and WA. When were you made aware that the funding option was on the table?

CHIEF MINISTER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY:

This week.

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

Can I just make a comment – can I just make a comment in relation to what the Premier of Victoria said, I share the views that he’s expressed in terms of ongoing reform, the impact of aged care, primary care on health systems around the tranche but that doesn't preclude us from signing the agreement.

And can I say, I would not have signed the agreement today, if I didn't think it was fair, if I didn't think it was a strong one and a certain one. And to have certainty for any of us for the next seven and a bit years, at the current growth rate of 6.5 per cent, is in my view an extremely fair proposition. And my prediction is that once the states sort out those minor details, that there’ll be agreement across the board.

JOURNALISTS:

Prime Minister, do you agree that the status quo will prevail?

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, if you don’t mind, may I? Thank you.

The reconciliation matter that the Premier of Queensland has mentioned will be resolved in the next couple of months by the independent authority that reconciles these payments, so that is underway.

PREMIER OF VICTORIA:

And to be fair, Victoria will be included in that process as well.

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course, everyone, everyone, yeah good.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister do you agree with Mr Barr’s assessment the status quo will prevail on the GST given the views of the Premiers around the table?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don't think he said that I think that’s–

JOURNALIST:

He said the status quo will prevail.

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

Well that’s his opinion.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, is that what he said? Well, he may be a revolutionary when it comes to light rail in Canberra, but you can see he’s very conservative on fiscal matters.

[Laughter]

CHIEF MINISTER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY:

I could use that quote, couldn't I?

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree with his assessment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree with his assessment?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm awaiting the advice of the Productivity Commission. We will just have one more.

JOURNALIST:

Can you just confirm Prime Minister, On the GST, can you confirm that it will require the agreement of all states and territories to actually change, or would the Government potentially consider doing it unilaterally?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I’m not going to - It has always been done on a collaborative basis-

JOURNALIST:

It doesn’t mean it has to be.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, a consensual basis. We’ve got a Productivity Commission Report coming out in several months from now. I think the Commission has asked for more time to complete their work and we're looking forward to that.

JOURNALIST:

On funding, Jay Weatherill, Dan Andrews and Mr Gunner on the reconciliation issue, is it the same situation for you as Ms Palaszczuk, whereby if the reconciliation is fixed, the baseline is raised, could you then, as state premiers, sign up to the hospital's agreement?

PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

No and I will explain why.

We had an agreement to share 50 per cent of the growth funding and that was an agreement that was unilaterally breached.

That skin in the game is absolutely critical and it’s not just the money - the money is obviously pretty important - but it’s also the fact that there needs to be more than just this idea that we will try and cooperate on primary healthcare or on the exit clause.

There needs to be some real skin in the game, so that - that was part of the thinking of the last agreement. Because if you are on the hook for an uncapped 50 per cent growth rate in hospital funding, that concentrates the mind a bit about whether you take decisions which cause unintended consequences for hospital funding growth.

So we need to, there's got to be some equivalent mechanism that has the Commonwealth getting skin in the game. That’s what we will be looking for.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Commonwealth does have a lot of skin in the health, hospital funding game, as you know, this year about $20 billion so that’s a lot of skin.

Clearly we have a vested interest, we all have a vested interest, in ensuring that Australians are healthy, that they get the best health services that they can and of course, that people do not go into hospital if that can be avoided.

The health reform priorities that Daniel Andrews touched on are all set out in the heads of agreement. Of course, the purpose now, is for health ministers to go away and flesh that out into a full-blown new national health reform agreement.

Okay, thank you all very much.

[ENDS]

COAG