Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Australian Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speak to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, November 27, 2018. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Press Conference with the Treasurer

Transcript
27 Nov 2018
Prime Minister
Budget; the risk of Labor; the Liberal Party
E&OE

Image: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

PRIME MINISTER: Since the Parliament last met, it’s been a busy time. A Drought Summit Action Plan has been put in place, including moving forward with a $5 billion Drought Resilience Fund, a Drought Future Fund, we're working through that even as we speak. Support for veterans, whether it's ensuring they get the recognition that they deserve and the respect that they deserve or supporting them to get into employment after their time of service, has been completed. Major infrastructure announcements from one end of the country to the other, whether it’s down in Geelong or up in Darwin, across in Townsville, important water infrastructure, the Gold Coast light rail, the Bundaberg-Hervey Bay regional deal; investing in the critical infrastructure and services that our country needs and demands to supporting our growing economy.

The Pacific ‘step up’ programme that I announced up in Townsville at Lavarack Barracks and then had the opportunity to discuss with our regional partners, and allies and others, which just had such a strong response particularly from our Pacific Island family. Showing the leadership that is necessary in our region as well as working with other countries like New Zealand, the United States and Japan to ensure that we are looking after and working with those who live as part of our Pacific family.

In small business and family business, we have made major announcements which demonstrate that our Government has been the strongest backer of small and family businesses that we've seen in generations, absolutely in tune with the great Liberal tradition. The Australian Business Securitisation Fund is ensuring that small businesses get access to the finance and the capital that they need to back in their businesses, so they don't have to go only on the terms that the big banks want. So that there is more competition and they can get a fair go than when they have a go, which is an important Liberal principle.

Cutting red tape, $300 million worth for small business, that the Treasurer announced and getting small businesses paid on time, so small businesses are not used as a bank by big businesses. We're moving on it. We're taking our payment terms to 20 days and other state governments are as well - particularly New South Wales, which I commend them for - and at COAG this year as I said at the recent Business Council of Australia address, I want businesses to come with us on that journey too. I want other state governments to come on that journey, to make sure that small businesses get paid on time. 

It’s a huge deal for them. It’s one of the most important things any of us can do; to can make sure the small and family businesses get the go they work hard for. The Women's Economic Security Statement, in particular providing the flexibility in terms of how paid parental leave is operating in this country, giving women, giving families more choices about how they manage their work-life balance and how they manage bringing up young children.

A new population policy framework, which I'll be taking to the states when COAG meets later next month. Responding to the India Economic Strategy. Just as recently as last week a huge new opportunity as well as concluding negotiations on the Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement.

Toughening up our stance when it comes to keeping Australians safe, whether it's radical Islamic terrorism, or ensuring that we can cancel the citizenships of those who have violated absolutely the gift provided to them, whether by birth or otherwise, when it comes to their citizenship of this country.

Now, that's just since we rose in Parliament just four weeks ago. Our Government is getting on with the job and our plan for a stronger economy is working. Josh can elaborate on that in just a second, but that plan for a stronger economy is what delivers the essential services that Australians rely on. Without a stronger economy, you can't make pledges about hospitals and schools, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, on affordable medicines, Medicare.

Those promises are worthless if you cannot manage a strong economy.

Our Government has been overseeing the management of a strong economy. Unemployment remaining at five per cent. The strongest growth in youth jobs in Australia's economic recorded history. Jobs growth of over a million since we first came to Government, ahead of time, of what we promised and importantly, bringing the Budget back into balance.

When we were elected in 2013, we said we would get rid of the carbon tax and we did.

We said we’d stop the boats and we did.

And we said we would bring the Budget back into balance and we are.

What I'm here today to announce is that before we go to the next election, we will be handing down a Budget and it will be a surplus Budget. It will be a Budget which is the product of the years of hard work of our Government, of successive treasurers and prime ministers, that has ensured that we have stayed on track to deliver a balanced budget, a surplus budget which is what we promised the Australian people we would do.

We've been delivering on our commitments as a Government. We've been getting things done. We can be trusted to run Australia's Budget and trusted to oversee a growing economy.

We've been investing in more services; record investments in hospitals, in schools, in disabilities, in affordable medicines, making life-changing decisions for Australians all around the country.

All of that has been made possible by ensuring that we focus on a stronger economy and we're doing it without increasing taxes. Labor will make lots of claims, but they're making those claims on the back of putting a higher tax burden on the Australian economy, which will suffocate growth, which will suffocate jobs, which will ensure that they don't have the wherewithal to deliver on the essential services that Australians rely on.

A stronger economy is not a prize you put on the shelf and admire; for Liberals, for Nationals, a stronger economy is how we deliver on the infrastructure, the services, the hospitals, the schools, the affordable medicines. That's how we do it. That's why you can trust the Liberal and National parties to be able to deliver on those essential services, because we are the ones who believe that the stronger economy is the ticket to achieving that, not higher taxes.

I'll ask Josh to make a few more comments on that. Later today we'll be tabling the sitting schedule which will make this all very clear. The Budget will be handed down on the 2nd April next year. There'll be a MYEFO in the normal course of events before the end of this year and I'll ask Josh to address that now.

TREASURER THE HON JOSH FRYDENBERG MP: Well thanks, Prime Minister. Yes, the MYEFO be on 17th December, which will be proceeded by national accounts.

The Australian economy is growing. The Australian economy is strong. The Australian economy is performing well. That's the view of the Reserve Bank of Australia. That's the view of the International Monetary Fund. That's the view of the OECD.

We're growing at 3.4 per cent through the year, the fastest rate of growth since the height of the mining boom.

We have created over one million new jobs and since we last met, unemployment has stabilised at five per cent. At the same time, wages have started to grow with the biggest jump in wages in three years, with the Reserve Bank of Australia saying that is a trend that will continue.

Our AAA credit rating has been reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s and by Fitch. We're one of only ten countries in the world to have a AAA credit rating from the three leading agencies.

And as the Prime Minister said, the benefit of a strong economy is that you can provide the essential services, the defence, the border security, the infrastructure, the disability support, the things that Australians need and deserve. The Australian economy is not an end in itself; it's only a means to an end, which is to support Australians in every corner of our great country.

The next election will be a stark contrast. A contrast between a Coalition Government, which is growing the economy and has an economic plan that is working and is for the future; and the Labor Party, who wrongly believe you can tax yourself to prosperity. $200 billion of new taxes on everything from your income and your business, to your hard-earned savings and to your home. In fact, their plan on negative gearing will see that every Australian who owns their home, it will be worth less. And every Australian who rents their home, their rent will end up paying more.

So don't risk it with Labor.

The Australian economy is heading in the right direction and our economic plan is working.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister will the election be in May?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll let you guys do the maths.

JOURNALIST: In April?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll let you guys do the maths. There are options available to the Government, there are always options available to the Government, to call the election, as you know, any time between now and to have a half Senate election and a House of Representatives election concurrently, that would have to be conducted by the 18th of May.

JOURNALIST: So you want to have a Budget before?

PRIME MINISTER: It is absolutely our intention to have the Budget before the election and to deliver a surplus budget. A surplus Budget that we promised we would deliver. A surplus Budget that we will deliver and only a Coalition government would have been able to deliver; because it is only through the hard work of the last five years that has put us in the position to be able to have a surplus Budget, a surplus Budget which the Labor Party would have trashed in a heartbeat.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] forecast of [inaudible] balance of that plus $2.2 billion. Are you saying that would be the surplus?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's no change to the projections in terms of when we anticipate the Budget going into balance. There'll be a MYEFO which will update those figures and of course, there will be a Budget which will update those figures.

JOURNALIST: So you’re saying the surplus will be in 2019/20?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the figures will be outlined at the MYEFO.

JOURNALIST: I’m not after the figure, I’m just trying to get - you’re setting out –

PRIME MINISTER: No, no what I'm saying is there's still further work to be done between now and MYEFO. We'll update all the figures. In the most recent Budget we said that the balance would be achieved in 2019/20. We will be updating that in MYEFO and of course there will be another update in the Budget of this year for the current year, as well as for next year.

JOURNALIST: So could the surplus be this financial year?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm just saying there will be those two statements. Wait to see those two statements. I'm not suggesting anything either way on that, Michelle. I think the projections have all been fairly clear and if we’re in a position to announce something different, we would be.

But in the Budget this year, we said that the balance would come forward a year earlier to 2019/20 and we're absolutely on track to achieve that. We'll have more to say about the progress on that and the numbers at MYEFO first and then obviously the Budget that follows.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, you would have seen iron ore and coal prices fall over the last fortnight, down substantially [inaudible]?

TREASURER: Well historically, we've been pretty conservative with our commodity forecasts, as the former treasurer, now Prime Minister, knows.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

TREASURER: We'll take the usual approach to those forecasts.

PRIME MINISTER: We've had a very modest forecast when it comes to those prices and we're still well above - even with those changes - still well above, remembering we had a forecast in there I think of around about 55 and that was going back to the 1st of July this year. So our forecasting on commodities has proved to be very conservative.

JOURNALIST: PM, the latest figures show that there’s about $9 billion extra coming into federal coffers Assuming you can still get into surplus, there'll be a bit of excess. What will be your priorities?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll be outlining the Budget, in the Budget. We'll be outlining the decisions we've made between now, the Budget and MYEFO at the time of MYEFO. We've already made a number of announcements in that regard. We made announcements like I just indicated prior to taking questions; what I said was, we have been investing in infrastructure. We've been investing in services. We've been ensuring we maintain our trajectory back to a surplus. That has always been a core focus of our fiscal strategy over the last five years. We're achieving it.

See, these improvements in our Budget have not happened by accident. Whether it’s been the decisions we've taken on spending which means our spending growth has been at the lowest level of any government in more that 50 years. So, we have exercised spending restraint in terms of the growth of expenditure. We've also exercised restraint when it comes to taxes, we have put a speed limit on taxes.

Labor has removed the speed limit on taxes. Labor will tax it until they break it. That’s their plan when it comes to taxes.

So the next election is a choice between a stronger economy - to pay for the hospitals and services and education and schools and border protection and defence, that Australia needs - or higher taxes. We can deliver it on the basis of a stronger economy and we can do it while keeping taxes under control. Labor ‘s policy on taxes is; “Let it rip.” They will let the taxes rip on every single taxpayer, every single business, every single saver, every single retiree. They will let taxes rip.

JOURNALIST: You’re here, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister -

TREASURER: Deputy leader. [Laughs]

PRIME MINISTER: He's a humble Treasurer.

TREASURER: That’s right.

JOURNALIST: A humble Treasurer, sorry, and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. You’ve [inaudible] quite strong in the Liberal Party [inaudible] that result. What do you say to those Liberal voters who turned against the Liberal Party this time, to get them back before the federal election? What do you say and the Prime Minister, the same, what do you say to people around the country who are Liberal Party voters who might be feeling the same way?

TREASURER: Well as Matthew Guy said, it was a state election fought on state issues and it's worth remembering that we've lost five out of the last six state elections in Victoria, at the same time as we've won four out of the last six federal elections.

My message to those people in, obviously my electorate and beyond, is that the benefits of a strong economy that we have helped create, are delivering the services that they rely on. The better infrastructure spend, the education and health spending. The work that we are doing to cut taxes, which we've actually legislated, both for households and for small businesses. That’s the traditional thing that the Liberal and National parties do; we cut taxes and we create jobs and that is a proven record.

As for Daniel Andrews, well, he reminded people of some of the things that he had achieved in his time. We're going to be reminding people of the things that we've achieved.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will there be sufficient time before you call an election for Bill Shorten to get a right of reply and do you want Parliament to pass appropriation bills before you call an election? 

PRIME MINISTER: We'll deal with the normal Budget week in the way budgets are always handled. So yes I would anticipate that the Leader of the Opposition would make his reply in the normal way.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] comments in your meeting with Victorian colleagues yesterday that Liberals were seen as anti-women, homophobic, climate-change deniers?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not our view and it’s also not Kelly’s view that that’s what the Liberal Party is about. What we're about is the Women's Economic Security Statement which is what Kelly O'Dwyer handed down. I mean Kelly O'Dwyer, when it comes to women's superannuation, when it comes to women’s employment, when it comes to women in small business - female participation in our workforce is at record levels. The gender pay gap under the strong economic policies that we've been pursuing for the last five years, has contracted to it’s lowest level in many, many years, in many, many years.

So what we're doing is getting on with the job of delivering the services that are necessary for families and particularly women and families, to make the choices they want to make. The child care change that we made, that came in on the 1st of  July are actually reducing the cost of childcare. On top of that, what they're also doing, is giving women and particularly women and families on lower to middle incomes, the opportunity to keep their children in child care for longer. No longer do they hit that cliff in about March when the rebates run out. They have the certainty to be able to have their kids in child care and make those plans and make those choices. As I've gone around child care centres all around the country, the response from the staff in those child care centres as well as the parents is; “This is giving us more certainty. We can actually make decisions. We can actually plan.”

I remember when we first brought in those reforms - I was the Social Services Minister at the time - we called it Jobs for Families. Because that's what it was doing; it was giving women choices that they didn't have before. So our record is one of increasing women's economic participation, increasing their opportunity to save more and deal with the changes in the normal course of life and family life and to give them greater choice about how they have economic participation into the future.

I want to commend Kelly O'Dwyer for leading the charge. She has done it as Minister for Women, both as a treasury minister and colleague of mine when I was Treasurer and now in the important role of industrial relations. So she's championing the cause of women and we will continue to speak of the important things we are achieving for women and families.

TREASURER: Can I just add to that, can I just add to that. David, I'm a proud dad of a young daughter and Scott, the Prime Minister, is a proud dad of two young daughters. We want our Party to provide the best opportunity for our daughters.

PRIME MINISTER: That's right.

TREASURER: And it is. So we are part of a party that believes in their aspiration and their hope. So this view that some in the media are trying to promote, is wrong. The reality is our Party will deliver the best possible outcomes for my daughter and Scott's daughters.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much.