Photo: AAP Image/Richard Wainwright
GARETH PARKER: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, welcome.
PRIME MINISTER: G’day Gareth, it’s great to be here.
PARKER: Before you were Prime Minister you sat in this studio and you told us that you didn’t need legislation to effect a GST fix, that you as the Treasurer had the power to simply implement it. You said you wanted to get agreement of the states but if that didn’t work, you’d just do it, you’d use your powers to do. Now you’re the Prime Minister, why have you sort of changed tack? Why do we need to go through legislation now? Why do you take the risk with this Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: What I said last time was I was open to legislation, I’d consider it. And that’s right. I mean the Treasurer can just issue an instruction to the Commonwealth Grants Commission but what this will do is give it greater certainty. I mean I just wasn’t going to let the whole process be held hostage to states and territories trying to go for a blank cheque type of arrangement. It’s important this gets done and it will get done. It’s for Bill Shorten now to support the legislation. I heard Matt Keogh just said they were going to vote for it, but until I see Bill Shorten walk into the House of Representatives Chamber -
PRIME MINISTER: And vote for my bill, then until that happens Western Australians won’t have the certainty that they deserve.
PARKER: I’m happy to come back to him, but again, if the Treasurer has the power to do it, why not just do it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the result would be the same, what that would mean –
PARKER: So, quicker –
PRIME MINISTER: Hang on, no, it wouldn’t actually, it wouldn’t be quicker. It wouldn’t be kicking in until the exact timetable that the plan I outlined back in July. But the difference here is if we legislate this then no future Treasurer can change it. This locks it in forever and gives Western Australians the certainty. Now that’s what I want to see happen. Previously there had been a lack of clarity about what the Labor Party would do. That was one of the things we talked about when I was here last time. Bill Shorten said he was going to be on a unity ticket with Mark McGowan and I on this. Well, he’s crab-walking at the moment. It’s time to show up, Bill. When push comes to shove, he always seems to fall over. I hope he stands up and supports my plan.
PARKER: If you get agreement from the state and the Federal Treasurers at the meeting that Josh Frydenberg is chairing in Melbourne as we speak, will that be the signal to everyone that this game is over?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, no, we’re consulting with states and territories but the outcome of that meeting today has no bearing on the legislation whatsoever, my legislation is going forward in the next sitting of Parliament and we’ve been consulting them on what this all means and what that consultation shows, what our independent figures show from the Productivity Commission is that every single state and territory is better off under this plan. So we’ll take that legislation forward. We’ve been talking to them, but at the end of the day this is a decision for our Government and that’s why I’m putting my legislation into the Parliament. It’s time for Bill Shorten to stop making excuses and looking for excuses. Just turn up and vote for it, Bill.
PARKER: Today’s meeting, will the legislation be amended as a result of any of the consultations? If the Queenslanders or the Victorians or the South Australians come up with a point, is Josh prepared to negotiate on those?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we’ll listen to them, but I mean the legislation sets out what I outlined to people back in July. What I outlined to people back in July shows that every single state and territory is better off. My Government isn’t interested, our Government isn’t interested in providing blank cheques to anybody, that’s how you run your Budget down. We’ve provided in this plan, for $1 billion a year and more guarantee, to ensure all states and territories are better off. Now, the states and territories have never had it better. Last time we were here, we talked about the changes we’d been making to the GST, on digital transactions, things like that. That means that over the next four years, there’s $6.5 billion of extra revenue for GST going into the pool. On top of that, over this eight year period almost $8 billion, so the states and territories frankly, under our Government have never had it so good when it comes to the GST. And finally, that story will extend to Western Australia, because of what our Government is doing.
PARKER: The Victorians in particular seem to be saying that that $1 billion of top-up money - they’re modelling all sorts of scenarios, I don’t know how realistic they are – but –
PRIME MINISTER: Oh look, they’re trying it on.
PARKER: But they seem to be saying that, well, there might be a scenario in which the changes leave us $1 billion worse off on the GST, or more than $1 billion.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s rubbish. They say if they stand on one leg and they point their head towards Saturn or something like that, and then turn around three times, then in that scenario – I mean, it’s just rubbish. They’re trying it on, they’re trying it on. There’s more than a $1 billion guarantee. It’s time for the whole country, frankly, to recognise that WA has had a raw deal. I’m doing this because I believe in it Gareth. I know there have been opponents to this in other parts of the country. But if you believe it, you do it.
This is what we’re seeing from Bill Shorten; he doesn’t believe it. I think at the end of the day, he’s going to be forced into supporting this legislation. Not because he wants to do it, not because he believes in it, but because he’s been called out for being shifty on it.
PARKER: Okay the legislation itself, when are you or your Treasurer, I presume, going to introduce the bill into the House of Representatives?
PRIME MINISTER: First week back.
PARKER: First week back? You want to have it passed within the next session?
PRIME MINISTER: I’d love to, but I mean we’ve got to work that through the Senate. But I mean if the Labor Party is supporting it –
PARKER: But just on that, that’s my issue with this, with this parliamentary process. It’s why I’m nervous about it as a West Australian. Because if you go through the Parliament and Bill Shorten is entitled to do what he does, I don’t agree with him if he –
PRIME MINISTER: And West Australians are entitled to do to Bill Shorten what they would do to him if he did oppose this. I mean we passed –
PARKER: But how is it in the deal’s interest, if you’ve got to start negotiating with the crossbench, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch and Fraser Anning and all these others?
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t believe I’ll have to, because I think Bill Shorten will understand, ultimately, that having said he’s on a unity ticket with me and Mark McGowan on this, he’ll have to stump up and actually do it. Now, last time we were in Canberra, I got legislation through the Parliament in 24 hours, 24 hours to change the law to ensure that strawberry growers in Australia, including here in Western Australia would have the protection that they needed. So I think I’ve already demonstrated that if I want to get something done, I’ll get it done.
PARKER: Okay. Would you rather have the legislation passed in this next session of Parliament, or would you rather have it as an election issue that you can beat Bill Shorten over the head with to win seats here in the West?
PRIME MINISTER: I want it passed now.
PARKER: Pretty simple.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. I want it passed now because I mean, Western Australians have waited long enough. We can fix this. This can be fixed when we all go back and we can demonstrate to the country that we actually can pass some legislation, which we already did as I said in the last sitting on an important issue related to strawberries. On this one, it’s even bigger than that. It effects the livelihoods of all Western Australians and all states and territories are better off. So let’s just get it done. Stop the excuses, just get it done. Stop the excuses, just get it done. Stop the politics, stop looking for an angle, Bill. Just vote for it, mate.
PARKER: Just on, related to the GST, not about this debate but we understand that something many people have been campaigning for a long time, that is the removal of the GST on tampons, women’s’ sanitary products.
PRIME MINISTER: Yep.
PARKER: Is it, a deal has been done on that in the last hour or so?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah the Treasurer has told me that they’ve been able to reach that agreement at the meeting of state and territory Treasurers today. You know, second time lucky. I mean Joe Hockey put it up last time and they said no. We put it up, I put it up on the agenda earlier in the year for this meeting and Josh has been there to bring it home. So look, I’m pleased to see that’s happened. I think it’s a bit of common sense. You know it had always been our view that we wanted to see a change. Last time the states and territories said no, this time they’ve said yes. So that’s great.
PARKER: Common sense?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I think so.
PARKER: Okay can I take you to matters other than the GST? It seems as though temperatures between China and the United States are really hotting up, particularly in the South China Sea. Do we have things to worry about here? It does seem as though the Defence Minister Marise Payne is making it known to China –
PRIME MINISTER: The Foreign Affairs Minister.
PARKER: Sorry, yes.
PRIME MINISTER: It wasn’t that long ago she was Defence Minister.
PARKER: Apologies, it’s hard to keep up in fairness.
PRIME MINISTER: Fair enough Gareth, fair enough.
PARKER: It does seem as though she’s sending a strong message to the Chinese that everyone just needs to cool it here?
PRIME MINISTER: Well this is always the role we play. I mean we’re cool heads, in this situation we’re measured, we have very strong relationships with both the United States and with China, have had for many years. It’s in all of our interests I think, to take that approach. The prosperity of our region has been a major boon for Australia and we want to see that continue. But our values are our values and we work closely with our defence partners in the region and more broadly. We’ll continue to do that, but what you can expect from our Government is just a continued common sense. Cool heads engaging with everybody in a very calm way and ensuring that we’re working for the best strategic outcomes of everyone involved here, but also most importantly, the national interest of Australia which demands the approach we’re taking.
PARKER: Have Australians got anything to fear from this confrontation?
PRIME MINISTER: Times of uncertainty are exactly that and it’s our job to work with everybody to reduce that uncertainty. That’s what we’re doing.
PARKER: Okay. Are you worried about the chances that house prices across the country might crash and might blow a hole in your Budget? In terms of the general way that people feel about their wealth, the way they might spend, as a result of some of the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission? It does seem as though the banks are going to crack down on lending and that’s going to affect house prices. You’re already seeing it on the east coast, of course we’ve had it here for some years.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are two separate issues here. I’m not worried about that outcome under our policies at all. I mean our policies led to the calming of the housing market in Sydney and Melbourne which was running at very unsustainable levels. I mean it was almost up at 20 per cent growth in Sydney. We’ve had a soft landing under our policies in the housing market in the eastern states –
PARKER: It’s not over yet.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Reserve Bank has supported the view that the Government has expressed about this and this has been a soft landing. Ratings agencies have supported that, in fact one of the reasons our AAA credit rating was restored to ‘stable’ was because of the way that the housing market pressures had been managed in Australia through the prudential policies we did through APRA, which was restricting the access to interest-only loans which had been exacerbating the supply-demand problems in the eastern states. So we’ve had a soft landing there which has supported Australia’s credit-worthiness as a country, which saves people on their mortgages ultimately. Because it doesn’t force rates up.
But what I am worried about is Labor’s plan to increase taxes on housing, abolish negative gearing as we know it, increase capital gains tax by 50 per cent. Now, if you want a housing market shock, elect Bill Shorten.
PARKER: There’s going to be an election by May next year. The unions this morning are promising another big new campaign about industrial relations. Is that an issue that your Government just will take off the table, industrial relations, in the lead up to the next election? Or are you going to stick to core Liberal principles of trying to free up the labour market?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve got a Minister for Industrial Relations, it’s the first time we’ve called our Minister that for some time, that’s Kelly O’Dwyer and what she wants to do is ensure we have a set of modern rules in Australia to cope with the flexibility and the needs of our economy, of businesses, of workers. That’s what she’s working on and you know, we can’t run a 21st Century economy with 20th Century rules. I mean in some cases the Labor Party wants to take us back to 19th Century rules. That’s not how people get jobs, that’s not how they get higher wages. All that’s about is trying to entrench the power of big union militant bosses. Bill Shorten is union bred, union fed, union led. He’s not his own person when it comes to these issues. I’m captive to no one on these issues and nether is Kelly O’Dwyer.
PARKER: Not captive to big business?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course not, why would we be.
PARKER: The unions are making –
PRIME MINISTER: I’m the one who put on the bank levy. I’m the one who has been taking on the electricity companies.
PARKER: The unions are making the link between changing the rules and pay rises. Their thesis if you like is that wages aren’t growing because workers don’t have enough power. Are they right about that?
PRIME MINISTER: No I mean the unions now, have continued to reduce their representation as a share of the workforce, year on year on year. And you know why? Because they’re out for union bosses. Militant union thugs have been out there threatening small businesses, threatening jobs and Bill Shorten has sat there and done nothing. When Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, when Bob Hawke was leading the Labor Party, he called militant union thugs out. Under Bill Shorten’s Labor, they give them life membership of the Labor Party.
PARKER: You’ve been to a lot of footy finals over the last few weeks. I saw you got booed at the MCG a couple of weeks ago.
PRIME MINISTER: I just joined 30 other Prime Ministers, 29 others in that category I think.
PARKER: Did you notice Julie Bishop at the grand final on Sunday got cheers?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah that’s great, she’s the number one ticket holder of the West Coast Eagles so good for her and - should I say this? It’s Julie’s –
PARKER: It’s not a reflection on her popularity versus yours?
PRIME MINISTER: No it’s Julie’s 20th anniversary today actually, as a Member of Parliament and I want to send her all the best. She has shown –
PARKER: She’s a backbencher.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I invited her to be in my Cabinet and she chose not to, that’s up to her. But Julie is a great part of our team and she’s actually heading over east very shortly to support us in the Wentworth by-election over there. So she’s a big asset for our team and she’s very welcome on our team and I commend her for everything she’s done for Western Australia. I mean I worked closely with Julie on this GST arrangement as I did with Mathias Cormann. So good on you Jules and thanks for being part of the team.
PARKER: Scott Morrison, Prime Minister, appreciate your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Gareth, great to be here mate.