10 April 2014
Transcript - #2014005, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC News Radio

SUBJECTS: G20, Washington

JOURNALIST:

Steve Ciobo, Australia seems to have a unique prominence at the moment; being president of the G20, you have G20 meetings ahead and IMF meetings. What is Australia hoping to achieve from those meetings?

CIOBO:

The meetings that are taking place in Washington this week really represent an opportunity to build on the progress that was achieved by the Treasurer in Sydney at the Finance Ministers meeting earlier this year. It’s the next step on the journey for Australia’s year as President of the G20 and another opportunity to take concrete action that is going to see us, hopefully, work towards the aspiration of increasing global growth by two percent over the forecast to help make sure we’re making each country more wealthy but also making sure we get millions of people back into work across the globe.

JOURNALIST:

That Sydney meeting had the world commit to higher growth targets at the urging of Australia, but yesterday the IMF brought out figures forecasting growth reductions in the growth expectations of Australia; down this year from 2.8 to 2.6 per, next year down from 3 to 2.7 percent and nowhere near trend which is needed to reduce unemployment.

CIOBO:

The IMF report simply underscores the clear message the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have both been delivering to all Australians; which is to say we have significant economic challenges that lay ahead. There is absolutely no doubt that the forecasts Labor put forward were overly optimistic; there is no doubt that Labor’s growth in real spending far exceeded their so-called two percent real growth target that became something in the rear view mirror a long way behind their actually increases in expenditure. So the IMF report just underscores, as I said, the message we’ve been outlining now for some months which is: that we have a very big job to do, to restore Australia’s financial framework in terms of our fiscal consolidation; to make sure we have enough money coming in to meet all the anticipated demands on government spending over next year and years ahead, that’s part of the challenge.

JOURNALIST:

You’re pointing the finger at Labor for having overly optimistic forecasts of growth, but the IMF is actually pointing the finger of blame today to you. Because the Financial Review is carrying a story today saying Australia has posted the fastest budget deterioration over the past six months. On your watch, things are getting worse.

CIOBO:

Well that’s a consequence of the Budget being more realistic, in terms of its assessment. The notion that in some way we’ve taken big spending decisions in the past six months that have led to this deterioration are, of course, ridiculous. The reality is that what we’ve sought to do is to make sure the forecasts reflect the true state of affairs. The IMF report, in many respects, reinforces the strength of our message. The IMF report, in many respects, reinforces the accuracy of our message: which is that there were a whole raft of assumptions made by Labor which did not correlate with facts. We saw, for example, under Labor’s previous Budget forecast unemployment was tipped to be at six-and-a-quarter percent then miraculously overnight dropped to five percent. Our revised forecasts, of course, reflect, a more accurate and likely scenario. So if that’s a deterioration, it’s only a deterioration because we stopped living in a fantasy land Labor wanted to create and actually started living in reality.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask you about another story which is in the Financial Review this morning, reporting from Washington, that the US is irritated with Australia because of the bi-lateral deal, the free trade agreement, sealed with Japan in the last couple of days because it came at a time when America was trying for a better deal as part of the Tans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Is the United States irritated with Australia? 

CIOBO:

Well you’d have to direct that question, of course, to the United States to ask them their viewpoint. I’m not going to speculate as to the US administration’s particular outlook, but obviously Australia and the United States have been and will continue to be very good friends for many decades. The decision taken by the Abbott Government, in relation to pursuing and delivering on free trade agreements with Japan and South Korea, of course, deliver upon our election commitment. They also see us land and, actually, deliver a commitment after years of Labor wrangling on this issue and not making any headway. So we’ve certainly made no apologies for success that is actually going to help grow the Australian economy, provide additional export markets for Australian exporters and create cheaper products for Australians as we consume them within in our economy. So it’s a win for Australia, it’s a win obviously for those countries that have signed up to it as well and that’s in Australia’s interest.

JOURNALIST:

No expressions of irritation to you on what is your first full day in Washington?

CIOBO:

Absolutley not.

JOURNALIST:

Steve Ciobo thank you very much.

CIOBO:

Pleasure Marius, have a great day.