12 May 2014
Transcript - #2014007, 2014

Interview with Lyndal Curtis, ABC 24

SUBJECTS: Budget

PRESENTER, LYNDAL CURTIS:

Steven Ciobo welcome to Capital Hill.

CIOBO:

Thanks Lyndal.

PRESENTER:

Now it has been revealed the Government will be axing or merging a number of Government agencies, do we know yet how many jobs will go?

CIOBO:

Well look all the detail, I'm sure you've heard this from me and others in the Government, will be released tomorrow night Lyndal. We've got about 30 to 31 hours to go until all the details are there. But the key point is this Lydnal: we gave a commitment to the Australian people at the last election that we were going to do several things: we were going to get the Budget back on track, restore economic growth, restore prosperity, and make Government more efficient after six years of Labor's reckless spending and the inefficiency that we saw as a consequence of Labor.

PRESENTER:

Amongst those commitments was a commitment to lose 12,000 public sector jobs, but no more than that. Is it possible more than that will end up going?

CIOBO:

We'll see a decline in public service employment over the forward estimates and that's a consequence of making government leaner and making government more efficient. But you know Lyndal when I talk to people out there in the Australian community there is a lot of the private sector that had a lot of job shedding through the GFC, as people had to tighten their belts, government almost stood immune to that. At a time when the private sector was doing the hard yards it seemed like a lot of the bureaucracy was increasing. So we are unashamedly about making government more efficient, this is in the long-term interests of Australia; getting us on a more stable platform. I think ultimately what people are looking for Lyndal is that when it comes to the services government deliver, that there's not a dilution of our ability to provide those services – we're committed to that, but we'll make sure that we do it in a more efficient way.

PRESENTER:

Does it worry you if bureaucrats lose their jobs? It doesn't seem to worry politicians, particularly because Canberra is seen as safe Labor territory.

CIOBO:

You know Lyndal I don't relish anybody losing their job, nobody wants to lose their job and it has a material impact for that particular family or that particular individual in terms or their ability to pay their rent, or service their mortgage. So of course we don't welcome any of these things and we don't do so lightly. But we also have an obligation to the Australian people, to the taxpayers who fund all of this, and those taxpayers are expecting us as a Coalition to make the hard, but necessary decisions, to make sure Australia is on a sustainable footing. We were not on a sustainable footing, we were racking up huge levels of debt on a daily basis, we are going to put Australia back on a sustainable footing.

PRESENTER:

Are you personally comfortable with fuel taxes going up with the indexation being re-introduced, with a deficit levy on higher income earners after there were promises made that taxes wouldn't rise?

CIOBO:

The promises we made going to the last election was to stop the boats; we've so far have been successful in doing that. We also promised we were going to get rid of the carbon and mining taxes; we're trying to that – Labor is stopping us. We said that we'd restore Australia's economic credibility and get the Budget back into a more sustainable footing and we're in the process of doing that and we'll see that tomorrow night…

PRESENTER:

You also promised taxes wouldn't rise, that personal income tax wouldn't rise, that energy costs would go down.

CIOBO: 

Well all of these things Lyndal are tied up with semantics around the words you want to play, but I think the clear message the Government delivered ahead of the last election was that if you elect us; we'll stop the boats – we're doing that; we'll get Australian back on track when it comes to economic credibility – we're doing that. We said if you elect us we'll stop Labor's reckless spending – we're doing that. So on those promises Lyndal, I'm just answering your question, on those promises we are committed to delivering on our promises. Now when it comes to am I comfortable with speculation around increases, in for example fuel excise, as a Liberal and as a member of the Coalition I never want to see taxes going up ideally, but we also need to be realistic about the size of the economic challenge that has been left to us by Labor who were spending money hand over fist.

PRESENTER:

You say they they're semantics, this was a direct question put to Tony Abbott before the election: "so how do you get the Budget back into surplus without putting up taxes?" His answer: "by sensible expenditure restraint." That in this case appears not to have been enough and some taxes will rise.

CIOBO:

Lyndal there is no doubt we're in a much worse situation than we anticipated going into the election. There is no doubt we never forecast Labor would have been borrowing so much money; would have been spending – in such a reckless way – so much money; that Australia was on track, to within a decade, reaching $700 billion worth of debt. So the size of the problem…

PRESENTER:

It will be a tough sales pitch won't it? Given that Mr Abbott put so into keeping his promises.

CIOBO:

Look make no mistake Lyndal; this is not a budget you'd create if you want to be popular out there in the electorate and think it's going to win over a lot of votes. It's not the type of Budget that we're doing because we're trying to appeal to as many people as possible. This is the kind of Budget that is necessary by a mature adult Government to start and restore Australia's credibility and repair the damage Labor left.

PRESENTER:

One final question, MPs pay has been frozen; the remuneration tribunal will implement that. But it also says it will continue to monitor economic and wages growth as it remains committed to ensuring remuneration levels for public officers are competitive and maintained at levels that support the significant and valuable contribution of office holders. Is there a prospect that the remuneration tribunal could possibly unwind that process next year and give you some catch up pay?

CIOBO:

Well you're asking me to speculate on what an independent third party may do, of course I can't speculate about that. But what I will say is this. The changes that are made in this Budget impact on all Australians, in the same way they impact on public servants, and they impact on politicians – when the belt is tightened; we all feel it. Over and above that there has also been suggestions that there'll be the pay freeze for politicians and senior public servants – that's an additional measure that we think is an appropriate symbol at this point in time to make sure that people understand in addition to what the community feels; we're feeling all of that plus some.

PRESENTER:

Steve Ciobo, thanks for your time.

CIOBO:

Pleasure.