3 June 2014
Transcript - #2014015, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC NewsRadio Breakfast

SUBJECTS: Budget 

PRESENTER, MARIUS BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, good morning.

CIOBO:

Good morning Marius.

PRESENTER:

You are selling the Budget hard personally and the Government at large is selling the Budget hard but the polls suggest the public isn't listening much. You're stuck in the basement in terms of the primary vote still at 36 per cent, a four-and-a-half-year low.

CIOBO:

Well Marius this isn't something that's going to happen in a day or two, this is going to be part of an on-going narrative by the Government to highlight that it's only the Coalition that has a plan when it comes to restoring Australia's finances. It's only the Coalition that has a concrete pathway of reform that's going to make sure we invest in productive infrastructure in the future and at the same time ask everyone to contribute to paying down the debt legacy that's been left by the Labor Party. In contrast the Labor Party is out there being as populist as they can but meanwhile looking at adding literally tens of billions of dollars of spending back into the Budget.

PRESENTER:

But you've been saying that for three weeks. And the public has heard that for three weeks and they've marked you down. This is the worse response to a Budget is much more than two decades, much worse than '96.

CIOBO:

Well Marius I'm not surprised to be blunt. I'm not surprised there are pockets of Australia that take the view that any time the Government wants to undertake structural reform, anytime the Government wants to undertake structural reform or anytime the Government puts through difficult reforms it's not popular. But guess what? We knew that going in the Budget –

PRESENTER:

When you say pockets of Australia, the survey shows two out of three Australians think it's unfair for example.

CIOBO:

Well Marius we have taken a decision; in order to get Australia back on track; in order to execute an economic action strategy that is actually going to yield real results for the Australian people and not push the next generation of Aussie kids into more debt then we need to make tough decisions. Now we recognise this isn't a popular Budget. We never did it thinking that that it is was going to mean that we we're going to end up being 10 points in front of Labor –

PRESENTER:

Did you think you'd end up this far behind?

CIOBO:

Well we've done it because we believe that fundamentally this is the right approach. And I'd stress again Marius: that it's only the Coalition that has any firm plans on the table to get Australia back on track. I recognise Labor's approach is to be populist and to say 'well we oppose, pretty much, virtually all the tough choices this Budget has made –

PRESENTER:

That's what Oppositions do, that's what you did for five years.

CIOBO:

I don't agree with that at all actually. I think in Opposition we put forward, on a number of occasions, plans, including our very first year in Opposition. The point remains that the Labor Party approach, and the Greens and Palmer for that matter, is to add billions of dollars of spending back in at a time when the last thing the country needs is to keep borrowing money to service the debt.

PRESENTER:

House prices nationally just registered their biggest drop since December 2008 and experts in the field are pointing to a drop in consumer confidence and saying the house prices reflect that and it's all to do with the Budget. Do you think the Budget is a key to why those prices dropped?

CIOBO:

No it's a cyclical factor. I mean we see year after year that often there is a cooling of house prices in that April-May period. The fact that its happened this year is entirely consistent, as I understand it, with what's happened previously. I think it's important to recognise that changes to the Budget are long term; they're structural. There is a fear campaign and scare mongering going on from elements of the Opposition about this is a Budget that's going to cut pensions, for example, and so some people might react to that. But what they actually discover is that that is just a scare campaign, there are no cuts to pensions; pensions will keep increasing. And so ultimately that is a long term message we'll have to keep putting across to the Australia people.

PRESENTER:

There are tensions at the top of the Liberal Party with the Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly contacting the Prime Minister concerned about the interview he gave Andrew Bolt on Sunday in which he was asked about Malcolm Turnbull. And Corey Bernardi last night, critical of Malcolm Turnbull's response to Andrew Bolt. Do you think that's distracting people from the task of selling the Budget?

CIOBO:

The Government's absolute focus is about making decisions that are going to be in the long term interest of Australia. Making decisions that don't see us continuing with Labor's failed approach of borrowing a billion dollars a month just to pay the interest on a loan. That is absolutely the focus of the Prime Minister, the entire front bench, and I believe the backbench as well. So media driven campaigns about who is talking to who and why they did that, and where they had pecking duck or banana split; frankly could not care less about and it's not a focus, at all, for any of us.

PRESENTER:

There's also an essential poll out today which confirms the public prefers Malcolm Turnbull as leader to Tony Abbott. Why is Malcolm Turnbull so much less popular within the Liberal Party than he is with the Australian people generally?

CIOBO:

Frankly Marius, as I said, my focus is upon what's in Australia's long-term interest –

PRESENTER:

But that's been a continuing pattern of the public and the Liberal Party being at odds. Why that disconnect?

CIOBO:

I am not in the least bit interested in discussing the merits of the merits of various members of the Coalition. What I am focused on is what is going to be in Australia's long term national interest. What I am focused on is the job that I and the Coalition have been elected to do; which is to restore Australia's economic stability, to get this country back on track; and to make sure we're creating jobs and investing in productive infrastructure. That's my focus and that's the focus of the Government.

PRESENTER:

Steve Ciobo thanks again.

CIOBO:

Thanks Marius.