17 July 2014
Transcript - #2014021, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC NewsRadio

PRESENTER SANDY ALOISI:

Well, the government is running out of time as it continues to work for the abolition of the Carbon Tax and to win support in the Senate for Budget savings measures. With Parliament set to adjourn for the long winter break as early as today, and the Treasurer has turned up pressure on the Senate warning that if it blocks government plans, the government will find other ways to make savings. To look at the government's economic plans, Marius Benson is speaking to Steven Ciobo, Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Treasurer.

MARIUS BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, good morning.

CIOBO:

Good morning Marius.

BENSON:

The financial review has done its sums and it calculates the total savings now blocked by the Senate, your planned savings. The amount is now forty one billion dollars. Does that sound right to you?

CIOBO:

Well, look, it does and unfortunately it's consistent with commentary that we've seen in the last 24 hours from, including for example, Chris Richardson, who's making it clear that the Labor Party, the Greens in the main, are standing in the face of an attempt to have Australia live within its means and they're actually looking at putting tens of billions of dollars of spending back into the Budget and making the debt deficit blow out by hundreds of billions of dollars.

BENSON:

Chris Richardson was also making the point that this is what all oppositions have done recently, increasingly, that they oppose all savings measures because they get a bit of popularity about opposing some pain in a Budget and they also then get the added prize of being able to turn on the government and say, you didn't deliver the Budget results you promised to deliver. You did it in opposition; you're now suffering the faith in government.

CIOBO:

Well, that's not entirely true. There were a number of aspects where it gets to Coalition policy. We took the decision that we knew to be in the national interest and ultimately said that we had aspirations and take for example, reforms that Labor made in breach of their promises, around private health insurance. The problem here, Marius, is that the Labor Party, not only are they actually putting additional spending back into the Budget, not only are they opposing some of the Coalition initiatives, the perverse situation is that Labor is actually opposing their own savings initiatives. That just underscores the rank populism that lay behind their decision to just completely cut away any good policy.

BENSON:

Are you really planning to bypass the Senate to achieve savings or is that an empty threat?

CIOBO:

The Coalition has a duty to the Australian people to govern in the national interest. We made it very clear that we wanted to be elected so that we could restore Australia's balance sheet. We're attempting to do that. The Coalition's attempting to honour its promises and the Labor Party are preventing us from doing that. Now, we are very focused on making sure that Australia can live within its means. That Australia doesn't continue to steal from the next generation of Australians to pay for today's financing.

BENSON:

You're speaking in very general terms; can I bring you to that narrow point? Will you take measures to bypass the Senate to achieve savings?

CIOBO:

Well, theCcoalition must achieve savings. We cannot continue to run the biggest deficits in the nation's history.

BENSON:

Yes, you've made that point, but the methods that you'll use, does that involve bypassing the Senate with regulations?

CIOBO:

Well, you're pre-empting to certain extent the outcome in the Senate. We do not know ultimately what a number of the crossbench Senators are going to do. So I think it's a little premature to dictate to exactly what shape or form that will take. Indeed, the Treasurer himself has highlighted that point.

BENSON:

Well, the Treasurer did say though, that there are other ways of doing these things. Do you, is it possible to make substantial savings without relying on legislation dependent on the Senate? Substantial savings?

CIOBO:

Look, for as long as the Labor Party and the Greens continue to just oppose every single initiative, we will continue to struggle to make sure that Australia lives within it's means and to make sure that we don't have to continue borrowing more than a billion dollars a month just to pay the interest on the debt that Labor's accumulated. Ultimately, other initiatives that we undertake need to be looked at, but we'd call upon the Labor Party and the Greens to say, look support our plan, at least we have a plan for Australia to live within it's means and if the Labor Party can't do that, at least have the decency to the Australian people to outline what their alternative is.

BENSON:

What are those other initiatives you just referred to?

CIOBO:

I'm not going to specify, as I said, what those initiatives are going to be because it pre-empts the outcome of votes in the Senate on key legislation.

BENSON:

Can you say where they'll hit? Will they hit health, will they hit education?

CIOBO:

I'm not going to speculate on that because we have a plan that we've put before the Australian people. We have a mandate from the Australian people to restore Australia's economic health. It's only the Labor Party and the Greens that are playing the wrecking ball at the moment, are standing opposed to any tax cuts, sorry, standing opposed to any tax increases, standing opposed to any reductions in expenditure and in fact, trying to roll tens of billions of dollars of more spending and more borrowing back into the budget.

BENSON:

If you're criticizing the opposition for opposing tax increases, didn't you promise no tax increases in opposition yourself?

CIOBO:

We made it very clear that we were going to stop the boats, that we were going to axe the Carbon Tax, and axe the Mining Tax, and that we were going to restore Australia's economic health. That was our promises.

BENSON:

And no new taxes.

CIOBO:

They were our clear promises about what we were going to do. Now, we inherited the situation that just underscores how badly Labor left Australia. We had the fastest rate of spending in the developed world, that is, the fastest increase. We're attempting to do what we can to make sure this country is going forward on a sustainable footing. The Labor Party and Greens are standing opposed to that.

BENSON:

Just quickly, your colleague, your Queensland Senate colleague James McGrath, maiden speech last night, at one point he suggested a fifteen percent GST, an increase in the GST. Any merit in that?

CIOBO:

Decisions in relation to the GST will be decisions that are looked at as part of a tax review. We want to make sure that we have a comprehensive plan going forward. We, the Prime Minister's ruled out on many occasions any changes to the GST. Ultimately, we need to have a look at the tax mix in this nation. We want to do it properly, comprehensively, methodically and we will do that on the basis of the review that will take place.

BENSON:

A comprehensive review, but one that won't produce a change to the GST?

CIOBO:

Ultimately, we want to make sure that Australia's going forward on a strong basis. Now, the Labor Party wants to run a scare campaign on GST, the Prime Minister has made it crystal clear that there will be no changes to the GST. We want to make sure that Australia looks at its tax mix. That will be part of the review and any changes that flow from that review will be taken to the next election and the Australian people will have their chance to have their say at that point in time.

BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, thanks very much indeed.

CIOBO:

A pleasure, Marius.

ALOISI:

The Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Treasurer, Steve Ciobo speaking to Marius Benson.