3 September 2014
Transcript - #2014029, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC Newsradio

BENSON:

Ciobo, good morning.

CIOBO:

Good morning.

BENSON:

It's been a tough four months for the budget negotiations from the government's point of view. You're pretty happy with this result yesterday?

CIOBO:

We are. The fact is that we put the bulk of the budget reforms through. We are saving the Australian people tens of billions of dollars of less debt than we would have had had the existing Labor policies been left in place, and of course we had a big win, and they followed through on our election commitment yesterday to repeal the mining tax and the spending associated with it.

BENSON:

The miners are happy. Small business less happy with lost concessions, and the superannuation industry, in particular, are unhappy. Are you concerned with that unhappiness?

CIOBO:

Well, the fact is that there will always be some people that are unhappy by virtue of the fact that there's less money available to spend. Really, the only people that lay responsible for that is the Australian Labor Party and The Greens who in the last term of government, of course, spent tens of billions of dollars of more money than they had. Every single dollar they borrowed.

The consequence of that is that at some point in time you have to start to curve back that spending. You need to deal with the debt problem that exists, and that's exactly what we're attempting to do.

BENSON:

You've negotiated the abolition of the mining tax with a billionaire with mining interests, Clive Palmer. Does that raise alarm bells in your mind?

CIOBO:

Well, ultimately, that's a decision, again, for the opposition, because as a government, we took a very clear commitment to the last election. We said this mining tax is ineffective. It had 16 or 17 billion dollars of spending associated with it.

BENSON:

Sure, that's familiar ground. Can I just go to the specific question?

CIOBO:

Well, but to go to that specific question, Marius, the fact is that we took to the last election [that we would abolish it, and we'd abolish the spending in relation to it. We received a mandate from the Australian people in relation to that.

Now, the Labor Party, to go directly to your question. The Labor Party and The Greens have refused to be involved in this process. They don't want to negotiate. They don't want to make decisions in the national interest. Clive Palmer and the Palmer United Party, together with the cross-bench senator Ricky Muir, proved that they were willing to have those conversations.

BENSON:

But he’s a beneficiary as a result, is that a cause of concern for you?

CIOBO:

Well, that's ultimately a concern that Clive Palmer needs to address. From my perspective, he obviously did not vote in the senate. It's Palmer United Party senators that take that vote, together with Ricky Muir, but ultimately, that's a question that's going be addressed by Clive Palmer.

BENSON:

The Prime Minister has said this is not a broken promise, but you promised no adverse change, no surprises on superannuation. You've introduced change, to the surprise of everyone in the superannuation industry, and you've changed the rate of increase in super contributions, and that means that people retiring decades hence will be tens of thousands of dollars worse off, that’s adversity.

CIOBO:

No, well, I reject that assertion completely. The fact is that what we're ensuring is taking place is that, one; the budget is left in a stronger position than it would have been. Secondly, in relation to superannuation, this is actually leaving more money in people's pockets.

Bill Shorten himself, the opposition leader, made the point that superannuation guarantee increases come out of wages, not out of business profits. The fact is that by delaying the increase and the superannuation guarantee, more money is being left in worker's pockets. Also, for businesses, it means that there's more opportunity to continue employing people because it's a bit more conducive environment to employ Australians.

BENSON:

But on that logic, less super contributed by workers is better.

CIOBO:

Well, what we have is nine per cent superannuation guarantee, which is now nine-and-a-half per cent. Over the longer term will increase eventually up to 12 per cent. Now Marius, make no mistake. We would like to do it sooner. The government would like to have it reach 12 per cent sooner, but we've got to be mindful that we don't live in a bubble here. We live in an environment where we have massive levels of debt and deficit. We have to address that debt and deficit.

The Palmer United Party wanted the schoolkids bonus to stay in place, the income support bonus to stay in place, and a lot of other measures. As part of our important job of making sure that we take fiscally responsible decisions, we had to trade those two off. This is what got the repeal of the mining tax through which makes Australia a stronger, more stable investment climate for miners.

It's part of ensuring that we've got future, stronger job growth. Ultimately, if the Australian Labor Party wanted a different outcome, they shouldn't have made themselves irrelevant. They should've been willing to sit down with the government, and been willing to negotiate a better deal.

BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, thank you very much.

CIOBO:

Pleasure, Marius.