4 December 2014
Transcript - #2014045, 2014

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC Newsradio

MARIUS BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, good morning.

STEVE CIOBO:

Good morning.

MARIUS BENSON:

There are some gloomy headlines around on the economy this morning.

The Fin Review has, "Hockey warns living standards could fall." The Sydney Morning Herald, something similar, "living standards may fall." The Australian "growth shadow over budget."

You've been in office more than a year, it's your economy and it's not doing well.

STEVE CIOBO:

Well, this is consistent with what the Coalition has been saying for some time. We are concerned about Australia's long term competitiveness. We're concerned about wanting to make sure we have rising standards of living and a rising ability to make sure that Australian incomes keep growing.

But under the first 12 months the Coalition, economic growth has been at 2.7% under the final 12 months of the Labor Party, economic growth was at 1.9% but all this reinforces the absolute necessity to make sure that we get the structural form needed in the budget to make sure that Australia can live within its means.

MARIUS BENSON:

Growth at 2.7% but the last crudely figured 0.3 growth virtually at a standstill and people are talking about, not a recession, but an income recession. Is that a fair description of the situation in Australia? An income recession, wages stagnant, commodity prices falling, revenue to the government falling?

STEVE CIOBO:

Look, the Labor Party is obviously very keen to talk down economic growth in Australia. I think it's unfortunate. The so called income recession happened at least three times under the Labor Party when they were last in power...

MARIUS BENSON:

Is that happening now?

STEVE CIOBO:

Well, this is a consequence of falling terms of trade. When we see a rebalancing in the stock price and we see the Australian dollar falling down, we've seen a 25% deterioration in bulk commodity prices since May of this year. So, that's what pushes those numbers around. Ultimately, you always want to remain focused on overall GDP growth as I said, we're 2.7 versus 1.9. But all of this fundamentally, just goes to making sure that we live within our means as a country which means making the structural changes required so we don't continue to borrow a billion dollars a month just to pay the interest just to pay the interest on the debt that Labor left behind.

MARIUS BENSON:

MYEFO is the next big headland moment for the economy, the Mid Year Economic Fiscal Outlook, that statement from the Treasurer. Is that simply going to be a report card or is it going to be a significant moment in terms of economic policy?

STEVE CIOBO:

Well that will update of course, the decisions the government took in the budget. It'll reinforce the need to try to make changes, that is structural changes, and in many respects, what it'll do is demonstrate the way in which the Labor Party and the Greens in particular have jeopardised Australia's budget as a consequence of the short term political opportunism that they've undertaken when they've sacrificed our national interest for their short term standing. I think it was perhaps best summed up by Martin Parkinson, the Treasury Secretary, yesterday. We made it clear that Australia must tackle structural reform if we're going to continue to boost living standards into the future.

MARIUS BENSON:

When people discuss how the government can fine savings, the paid parental leave scheme is often pointed to, there's five billion dollars you can save by not introducing that. Is the government working on changes to the paid parental leave scheme?

STEVE CIOBO:

I find it curious that the Labor Party on the one hand, wants to allege that the government is inconsistent with its pre-election promises yet when it comes to the paid parental leave scheme, a scheme which is fully funded. A scheme which we have taken to two elections that Labor is in fact trying encourage us to break our promises. We remain committed to implementing policies that we took to the last election and in fact in this particular case, the election before that as well.

MARIUS BENSON:

But the Prime Minister made the point that circumstances change, you have to break promises. Is this the promise that is no longer consistent with the economic circumstances?

STEVE CIOBO:

No, this is a commitment that we have undertaken to all Australian families and in particular, of course, Australian women. That says that if you get a replacement salary when you take long service leave, or you take sick leave, or you take holiday leave, we think that it's appropriate that you also get a replacement salary when it comes to taking maternity leave.

MARIUS BENSON:

Speaking of Australian women, Daniel Andrew's ministry is being sworn in Victoria today. Nine of twenty-two ministers are women. In the federal ministry, one woman. Is that an issue for the government?

STEVE CIOBO:

Well it's incorrect to say in the federal ministry there is only one woman, that's not the case at all.

MARIUS BENSON:

One minister.

STEVE CIOBO:

No, there are a number of women that are in the Abbott Government Ministry.

MARIUS BENSON:

Assistant ministers, not ministers.

STEVE CIOBO:

Well we remain very committed.

MARIUS BENSON:

But that's an important difference.

STEVE CIOBO:

Well, we remain very committed to making sure that there's greater representation of women in both cabinet and the outer ministry. We continue as a government to make sure that we provide the very best of opportunities for women to move forward and I have no doubt that they will continue to play a very senior role in the Coalition Government and in fact I know, yesterday, the Speaker of the Parliament made the point that we had in the chair, Julie Bishop, Tanya Pilbersek and of course the Speaker herself, all women.

MARIUS BENSON:

The government itself is according to reports today, not a happy ship. We have reports that David Johnston, the Defence Minister has set two staff ministers, two staff members over leaks of extravagant entertainment and also the Financial Review is reporting this morning that Julie Bishop is going bananas because Andrew Robb is being sent as a chaperone to make sure she sticks to the government line at climate change talks in Peru. Is it's not a happy ship?

STEVE CIOBO:

No, I reject that assertion completely. This has been a very solid 12 months. If you look at the government's performance, you really have delivered in spades. We've stopped the stopped the boats, we've delivered free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea. We've implemented one of the biggest infrastructure packages that the country has seen, more than $50 billion going into infrastructure. We've abolished the mining tax, we've abolished the carbon tax. This is a government that's very focused on delivering in spades, in terms of our policy commitments. Now there'll always be some media speculation and some noise around the margins but that doesn't distract me or any member of the government from the core task that we're elected to do which is to focus on jobs and growth.

MARIUS BENSON:

Steve Ciobo, thank you very much for speaking with NewsRadio this morning.

STEVE CIOBO:

My pleasure.