Transcript of Interview: Richo, Sky News

Interview

BPC040/2014

14 May 2014

Graham Richardson: And I did so also in an interview just a couple of hours ago with Jamie Briggs. As I said, I think one of the up and coming Libs. This bloke is a born star. He'll do very well in the future, but like everybody else, he struggles when confronted with the broken promises. Have a look at this. Jamie Briggs, welcome to the program.

Jamie Briggs: Thank you, Graham.

Graham Richardson: Now look, I know that Bob Hawke always said you should never underestimate the intelligence of the Australian people. He always said that every election they got it right.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah.

Graham Richardson: Now if that's the case, why can't anyone in the Liberal Party just stand up and say yes we've broken promises? These weasel words from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey about how we're keeping our commitment to the Australian people, you've broken promise after promise after promise. People aren't mugs, they know you have. Why can't you say so?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I agree people aren't mugs, and I agree the Australian people get it right. And I know at the last election the Australian people voted to change the way that the Federal Budget was being looked after. They made a clear choice about that. They knew that if they elected the Coalition that they would be electing a Government that would fix the Budget and last night took a major step forward in doing that. It wasn't the last word that we'll have to say about fixing the Budget, but a very important and strong first word on fixing the Budget. So I don't accept that we've broken our commitments to the Australian people.

Graham Richardson: But you've broken promises. You promised so many things. No changes to health and education. Do you want me to start listing the changes?

Jamie Briggs: No, well we didn't say no changes to health and education, we said there'd be no cuts and there's more money spent on education in the next four years.

Graham Richardson: Is there more money spent on health?

Jamie Briggs: Well, in health what we're doing is establishing the world's biggest health research fund.

Graham Richardson: Yeah, but you're cutting. You've got to admit that you're cutting. You can't say you're not, everybody knows you are. And you've…

Jamie Briggs: Well Graham…

Graham Richardson: And by the way, you said there'd be no new taxes. That's one thing you can't get around and you repeated it so many times. There are new taxes all over the place here, aren't there?

Jamie Briggs: But there is less tax taken overall than there would have been.

Graham Richardson: No, actually, I might say to you this year there's more tax being taken as a percentage of GDP than any year Wayne Swan was Treasurer. More tax than any year Wayne Swan was Treasurer.

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think this a reminder that you can take the old Senate bull out of the Senate out of the old bull, if that makes sense. There is less tax under the Coalition than there would have been had Labor been re-elected, that's in the Budget papers, some $5 billion worth.

Graham Richardson: Mate, tonight on my show, I'm actually going to go through the exact figures out of your Budget papers to show it. So I intend to prove it tonight in black and white from your figures not from mine, because there's no doubt about it. What you have done is lessen the tax take as a percentage of GDP over time, but in the next few years you're higher than Labor ever was.

Jamie Briggs: Well, Graham we've got the biggest mess in the country's history to clean up.

Graham Richardson: But why couldn't you have been honest about it?

Jamie Briggs: And your same Budget papers you referred to…

Graham Richardson: I don't disagree with you.

Jamie Briggs: Well we are…

Graham Richardson: I have agreed with you all the way on this.

Jamie Briggs: I don't think we're running a Newspoll by Newspoll strategy, which you've so rightly written about your party's approach when they're in government. We're not running a Newspoll by Newspoll strategy with this Budget. This Budget is about our future and you were part of a government, Graham, that did these things back in the 1980s and we benefit to your…

Graham Richardson: I'm not disputing the need for you to take strong action Jamie, I'm not.

Jamie Briggs: To your immense credit, you were part of a government that ensured that we have an economy today by putting in place reforms in the 1980s, which were bipartisan in the 1980s that ensured that we've got the capacity for Australia to take advantage of the globalised world. That was because Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, with the support of the then Liberal opposition, ensured that we put in place those reforms. Now what we're trying to do is do the same thing for our children so that they can have an economy in 20 years time, which is not overly burdened with debt, which has the best opportunity to grow and to do that we need to make very tough decisions today. These are not popular.

Graham Richardson: But, we're not disputed any of that. I agree with it all. What I'm saying is you can't treat people as mugs. They know you've broken promises. Now whether or not you had a good reason for it, aren't you better off standing up saying yes we broke promises, here's the reason we broke them, because they all know you've broken them. I think it's a huge mistake politically for you. I think the politics of it stink, and I think you'll have to bear the consequences. But let me go through some of the individual things in the Budget.

Jamie Briggs: Okay.

Graham Richardson: I mean, I heard Joe Hockey say last night you couldn't touch super for the rich because that would be breaking a promise. Well, given you broke so many I couldn't understand why you couldn't break another one. You see I'm worried about equity. It seems to me that if I'm on $400,000, $500,000 a year, I won't even know two cents in the dollar's gone into debt tax, but I tell you what, if you did what Peter Costello had the courage to do and whack a 15 per cent surcharge onto my super, because I mean, everybody's whacking all of their assets into their self-managed funds so they can be taxed at 15 per cent. I mean shouldn't you have done something like that to make the rich actually hurt? To make those who have a quid actually pay.

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think you make a good point that we want everyone to contribute to the improvement in the Budget position and improvement in our economy, absolutely. When it comes to superannuation, it gets back to what I said at the very beginning. This was the first word on repairing the Budget, not the last. We said before the election because of all the changes that had gone on in the superannuation industry over the last few years, we weren't going to change, in our first term of government, the rules around superannuation. However, it will get caught up as part of our financial systems review, I'm sure. It'll probably be caught up as part of the tax white paper as well. It is a very important part of our retirement system and it will be, I'm sure, something that in future budgets there will be some very strong consideration given to. I think it is an area where the Federal Government does need to have a good look at as part of our future approach to ensuring that we've got the services that Australians expect, the safety net that Australians expect, with the revenues required at the lowest levels possible to deliver those services…

Jamie Briggs: …so the broader economy can get on and deliver strong growth, more jobs and better opportunities for all Australians.

Graham Richardson: That's all terrific, but I mean as it stands, from what I saw in the Budget last night, if I'm a family on a combined income with my wife on 120,000 out in the suburbs with three kids, you're taking—it depends on who you believe, but between $80 and $100 a week out of my pocket. Now those families they live from week to week. Every cent that comes in goes out, there's no discretionary spending. A big night out it's not at a flash restaurant, it's at McDonald's and they're going to really hurt, even pensioners have been hit. With pensioners, you've taken away the supplement and by changing the way indexation occurs, you actually reduce pensions over the next few years. I mean, why make them do the heavy lifting when, as I said, the bloke on 400 or 500 grand a year loses two cents in the dollar and doesn't know it's gone?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the first thing is pensions aren't being changed in this term of government and if we're re-elected we've made it very clear that we'll change indexation arrangements. So that is taking that commitment to the next election whenever that may be. In relation to the family you mentioned, yes it will be difficult to adjust, but let me make this point—there is no future on government payments. I think you and I would agree on this, Graham. This is not the way to run a social welfare system, a safety net. You know as Joe Hockey said today, we want a safety net, not a cargo net. We want people to be able to do as well as they can and not rely on the Government and unfortunately in the last few years there has been no doubt that there's been a creeping amount of assistance to all sorts of people throughout our society who do get use to and become reliant on government payments. We don't want a society who is reliant on government payments. We want lifters not leaners. We want people to do their best, not to be relying on government to ensure that they can survive from week to week. So there are some tough changes.

Graham Richardson: Jamie, that's a laudable aim, I don't dispute that, but if you want that don't you have to make sure that those at the top end of the scale actually pay a penalty because they're paying so little. The top corporates, they got away with nothing. As I said a bloke on 400 or 500 grand a year he doesn't even know whether you've done anything to him, but those pensioners and those families out there, they're going to really hurt. Surely that's not the way to do it. There must be a better way than that.

Jamie Briggs: Well, people on the top income scales over $180,000 remember pay nearly 50 cents in the dollar in tax. So you know they do contribute quite heavily to our taxation system, if you look at where taxation revenue comes from. So you know we have to also balance here. If you keep lifting the top marginal tax rate you will make ourselves uncompetitive, people will flee to other jurisdictions, they'll move themselves to Singapore; they'll create taxation arrangements where you lose revenue, not indeed collect more, so there is a balance in ensuring you get that right. So there is no easy pool or pot of gold that the Treasury can go and just lift additional money to make up for a shortfall.

Graham Richardson: Well there was. There was superannuation. There was a pot of gold there. You just didn't touch it.

Jamie Briggs: What I'm saying is this is the first budget, the first Hockey budget. There will be more. There'll be at least two more and we hope there'll be many more than that. But…

Graham Richardson: You wouldn't want to whack people too many more times. Look last question because we have to go. I just want to ask you about this $80 billion off health and education to the states. Now the states, you know how that's going down at the moment. I've only heard three premiers so far but that is going down like the proverbial shower of you know what. I mean what can you do about that? I mean it just seems to me that all you're doing is saying okay, you're all going to beg us to increase the GST and we will. Is that what you're saying?

Jamie Briggs: No, well firstly let's get this right, and I think Colin Barnett was quite mature in his response about this today where he said these are all—this is all money outside the forward estimates, this is all money post the four year budget period which is the normal period that you budget over. Unfortunately, the practice of the former Labor Government was to start to get into this sort of cloud-like behaviour where you allocate all this additional money outside the forward estimates which of course is not budgeted…

Graham Richardson: Oh no, I understand that. But your cuts start right now. Look, I'm sorry Jamie, I'm getting a wind up, we have to leave it and I could go on with this all night…

Jamie Briggs: I'll leave it with this. It is not unusual in our history, Graham, as you would remember, for state premiers to cry foul against the Federal Government.

Graham Richardson: Now that part I'm going to give you that one. As we end the interview, I'll give you that one. Jamie Briggs, thanks for your time.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks Graham.