ABC News Radio
MARIUS BENSON: Kevin Andrews, polls have found a clear majority of voters think the budget is not just tough but unfair, and now professional studies have backed that up with statistics saying that the people hardest hit are mid and low income earners, do you accept that?
MINISTER: This is a budget which is really in the national interest and I think the interesting news this morning is that credit ratings are now saying that unless these measures are taken then they’re putting up a real amber light to our credit ratings which means interest rates going up. So we have Labor having created the problem in just one term now being in denial about fixing it, what we’re trying to do is to ensure over the medium to long-term we can get the budget back in the black and in that way ensure the prosperity of Australians.
MARIUS BENSON: The Government says it needs a tough budget and you say the credit agencies are backing that up but the point being made by NATSEM and other analysts is it’s not fair the burden is falling disproportionately on low and middle income families but less on the rich.
MINISTER: If you take single income families say with one child under six, if their earnings are around the minimum wage of $30,000 a year they’re getting almost $20,000 in government benefits. Even when their earnings go up to $90,000 they’re still getting more than $6000 in government benefits and if that family has two or three children those benefits get increased to over $20,000.
MARIUS BENSON: But the benefits are lower NATSEM says, for example, 1.2 million families would be on average around $3000 a year worse off by 2017-18.
MINISTER: Well if there was concern from the Labor Party about families being worse off, the first thing they should do is get out of the way of the repeal of the carbon tax because that alone would bring in $550 extra to the ordinary family household.
MARIUS BENSON: Do you reject this NATSEM finding that the burden falls disproportionately on the less well-off?
MINISTER: What we’ve tried to do is to ensure that there is a contribution to getting us out of Labor’s financial mess by all Australians. Part of the contribution is for high income earners, that’s why we’ve imposed the additional levy on high income earners so that they’re making a contribution as well. What we’ve got to do is get the economy going again that’s why we’ve got this massive investment in infrastructure so that we can create jobs, particularly as the mining and resources sector moves from the construction to the production phase.
MARIUS BENSON: Why is the impost on the people earning over $180,000 temporary for three years and the changes to benefits for less well-off and the changes to tax arrangements permanent for people on mid and low incomes?
MINISTER: Well high income earners are not getting the government benefits that others are getting, so again as I said, this is about what we can do to share the burden of the mess that Labor created in just one term so that we can ensure that for the future that we have prosperity.
MARIUS BENSON: Why is the public so firmly against this budget on the evidence of the polls when they endorsed the budget, again on the evidence of the polls, in 1996 when it was a tough budget from John Howard and Peter Costello?
MINISTER: Well the situation is much worse now than it was in 1996. Peter Costello inherited a $96 billion budget debt, a $10 billion budget black hole. We’re looking at a situation of cumulative deficits of $123 billion and a debt racing towards $670 billion. So this is a tough situation, we’ve been honest with the Australian people about that, we’ve got a plan to fix it, and we’re the only party that’s got a plan. Labor created the mess and are now in denial about actually facing a very difficult financial crisis, but we’ve got a plan to fix it and we will continue with that.
MARIUS BENSON: Will there be any changes to the budget, apart from those that are forced on you by the Senate, will the Government make changes?
MINISTER: We will be saying to the Senate, and all the Senators regardless of their party or affiliation that they need to recognise the financial situation that we’re in. We cannot continue down the track that we are going at the present time because if we do then we are going to increase the burden on the next generation of Australians.
MARIUS BENSON: Kevin Andrews thank you very much.
MINISTER: My pleasure Marius.