MINISTER MORRISON: Thank you for coming to this exciting facility, also to be here to launch the ‘Australia welfare 2015’. This is a very important report and obviously the Government has looked at it very closely and much of what we are seeking to do in the welfare area is designed to address the challenges that are contained. I have already made those points in the speech so I don’t think I will go over it again for you now, as we stand outside in the cool.
QUESTION: Minister, housing is becoming a problem for Australians. Is the great Australian dream of owning a home essentially dead and do we need to do what Joe Hockey says and just get better jobs?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t believe the dream of an Australian home is dead. I think it is an aspiration that we want to ensure every Australian feels that they can work towards. What concerns me is that the number of Australian families today and this hasn’t just been happening recently, it has been happening for some time. What we have seen in Australian home ownership is we now have quite high rates of home ownership by those of older ages. That certainly wasn’t true 20 or 30 years ago. We have seen a change in the demographics of home ownership. More people own their homes outright as a result of that. But it is difficult for Australian families to find themselves in a position where they can buy a house. State Governments, federal Governments, local Governments all need to work together to try and remove the cost pressures that are imposed in a market and let that market run in such a way that Australian families will be able to find their way to try and realise their aspiration. What concerns me also about that is we have families now moving into the rental market and that puts pressure on the rental market and further pressure on the social housing area and it cascades down. What we need to do is try to reverse the forces so it cascades up and the people just like here in Common Ground, can transition out of homelessness into stable accommodation, from stable accommodation into independent accommodation and from independent rental accommodation where they wish to, where they aspire to into home ownership. That is the Australian dream. It is the dream I believe in, it is the dream the Government believes in.
QUESTION: When you say cost pressures though, negative gearing is a big pressure on the property market and on prices, in particular in Sydney and Melbourne. Why won’t your Government do anything to address the high level of negative gearing?
MINISTER MORRISON: Negative gearing basically supports the rental market in this country. When you have more people seeking rental accommodation in this country and more people relying on rental accommodation, that rental accommodation has to be available.
QUESTION: Aren’t they seeking rental accommodation because they can’t afford to buy?
MINISTER MORRISON: But you need the stock of rentals – you are still going have around 30% of the housing market being rental accommodation. Unlike in overseas jurisdictions, superannuation funds and large institutions and companies, they don’t invest in residential real estate here for investment purposes. That is not a feature of our market. What negative gearing has done for many years is ensure that there is a supply of rental accommodation, not just new but old and that there are houses out there that people can actually rent. The average person who was engaged in investing in residential real estate using those arrangements has a taxable income of around about $80,000 a year and they own one property. They are not property barons and other thing those families are doing is they are providing for their own retirement and many of them are engaging in negative gearing so they can get a foot hold in the housing market so they can buy their own home. I don’t buy the rhetoric which is run by many commentators when it comes to negative gearing. I know others will put it but I don’t think the facts back it up.
QUESTIN: Minister, you mentioned inside that a growing ageing population should be seen as an opportunity and not a threat, how so?
MINISTER MORRISON: Because the same way that the baby boomer generation has moved through our economy now and they have driven our economy at all levels of their ageing. That should be no less true as they move into advanced years as well. Community services are a growing part of the jobs growth story of this country. We are not the only country which is faced with an ageing population. It is a common theme in most developed western economies. For us to be able to develop the businesses and services that can be sustainably provided here in this country with our own population, these are enormous export opportunities, it is one of the biggest opportunities of the China free trade agreement. The fact that we will be able to export aged care services into China, based on the experience that we have been able to develop here is a major opportunity. It won’t just mean more earnings for Australian companies but it will also mean a greater scale and capability for those companies to actually develop and support aged care services in this country. This is an exciting development. You read the demography and you respond to it, you plan for it and you take the opportunities that are there.
QUESTION: So you don’t think it is daunting that it will increase by 110% by the year 2034?
MINISTER MORRISON: No, I am not pessimistic about the fact that Australians are going to live longer and live healthier. I think that is a good thing, I think that is a great thing that we all have that opportunity. The country will continue to evolve and adapt to that. It certainly puts pressure on parts of the welfare system and the services but for example one of the big changes is now is that more Australians are able to stay in their homes longer and not have to go into residential aged care and that is shifting the cost of how those things impact on the Government’s budget. So I am not a pessimist when it comes to ageing, for all of us who are ageing, and I think that means all of us, the fact it means we will be able to do it healthier and for longer, I am for that.
QUESTION: Minister, Josh Frydenberg this morning has described Tony Abbott as the next John Howard in terms of coming from behind in the polls and making up for it later on, what do you think of that description?
MINISTER MORRISON: People always underestimate Tony Abbott, they always have, the Labor Party always have and Tony Abbott is someone who sticks and he is someone who is determined to bring about the sort of Australia that I think all Australians can realise their aspirations and expectations. That is why he has such strong support in the Liberal Party and National Party as well within the Coalition. My message to Bill Shorten is never underestimate Tony Abbott, mate.
QUESTION: Is Tony Abbott though underestimating you? We have heard that you might be a future contender for leader and we haven’t seen you rule that out?
MINISTER MORRISON: I did actually.
QUESTION: Will you rule it out again – you don’t want to be leader?
MINISTER MORRISON: Tony Abbott and I have worked closely together for many years and he has always been very encouraging of the work I have done in all my portfolios, none less so that when Tony and I stood shoulder to shoulder for five years, arguing the case for strong border protection in this country, arguing the case that the boats could be stopped and whether it was at press conferences or in the Parliament or anywhere else, we were always told it could never be done, Tony Abbott and I said it could be done and we did do it.
QUESTION: You are not concerned that in a potential reshuffle which Michelle Grattan has written today is on the cards, that you will be put in a more junior portfolio because you are a threat to his leadership?
MINISTER MORRISON: I will serve the Prime Minister in whatever capacity he ever asks me to do. I have the privilege to do that as Social Services Minister, I had the privilege to do that as the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and wherever I have the privilege to serve, I will deliver the results the Australian people want.
QUESTION: Are you concerned by the allegations that $2 million in funding from the Victorian Liberal Party has been taken?
MINISTER MORRISON: I am.
QUESTION: What will the Liberal Party be doing about that?
MINISTER MORRISON: You would have to ask the Michael Kroger who is the President of that division. That is a concerning report but it is an organisational matter. It is I am sure in the very capable hands of Michael Kroger.
QUESTION: Do you think Dyson Heydon will step down on Friday and do you believe he should?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t think the Australian people want to be intimidated by union bullies and that is what the Royal Commission is all about. Looking at the way that unions have frankly intimidated Australians and intimidated employers and now they want to intimidate a former High Court justice and drive him from his position. The Government is not going to be intimidated by union bullies. I don’t believe a former High Court justice is going to be intimidated by that sort of nonsense from the Labor Party. We see it every day in the Parliament to try and drag the former High Court justice’s reputation through the mud in what is just a grubby self-serving affair by a Leader of the Opposition who is so desperate to not allow the true facts of his involvement and his practices in the past to come to light. This is a guy for whom union members, evidenced before the Commission, couldn’t trust when he was their union boss. How could the Australian people trust him?
QUESTION: Are you one of the cabinet leakers?
MINISTER MORRISON: That is a ridiculous question.
QUESTION: On paid parental leave, when will that Bill be going before the Senate? I understand that it has been delayed. Have you got enough support for it?
MINISTER MORRISON: There is no delay. I am just working my process through with the cross benchers. I am a patient man, I engage heavily with the cross bench, I listen carefully to the issues they raise and when I am in a position to bring that matter forward then I will.
QUESTION: Are you confident you have enough support for it?
MINISTER MORRISON: I will continue to work the process. There is no blinding rush here. It is important that we listen to what the cross benchers are saying to us and I am engaged in that process as I have been on other measures as you have seen in the past, when I have been successful in bringing measures through the Senate. I work patiently and respectfully with the cross benchers and I listen carefully to what they are saying. It is important that we get reforms through. As I said today with this report, $154 billion it is on its way to $190 billion over the Budget and forward estimates, in the next 10 years it is going to $277 billion. Labor has shown no interest in getting that sort of expenditure under control. They will just keep shovelling the money out the door. This Government is getting our welfare system more effective, more targeted, more sustainable, and that is our focus. Thanks very much.