2GB Miranda Devine
MIRANDA DEVINE: On the line is Scott Morrison, the Social Services Minister, or should I call you Proxy Treasurer? Good evening.
MINISTER MORRISON: Not at all. I mean we’ve got a great team and – look there’s been quite a bit of commentary about Miranda and we’re all just doing our jobs and Joe’s been flat out down here in Canberra putting the actual Budget together and so this has been a big team effort and it’s great to be part of such a strong team.
DEVINE: I was just making mischief, but we do have to talk about the Hockey question because as you say it’s been a matter of a lot of discussion and the Prime Minister has had to defend Joe Hockey during the week over this speculation that he would have to find a new Treasurer if the Budget didn’t go well. So just wonder is there any tension between you and Joe Hockey when you’re in the Expenditure Review Committee, since….
MINISTER MORRISON: No, none at all.
DEVINE: He’s not jealous?
MINISTER MORRISON: This has been – last year there was a lot of commentary about how we could have done things differently, particularly how we are getting out message across. This year we have been out there earlier, explaining a lot of these issues and that’s been – they’ve been team decisions. It’s a bit like in rugby league, I’ll be talking to Ray in the morning, but you know in some cases it’s your job to take the ball up and offload and pass it on. That’s very much how this team operates. We’re working very well together.
DEVINE: But would you like to be Treasurer?
MINISTER MORRISON: No.
DEVINE: No, you’re doing all the work anyway but none of the glory?
MINISTER MORRISON: I get a great kick out of what I’m doing in this portfolio, it has been really challenging. It’s really optimistic; you were talking about one of the guests that are coming on later on your programme. I get the privilege to see people’s lives getting changed every day and see some amazing people do some amazing work in their lives. Some of it is through the work my department does in supporting these organisations and in many cases its people just rolling up their sleeves and making a difference. It’s a very affirming opportunity to be in a role like this.
DEVINE: So Scott Morrison, tell us about this child care package that you and the Prime Minister announced today, is that the centrepiece of the Budget?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well it’s certainly the centrepiece of the families package, it’s the Jobs for Families package. What we’re trying to do, after the Productivity Commission report came down and gave a whole range of recommendations about a system that was complicated, inefficient, forcing up prices and just frankly not working in the way it needs to. We’ve implemented a proposal which is a simplified system, so just one subsidy and if you’re earning up to $65,000 as a family you’ll get 85 per cent of what you’re paying for right now up to a bench mark price. That will drop down to 50 per cent for families earning $170,000 and it will remain at that thereafter, but if you’re earning a bit more than that then there will be a cap of $10,000, which is the maximum you can claim in subsidies. But that goes together with something I announced last Friday which was a Child Care Safety Net package. That was for families who are disadvantaged or vulnerable, who could be in those cases for many different reasons; in rural and regional areas, in quite depressed parts of our cities, could be for children with disabilities, could be for those who are on very low incomes or particularly children at risk. So they all work together to gives families greater choice to be in work.
DEVINE: Now I just find it amazing that people were getting subsidised child care but they didn’t have to have a job, be working or even studying it just sounds like a complete rort. I know you’ve stopped most of that but why are you still subsidising child care for low income earners who don’t work?
MINISTER MORRISON: Because we know that the evidence shows us that early childhood learning improves the educational outcomes for kids in those circumstances. So when they go into primary school – particularly on low incomes you’ve got children who are on a poverty cycle sometimes you’ve got them in intergenerational welfare. The way to break that cycle is to ensure that those children are able to do better at school and have better outcomes in life. That’s why we are doing it as a social policy issue in those areas to ensure that we are able to use early childhood education as a way of breaking them out. But we have halved numbers from 24 hours a week to 12 hours a week, that’s two days that’s like going – my two girls they go to school for six hours a day they don’t go for 12 hours a day and so they will have the opportunity to do that for two days a week at six hours or however the service providers chose to deliver that service. But if you’re on over $65,000 currently you can get non-activity tested child care support up to about over $170,000 a year.
DEVINE: That’s nuts! For not doing any work?
MINISTER MORRISON: Not many people actually do that…
DEVINE: To go and play tennis?
MINISTER MORRISON: I should stress not many people do it, but it’s not a respite programme, it’s not a welfare programme. The Commonwealth and the taxpayers actually pay this money so families can be in work, stay in work, go and look for jobs, train for a job, that’s why we do it and so that’s why we are changing it.
DEVINE: You’re paying for a lot of this package with cuts and that includes to John Howard’s baby which was the Family Tax Benefit Part B. Now I know that’s a kind of middle class welfare but it was his way of helping stay at home mothers so are you trying to force mothers out into the workforce instead of letting them do the most important job of all?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well it is the most important job of all and I said today all mums work hard and an increasing majority of them though are also in paid employment. That is the case, society’s changed and it’s changing. Today single income two parent families represent less than one in five families in Australia and that number is decreasing whereas the number of families which have to be in work for both parents, or particularly for single parents – I mean they have to be in work otherwise the child is growing up in a jobless family. Child care is a way of helping them do that, that is why I say it’s not a welfare payment it actually helps people be in a job and stay in a job and not be dependent on welfare for their future. Now we still have the Family Tax Benefit and after the changes we’re proposing it will still be a very big programme. We currently spend around $20 billion on Family Tax Benefits; we spend only $7 billion on the child care programme. So I think the balance and the quantum of measure that’s already there in support will remain there to do that job, but you’ve got to pay for your increased investment. Labor thinks you can just spend more money and then just put more taxes on, particularly on superannuants. Well you know Bill Shorten said the other day “they just want to rob Peter to pay Paul,” well he wants to tax Peter, Paul and Mary to pay for his stuff.
DEVINE: It makes me so mad to hear Labor’s line on this fairness line, this fake fairness line, and you’ve done more than anyone I think to actually bell the cat on this and say you can’t equate people’s earned income with welfare payments.
MINISTER MORRISON: You can’t and that’s how Labor thinks about it. They think letting someone keep their own money is the same entitlement as someone having an entitlement to receive a welfare payment, and it’s just not. I know in accounting terms that it’s the same value but the idea that someone being allowed to keep their own money is the same as someone having an entitlement to get a welfare payment – it just rubs completely against my grain and that of the Liberal Party and the National Party. That’s why we don’t have any truck with it but Labor can increasingly – they call taxes savings, they’re not savings they’re taxes and they go on people who earn income. We’ve got to get a bit of a reality check on all of this.
DEVINE: Now, what about the all-important task of reducing the deficit. You’ve had Peter Costello yesterday warning that it’s going to take decades to get rid of Government debt because it’s going to take ten years of surpluses to pay off the debt we have now and that you are nowhere near surplus so we will just continue to pay billions of dollars in interests. Are you doing anything about getting on to a path to surplus in this Budget?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yes we are and every year we are going to get closer and closer to that goal. We will get to a surplus before a Labor Government ever will.
DEVINE: So when’s that?
MINISTER MORRISON: As soon as we get there and that’s the point you’ve got to reduce it year on year…
DEVINE: Five years?
MINISTER MORRISON: You’ve got to keep moving towards it. We will take further steps in this Budget and the Budget after that. But Peter is right we are in a situation now, because of the six years we inherited, what I describe as fiscal arsony basically burning down the Budget and now every year it’s just painstaking you’ve just got to do the work every year. There’s no quick fix to this level of Budget mess. You’ve just got to take good decisions every year, you’ve also got to take people with you and that’s what we’re seeking to do in this Budget and we’ll keep doing that. But we are not walking away from the difficult decisions, that’s why this package, that we announced today, is fully funded off the back of the savings we are making in another area of Social Services welfare payments. So we are actually making savings on welfare payments to put money into child care to help people be in work and then not rely on welfare. Labor just thinks they should tax people more to do that.
DEVINE: So when do you think you’re Government is going to stop spending more than it earns?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well we will continue to reduce that amount every single year and we will have to do it in a way that enables us to get measures passed. I notice the commentary of some economic commentators – you can’t have an on paper Budget you have to have a real Budget, one that actually gets passed. That’s what we will be bringing down and that’s what we will then work through the Senate to achieve. But we will be driving those discussions; we’ll be putting forward the responsible and reasonable position on these things. I am confident that we will prevail positively for the country with the support of the crossbench.
DEVINE: So have you been discussing this Budget with the crossbench? Do you think this time the Budget will get through the Senate?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I have had a lot of discussions with the crossbench, whether it is about this measure or about the pension’s measure which I announced earlier in the week. We have done a lot of work on that and a lot of consultation. You don’t know until the final vote is taken on these things and I’m sure there will be further discussion and negotiation but that’s the process. That’s part of the process but we accept that, but we will be taking the responsible position on all of that and ensuring that we keep our foot up to the Budget task, but at the same time ensuring that we can have measures that will actually come into being.
DEVINE: Alright, well best of luck with it Scott Morrison. If anyone can do it you can do it and see you on Tuesday.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot Miranda, good to be with you and your listeners.