Budget – Interview with Tracey Grimshaw, Today Show

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Budget – Interview with Tracey Grimshaw, Today Show




Interview with

Tracey Grimshaw

Today Show

Wednesday, 15 May 2002

7.10 am




Mr Treasurer good morning.


Good morning Tracey.


You have asked us to remember how we felt on September the 12th,

you have allocated billions in defence spending and border protection, you are

stockpiling antidotes to chemical warfare, does this all smack a bit of a siege

mentality and do we really need to be this frightened?


Well Tracey, not many people would have foreshadowed the terrorist attack on

the World Trade Centre and the destruction of those buildings. That was eight

months ago and consequently, a war in Afghanistan in which Australian land,

sea and air forces are taking part. Now we believe that it’s important that

the Government prepares against the worst but hopes for the best. I hope we

never have an incident of this nature. But you’ve seen chemical incidents in

the United States, we have had numbers of hoaxes here. We think we have to have

a capacity to respond and we’re going to have a regiment which is specially

trained to deal with chemical and biological and nuclear incidents. We’re going

to have a new tactical assault group which can deal with hostage type situations.

We’re going to protect Australia’s airports and our flights. I hope that none

of this is ever necessary but if it were to become necessary and we hadn’t taken

the steps to prepare I think the public would be rightly concerned.


Border protection has been an immensely popular issue for this Government but

I wonder if it will remain so if battling families can’t afford prescriptions

for their sick children or if chronically ill can’t afford their medication?


Well Tracey, the thing to remember is this – that the larger the number of

unauthorised boat arrivals – the greater the cost. And in August last year I

think we had 2,000 in three weeks. Now the cost for unauthorised boat arrivals

is food, housing, English language training, school for their children. The

degree to which you can intercept the people smugglers and the degree to which

you can cut down the number of arrivals it actually saves money but you’ve got

to spend money on the strategy of surveillance and all the like. So, I wouldn’t

say that this is new large expenditure. What I’d say is it’s a prudent husbanding

of our resources which I actually think over the longer term if you’re looking

at it from a taxpayers point of view will save money but looking at it from

the more important point of view of how we want to run our immigration program

it preserves the integrity of that by allowing the Government to assess genuine





…rather than letting people smugglers, people smugglers determine the entry

to Australia.


But in effect, in spending money on those programs you are looking to save

money by, with the PBS initiatives, which hit the sick and the battlers and

the disadvantaged.


Well let me go through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. If you are a pensioner

or a Commonwealth Senior Health Card holder you will pay $4.60 per prescription.

Now that’s regardless of whether the prescription is $200, $300, some of them

are $1,000. There are some of these prescriptions are $1,000 and yet the fee

will be $4.60. After you have had 52 prescriptions in the year they are free.




So, anyone who has multiple prescriptions will get them free after the first

52 in the year, the fee increase is $1.00 per prescription. The maximum that

it can apply to is 52 prescriptions so that is the maximum amount that a person

could be affected would be $52.00 for the year.


On the issue of disability support cuts, you have made it clear you’re more

interested perhaps in mild to moderate disabilities rather than severe disabilities.

But what about so-called cyclical disorders like schizophrenia?


Well, if people are incapable of part time work, they won’t be affected. But

what we’ve said is if you can…


Who decides and how is that decision made?


Well the doctors decide. They are assessed medically and the doctors decide

whether or not they are capable of work. But the largest, the largest group

on disability support pension today are people with bad backs. And whilst the

person with a bad back may not be able to work 40 hours a week in a labouring

job, a person with a bad back may be able to get a part time job and particularly

if the Government gives them rehabilitation services or if the Government gives

them training you might be able to get them back into the workforce. At the

moment we say if you’ve got a bad back and you can’t work 30 hours a week, put

you on the pension, you remain there for life. What we’re saying under this

new system is you will be assessed, if you do have a capacity for part time

work, rehabilitation will be available, and we will try and encourage you to

get a part time job which will be good for the person and ultimately good for

the taxpayer.


You have defended the $1.2 billion deficit as necessary. But did it stick in

your craw a bit, you like to be seen as “the Surplus Treasurer”?


Well, we’ve now repaid, I think, by the end of the year we will have repaid

$62 billion of the Labor Party’s debt and we’re budgeting for a surplus. In

relation to the last year as we came through a global recession and we entered

commitments in Afghanistan and we built up our domestic security, we thought

that they were priorities and that Budget policy had it’s part to play in keeping

Australia out of recession. Tracey, the proof’s there, America went into recession

and Japan went into recession and Germany went into recession, the advanced

economy of the world that grew, and grew far and away in front of all of those

other countries was Australia. And although we had a very difficult situation,

we are now leading the world in terms of growth. I think that Budget policy

had a big part to play in relation to that. And we will lead the world again

in the forthcoming year. And that’s keeping people in work.


Okay, so I think the answer to that question was no?


Well, the answer to that question is that the Government has steered Australia

through an economic global downturn and funded commitments in Afghanistan and

tightened Australia’s domestic security and secured our borders and we believe

that’s good economic management.


All right, thank you for your time this morning.


Thanks very much.