Industrial relations, roads, GST, tax cuts – Interview with Nick Rheinberger, 97.3 ABC Illawarra

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Industrial relations, roads, GST, tax cuts – Interview with Nick Rheinberger, 97.3 ABC Illawarra

Interview with Nick Rheinberger

97.3 ABC Illawarra

Friday, 17 June 2005
8.45 am


SUBJECTS: Industrial relations, roads, GST, tax cuts


Mr Costello, good morning to you.


Good morning, good to be with you Nick.


What do you expect to learn when you come to the Shoalhaven today?


Well, during a visit with Jo Gash the local Member here today I’ll be

going down to the Nowra Anglican College and speaking to some of the students

and teachers. Also, the Bomaderry High School and I’ll also have the opportunity

to speak to some of the local businesses at a lunch and talk about some business

conditions, talk about some of the economic developments and talk about some

of the tax cuts which are coming into play on the 1st of July.


Now I believe you are taking some questions from some of your school students.

Are you expecting some hard questions down there?


I am actually. I am doing question time with the school students and I am approaching

it with a little bit of fear because the students generally are much more searching

than the Canberra Press Gallery.




So I have been swotting up all night actually.


Well now let’s talk about some of the issues down here. Recently one

of the executives of Blue Scope has supported the retention of the New South

Wales Industrial Relations Commission. Is this a bit of a blow for a move towards

a Federal Commission?


I don’t think so. Look different people will have different views on

these things but the Government’s view is that if we had one industrial

relations system you could get rid of a lot of complexity which is in the system.

At the moment you have people hopping from state to federal jurisdictions, you

have different overlapping awards, you have inconsistency, there is a lot of

litigation in the system. We think one national system will be simpler and,

particularly if it is based on allowing agreements, then we can get increases

in output and increases in wages. That is the object of our industrial relations



Well speaking of state and federal jurisdiction, one of the things that has

bounced between the two is the Princess Highway. You would no doubt be aware

of the amount of people moving down to the south coast, with the a seachange

phenomenon, and the Princess Highway is suffering enormously and the NRMA suggest

it is one of the worst major highways in Australia. Is it likely to become a

road of national significance?


Well the Commonwealth Government takes responsibility for national highways

and that is our primary responsibility. We then have some Roads of National

Importance projects but they are assessed basically on business cases. There

is objective criteria that has to be assessed and each particular proposal is

looked at under that so we will take responsibility for the national highway.

We also help local councils with local roads under our Roads to Recovery Programme

and we are also taking responsibility for the Black Spots Programme.


Is it in purely economic terms that you judge these roads of national significance?


Oh yes, there is a formula that is applied and projects are eligible throughout

Australia but I don’t think it is right that the Commonwealth Government

take over responsibility for all roads because of course what we do is we give

GST revenues to State Governments so that they can look after their responsibilities

and they have got to be held accountable for that.


Well on GST revenues, New South Wales is saying that it can’t afford

to fix roads like the Princess Highway because of a lack of revenue. Is the

Commonwealth Grants Commission outdated, where a State like Queensland is booming

and so much of the GST revenue paid by New South Wales taxpayers is going towards

Queensland and funding their surplus?


Well, can I say this, New South Wales has more GST revenue than it has ever

had. And what is more, more revenue under this GST system than it would ever

have received under the previous system. Let’s be absolutely clear about

this, the money that is flowing from the GST into New South Wales coffers is

greater than was expected and is producing a windfall. Now…


Yes but do we need to be subsidising Queensland to the tune of $800 million

every year through the GST that flows to them through an outdated formula?


Well no the point I am making is that New South Wales is receiving a windfall,

it is receiving more money than it actually expected – in this financial year

a $257 million windfall.


Well if New South Wales is receiving a windfall what can we call Queensland’s?

It must be a bonanza!


Well Queensland is receiving a windfall too. The New South Wales argument is…


I am talking about the proportions…


No, no, no, this is the important point. If New South Wales’ argument

is we have got more money than we have ever had before and Queensland has got

more money than it has ever had before, now what it should be doing is it should

be using some of that money not only to improve services but to cut other taxes.

All that they are doing is getting more inventive with their excuses. This is

a government which has introduced a vendor tax for heavens sake at a time when

they are receiving huge stamp duty windfalls out of the property boom and as

I said a windfall out of GST.


But the point being once upon a time States received money through the Grants

Commission and now the GST has replaced some of those State taxes and Queensland

was considered an area that needed help. Surely it doesn’t need help.

We would probably agree that the Northern Territory and Tasmania possibly need

a little bit of extra GST revenue but does Queensland need proportionally more

than it gets because of New South Wales…


Well let me say this, you can argue about this between the States until the

cows come home. When we had a meeting in Canberra to discuss all of this New

South Wales did not lodge a complaint about the formula. I was there, I chaired

the meeting, I asked the New South Wales Treasurer on two occasions whether

New South Wales had any complaints and he didn’t raise the issue. What

happened after that was that when New South Wales came under criticism for not

reducing taxes like the other States, they said ‘oh we are getting a windfall

but our windfall isn’t big enough’ and they used that excuse. I

wouldn’t let them off the hook here. The truth of the matter is that Victoria

is what is called a donor State and Victoria has been able to cut its other

indirect taxes. New South Wales can do the same but because of mismanagement

it refuses to do so.


You are on ABC Illawarra with Nick Rheinberger on the morning show. My guest

is the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello who will be visiting the Shoalhaven

today. It is nine minutes to nine. Let’s move on to personal tax cuts.

They are likely to come in now that the Democrats have supported it and the

Greens. Anything you could have taken out of Labor’s proposed tax package

whether that was symbolically awkward for you or not seeing as the Melbourne

Institute has suggested that it is fairer and may get more Australians into



Well look, the good news is that every Australian will be getting a tax cut

– every Australian who pays tax, I should say, will be getting a tax cut

– on the 1st of July and that is what we announced in the Budget.

We were true to the Australian people, we will get that in place. The Labor

Party tried to stop the tax cuts and their opposition was they didn’t

think there should be any tax cuts on the 1st of July. I don’t

think people realise that. The Labor Party said there shouldn’t be any

tax cuts on the 1st of July but there will be and that is because

the Australian Democrats have cleared the way and made Mr Beazley’s opposition

irrelevant. So the good news is that what we announced in the Budget we will

deliver. Every Australian who pays income tax will get a cut on the 1st

of July.


Now we turn to Nowra where you are visiting today. You mentioned that you would

like to have a chat about local businesses down there. We have had a couple

of terrible closures proposed at the Dairy Farmers Co-op Factory down there

and also the rubber factory. Will the Federal Government assist those local

businesses who are going to suffer because of those job cuts?


Well, these are private sector businesses and they have got to remain competitive.

That is very important if we are going to keep the economy growing. The Federal

Government has a scheme to make sure that everybody’s entitlements are

protected and I believe that they will be in relation to this. But the best

thing that the Federal Government can do to help businesses is to keep interest

rates low, keep taxes down, improve industrial relations. We will continue to

work in all of those areas.


Is there any move towards some sort of package to completely assure entitlements?


Well we do have a scheme that where a company becomes insolvent and can’t

pay the entitlements we do have a scheme to guarantee the entitlements up to

a certain level but I don’t think that is going to apply here because

the companies are able to meet all of their entitlements. That is good news

that none of the employees will miss out. But if there are in other parts of

Australia companies that can’t do that we do actually have a scheme that

meets it.


All right Peter Costello thank you very much for joining us this morning and…


It’s a pleasure to be with you Nick.


…good to see you down in the Shoalhaven at last.


And it is good to see some greenery too – which is terrific – just as I have

been driving in.


All right, Mr Costello thanks again.