Mark Latham’€™s Budget reply, Reserve Bank board , children in detention centers – Doorstop Interview, Melbourne

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Mark Latham’€™s Budget reply, Reserve Bank board , children in detention centers – Doorstop Interview, Melbourne



Doorstop Interview

Crown Towers, Melbourne

Friday, 14 May 2004

9.00 am

SUBJECTS: Mark Latham’s Budget reply, Reserve Bank board , children

in detention centers


Treasurer, your reply to Mr Latham please, in a nutshell?


Well, I think Mr Latham’s speech last night really let the Australian

public down, he didn’t do a Budget reply, a Budget reply consists of going

through the Budget saying what things the Opposition agrees with, what things

it doesn’t, putting forward alternative tax proposals and putting forward

when they will start, how they will be paid for and what the Opposition would

do if it were bringing down a Budget. What we had was we had Mr Latham in his

speech last night waffling, talking about motherhood statements, full of clichés,

giving no detail and I think really letting the Australian public down.


Mr Latham has promised even bigger tax cuts than yours at the same time he

has promised lower spending and economic and responsibility, is that possible?


Well, Mr Latham says he is going to cut tax, he can’t tell you what the

rates will be, by how much, when, who it will apply to or how it will be paid

for, and then he says after he has done that he is going to spend more, as that

he will tax less, spend more and have more left over at the end of it. It just

doesn’t add up. It is treating the Budget reply really as a bit of a joke,

he can’t have expected to get away with this, and I think the Australian

public will feel very badly let down.


This (inaudible) you learn or earn proposal, what do you think of that? It

sounds like he is copying your…


Well, the Government introduced a scheme called work for the dole, and the

work for the dole scheme was for those young people who weren’t students,

who weren’t studying and weren’t in work, that if they wanted to

qualify for the dole, they would have to work. This is the scheme which the

Government introduced, Labor opposed it, so let’s not worry about any

of these new names, let’s get on with what the Government has been doing,

the work for the dole scheme.


So, this is another mutual obligation (inaudible) set up?


This is mutual obligation, the obligation of people to societies, society to

people, and if you want to collect the dole as a young person, you should be

doing some community work, that is the work for the dole scheme which we introduced

more than five years ago.


You made a couple of cracks at Simon Crean during your speech, you don’t

think Simon is up to a Budget?


Well, you can’t go around on the news media of Australia claiming that

8.5 million families are worse off, when there are only 4.9 million families

in the country. You make up these figures, you try and get the journalists to

repeat them, but you get found out, and this is the thing with the Labor Party,

they get found out, they haven’t done the work, they don’t have

the policy, they have got no detail. Mr Latham treated the public very shabbily

with his Budget reply, and it is about time he did some work and tried to get

on top of policy.


Do you judge yourself by the same standards of factual detail?


Well, I think you will find that our Budget is fully costed and fully accurate.


On the top tax rates, I think you said before that there are political constraints

about how far you can move the thresholds and how low you can drop the rates,

what should they be?


Well, what they should be is the rates which we announced on Budget night which

is the top rate should cut in at $80,000 and the 30 per cent rate should be

increased so that most Australians have a tax rate of 30 per cent or less.


You delivered hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian Tax Office

for education and for compliance functions, what particularly did you have in



Well, I think it is important the Tax Office does help people with their tax

returns, I think there are a lot of people that want to comply but sometimes

they need help in explanation, that requires tax officials who actually know

what they are doing, so that is part of the educational position, in addition

to that the Tax Office does auditing work, they do that on behalf of the community,

those fewer people who don’t comply need to be audited, so this what that

program is all about.


On the Reserve Bank board, just leaving Budget all together, is there a place

for the concept of conflict of interest on the board that presents some outside

people working on the board, or some board members doing outside work?


Well, members of the Reserve Bank board can’t be directors of or engage

in the management of financial institutions for those reasons, and so this has

always been the case, you would never have anybody from a bank or involved in

the management of a bank or a director of a bank on the Reserve Bank board,

and that goes back to the fact that the bank used to do prudential supervision

even though it doesn’t now. But we have always had business people on

the Reserve Bank board and you can say if you want to that anyone involved in

business has an interest in monetary policy, it is obvious they do, but it has

always been accepted that if you want people with business experience on the

bank board as we always have had, that you will have to live with that, that

is the reality you know, if you took the conflict of interest to extreme lengths

nobody could serve on the Reserve Bank, not even the Governor who presumably

has a mortgage himself. You have got to live in a society, you have got to have

a house and you have got to have a mortgage and at the end of the day, that

means that you will have people on the bank who are house buyers who are dealing

in monetary policy but there is no other way of getting around it.


I just wanted to ask you one thing finally, I was just watching you with the

kids there and I do think that as a senior government figure, are you concerned

about the human rights commission report saying that really we should not have

children in detention centres and we are breaking the UN conventions left, right

and centre?


I think we would all like to see a situation where you didn’t have people

who came into Australia without visas, there is plenty of opportunity coming

to Australia with a visa if you are a refugee, we take 12,000. And I think with

the children in detention, if we can process those cases quickly and get their

parents dealt with then you can get the children out and we have some services

now where families can live in the community over at Port Augusta, so nobody

likes to see anybody in detention, so I think stopping the trade of illegals

into the country in the first place, dealing with the claims quickly when they

arrive in the second place, and thirdly having some of those alternatives like

in the community is the best way of addressing it. Thank you.