ABC Radio Melbourne 774 - Mornings with Jon Faine

Transcript
  • Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
  • Minister for Women

E&OE

 

Subjects: Small and medium business tax cuts, return to workplace conflict under Bill Shorten and the ACTU, religious freedoms.

 

JON FAINE:

 

You may have been listening when Scott Morrison joined us on AM half an hour or so ago on ABC Radio right around the country, explaining why he is bringing forward the tax cuts that he announced when he was Treasurer to Malcolm Turnbull in last year's Budget. He says it will help create jobs and bring up higher wages. Kelly O'Dwyer is out and about along with other ministers from the Scott Morrison Government, the Morrison Government. She's Minister for Women, Jobs and all importantly, Industrial Relations in the Morrison Federal Coalition Government. Ms O'Dwyer, good morning to you.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Good morning Jon.

 

JON FAINE:

 

What's the evidence that tax cuts either create jobs or lead to higher wages?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

You only need to listen to the Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe who's said repeatedly that if you increase jobs, if you create more jobs, you are going to boost wages and you are going to have a positive impact on the economy. Now 97 per cent…

 

JON FAINE:

 

I asked you about tax cuts though.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well, 97 per cent of all businesses in this country are small businesses. They are a fundamental engine room for our economy. When you cut the taxes of small business, when you provide them with tax relief, you give them the added headroom to be able to reinvest in their business and to be able to create new jobs. Now reducing…

 

JON FAINE: 

 

Why does reinvesting in their business create jobs or lead to higher wages, I ask again?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Reducing the tax rate which we are going to do five years earlier for three million businesses that employ around seven million Australians, the evidence is that they do reinvest in their business. They do reinvest in their business…

 

JON FAINE:

 

Well they might buy new equipment or computers or something else that helps them run their business but my question was specifically to query the claim made by your leader, your Prime Minister, that it leads to higher wages. There's no evidence is there that tax cuts lead to higher wages for employees?

 

KELLY O'DWYER:

 

You just need to follow it logically through. You create more investment in the business, you create a more productive business, you grow the business, if you grow the pie and you create more jobs…

 

JON FAINE:

 

To the benefit of the people who own the business but how does it benefit the employees?

 

KELLY O'DWYER:

 

Let me tell you. Small business people – and I know that there are people out there who will knock small business people but I am not one of them and neither is the Prime Minister and neither is our Government. We back small business people because they are the people who get up every day, they take a risk, they put their own money on the line, in many cases they put their house on the line, in order to create opportunities for their fellow Australians. And the last person to get paid in a small business is usually the small business owner themselves. Now, we believe it's important to grow the pie, to create more opportunities for more Australians. We've been able to do that by creating…

 

JON FAINE:

 

But it's how the pie group's divided up that we're talking about, Ms O'Dwyer, and indeed if we want to quote the Governor of the Reserve Bank he said the biggest issue confronting the Australian economy was stagnation of wages and the failure of small and medium and large business to pass on any of the benefits of the last few years to their staff.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well actually, if you actually look at the ABS data, the Productivity Commission, the Melbourne Institute's HILDA data they will say that the level of income inequality in Australia has been broadly stable over the last decade and we have in Australia, unlike other countries, a highly progressive tax and transfer system which substantially reduces inequality. And he's also said the best way to reduce inequality is to have a job. Now, you've got the Labor Party who want to increase taxes on small and medium sized enterprises. In fact, they've got a recipe for $200 billion of increased taxes on self-funded retirees, on pensioners. They want to make it harder for people to be able to grow their wealth. They want to make it harder for people to grow their businesses. Shrinking the pie doesn't help anybody and this is going to be a fundamental difference between what Bill Shorten and a Labor government would offer versus what our Government offers which is everyone being able to have a fair go, to be properly rewarded for that fair go and to have more opportunities to get a job, to keep a job, and to get into even better, more high paying jobs.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Talking about jobs, Sally McManus, the leader of the ACTU joined us last week as she delivered a speech calling for a complete rethink of the industrial relations framework which is your specific portfolio responsibility these days. Here's a tiny bit of what she told us last week.

 

[Excerpt]

 

SALLY MCMANUS: We want two things done. We want laws changed to give workers better job security and there's a whole lot of laws that need to change to do that. Secondly, we want the laws to change to make sure that we're getting pay rises that keep up with the cost of living again.

 

[End of excerpt]

 

JON FAINE:

 

Now you're delivering a speech which in some ways I suspect may be a response to Ms McManus. What's the Government going to do about the claim from the union movement?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Sally McManus – who is a fantastic political operative for the union movement and also for Bill Shorten – is completely wrong on this. She has got a recipe along with Bill Shorten for more industrial conflict and chaos that we haven't basically seen since the 1970s where industrial action was 40 times higher than it is today. Their plan is to have industry wide industrial action, which would paralyse whole sectors of our economy all at once, crippling small business, shutting down essential services like schools and hospitals, and seeing our farmers’ exports rotting on the wharves. Now we don't want…

 

JON FAINE:

 

So how would you recommend people pursue what the Reserve Bank Governor says is the highest priority, higher wages? If they're not going to do it the way Sally McManus recommends which you say is inappropriate, how else do they do it because nothing else has delivered higher wages in the last decade.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Australians don't want conflict in their workplaces. They don't want to return to conflict. A strong economy is the foundation for prosperity for all Australians and we have seen that with 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth. As the Treasurer will tell you, and he's off to the G20, it's not necessarily all smooth sailing. This is potentially at risk if you put in place a conflict model that would take us back before the 1970s, that would pit employees against employers and most employers –and there are always some bad ones – but most employers recognise that their most important asset is their staff. They're the people who can make or break a business and they're the people who employers want to reward by having the right balance when it comes to agreements, when it comes to providing them with opportunities and skills. We want to see a model where people cooperate, where there is the right balance.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Well, that's resulted in zero by way of actual wage gains for workers and if that's not worked you can hardly blame the union movement and workers for trying something else, can you?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

The Wage Price Index – I mean if you want to get into the technical details here – it increased by 2.1 per cent over the year to June 2018. Now, that was equal to the increase in inflation over the same period. But you've got to have a growing economy in order to deliver higher wages.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Well that's keeping track, rather than providing wages growth.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

And if you create more jobs, you will have the opportunity for higher wages. As I said, the Reserve Bank Governor has said this. He's said this is the best thing you can do to improve what's being called income inequality, is jobs generation. And we have, under our Government, been able to create the right economic settings that has seen the creation of more than 1.1 million new jobs in this country, the majority of which are full-time jobs, and held by women. We're creating new opportunities for women to be able to economically participate in our economy, which is good, ultimately, for their financial security. We have seen the creation, just in a 12-month period, in 2017-18, of over 100,000 new jobs for young Australians. Now, that is a record. But it's all at risk if you want to jump back in the time machine and go back to before the 1970s and create chaos and mayhem in our workplaces by having industrial action writ large across different sectors, which is what Sally McManus and Bill Shorten would like to do.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Takes two to tango, let's wait and see, and certainly we've now heard from both the leader of the union movement and the Government's Minister. But before I let you go, Kelly O'Dwyer, the religious freedoms report that Philip Ruddock gave four months ago to the Prime Minister, it's now been leaked. Do you welcome this debate, or do you dread it?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Oh well look, I haven't seen the report, it's not been provided to me, it's not been discussed at Cabinet. It's an independent…

 

JON FAINE: 

 

I'm sure you've read the media reports as everyone else has. Do you welcome the debate or dread it?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well, what I would say, and all credit to the media, but you don't believe everything that you read in the media, Jon. Look, it's absolutely right that we should have – at the appropriate time when we've had time to consider this independent report – a discussion around what are the right sort of balances and protections for religious freedom. I welcome all of these discussions, but you've got to do that as a government after you have given careful consideration to what has been put to you. And of course, we will do that when we have had a proper opportunity to consider that report.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Well you've had it for four months, how much more do you need?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well, I think you'll find that the Government's been incredibly focused on what we can do to deliver a stronger economy…

 

JON FAINE:

 

No, you've been focused on fighting each other.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

…we've been focused on what we can do to deliver tax cuts to small businesses…

 

JON FAINE:

 

No, you might have noticed there's been a leadership change in the meantime.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

…we've been focused on providing drought relief to our farmers who are doing it tough and who need our help and who need a hand up in order to continue to have viable businesses.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Alright. Can I put a theory to you, Ms O'Dwyer? I reckon this might have been leaked by Malcolm Turnbull to try to influence the outcome of the Wentworth by-election, the same way Tony Abbott strategically leaked documents to damage Turnbull and get revenge, the same way Kevin Rudd leaked documents to damage Julia Gillard and get revenge. Fair theory?

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

I think, Jon, sadly you are indulging in conspiracy theory, and I've got to say, usually when people indulge in conspiracy theories, they're not right.

 

JON FAINE:

 

You've got an internal war though, between Liberal moderates and religiously-motivated hard liners. That's a fact.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well, that's what you're asserting, but that's simply not the case. I mean, I can tell you, my 100 per cent focus every day is about what we can do as a government to create more jobs. Now we've been very successful as I've said, in creating the right environment for over a million jobs to be created in this country, 100,000 for young Australians to get a job. I'm always looking at what we can do to create pathways for people to be able to get a job, to get off welfare, into a job, which is a path to a much better future for themselves and for their families. So you might want to be talking about it Jon, but my focus is elsewhere.

 

JON FAINE:

 

I'm happy to talk about whatever comes up, that's pretty much what we do. Just finally, I mean any proposed changes to discrimination laws or religious freedom laws, snowball's chance in hell of getting through this Senate in this Parliament, surely.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well again, you're speculating on what's going to be put forward. As I said…

 

JON FAINE:

 

Well quite frankly, I don't expect anything to be put forward between now and when we go to the polls. I think the Government wanted this buried, previous government wanted to bury it, this government wants to bury it. You're probably all furious that it's seen the light of day.

 

KELLY O’DWYER: 

 

Well, again Jon, we ask for these reports to be done, independent reports. Governments, as a baseline, routinely consider them in a methodical way, and when they've been able to do that, we make announcements. I hate to say it, it's government 101.

 

JON FAINE:

 

Thank you indeed for your time this morning, from broadcasting 101.

 

ENDS

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