Topics: World Government Summit, Andrew Robb, reshuffle, tax reform
Greg Hunt, good afternoon.
And good afternoon, Tom.
Who nominated you for this award?
So what I understand – nobody to the best of my knowledge put forward any nomination from Australia.
Reuters news agency said to the UAE Government that they'd like to create the award and present it at the World Government Summit.
They then commissioned the World Bank, the OECD, Ernst & Young and an international strategic firm called Strategy and Co to draw up a list of 100 – they then winnowed it down to 10.
They used a series of criteria, they had a voting program – and we didn't know about it, and I got a call just over a week ago.
And you know, it's one of those things, I don't think anybody can live up to a title like that, and my wife put me in my place very quickly and told me that I still have to put out the bins.
But hopefully it's of value to Australia.
Are you worried that the rest of your career might seem a bit humdrum now that you've – at a young age – you've become the best Minister in the world?
Look, I love my job, I really do.
And on Saturday I was out with my six year old, we were in Crib Point and there was a community clean up of the fire damage and the town, and this great sense of the local community, and I’m not being silly about this, that's the stuff that is actually really exciting.
You're in a community, you see the best of Australia, and you can look the cynics in the eye and say it might be time to come out and see what the community does – the lifesaving groups on Phillip Island, the community and the CFA in Crib Point – all of those things, that's what makes you feel really good about the job.
Have you had some new business cards printed yet?
No, I can't see that happening. As I say, the family and my office have sort of eyeballed me very quickly and said don't even think about any sign of ego or hubris at all.
And you know, the title is so extraordinarily grand that you just want to play it down and make sure you get home.
If you're the best, I mean, the word prime is another word for first or best, so presumably the person who is the best Minister would also be the Prime Minister at some stage, correct?
I think we've got the best person for Prime Minister in the job in Australia, and I hope and I believe that Malcolm Turnbull will be there for a very long time. It's very good of you to ask.
Well, speaking of people who perhaps aren't going to be there for a long time, or have been there, Andrew Robb has just said he's going to step down alongside the Nationals' Warren Truss.
Now, is this going to create a bit of a reshuffle in the Cabinet?
Look, I've only just seen reports and I don't know if it's actually been announced so I'll be very cautious, and I don't know whether Andrew will stay through to the election.
He's earned the right – I don't think anybody has ever done a better job as Trade Minister for Australia.
And I know my great friend Alexander Downer said that to me on the weekend – that he thought that having seen numerous Trade Ministers, and being very respectful of many, nobody had approached Andrew's achievements with free trade agreements – that have a real impact in terms of jobs and exports – with China, Japan and Korea, and that ripples through to the job opportunities for numerous Australians.
So my view is that Andrew has earned the right to stay as long as he wants, we couldn't be better served.
Sorry, he has said – this is only 10 minutes ago, he said he is going to retire. So the point is – whether or not he deserves to or not – he has decided to retire.
So I'm just saying, will that create a reshuffle in the Federal Cabinet?
Well – but my point is I don't know whether that will take effect in the coming weeks, or whenever the election is…
Oh, I see what you mean. Okay.
…and so I'll obviously leave that one to the PM.
But all praise to Andrew, what a career.
The important thing is it's not a theoretical outcome – you see Australian manufacturers, food producers, you see farmers that are actually benefiting with increased exports already to China and Japan and Korea, and therefore more return, so their families live better and their capacity to employ people and for people to work in those sectors is improved.
And I know talking to Andrew, that's the thing that makes him most satisfied.
Very quickly, what is going on with tax reform at the moment? Now last weekend we learnt that a GST increase is off the table.
This week, speculation has shifted that suddenly negative gearing is going to be looked at, superannuation is going to be looked at, there's talk of scrapping dividend franking.
Is there going to come a time when we actually have a new tax policy in front of us so that we can actually debate it? Or is it just going to be this will of the wisp stuff that we've got used to over the past few months?
No, no, what we're doing is building the components of an economic growth plan.
And that's a combination of union governance, of competition, and tax policy.
We're doing a slightly unusual thing and having an open dialogue with the Australian people to really get their views.
But it's all open, I can't get – I can't find anybody – you included – who will say to me look Tom, what we want to talk about is changing the tax rate on superannuation.
I say all right, so let's have a debate on that. I can't – everybody just says we're having a dialogue but I cannot find anybody with whom the dialogue is being held.
Sure. So what the PM and Scott Morrison as Treasurer have said is they want to have a discussion about a range of ideas.
At the end of the day, what's the test?
It's the test in terms of what creates jobs for families.
Okay, but who do they have these discussions with? Do you just have them with each other or do you actually involve members of the public to contribute, or what happens?
There is huge discussion going on through the public. Whether it's the media, the public, the business groups, whether it's the unions – everybody is obviously discussing the best way to make the tax system more efficient.
And what does that mean? What will drive economic activity and that in turn drives jobs.
Okay, but maybe I'm being old-fashioned. Normally what someone says is –you're the Government, you're the people in charge of doing things. You say righto, we think we should do this, what do you think?
We've got two months to discuss it and then we'll finalise it. What seems to be at the moment is ideas just float around.
The superannuation people say don't tax super, the property people say don't get rid of negative gearing.
Do you have a reasonably firm view inside Cabinet about what you think is the right thing to do? Or is it just a series of discussions? I just can't get my head around it.
Sure, sure. An entirely fair question. There was a paper put out recently about rethinking taxation which was used as a starter, and that may have been lost along the way – perhaps not everybody has seen that.
What that does is that provides a foundation for some of these debates. I think that sort of catalyst has been lost.
So the real outcome here is, we have the discussion with the public, we do the analysis about what's going to create the most jobs.
We've got to make sure it's acceptable, once we can see the things in terms of the tax mix that will change the most jobs, and then we'll take that package to an election.
Does it have to be able to – this is my final question.
Does the package, as well as being tax neutral – so no overall increase in the tax burden – somehow able to increase jobs, although good luck with that.
Also does it have to somehow help pay down the deficit or are we just forgetting about that?
No, no. The primary – if you're using more tax to pay down the deficit, you're taxing more.
So what we want to do is make sure that what we do with taxation is not increasing the burden, and we want to be progressively decreasing the burden.
So you're going to cut spending?
It's controlling expenditure, which is the way to reduce the deficit.
So we're not about raising taxes to reduce the deficit – that is very much the Labor way, and of course there's a massive electricity tax coming under Bill Shorten.
But for us, we've got rid of the electricity tax. We don't want to be impinging on people's net cost of living and we want to be lifting that burden.
But therefore, the way you close the gap on the deficit is a combination of growth and increased control over expenditure.
Every day in Cabinet or in the Government processes, there's always pressure to reduce expenditure and to find more efficient ways of doing things.
That's really the conversation you have around the Cabinet table.
We better leave it there. Greg Hunt, thank you so much for your time.
Thanks mate. Cheers.