11 January 2018
Transcript - #2018003, 2018

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Doorstop interview, Melbourne

SUBJECTS: company tax cuts; gang crime in Victoria; foreign investment; negative gearing; Australia China relations

KELLY O'DWYER:

Thanks very much everyone for gathering today. I'd like to make a couple of comments on the value of the retail trade figures, talk about the latest OECD report and also touch on some of the gang violence here in Victoria.

The Government obviously welcomes the latest statistics from the ABS that's seen a rise in the value of retails sales of 1.2 per cent in November, which is up 2.9 per cent from that time 12 months ago. It is well and truly above market expectations and it follows on from extremely high consumer confidence figures, the highest that we have seen in four years. The Government, though, can't rest on its laurels when it comes to making sure we have got the right policies in place to ensure that our economy continues to grow and that we continue to see further investments and new jobs.

This is why the latest report from the OECD is so important. The OECD report, recently released, has rubbished Labor's claims that say that the Government's Enterprise Tax Plan would somehow increase inequality. That is simply not the case. The report highlights that it would be of benefit to people of all income levels. Labor's got nowhere to hide on this anymore. It follows on from Treasury advice that said unless we are in step with what is going on globally, where we have seen the global tax rate for companies slashed in the UK, in France, and most recently in the US, unless we are in step with those countries, we will not remain competitive and Australia will be left behind. This is why Labor needs to get behind our Enterprise Tax Plan. It needs to get behind it because it needs to encourage the investment, the jobs and the growth that Australians expect. Labor needs to lead on this issue as the Government has led and cannot anymore hide behind their tax grabs. Unfortunately, the Australian people are all too alive to the fact that Bill Shorten, Bill Shorten himself, would impose an additional $164 billion of taxes on the Australian economy and on the Australian people. It's simply not good enough and it will mean that our economy and our people are left behind and we simply cannot have that.

I'd like to just touch on a couple of points to do with the gang violence here in Victoria. It's good that Daniel Andrews has finally returned to work here in Victoria but what he has said to the Victorian people has simply been that there is no crime problem here in Victoria and that there is no gang problem. He is either a liar or he is wildly out of touch. Daniel Andrews needs to stop being a menace to Victoria and needs to start being the Premier of Victoria. I know in my electorate alone in Higgins that we have seen significant aggravated burglaries in local businesses – jewellery businesses in South Yarra, in Toorak and in Malvern East. We have seen gangs run through businesses, terrorising shoppers and terrorising those businesspeople in Chadstone, in Carnegie, in South Yarra and in Malvern East, and we have seen horrific car-jackings, which means that people are afraid to go out at night. Now this is all about Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Labor Government. He's trying to blame everyone but himself but we know it's his weakening of the bail laws, it's his weakening of the sentencing laws and it's his weakening of the anti-gang laws that has led to this eruption of violent crime. And it's not just me who's saying this. As the Minister responsible for insurance, the insurance figures don't lie. We've seen last year that theft of and from cars in Victoria has gone up by 62 per cent. Now this compares to NSW, where we have seen those statistics decline, down 12 per cent. It's a uniquely Victorian problem and it is Daniel Andrews' problem and it's a problem he has created. We also know that we are seeing a rise in premiums in Victoria for those people who are insured in Victoria. House and contents insurance is going up by around seven per cent. You compare that to NSW, where the rise is around three per cent. This is costing Victorians not only in terms of their fears for their safety, but in terms of their hip pocket. So as I said, Daniel Andrews needs to stop being a menace to Victoria, he needs to start acting as Premier of Victoria. He needs to support Matthew Guy and his plan to clean up Victoria. That is the least he can do now that he's finally come back from his holidays.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask – there was a pilot of a national intelligence system that was used to garner intelligence on the Apex gang. There have been calls for the Federal Government to roll that out here in Victoria to help with this current gang crisis. What do you say about that system?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well the Federal Government was very, very happy to fund the pilot of this program. This was something that the Federal Government has promoted and initiated in large part. We believe it is important to be able to have important intelligence around gangs and to also not just have that intelligence, but to then follow through and act on it. That is why we are calling on Daniel Andrews to actually act, to change and reform the sentencing laws, the bail laws, to make sure that he has strong anti-gang laws here in Victoria so that Victorians can once again feel safe in the state of Victoria.

JOURNALIST:

Would the Federal Government be happy to fund the rollout of that national intelligence system?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well the Federal Government has of course been cooperating in making sure that Daniel Andrews has available to him the intelligence and the support of federal agencies. We have already done that. In fact, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a conversation with Daniel Andrews when he was down here in Victoria in June last year and committed those resources. The fact that Daniel Andrews has been doing nothing for more than 12 months is a testament to the fact that he has contempt for the Victorian people and their safety. He needs to get real, he needs to know what's going on out there in the community and he needs to act and simply stop pointing the finger at others.

JOURNALIST:

You've said multiple times that it's Daniel Andrews' problem, it's Daniel Andrews' fault. So why is the Federal Government inserting itself in this discussion?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I'm a member of the Victorian community, I am a Minister here in Victoria, I live in my local community, I'm affected by what happens to people in my community and I care for my community and that is why I will not be silent about the need to protect people in the Victorian community. And if Daniel Andrews expects people to simply sit back while he does nothing, he is absolutely wrong.

JOURNALIST:

Do you feel safe going out for dinner in your electorate?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I think it's important to note that there have been terrible crimes committed in my electorate. There have been very violent crimes committed in businesses that are next door to cafés in my electorate where you have had gangs turn up, masked gangs turn up, with pick axes in some instances and other tools that frankly cause violence, next to cafés where there are women and children simply getting a morning coffee. Now, it is not good enough. It is not good enough and Daniel Andrews needs to act on this. He needs to stop being a menace to Victoria and he needs to start acting as Premier of Victoria.

JOURNALIST:

Has that stopped you from going out for dinner though?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I think it's important to note that in Victoria, Victorians don't feel safe at the moment and they don't feel safe because when they go shopping there is a risk, that we have already seen and has happened in my electorate alone, of gangs running through shopping centres, running through businesses terrorising those people both who own the business and those people who were shopping in the business. This has been happening for instance on a Sunday afternoon in local shopping centres where you have had Apex gang members, with baseball bats, walking through and terrorising people. It's not good enough and as I said, it's Daniel Andrews who needs to act, who needs to stop pointing the finger, it is a uniquely Victorian problem and he needs to act.

JOURNALIST:

Just in light of the OECD report – when can we expect the Government to try the push the company tax cuts through the House?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well the Government remains absolutely committed to our enterprise tax plan and our plan will be reintroduced again into the Parliament for a vote early in the New Year when Parliament resumes. It is important for Labor to actually follow through with what they say that they have believed for a very long time. You've had the Shadow Treasurer say that he believes in corporate tax cuts because of course it benefits all Australians. Now, for political reasons, he's walking away from that because Labor is reckless when it comes to our economy and reckless when it comes to investment and when it comes to jobs.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have support from the crossbench in relation to those company tax cuts?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I think it's important to say that we can get this through if Labor supports it. If Labor actually follow-through with what they used to say they believed in, if Bill Shorten follows through with what he used to say he believed in and actually supports the Government in what is a necessary measure which has been confirmed by the OECD, the IMF and Treasury analysis, then all Australians will benefit.

JOURNALIST:

But what's the feedback from the crossbench? Do you have their support?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well as I said, the Government is going to be re-introducing it at the beginning of the year and the Government calls on Labor, calls on Labor to follow through with what they say that they believe in, what they said that they believe in and implement the company tax cuts that will benefit all Australians and increase the size of our economy, increase jobs, increase investment.

JOURNALIST:

There's been some discussion in the past 24 hours about increasing stamp duty resulting in lower investment from foreign buyers – is that correct and do you think we should be seeing more investment from locals considering that stamp duty hike?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Look I'm not going to make commentary on the housing market. Let me just say this, it is important to note that the Government has made significant changes to our foreign investment laws. We believe it's important to always put our national interest first and the Government has made sure that we have sold up on illegally purchased properties, established properties purchased by overseas investors where they have not been allowed to do this and it's been to the tune of more than $130 million. We've divested more than 73 properties and that list is growing. Now, Labor, when they were last in Government, they let it rip. They made it very easy for overseas investors to come in and purchase established property. They did not sell-up one illegally purchased property. The Government has changed that and we think it's a change for the better.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned though legitimate overseas businesses are now not investing in Australia because of that stamp duty hike?

KELLY O'DWYER:

We will always support overseas investment, particularly where it supports Australia's national interest and that it what our foreign investment focus has always been. The focus on foreign investors putting money into our economy to build new properties that can also be used by Australians who want to purchase their own home as well. We make no apology for the very strong stance that we have taken in relation to this and the Government has seen the success of our policies in the short and medium term.

JOURNALIST:

Will you look at negative gearing again?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Negative gearing, it's very, very clear, is one of the great cons that the Labor party is trying to perpetrate on the Australian people. They are trying to claim on the one hand that their negative gearing and increased capital gains taxes will result in a dramatic fall in housing prices to the point where people who previously couldn't afford to buy a home will be able to buy a home. And then, in the next breath, they're also arguing that it will have no impact whatsoever on house prices because, let's face it, two-thirds of Australians' wealth is in fact tied up in their property values. The Labor party is committing a huge hoax on the Australian people. The Government has focussed on those important measures that will make a difference to people being able to afford to buy their home. In the budget we put in place measures that would allow first homeowners to be able to save for their deposit – $60,000 for a couple with tax benefits by saving through the superannuation system. We've provided incentives for older homeowners to downsize from family homes, to free that up for people to be able to purchase and live in, by saying to them that they can contribute a proportion of the value of their property sale into superannuation over and above contribution limits. We are freeing up land so that more homes can actually be built, these are some of the measures that the Government has taken as part of our broader housing affordability plan and they are the right measures.

JOURNALIST:

Just quickly, on Senator Fierravanti-Wells basically criticising the Chinese Government for giving too much money to South-Pacific nations, does that destabilise the relationship between our Government and China's?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well obviously I'm not the Minister responsible so I'd refer you to the relevant Minister for any follow-up on that.