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Source: Australian Treasurer

TONY PASIN:

Well it’s fantastic to be here at Murray Bridge this morning at this awesome regional business, Kookaburra Homes. I’ve got to thank Steve for having us, but of course, I’ve got my good friend and colleague, the Treasurer of Australia, Josh Frydenberg. Josh, it’s great to have you here, we’ve just gone on a tour of this fantastic facility where we’re seeing staff actively getting Australians into homes. Josh, thanks for coming, hope you’ve enjoyed having a look around, seeing what a regional business can do. We’re looking forward to spending some time with Josh here in the electorate and showing him what the 2020-21 Federal Budget is doing for the local regional businesses. Josh.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well thanks very much Tony. Great to join you here in the electorate of Barker, in Murray Bridge and Steve thanks for your hospitality and all the very best to Kookaburra Homes. It’s been fantastic to hear the stories about how HomeBuilder has had such a positive and significant impact on this business. An 80 per cent increase in sales since the announcement of HomeBuilder. And the business here employs more than 40 people directly, more than half of whom are women, and hundreds indirectly through the supply chains, through subcontractors. And we met some of the young apprentices employed here in Murray Bridge as they were working on cabinets, which are going out the door along with new homes that are being built right across this great state of South Australia. The Budget that the Morrison Government released last Tuesday night is all about doing one thing; creating new jobs. Creating new jobs here, in Murray Bridge, creating new jobs in the construction sector, creating new jobs right across the Australian economy. We’ve now legislated tax cuts for more than 11.5 million Australians, including more than three quarters of a million South Australians. We’ve also put in place significant incentives for business to invest, allowing them to immediately expense, to write-off in year one, significant machinery and equipment that they’re buying to support their business. That not only will create jobs, but it will also boost the productive capacity of our country. We’re also allowing businesses that may have been profitable before COVID hit, but then made a loss, to take those losses and to carry them back against previous profits and taxes paid and to get a refund from the ATO. Again, putting money into the pockets of businesses to help drive this economic recovery. We’re also investing in infrastructure, skills and helping to create 100,000 new apprentices with the incentive to pay up to a 50 per cent of the wages of apprentices. So in this Budget, there is so much for businesses like Steve’s, to help him employ more people and to provide Australians with their new home. And we met some of the couples who are about to purchase and build their first home. What an amazing time that is for them. So Steve, thank you for having us here, I wish you and your business all the success. Fantastic to see so many of your workers hard at work, creating the dreams and aspirations of so many Australians. 

STEVE:

Thank you so much, thank you.

TONY PASIN:

So Steve, would you like to share with us the impact of HomeBuilder and Budget measures generally?

STEVE:

Absolutely, thank you Tony. Thank you to the Treasurer, thank you for coming out and visiting us here at Kookaburra Homes in Murray Bridge. When COVID, we all know about COVID and when the pandemic was first announced, we were quite concerned as a business and where we’d go as a business. And thanks to the Government, State and Federal, for moving swiftly and implementing HomeBuilder, we were able to see an increase in sales like the Treasurer alluded to before. We were already a profitable business, but allowed to secure our business, not just then but into the future as well. Not just for the 40 people that work here but for the hundreds of contractors that work locally for us at Kookaburra Homes. So thank you very much, very appreciative.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Are there any questions?

QUESTION:

Yes. Treasurer, can I ask, our Treasurer in South Australia says the scheme has been very successful, over 1,000 applications and he’s requested that there be an extension on the three month to a six month building exemption basically, is that something you’d like to grant?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We’re continuing to reassess the program, recognising it’s been an enormous success and it’s doing exactly what we want it to do. It’s igniting the construction industry. It’s helping to create jobs right across the sector. So we continue to assess that program and the timeline. But also in this Budget there are other initiatives to support the building and the construction sector including 10,000 new places for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, as well as an extra $1 billion in concessional finance for what is called NHFIC, which is for affordable housing. So Michael Sukkar, the Housing Minister, has done a fantastic job in bringing HomeBuilder to fruition and it is making a real difference on the ground here in South Australia. I’ve only heard positive things about the program and the impact that it’s had. 

QUESTION:

I suppose the Treasurer’s point is that it’s been so positive that there is going to be a log jam. So, will you mitigate that with anything? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Again, we’ll continue to reassess the various parameters of the program and the timing of the program. But, right now, it is having (inaudible).   

QUESTION:

Just quickly on HomeBuilder. Given the short timeframe, are you confident that it’s encouraging new investment rather than just rewarding people who are already ready to buy or build a new home? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It’s absolutely encouraging new people to buy a home who previously would have been $25,000 short or more short. This is tipping the balance in favour of people buying a new home, and ultimately, building a new home which is what we want it to do. The other issue during COVID is, obviously, people are more cautious. There is more uncertainty about people’s own economic circumstances so they defer the purchase of new equipment if they’re a business, they defer consumption if they are a family or they defer the acquisition of a new home if that is what they’ve been thinking about. This $25,000 grant from the Government will bring forward those decisions and make them happen. Once you deferred it, who knows if it ever was to occur into the future. So this has been a really important program. I also want to mention what we’re doing around access to finance. In this Budget, we’re proposing to reduce the regulation around the responsible lending laws, which have become restrictive lending laws. Because, ultimately, they were set up as a principles based framework but they became overly prescriptive, overly complex, overly costly. So when you went to borrow money for your first home, they ended up asking you for details about your Netflix subscriptions and your UberEats receipts, rather than understanding more broadly about your circumstances and your ability to service that loan. We are proposing to take back, roll back, that extra layer of red tape which is being restrictive to the access to finance, particularly for people who are seeking to purchase a home.  

QUESTION:

Treasurer, what is the nature of the technical glitch that’s stopping the PM getting to National Cabinet?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I haven’t spoken to him about that particular technical glitch, but obviously he is keen to meet with his state counterparts and to talk about important issues and that meeting will happen at a time to be set. 

QUESTION:

Why is it not happening via Zoom or Skype or phone? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

These are sensitive matters, obviously, that the Premiers and the Prime Minister are talking about. You have to have secure communications. When I had spoken to him yesterday it was when he was just about to take off and he was looking forward to getting back to his family having been away for a period of time, and then I subsequently heard obviously what had transpired with the technical difficulties. So, he’s been running these meetings week after week, month after month, they’re obviously important meetings at an important time for the nation, and they’ll be held as soon as possible. 

QUESTION:

Is your team having difficulty getting information from China about a tariff, a possible tariff, on cotton? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

The issues with China and the trade relationship has been challenging, but it has also been very important to both our countries. I’ve seen the reports about the cotton-related issues and obviously that is going to be followed up by the Trade Minister. But when it comes to our two-way trade worth more than $200 billion a year to China, it’s important to remember that it’s mutually beneficial. We supply more than 60 per cent of China’s iron ore, which is underpinning their economic growth. We supply them with their (inaudible) which is so critical to their economic recovery post-COVID. For us, Chinese tourists, Chinese students are very important parts of our economy too. So the relationship is mutually beneficial and the relationship will continue. 

QUESTION:

ASIO’s annual report was released yesterday, details about politicians across the country potentially being targeted by spies. Are you concerned that they’ll be co-opted? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Peter Dutton will have more to say about this later today. The key point is we take all these issues related to national security very, very seriously. In the Budget, there is significant extra funding for more (inaudible) and intelligence agencies. We’ve made a significant number of legislative changes to strengthen our systems so that we can protect the national interest. We make no apologies for that, we are doing everything possible to protect the national interest and the law enforcement and intelligence agencies follow up all manner of issues, including the nature of the ones you’ve mentioned and I’ll leave that to Peter Dutton to speak more about. 

QUESTION:

As a possible strategy, would you consider security screening MPs before they reach Cabinet?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Again, those are matters that you can put to Peter Dutton. Thank you. 

MIL OSI News