Transcript: Our Agenda to Transform Government Online Services

May 14, 2015
Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT OF THE MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS

THE HON MALCOLM TURNBUL MP

INTERVIEW WITH KIERAN GILBERT, SKY NEWS

 

Subjects: Digital Transformation Agenda, Paid parental leave, Budget 2015,

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………………...

KIERAN GILBERT:

On the show is the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. I wanted to discuss the digital transformation agenda with you which is in your patch but I will get to that in a moment.

First of all some of the things that Mr Hockey referred to, saying that public servants are the ones reaping the benefits, Mr Shorten likes to characterise – this is in relation to the paid parental leave issue – Mr Shorten likes to characterise those new mothers as potentially the nurse that treats you in the emergency department, possibly the Woolies checkout person. The way the two sides are characterising those new mothers is quite interesting here, the bottom line is they’re all trying to spend more time with their babies.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes Kieran, but I think it’s important to recognise that the Government is spending more money, quite a lot more money, as you know, on helping mothers and families. But we are diverting resources, if you like, from what had been a paid parental leave policy, a very generous paid parental leave policy that we took to the last election but obviously couldn’t secure support for in the Parliament, in the Senate, we’re taking those resources and diverting them into child care.

It is very important – there is actually more money being spent on mothers and young families, it is just the change of orientation is to child care. Maternity leave is very important, no one denies that, but also being able to get back into the workforce and being able to juggle what John Howard used to call the barbeque stopper issue, how do you juggle work and family and childcare?  We are putting more resources into that, so you could say that there has been a change of policy by the Government, and Tony Abbott said yesterday in the House that he had changed his mind.

And he has changed his mind and we have changed our policy based on political realities but also because of consultation, the advice of the Productivity Commission. Many people have been saying, many colleagues have been saying that if we want to drive greater female participation in the work force which is key to greater productivity, stronger economic growth, which is what we’re all here to deliver, then we have to do a better job on childcare and make it more accessible and that’s what we’re doing.

KIERAN GILBERT:

I understand that 100 per cent.  I don’t think many are disagreeing with that, I guess this approach on PPL seems to one, contradict the Prime Minister’s long held belief and passionate defence of his PPL scheme.  The second thing is it hasn’t been cobbled together and actually have an adverse effect on businesses, like Kate Carnell the head of the Chamber of Commerce saying businesses will just pull these schemes.  They thought it was a complementary scheme to, you know, bump up the Government’s minimum wage approach.  She’s worried now that companies will just pull them.  

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Kieran I think it’s actually quite the reverse.  I mean, if there was no Government scheme at all, companies would have an even bigger incentive to make more maternity leave available.  So the Government scheme, the 18 weeks at the minimum wage, is effectively a safety net, right?  So that’s how we’re treating it now.  You said, is this a contradiction on our previous policy?  I wouldn’t call it a contradiction.  But I think we’ve got to be frank and admit that it is a change of policy.  I think it’s a good change of policy because I think you get a bigger productivity and participation bang for your buck if you focus resources on childcare because that travels on for a much longer part of the child’s life rather than just focussing on that immediate period after the birth. 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you agree with Senator Sinodinos who believes that some of the language used by Ministers has been unfortunate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Oh well look Kieran I think it is very important that we always respect and show due empathy and concern and consideration families and in particularly for mothers.  It’s obviously a huge, as we all know as parents, it’s a huge watershed event in any family’s life and particularly in any woman’s life.  So we’ve got to pay due respect to that.  But the important thing is what Labor’s trying to do is say, let’s not focus on what you’re doing on childcare, they’ll agree to that, but they fail to recognise that we live in a world of scarce resources.  I mean what Joe was saying a moment ago is dead right.  Shorten would like you to believe that in his fantasy land, you can have a better budget outcome, a lower deficit, and spend more and tax less.  That’s la-la land.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let’s look at your policy here on the Digital Transformation Agenda, does this largely relate to taxpayer interaction with the big agencies like Centrelink?  Is that the focus here?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It’s about interaction with all agencies.  Let me put this into -- what is the big objective?  To grow our economy.  To secure our prosperity in a much more competitive global economy where there is a lot more competition and threats if you like, but there are a lot more opportunities.  How do we do that?  We are a lot more productive, we have greater workforce participation – hence, the childcare initiative – and the other thing we must do is make Government more engaging, more compelling, more efficient, so that people want to deal with Government and it costs them less both in dollars and time to do it.  We will use digital platforms to do that, that’s how we will transform the way Government delivers its services, and we will do it exactly the same way the most successful digital businesses do – by focussing on the customer.  And yes of course, Centrelink and tax and so forth are the agencies that have the most interactions but every agency interacts with citizens and it’s important that that be done on a very, very efficient basis.

And let me just say one final point: governments -- and bear in mind that the platforms that we are developing we will make available to state and local governments to use as well for free -- governments are over a third of the economy. So if you make government more efficient then you make the whole economy more efficient you make everybody that deals with government more efficient.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Does that have flow on effects for -- because many of our viewers may not have access online, a lot might still have very traditional dealings with agencies who they have interaction with government -- does this also have any flow on effects with streamlining these government services?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well yes. We certainly want to make the delivery of all government services more efficient. And there are some great examples of that, and the Department of Human Services under Senator Marise Payne’s stewardship as the Minister, has led the way in that regard. And of course people will be able to deal with government on the phone or face to face if they choose, but as we know, most people will want to do so with their smartphone. The most important communication tool most people have now is their smartphone.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Indeed. And I guess looking at the information you have released in the wake of the Budget this is modelled on the UK approach in part?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

In large part. The UK has done very well with Government Digital Services and yes we have, plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery and I’ve told Francis Maude the minister there that he should be flattered. But we’ve also taken not of what other countries are doing. The New Zealander’s are doing very well with trusted digital identity, the Danes --

KIERAN GILBERT:

Have we got a lot to do? Are we well behind the mark here?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I would say it’s a bit like the Curate’s egg – we are good in parts. In some areas we are ahead in other areas we are well behind and different agencies have done better or worse. This is pulling it all together. Breaking down the silo culture and ensuring that the government operates as one efficient digital service delivery, you know, operation.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Fair enough. Just a couple of quick questions to finish. Yesterday I asked the Treasurer does the government changes in terms of taxing consumers when they access digital products, did the government consider taxing companies or at least collecting GST when companies advertise on the same platforms like Google and Facebook and so on. There was no clear response from the Treasurer yesterday, what’s your understanding on that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well as you know I’ve advocated that we should collect GST on all of these platforms for a long time and I’m really pleased to see this being reflected in the budget it has been quite inequitable --

KIERAN GILBERT:

So it is in there.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Of course! The fact of the matter is that if you are a business and you are advertising on Facebook and you pay GST, which Facebook collects, you will credit that against your GST obligations to the Government. So it may not result in any net increase in receipts – right? Which is really what we’re talking about. GST ultimately is paid by the consumer because every business gets a credit for what they’ve paid against what they’ve collected so ultimately it’s the consumer that pays for it. That’s why it’s called a value added tax.

I think in terms of the implementation, a Google or a Facebook -- which have indicated in discussions I’ve had with them that they’re very happy to collect the GST in the normal way and they collect similar taxes in other jurisdictions. It’s difficult to see how they could distinguish between a business and a consumer advertising. So I think in net terms, in net terms of increasing the overall government receipts of GST,  it will be the consumers that make the contribution and that’s why GST on Netflix for example, which is, which will be almost entirely sold to consumers, is obviously going to be very additive.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Indeed. And to finish off, if I can, on a broader question about the budget. Is this, has this been a political squib to save the Prime Minister’s hide?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

No this is -- listen, we are all politicians here, and every budget has to be economically responsible and politically responsible. We’ve got to take into account political realities, you know. We are not, we are often, as we know, unsuccessful in getting stuff through the Senate. That’s not our fault, that’s because we don’t have the numbers. So we’ve got to live with those political realities and this is a budget that is built in the context of those realities but above all it is a budget --

KIERAN GILBERT:

So it’s just the Senate? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It’s a budget for a stronger Australia. 

KIERAN GILBERT:

It’s also a couple of months down on, down the path from the spill, the non-spill motion, where 39 people voted for an empty seat. It’s also in that context isn’t it? 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s all part of the context. The key issue is, we have a plan for a stronger, more prosperous Australia. We have a plan for economic growth. What are we doing? We’re putting money into families, to support families, so that you’ll get stronger, better workforce participation, particularly from women. That’s vitally necessary. Every economist in the country says that’s important. We’ve got the tools, the policies to do that. What is the part of the economy that can respond most quickly in terms of new investment, new employment? It’s small business, so we’re putting money into small business. So this is a budget that is designed to grow the economy. It’s, as Joe says, it’s a budget that is designed to ensure Australians have every incentive to get out there and have a go. 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Mr Turnbull, thanks for your time.

Recommended Posts