In Conversation with Josh Frydenberg: “G20 will carry our domestic message abroad”

Josh Frydenberg believes the government has an ambitious agenda for the G20. AAP/Alan Porritt

Finance ministers from the G20 countries gather in Sydney this weekend, a crucial step on the way to November’s Leaders meeting, which will be the most important gathering of world leaders Australia has ever hosted.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has said the message of the Abbott government both domestically and internationally is the same: that governments have run out of money and “it is now the turn of the private sector to generate economic growth and create new jobs”, something governments must facilitate.

Josh Frydenberg, parliamentary secretary to prime minister Tony Abbott, is involved in the organising the logistics of G20 host year activities, with the November meeting hosting 4000 delegates, 3000 media and deploying more than 5000 police.

Another of Frydenberg’s responsibilities is to oversee the repeal of more than 8000 acts and regulations, particularly from the Labor years but also stretching back a century, some still referring to pounds, shillings and pence.

Next month repeal legislation will be introduced and debated, with “repeal day” becoming a part of the annual parliamentary calendar. “That is based on what other jurisdictions have done, like the corrections calendar in the United States as well as as well as the repeal day in Western Australia,” Frydenberg says.

Click here for the full transcript or listen to Josh Frydenberg on the Politics with Michelle Grattan podcast here.

Michelle Grattan: Australia will host the G20 leaders meeting late this year. It will be the most important international conference we have ever had in this country. This week, the G20 finance ministers will gather in Sydney to discuss some of the issues.

Today I’m talking with Josh Frydenberg who in his capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is assisting in the G20’s preparations.

Josh Frydenberg what issues will be central at this finance ministers meeting?

Josh Frydenberg: Well nice to be with you Michelle, you’re absolutely right. The G20 is probably the biggest meeting that Australia has ever held and it will be on the 15th and 16th of November in Brisbane. It will bring together leaders of the world’s largest economies including President Obama, Xi Jinping and it will also have a series of meetings in the lead up which involve finance ministers as well as trade ministers.

The finance meetings will be held in Sydney in the coming week and issues that will be on the agenda there include infrastructure financing, how we can tap the private sector better for the financing of infrastructure, regulatory reform. Treasurer Joe Hockey gave a very good speech to the Lowy Institute recently where he talked about the importance of reform to the IMF to ensure that there is global financial resilience and basically how to attract better regulatory consistency among jurisdictions.

It is an ambitious agenda. It obviously has a strong economic focus and many of the world’s leading central bankers and finance ministers will descend on Sydney to participate in an important forum chaired by Joe Hockey.

Michelle Grattan: I guess for the ordinary person out there in the community, the G20 perhaps seems a bit airy fairy but in fact there are a whole lot of groups hanging off this, aren’t there? There is the C20 and the B20. Can you just give us a bit of a feel for all these.

Josh Frydenberg: Sure, you’re absolutely right. There is a number of groupings, the B20 stands for the Business 20 it will be chaired by Richard Goyder, [CEO] of Wesfarmers and brings together business leaders from a whole range of sectors, and what they are working on is a complementary program of initiatives to work in with the Leaders meeting.

There is also the C20, the Civil Society 20, which is chaired by World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello, and that’s also trying to promote greater equality as well as growth. There’s the L20 which is the Labour 20, where union leaders like Ged Kearney are involved. There’s the Y20, the Youth 20, a T20 think tank which the Lowy Institute is driving, and these are important groupings that again give Australian leaders the opportunity to interact with global counterparts and to promote agendas which complement the work that is being done at the leaders level.

Michelle Grattan: The G20 really came into its own during the global financial crisis … But has it gone off the boil since then? Can we be sure that something concrete will come out of the November meeting?

Josh Frydenberg: Well it actually started as a finance ministers meeting Michelle and goes back to 1999 and the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis. And as you know Australia hosted…

Michelle Grattan: And Peter Costello was important in that.

Josh Frydenberg: Exactly. In 2006 in Melbourne, Peter Costello was a driving force behind the success of the G20 as a finance ministers meeting and later it morphed into a leaders meeting.

You have to understand that the economies represented around the table in Brisbane will all comprise of about 85% of the world’s GDP. And 75% of the world’s trade and just above two-thirds of the world’s population.

I am very confident there will be concrete items that will come out of the meeting and that will have a lasting impact on the economic health of the global community. The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, made it very clear he wants a tight agenda, he wants a communique of no more than three pages and he wants the focus to be on freeing up infrastructure financing so we can try to meet the 50 trillion dollar deficit in infrastructure that exists around the world.

Trying to build greater employment. I mean today there are some three-hundred million young people that are either not working or not studying and Michelle we are actually 30 million jobs globally below where we were at the global financial crisis. So he wants to get the focus on the economy and that’s on infrastructure, that’s around free-trade, and that’s definitely in Australia’s interests because we are a free-trading nation. It is around financial resilience and Joe Hockey is leading the charge there. And it is also about tax.

Michelle Grattan: Fairer tax?

Josh Frydenberg: Correct. It’s about companies paying tax. Really in the jurisdictions where they are earning the revenue. A real focus because we don’t want to see profit shifting and the erosion of the tax base and that’s a real item on the G20 agenda.

Michelle Grattan: Joe Hockey told the party room the other day that in our G20 year that we - that is Australia - are taking the philosophical lead across the world. What did he mean by that and isn’t it being a bit over-ambitious?

Josh Frydenberg: Not at all. What both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have spoken about is the fact that it’s business not government that creates jobs. And we need to free up the business sectors to do what they do best, which is to employ people and to engage in entrepreneurial activity. And smaller government is often better government. That’s why we take a philosophical approach to that.

And you’ve heard Joe Hockey talking about ending the age of entitlement. We have a pretty good track record in Australia, I think we are in our 23rd consecutive year of economic growth and certainly our domestic agenda for the Abbott government, about cutting taxes, cutting red and green tape and trying to free up business to do what it does best, that’s an agenda which can also be pursued globally and we are going to use our presidency to promote that sort of message.

Michelle Grattan: Now your sort of special responsibility on the G20 front is helping on the logistics side, which will be a pretty formidable challenge I would have thought….

Josh Frydenberg: It is a massive logistical undertaking. We are talking 4000 delegates, 3000 media representatives, there will be more than 5000 police deployed, more than 100,000 meals will be served.

Michelle Grattan: On the domestic front, another part of your responsibilities is leading the coalition’s deregulation agenda. Next month legislation will be introduced to repeal a whole lot of the Labor government’s acts and its regulations and also some of the old acts that have been on the statute books forever. How does the process work?

Josh Frydenberg: Well, we are going to have a “repeal day”. And that will see legislation introduced on the 19th and debated on the 26th. What we are going to do is clean up the statute books, Michelle and you know, 8000 plus redundant legislative instruments. Regulations that still prescribe payments in pounds and shillings - well we are going to get rid of that.

Michelle Grattan: What’s the earliest one, do you know?

Josh Frydenberg: Oh it goes back about 100 years. That’s clearly living beyond its use-by-date. Then we are going to introduce some omnibus bills that will change regulation in a series of legislative areas and we are talking about, you know, small business, aged care and the environment and elsewhere which has been the focus for us.

Then there will be some individual bills in more complex areas and look Michelle, we need bipartisan support for this because we’ve got a difficult Senate. But the Australian economy depends on reducing the overall regulatory burden.

The last government landed us with 21,000 additional regulations and it’s a critical microeconomic reform. When you speak to business, when you speak, may I say, to the not-for-profit sector, the amount of compliance and red tape is stifling innovation and opportunity. We are determined to do something about it and we’ve got a whole series of initiatives, which involve galvanising the bureaucracy and the business community around a more streamlined process and around better outcomes. So we are very committed. ….

So we want to introduce changes right across the board, and one of the things I am most proud of that our government has done has been a one-stop-shop in environmental approvals and Michelle we’ve got the agreement of all states and territories on MOUs to get a one-stop-shop to speed up the process. Not lowering the environmental standards, that is not what we are on about. But just speeding up the process so we can get a “yes” or a “no” answer when it comes to environmental issues.

Michelle Grattan: And will “repeal day” be a once off exercise or will it become part of the national calendar?

Josh Frydenberg: It will become part of the national calendar because we have committed to two sitting days every year. That is based on what other jurisdictions have done, like the “corrections calendar” in the United States as well as the “repeal day” in Western Australia. Assigning two separate days to repealing we can focus the parliament’s attention, hopefully with bipartisan support, on reducing the overall red tape and green tape burden that is falling on both business and on the not-for-profit sector.

Michelle Grattan: That’s national housekeeping. Thank-you Josh Frydenberg.