7.30 anchor Leigh Sales shot tough questions at Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, after he delivered the 2020-21 Budget. Picture: 730
7.30 anchor Leigh Sales shot tough questions at Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, after he delivered the 2020-21 Budget. Picture: 730

‘It was dishonest’: Sales’ tough question

Leigh Sales has grilled Treasurer Josh Frydenberg over a "dishonest and cynical" argument he made during the Global Financial Crisis, after he handed down his own Budget during the worst recession in almost a century.

Referring to the Coalition's argument in 2007-08 that "debt and deficit were signs of incompetence and mismanagement", Sales asked: "Why shouldn't I apply the same argument to you?"

Mr Frydenberg tried multiple times to answer the question, only to be repeatedly cut off by the ABC journalist, who continued to push her point.

"We haven't baked in spending …" Mr Frydenberg began, before Sales interjected: "No, I'm asking about the use of fiscal policy."

The pair went back and forth four times on the subject.

"You're not addressing the principle I'm talking about," she said. "Isn't the reason I shouldn't make the argument is, it was always dishonest and cynical, as you are proving?"

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appeared to stumble over his words as Leigh Sales pressed her tough question on Tuesday night. Picture: ABC
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appeared to stumble over his words as Leigh Sales pressed her tough question on Tuesday night. Picture: ABC

Mr Frydenberg tried to brush off Sales' line of questioning, retorting: "I think you are being cynical today.

"To be honest we are dealing with a once in a century pandemic.

"Australia's GDP has fallen by 7 per cent in the June quarter, a record amount. If you turn to New Zealand, it's fallen by more than 12 per cent. If you turn to the United Kingdom it is by more than 20 per cent."

The 7.30 anchor was not satisfied in the Treasurer's attempts to address the question, arguing back three more times as she tried to get a straighter answer.

"We have always been responsible," he argued.

"It was responsible when Labor did it and responsible when you are doing it today, it is a legitimate tool?" Ms Sales fired back.

After the Treasurer tried once more to address the point, Ms Sales tried to ask her question a final time.

"The Coalition's principles for years and years (have been) 'a surplus is a sign of economic competence' and this, your response over the crisis, which I am not arguing is incorrect, proves the validity of what Labor did during an economic crisis?" she asked.

Mr Frydenberg said it was because of the Coalition's previous financial management the government was able to respond as it did - something he earlier argued Labor had lacked when they had their own financial crisis.

"We did get the budget into a much better position than what we inherited and that gave us the ability to respond as we have today and our measures have already saved some 700,000 jobs and tonight's budget will see the creation of nearly a million new jobs over the future years."

Mr Frydenberg announced a $213 billion deficit for this financial year on Tuesday night, which showed the coronavirus pandemic had sent the nation into the worst recession in nearly a century, and sent Australia's gross debt to GDP ratio to 55 per cent - its highest level since the 1950s.

Measures in the budget are heavily aimed at creating jobs, and ensuring Australians are ready to fill them.

Wage subsidies, half-funded apprenticeships, funding for reskilling and tax cuts for businesses were all announced on Tuesday, as well as backdated tax cuts for low and middle income earners, which were not set to come into play for another two years.

 

Originally published as 'It was dishonest': Sales' tough question


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