Talking Budget with Mark Parton

I spoke this morning with Mark Parton about the federal budget, and the clear choice it presents for this year's election: between Labor's nation-building reforms in health, schools and DisabilityCare, and the Coalition's threatened cuts. Here's a podcast.

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
15 May 2013

TOPICS:                The Budget.

Mark Parton:     Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser, for the ALP. He’s an economist of some note, and he’s a contributor to this program of some note, he joins us right now. Hello Andrew.

Andrew Leigh: G’day Mark. Does that make me a commenter of calibre?

Mark Parton:     That it does. Now obviously you are happy with what Wayne Swan delivered last night, because you have to be.

Andrew Leigh: Well Mark, it’s a tough international situation for our budget. This high dollar has had a big hit on government revenues and we’ve had to make a set of hard decisions last night, decisions that in an ideal world, you certainly wouldn’t want to be taking. But the choice that Australian families will have come September is between the sort of strong Labor investments and the cuts that Mr Abbott will have to make because he spent the last few years saying ‘yes’ to special interests and ‘no’ to any sensible revenue raising measure.

Mark Parton:     So many interesting things about this document from last night, among them that we’re only three or four months away from an election. And I’ve never seen a pre-election budget like this because there are no carrots, there are no sweeteners. There’s a stark honesty which I think is extremely responsible.

Andrew Leigh: Mark we’re being level with the Australian people about the challenges for the revenue. What we’ve seen over the last year is a $17 billion fall in what the government takes in. That’s got nothing to do with what we spend; just a large fall tax revenue, driven to a large extent by the high dollar driving down company taxes. That’s a challenge for us, but it’s a challenge for everyone in parliament and I really hope that Mr Abbott is going to stand up on Thursday night and he’s going to be able to say ‘well, I’ll back Labor’s saving here, I’ll back Labor’s saving here, I’ll back Labor’s saving here, I’ll back Labor’s saving here’. If he can’t, then he’s basically hiding cuts in his top drawer, hoping he can keep them secret until after the election.

Mark Parton:     I guess the other fascinating thing about it is so much of the pain here comes, in theory if there’s a change of government, not under you guys but under them. And it will be interesting to see how much they want to tinker with. So many of these measures won’t even be passed in this current term of government, will they?

Andrew Leigh: Mark I know there’s many people on the Liberal side of politics who think they’ve got the election sewn up. I take a different view, I’m pretty respecting of the voters and I think they’ll make a considered judgment in September. But the budget invests over a long horizon – we’re looking at putting in place important road building measures in Australia’s big cities, like we saw with the Majura Parkway investment for the ACT in last year’s budget. We’re looking at putting place DisabilityCare, which is going to be a pillar of our social safety system, hopefully for generations to come. And we’re putting in place that school investment that you’d expect from a responsible Labor government, recognising that great schools drive prosperity.

Mark Parton:     We spoke with Alex Malley from CPA, from the accountancy group earlier, and he was suggesting that there were massive missed opportunities here in shoring up Australia’s competitiveness, that it’s all well and good to beat the corporates over the head and try and get as much money out of them, but ultimately if we can’t compete on the business front, well the whole country is not going to be served well.

Andrew Leigh: But our company tax changes Mark, and I don’t know if he’s talking about the thin capitalisation deductibility rules, they’re driven by shifts that we’re seeing around the world. Countries trying to make sure that firms don’t shift profits in order to avoid paying tax. You and I can’t shift our salaries over to avoid paying tax, and we’re basically applying that principle to companies. That strikes me as being pretty fair and responsible in a budget in which we’re asking a lot of people to give a little to build a better country.

Mark Parton:     Andrew, thanks for your time this morning, we appreciate it.

Andrew Leigh: Thank you Mark. Appreciate it.

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