WEDNESDAY, 29 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: The Turnbull Government’s fantasy costings; Marriage equality.
MARIUS BENSON, HOST: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Marius.
BENSON: A pretty healthy bottom line from Scott Morrison yesterday. A billion out, but more than $2 billion back.
LEIGH: Over the first four years, Marius, the difference between the two parties is 0.2 per cent of GDP in terms of deficit. But if you are looking at the structural deficit, if you are looking over the medium term, that is when the real difference emerges. The Government's company tax cut costs $14 billion in the tenth year, and our changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount make $8 billion to the budget. So while the Government has a stick of dynamite with a long fuse blowing out the budget in the tenth year, Labor has sensible savings that build over time. And that is why our budget plan isn't just better for the bottom line, it's also better for Australia.
BENSON: Well, that might be convincing for people who are concentrating on the bottom line in ten years’ time, but there's an election on Saturday and the result of Labor's costings put out last Sunday is that the two words that were seized on by critics, and by a lot of the media, were ‘bigger deficit’. You promised a bigger deficit. They are the headline words that came out. Anyone comparing the Labor policy launch, or costings, would've known that putting the words ‘bigger deficit’ in, they are going to come up in neon and everything else is going to be ignored. Did you handle it badly, apart from the substance?
LEIGH: Marius, one of the things we did is we clearly pointed out to people with our costings is don't assume that the Coalition’s zombie measures will pass the Parliament. The Coalition are magically assuming that suddenly the Senate will pass their attempt to ensure that unemployed people don't get benefits for four weeks, to make it harder for ethnic pensioners to return to their homelands for a holiday, or that the Senate will suddenly and magically support raising the pension to age 70. The Senate has opposed those measures for years now, and the Coalition didn't choose to take them to a double dissolution, and so it is just farcical to believe the Senate will just pass those. When you take that into account, the difference between the two parties over the four years becomes small. But Marius, your listeners are making decisions over a ten year horizon about all kinds of things. Sending a chil d to school, taking on a mortgage, these are all decisions that go well beyond four years. People need a government that can plan beyond four years. A government that is going to look at the long term needs of our schools and our hospitals, and isn't just secretly hiding a huge corporate tax giveaway in the budget in ten years’ time.
BENSON: But did you not realise that when you put the words ‘bigger deficit’ into your own assessment of your own policies, that would dwarf all other considerations in the headlines?
LEIGH: Marius, we made decisions that were in the interests of the nation. The Economic Society of Australia polled its top members and found two out of three of Australia's senior economists agree that spending money on schools will have a bigger growth dividend than a company tax cut. We have made decisions that are good for the budget over the long term, structural saves that don't hurt confidence by ripping money out of the economy, but decisions which make us a more egalitarian country. Most people will go into the ballot box on Saturday feeling they are worse off than they were three years ago, because living standards are down 4 per cent under the Abbott-Turnbull Government. Wage growth is at a 30 year low. Inequality is at a 75 year high. Home ownership at a 60 year low…
BENSON: Can I just interrupt you there, because I just want to get in one more question as time is short. Bill Shorten is under fire today on the same-sex marriage issue because three years ago he told a Christian group he was happy with a plebiscite. Now he hates a plebiscite. Just trying to be all things to all people?
LEIGH: Bill's views have evolved on this as many people's have. But the thing about Bill is he has always been a strong champion for equality. He was one of prime movers behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He's always fought for Medicare. And on the plebiscite, I think his view is that once you saw the Irish experience, once you saw those increased calls to mental health helplines from young gay and lesbian teenagers, we realised that giving money to such a divisive plebiscite was a bad idea. The thing about Bill is he has always fought for equality. The thing about much of the Liberal Party is they are doing the plebiscite for convenience. Malcolm Turnbull didn't want it. Many Coalition backbenchers say they'll ignore it. Indeed, Zed Seselja here in the ACT says that the best he'll do if a plebiscite gets up, is to abstain. What kind of respect does that show the Australian peop le to spend $160 million of their money on a plebiscite that Liberal Party representatives will ignore?
BENSON: Andrew Leigh, thank you very much.
LEIGH: Thank you, Marius.