Closing the Gap essential to who we are as a nation: Transcript, Sky News Agenda

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

SKY NEWS AM AGENDA

MONDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2018

SUBJECTS: Closing the Gap report card, Labor’s compensation scheme promise, Barnaby Joyce, company tax cuts.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program now, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. If we start where we concluded with Simon Birmingham in relation to the company tax cuts. Major businesses - Andrew Mackenzie the chief executive of BHP saying that if tax cuts flow, investment will also flow. And if you don’t, he says there are questions raised as to whether companies like his – the largest miner in the world – will choose to continue to make new investments in countries like ours.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, let’s start with what the Government says the benefit is to households would be of their company tax cut. They say that if you cut company taxes and fund it by raising income taxes on middle income Australia, household income grows by 0.1 per cent in the 2030s. If you put that in practical terms, that means you get one extra month of household income growth in the 2030s-

GILBERT: Why did Labor support company tax cuts previously then? Is it a road to Damascus conversion?

LEIGH: We were doing that in a context in which we were closing loopholes, Kieran-

GILBERT: You saw benefits, though, previously?

LEIGH: Good tax reform involves broadening the base and lowering the rate. This is simply rate lowering at the expense of middle income Australians. The Liberals’ own modelling is saying it’s delivering an extra month’s household income growth in the 2030s. At a time when debt’s just passed a half a trillion dollar mark, it doesn’t seem like a great use of tax payer money to me.

GILBERT: But you’ve got all these CEOs out there - as I said Andrew McKenzie the latest, but he’s joined Alan Joyce among others who have said that with tax cuts will come investment and without giving explicit details that there would be wages growth as well.

LEIGH: And if you look at the United States experience, you look across the company tax rates that are paid by various US companies and you see that those who pay lower rates of company tax don’t generate more jobs, but they do pay their CEO more. We have a lot of evidence in Australia that in a country that imports a lot of foreign capital and has dividend imputation, the first order benefits go to overseas shareholders. There are people that benefit, but according to the Turnbull Government’s own modelling, it’s not Australian households.

GILBERT: Is Labor, on another matter, trying to create a whisper campaign around the Deputy Prime Minister? That’s what Simon Birmingham asserted just a few moments ago.

LEIGH: I don’t care what parliamentarians do in their consensual personal lives. I think the only question here is just making sure the taxpayers resources were used appropriately, just as we would ask in any circumstance. We need to know that the stable operation of government will continue. It’s important to know, for example, who will be the Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister goes to the United States next week. They’re the sort of questions of public policy that are important. But I’m not-

GILBERT: We know who the Acting Prime Minister will be, it's the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, who will be that role. Why would you raise that?

LEIGH: There's been comments that have been made to me that that won't be the case. I think it's useful to have that confirmed and to have that clarity going forward. I think it's important to have that clarity around - 

GILBERT: As in from Coalition members?

LEIGH: This is a building which is abuzz with rumours, Kieran. I think it's important for some of that stuff to be put to rest: to know the appointments were made in accord with appropriate procedures, to know that the acting arrangements will continue. This is Closing the Gap Week, we've got a huge challenge there. We need to have the Parliament and the Government focused on these challenges.

GILBERT: What explicitly does Labor want from Mr Joyce in terms of transparency? 

LEIGH: I think it's important that Malcolm Turnbull's office, which needs to sign off on staffing appointments, makes clear that proper processes were followed here. As you'd be asking in other contexts - 

GILBERT: It's the Nationals that decide the staffing, they just have an administrative role in his office apparently?

LEIGH: As I understand it, the Prime Minister's office needs to sign off on this. It's not unusual to be asking questions here. I certainly recall the Liberal Party asking questions about particular staffing appointments under the Gillard Government, that's an appropriate matter. What's not an appropriate matter is the personal lives of Members of Parliament. If they're consensual relationships I don't think they should be in newspapers or discussed on television.

GILBERT: The Closing the Gap Report which you touched on obviously there has been some progress made but not as much as we all would hope. What's your assessment of where things are at right now?

LEIGH: We've been told in past that only one of the seven targets are on track. If we're now up to three out of seven targets that's only going to be by a whisker. What worries me, Kieran, is the suggestion that you might then move the targets themselves rather than raise the effort. I'm a marathon runner. The marathon is a pretty hard race but you don't get half way through and think "42km is a bit much, maybe I'll just stop at 35km". It's hard work to close the gaps. We knew that when we laid out these targets. But it's vital that we redouble the efforts to close them. It's essential to Indigenous people, it's essential to who we are as a nation.

GILBERT: And this compensation package to be announced by the Opposition Leader today? Have you got the details of that?

LEIGH: Bill Shorten and Pat Dodson have said that for members of the Stolen Generation in the ACT and NT, they'll be eligible for up to $75,000. There will also be a funeral assistance fund reflecting the pressures that are placed on families at that time. It's only money, it doesn't go to closing the emotional harm that was done. But it is important that we as a nation acknowledge those deep wrongs in a financial sense as well as through the apology.

GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time.

LEIGH: Thank you, Kieran.

ENDS


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