DOORSTOP - ACT budget takes a Commonwealth whack, Minister Morrison contradicts Hockey on PEFO

This morning I held a doostop interview on the federal budget working against the ACT, concern both the ATO and ASIC will be less proactive because of budget funding cuts and Scott Morrison's acknowledgment that PEFO is the benchmark to judge spending and debt.

E&OE TRANSCRIPT, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW 

WEDNESDAY, 4 JUNE 2014
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA


SUBJECT / S: Scott Morrison’s PEFO revelation; ACT Government budget hit by Federal cuts; ASIC’s corporate surveillance work and the ATO’s capacity undermined by budget cuts; Indonesia.

SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning everyone. I'm Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Yesterday in Question Time we saw a rare outbreak of truth telling from Scott Morrison, who made clear what everyone has known since Peter Costello put in place the Charter of Budget Honesty. The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook is the state of the books when a government takes over. It's yardstick against which all decisions have to be measured. Measured against that it's very clear that this Budget has increased the deficit; increased it this year, next year and over the forward estimates. And it's done so because the government has lost tens of billions of dollars of revenue by aiming to scrap the carbon price and increased spending by tens of billions of dollars on a parental leave scheme. 

Here in the ACT, we've seen the ACT Treasurer bring down a budget yesterday which is worse off to the tune of $375 million as a result of cuts by the Abbott Government. Canberra, as a city, has been as hard hit as any other part of Australia. Tony Abbott broke his pledge to cut no more than 12,000 public servants. Now 16,500 public service jobs are gone and $375 million ripped out of schools and hospitals here in the ACT.

Finally, I wanted to make a point about the impact of some of the Abbott Government cuts on the enforcement of our tax and corporate laws. We've had Greg Medcraft make clear that ripping millions of dollars out of ASIC is going to make it harder to catch wrongdoers, more reliant on tip offs and less able to do investigation. At the tax office, the loss of 3,000 officers is going to mean that the ATO is unable to crack down on tax cheats. It stands to reason that you take police officers off the beat, you can expect more crime. Frankly, there hasn't been a better time to be a corporate fraudster or tax dodger than under the Abbott Government. I'm happy to take questions.

REPORTER: In regards to Scott Morrison's questions there with PEFO, we've got Joe Hockey saying there was still a dire situation with that debt level. Isn't it a sign that Labor could not get rid of the debt in the long term? 

LEIGH: Internationally, Australia's debt share of GDP is very low. But if you're concerned about deficits, then you'd be especially concerned about a budget that's increased the deficit. The deficit now compared to the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, Scott Morrison's yardstick, is larger in 2013-14, larger in 2014-15 and larger over the next four years. This is a Government that has increased the deficit. Essentially that's because they have redistributed resources from the least well off to the most well off.

REPORTER: If the Budget is so bad, why won't Labor join with Andrew Wilkie… [inaudible]?  

LEIGH: I just talked about the impact on the ACT and I’m certainly not going to be voting to have the pay of public servants cut off. Labor will fighting hard against the measures of this government that hit vulnerable Australians. The broken promises and the cuts to health, education and pensions. But we are not going to prevent public servants getting paid, they are not going to be pawns in a political game.

REPORTER: The Lowy Institute said today that a survey shows 71 per cent of Australians support the turning back of asylum seeker boats. Does that indicate Tony Abbott… [inaudible]?

LEIGH: We've seen very clearly the drop off of asylum seeker arrivals was due to the refugee resettlement plan; an approach which was harsh to those asylum seekers who were taken to Manus and Nauru, but resulted in a 90% drop in asylum seeker arrivals before the election. 

REPORTER: But the concept of the turn back policy itself, Australians don't mind the idea?

LEIGH: It's very clear that the tow-back policy is a thorn in the side of our relations with Indonesia. This is a vital relationship for Australia but one which the Abbot government has been trashing for the cause of political expedience. This relationship with Indonesia is in a parlous state and striking appropriate agreements while Mr Abbott is in Jakarta is critical.

REPORTER: Has he shown restraint in not making known concern about… [inaudible]?

LEIGH: I wish Mr Abbott would not only show restraint but build international relationships with our most important neighbours. The policies Mr Abbott has pursued were known before the election to be offensive to Indonesia, and his government has continued to pursue them, knowing full well the damage they were doing to one of our most important diplomatic relationships.

Thanks everyone.

ENDS


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