RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
THURSDAY, 5 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Intergenerational Report
PATRICIA KARVELAS: To discuss today's Intergenerational Report from the Labor party's perspective, we're now joined by Dr Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Welcome to the program.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Patricia. Good to be with you.
KARVELAS: Now Labor says this is a political document, but isn't that the point of an Intergenerational Report, as Mathias Cormann has just explained? He said they are released by the Treasurer, and he conceded that there is an element of a political case being established about what the alternative would be if there was a different government elected.
LEIGH: I don't think that is the purpose of the Intergenerational Report, Patricia. I certainly don't deny that there's a role for politics in some forms of public conversation. But the way in which Peter Costello – to give him his due – envisaged the Intergenerational Report was to talk about those big multi-generational challenges. There's some parts of the Intergenerational Report that I think make interesting reading. There's a useful discussion of the drivers of health spending, for example, but then there's so much of it that seems to be painfully partisan and which is misrepresenting the trajectory that Australia would have been on under Labor. The IGR has not used the independent Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which is the right baseline to use at the change of government, but instead used as the Labor baseline Joe Hockey's first budget update, which included the $9 billion he gave to the Reserve Bank and the $1 billion handed back to multinationals. By misrepresenting what Labor would have done, you're then having a debate which is not based on the facts but which is based on pure rhetoric.
KARVELAS: But isn't this a document which is prepared by Treasury, as you know, and which says we're not on track to pay for our future as the population ages. That's something that we have to deal with, isn't it?
LEIGH: I think it is absolutely vital that we make reasonable savings. For example, that’s why Labor put in place a means test on the Private Health Insurance Rebate. One of the surprising things about the Intergenerational Report is that the Coalition's policy is to remove that means test, which would cost $100 billion by 2050 but they don't include that in their modelling. To give you another example, Labor has put in place a plan to see multinationals pay their fair share of tax – you and I spoke about that earlier this week. That's not in the Intergenerational Report in the estimate of what would have happened under Labor. It's an Intergenerational Report which includes the GP tax, which the government says is dead, buried and cremated – that should give people a clue that the GP tax really does remain government policy. Mathias is absolutely right when he talks about the importance of growth for equity. But you don't support Australia's targeted social safety net by things like taking off the means test on the Private Health Insurance Rebate or putting in place an unfair paid parental leave scheme that gives the most to those who have the most.
KARVELAS: The ALP has said that the Coalition has not consulted with Australians about its policies – isn't that exactly what it's doing now? Making a case based on the numbers provided by Treasury about where things are at in the next 40 years? They're making a pretty strong case, you'd have to concede, for major fiscal reform. Now there may be a debate around the types of policies but broadly we do need a refinement of the way we're managing the budget, don't we?
LEIGH: Patricia, consultation involves not just talking but also listening. I worry that too often with this government they're not listening to the feedback they're getting. It took them a long time to even recognise that a GP tax would be a bad idea. Last year's budget, if you were a poor, single parent, took away one-tenth of your income. But if you were a rich single then you ended up being better off. After a generation of rising inequality, that's got it exactly backwards. This is a government which is cutting the wages of the cleaners who clean their offices while also giving $1 billion back to multinationals. If they want real consultation, Patricia, I don't think they want to be putting in place a million-dollar taxpayer funded advertising campaign for the Intergenerational Report. I think they need to start listening to people like pensioners and GPs, and vulnerable groups like the Women's Legal Centre in the ACT which is having its funding cut under this government. They're the sort of groups that are really hurting as a result of some of the unfair decisions this government has made.
KARVELAS: Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time today.
LEIGH: It's a pleasure, Patricia.