Gifts for the top, pain for the bottom in the Abbott Government's mini-budget





SUBJECT/S: Mini-Budget; Tony Abbott’s Christmas gift to multinationals; Cabinet reshuffle; Trade Unions Royal Commission; Andrew Crook

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: We've now got six days til Christmas, and it's very clear the Abbott Government's giveaways are for those at the top, not those at the bottom. They're trying to re-gift their GP tax - wrapping it up and hoping the Australian people won't notice - and they've still got their cuts to pensions, to health and education. Yet at the same time, in Monday's mini-budget Joe Hockey broke a promise to get tax back from multinational firms. He said very clearly in last year's mini-budget that he would fairly tax multinationals with a targeted anti-avoidance measure. But on Monday he broke that promise. Why is it that under this Government, the only presents are for those at the top, and all the pain is felt by those at the bottom? I think it's very clear that with only five sitting weeks left until the next Budget, this Budget already stinks worse than a plate of prawns left out in the Christmas sun. Australians are seeing the lack of consumer confidence that has come from a Treasurer talking down the economy, and behaving more like a Shadow Treasurer in drag than like someone who is responsible for a $1.6 trillion economy. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Cabinet reshuffle, and do you think Arthur Sinodinos has a place in the Government?

LEIGH: Well it's been 272 days now since Australia had a full-time Assistant Treasurer. I think it's clearly showing through Joe Hockey's many gaffes that Australia needs a full-time Assistant Treasurer. But you don't envy the Prime Minister, because there's plenty more ministers who have been naughty than nice. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think there should be more women in the Abbott Cabinet?

LEIGH: I think Australians would like to see a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of Australia. Simply having one woman in Cabinet puts us well back from where we've been in the last generation.

JOURNALIST: Who do you believe should be Assistant Treasurer?

LEIGH: Well that's a decision to be made by the Government, but you wouldn't exactly say that they're spoiled for choice.

JOURNALIST: Do you see this as a sign that the Government is in trouble? We've seen policy backflips in recent weeks, and now rumours of a reshuffle - is this a case of the Government trying to clear the slate and start next year better off in the polls?

LEIGH: I think this Government is in more trouble than a Santa Claus impersonator stuck down a chimney. It's got all kinds of strife going on, with ministers who think that there's a link between abortion and breast cancer, a Prime Minister who wants to campaign on knights and dames, and with a Treasurer who thinks it's ok to smoke cigars while handing down the most unfair Budget in political history. This is a Government that needs a fundamental reboot - not of its strategy, but out of office.

JOURNALIST: On another issue, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Interim Report of the Trade Union Commission - is that welcome to the ALP?

LEIGH: This is a political Royal Commission set up by the Abbott Government. I'm not going to be providing any commentary on it. 

JOURNALIST: Speaking of charges and possible arrests, Andrew Crook - Clive Palmer's chief media adviser - appears to have been detained by Queensland Police. That's a pretty extraordinary turn of events, don't you think?

LEIGH: There's a general principle that parliamentarians shouldn't comment on matters that are before the courts or could come before the courts, and this matter certainly seems to be in that category. Thanks everyone.



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