SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
TUESDAY, 24 APRIL 2018
SUBJECTS: Debt reduction, Malcolm Turnbull’s zombie budget measures, health funding, Banking Royal Commission.
KIERAN GILBERT: I spoke to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh earlier this morning about this Newspoll that shows that debt reduction is a bigger priority for many of those surveyed. I asked is debt reduction still a major priority for Labor heading into this budget season.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Absolutely it’s a priority for us. As Wayne Swan said when he was treasurer, you can’t be Keynesians in the downturn and not be Keynesians in the upswing. It’s really important that we pay down that debts, but it becomes so much harder when you’ve got a government which is determined to maintain zombie cuts in the books, some $2 billion of cuts that in some cases they haven’t even put to parliament, in other cases they know they’re not going to pass parliament. Things like raising the pension age to 70. The government needs to be fair dinkum with the Australian people, take those zombie cuts out of the budget and show the true state of the books, and then they need to rethink their daft position on some of these tax breaks. We can’t continue to be the only country in the world that provides cash refunds on dividend imputation. We can’t continue to have this uniquely generous system of tax breaks for negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount that are blowing up the housing market and making housing unaffordable for young Australians. We can’t keep on maintaining the systems around trusts which create what Bill Shorten calls a two class tax system in which one group of people are able to avoid paying tax, and another group of people have to pay their PAYG out of every pay packet.
GILBERT: Apart from paying down debt, this Newspoll shows that the other big priority is spending on health and its well ahead of those that want individual tax cuts. Is that something that you should make a priority over income tax cuts? Because at this stage the expectation is that Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten and yourself will be pursuing quite extensive income tax cuts as a commitment ahead of the next election.
LEIGH: Kieran, if you close the tax loopholes, if you don’t give $65 billion big business tax cut, you’re going to manage to do both of these things. We know that one in three emergency room patients aren’t seen in time. We know it’s vital to fund our hospitals and our healthcare system more broadly. Catherine King’s been doing really important work about making sure that we have efficient funding back in place – that is what Labor did back in our last term in office – but the funding the Liberals ripped out of health really is showing in the statistics there. We can do a whole lot better in our health system and Catherine King, Bill Shorten and Labor are committed to doing that.
GILBERT: The Prime Minister and Finance Minister both conceded that it probably would have been better had they announced the royal commission soon rather than be dragged to announce it by the Labor Party. Now that you’ve got that concession, is it time to end the politics around this? To move on and try to work towards some compensating for victims out of these banking scandals? Because the fact remains that as you now, the banks are still a very important pillar of our economy.
LEIGH: Banking is critical to the economy. I don’t think these ‘sorry-not-sorry’ apologies have satisfied many Australians, who are asking themselves why was it that Malcolm Turnbull and his team stood for nearly two years opposing a royal commission. For Labor, it’s never been about the politics. It’s always been about the bank victims. People like Jacqueline McDowall, who was told by a major bank’s financial planner that she and her husband ought to sell their home and borrow $2 million to buy a bed and breakfast. She said she felt embarrassed and humiliated. She shouldn’t. It’s those who ripped her off that should feel embarrassed and humiliated. We need to–
GILBERT: But if it’s not about the politics, why not simply move on now? The royal commission is in place but it seems all the Labor Party is keen on doing at the moment is pointing the finger and blaming the government for the delay in delivering it. Now, the criticism is fine, you’ve made that. How about now you focus on that compensation you’re talking about?
LEIGH: It’s not just us. Many Australians are saying, ‘why is it the Turnbull Government wants bankers to apologies, but won’t apologise properly themselves?’ We do need to make sure we’ve got responses in place. Labor’s said firmly if the royal commission needs more time we’re happy to support an extension of its period of work. We’ve also said we think we need that compensation scheme in place. Compensation shouldn’t be paid by the taxpayer, it should be paid by the wrongdoers, and in this case it’s banks such as the one which was revealed yesterday to have not acted in the best interests of their clients one time out of twenty. These are extraordinary revelations coming out of the royal commission. We’ve got to get it under control, because banking is not just another industry. It’s the lifeblood of the economy. If it goes wrong, then small and medium businesses aren’t able to access the credit that they need to grow.
GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra