WEDNESDAY, 4 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: Braddon by-election; Corporate tax cuts; National Energy Guarantee.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Just on this lunch or consultation with the Chamber of Commerce in the seat of Braddon, Labor wants to correct the record here saying it hasn't been cancelled, there is still a lunch going ahead and there's been quite a good response for a breakfast tomorrow. Seeing as Labor wants to make sure that there's no sense of a backlash here after the company tax debate last week.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, there's no shortage of people wanting to engage with Bill, whether it's in the community or in the business sector. He's holding business events at lunch today and breakfast tomorrow and a town hall meeting tonight. That will be about 70 town hall meetings that Bill has held since Malcolm Turnbull became leader. I've got to say that Malcolm Turnbull hasn't held 70 town hall meetings.
GILBERT: You can understand why there'd be some sort of annoyance within that cohort of businesses, small and medium sized businesses when initially Mr Shorten had said all tax cuts legislated up until a $10 billion turnover were going. You can understand why there would be some sort of level of backlash.
LEIGH: 99.8 per cent of businesses are getting a tax cut under Labor, the ones that have been legislated. Plus they also get the benefits of the Australian Investment Guarantee, allowing a 20 per cent write off in the first year of capital investment over $20,000. Victoria University experts say that has three times the impact on investment for the economy than a company tax cut. So we're offering those better company tax cuts, we're offering more generous personal income tax cuts for most Australians, more investment in schools and hospitals and we'll pay down the debt faster.
GILBERT: That's a decent argument but if that was made last week when Bill Shorten first dropped that information but it might have been a bit more compelling, is that right?
LEIGH: We've been making that argument consistently.
GILBERT: But the way it was done last week was a bit more ad-hoc than it was just seen as being reneging on the tax cuts legislated with no counterargument. If you'd done it more in a planned way it would have been managed better wouldn't it?
LEIGH: I'll leave those sort of questions to the commentators. The fact is that Labor has a strong record of economic management. We brought Australia through the Global Financial Crisis without a recession, we made tough decisions around taxation in order to make sure that we can invest wisely in Australia's prosperity.
GILBERT: Why did you think the economics team, and you're part of it, why was there the view initially that you should revoke those tax cuts for businesses with turnovers of beyond $10 million a year, what was the economic view on that?
LEIGH: Kieran, it's always a matter of getting the balance right. One of the challenges that we have now is that net debt has doubled under the Liberals. We've got debt rising faster now than it was during the Global Financial Crisis. So Labor is concerned about fiscal discipline. It's important that we pay down that debt, so we're ready when the next crisis comes along to be able to respond appropriately as we did in the last downturn, saving 200,000 jobs and tens of thousands of businesses.
GILBERT: In the broader economic sense though, what would be the idea of cutting the threshold to $10 million, is it simply being prudent in spending? What was the initial thinking on that? If one company with a $9 million should get the tax cut, why wouldn't you give that tax cut to a business with a turnover of $11 million a year?
LEIGH: I'm not going go into all the ins and outs of our internal conversations. Obviously we work these things through carefully and methodically. Chris Bowen, Jim Chalmers and Bill Shorten are incredibly careful as we work through this with the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. We've got more policy out there than any other opposition in living memory. We've carefully costed each of those policies.
GILBERT: Onto the issue of Tony Abbott's comments on the Paris Climate Accord, he is hardening up his position and says Australia should pull out of Paris and then if he'd known then what he knows now then he wouldn't have signed up in the first place. That's been repudiated pretty strongly this morning by the Foreign Minister saying that it was a definite deal, it was concrete and there's no backing out. Are you reassured by that coming from the senior levels of the Government through Julie Bishop?
LEIGH: I don't think even Tony Abbott's best friends would say that consistency is one of his key character traits. The main thing that is hurting coal at the moment isn't environmentalists, it's economics. The fact is that we know now that 70 per cent of our coal fired power stations are operating beyond their planned life. When you look at the cost per megawatt hour, new solar and wind plants are about half the cost of new coal plants. That's why Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that we'll produce about half our energy from renewables by the mid-2030s. That's why the rest of the world is moving to these combinations of demand management and renewables. Those of us who look at evidence are really struck by the big changes in the cost of renewables over recent years and the way in which technology is making those solutions far more attractive. We've got a great future as a renewable energy superpower, Kieran. We don't want to throw that away to be the ‘rust belt of Asia’ as my friend Pat Conroy puts it.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, we're out of time. I appreciate your time, thanks for that.
LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.