MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: Braddon and Longman by-elections; Newspoll; Corporate tax cuts; Labor’s economic plan.
KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me now the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Thanks very much for your time. Obviously I spoke to Bill Shorten earlier, he's very happy this morning understandably given how much was at stake that week on Saturday, the Super Saturday by-elections.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: As he should be. Bill campaigned extraordinarily hard, particularly in Braddon and Longman but also in Mayo, Perth and Fremantle. We've seen this result not only a reinforcement of Bill's positive plan but also an utter repudiation of Malcolm Turnbull and Turnbullnomics. This idea that a big company tax cut is going to be good for the Australian economy has been rejected by many economists and now rejected by thousands of Australian voters.
GILBERT: Are you reassured that even though the Newspoll, another reminder today that Mr Shorten, at least in the popularity stakes remains unpopular, he's unsatisfied rating is 57%. But we had a real election at the weekend, people were putting ballots in ballot boxes and as he pointed out this morning, he won four or five.
LEIGH: Absolutely, and Malcolm Turnbull has -
GILBERT: They'll vote for an unpopular leader is the point.
LEIGH: The challenge of an Opposition Leader as we have discussed in the past is that you are both the chief critic and the alternative Prime Minister. Bill Shorten has done a great job of uniting the team around a set of positive policies. Malcolm Turnbull has had one big economic idea since he became Prime Minister, and that was the big end of town company tax cut. If they're going to dump that, they should dump Malcolm Turnbull along with it.
GILBERT: Do you have to rework your own commitments off the back of any decision to scrap the company tax cuts at the $35 billion or thereabouts over 10 years? Because you've repurposed it for your own spending initiative?
LEIGH: Our campaign commitments are carefully costed, we've worked through commitments which would allow us to spend more on schools and hospitals, provide more generous personal income tax cuts to most Australians and pay down debt faster than the Coalition.
GILBERT: But if they change that position, you won't have that envelope to work with, you can see that wouldn't you?
LEIGH: Obviously you make decisions based on the budget numbers available to you, Kieran. We've been very careful working with the Parliamentary Budget Office in how we do this. We've said we will close a range of loopholes around family trusts, negative gearing, and the capital gains tax discount. We've made more hard economic calls than any opposition in living memory. That has been driven by Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, the whole economic team. What Australia needs is an opposition that is ready to govern. And right now what we have is a government that looks for all intents and purposes ready to be in opposition.
GILBERT: So if they were to shelve, it's a hypothetical but if they were to shelve that remaining component of the corporate tax plan you would then deal with it at that point? Is that basically the position?
LEIGH: We're ready for that but is the Liberal Party ready for that? Then they're left for a lame duck leader whose one big economic idea has been repudiated. Malcolm Turnbull doesn't have a suite of economic policies -
GILBERT: He's got some of it through, up to $50 million turnover.
LEIGH: Absolutely and that small and medium sized business company tax cut has been supported. Malcolm Turnbull doesn't have a single policy to boost a single wage in Australia. While Labor has been talking about the challenges of labour hire agreements and penalty rate cuts, Malcolm Turnbull has just been standing up for the big end of town saying that millionaires and multinationals are his priority. Bill Shorten campaigned for middle Australia, and that result has been resoundingly supported in the by-elections.
GILBERT: Has this shut down any threat to Mr Shorten's leadership once and for all?
LEIGH: I was never concerned about that and certainly there is no question of it today.
GILBERT: Yep that was his view as well as articulated this morning. Does it send a message to your colleagues who might have been agitating?
LEIGH: Labor is united around Bill Shorten, somebody who has brought us from a significant election defeat in 2013 back to not just be strong in the polls, but much more importantly to be strong in the policy offerings. To be able to say to voters, here's how we'd improve your schools, here's how we make sure every kid with the smarts to go to university gets a place, here's how we'd restore penalty rates, here is how we'd put in place a National Integrity Commission - something that the Turnbull Government has been failing to act on. So there's a series of policy areas where we've worked extremely hard and you'll see more positive policies coming from our side.
GILBERT: He flagged that at the weekend. What sort of areas in broad terms should we be focused on in that sense because you've looked at property and family trusts and so on, dividend imputation? Where else is there scope?
LEIGH: Speaking in my own space, I think there is more to be done on closing multinational tax loopholes and making sure we've got a more competitive Australian economy. I worry that we've got an economy here where more than half of our industries are dominated by just a handful of big firms. We need to make sure we have less monopoly power and more opportunities for start-ups to thrive. With our start-up rate falling and mergers at an all-time high, that's reflected in these big CEO pay rises - CEOs being the only group in Australia whose wages seem to be consistently outpacing inflation.
GILBERT: But in terms of those loopholes, where specifically?
LEIGH: Well there's been important work done by the OECD looking at some of the areas that we can close down. We'll have more to say in that space. Labor has always led the debate on multinational profit shifting. The Coalition keeps attacking our plans to close debt deduction loopholes, to require more transparency. We need to make sure that Australia is a leader in that space – not a laggard.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, appreciate it as always. Thanks.
LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.