PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 11 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Budget; The invisible Treasurer; Childcare
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning everyone. I'm concerned, as we go into this Budget, that the Government hasn't learned the lessons of last year. It hasn't begun to think of vulnerable Australians as anything more than just a line on the balance sheet. Last year, the Budget was hurting young jobless people and pensioners. This year, if the pre-Budget speculation is anything to go by, we're looking at a Budget that's going to make life harder for families and maybe even for pregnant mums. It's not much of a Mother's Day present for women around Australia to discover that Tony Abbott has moved from wanting to deliver a gold-plated parental leave scheme, to saying that he'll leave things alone, to now saying he's going to make parental leave worse. Meanwhile, Joe Hockey is a bit like the star of Weekend At Bernie's - just being propped up by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, unable to go out there and sell his Budget. Can anyone really imagine that Paul Keating, Peter Costello or Wayne Swan would have been sidelined in the way that Joe Hockey has throughout this Budget process? Australians gain confidence from a Treasurer who clearly understands the economy and is able to convey that Budget message. But at the moment, many of them are shaking their heads. Joe Hockey says that he is going to be handing down a Budget tomorrow night that's Tony Abbott's Budget, not his. Happy to take questions.
ABBOTT GOVERNMENT HURTING FAMILIES BUT LETTING MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES OFF THE HOOK
Tony Abbott’s refusal to accept Labor’s plan to make multinational companies pay their fair share of tax shows his Government’s priorities are all wrong.
Labor has developed a sensible package of multinational tax measures that will return $7.2 billion to Australia over the next 10 years.
The Abbott Government has been dragged kicking and screaming by Labor into acknowledging that multinational tax avoidance is a problem for Australia.
Now, it is preparing to hand down a budget filled with smoke-and-mirrors tax measures in an effort to save Tony Abbott’s job.
FRIDAY, 1 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: marriage equality; Indonesia; keeping the Department of Immigration in Belconnen
MARK PARTON: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has rejected his deputy's call to force Labor MPs and Senators to support same sex marriage. Tanya Plibersek wants the ALP members of parliament made to follow the party's policy and vote for gay marriage. Labor currently allows a conscience vote on the issue in parliament and some Labor MPs are considering whether they would cross the floor over the issue and risk expulsion from the party. Bill Shorten said that while he supports same sex marriage, colleagues who do not should not be made to vote for it. We were talking about this earlier in the week and I'm going to get Andrew Leigh to join the conversation now. He's the Member for Fraser in the north of Canberra, g'day Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH: ACTING SHADOW TREASURER: G'day Mark, how are you?
PARTON: Excellent. It just astounds me that if we could ask all Australians today whether they support same sex marriage, I'm supremely confident that they would say yes. And I don't understand why our parliament can't get over this hurdle. Talk to me.
LEIGH: It is really strange, isn't it Mark? Because you think back – and I remember well when we had the last vote, because my third son was born on that day, 19 September, 2012 – since then we've had the UK Government and the New Zealand Government, both run by conservatives, embrace same sex marriage. A majority of Americans now live in states where same sex couples can get married, and the US Supreme Court is currently considering a case as to whether to make it national. So the mood has shifted a lot on this. What has surprised me is that the Australian Parliament could, at one stage, have been a leader. Now we'll end up being towards the back of the pack in accepting same sex marriage when it inevitably happens.
HOCKEY SPENDS $11 MILLION OF YOUR MONEY ON A COALITION AD CAMPAIGN
Joe Hockey must end his taxpayer-funded Budget advertising campaign today after new revelations the Liberal Government has wasted more than $11 million on TV, radio, online and billboard ads.
Having poured millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into the advertising campaign selling their flawed and politicised Intergenerational Report, it seems the age of entitlement is over for everyone except Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.
This is an absurd waste of money – and includes the fee paid to Dr Karl Kruszelnicki to act as the public face of the campaign.
Now Dr Karl says he is so concerned about how flawed this report is he wants nothing to do with it. He feels so strongly about it that he’s promised to give away his entire fee.
Why is taxpayers’ money being wasted on an ad campaign when even the star of the show says it should end?
Tax and the art of semantic contortion, Chifley Research Centre, 30 April
‘Fairness’ is a word that’s been getting a pretty heavy workout since the Abbott Government handed down its first budget almost a year ago.
The Australian community and Labor have responded with one voice to say that the government’s plans for health, education, pensions and more were not fair. I don’t have that many words of praise for Joe Hockey’s first crack at the national books. But the Budget certainly did a good job of reinforcing how much Australians prize the egalitarian social compact this country was founded on.
What’s more, the Budget backlash revealed that Australians share a deeply-held understanding of what is and isn’t fair. For all our differences in lifestyles, backgrounds and habits, the majority of us agree that taking the most from those with the least doesn’t qualify. Although we may support different footy teams or tune in to different TV programs, we are united in believing that sharing the load between business and families, and between high-income earners and low, sure does.
That’s why it’s been puzzling to see Joe Hockey and his supporters attempting the redefine fairness with the tax discussion paper. Having muddled the definition of a regressive tax when he was raising fuel taxes, the Treasurer now wants us to stop asking whether particular taxes are regressive or how much the poorest pay compared to the better-off.
Increasing financial literacy among young people is really important. That's why I was pleased to contribute to The Wealth Academy's latest edition of Teenfinca magazine.
The Economics of Today, Teenfinca
In an experiment on food choices, students were asked to choose between some free junk food or a free piece of fruit. Half chose junk food, and half chose fruit. They were then asked to come back a week later. Upon their return, they were asked whether they would like to switch their choice. Hardly anyone who’d chosen junk food switched to fruit, but two thirds of those who’d said fruit switched to junk food on the day. As the old joke goes: what’s the best day to start a diet? – Tomorrow.
One of the fundamental ideas of economics is the notion of discount rates, meaning that we value things less when they are further away in time. If you offer me $100 now or $100 in a year’s time, it’s reasonable that I’d prefer the money now. Even if I didn’t want to spend it, I could put it in the bank or buy some shares, and the money would be likely to be worth more tomorrow.
But in recent years, economists have noticed something odd about how people discount the future. The difference between today and tomorrow seems to be treated differently from any other one-day delay. For example, if I ask you to choose between $10 in ten days’ time or $11 in eleven days’ time, you’ll probably wait the extra day. But you’re more likely to opt for $10 today over $11 tomorrow. In both cases, the deal is the same – a day’s delay buys you another dollar. But the magic of ‘now’ is often too tempting to refuse.
LABOR’S TAX INVESTMENT PAYING DIVIDENDS
Evidence at the Senate’s inquiry into multinational profit shifting shows Labor’s major investment in tax office compliance is getting results.
In the 2013-14 Budget, our government gave the Australian Tax Office $109 million to increase compliance checks on offshore marketing hubs and business restructures.
It is this compliance program which has led to BHP being handed a $522 million tax adjustment after an investigation by the tax office.
More audits of offshore marketing hubs are currently underway thanks to Labor's program. Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has told the inquiry he expects to issue further tax adjustments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 27 APRIL 2015
SUBJECT/S: Scott McIntyre; pension assets test; marriage equality.
CALLUM DENNESS: Joining me now is Labor member for Fraser in the ACT and Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Callum.
DENNESS: Now we saw SBS presenter Scott McIntyre sacked over the weekend for tweets that were labelled by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as offensive, inappropriate and despicable. Do you think it's fair that someone has lost their jobs for airing an opinion that was controversial?
LEIGH: Ultimately this will come down to the employment contract that the particular journalist has with SBS, but I do think that the tweets were offensive and were wrong.
DENNESS: No irony here that some of the people most outraged by these tweets were some of the same people that were involved in the 18C debate?
LEIGH: I think it is important to remember, on the issue of free speech, that the rubber hits the road when you're talking about opinions with which you disagree or find distasteful. That's separate from the question as to what a particular employment relationship was, but I do think we want to make sure that we've got space in the broad Australian public debate for a wide range of views.
HOCKEY’S TAX CONTORTIONS CAN’T HIDE LACK OF PLAN
Joe Hockey is still flailing around looking for a plan to tackle multinational tax avoidance with only weeks to go to the Budget.
When Labor announced our $7.2 billion package to ensure multinationals pay their fair share by targeting debt loading and deductions, the Treasurer dismissed it within hours.
Yet today Mr Hockey seems to have had a change of heart, with reports the budget may include measures to stop companies loading debt into their Australian operations.
This would be a clear acknowledgement from the Treasurer that Labor has had it right all along.
Speech to the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute Conference
Australian National University
Thanks for having me here today. It’s great to see the positive influence that the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute (TTPI) is having in its short life. I’m reliably informed by my staff that TTPI Director Miranda Stewart has been at every tax event that they have attended since I started my term as Shadow Assistant Treasurer. I’m not sure whether to feel sorrier for Miranda or for my staff.
It’s great to be in a room full of people who are excited by tax policy as I am. It’s not always an easy topic to get people excited about, and this challenge is by no means unique to me. I read with interest in Crikey last week that the ATO has commissioned BuzzFeed to come up with some funny tax stories. Their efforts so far have included ‘Your Superannuation Explained, But With Dogs’ complete with hilarious dog gifs. I doubt it’s going to win BuzzFeed a Walkley, but I respect the ATO’s willingness to try new things to get people interested in their tax affairs.
I’d like to speak briefly today about where I think tax reform is up to currently in Australia, my views on ways forward and finally an update on the opposition’s tax policy process. I hope you’ll find it interesting, even if my remarks are not accompanied by any LOLcats.
I’m going to keep my remarks relatively free of political commentary, but tax is inherently political, so I hope you will indulge me if at times I sound a little less like an economics professor and a little more like Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer.