Productivity is central to Australia's challenges - Transcript, Sky News

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
TELEVISION INTERVIEW
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
FRIDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2019

SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese’s economic vision statement; the economy; Westpac.

ANNELISE NIELSEN: Now for a check in on what's happening in politics we're joined live by Andrew Leigh from the Labor Party. Andrew thank you for your time.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Absolute pleasure. 

NIELSEN: Now the big discussion today is this vision statement from Anthony Albanese. He's talking about the economic vision for the Labor Party now. What's your new focus?

LEIGH: Productivity is central to Australia's challenges. We've seen 95 per cent of Australian firms barely grow their productivity since the Sydney Olympics and the best 5 per cent of our firms falling off the global productivity frontier. Economists used to talk about capital deepening as a way of growing productivity but we're actually seeing now capital shallowing. We've got growth fragile, unemployment on the rise. Retail sales are sluggish, a real worry coming into the Christmas season. But underlying all of that Annelise, is the challenge of getting productivity growth going again in Australia.

NIELSEN: Now there's some quite specific focus focuses here including in infrastructure and skills. It's quite a firm statement from Anthony Albanese to be saying what he wants to focus on here.

LEIGH: Sure is. And it contrasts with the Coalition's approach to productivity. Their idea of productivity is it's all about cutting, cut the environmental regulations, cut wages, cut working conditions. The Labor idea is it's about investing, investing in individuals, invest in institutions, invest in infrastructure, grow things and so we're seeing more well-paying jobs and more innovation. We've seen a fall in the business startup rates since the early 2000s when it was around 14 per cent a year, now it's fallen down to 11 per cent a year. Job switching is down, Australian management quality is below that of many comparable countries. So we've got to do more on this big productivity challenge.

NIELSEN: Now if Labor's happy to say that we want to invest more in NBN, that's quite specific infrastructure, why not just completely underscore your policy on franking credits? Why not just say it's off the table? 
 
LEIGH: We'll announce our policies for the 2022 election when we come into that election. But we've only just lost this year's election. We'll take our time to put together a set of policies that are right for the circumstances.

NIELSEN: Is there any appetite in Labor to keep that policy though?

LEIGH: We'll review all of our policies as you do after an election loss. We've just announced the most significant election review that any party has announced after an election loss. Baring our soul, going through the mistakes we made. That's an important process of rebuilding and Anthony Albanese through these vision statements is laying out the scope and the focus that he wants Labor to have over this term. 
 
NIELSEN: What's your opinion on franking credits? Do you think you should keep them as a policy? 
 
LEIGH: All of this will be discussed over the course of the next few years. What Anthony is talking about today though is the challenge of productivity which is vital at a time when the Reserve Bank is running out of room on monetary policy and when the Federal Government's barely willing to do anything on fiscal policy. What's left? Well structural reform. But it’s got to be structural reform that tackles inequality, structural reform that builds people up rather than tearing things down.

NIELSEN: So you don't have an opinion on franking credits?

LEIGH: I'll express my opinions internally but the challenge that Anthony is laying out today is I think a much more central one for Australia. We've got to get this productivity piece right, Annelise. If we do it, the prospects for Australia are massive. We're able with a more productive nation not just to grow wages but to be more generous to the unemployed, to be more generous to people overseas, to do more in tackling climate change and investing in renewables. Productivity is the heart of so many of Australia's challenges which is why it's so disturbing we've had this productivity slump since 2013.

NIELSEN: And just quickly Westpac, the board is meeting this morning. People were really hoping for some kind of accountability, the Prime Minister said that as well for this huge money laundering issue. Do you think Brian Hartzer needs to go?

LEIGH: It's a shocking scandal in Australia's oldest bank and it's absolutely vital that the bank assesses what went wrong. It's up to them to decide the positions of the CEO and senior management. But I think all Australians are shaking their head and saying how could you let this happen. It's just appalling. 
 
NIELSEN: Does someone need to go over this? 
 
LEIGH: Again that's a question for the board. I am personally appalled by what has happened. I hope the regulators throw the book at them. This is a serious breach.
 
NIELSEN: Andrew Leigh, thank you for your time.
 
LEIGH: Thank you.
 
ENDS


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.