WEDNESDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government confusion over tax white paper; Revenue and spending; Women in politics.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks for coming along today. It's been reported that the tax white paper process is in jeopardy. This is a tax white paper which was announced before the 2013 federal election, and one that Tony Abbott promised would produce concrete policy proposals by 2016. There have been 18 people in the Treasury working on it, and five more in the Minister's office. There have been millions of dollars spent by business, community sector groups and the Treasury itself in preparing the tax white paper, and the Government has so far spent $650,000 publicising it. The suggestion that this tax white paper could be completely junked in a 'captain's call' from Malcolm Turnbull will be extraordinarily disappointing for the many Australians who participated in good faith in this tax white paper process.
I also want to make a couple of remarks about reports on the China Free Trade Agreement today. For all Malcolm Turnbull's statements about bipartisanship, he seems to have fallen disappointingly short when it comes to the China Free Trade Agreement. Labor's concerns about the China FTA are not around the trade portions of this agreement. This is, after all, an agreement that Labor helped to negotiate. All we're calling for is for proper labour market testing for projects over $150 million, making sure that we have proper safety and skills safeguards, and that we see foreign investment increasing Australian jobs and boosting wages – not reducing jobs and driving down wages. Happy to take any questions.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION? COMPANIES LIST IS ALREADY ONLINE
Today’s release of the IbisWorld Top 500 Private Companies list shows the Government’s arguments against tax transparency are simply a fig leaf for shielding big firms from scrutiny.
Under Australia’s existing transparency laws, the tax office is required to publish information about the income and tax paid for companies earning over $100 million. The first report is due out by December this year.
The Government has a bill before Parliament to gut these laws by carving out private companies. They argue the transparency requirements expose too much information about these firms.
TURNBULL AS BEREFT OF IDEAS AS TONY
The Turnbull Government has today shown that the policy vacuum of Tony Abbott’s leadership continues unabated.
Instead of seizing the day to progress important issues like marriage equality or violence against women, Malcolm Turnbull’s MPs wasted more than four hours of the Parliament’s time droning on about the Omnibus Repeal Day Bill 2015.
Speaker after speaker lined up to sing the praises of a Bill which replaces the term ‘reference base’ with ‘index reference period’ in 31 acts, and boldly updates ‘Chairman of Committees’ with the more PC ‘Chair of Committees’ in the Public Works Committee Act 1969.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey’s uncosted multinational tax plan; tax transparency; effects test.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks everyone for coming along today. Multinational tax avoidance has been a big issue in the Australian public eye this year. We know that many Australian firms and individuals do the right thing and pay their taxes. So they are justifiably outraged when they see reports about big multinationals not paying their fair share of tax. Today we saw Joe Hockey, after two years of bluff and bluster, announce a multinational package into the Parliament. It was a package so vague that his own Treasury can't cost it. Here's what the budget measure looked like in the budget: it's just a series of asterisks. No revenue estimates are attached to Mr Hockey's multinational tax package.
HOCKEY'S EMPTY TAX PLAN
Joe Hockey’s handling of multinational tax shows sadly why he’s likely to be dumped as Treasurer.
After over two years of bluster, Mr Hockey’s best effort is a policy so vague that the Treasury couldn’t even cost it.
His budget papers have a series of asterisks where there should be revenue estimates.
666 ABC CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Liberal leadership.
PHILIP CLARK: Andrew Leigh is the Labor Member for Fraser, he joins me this morning. Andrew, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Philp.
CLARK: Big day yesterday! Politics is exciting I know but did this take you by surprise?
LEIGH: It was pretty extraordinary, yes. As Malcolm Turnbull once put it during another leadership change of this kind, one of the most shocking events any of us have ever witnessed in politics.
CLARK: Yes, well. It's something of a mixed blessing for Labor. There's a lot of talk around Mr Turnbull's popularity and the plain fact is in poll terms, he is much more popular than Mr Abbott. That translates into electoral difficulty for Labor, doesn't it?
LEIGH: Philip, what ultimately matters is what is good for Australia. And if we can have a more sensible conversation about the future then I think that's terrific. Bill Shorten has been talking a lot about the need for jobs that transition beyond the investment phase of the mining boom. Investments in science, technology, engineering and maths are dealing with innovation, and we also need to make sure that we have policies to tackle the growing challenge of inequality. We're up for a policy-focused conversation, the question is whether Malcolm Turnbull is willing or able to move beyond the bad policies that have brought the Liberal Party to this point.
INVISIBLE AUSTRALIANS: PUTTING A SPOTLIGHT ON POVERTY
Address to the Anglicare National Congress
Every Thursday and Friday morning, Reverend Doug Newman and his team of volunteers at St Paul’s Church in Spence run the Helping Hand Food Pantry. Since 2007, the pantry has helped people in need access staple foods as well as fresh fruit and vegetables at low cost. Anyone who is struggling to afford their weekly grocery bill can stop by and stock up on food donated by local businesses and community groups. If you stop by one morning, you’ll see all sorts of people using the service. Single men in need of a shave, with their socks showing through the holes in their shoes. Neatly dressed mums with three kids in tow, carefully counting out their grocery budget. Seniors who’ve travelled an hour on the bus to get there and so make their pension stretch a bit further.
What’s striking about the Helping Hand Food Pantry is not that Reverend Newman and his team turn up rain, hail or shine to run it, or that Canberrans give so generously to support it – although both of these things are very laudable.
What’s really striking about this service is that it operates in a middle class suburb in one of the wealthiest cities in Australia. Even in a prosperous, white-collar place such as Canberra there are people who find it so hard to make ends meet that they rely on the Helping Hand Food Pantry to stretch their finances through the week.
These people have become almost invisible in our public debates. So today, I want to talk about the ‘invisible people’ in Australian public life – those living in poverty.
After a quarter of a century of economic growth in this country, there’s a sense that poverty isn’t a problem anymore in Australia. Or at least, we have come to believe that being poor is something that happens through catastrophe – like a debilitating accident or an all-encompassing addiction. We’re loath to admit that there are still structural inequalities in our society – inequalities which see some people struggle from their first day to their last simply because of the family they were born into.
Our complacency about this problem is partly explained by the fact that for many of us, poverty exists in our blind spots. Unlike in North American cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, our poorest communities ring the edges of our major cities instead of living in the centre. So you and I don’t have to drive through Struggle Street to get to the GPO. The poorest Australians can also be found in regional and remote Australia, in run-down places where industry long ago left town and tourism rarely reaches.
There’s also the fact that Australia has an extensive and well-targeted social safety net. With pensions, NewStart, family tax benefits and the other forms of support available through our welfare system, some people can’t quite understand how poverty can still be a problem.
But those of you here today know that poverty is still with us. People who struggle to keep themselves and their families fed, housed and clothed can be found across our cities, in big and small towns, and especially out bush. You work with them, you support them, you minister to them in hard times.
The theme of this conference is leaving no-one behind. If we are committed to that goal; if we believe all Australians can and should share in this nation’s prosperity, our good work must be backed up by policies and programs which aim to lift Australians out of poverty in a systematic way.
Later on in this speech I’ll have more to say about what some of those interventions might look like. But first I want to spend a few moments bringing the experiences of those living in poverty from our blind spot out into the spotlight.
Sharing is good but everyone needs a fair go, Herald Sun, 14 September
In March this year, I gave a speech about the rise of the sharing economy – new app-based services that are changing the way Australians buy and sell things. In this speech, I calculated that AirBNB, which had only operated here for two years, already listed one in 300 Australian homes for temporary rental.
It's a measure of how rapidly the sector is changing that in just the six months since I gave that speech, the share of Australian homes listed on AirBNB has risen to almost one in 200.
People right across the Australian community are now buying and selling things through the sharing economy. Whether it’s university students and stay-at-home mums finding jobs on Airtasker, retirees booking holidays with Camplify or families ditching the second car in favour of GoGet, these services are rapidly becoming part of our daily lives.
With so many of us using sharing economy services, it’s easy to forget that some of these still sit in a complicated grey area when it comes to rules and regulations. Our laws haven’t changed anywhere near as fast as these services have been growing.
FRIDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Unemployment figures; Abbott Government’s failure to plan for growth; Ministerial re-shuffle.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Marius.
BENSON: Just in broad terms, is it good news with the jobs figures?
LEIGH: I don't think we should spend a lot of time analysing movements in the unemployment rate that are well within its margin of error. But my concern more broadly is that the unemployment rate is still around the highest that it has been in 13 years and well above that of countries with which we compare ourselves, such as the UK and the United States. When the Abbott Government came to office the unemployment rate in Australia was a couple of points below where it was in the US and UK, and now it's about a point above those two countries. So our labour market is performing worse than theirs in absolute and relative terms.
BENSON: But if you look at the graphs of unemployment, the graph was heading down under Labor and continued to head down after the 2013 election. Now it's heading up, it's looking quite optimistic.
LEIGH: As I said, the unemployment rate – like opinion polls – is measured with a bit of error and yesterday's movement is well within that. But we do have figures which are the worst they've been in broad terms in 13 years. Youth unemployment is again sitting at around 14 per cent – that's one of the worst figures we've had in more than a decade. We know, Marius, that if we want to bring down the unemployment rate then we need growth probably above 3 per cent. Instead we've got growth of around 2 per cent and every quarter since the Abbott Government's first budget came down, the annual growth figures have been revised downwards. We did have growth around that 3 per cent level, now it's down around 2 per cent. If it gets worse and worse then it's going to be harder and harder to generate the jobs we need.
THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT’S “EXPORT AGREEMENT WITH CHINA”
The Abbott Government’s claim today that it had concluded an “Export Agreement with China” raises troubling issues about whether it has followed proper procedures.
As the Abbott Government undoubtedly knows, Export Agreements are contracts, arrangements or understandings that relate exclusively to the export of goods from Australia or the supply of services outside of Australia.
Export Agreements are listed as such on the ACCC website.