"Last week was the political equivalent of a smash-up derby." - Sky News AM Agenda





SUBJECT/S: Newspoll, Scott Morrison’s tax cut for big business.

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me this morning is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Just in terms of that point there, the 10 point support for Greens, 10 point support for One Nation, does it show as David and I have been suggesting that the two major parties are on the nose right now?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Kieran. I think it's always important for major parties to continue to press our case and to the question of bipartisanship Labor has worked constructively with the Government where we can see ways that are making fair budget savings. We've supported over $100 billion of savings where they were reining in payments going to people in the higher end of the spectrum. But that doesn't mean we need to support a GP co-payment, cuts to pensions, cuts to Medicare – those sorts of things run directly counter to Labor values and we've stood up on those. If you look at the Newspoll today I don't think it's a great surprise that after a week spent fighting for tax cuts for the top end of town and for penalty rate cuts for those working on Sundays and to weaken down racial hate laws that Malcolm Turnbull is on the nose for many Australians.

GILBERT: In the idea of that grand bargain notion between the major parties, I think that that would go down well for the vast bulk of the population wouldn't it? In areas where there are common interest here in terms of the two major parties and your view of the national interest?

LEIGH: Absolutely. And grand bargains matter most where what you're talking about is a policy that runs over decades. There probably couldn't be any more crucial policy to have grand bargain on than climate change. Yet we saw that grand bargain that Malcolm Turnbull almost struck in 2009 shattered under Tony Abbott. I thought we'd gotten it back at the start of the year with the Coalition  moving towards an emissions intensity scheme which would both bring down power costs for households by $200 a year and reduce carbon emissions. But again, that hope for a grand bargain was shattered – and there you've got a grand bargain supported by just about everyone except for the Coalition.

GILBERT: Let's look at the issue of business tax cuts, Ged Kearney from the ACTU said the union movement will be making the case against the tax cuts and the restoration of the tax rate for business right up until the next election, let's see what she said to Patricia Karvelas last night.

KEARNEY: We're certainly letting all our members know who are doing it really hard, who are facing a pay cut, whose wages haven't grown properly for years, who know that there is every likelihood that under this Government they may have to pay more for healthcare, that cost of living is going up but their wages won't that this Government prioritised business tax cuts over- 

KARVELAS: Will you ask Labor to restore the rate?

KEARNEY: We will campaign against the tax cuts, absolutely.

GILBERT: So Shadow Assistant Treasurer, what is your view now? Will you argue to restore them or not for those businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million a year?

LEIGH: Kieran what we saw last week was the political equivalent of a smash-up derby. Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull being willing to strike any deal they could whether it involved whacky sugar deals, whether it involved cuts to family payments with Nick Xenophon and the removal of the energy supplement. That was policy making of the worst kind. What the country doesn't need is an Opposition that just dives in at the end of that and says, “Well the car might have landed on its roof but we think that’s great and we'll keep it there.” We'll go through our internal processes – through shadow cabinet and caucus – we'll arrive at a considered position at the next election. Don't forget that we've held a consistent position on company tax cuts right through from the last budget saying that company tax cuts for the smallest 83 per cent of businesses were affordable but not for that top fifth of businesses. In negative gearing and capital gains tax again we've taken a clear policy and we've held that policy over a considerable period of time. That's what Australian politics needs.

GILBERT: You've also spent and banked the spend that the Government is going to put in the direction of company tax cuts, Labor has used those funds elsewhere, will you now have to find that commensurate savings over the forward estimates?

LEIGH: Kieran you're asking me the same question in a different form of words. We'll arrive at a careful considered position on company tax cuts well in advance of the next election. But I would say the Coalition now has to say how they will pay for this tax cut they rammed through Parliament last week? Are they going to be cutting Medicare, cutting education, cutting family payments? This is a tax cut with benefits which aren't quantified. Scott Morrison made very clear yesterday that they haven't done modelling on what half of their package delivers in terms of growth.

GILBERT: On the Labor policy, if you do keep the tax cuts in place do you at least concede that you would have to find upwards of $4 billion in savings elsewhere? Would you concede that that's the reality if you do keep them?

LEIGH: The costs of the tax cuts are what they are, Kieran. We're looking here at a package which is around $24 billion, according to the Government's numbers, shy of the $48 billion total package. The big question for the Government, bringing down their budget now is whether they're going to be committed to these big business tax cuts at a time when inequality is at a 75 year high, wage growth is at a 30 year low, company profits are up? Do we really need to be cutting taxes for the big banks in Australia when they're making record profits?

GILBERT: What's your reaction to the CFMEU saying they will sue whatever means necessary to oppose the building watchdog including not renegotiating agreements with some of the biggest builders in the nation, which could see those companies black-listed from federal projects and really hamper federal projects, would you urge caution and a rethink from the CFMEU?

LEIGH: Everyone should abide by the law of the land. In terms of individual strategic decisions made by firms or unions or community groups that's really up to them, Kieran. I'm not going to play these Peter Dutton games of getting angry at those who contribute to the public debate in ways that I disagree with. The position that businesses or unions take is entirely up to them.

GILBERT: But this is not a social policy, this is about the economy and as you say abiding by the law, it's not a contribution to the debate, it's potentially a breach of the new building code?

LEIGH: Well I've said clearly to you at the outset of my last answer, everyone should abide by the law. 

GILBERT: Andrew Leigh we're out of time, appreciate your time this morning.

LEIGH: Thank you, Kieran.



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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.