ABC NEWS RADIO
WEDNESDAY, 3 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: The Budget.
SANDY ALOISI: To get an Opposition reaction, I'm joined now by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Andrew Leigh, good morning. Welcome to the program.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: G’day, Sandy. Great to be with you.
ALOISI: Well, the Coalition has forecast a surplus for next year. It's taken the Coalition some time to get here. But you've got to acknowledge this is good news for Australia.
LEIGH: This is a Coalition that promised in 2013 that they would never use the national credit card. Then after six years of using it, of doubling the total debt, they're now promising that if you vote for them again they'll finally put the national credit card back in the wallet. During that period, debt has risen so it's now nearly $15,000 for every Australian. That's the Coalition's record on debt.
ALOISI: If you think back though to Wayne Swan, a previous federal treasurer, you'll remember that he announced a series of surpluses that never eventuated.
LEIGH: Which is what's happening tonight. This is a projected surplus. The difference between Wayne Swan and Josh Frydenberg was Wayne Swan was staring down the biggest global crisis since the Great Depression. Josh Frydenberg has simply no excuse for the appalling way in which the Liberals have managed the nation's finances. I mean, they've got this surplus - a quarter of it is based on underspending on people with disabilities. You've seen a massive increase in corporate tax take, due in part to unexpected events such as the mine disaster in Brazil which drove demand for our iron ore exports.
ALOISI: Let's take a look at the centrepiece of this budget - the tax rebates for more than four million Australians. The Treasurer could get parliament to try to pass them later today. Will Labor support them?
LEIGH: We’ll certainly support tax cuts in the next term for people earning under $125,000. It's terrific that the government's finally caught up with Labor on tax for middle income Australia. We argued at the last budget that there should be more tax relief for middle Australia. The Government voted against that on the floor of the House. They've unfortunately left out people earning under $40,000. If we're fortunate enough to be elected, we'll go about fixing that. But for the government to be doing something for middle Australia for a change, that's good news.
ALOISI: So Labor will support those tax cuts if they come to the Parliament today?
LEIGH: We'll support tax relief in the next term of Parliament for people earning under $125,00 - so that's 10 million Australians. We believe that they deserve to be paying lower taxes. It's also important to recognize what the Government's done. Having voted against Labor's bigger, better, fairer tax cuts last year, they now want to deliver tax cuts at the very end of the financial year. So you don't get the growth benefits that come from lower taxes, where people know through the work year that they're paying a lower rate of tax. It's a surprise cash handout done only for political reasons, not for the economic benefits that you can get from sensibly designed tax cuts.
ALOISI: Well, let's take a look of what Labor's saying. You say the Liberals are prioritizing the top end of town over schools and hospitals, but on hospitals if you take that as an example, Josh Frydenberg says funding will exceed $130 billion over the next five years. That's not insignificant.
LEIGH: The government has been cutting away at that health spending. I mean, over the course of their time in office you've seen billions of dollars cut out of hospitals-
ALOISI: Now they’re going to put back $130 billion.
LEIGH: After six years of cuts, they want you to believe that over the next six weeks there will be an entirely different government. But a leopard doesn't change its spots. This government has put in place a Medicare freeze, they've been cutting money out of hospitals - you see it in the elective and emergency surgery waiting times blowing out. Australians know that our health system can be better. Rather than aiming to have the biggest tax loopholes in the world, it would be great if we had a government that aimed for having the best health system in the world.
ALOISI: Let's take a look at energy then. Labor says there is no plan to tackle power prices, but this budget provides millions of dollars in payments to help Australians with their energy bills. Also given the green light to the Snowy 2.0 project. Will that not help bring down power prices?
LEIGH: Snowy 2.0 relies on having significant investment in renewable energy and what's a real problem for it is if the National Party neanderthals get their way and are able to get taxpayer dollars going into funding last century's technology: coal fired power plants. The fact is that Labor's got a very strong offering on energy. If we win office, we’ll take to the Coalition their own policy of a National Energy Guarantee, which they themselves said would reduce power prices for the average household by $550 a year. We’ll invest in our electric vehicles, where currently Australia is at the back of the advanced world and we need to speed our way through the pack and get the adoption of those clean green vehicles. We’ll double the investment in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will see more investment in renewables and in the firming technology that makes those renewable stable.
ALOISI: So where is all the money going to come from to fund those programs?
LEIGH: We made a series of tough decisions around closing multinational tax loopholes and stopping people using tax havens. The Coalition had nothing on multinational tax avoidance in last night's Budget, apart from an extension of a taskforce which will enforce Labor laws that they voted against in 2012 and 2013. We've got an ambitious plan that sees Australia really start to crack down on the abuse of tax havens. Two-fifths of multinational profits are now being funnelled through tax havens. That's a massive hit to the Australian corporate tax base. We need to do something about corporate tax avoidance, but the Coalition would rather side with their mates in the big end of town than have a sensible plan to crack down on tax avoidance.
ALOISI: Andrew Leigh, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
LEIGH: Absolute pleasure.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.