Government has a credibility deficit to go with their budget deficit - Transcript, ABC Radio Perth



SUBJECTS: Budget 2021.

NADIA MITSOPOLOUS, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.


MITSOPOLOUS: Does this budget, and the huge social investment, earn your praise?

LEIGH: Well, this is a trillion dollars of debt and so little to show for it, Nadia. You don't have the investment in climate change, you don't have proper solutions to aged care, such as the 24/7 nurses that the Royal Commission recommended, and you've got some real oddities. Roe 8 is still in the budget, costing $1.2 billion, despite the fact that the people of Western Australia have voted against it at the last two state elections. You don't have funding for a Headspace Centre in the Perth CBD. I was talking to Patrick Gorman this morning and he will continue to campaign strongly on that. He can't see why you'd be creating more Headspace Centres and not putting one in the Perth CBD. The budget doesn't tell us how much Christian Porter spent on supporting Clive Palmer's High Court challenge to Western Australia's border closure. There are really big questions that the budget fails to answer.

MITSOPOLOUS: You've picked some very WA-specific issues that I do appreciate, but there are people also saying surely you can't snub your nose at $18 billion for aged care, $2.3 billion for mental health, topping up the NDIS by $13 billion. I mean, these are traditionally not areas that attract a lot of Coalition Government attention.

LEIGH: There's a budget deficit but there's also a credibility deficit, Nadia. We're talking about increases to aged care coming from a man who cut the aged care budget when he was Treasurer. We're talking about family violence funding from a party that's just scrapped the Family Court, against the advice of family violence experts. We're talking about support for families at a time when the Government's own budget papers admit that real wages will go backwards next year. After inflation, Australians will be earning less in a year's time, than they are today.

MITSOPOLOUS: That slow wages growth seems to be what Labor is focusing on this morning. Leaving workers behind, I think, is what Anthony Albanese was saying this morning.

LEIGH: Well, slow wages growth is putting it politely. The fact is, it's wage shrinkage. Your pay packet won't go as far in a year's time as it does today. The vaccine rollout is badly bungled, it's off track, and there's not only health risks from that, as the variants spread through the world, but there's also economic costs. We don't get international tourism and higher education back to normal until the economy reopens. Universities alone are going to cop a $20 billion hit in the next year, as a result of not getting international students back. That's to say nothing of the impact on the many small businesses who could have held on for a year, but now we're talking about 2023 before migration and tourism come back. That's just going to be too long for many small businesses in the tourism sector. They'll close their doors.

MITSOPOLOUS: Certainly in regional WA, the thought is one in five businesses that are linked to international tourism in WA may well shut down or continue to lay off staff. We're just a few minutes away from nine o'clock. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and my guest on mornings this morning. There is nothing in this budget for hotel quarantine. If you were in government, would you be putting money towards purpose-built facilities, given this virus is going to be around for a while?

LEIGH: Absolutely. Look at the facilities that were set up in the 19th century, facilities like Point Nepean and North Head. These were purpose-built facilities so you could bring in people, potentially with diseases, and ensure that it didn't spread into the broader community. We also need domestic vaccine manufacturing capability, not just AstraZeneca which has had the blood clots problem, but also the mRNA vaccines.

MITSOPOLOUS: There is money going towards that, though.

LEIGH: Well, the budget has finally decided to put something towards it, but we're 15 months into the pandemic. We should have been doing this a long time ago, not only signing up more vaccine deals but also boosting our domestic manufacturing capability.

MITSOPOLOUS: Do you think this budget addresses certainty on the vaccine rollout?

LEIGH: Not in the least, no. Last year the vaccine rollout was going to be done by the end of 2021. Now the phrase in the budget is that "a program is likely to be in place by the end of 2021," whatever on earth that means.

MITSOPOLOUS: That debt level, how concerned are you about that?

LEIGH: It's a huge amount of debt. Remember, this is the Coalition who drove around a debt truck with $315 billion painted on the side. Now, their debt levels are going to a trillion dollars. I'm not sure that Josh Frydenberg will be giving too many more speeches talking about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Those 'Back in Black' mugs are clearly not coming back either. The Coalition is clearly never going to deliver a budget surplus and never has under this government. They need to make some hard decisions on things like multinational taxation so we can see some of those multinational firms paying their fair share and get the budget back into surplus.

MITSOPOLOUS: I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks very much.

LEIGH: Real pleasure. Thank you, Nadia.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra

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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.