ABC NEWSRADIO WITH MARIUS BENSON
WEDNESDAY, 24 AUGUST 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s genuine solution for budget repair; Marriage equality plebiscite.
PRESENTER: To look at Labor's budget repair formula, Marius Benson is speaking to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, Bill Shorten will be outlining savings of about $8 billion over a four-year period – the forward estimates. Now these are well-known savings. These are the savings you were promising during the election campaign?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: These are fair savings Marius, which make sure that we're able to bring the budget back into surplus without hurting the most vulnerable Australians. Savings like the changes to negative gearing that we took to the last election – which experts recognise would not only add to the budget bottom line but would also help the housing situation in Australia that's seeing a generation of young Australians priced out of the housing market.
BENSON: And how do these sit with the savings the government has outlined and the government says, "our own savings – the government's savings – are ones that Labor, during the election campaign, backed". So do you back the government's plans?
LEIGH: We're absolutely supporting all the policies we took to the election, Marius. And with the government's package – if the legislation in it reflects programs that Labor took to the last election, we'll absolutely back those. But we're going further still. They're talking about a $6 billion package over four years, we're talking about a package that's worth $80 billion over the decade. That's because it has savings in there that build over time – which is exactly what the Australian budget needs. We don't think that the Australian budget right now needs a $1000 baby bonus restored just in order to keep the Nationals happy. We think that it's possible to crack down by putting caps on VET FEE-HELP loans in order to drive reform in that sector, and we believe that raising the tobacco excise would be good for the budget and good for the health of Australians.
BENSON: And how does the government plan and your plan square in your own mind, because it may well come to the government relying on Labor to get its measures through the Senate. Is there a sort of quid pro quo? We'll back your measures if you adopt some of ours?
LEIGH: We're not playing horse-trading games on this. What we'll do is we’ll support all the measures we took to the election and we'll look at any new measures the Government wants to put on the table. But this is a Government which took to the last election a measure which would have blown a hole in the budget in the form of a $50 billion company tax cut. That's a company tax cut which wouldn't have added measurably to growth over the short term according to Treasury and even over the long term it's benefits were derisory. And so the first thing the Government needs to do if they're serious about getting the budget into shape, is to drop that crazy plan for an unfunded company tax cut.
BENSON: It's being reported that there are pretty substantial divisions within Labor ranks over your own savings proposals. Do you have a solid backing for your own plans?
LEIGH: Absolutely, Marius. I've spent a lot of time in marginal seats last election and was standing with many of our candidates who were proud that Labor was taking reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount to the Australian people. Even people who receive those tax breaks recognise that they're not fair and they're not sustainable. The Australian housing market is becoming increasingly unaffordable, with Sydney now the second most unaffordable city in the world, Melbourne the 4th most unaffordable city in the world. We simply can't go on like that. We need measures that have an impact on the budget but are also fair in their implementation. That's not what you've seen from the Coalition since they came to office. It’s certainly not what characterised the 2014 budget, a budget fully backed by Malcolm Turnbull. Labor will take fair savings to the Australian people. We'll support fair savings in the Parliament.
BENSON: Can I go to another issue which will certainly involve Labor in the Senate which is the Government's proposal for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Is it the case that Labor hasn't decided yet whether in the Senate you'll oppose that plebiscite – although you're against it in principle – if it comes to a vote you'll oppose it or you'll back it?
LEIGH: My former boss, Michael Kirby, has written very articulately on the fact that a plebiscite is simply the Parliament not doing its job. This is an unusual way of dealing with things. We've only had three plebiscites in Australian history. We didn't have one when the Marriage Act was changed by John Howard in order to exclude same-sex couples. We've got a strong predisposition against a plebiscite but, call me old fashioned, we'll wait to see the legislation before we give our final position on it.
BENSON: And are you concerned that opponents of same-sex marriage say that if the plebiscite is knocked back in the Senate, if Labor opposes it in the Senate and it is knocked back, that's it – the issue is resolved in the negative?
LEIGH: Marius, that would be a crazy position. We are now the only English-speaking advanced country that doesn't allow same-sex marriage. Marriage equality has become the law of the land under conservative administrations in New Zealand and Britain. We simply need to get on and do this. In my electorate there are 31 same-sex couples who were married for that brief window when same-sex marriage was legal in the ACT. They have now nearly waited three years in order to express their love in matrimony. We just need to get on and have Parliament do it its job.
BENSON: Andrew Leigh, thanks very much.
LEIGH: Thank you, Marius
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