ABC NEWS RADIO
THURSDAY, 28 JUNE 2018
SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s $80 billion tax cut for big business; By-elections.
FIONA ELLIS-JONES: Labor’s Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and joins us now this morning. Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time today.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Fiona. Great to be with you.
ELLIS-JONES: Please can you clarify this – will Labor limit tax cuts to firms with turnovers no higher than $2 million?
LEIGH: Fiona, we’ve been absolutely clear that we’re putting investment in hospitals and schools ahead of big business tax cuts. You’d have to have been living under a rock if you’d missed that message from Labor. We’ve said clearly that for businesses under $2 million turnover – that’s nine out of 10 Australian businesses – they’ll get the same tax cut under Labor. And we’re continuing to consider our position for businesses between $2 and $10 million of turnover.
ELLIS-JONES: So you can’t confirm this morning whether or not Labor will limit those cuts?
LEIGH: No. But we’ve been-
ELLIS-JONES: Why not?
LEIGH: Fiona, we need to consider the fiscal position which has blown out atrociously under this Government. We’ve had net debt double under Malcolm Turnbull’s watch. We need to make sure that we’re making fiscally responsible decisions. We’re keen to deliver bigger, better and fairer personal income tax cuts and to invest more in schools and hospitals. We’ve committed to paying down debt faster than the Liberals. We’ve been absolutely clear across a whole range of policies, everything from our investment in MRI scanners to what we’ll do for independent mechanics. I don’t think anyone can question Bill Shorten’s team and the amount of policy we’ve put out – more than any other Opposition in our lifetimes.
ELLIS-JONES: You’ll be aware that Bill Shorten’s response to a question on Tuesday that Labor would repeal company tax cuts for businesses with turnovers of between $10 and $50 million took many by surprise. Did you know in advance about this announcement from your leader before it was actually made on Tuesday?
LEIGH: I don’t go into internal questions, Fiona.
ELLIS-JONES: But can you see the ramifications that this speculation is having?
LEIGH: No, I don’t frankly. I honestly think this is a distraction from the big challenges Australia’s facing. We’ve got home ownership at a 60 year low, inequality at a 75 year high, the incarceration rate is as high as its been in 100 years and our emissions are going up when the planet is facing climate change. Let’s focus on the big challenges and Labor’s plans to tackle them.
ELLIS-JONES: People aren’t talking about those big challenges, though. They’re talking about the Labor Party. You might be-
LEIGH: [laughter] And we can! That’s our opportunity right now, Fiona, to focus on those big challenges rather than the froth and bubble.
ELLIS-JONES: What do you make of reports this morning via an Opposition source who’s told the ABC that two Labor losses at the upcoming Super Saturday by-elections out of five could mean moves against Bill Shorten? Is his leadership on the line?
LEIGH: Absolutely not. Bill has led a policy-focussed Opposition that’s been united in trying to bring down this bad government, a government which seems to constantly at every turn make decisions that benefit millionaires and multinationals over middle Australia, that’s committed to this idea of trickle-down economics – the notion that if you give a big enough tax cut to a barrister, somehow the baristas will benefit as well. That’s not the Australian way. We’ve got to bring back egalitarianism and we don’t do that through these unaffordable big business tax cuts that Malcolm Turnbull's committed to.
ELLIS-JONES: Let’s go to the specifics, because economist Chris Richardson of Deliotte Access Economics, he said this morning that basically using turnover as a way of determining whether business is a big business is quote “pretty dumb”. Is he right? Shouldn’t you instead be using profit?
LEIGH: We’ve had a bipartisan position for many years of setting these thresholds based on turnover. I understand the purist argument that Chris is making, but he can go back decades looking at definitions of small businesses and they’re based on turnover.
ELLIS-JONES: But will mums and dads buy that?
LEIGH: Absolutely. This is a much more straightforward way of administering a threshold. Whenever you’ve talked about a small business, we’ve done that based on turnover. Now I know Chris has been a strong advocate for big business tax cuts. I respect his different position from mine. But the government’s own modelling on its own big business tax cuts suggests that what it delivers to households is 0.1 per cent household growth in the 2030s. That’s not a recipe for growth and it’s sure as heck not a recipe for equity.
ELLIS-JONES: Let’s just return to Super Saturday if we can. Labor is behind in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon. We also know it’s pretty much on par with the LNP in Longman. Do you think Bill Shorten could actually survive the loss of two of these crucial Labor seats?
LEIGH: Well, I’ll be fighting to make sure that we hold onto those seats. Susan Lamb and Justine Keay are great contributors. I’ve been up there with Susan talking about our plan to help one of the small businesses there, a local mechanic. Labor, for all of the small businesses in Longman and Braddon, is offering an Australian Investment Guarantee which accelerates the write-off for investments worth more than $20,000 and which has been calculated by one set of university experts to give three times the investment bang that a company tax cut does. So Labor’s got a strong growth agenda, a great story to be telling in Tasmania, in Queensland and across the nation.
ELLIS-JONES: Andrew Leigh, appreciate your time this morning.
LEIGH: Thank you, Fiona.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra