SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 21 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: AGL and Liddell, Climate change and energy costs, Income tax cuts, Labor’s Your Car, Your Choice policy.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Your reaction to this news from AGL I'm thinking many of us would have predicted it but the Alinta offer knocked back by AGL and they don't want any further part of it?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, we know the solution to Australia's energy and climate needs isn't to extend ageing coal fired plants - it's to invest in a whole different suite of renewables. AGL's plan has been acknowledged by the Australian Energy Market Operator - it’s a mix of gas, renewables and demand management. We need to make sure that we've got more renewables in the system. That ensures that we meet our climate targets, but it also makes sure that we are able to have sustained energy production.
GILBERT: The regulators though did also suggest that, in terms of a transition at least, it would be preferable and it would provide insurance if AGL were to keep Liddell open or if it were to be offloaded. That was certainly the Government's hope?
LEIGH: That's the Government's hope, but I differ with you from saying that that's the energy market operator’s recommendation. The energy market operator hasn't recommended an extension of Liddell's life. What this is about is an internal fight within the Liberal Party - the coal dinosaur faction who want to see taxpayers money go to subsidising coal fired plants. That's not good for energy prices in Australia and certainly not good for our carbon emissions. Carbon emissions have continued to rise under a Prime Minister who once said he wouldn't lead a party as committed to climate change as he was.
GILBERT: When it comes to this now, as far as a business perspective goes, there's no way that the Government could force AGL to keep it open if they want to shut it by 2022 as planned? They do, don't they? Is there any other way to, I guess, nationalise the plan but I can't see them doing that.
LEIGH: Well, there's all kinds of wacky levers, but the fact is that no kind of sensible government would be putting taxpayer money into keeping open an old coal-fired power generation plant whose costs are 20 per cent higher than the costs of the alternative energy investments that AGL is contemplating.
GILBERT: When we look to the tax debate, Deloitte Access Economics Director very much respected budget watcher, Chris Richardson says that this is a fair package. What do you say to that?
LEIGH: It certainly is not according to the Grattan Institute analysis which shows that more than half of the gains from the Coalition's long-term tax plan go to the top 20 per cent.
GILBERT: But the Deloitte analysis seems more thorough because it factors in bracket creep and so on?
LEIGH: The Deloitte analysis seems to come down one a simple point, which is saying that the rich pay a higher share of tax than the poor. The fact is that rising inequality gives you that result just straight away. We’ve seen an increased concentration in income and wealth at the top of the distribution. Wages have risen three times as fast for the top tenth as the bottom tenth over the past generation.
GILBERT: But it is progressive and 80 per cent of the tax take is from the top 20 per cent. That seems like it’s all working effectively?
LEIGH: The top 20 per cent of the population have two thirds of the wealth. You would expect that even a flat tax system would see more of the taxes being paid by the top. But the very fact is that the government’s tax plan over that seven years does skew towards the top. That’s why Labor has said we’ll back the parts of the plan that take effect on the first of July this year, targeted at low and incomes middle earners, In fact, we’ll go better-
GILBERT: But the Government’s not going to split up the phases, so would you stand in the way of – would you stand in the way of the tax cuts for low and middle income earners?
LEIGH: They say right now they’re not going to split it up, but really, that’s a ridiculous proposition, Kieran. As ridiculous as their campaigning against a royal commission. As ridiculous as their plans last year to increase income taxes. This government will hoot and holler for a while, but eventually they’ll come around to doing the right thing. We’ve got bipartisan support for a low and middle income earner tax cut, we should do it straight away. Then we will go to the election with Labor promising an even more significant tax cut for middle income Australians.
GILBERT: Labor has focussed on mechanics in recent times. Can you explain to our viewers exactly what you’ve been talking about in terms of trying to keep mechanics still relevant in a period where so many of our cars are driven by huge computer programs and so on?
LEIGH: The typical car has 20 to 50 onboard computers. Independent mechanics who make up most of our mechanics in Australia are struggling to fix them because the car manufacturers aren’t giving them the data they need. Labor said the voluntary code hasn’t worked and we would introduce a mandatory requirement – as exists in Europe and the United States – of the manufacturers to share that data with independent mechanics. I’ve visited –
GILBERT: So it’s to keep them relevant, basically, in the modern age?
LEIGH: It’s to allow them to fix your car. It means that you get a choice as to where you get your car fixed, you’re not forced to go to the authorised dealers. You’re able to shop around, to get a lower price. And we keep a bunch of Australian small businesses open.
GIBLERT: Andrew Leigh, appreciate your time as always.
LEIGH: Thank you Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra