Balancing the budget involves hard choices. As I explained to Mark Parton in this interview with Radio 2CC ahead of the mid-year budget update, my party will always support fair budget savings. But by the same token, we will fight budget decisions which fail the fairness test. Here's the transcript:
MONDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey’s mini-budget
MARK PARTON: Treasurer Joe Hockey is going to have a shocker of a day today. He's expected to reveal revenue has taken a further hit of just over $6.2 billion in just over six months. Things that are out of his control but he knows he's going to get smashed for it. So if we had a budget emergency at Budget time, we've got a potential catastrophe now. Mr Hockey will deliver his mid-year economic update today and there are reports of forecasts of $379 billion in receipts, that follows figures of $389 billion in May. So it's down substantially and many of the experts are saying that deficits over the period will more than double to $100 billion. There's little hope of economic improvement without radical action.
Andrew Leigh is waiting in the wings; Andrew's specialty is economics so he knows how to assess figures much better than you and I. He's about to suggest to us that Joe Hockey is a fool – I'm assuming he is – he's about to slam the Treasurer for failing to reign the deficit in and tell us how diabolically bad it is. But I just don't know that you can have it both ways because for years Andrew has been telling us that there is no budget emergency and that running a deficit isn't a bad thing. It certainly wasn't when Labor was doing it, it was fine. I had many conversations with Andrew, during which he compared our deficit to a home loan and basically said it was nothing to worry about. Unless the other mob is in power, and then it's a disaster. I'm sick of the theatre. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and the Member for Fraser – morning Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Mark.
PARTON: Budget deficits will almost double to $100 billion over the next four years – is this a budget emergency?
LEIGH: Well Mark, it's certainly a problem for the nation if Joe Hockey keeps on giving money back to multinationals, keeps on giving money to people with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts, and wants to give $50,000 to millionaire families to have a child.
One of the highlights of this parliamentary year has been joining Waleed Aly on RN Drive for our regular political panel. Before he heads off for new adventures, I joined him one last time to talk about the government's recent policy backflips on the UN Climate Fund, the GP tax and the upcoming deficit in the mid-year budget update. Here's the transcript:
RN DRIVE WITH WALEED ALY
WEDNESDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: UN climate fund; foreign aid spending; Tony Abbott’s GP tax; MYEFO
WALEED ALY: So it's 11 minutes past 6. Josh Frydenberg is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and he joins me along with Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Sadly he's only on the phone today, but I'm sure he'll be no less pugnacious for that fact. Thanks for coming in, or being on the phone, guys, good to have you with us.
JOSH FRYDENBERG, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Nice to be with you, Waleed.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good to be here, Waleed.
ALY: [On the UN Climate Fund] First we were not going to contribute; now we are.
JULIE BISHOP, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I have been tasked by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce today at this meeting that Australia will pledge a contribution of 200 million Australian dollars over four years to the Green Climate Fund.
ALY: Yes, that was Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. As you can hear there, there was much applause and merriment and much confusion because the government had previously told us this was impossible, it was a bad idea, it was a Bob Brown sort of an idea to contribute to a climate change fund of this sort; and all of a sudden $200 million. Why the change of heart, Josh? This is an outrage.
FRYDENBERG: Well this is a good outcome isn't it? Here we are...
ALY: It was a bad outcome a couple of weeks ago.
In his hunt for announcements to distract from the disastrous budget, Joe Hockey has today released a series of half-baked ideas about multinational tax. That's not the basis for good public policy.
THOUGHT BUBBLES NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD TAX POLICY
Joe Hockey's announcement of 'new' multinational tax measures shows just how out of his depth the Treasurer is when it comes to making companies pay their fair share.
The proposal Mr Hockey has floated today comes with no details and no dollar figure attached.
At a time when he is crowing about every dollar ripped from the pockets of pensioners, families and university students, Mr Hockey cannot say how much new tax revenue he expects to make by pursuing international firms.
With the federal government's mini-budget due within days, it is increasingly clear that Joe Hockey is going to have to find new savings to make up for a big increase in the deficit. He's already hit the states hard this year with budget cuts - will he do it again?
HOW MUCH MORE WILL HOCKEY HOOK IN FROM THE STATES?
Joe Hockey must set the states straight on whether he plans to yank more funding from their books to fill the growing hole in his upcoming mini-budget.
Several of the biggest states – including New South Wales and Queensland – have their own budget updates due before the end of the year.
Back in May, the Treasurer ripped $80 billion in health and education funding from the states with absolutely no warning.
This across-the-board cutback blew a huge hole in their finances, in some cases forcing the states back to the drawing board only weeks after they had handed down their own budgets.
The Treasurer is urgently casting about for new savings for replace his unfair GP tax and higher education changes, all of which are rightly being blocked by the Parliament.
The government has ended the Parliamentary year with its budget in a real mess. In this op-ed for the Daily Telegraph, I've looked ahead to the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement to encourage Joe Hockey and his colleagues to find a better, fairer way.
Meritocracy at risk of becoming a mate-ocracy, Daily Telegraph, 5 December
Early last year, Joe Hockey pledged: "We'll deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that." For the eighth time, he committed that an incoming Coalition government would never preside over a budget in deficit. Every Coalition budget, Mr Hockey pledged, would be a surplus budget.
Fast forward a year, and the only thing in surplus is red ink. When the Coalition came to office, the Charter of Budget Honesty laid out the state of the books. This year's budget deficit was forecast to be $24 billion.
So much for paying down debt. By the time Mr Hockey had delivered his first budget, he'd pushed this year's deficit up to $30 billion. Now, most informed sources have it blowing out still further when the mini-Budget is released in a few weeks.
Why is the deficit rising? Part of the answer is that Mr Hockey can't resist looking after his mates. A billion dollars to multinationals, a tax break for people with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts, and soon you're talking real money.
DEAR HOCKEY: GET YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER
Joe Hockey’s hypocrisy appears to know no bounds, as he lectures European leaders about cracking down on corporate tax avoidance while re-opening $1.1 billion in loopholes here in Australia.
The Treasurer has reportedly written to the European Union’s tax commissioner urging him to tighten rules that allow profit shifting and lead to erosion of the national tax base.
Yet while Mr Hockey attempts to throw his weight around in Europe, back in Australia he could not be taking a lighter touch on multinational profit shifting.
Yesterday it looked as though we'd get to decide on the future of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission once and for all. Today, the government has backed away from putting it to a vote. This uncertainty is bad for the charity sector and has gone on long enough.
ALARMED ANDREWS RUNS AWAY FROM ACNC FIGHT
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has beaten a retreat from putting his plan to abolish the charities commission to a vote in the parliament, leaving not-for-profits in limbo again heading into Christmas.
Yesterday Minster Andrews finally allowed for debate on the bill to abolish the charities commission, 253 days after it was first introduced to the House of Representatives.
The debate was scheduled to continue today, but the government has now pulled its bill again and will not bring it to a vote before Parliament rises for the year.
The Abbott Government has decided to use the last two days of parliament for the year to debate abolishing the charities commission. That's an appalling message to send the not-for-profit sector as they're gearing up to help hundreds of thousands of Australian families out over Christmas.
CHARITIES COMMISSION KERFUFFLE AN EMBARRASSMENT FOR ANDREWS
The Abbott Government’s plans to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission are in a shambles, as the government will this afternoon attempt to rush through a pointless bill which cannot pass the Senate.
Exactly one year ago, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews stood up in the parliament and committed to sending the charities commission to the chopping block.
With the Abbott Government refusing to back my push for greater tax transparency, I took to the pages of Business Spectator to make the case for more truth and less 'truthiness' in the debate about multinational tax.
The truth about the government's tax stance, Business Spectator, 2 December 2014
If you want to know how your local school is performing, you can check the My School website for data on its results, funding, enrolments and more. If you want to be sure about a company you’re doing business with, you can search ASIC’s registers for details of its ownership, history and past run-ins with the law. And if you want to find out where to eat out, many states and territories have rated their restaurants for food safety (my favourite is Brisbane City Council, which gives all establishments a star rating).
Transparency is valuable in many contexts because it helps us make more informed decisions — whether as parents, consumers or businesspeople. More sunlight provides a strong incentive for companies, organisations and individuals to do the right thing.
That transparency principle underpins the Private Members Bill I’ve just introduced in the federal parliament. The bill aims to put more information about how much tax multinational companies pay into the public domain. With better information out there on the public record, we’ll be able to have a frank and informed discussion about whether big companies are paying their fair share.
As the start of December brings a new Labor government for Victoria, I joined Sky AM Agenda to talk about what lessons the federal Liberals should be taking from the defeat of their state counterparts, starting with their unfair budget.
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Victorian state election; Joe Hockey’s mini-budget; Movember
KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company this Monday. With me is the Coalition frontbencher Darren Chester and Labor's Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant treasurer. Gentlemen, good morning to you both. Let's start with the Victorian election again. As a Victorian, Darren, you've said that some federal issues were at play over the weekend?
DARREN CHESTER, MEMBER FOR GIPPSLAND: It is a disappointing result for the Coalition and you need to be a realist in these situations. It was quite a tough environment in Victoria and some of the federal issues were playing into that. I think primarily it was a campaign fought on some pretty tough state issues for the government. The TAFE issue, ambulance pay, the Geoff Shaw disfunctionality that surrounded the parliament there for a couple of months, that made it very hard for Denis Napthine and Peter Ryan to get a clear message out. There's always more than one issue that plays into an election. I think there's no doubt that the tough budget decisions we had to make, and continue to try and implement, have had some impact but I wouldn't overstate that.