ABC NEWSRADIO BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 8 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Failures with myTax online systems; Greek economic crisis; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission.
STEVE CHASE: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Steve, how are you?
CHASE: Good. I looked at the ATO website this morning and they're still looking to resolve the problems. They've urged patience – is that good enough?
LEIGH: I think it's pretty disappointing for many people who are looking to file a tax return early. We have the tried and tested eTax system which is being phased out and the poor ATO staff - after 4,700 job cuts - are now being asked to deliver this new myTax system. They've got an IT system that really seems to be struggling to keep up. I don't blame the tax office; I blame a Government which expects agencies to roll out new systems while slashing the public service.
CHASE: Of course you, in government, as the Assistant Treasurer would fix that, wouldn't you?
LEIGH: Certainly Labor took a strong view in government that it was important to get those back-end systems right. Lindsay Tanner's Gov 2.0 report was all about making sure that we had government which was more responsive and accountable to citizens. But as President Barack Obama's ill-fated healthcare website shows, governments really need to nail this stuff before going live and it seems like the Abbott Government hasn't done the work and hasn't put the resources in on this.
CHASE: In economic terms, I suppose it's a false economy. If this is broken then they're not getting the revenue that they should, and indeed they're not paying out what they should as well.
LEIGH: It's just another example of how short-sighted public service cuts end up affecting people. They don't just affect public servants, the 4,700 people who've lost their jobs, but they end up affecting the millions of Australians that will be looking to file their tax returns over the course of the coming months. They're the victims of ideologically-driven public service cuts. Let's face it: the number of public servants per Australian didn't rise under Labor's time in government and if you look across the developed world, the size of our public service is modest.
CHASE: Andrew Leigh, you're a former professor of economics at the Australian National University – do you share the confidence of the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens that global financial markets remain sound despite what's happening in Greece and China?
LEIGH: I certainly think the developments – particularly in China, because they're more unexpected – are a cause for significant concern. I was somewhat surprised that the Prime Minister thought the only implications of the Greek financial crisis were for the Grocery Code. These are big and important developments. Australia has sound fundamentals but we can't be complacent about this, particularly given China is the economy with which we are most closely connected.
CHASE: Finally, I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't ask you this question: what's the mood in the federal Parliamentary Labor Party as Bill Shorten faces a grilling today before the Trade Union Royal Commission?
LEIGH: I think Bill Shorten has got a very strong story to tell about his time standing up for jobs and for the productivity increases that underpin wage growth. That's a story that he can tell pretty proudly. The Prime Minister, by contrast, has a story of being part of the government that introduced WorkChoices and having at every turn supported job cuts and argued for removing important employment protections. Bill has got a positive story to tell and he'll tell it today.
CHASE: Lots riding on his performance though, isn't there?
LEIGH: Bill will do well; he's got a good track record of standing up for workers. As he's said before, he'd put his record of standing up for workers against Tony Abbott's any day.
CHASE: Andrew Leigh, thank you.
LEIGH: Thank you, Steve.
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