TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: NATSEM modelling on Budget unfairness; Marriage equality
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, the Prime Minister has called on Labor to release the research on which you are basing your claims that the Budget is going to damage low income families in particular. Are you prepared to release that research?
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Marius, the model that we're using for this is the same model that the Government has used when it has asked NATSEM to do work for the Treasury and the Department of Social Services. It's the same model, indeed, that the Liberal Party had NATSEM use when NATSEM did work for the Liberal Party a couple of years ago, leading the PM to call them Australia's top modeller. So I'm really not sure what the puzzle is out of this. Labor has had to do this research because the Family Impact Statement that had been in the Budget going right back to Peter Costello's time was taken out of the last couple of budgets.
BENSON: So are you then prepared to release that research in full so that people can appreciate the truth of what you've just said?
LEIGH: We've outlined very clearly what the impact is going to be on families according to this research. Let's be clear: it's not good. Nine out of 10 low income families will be worse off; nine out of 10 high income families will be better off, although only by very small amounts. If you look at a single income family on $60,000 with two kids, they're losing $6,000. They're losing one dollar in 10 out of their income. Now if anyone was to turn around to Tony Abbott's best friends and say that they were going to say they were taking away a tenth of their annual income, he'd be outraged. But somehow he seems to think it's alright to take away one-tenth of the income of some of Australia's poorest single mums.
BENSON: That's the outline in your words but the Prime Minister is saying: release the research in full so we can assess it in full.
LEIGH: Marius, I think that misses what's being done here. This is a very standard household microsimulation model, which in layman’s terms means that you have a sample of Australian adults and their kids, and you're able then to model what impact policy changes have. It's been done by the agency that the PM describes as Australia's number one modelling outfit.
BENSON: But it's been done at the behest of Labor and you're describing the findings in your own terms. That leaves the doubts that the Prime Minister has pointed to, that this is a Labor party exercise.
LEIGH: The Prime Minister is most welcome to produce alternative numbers from the Treasury that show this isn't the case.
BENSON: But why can't you produce your research in full? Is there a problem with that?
LEIGH: What we've produced is a set of tabulations of the impact of the last two budgets on the community. Those impacts are pretty negative, Marius.
BENSON: Can I go to some of the areas that are going to be debated in Parliament, coming up: you are in agreement with the Government on some of the tax breaks for small business, you'll back those; and also cutting the small business tax rate by 1.5 per cent, you'll back that?
LEIGH: That’s right.
BENSON: The family tax benefit cuts that are still stalled in the Senate from the last budget: you'll continue to oppose those?
LEIGH: They're the ones that we've just been talking about, Marius. The idea that you would take one-tenth of the income away from low income single parents – that's just unconscionable in my view.
BENSON: The Government's accusation then is that Labor backs the spending measures but not the savings measures.
LEIGH: We've been clear about how you might be able to fund other measures in the Budget. Labor put out a multinational tax plan and a plan that addresses high end superannuation, whose revenue mostly comes from those with more than $3 million in their superannuation accounts. We think they're fair and reasonable ways of funding measures that governments might want to proceed with. And most importantly, they don't hurt the poorest.
BENSON: Just quickly, gay marriage is in the news. You're a long-term supporter of gay marriage – should there be a bound party vote for Labor members on that or should it be left to a conscience vote?
LEIGH: I think the real game at the moment is to try and encourage the Coalition to have a conscience vote for their members. If we're able to get that across the line, then I'm actually increasingly confident that the numbers are there in the House of Representatives already. We're seeing many of my colleagues who voted 'no' last time now willing to vote yes. I suspect people will look around and not want to be on the wrong side of history.
BENSON: Andrew Leigh, thank you very much.
LEIGH: It's a pleasure, Marius.
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