SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2016
TOPICS: GST; superannuation tax concessions; negative gearing.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. You've heard a bit of the debate thus far: the Prime Minister not yet convinced on the GST. Is this what a healthy, mature debate on public policy looks like?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: I think we're learning, Kieran, what being innovative and agile involves. It involves taking every position on tax reform and then not listening to Australian families, as Labor has been, but just listening to your backbenchers. This Prime Minister has lost more ministers than he's had positive clear tax proposals. I think increasingly Australians are wondering: what does this bloke stand for? He says he's serious about climate change but he's got Tony Abbott's climate policies; he says he wants to do marriage equality but he's kicking it off to a $160 million plebiscite; and he says he wants economic leaderships but on the core issue of tax reform can't articulate a clear plan for –
GILBERT: But isn't he saying – I put it you again – isn't this a mature way to go about a discussion on tax issues? You look at all the evidence, you don't rule things out before you've even begun, and then you get on with it – unlike Labor which did not allow the Henry Tax review to even look at the GST.
LEIGH: Well Kieran, a mature approach would have been to follow through the Tax White Paper which the Government announced in 2013. It took in 800 submissions; had a $600,000 advertising campaign; millions of dollars were spent by communities and business groups putting in submissions. Now it’s been completely junked in favour of the thought bubbles that are being floated. Two completely different thought bubbles yesterday: one from the Prime Minister saying maybe not, one from Arthur Sinodinos saying maybe. It's absolutely clear that if you don't want a GST the only way to make sure it doesn’t happen is to vote Labor at the next election.
GILBERT: But again, I put it to you if they are looking at all the modelling and the Prime Minister is weighing up the options and saying: does it have a growth dividend or not, then what are the sensible outcomes? Isn't this just a sensible way to look at the prospect of the GST? If he doesn't go ahead with it, that removes Labor's big weapon this year. You wouldn't be pleased with that in a political sense.
LEIGH: Kieran, all political wisdom doesn't reside in focus groups and the Prime Minister's office. That's why you have these sensible white paper processes. But by junking the white paper process and focusing entirely on the focus groups and Liberal Party conversations, you don't get that broader conversation of what's right for the country.
GILBERT: You don't think that the senior public servants like Martin Parkinson are having a significant input here? Surely he would be listening to the likes of the new head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, given his record?
LEIGH: Frankly, I have no idea what the process on tax reform is any longer, Kieran. All I know is it is not happening through the process the Government promised before they came to office. By contrast, Labor has a range of very carefully costed policies –
GILBERT: But yours aren’t nearly enough to provide any relief on bracket creep or pay for the education or health funding that you want to commit to.
LEIGH: Kieran, we have committed to around $70 billion worth of measures we would proceed with over the course of the next decade.
GILBERT: Decade, though – that’s not enough, is it?
LEIGH: It's enough for us to be able to commit to needs-based funding for schools, unlike the Government. The problem we're dealing with –
GILBERT: In education, but what about health?
LEIGH: Well let’s take it one step at a time. We are the alternative government and we are way ahead of the actual government in terms of laying out ideas. We've got our multinational tax plan; the superannuation proposals; cigarette excise; we’ve said we wouldn't proceed with the Emissions Reduction Fund, the Baby Bonus or an expensive plebiscite on marriage equality. Contrast that with a Government that's shooting down its own thought-balloons and frankly you've got an Opposition which is providing far more economic leadership in these fragile times that the Government itself.
GILBERT: What do you think of the idea of negative gearing that has been floated today? I know Labor has been talking about it: is this something where perhaps beyond two properties, that would make sense to reign it in?
LEIGH: Well we know the benefits of negative gearing accrue significantly to those at the top. About a third of the benefits are going to the top 10 per of income earners; surely more if you did the analysis by wealth. Labor has said clearly that were we to make any changes, they wouldn't affect existing investors. They'd be focused on housing affordability which is absolutely critical, Kieran. Because as you well know, the share of young Australians owning their own home has fallen by about 10 percentage points over the last 15 years. So we really need to make sure that young Australians are able to enjoy the Australian dream of buying their own home.
GILBERT: Is the risk here though that this has been one of the sectors that has held up the economy, to an extent, as the transition from the mining boom happened? That's the property market.
LEIGH: That's why we've been absolutely clear that if Labor were to make any changes, they'd be focused around housing affordability. I'd like to see the Government engage in this important discussion. But every time you hear Scott Morrison out, he's more interested in telling you what he won't do than what he will do. He won't change the unfair, unsustainable super tax concessions and he's very critical of a set of other changes.
GILBERT: He's very open to changing the concessions on super. They’re talking about $6 billion in terms of saving. That's the expectation, at least, on the contributions to super.
LEIGH: When you had Labor announce our superannuation proposals, which were carefully targeted at the people with balances over $1.5 million, Scott Morrison immediately came out against them. He's very good at telling you what he's against, is Scott Morrison. He's not very good at telling you what he's actually for.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.
LEIGH: Thanks Kieran.
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