SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 9 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT: Turnbull Turns Thirty
KIERAN GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, thanks very much for your time.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure Kieran. Good to be with you.
GILBERT: You’ve been a critic of polls in the past. This loss of 30 Newspolls has been coming for some time. An awkward moment for the Prime Minister, no doubt?
LEIGH: Kieran, as you say, I’ve been a strong poll critic but this is Malcolm Turnbull’s own benchmark. He’s like a dog that’s spent its lifetime trying to chase a car. He’s finally managed to catch it and discovered he’s got to drive it. That’s not much good for the rest of the country, since we’re now sitting in the backseat of a car being driven by a dog. Malcolm Turnbull has said himself that this is the standard upon which Prime Minister should step aside. On that basis, this is the moment for him to step aside.
GILBERT: That’s a big call though, to suggest that he is someone that shouldn’t be there, given that he won the last election. The real election of 2016. This is just a survey and one of many surveys that you have been very critical of over recent years?
LEIGH: You don’t need a poll to tell you that Malcolm Turnbull is out of touch. This is a deeply problematic government. It’s lost eight ministers over its time. It’s seen its electoral majority wiped out. It’s a government which in the face of profits growing eight times faster than wages wants to cut penalty rates and give a big tax handout to big business. It’s a government which is taking money out of schools and hospitals-
GILBERT: But that fact is, you’re not that far in front. That’s the thing I spoke to Jason Clare about as well. Surely, if it’s such a dog of a government as you put it earlier, why aren’t you even more in front? And why isn’t Bill Shorten the preferred Prime Minister? These numbers would be a bit of a worry for Labor too with a primary of 37.
LEIGH: Well, one of the things you’ve seen from Labor, Kieran, is a real willingness to engage on the policy front,. I think you might have seen us in days gone by take a small target strategy – just sit back and say ‘well, in the face of an incompetent government, we ought to sit on our hands and hope to coast into government’. We haven’t done that. We’ve engaged in the policy debate, whether it’s been on trusts, on negative gearing on outlining how we'd put money back into schools.
GILBERT: But does that sort of thing chip away at your electoral popularity, do you think? Does it make it more difficult? Is that what we're seeing in these opinion polls?
LEIGH: Of course it is challenging. Good policy reform is never on a ‘no losers’ basis. But it's really vital for us at a time when gross debt has crashed through the half a trillion dollar barrier to start thinking about what are the tax loopholes that Australia can afford. This conversation over the tax handouts to retirees who are earning multi-millions, which we discussed last time on your show, that doesn't come without political cost for us. That's Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen leading the policy debate, being willing to engage with people on a sophisticated conversation.
GILBERT: It's a lot of populism from Labor at the moment as well, isn't it? It seems you look at your history, that of Chris Bowen, Mr Shorten, you've all argued in the past for company tax cuts and the merits of company tax cuts? You don't deny that, obviously.
LEIGH: If there were rivers of gold to support it, then we'd be all for them. The fact is Kieran, this isn't a time to be taking money out of schools and putting it into company profits.
GILBERT: But school funding continues to grow? You're saying it's taking money from schools, but it's actually not taking the money out. Funding grows.
LEIGH: It's growing less rapidly than it would than under the original needs-based funding plan. That's where we want to see the money directed. There's nothing populist, Kieran, about going with the view that is supported by the majority of leading Economic Society of Australia members, who said that they supported investing in schools rather than company tax cuts. But what we've seen from Malcolm Turnbull is this double standard, this idea that it's for other people to lead on climate change, other people ought to be in favour of a republic. A good leader, he says, ought to provide economic leadership and engage with the intelligence of the community. But he's done none of that. He's engaged in crass scare campaigns and partisan politicking. We've seen him step away from his own standard on climate change, on the republic and now on 30 Newspolls. He says ‘well, that's a standard for other people, I don't have to achieve that’. Those double standards are really frustrating people.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks very much.
LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra