WEDNESDAY, 4 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget for big business over battlers.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well Labor says the budget is fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. The Opposition has welcomed assistance for young unemployed people, an increase in the tobacco excise and some relief for middle income earners from bracket creep.
But the Opposition says the budget favours the top end of town at the expense of low income earners and describes the centrepiece, the corporate tax cut, as unfunded and un-costed. Well for more, I'm joined by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in our Parliament House studio. Bill Shorten welcome to the program.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Michael.
BRISSENDEN: Well you can't really say this Budget is unfair can you? It certainly isn't anything like the 2014 slash and burn Budget.
SHORTEN: Well this is an unfair Budget and I'll use an example which I think illustrates this point clearly.
If you earn a million dollars in income you will get nearly $17,000 in tax cut courtesy or Malcolm Turnbull, but if you earn less than $80,000 you won't get a cent of a tax cut and indeed if you're an average family on $65,000 a year the Liberals led by Mr Turnbull are cutting the family tax benefit payments so you're going to be down net $3,000. So that's the equation. If you are a millionaire you're getting $17,000 extra, nearly $17,000 extra; if you earn less than $80,000 not a cent in tax cut and that's by the way 75 per cent of Australia's workforce. And you're family payments, your school funding, your hospital funding, your bulk-billing all under attack.
BRISSENDEN: Okay if you're someone on $86,000 - if you're a small business owner on $86,000 a year you're going to do quite well too aren't you?
SHORTEN: Well no, what Mr Turnbull's giving you is a cup of coffee and a biscuit.
BRISSENDEN: Well and, and -
SHORTEN: Is that the whole Malcolm Turnbull experiment?
BRISSENDEN: And a company business tax reduction.
SHORTEN: Well no, whatever you earn still you have to pay as income. What the Turnbull Government has done is they're going to give a tax cut of 2 per cent to the very highest income earners, they are going to give significant tax cuts to large companies. If you are one of half a million people who are earning between $80 and $87,000 you're getting $6 a week. Listen that's not much I'm not going to insult the intelligence of people and say that's a reason to go out and buy a Tatts ticket. But we will back that particular change in because we are on the side of people at work every day.
But if you earn less than $80,000 you're not getting a cent and by the way for all the taxes you pay, bulk-billing is under threat for pathology tests, blood tests, the doctors are going to be forced to introduce a GP co-payment, a tax because they're not getting any increase in their indexation. Schools will not be funded according to need -
BRISSENDEN: Okay let's go to the company tax cuts, which does seem to be the area at the moment of greatest contention and no doubt will play out -
SHORTEN: Oh along with schools and hospitals, pensioners, climate change. There's actually quite a bit that's on -
BRISSENDEN: Okay yep, but the company tax cuts will certainly be something that - in your Budget Reply speech last year and the Treasurer picked up on this in that earlier interview, you called for a bipartisan push to reduce company tax rate for small business to 25 per cent.
Now the Government's plan obviously goes further than that. But how can you oppose it when you essentially were calling for something very similar?
SHORTEN: I'm very pleased to be part of a bipartisan Labor and Liberal approach to help small businesses under $2 million so I am pleased that they have heeded my call there.
But what I don't believe is that this is the right time when you've got competing priorities, you've got to get the deficit under control, when you've got to make sure that our kids are getting the best chance at their schools, we've got to make sure that our Medicare system's one where your Medicare card not your credit card determines the level of health care. This is not the time to give multi-hundred million dollar companies tax cuts, it's a matter of priorities.
BRISSENDEN: Okay but a small business I mean this definition of a small business at $2 million, that hasn't changed for a very long time. Isn't it time to shift that definition? What's wrong with a business is who's earning $7 million - a turnover of $7 million, not earnings - that's not a big business.
SHORTEN: Well let's be clear the Turnbull Government has got a glide path to provide tax cuts to companies up to a billion dollars. What you've got to do is you've got to make sure that you're repairing the budget but you've got to repair the Budget in a way that's fair.
Now I'm pleased that after a year of throwing bricks at us that the Labor agenda on making multinationals not avoid tax in Australia, that the Liberals have finally woken up that the Australian people get annoyed when they pay a lot of tax and you've got the tech giants paying two bits of not very much at all. So I'm pleased that Labor is winning that argument, I’m pleased that having been attacked for raising the tobacco excise the Liberals have taken our policy.
I'm also pleased that there is now a debate about the sustainability of tax concessions in superannuation. But this Government is still making the wrong choices on the fundamentals. This is a visionless Budget which is unfair at its heart. You're not going to advance this country with sustainable growth if you are cutting funding to schools.
We are not going to advance the wellbeing of the nation, our progress in five and ten, 15 years when we are attacking and undermining bulk billing. Or that our hospital system, you've got long waiting lists. The waiting lists for elective surgery are blowing out. This is a Government whose only interested in giving large companies and millionaires tax relief and for everyone else well they just have to fend for themselves.
BRISSENDEN: Let's talk about some of the other issues then. This, the $750 million dedicated to the new jobs program to get young people back to work. Scott Morrison says that's a real "Work for the Dole" program, do you agree that the current system isn't working?
SHORTEN: We'll have a look at what's suggested with a very open mind.
BRISSENDEN: Because the unions are already criticising it, I'm sure you're aware of that.
SHORTEN: Well we'll have a look at it with a very open mind but let's also recognise this is a Government that takes out a bucketful and then hands back a cupful. Like they've cut billions of dollars from job programs, now it's five minutes to midnight, this is the old trick. It's like what they are doing on schools and hospitals, they've taken out a lot of money which supports people. Now five minutes to midnight on the eve of the election they are putting back in small amounts. So we'll have a look at it, but I just think when you look at another example of where they're cutting they talk about infrastructure - if talking about infrastructure can build roads they'd have built the Inland Railway.
The truth of the matter is there's a billion dollars which has been cut for all those motorists driving to work today around Australia. As you look around on the roads understand Mr Turnbull says that he cares about infrastructure, there is a billion dollars missing from the Budget. They are cutting infrastructure funding as we speak.
BRISSENDEN: Okay let's talk about the superannuation changes that they've made which pretty much steal yours and add to them. You'd have to think that was a pretty good thing too wouldn't you?
SHORTEN: Labor's led the case for saying there has been unsustainable tax concessions provided to the very high end. It was funny last night as I listened to them. The same people who bagged us, I mean, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison they all said, 'Oh we won't touch superannuation'.
What's interesting for me, is that close to an election they've worked out they've increased the deficit to $37 billion. They've added the debt that every Australian has through Government debt by some significant amount. This is a Government who can't manage the deficit, now what they're doing is they're looking at Labor's ideas on superannuation.
But the real issue here is that they've got to get their priorities right. You're not going to build this nation, you can't be an innovation nation -
BRISSENDEN: Some of those priorities were your priorities by the looks of things.
SHORTEN: Well of course, and listen I might also say when it comes to tackling people smugglers or national security, you know these are not election issues because there is a degree of bipartisanship. No this election, the battlelines of last night's Budget have made the election very clear. There is nothing to tackle climate change, there is nothing to help properly fund our schools -
BRISSENDEN: Not yet, we do have an eight week campaign to get through before -
SHORTEN: But when you say that -
BRISSENDEN: Well no I think these issues are going to be thrashed out over the next -
SHORTEN: But what's the point of the Budget if they're not going to tell us what they're doing. I'm just saying based on last night's Budget nothing on climate change, so give a tick to Tony Abbott, he's won that fight within the Liberal party.
The school funding, nowhere near being properly needs-based funding for our schools, hospital funding significant cuts, Medicare, bulk-billing is still under attack. This Government want to dismantle bulk billing.
BRISSENDEN: I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more about these issues in the next few weeks.
SHORTEN: Well if we're going to hear more about it the very fact that you're saying that shows that last night's Budget didn't deal with these key building block issues. And as for negative gearing I cannot understand why the Turnbull Government is happy to give a tax cut to a millionaire, happy to give a tax cut to a billion dollar company, happy to die in the ditch over the ability of property speculators to get paid by the taxpayer to subsidise their property investment. But there is no plan for housing affordability, there is not a cent in a tax cut for people under $80,000. If you earn between $80,000 and $87,000 they're giving you $6 a week. Is that the whole reason we have the Malcolm Turnbull experiment?
BRISSENDEN: Well it is a plan for as they say jobs and growth we are talking about -
SHORTEN: It's a plan for their jobs and there is no growth.
BRISSENDEN: A company tax change which overtime clearly will benefit the economy.
SHORTEN: Well, we just know that - and know that at the next election Labor will support a tax cut for small business.
BRISSENDEN: But you won't support a stimulus for bigger business.
SHORTEN: Well I guess when you look at using tax payer money, for me it's about putting people first. I want to make sure that the kids of the people who work every day get the best possible funded schools. I want to make sure that as you grow older that you don't have exorbitant costs to be able to see a doctor. I want to see GPs backed up and not made to chose between taking a pay cut or putting a co-payment fee, a tax which forces people not to go to the doctor. I want to make sure that if you have chronic diabetes that you don't have to pay an upfront payment just to get a basic test. This Government's got all the wrong priorities, they are a seriously out of touch Government when they offer a millionaire a $17,000 tax cut and a family on $65,000 they are taking money away in family payments and no tax relief.
BRISSENDEN: And of course they will continue to question your failure to support their small business tax plan for businesses that earn a little more than $2 million.
SHORTEN: Well, you and I both know that their plan will deliver large companies massive tax cuts. We're open for always trying to improve the tax position but you've got to make choices. For me, I choose schools, hospitals, Australian jobs, action on renewable energy, housing affordability over the top end of town.
BRISSENDEN: Okay no doubt we'll hear a lot more of this in the next eight weeks or so. Bill Shorten thank you very much.
SHORTEN: Look forward to it. Thank you very much.