ABC RADIO NATIONAL
FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: 2018 Budget; Citizenship
FRAN KELLY (HOST): Bill Shorten welcome back to Breakfast.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Lovely to be on Fran.
KELLY: Your boast is for a much better offer for working people - working and middle income earners. Is that how you're going to win the next election, outspending the Government?
SHORTEN: No we're going to be competitive at the next election because we've done the hard work. The fact of the matter is Fran and you've covered a few of our decisions and reforms in previous shows, we can afford to give ten million working Australians a better deal and a fairer and bigger tax cut because we are getting rid of some aspects of negative gearing in the future although - our changes are not retrospective. We're clamping down on some of the tax loopholes and concessions at the top end. Including as you know, reforming the current system where you can get an income tax refund even though you don't pay income tax.
These changes we're making give Labor the firepower, these reforms give us the firepower to do three things: properly fund our schools and hospitals and clean up and reverse some of the terrible cuts that Mr Turnbull's got in this budget. They allow us to pay down the national debt which is now at $21,000 for every man, woman and child, which has grown or doubled since the Government's got in. And of course as you've just observed even though Mr Cormann's a bit jealous, we're able to provide fair dinkum tax cuts to ten million Australians because we've made the hard decisions and of course as you know we're not going to give $80 billion to the big banks, the top end of town and multinationals.
So what the Government's annoyed about is that we've got different priorities, we're putting your ordinary person at the front of the queue, not big banks and multinationals. They just don't like our choices.
KELLY: Let's come to all of those elements, you cited as an example last night in the speech a teacher on $65,000 receiving a tax cut of up to $928 a year, that sounds great. The Government was quick to point out that the same teacher if they had an investment property would be paying $2520 more in tax under your changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax, so they'd be worse off not better off.
SHORTEN: Do you know why that's complete rubbish? Because if that teacher has an investment property, they're not affected by our changes. So bang, Government just wrong. Don't even get off the mat these people in the Government.
The real issue is they won't make long term decisions. You know the reality is Tuesday night's budget had no plan other than to give them a sugar hit in the polls and the reason why they can't make the decisions we're making is because they've got different priorities.
KELLY: Well all Governments have got different priorities.
SHORTEN: That's right, but this one sounds just jealous that our priorities are different but they think - they know actually, that our priorities, and what I said last night is going to resonate more with everyday Australians.
KELLY: But not with every Australian -
SHORTEN: - No you're right I can't make everyone happy. That's true.
KELLY: No, no you dealt with middle and low income earners up to $90,000.
SHORTEN: There's ten million of them.
KELLY: Yes what about people on higher incomes? Will a Labor Government ever at any point be offering relief to people on more than $90,000. In other words, are you ruling out ever supporting stages two and three of the Government's tax package?
SHORTEN: Well there are two or three questions in that. First of all what we said last night is identical to the Government in who it affects, it's just more or less doubling what they're offering. So it's people up to $120,000.
In terms of their stages two and three, you know Fran this isn't your first rodeo. You've been around, you know that you could drive a truck through what this Government's proposing in their stage three for example.
KELLY: But I also know you didn't exactly rule it out last night in the speech.
SHORTEN: Well I'm going to give you a bit more of a development here. The point about it all is that Mr Turnbull has basically said for $10 a week in this budget, he wants to provide the top 20 percent of earners $83 billion in the next 10 years and a lot of these tax reforms that the Government's said, he'll have to win the next two elections and then the cheque’s in the mail.
You and I know that what you've got to look at is what is the immediate proposition and can it be paid for. Now this Government is saying they're going to give $140 billion in income tax changes but of course that's all in the out years.
They're going to give $80 billion away to corporate Australia. They've got no plan this Government. They've run out of juice.
KELLY: Okay so what are you going to do though, you're only giving us up to the four years now. Is that the point, you're not going beyond and in that there's nothing for those earning above $120,000. Is that the policy?
SHORTEN: Well our first priority are the ten million people on up to $120,000. They are our first priority. But to go to a deeper point though you said well what's in it for everyone else? I can't necessarily say and I don't think our proposition is a bad proposition if all 12 million people or 11.5 million people go to work unless everyone gets a massive tax cut. This nation can't live beyond its means. But what I can do, unlike the Government is I've come up because of our hard decisions because of the fact that we're not going for a corporate tax cut of $80 billion. I can meet the great trifecta which this nation needs.
Draw down on the national debt. Properly fund our schools and hospitals and the pensioners and also provide a much better more fair dinkum tax cut for 10 million people. The Government's yelling last night and their complaints this morning is that basically they know that because of their wrong decisions, they can't go where we're going and we are the party looking after people, you know the 10 million who go to work.
KELLY: OK, so where are you going to go given that we now know there's been a better return from the improvement in the global economy and some of our companies and we do have more money in the bank. We know the budget is projected to be in surplus now by 2019-20. You're planning, if you win government, to increase the top tax rate from 47 cents to 49 cents in the dollar for people earning more than $180,000 dollars. Would you still put taxes up for those high income earners if the budget is in surplus?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the budget repair levy which you're referring to was introduced by the current government -
KELLY: Sure, but they have taken it off and you're going to put it back on.
SHORTEN: But somewhat quixotically, this government who says they're for the ordinary battler has already reduced taxes for millionaires even though the budget’s not back in surplus. What we will do -
KELLY: What you have promised to do is to reinstate that - will you reinstate that even though the budget will be in surplus?
SHORTEN: Well we will revisit the question when the budget is in sustainable surplus. So it's not a closed question but you and I both know when you look at global economic circumstances - and I think privately a lot of people were a bit appalled. This government is the beneficiary of improved global circumstances, not their sort of superior economic stewardship as they would like to pretend. But the problem is that we've got the US deficits up, global debt is enormous and growing, the American bond markets are stirring, we've got trade conflict between Trump's America and China. The Australian economy could be buffeted by changes in the world beyond our control. That's not the fault of any government but good governments prepare us for tough times. And that's why we've got to pay down the national debt.
This government can't match us over the long term because they want to hang on to negative gearing, they want to hang on to all of the unsustainable tax concessions and they want to give away $80 billion and they want to give away $140 billion; principally to the very well off. This government can't have it both ways. They can't match us and our priority for middle and working class people and still look after their rich mates.
KELLY: Can I just zero in on the $80 billion you kept talking about last night. In your speech you said and I'm quoting, we committed to a tax cut for every Australian business for 93 percent of all businesses. Now as I understand it, the 93 percent is businesses with turnovers of up to $2 million. So does that mean Labor will undo the tax cut already legislated for companies with turnovers of between $2 million and $50 million?
SHORTEN: We haven't got to a final position on that.
KELLY: But isn't, given what you said there, you're committed to a tax cut for 93 percent of businesses that implies -
SHORTEN: Yes that's right. We are committed to a tax cut already but there is still a little bit of way -
KELLY: You keep spending that $80 billion so presumably that means you're going to take all that back?
SHORTEN: No, we've already said that we will look after 93 percent of Australian businesses - a fact that the Government propaganda machine conveniently overlooks. So if you're a person in a business where there is less than $2 million turnover, Labor is the same deal as the Liberals.
KELLY: But if you're in a business with $50 million turnover -
SHORTEN: Well that's good for you, isn't it?
KELLY: Well yeah because you're going to get a tax cut under the Government. Would you take that away?
SHORTEN: We haven't got to a final view on that but we are not supporting any of the unlegislated changes and we won't, even if the Government gets it through.
KELLY: Okay -
SHORTEN: But you also just made this point: the difference between Labor and Liberal's position is not just that we're not going to blow the nation's ATM on this corporate tax cut. We're making hard reforms. We're actually saying that people shouldn't be able to deduct $1 million off their accountant’s bill for their account and making tax deductions. That's just not sustainable.
KELLY: Bill Shorten, just briefly and finally, three MP will face by-elections as a result of the citizenship fiasco. It almost 100 years since a government has won the federal by-election in a seat from the opposition, that was in Kalgoorlie back in 1920. If Labor loses -
SHORTEN: A nice bit of research there. I didn't know that.
KELLY: If Labor loses one of these seats on Super Saturday will you resign?
SHORTEN: No. But I tell you what, these by elections are - and I'm sorry it's got to this, no question. This Section 44 of the Constitution, we genuinely believed based on advice we've been receiving over two decades - long before I got in this job - that our people had done what was meant to be done. But the High Court has taken its decision. That's life, we accept the verdict but these elections are an early opportunity for people to decide, do they want to give away this money to the top end of town or do they want to look after ordinary people? Do they want cuts to schools and hospitals -
KELLY: It will indeed be a test of that. Can I just ask -
SHORTEN: But there is one other thing this will be a test about, do they want to see the Government take out $83 million from your ABC. We don't like that.
KELLY: One other question on citizenship and questions in one of the newspapers today about one of your MPs, Anne Aly. She requested the cancellation of her Egyptian citizenship reportedly a month before close of nominations in 2016 but she yet to produce the documents to show it occurred in time. Have you checked that? Are you confident that Aly is eligible in the parliament?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen that story this morning and the West Australian Party assures me they've done it but no, I haven't seen the story.
KELLY: Okay, will you check it?
KELLY: Bill Shorten, thank you very much for joining us.