WEDNESDAY, 4 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget for big business over battlers
VIRGINIA TRIOLI (HOST): Let's go to the other side of politics, the Opposition Leader will address Parliament with his Budget-in reply tomorrow night, ahead of the election being called we imagine almost immediately. With his initial reaction to the Budget, Labor leader Bill Shorten joins us now. Bill Shorten welcome to News Breakfast, good to have you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Virginia.
TRIOLI: Does this Budget show that the chase to a surplus by both sides of politics when your side was in government and this side as well now has just been a pointless dream and a pointless waste of time?
SHORTEN: It certainly shows that the Liberals have been engaging in a hollow hoax when they keep saying that they’re going to reduce the deficit. This is the largest deficit that a Liberal Treasurer has ever brought down, $37 billion. I think though the important story of this Budget is if you're a millionaire you will get a $17,000 tax cut. But if you're one of the 75 per cent of Australian wage earners who earns less than $80,000 you won't get a cent.
TRIOLI: I think it was, if I remember my figures right, it was to be in this financial year that Wayne Swan as Treasurer said that we'd be in surplus. So no one really can wear the crown on this heading towards surplus argument, can they? I mean, this is the reality Australia has been facing for a long time yet our entire political discussion and narrative has been caught up with a chase to a surplus?
SHORTEN: Well, I certainly think that this Government’s given up trying to making to make any -
TRIOLI: But that's true isn't it about Wayne Swan, as Treasurer was trying to achieve, for this financial year and look where we are.
SHORTEN: Well, back in the day that was the then Labor Government and the then Treasurer. But today I'm analysing the last three years of the Liberal Government. They're offering themselves - Malcolm Turnbull is offering himself to be Prime Minister again. He rolled Tony Abbott on what basis? The deficit has gone up to $37 billion. The only meaningful tax cuts that are here for people are for people on over $180,000 a year. There's three groups of people who are affected by this. If you're a high income earner, if you earn $1 million, you will get a nearly $17,000 tax cut. If you earn about $85,000, you get $6 a week. But if you earn less than $80,000, which is 75 per cent of all Australian workers, you will not get a cent out of this Budget but your schools will be cut, your hospitals will be cut and we'll see precious little action on climate change.
TRIOLI: But you are supporting that cut to middle income earners. You're not going to stand in the way of that one?
SHORTEN: We're the party who stands up for the middle-class and so of course we will support a $6 a week tax cut. But what I'm going to say is that every person out there who gets a $6 a week tax cut isn't going to be really jumping for joy. You'll take it. But what I can't do is agree with the Government when they're proposing corporate tax cuts. Under their plan, they've got plans to cut the taxes of a billion dollar company but they've got no plan to do anything for people under $80,000.
TRIOLI: But this is an interesting discussion. When we're looking at an economy that is flagging and clearly by the decision made yesterday by the Reserve Bank, we’ve got, as Alex Malley put it this morning, the pulse is slow of the Australian economy. One way to drive that growth then is to try and give businesses a break and the tax rate - the business tax rate will ultimately be taken to 25 per cent. How is that not a decent part of the argument to actually get growth going?
SHORTEN: It's all about priorities. I believe if you want to generate good, sustainable economic growth in Australia, you have well-funded schools. You've got an effective Medicare system You take real action on climate change which if not dealt with is going to be a drag on the economy.
TRIOLI: But isn't a decent business company tax rate part of that too, don't you have to acknowledge that?
SHORTEN: For small businesses under $2 million we will support that. But you've got to make choices. Unless we help reduce the deficit, unless we make sure that we've got world-class schools, unless we make sure that working class kids are able to afford to go to university, unless you take real action on climate change, these are all hand brakes on growth. The Government though is keener to give a tax cut to someone on $1 million or a large corporation and neglect all the other institutions which contribute to growth on infrastructure which is a driver of growth. If you read the fine print of this Liberal Budget, they're cutting $1 billion so for all their fancy talk this is a Government who's not working on infrastructure, not working on education, not working on health care, not working on climate change. And of course they're in the trenches defending negative gearing going forward forever, which does not assist first home buyers nor is it a fair tax system.
TRIOLI: Just finally this morning, Bill Shorten, how do you account for that $19.5 billion over estimation in the tax revenue from the smoking measures, the tobacco measures that you put in place?
SHORTEN: Well, we got our proposal costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. That's a fancy name for an independent body who assesses costings. What is interesting is Senator Leyonhjelm, who's not Labor nor Liberal, he went and got his policy tested which is similar to ours and came up with similar numbers. What I am pleased about, is that Labor's won the argument with the Government though on increasing tobacco excise. The Government said for a year after we suggested it that it was just a bad idea. Remember Tony Abbott lampooned it, Scott Morrison, the Health Minister ironically attacked our proposals. Labor ideas and thinking have seen the Government belatedly crack down on multinational tax avoidance, tobacco excise and high end superannuation concessions. I just wish that if they borrowed some of our ideas, they went the whole hog, properly fund our schools, our hospitals, look after our pensioners and climate change.
TRIOLI: That would give us a very boring election. I don't think we want that.
SHORTEN: Well, we're not going to have a boring election. There's clear choices on all those issues.
TRIOLI: And it will be coming very soon too. Bill Shorten, good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us today.
SHORTEN: Lovely, nice to see you.
TRIOLI: Thanks so much.