Doorstop - Brisbane

30 Dec 2016



SUBJECT/S: Political year in review; Turnbull Government division and dysfunction; Government’s pension cuts; Budget repair; US sanctions against Russia; US stance on Israel


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks very much for coming out to Logan today. The end of the year is an opportunity to spend time with the people you love. It's an opportunity to reflect on the year just passed. And for us in politics, it's an opportunity to take stock of our country, its economy and its finances. Under Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Government, Australia finishes the year with an economy that is shrinking, with deficits that are growing, interest payments on debt that are growing and we've seen almost 50,000 full-time jobs lost in the last 12 months alone. 

On the Labor side, we are united and we are focused on the things that people really care about – jobs; decent funding for our schools; opportunities for our young people through education; decent Medicare and health services; better hospitals; all of the things the people really care about. On the Labor side, we want economic growth which is inclusive, we want hard work which is rewarded and we want a decent social safety net for those left behind. And we are united and we have a common purpose behind those objectives.


The contrast with the Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull couldn't be starker and we've seen more of that today, with the extraordinary interventions by Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi and others. These are the sorts of interventions the Prime Minister is too weak to prevent.

Under Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party finishes the year more dysfunctional and more divided than ever before. This mob finishes the year looking less like a functional Government and more like a bar room brawl. Every day we have interventions from Tony Abbott and others – the sorts of interventions that Malcolm Turnbull would love to prevent, but is too weak to do so. He finishes the year leading a Government which is more divided and more dysfunctional than ever before. That's why, at this moment, middle Australia can't get a look in. For as long as the Government continues to smash itself up in this fashion, middle Australia won't get a look in. That's why we have these warped priorities. It says it all about this Government that at the same time as they go after pensioners, at the same time as they go after hundreds of thousands of adults who need dental care and millions of children who need dental care, they're handing a $50 billion tax cut to big business.

So the Government finishes the year more divided and more dysfunctional than it began. Labor is united and focused. At the end of the year, we need a Government that is focused on the things that people really care about – jobs and education and decent health care. We don't have that from this rabble led by Malcolm Turnbull.

JOURNALIST: The pension changes that you mentioned come into effect on January 1. Will Labor though continue to bank the savings from the pension changes in your costings, like you did in the lead up to the election?

CHALMERS: Something like 330,000 senior Australians will be worse off from Sunday when the Government's pension changes come into effect. These pension changes are the direct consequence of a deal done between the Liberal Government under Malcolm Turnbull and the Green Party in the Parliament. Labor voted against these changes. We said that we would not have proposed them had we been in Government. We've also said that it is impossible to undo all of the damage that the Liberal Party, under Malcolm Turnbull, is doing to family budgets in one hit, overnight, and that's our position.

JOURNALIST: But don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to attack the Government on the pension changes when you put it in your own costings?


CHALMERS: It's entirely consistent for us, given we voted against these changes. We voted against this shabby deal done between the Liberal Party and the Green Party in Canberra to see something like 330,000 pensioners worse off from this Sunday. That was our position. The damage has now been done. The changes will come in from Sunday and so we said consistently and repeatedly that we can't undo all of the damage that's been done by this Liberal Government to family budgets right across the county.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree though that something needs to be done when it comes to Budget repair? (inaudible) – isn't really a huge number when it comes to the bottom line.

CHALMERS: There's more than one way to fix the Budget. We want Budget repair which is fair. We think that should begin by not proceeding with the $50 billion gift to multinational corporations, which is in the Budget at the moment and is doing so much damage to the Budget and is jeopardising Australia's AAA credit rating. Australia can have a big business tax cut or it can have a AAA credit rating but it probably can't have both. So we think that Budget repair should begin there. We also call on the Government to pick up our sensible and well-supported changes to negative gearing and capital gains. Together those tax changes that I just mentioned would deliver more than $80 billion in improvements to the Budget bottom line, and there are other initiatives as well. We've done more than any Opposition in living memory to propose alternatives where we don't support what the Government's doing. We've put those on the table. We encourage the Government to pick up and run with them, because Budget repair is crucial, but it can be fair and it can be done in a way that doesn't ask the most vulnerable people to carry the can for the Government's Budget failures.


JOURNALIST: The last couple of questions are outside your portfolio. I just want to get Labor's position on these new sanctions from the US to Russia... (inaudible)

CHALMERS: The announcement out of the United States is something between Russia and the United States. There aren't any direct consequences for Australia in those changes that have been announced by the Americans. Of course, we monitor those changes and those developments very closely. But, at face value, there are no implications for Australia in the arrangements announced by the administration in Washington DC.


JOURNALIST: Does Labor support Julie Bishop distancing Australia from the Obama Administration over the Israel (inaudible)?

CHALMERS: Labor has a longstanding and consistent position in favour of a two-state solution in that part of the world. We recognise Israel's right to exist within secure and recognised borders and we recognise the Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own. That's why we have supported for some time a two-state solution. We've said when it comes to the settlements, that we consider them to be a barrier to the negotiations which are necessary to reach that two-state solution. So in the future, if and when Labor is in power, we will consider any of those sorts of developments in light of that consistent and long-standing position that Labor has.

JOURNALIST: Just finally, any particular political highlights from 2016?


CHALMERS: Political highlights? I was really proud to have a campaign in this part of the world and right around the country where we took a whole range of positive policies. In my own area, in the economic sphere, I'm very proud that we put on the table so many different savings measures; so many responsible policies to grow the economy the right way; to have economic growth which is inclusive, Budget repair which is fair. All of those sorts of things. There are a whole range of highlights in an election year. We didn't get the outcome that we wanted, but we've certainly stood up for and spoken up for people that we represent in Australia and that's something to be really proud of.



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