JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
ABC BRISBANE DRIVE
MONDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: OECD progress on multinational tax; Josh Frydenberg’s mismanagement of JobKeeper; IBAC.
STEVE AUSTIN, HOST: Jim Chalmers is the Shadow Treasurer and federal Member for Rankin, the Queensland federal electorate here in Queensland. Jim Chalmers, have you congratulated the man who sort of heads the OECD at the moment, Mathias Cormann former member of the federal government?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I haven't Steve, but this work has been going on for some time now. In fairness, I don't think anybody thinks that this is Mathias' doing on his own or even mostly. There's been a big global movement towards trying to make the international tax system for multinationals fairer. And so I think the whole OECD and also the countries that are involved in this, they do deserve our congratulations. This is welcome and important progress, it doesn’t fix everything but it's a step in the right direction definitely, when it comes to making sure that some of these big companies pay their fair share of tax in the countries where they make their profits.
AUSTIN: The deal nevertheless was done while Mathias Cormann was the General Secretary, he called it a major victory. And the features of it basically mean a global minimum tax rate of at least 15%, which some have called too low. How does Labor see it?
CHALMERS: Yes, there are two parts to it. The second part is the bit that sets that 15% minimum. Obviously, some countries would like to see that higher. Some commentators here would like to see it higher. I prefer to look at it positively, which is there wouldn't have been a minimum before this agreement. So I think it's, as I said, good and welcome progress.
And then the other part of it, that's pillar two, pillar one is about some of these massive multinationals that are benefiting particularly from the way that intellectual property plays a bigger and bigger role in the way that companies are making their profits, the way that globalisation has made it easier for countries to park their profits in low tax jurisdictions, and so the first pillar is about that. So I think overall, a really good bit of progress. There's been work going on for a long time, we've been very supportive in Labor of trying to make sure multinationals pay their fair share of tax where they make their money, and that's what this is all about.
AUSTIN: I actually tried to see if Andrew Leigh, who's been taking the lead on this really for you guys for some time has said anything about it, but I couldn't find where he said anything about it?
CHALMERS: I'm not sure if he has publicly but I've certainly been speaking to him about it. You're right that he has been an authority on this in Australia for some time, certainly a very prominent voice in our team and I've been speaking with him about it. We're going through the detail of it as well, it's not a finished process it's an ongoing process, and so we're working out what it means for Australia and as we do that, obviously, Andrew will be one of the people I consult.
AUSTIN: This is ABC Radio Brisbane. My name is Steve Austin. I'm speaking with the Shadow Treasury Spokesperson for Federal Labor Jim Chalmers. Mr Chalmers is a Queensland Labor MP. He holds the electorate of Rankin, on the southside of Brisbane. Let me ask you another story that's around at the moment, and that's the report just released today by Treasury.
CHALMERS: Hot off the presses.
AUSTIN: Hot off the presses, where apparently, according to Treasury analysis, $27 billion of the $89 billion JobKeeper program went to businesses, essentially, that didn't need it, or didn't suffer as much as they feared. What's Labor's take on it, I know the report's only come out today but what's your take on this?
CHALMERS: I've gone through it Steve, I mean this is a stunning admission of failure from the Treasurer. Josh Frydenberg released this report today and what it shows is that, as you say, $27 billion to companies who didn't suffer what they claimed they would, but most of that actually went to businesses, in six months alone, whose profits actually went up.
So this is justification and vindication of what we've been saying for some time, which is JobKeeper is a really good idea which got really badly mismanaged and really badly implemented. And what that meant, was well north of $13 billion was wasted on businesses that didn't need it at the same time as Josh Frydenberg was telling small businesses that did need it that he couldn't afford to help. So this report is a really damning indictment, I think, of his mismanagement. And what it shows is everything that we have said for some time now about JobKeeper - we've celebrated every single job that was saved by JobKeeper, that's why we proposed it in the first place - but it's fallen over in some of the really important areas of implementation. And as a consequence of that incompetence, well north of $13 billion was wasted. And that's been borne out and proven by a document that the Treasurer himself released today.
AUSTIN: There's a lot of surprises in the pandemic, so I think a lot of people had to deal with the fact that certain businesses thought they'd do badly and they did quite well. There were lots of economic elements that were totally unpredictable, so wasn't the sort of the businesses who apply for JobKeeper and received it, they were forward projecting. In other words, now that you know that they're able to look back, they can say oh okay, we thought we're doing badly but it turns out we didn't. In other words, it's because they had to predict ahead of time when applying for JobKeeper?
CHALMERS: Yeah but that forgets Steve, that at various points in this program the Treasurer was warned that businesses were getting it that didn't need it. So my quibble isn't necessarily with those businesses which misjudged their turnover, my quibble is that the Treasury, and the various officials, were telling Josh Frydenberg last year that there was a lot of waste in this program. The report points to that as well. He knew that there was waste in the program, he was solely responsible for the eligibility and the rate of the program, and he did nothing about it. And as a consequence, well north of $13 billion, which I'm sure all of your listeners could think of a better way to spend, got wasted on businesses whose profits actually went up. And that's a indictment on the Treasurer, not on the various predictions that the businesses made.
AUSTIN: So should they be asked to pay it back, this is a discussion we've been having for a long time Jim Chalmers? Should those businesses that turned out didn't need it, should they be now required to pay it back?
CHALMERS: I think this $13 billion plus horse has bolted in lots of ways. What we tried to do was to ramp-up the public pressure and the transparency, so that businesses that didn't need it would return it. Some businesses have done that, we welcome that, we thank them for that, we think that was the right decision. It's not our intention to clawback the payment if we win government next year or whenever it might be, we think that horse has bolted. In the interim, what we've tried to do is to ramp-up the pressure and the transparency. Ideally, the Treasurer of this country would have thought more highly of those $13 billion in wasted taxpayer funds and he would have done something about it already.
AUSTIN: Labor's Jim Chalmers is my guest. This is ABC Radio Brisbane. Tomorrow around this time I'll be speaking with a member of the LNP in Queensland, Senator Amanda Stoker. Jim Chalmers, before I let you go, could I just ask you about what's happening in Victoria at the moment? You would have heard the news I'm sure that Victorian Labor Minister Luke Donnellan has quit over admissions that he was involved in branch stalking. He's a cabinet minister and he's going to move to the backbench after being accused of paying for other people's party memberships. As you see this take place, do you think the problem of Labor in Victoria is much deeper than just how it looks on the surface of things?
CHALMERS: I've got no way of telling, Steve. I've seen that news about the resignation but I haven't been able to follow the kind of ins and outs of it today, or what my colleague Anthony Byrne has said so I don't think I can enlighten your viewers. I'm not sure of what was said.
AUSTIN: You have not been following the independent, broad-based anti-corruption commission investigation involving the misuse of taxpayer funded staff and community grants in Victoria?
CHALMERS: I knew there was a public hearing today and one of my colleagues told me about half an hour ago that a Minister had resigned, but I haven't had a chance to check in on all the details of it, not yet no.
AUSTIN: There's rumours that there'll be more, do you know? More resignations?
CHALMERS: No, I don't know, I don't know. Not to try and avoid your question Steve, but today we've had action on the climate change front, JobKeeper, we've had a Deloitte Report out, I've chaired the ERC, there's been a lot going on today. I will catch up on it, but I haven't yet.
AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers, thanks for coming on this afternoon.
CHALMERS: Thanks very much, Steve.
AUSTIN: That's Labor's Jim Chalmers, the ALP Shadow Treasury spokesperson.