ABC Lateline

09 May 2017



SUBJECT/S: 2017 Budget; Budget comparisons to Labor; banks levy; NDIS; Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare; housing affordability; need for a banking royal commission;


EMMA ALBERICI: For Labor's reaction to Budget 2017, here is the Shadow Finance Minister. Welcome.




ALBERICI: What's your favourite part of this Budget?


CHALMERS: There will inevitably be parts of this Budget that we'll support. For example, there's a measure, a domestic violence measure - a very important one, which Bill Shorten has been calling for for some time. We'll obviously support that change that in the Budget and it's good to see it in there. There will be other things we support as well as we work our way through the detail.


ALBERICI: Have you've been blindsided about how much this feels like a Labor Budget?


CHALMERS: I've heard that political analysis that this is somehow like a Labor Budget and that's definitely the Government's political objective to try and look a bit more like Labor and that's a reflection of us leading the policy debate for some years now. But it's very different to how Labor would have gone about it. Labor wouldn't have a $50 billion tax cut for big business, we wouldn't be cutting schools and universities and family payments. 


ALBERICI: But you'd certainly slap an extra tax on the big banks?

CHALMERS: That's one measure, but that's not fundamentally what the Budget's about. Fundamentally, what the Budget is about is a tax hike on…


ALBERICI: It's a pretty significant revenue measure - $6.2 billion.


CHALMERS: … But the Budget is fundamentally about a tax hike for battlers to pay for a tax cut for the top end of town.


ALBERICI: It's to pay for the NDIS that was underfunded.


CHALMERS: I don't accept that it was underfunded Emma. But sure, we don't want to see the NDIS held hostage either to the Government's plans. We'll have an open mind of course as we work through the details of the Medicare levy change.


ALBERICI: The Government's now legislating to guarantee Medicare funding. Does that put to rest your concerns about the possible privatisation of Medicare?


CHALMERS: Of course it doesn't.


ALBERICI: It doesn't? You still think that's a possibility?


CHALMERS: For as long as there is breath in Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison's bodies, Medicare will be at risk. That's the position that we take.


ALBERICI: On what basis do you take that?


CHALMERS: Even on the so-called unwinding of the Medicare freeze, they've delayed that unwinding for three years. I don't think people out in the community...


ALBERICI: Delaying a Medicare freeze is hardly a privatisation of Medicare?


CHALMERS: My point is, you can't trust these guys with Medicare. They said they would unfreeze the changes to Medicare. They've delayed that for three years. People know out in the community they can't trust these guys with Medicare.


ALBERICI: Housing affordability, letting first home owners access their superannuation for a deposit. What affect do you think that's likely to have on the property market?


CHALMERS: We think overwhelmingly that superannuation is for retirement and not for housing. We've made the point before when other ideas have been floated about superannuation and housing that we want to make sure we're not just heating up the market. But more broadly on the housing policy that was announced today it was pitifully inadequate because it didn't deal with negative gearing or capital gains. Those are the big tax breaks for wealthy investors, which make it so hard for first-home owners to get a foothold in the market.


ALBERICI: So do you think there should be some level of access to superannuation in this measure? It is over and above compulsory contributions?


CHALMERS: We don't think superannuation is for housing. We have made that point very clear for some time now. That's our view when it comes to this package. It's been our view when other proposals have been floated. If you want to deal with housing affordability you need to start with negative gearing and capital gains.


ALBERICI: Drawing you back to the banks, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, could this be a good substitute for a banking royal commission and one that's delivered swiftly and provide can some comfort to consumers?

CHALMERS: There is no substitute for a banking royal commission. The royal commission would get to the bottom of all of these issues that have been in banking for so long now. Of course we look at all these other half measures that the Government is proposing but there is no substitute for properly getting to the bottom of what's gone on in the banking system and why people have suffered so that we can make sure we have the most up to date rules and regulations that apply to the banks.


ALBERICI: In the interim, would you support this measure?


CHALMERS: We'll look at it, of course. And we'll look at all these sorts of measures that deal with making the banks more accountable. But nothing that the Government has proposed tonight is a substitute for a royal commission.


ALBERICI: What do you make of the Government's approach to welfare in terms of trying to catch out drug cheats and deny them of their payments?


CHALMERS: Quite often when it comes to the Government, sadly, is it's less about trying to fix a problem or get people into work and more about trying to get a headline for the Government. This is the ninth headline of this type that’s been generated with these sorts of announcements. They've gone back to the well again. 


ALBERICI: What do you mean by "this time"?


CHALMERS: This is the ninth time they've made an announcement about crackdowns on welfare to get headlines in the tabloid press. Our view is, yes, of course we want to see people who can work, work. We go through the detail of all these announcements when they're made. We want to make sure they're doing it for the right reason, which is to get people into work and make sure welfare is going to where people are entitled to it. But we're deeply sceptical about the sort of headline-grabbing way they go about it.


ALBERICI: What about drug testing for people on welfare to ensure that they're not using that as an excuse?


CHALMERS: We always go through the details of these sorts of proposals and we'll take our time to go through that specific one as well. We want to make sure that it's being done for the right reasons.


ALBERICI: Jim Chalmers, thanks for coming in. 


CHALMERS: Thanks Emma.