JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR PUBLIC SERVICE
SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
THURSDAY, 19 MAY 2022
SUBJECT: Labor’s election costings.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The choice at this election is clear: a better future or more of the same. A more responsible Budget, stronger economy and a better future under Labor, or three more years of the same rorts and waste and economic mismanagement under Scott Morrison.
Whoever wins the election on Saturday will inherit high and rising inflation, with interest rates rising as well. The worst real wages cut in more than 20 years, and a trillion dollars in debt with almost nothing to show for it. This is the mess that the Liberals have made of the budget and the economy. Even as the unemployment rate’s come down, Australians are still falling further and further behind. This is what happens when you have a Government whose economic plan is to cut wages and undermine job security, whose budget strategy is to create all of these slush funds and spray around tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, and whose savings plan amounts to sacking people in the public service.
It's not good economic management if ordinary Australians can't get ahead, and that's what we're seeing. Australians are unable to get ahead. Now, these would be the trickiest economic conditions inherited by an incoming government since the Second World War, and our economic plan and our budget strategy is carefully calibrated for these challenges that we would inherit if we are successful on Saturday.
Labor's priorities are to grow the economy without adding to inflation, to get real wages moving again, and to ease the pressure that too many Australians are feeling during this full-blown cost of living crisis. Our costings that we release today, our economic plan, our budget strategy, is all about responsible quality investments in a stronger economy, and a better future.
After a decade of the Coalition's failings, the economy is crying out for these responsible investments to grow the economy the right way, to get productivity moving again and to get real wages growing again. Our investments are a fraction of what the Liberals and Nationals have rorted and wasted. Our investments are a fraction of what the Liberals and Nationals added at the last budget, and at the last mid-year update as well. The modest $7.4 billion difference between the two budgets is made up of key investments in childcare, investments in training and education, and investments in cleaner and cheaper energy.
Our investments will generate an economic dividend. Every dollar of difference between us and the Government is carefully calibrated to deliver a bigger economic return. To deal with these challenges that we would inherit. We would be inheriting a trillion dollars of debt, but we wouldn't be inheriting an economic plan from this Government. And the difference between our budget and the Government's budget is $7.4 billion of investments in key economy growing areas like childcare, and training, and cleaner and cheaper energy as well.
We are also being far more responsible than the Government. We are releasing today $11.5 billion in budget improvements, including 13 savings measures. We will end the Liberal rorts and waste and mismanagement, and we will invest in the future of this economy and this country, so that we actually have something to show for a budget which is heaving with Liberal and National debt. Now this will be the important work of whoever wins the election on Saturday. There is a budget repair task ahead of whoever wins the election. The first step is to make sure that we've got quality investments in the budget, that we end the rorts and the waste and the mismanagement.
This costing plan that we're releasing today begins that important work, but that work will never end. So I'll hand you over to Katy, and then we'll take your questions.
KATY GALLAGHER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks very much, Jim. and thanks for coming today. So our approach since taking on these roles and looking at what we can afford, going forward, has been in a number of areas. Jim's touched on them, but first, responsible and targeted investments that deliver an outcome, whether it's been creating jobs, boosting participation, lifting productivity, driving business investment and being able to grab the opportunities that come with that, increasing wages and growing incomes, to end the rorts. And we saw that yesterday with Anthony announcing the return to the budget of $750 million that we know sits there unallocated at this point in time. A waste audit to go through the budget line by line, department by department, after nine years of this Government fiddling the books and stashing money wherever they feel like it for their own political convenience, and also sensible savings to start that work of budget repair.
So our plan, which we're releasing today, our costings allow for modest new investments of $18.9 billion over the forward estimates. But we've also announced $11.5 billion in budget improvements over that same time. This is the responsible approach to budget management that the Australian people deserve from their government, and it's a real contrast to a tired old government that has rorted and wasted billions of dollars. In summary, the difference between the PEFO figures and Labor's costings released today, is $7.4 billion over four years. This difference is fully explained by our key policies designed to kickstart productivity and drive growth. So childcare, skills and training, and cleaner and cheaper energy. These are the critical investments we need if we are to grab the opportunities ahead after nearly a decade of drift, division and blame shifting.
Our plan has deficits both declining in both dollar terms and as a percentage of the economy, each and every year. Spending as a percent of GDP declines in each and every year. Our responsible investments account for no more than an extra 0.4% of the total budget in any year. And it accounts for less than 0.1% of GDP in any year of the forward estimates. It's less than half of what Scott Morrison gave to firms whose income increased during the pandemic. And we have worked really hard to make sure that every dollar we are spending is delivering an outcome for the Australian people. Jobs, growth, lowering the cost of living, investing in local communities, and of course, a serious commitment to looking after elderly Australians and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve, something this Government has comprehensively failed upon for the last decade.
Now we expect a last-minute scare campaign from the Liberal camp. It's really all that they have left. But we will not be taking lectures from them. This Liberal crew have spent more, borrowed more, and taxed more than any other government. They doubled the debt before the pandemic hit. These are the facts. We're been clear today about what our plans are and what they cost. We do not have the luxury of burying and hiding billions of dollars in various slush funds, as Scott Morrison likes to do. The Australian people deserve a government that is better than that. And that is what an Albanese Labor Government would be. Thank you.
CHALMERS: Okay, I'm gonna give the first question to Probyn, even though he threw his phone at us when we were speaking.
JOURNALIST: Dr Chalmers, you say that this is going to deliver an economic dividend, which column of your first budget would that be evident?
CHALMERS: Well, it's already clear from the policies that we're releasing today, you think about at least two of our big policies that have already been modelled. You know, RepuTex has modelled our Powering Australia Plan, which says that there'll be tens of billions of dollars in extra investment from our investment in cleaner and cheaper energy. There'll be more than 600,000 jobs, five out of six of those in the regions. So the benefits are already clear. And childcare, similarly, when it comes to the Grattan Institute modelling, when you speak to the economists in the jargon, you know, the fiscal multipliers, where you get the best bang for buck is in areas like childcare, like training, like energy, and that's what we've gone for here. And so that's why the difference between what the Government is proposing and what we're proposing is we want to unwind the slush, and the waste, and the rorts in a Liberal/National budget. And we want to redirect that towards spending on quality investments, in growing the economy the right way.
JOURNALIST: The question was about which column of your first, second, third budget, would the economic dividends show other than more debt?
CHALMERS: Well, all of our policies would be included in the first budget and where it's consistent with the accounting rules, the benefits--
JOURNALIST: But would it be higher wages, would it be high productivity?
CHALMERS: Yeah our policy, our economic plan, and our budget strategy is about growing the economy more strongly without adding to inflation. It's about getting real wages moving again. Remember, we'd be inheriting the worst real wages numbers in more than 20 years. And it's about easing cost of living pressures in areas like childcare, like energy, like the PBS, and so the benefits for Australians will be set out in our first budget. I think the economic dividends are clear. What we've tried to do is we've tried to end and rule the line under the way that the Government has gone about budgeting, which is always for a political dividend. We've tried to go for an economic dividend, and that will be clear in the budget.
JOURNALIST: You've talked about the need for this plan to be driving productivity and boosting economic growth. So when you hand down your first budget, and you've got all of your plans in place, what does success look like in terms of your productivity forecasts? In terms of actual outcomes in your first term, should we expect to see WPI or GDP in your first budget reflecting higher outcomes as a result of your policies?
CHALMERS: Well, obviously we'll engage with Treasury and Finance in the usual way, and they will include in the budget, the impacts of our policies. We are realistic about the scale of the challenge that we would be inheriting in economic terms, and also in fiscal terms. And what we've tried to do is we've tried to be upfront with people and say a lot of these challenges haven't been just developing during the pandemic. A lot of these challenges are a decade old, when you think of stagnant wages, flatlining productivity, weakest business investment since the 90s recession. A lot of these challenges have been building for a long time, and nobody can just flick the switch and make this trillion dollars of debt disappear. Nobody can flick a switch and turn what has been a woeful performance on productivity or business investment or wages and turn it around in one budget, or even arguably, in one term. But what we're doing here is making a start. And we're doing it in the most responsible, forward looking way that we can because for too long in this country, we've had a budget determined solely by political imperatives. And what Katy and I want to do and what our costings document, and our economic plan that we released here weeks ago, is all about is making sure that we have something to show for this trillion dollars of debt that we inherit, that we'd have an economic dividend. And that's what our policies are about. Tom.
JOURNALIST: Just in the last two elections, you went in and made a virtue of saying you have a better budget bottom line, compared to the Government. Now, debt, as you say, is spiralling and seemingly the last thing the economy needs is more spending given inflation. Can you talk me through the logic of now actually adding to spending?
CHALMERS: Firstly, on the basis of your question, I mean, that's accurate for the last election, but not for the one before.
CHALMERS: Okay, when it comes to our investment, and when it comes to the difference in the bottom line between us, it is entirely explained by those investments in those three key areas, which will grow the economy without adding to inflation. So if you look at that $7.4 billion difference between the budgets, you add up our skills- training and universities, cleaner and cheaper energy and childcare, which are arguably the three policies that will get us the best bang for buck. What we are anticipating is that the economic return on those investments will dwarf the investments themselves. And so we think that that's worth it. Now, obviously, every government and every alternative government has choices to make. And we could have not announced those policies and we could have come to the same bottom line. But if you start from the basis of what's best for the economy is best for the budget, then these investments are absolutely necessary, and we're proud of them. We're gonna go to Shane, and then we'll go Phil, and then we’ll go to Peter, and we’ll go to here and here.
JOURNALIST: You've talked about the quality of the spend. Can you explain to me what part of Section 51 of the Constitution enables the Federal Government to spend money on dog parks, BMX tracks, swimming pools, and wall murals, which you've all you've all committed to. Doesn't the fact that you're borrowing money to pay for those, mean that you're running larger deficits than you would otherwise need to have done?
CHALMERS: Well, we're making responsible investments in local communities. And the difference between how we go about it and how the Government goes about it, is that we want to work with local councils and state governments to provide that community infrastructure. We're not sitting around, Katy and I, in an office somewhere, poring over colour-coded spreadsheets like the Liberals and Nationals have been doing. On the constitutional basis, it's consistent with past practice. If that advice changes, then obviously, we would take that into account. We're aware of the some of the opinions that your newspaper and perhaps others have published, but it's consistent with past practice. And so we don't anticipate any issues on that front. Phil?
JOURNALIST: With your bigger productivity measures coming from those off-budget funds you've announced about $48 billion worth, you know, NBN poles and wires, National Reconstruction Fund. Is the interest payment on those borrowings reflected in your bottom line figures? I assume there will be extra debt from having to borrow that money? Is that reflected in this 7.4? And is there anywhere in these savings prediction on the improvement and productivity you'll get from those, those policies?
CHALMERS: On the have we included the impact on debt? Yes, and interest, yes. But also, it's worth remembering that a number of these funds make the budget money. So the National Reconstruction Fund, for example, and others. What we're doing here with these off budget funds, is entirely consistent with how the Government has gone about a number of the funds that they have, I think that they are an important way to leverage the national balance sheet in the interests of good economic outcomes. We've seen with the CEFC and other funds, that you can generate a very worthwhile economic dividend from these funds. And so many of these we've, some of these we've announced, you know, more than a year ago. So, yes, that's been accounted for here. But don't forget that in some instances, these funds make money. We're going Peter here, here, here, then Sarah then Murph.
JOURNALIST: To clarify before I ask, I was going to ask, you're saying that there are no second round effects in these costings, as is the convention of the PBO.
CHALMERS: Yeah, we followed the convention of the PBO and the Treasury.
JOURNALIST: But there will be, that's not my question. There will be second round…
CHALMERS: It sounded like a question.
JOURNALIST: You got me there. There will be second round effects, because that's what you're talking about in the budget.
JOURNALIST: The unemployment rate is 3.9% today. It's forecast to come down in the budget very soon to 3.75%, and then lower. Will taking this into account, taking what you've done into account, your October budget, should there be one, have lower unemployment forecasts, even lower than those in the budget and PEFO as a result going out four years, or can't we really be certain that there are benefits to your spending?
JOURNALIST: Obviously, I'm not going to preempt, you know, forecast work by the Treasury that we haven't seen and wouldn't appropriately see until or unless we are the government. So, clearly, I'm not going to make predictions about that. When it comes to the unemployment rate, even when unemployment is falling in welcome ways, it hasn't generated the real wage growth that we need to see and that we would expect to see. And that's because for the best part of a decade, we've had a government whose deliberate economic policy has been to attack job security and undermine wages. They've fessed that up before. So I think in the labour market in particular, the balance of risks has shifted to this real wages cut that we're seeing, this quite dramatic cut to real wages. So our priorities are obviously creating good, secure, well paid jobs, get real wages moving again, try and grow the economy without adding these inflationary pressures. We will work with Treasury and Finance if we are elected, to make sure that those dividends of our investments are appropriately represented in our budgets.
JOURNALIST: Will you rule out a change to the public service efficiency dividend? And just out of Victoria, just looking, you've promised 2.2 billion for the Suburban Rail Loop, just wondering how the maths in the infrastructure projects adds up? It doesn't quite seem to meet 2.2 billion.
GALLAGHER: Yeah, sure. I'll answer that question. So on the first question around the public sector efficiency dividend, we're not proposing any change to the arrangements that exist, we're not adopting the Government's approach of the over $3 billion that they have announced a couple of days ago. We've made our position on where we think that there are some sensible and more efficient ways to do that, and that's included in the costings.
On the infrastructure program, we've made provision in the costings, and you'll see that we've taken the same approach the government has where they've made infrastructure announcements, and then they've made a much smaller provision in their costings. Our belief is in a program that size with the amount of delays and some of the cancellations that the Government has been making themselves, for example, the Treasurer's four car parks that he's no longer building in his own electorate, within $120 billion ten-year program that those commitments will be funded within the existing infrastructure investment program. Where that's not the case, we've made provision in the costings document.
JOURNALIST: You've criticised the Government for pouring JobKeeper into companies that don't need it. Will you compel those companies to pay that excess money back? And can I just ask as well, you've outlined the cost of abolishing SHEVs and TPVs. Can you explain some of the costs that will be associated with creating a new permanent visa?
CHALMERS: I'll answer the JobKeeper and then Katy will answer the migration one. We don't intend to compel businesses who received JobKeeper even though their profits were increasing, we don't intend to compel them to return that money to the taxpayer. That horse has bolted. We are grateful and appreciate the efforts that some companies took off their own bat without government pressure, but from opposition pressure, to return some of that money to the budget, but we feel like that horse has bolted.
Now, when you hear no doubt this afternoon, and subsequently, you will hear this Government talk about our budget position. And when they do, never forget, this is the Government that got their JobKeeper sums wrong by $60 billion. They gave $20 billion at least to companies during the pandemic whose profits were increasing, and they didn't need assistance. They gave $5.5 billion dollars, at least, to a submarine program that didn't produce as much as a canoe. They spent a billion dollars on advertising themselves. You know, they spent billions and billions of dollars in these slush funds that Katy went through. So as Katy said, we won't be taking lectures from the most wasteful government since Federation. Objectively, if you look at the budget history of this country, there has not been a more wasteful government since Federation, and we need to start putting a stop to that. We've indicated some ways that we would go about it. But recouping JobKeeper is not part of what we're proposing today. Sarah and then Katharine.
JOURNALIST: Sorry just on the TPVs.
GALLAGHER: No, you're right. Under our costing, there's about 19,000 people who are currently on those arrangements. So this would abolish those visas, and it would shift people on them to a permanent visa, a new permanent visa. It would remove the need to reapply and go through that process every three to five years, which is currently what's happening, and that's for people that have met that security and character requirements test under that current visa arrangements. But it would, under the new visa subclass, it would allow the same support as under existing visas, so they would be entitled to work, access Medicare, income support, English language tuition, and also things like trauma and torture counselling services. And that's the costing that we've been provided for that.
CHALMERS: Go ahead, Sarah.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask a specific thing about the $560 million measure you've got here, a savings measure for strengthening competition to ease cost of living pressures, what that is? And just more generally speaking, you've suggested that a couple of billion dollars worse off is not really that important. Isn't that Labor's problem when it comes to budget management?
CHALMERS: Well, firstly on the competition policy, and Andrew Leigh and Stephen Jones will have more to say about this this afternoon. But what that saving there represents, the $558 million, is an increased penalties for business who engage in anti-competitive behaviour. It's an increase to the maximum that can be levied to $50 million, which puts it more consistent with and more in line with international best practice, that we've had a good look at. But Andrew and Stephen will be saying more about competition. We've included that there because our costings include all of our policies, but this afternoon, you'll hear more from those guys.
JOURNALIST: And just more broadly on, you know, do you really believe that a couple of billion dollars each year over the forward estimates doesn't really matter?
CHALMERS: I believe it's absolutely crucial to growing the economy the right way. You know, I don't dismiss it lightly. We have spent more than 100 hours with the ERC with Katy or I in the chair, and we have gone through very carefully every bit of spending from the government, every bit of proposed spending from us. So we don't take these decisions lightly. From time to time, you or your counterparts and colleagues will ask us, you know, will the first budget involve us going line by line through every line of spending? My answer to that is every single budget should involve that level of rigour, and we have been very rigorous here. So the extra investments that we are making, these decisions are not taken lightly. We feel that the budget would be weaker, without investing in crucial economic policies like childcare, cleaner and cheaper energy and training. So we've made that judgment not lightly, but in the interests of the economy into the future. Because we want to make these decisions based on economics, not politics. Katharine.
JOURNALIST: Can I just return to Shane's question, just about the constitutionality of those discretionary grants. This has been an issue since the sports grants report was released by the National Audit Office. It's been a discussion that's been on for the best part of two years. You sort of answered it, Jim, in the passive, you know, it's consistent with past practice, surely, someone actually has to seek some legal advice to determine whether or not this method of disbursing funds is constitutional or not. So if you win the election on Saturday, will you seek that advice?
JOURNALIST: That's a decision yet to be taken. But our strong, firm understanding is that it's consistent with constitutional requirements. If that changes, then obviously, our approach will change too. But that's not what we're anticipating.
JOURNALIST: In your costings you've got about $3 billion for extending ATO programs. Could you tell us what those programs are and why they're being extended? And secondly, on the job starter about 4000, employment grew by 4000. But there are hundreds of thousands of vacant jobs. Would Labor look at things like boosting the number of skilled migrants in order to fill those vacancies and take pressure off business?
CHALMERS: Yeah, first of all, the ATO measures are extending two government programs responsibly. Extending one of them in terms of the resources allocated to it, and in both cases, extending the time that those task forces operate. These are programs that we have supported when the Government has proposed them. All we're proposing here is a modest extension of those ATO compliance programs. We think they make sense. We want to make sure that people are paying their fair share of tax. That means the ATO needs the resources to ensure that. On the question of spare capacity, sorry, opportunities in the labour market, there are a combination of things that we need to do to address the labour shortages and the skill shortages, which are holding our economy back. Now, we spend a lot of time in every corner of Australia speaking with industry, speaking with employers, and they are crying out for workers. Part of that is a function of almost a decade of failing on training, and so training is a big part of what we're proposing particularly fee free TAFE, hundreds of thousands of places. But also childcare, making it easier for parents, particularly mums who want to work more and earn more, making it easier, and more advantageous for them to do it is part of it. Migration is part of the story as well, and we have engaged with business, Kristina Keneally and her portfolio of course, and what we're trying to do is to work out now that the migration program is up and running again, what's the best version of it? What's the best mix when it comes to skilled and unskilled? All the other considerations, temporary, permanent. How do we get the best kind of migration program, which recognises that migration is good for our society and good for our economy, but it needs to be a robust program where people aren't getting exploited, and where we're filling our skills needs, not as a substitute for training or for other policies that boost participation. But in addition to those things.
JOURNALIST: I have a question to do with compliance, that the budget already extended the ATO Tax Avoidance Task Force that was multinational, large corporates and high wealth individuals, is that same program, is it another one? Are you extending it?
CHALMERS: There's two, there's that one and the Black Economy Taskforce.
JOURNALIST: So that one was already extended though in the budget, are you extending it on top of that?
CHALMERS: Yes, correct.
JOURNALIST: What sort of taxpayers does that entail? You said that they were multinational, but what sort of taxpayer?
CHALMERS: Taxpayers who aren't complying.
JOURNALIST: But it's businesses, individuals, trusts?
CHALMERS: Well, one of them is a GST one, and the other one is primarily from business. But it's the two existing arrangements for those two task forces would be maintained, extended, timewise and resource-wise. Just gonna go over here first, because we haven't had a question over here.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday Anthony said that he would cut waste and rorts by using a different model that focus, a different model for grants programs that focuses on productivity, not where the electorates are. Is Labor committing to budgeting grants programs based, you know, free from pork barreling, or does that only apply to the National Reconstruction Fund?
GALLAGHER: So in terms of our approach to grants, well you can see that they're different and the approach we've taken today to announcing our costings. We have them clearly, the commitments we've made to local communities through a local commitments process are all accounted for. In terms of grants, I think what we would see is abide by the grant guidelines, which is something this Government doesn't do. I mean, the Community Development Grants program, which has turned out to be the biggest pork barreling grant round we've got going now. I think the government learned that people were watching the Building Better Regions Fund and the Urban Congestion Fund, so they moved in the space of one month, between February this year, and March this year, they moved almost a billion dollars into that fund, so they could allocate it through this election. That's what's happening right now. So don't think they've learnt their lesson of sports rorts and carpark rorts and all of the shenanigans they got up to before the last election. They haven't, they just found a new fund that didn't have the same scrutiny placed on it. Now, that's the story. We will not operate like that. We have made our commitments, and we have made them upfront and we're accounting for them in our costings. And in government, we would have a much better process, ie, we would follow the grant guidelines as required by the Finance Department, which this government rips up.
JOURNALIST: Is your critical care policy, critical care GP clinics policy being costed, because it wasn't last time.
GALLAGHER: The urgent care?
JOURNALIST: Sorry, the urgent care one. And when the ABC asked where these would be, the ALP refused to give us a list. Why would that be? And would that be subject of the audit as well?
GALLAGHER: Yeah. So on urgent care, we've made it, it's a capped fund. It's a capped program of $135 million for 50 urgent care centers across Australia. The expectation is, and these would be determined in government, that it would be--
JOURNALIST: But they've been assigned during the election campaign.
GALLAGHER: Some of them have been…
JOURNALIST: Where is the process for that.
GALLAGHER: Well, some of them have been assigned and they've been assigned where there are…
JOURNALIST: How many?
GALLAGHER: Well, I'd have to check the exact number. I don't have that right now. But the announcements have been made where ED presentations, particularly of categories four and five, are causing real stress to those hospitals in those areas. Everybody knows categories four and five can be treated by a general practitioner, if they are available. So that's the idea behind the urgent care centers, is that they are open extended hours, and they are available for people when they need them. I mean EDs, and I speak from experience, I know when EDs get really busy, and it's in the early evenings and on the weekends when your kids get sick and there's no other alternative around. So this is a three-year program, it's a capped amount, we want to review it to make sure that it works within the Australian health system. It does work in other jurisdictions, and the idea is that a GP would get on average a grant in the order of $750,000, depending on the size of the practice and how many people were working. So it would change slightly, but that would be implemented in government, and it was informed by PBO costing.
CHALMERS: So we're gonna go Sarah next Phil, then Ron, then Phil, and then we're done.
JOURNALIST: Senator just back to the spending in marginal electorates and whether or not I guess Labor is doing anything differently to what the Coalition has done. Since the beginning of the year, Labor's promised more than a billion dollars to marginal electorates, which is two and a half times what would be expected if those promises were made on a, you know, equal electorate bases. Can you honestly suggest that Labor is doing anything differently to what the Coalition is doing in terms of pork barreling? And will any of those commitments be subject to scrutiny by either a new Federal Integrity Commission or any other independent process?
GALLAGHER: Well, we've made it clear that these projects are ones that we support, we've made the announcements in the election. In terms of some of the, I don't know which ones you've got in that list, there's smaller commitments, and then there's ones that fall under Catherine's portfolio. And she's made it quite clear that they will go through a merit process. Where we've made smaller commitments, we've made them where council and state governments have done business cases and have strong community support for those commitments. But we have made commitments across the board, we have in a number of seats that we don't expect to win, where we still believe there is a need for a particular commitment, we have made them. But the big difference, and there is a big difference between us and them, is we are being upfront and we are accounting for those in our costings, we do not have the luxury of what the approach that this Government takes, which is to bury billions of dollars in secret funds, and then use those, so those funds set up in government, with government guidelines and processes in place, which they then allocate as election commitments. And that is the issue that the Audit Office has had a problem with them on. It's not the fact that commitments are made. It's about how they hide the money, and then allocate the money and pretend that it hasn’t come, you know, from funds that should be shared equally across the country.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] honest about pork barrelling.
GALLAGHER: No, no. I don't think anyone expects you to go through an election campaign and not make commitments. We are doing that, as every opposition and government has done in previous times. We are being upfront and clear, and we are accounting for the costs.
CHALMERS: So the last two questions are Ron and then Phil.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. Can I just clarify in relation to your costings today, your commitment to effectively cover an increase to the wage of aged care workers, which my understanding is, you know, from my analysis could be in the multiple billions of dollars each year from the point that that comes into effect. That's not included in your costings today, is it?
CHALMERS: It's not possible to cost that which is why the Government hasn't costed that either. Scott Morrison has said that a Federal Government would have to fund a future outcome of an aged care wage case. We have said that we will support that case. We think that aged care workers are quite substantially underpaid when you consider the value of the work that they do in the care economy. But neither the Government nor the Labor Opposition can anticipate the outcomes of that Fair Work process in terms of timing, in terms of quantum. That's why Scott Morrison, who has also said that they will fund it, has not included it in the numbers that the Treasurer and the Finance Minister released in Melbourne on Tuesday. Phil.
JOURNALIST: Excuse me for being cynical, but a lot of the major savings you've announced today are based on behavioural type forecasts, you know, tax avoidance, you know, fining competition breaches, things like that. I assume that’s based on some sort of behavioural analysis by the PBO or someone else. But notoriously in the past these things have only been estimated. But if you get on the other side of the budget, are you gonna have a crack at more structural savings? Are you gonna have a go at the NDIS for example, which is now headed towards $64 billion annually by the end of the decade, I mean stuff you can actually deliver rather than this sort of thing?
CHALMERS: First of all, the revenue measures before you have been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and they use the methodology that Treasury and Finance would use, and so those are robust costings. I'd say about it that of the 19 improvements to the budget that we are releasing today, 13 of them are savings, 6 of them are revenue measures. So more than twice as many are savings then revenue measures and that's deliberate as well. We are not proposing to cut some of the key social services programs, that's not our intention, what we would like to do instead is to make room for meaningful investments in the care economy by unwinding some of the rorts and waste in the budget. If there is a theme of Katy's work and my work that we're presenting to you today, is that if we do a bit less of the rorting and wasting which has defined a decade of the Coalition in office, then we can do more of the things that we truly value in this society and in our economy.
JOURNALIST: There's rorting and waste going on inside the NDIS as well. You can't make a better program?
CHALMERS: We said we would look for ways to make it more efficient and we have said that, for example, there are extreme lawyer fees paid in the NDIS. We've made all that clear.
JOURNALIST: By service providers?
CHALMERS: We've made all of that clear, and there is work to be done on the NDIS. But our intention out of that is not to reduce people’s services or not to reduce people's packages. What we desperately want to see in this country is a better future, that requires a stronger economy, which requires a better quality, more responsible budget. That's what you have before you today. This work begins with what we are proposing today but hopefully it will continue for the life of an Albanese Labor Government. Thanks very much. Thank you.