Doorstop - Canberra (6)

14 July 2014


SUBJECT/S: James McGrath’s call for higher GST; Abbott Government’s unfair budget; Joe Hockey

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Last night in the Senate we had from a central Liberal Party figure an extraordinary speech which called for the GST to be jacked up to 15 per cent and for it to be applied to food, we had even more drastic cuts to health and education flagged, we had the privatisation of the ABC and we had plans to make it even easier to slur somebody on the basis of their sexuality or their race. What that speech showed and what Joe Hockey’s contribution showed yesterday was that the Budget was just a curtain raiser for the full symphony of unfairness and division to come.

We had Joe Hockey say that he had a whole set of extra savings in his back pocket ready to go - savings that would hurt our community. We had Tony Abbott refusing to rule out in the Parliament some of the crazier recommendations in the Commission of Audit including a $15 GP tax and other recommendations like abolishing the Family Tax Benefit.  And now we have this key LNP figure, Senator McGrath, saying in the Senate that we need a higher GST, to apply it to food, and all the other crazy things that he mentioned in the senate last night.

This is the most unfair and divisive agenda from the most unfair and divisive government in memory. There is no coincidence that the Australian people are lining up to reject this Budget, but not just the Australian people, not just the Senate, but also Joe Hockey’s own colleagues.  In the papers today, we see a lot of Joe Hockey’s frontbench colleagues lining up to say that he’s not up to it. That he’s made a mess of it. I was at the conference a week or two ago when Malcolm Turnbull made the same point publicly. So a lot of people in Joe Hockey’s own cabinet – the Abbott Cabinet – are saying what the Australian people have discovered since the Budget – that the bloke’s not up to it. This is an unfair and divisive budget. People are on to him and that’s why they’re lining up to reject it.

JOURNALIST: Are you suggesting his position’s not secure?

CHALMERS: I think it would be very troubling for Joe Hockey to wake up this morning and see that some of his other senior frontbench colleagues agree with Malcolm Turnbull’s public comments that he’s made a mess of this budget. The Australian people reject it on the basis that it’s unfair and his own colleagues reject it on the basis that he’s made a meal of it.

JOURNALIST: Are you looking forward to being here this time tomorrow, potentially Saturday and potentially Sunday?

CHALMERS: I always look forward to getting home to the electorate. But I would have been here tomorrow anyway for an Economics Committee meeting – we’re having a discussion with the good people of APRA about the Future of Financial Advice reforms, among other things. So I’ll be looking forward to that discussion with them.  The Government has watered down consumer protections for people who are just trying to do the right thing and invest their hard-earned, and I think that’s an important topic for us to discuss in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: What about the prospect of having actual sittings here while the government tries to get through –

CHALMERS: Well the Government has made a mess of this legislation around the Budget – that’s no secret. Every single day, as my colleague the Member for Throsby said a moment ago, they’ve made a meal of it. This is a shambles. This is a political strategy and not an economic strategy. That’s why the Senate, the Australian people and Joe Hockey’s own colleagues are lining up to reject it.

JOURNALIST: Chris Richardson says that the Senate blockage will cost Australia an extra $300 billion over 10 years. Are you comfortable with that level of debt being added?

CHALMERS: Look I think if the government was serious about repairing the budget they wouldn’t be doing things like their rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme, they wouldn’t be giving back $1.1 billion in loopholes for the biggest companies in the country, they wouldn’t be giving back superannuation tax breaks for the wealthiest 20,000 people in the superannuation system.

We’re always up for a discussion about how you get the budget back on to sustainable footing. We’re always up for that. We do have alternative views on a lot of the things that Joe Hockey has proposed. We’re very worried that he’s got a whole agenda of cuts that are yet to be announced and still to come.  We think that Senator McGrath belled the cat on a lot of those sorts of plans.

But we’re always up for a conversation about repairing the budget. We think it should begin with the extravagant paid parental leave scheme, loopholes for multinational companies and some of the outrageous tax breaks that they are giving the wealthiest people in our community.

JOURNALIST: How do you justify though blocking the savings that you went to the election with?

CHALMERS: It’s not Labor’s job to save the Treasurer’s political strategy which is in tatters according to his own frontbench colleagues. We’ve got a set of views that we’ve taken since the election. We’ve got a set of views on the unfairness in the Hockey Budget but also some alternative savings including, as I said, the Paid Parental Leave scheme and other measures.

So I think it’s for the government to legislate their budget. There’s no coincidence that they can’t convince people that it’s fair because it isn’t. There’s no coincidence that the Australian people are lining up to reject it – they should.  And it’s no surprise that Joe Hockey’s own colleagues think he’s made a mess of it.