Doorstop - Logan (8)

23 March 2018



SUBJECT/S: Pauline Hanson selling out battlers; Turnbull’s $65 billion big business tax cut; Liberals’ blowout on consultants and contractors; US-China trade tariffs

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks for coming out and braving the conditions. I just wanted to comment on a range of issues, but principally the reports that a deal has been done between Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull on his big business tax cuts. We call on Pauline Hanson to come out and immediately clarify and confirm whether she has done this dodgy deal with Malcolm Turnbull for these big business tax cuts, which will overwhelmingly favour the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia.

If Pauline Hanson votes for Malcolm Turnbull's big business tax cuts, she will be siding again with the Liberal Party and big multinational corporations against the interests of the ordinary Australian battler. Pauline Hanson likes to pretend that she's for the battler, that she's for Queensland. But if she votes for these big tax cuts for multinational corporations, she will be betraying both.

Pauline Hanson likes to pretend that she is some sort of free-thinking non-politician, but in the Senate, her One Nation Party has voted with the Liberal Government and Malcolm Turnbull nine out every 10 times. Pauline Hanson has voted with Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals nine out of every 10 times in the Senate on key legislation. Whenever there is key legislation put forth, Pauline Hanson is right there behind Malcolm Turnbull nine out of every 10 times that has happened. When Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party say "jump", Pauline Hanson says "how high?".

These reports indicate that part of the deal might be to put 1000 apprentices into the system nationally. We’re talking about a Turnbull Liberal Government which has cut 140,000 apprenticeships in their time in office, offering to put 1000 apprentices back into the system.  Less than one per cent of the cuts that they've made to apprentices in this country would be restored as a consequence of this dodgy deal. This is not about apprentices. This is about giving Pauline Hanson the cover to do what she always wanted to do, which is to side with Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party and big foreign multinationals at the expense of the ordinary Australian battler. 


If Pauline Hanson votes for these big business tax cuts, let's remember what she'll be supporting: at a time of record and growing debt, a $65 billion gift to the top end of town - of which The Australia Institute tells us something like $10 billion will go to the big four banks alone and much of the rest of it will be sprayed around offshore in the form of higher executive pay and share buybacks and puffed up dividends for foreign shareholders. This is what Pauline Hanson is contemplating supporting. There is no guarantee in Malcolm Turnbull's big business tax cuts that any of it will be invested onshore. We just have this pretty peculiar pinky promise from sections of the business community; from a handful of CEOs in this country. 


If Pauline Hanson was serious about supporting onshore investment in Australia, investment in Australian jobs and wages, she would get behind our Australian Investment Guarantee. Labor's Australian Investment Guarantee, unlike the Government's $65 billion handout, does not rely on crossed fingers and outdated trickle-down ideology. It would guarantee that taxpayer dollars are invested here in Australia with positive consequences for Australian jobs, unlike the big business tax cut that Malcolm Turnbull is proposing.


There are a couple of other issues around today as well. In the Parliament today a parliamentary committee will be taking evidence about the extraordinary blowout in spending on contractors and consultants and labour hire under Malcolm Turnbull and Mathias Cormann. Malcolm Turnbull and Mathias Cormann are so out of touch that they lecture middle Australia about the need to cut health and education and pensions at the same time as we have this extraordinary blowout in spending; billions of dollars spraying around on contractors and consultants and labour hire. There is from time to time the need for expert external advice, but the billions of dollars which are being spent by Turnbull and Cormann and others on these expensive contractors, consultants and labour hire is unsustainable, particularly when we have a Budget in such a mess; a Budget defined by record and growing debt.


A number of departmental secretaries, current and former, have made the same point that Labor has been making, which is by hollowing out the public service, by imposing arbitrary caps on public service numbers, the Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull has forced agencies in the public service to spend more and more taxpayer money on more and more inferior outcomes. Malcolm Turnbull and Mathias Cormann are so out of touch, they don't understand that Australians need and deserve good services. They deserve value for money for their taxpayer dollars; not these out-of-whack, out-of-touch priorities which see billions of dollars flow at the expense of middle Australia to contractors and consultants and labour hire when much of that work could be done by Australian public servants at a lower cost.


Finally, on the issue of comments made in the United States about trade between the United States and China. We don't want to see a trade war. Nobody benefits from a trade war, least of all Australia. Our businesses and our workers rely very heavily on access to open markets for our goods and services. So what's needed here are cool heads, sober judgements, sober assessments about the way forward. What we don't want to see is the escalation of tit-for-tat tariff increases or a full-blown trade war which would damage the global economy and damage our Australian domestic economy as well as a consequence.


JOURNALIST: With Pauline Hanson, is it really any surprise that she'd side with the Government more often than not given her political history?


CHALMERS: Pauline Hanson is, of course, a former member of the Liberal Party. She's masquerading now as something else, but essentially her actions in the Senate in supporting Malcolm Turnbull and the top end of town - nine out of every 10 times - shows that she's never really left the Liberal Party. Despite all of her claims about being for the Australian battler, being for the great state of Queensland, those claims ring hollow when you consider the reports that she is contemplating supporting these big business tax cuts. Pauline Hanson is no friend of the battler; she's no friend of Queensland; she's no friend of the ordinary Australian, and if she votes for these big tax cuts for multinational corporations, which will be funnelled overseas, that will be proven once and for all.


JOURNALIST: And as far as the tariff issue's concerned, given that we tend to be heading towards Asia now for our trade, is it going to have a major effect on us given our allegiances are moving elsewhere at this stage?


CHALMERS: Our trade into the region is absolutely fundamental to the future prosperity of our nation and to the prospects of our workers and our businesses. So any time there is the escalation of harsh words on trade, any time there is the risk of the escalation of a trade war or tit-for-tat tariff increases, that has the potential to damage our economy very substantially. We don't want to see that escalate. We want to see cool heads, we want to see sober judgements made. We want to make sure that we have the right kind of trading arrangements, not just in Asia, though that is our primary focus, but around the world. Because having good trade arrangements benefits Australian workers, benefits the Australian economy and that is the focus, not just of the Labor Party, but should be the focus on everybody who cares about the future of our economy and the future of Australian workers and businesses within it.


JOURNALIST: So with America (inaudible), could we benefit then from the trade that will come to us, or we would then send to Asia over the States? Could we actually see a silver lining in this perhaps?


CHALMERS: Obviously decisions that are taken from time to time benefit different countries differently, and that will be worked out in due course. But I think overall, nobody benefits from the escalation of a trade war, least of all Australia, as I said. We rely so heavily on access to open markets in our region and around the world, and we want to see those open markets, we want to see our trading arrangements consistent with what we want to see for our Australian workers and businesses, and that access is threatened whenever there is the prospect of an escalation of tensions between countries in the trade domain. 


JOURNALIST: So we would suffer from collateral damage to what extent, and how costly could it be to Australia?


CHALMERS: It remains to be seen what the consequences are for individual countries if and when some of these issues which have been raised go ahead. But overall, we don't want to see the escalation of conflict between countries when it comes to trade. Nobody wins from that, least of all Australia.