Doorstop - Parliament House (2)

03 February 2016


SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Election Timing; Superannuation Tax Concessions; Labor’s ‘Your Child. Our Future’ plan for Australian education

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES AND SUPERANNUATION: Before Malcolm Turnbull was the Prime Minister, he wanted every Australian to believe that his highest priorities were action on climate change, marriage equality and an Australian Republic. Since he's become the Prime Minister, it's very clear to every Australian that his highest priority is to jack up the GST and to make everything in our community more expensive.

There's a lot of commentary in this place about election timing. The election will be held this year at the time that Malcolm Turnbull calculates gives him the best chance of jacking up the GST, making everything more expensive in our community and our economy. That will govern the timing of the election. We fully expect to go to the polls when Malcolm Turnbull calculates he has the best chance of jacking up the GST.

Doing that won't boost jobs, it won't boost growth.  The Treasurer's words on that are hollow – making everything more expensive in the economy won't boost jobs or growth. Paul Keating was right in the paper today - and not for the first time, and not for the last time - when he described this GST proposal of 15% as a 'bang you on the head tax' - a big, flat 'bang you on the head tax'. Paul Keating is right to describe it in that fashion.

Whenever the election is this year, people will have a really simple and a really clear choice. They can improve every school through our Your Child. Our Future. plan, or they can make everything more expensive through the Liberals' plan to jack up the GST. That's really what this election boils down to - whether it's in two months or ten months, that's what the election will be about, that very simple choice.

When it comes to tax reform, we think that the two priorities should be the glaring unfairness when it comes to superannuation tax concessions and also when it comes to multinational corporations paying their fair share of tax in Australia. There are more indications in the paper today that the Australian people share our view - not just that there shouldn't be this fifty per cent GST hike taking it from ten to fifteen per cent, but also that a big priority in tax reform should be those big, poorly-targeted superannuation tax concessions. There are indications that the Australian people share Labor's view that the first port-of-call for tax reform should be those big, poorly-targeted concessions.

Figures out of the Treasury last week show that these are among the fastest-growing concessions in the Federal budget. They will grow twice as fast as the age pension over the next four years. They are among the biggest tax concessions. We've had a policy on the table for almost a year now when it comes to addressing the unfairness in the superannuation tax system which sees something like forty per cent of the gains go to the wealthiest ten per cent of people in that superannuation system.

The Assistant Treasurer is at the Press Club today. It's disappointing, but not surprising, to see that she wants to continue to wage this ideological war on representative super boards which have been delivering consistently better returns for the Australian people - which is the whole point of the super system, to get people decent, dignified, well-resourced retirements. I see in the paper today that Kelly O'Dwyer intends to continue this war after having been humiliatingly defeated in the Senate late last year. She wants to continue this ideological war, that's disappointing but not surprising.

If the Government was genuine about improving the superannuation system for the benefit of the Australian people, for the benefit of middle Australia, they would focus on adequacy; they wouldn't be ditching the Low Income Superannuation Contribution as they are; they wouldn't be freezing the Superannuation Guarantee as they are; they wouldn't be weakening the penalties for employers who don't pay super on time as they are.

When Kelly O'Dwyer stands up at the Press Club today she should fess up the impact of their policies on superannuation are actually weakening the system for the Australian people, not strengthening it. If they were genuine about improving that system for the benefit of middle Australia, they wouldn't be going down the path that they're going down.

JOURNALIST: Labor was vehemently opposed to the introduction of the GST back in the day, but when Labor came to power it did nothing to scrap it. Is Labor's opposition to an increase in the GST ringing hollow this time around?

CHALMERS: We'll defeat this Liberal Party plan to jack up the GST to 15 per cent. All of the post-election calculations are really hypothetical. We fully intend to take to the Australian people that very simple choice: to make everything more expensive, which is the Liberal plan, or to improve every school, which is our plan. We'll prevail in that argument. So all of the history from two decades ago and all of the hypothetical calculations about post-election I think will be moot at the end of the day, because we will win the argument.

JOURNALIST: Why hasn't there been a cavalcade of the state premiers defending the GST position and Labor's position? We've heard from Weatherill, we've heard from Mike Baird - it's been pretty silent from Victoria and Queensland.

CHALMERS: Well the Victorians, the Queenslanders, indeed every state government around the country are grappling with tens of billions of dollars of cuts out of schools and hospitals which were first imposed on them by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, but maintained by Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. So all of the state governments are grappling with this problem of trying to fill an enormous hole in funding for key services in local communities right around the country. Premier Baird and Premier Weatherill have a view. Premier Andrews and Premier Palaszczuk, from my home state, also have a view. Our view at the federal level is that we've put seventy billion dollars’ worth of savings on the table to pay for key improvements, most particularly in our school system. Everybody is looking for a way to fund those sorts of improvements. We think that the federal Liberal Party is on the wrong track. They won't boost jobs, they won't boost growth, they won't adequately fund services by making everything in our community more expensive.

JOURNALIST: I've heard that a group of indigenous teachers and students are coming today to say that the last two years of the Gonski model are vital to them. What do you make of their claims?

CHALMERS: It's terrific to welcome them to Canberra and Parliament House today. But right through the community - any member of this Parliament worth their salt spends so much time with the principals, teachers, parents and kids of our local schools, and there is a groundswell of support for what Labor wants to do with the Your Child. Our Future. plan for school funding to improve every school, to give kids more individual attention, to invest in our teachers, to make sure that resourcing is going where it's needed most. My community needs this as much, or more, as any community in the country. I'm personally really passionate about it and I know that so many people around the country, including the group that you've described, are so fired up about this change. If you could only do one thing to improve the prospects of our young people, to improve our economy and our prospects to be an innovative, high-growth, job-creating economy, you'd do this one thing. This is the most important thing that we can be doing, and I think right around the community and right around the country, people recognise that.