SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
THURSDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECT: Federal Budget.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us now is the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Jim, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. First of all, just on the omnibus bill. Are you able to confirm that Labor will waive that through?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: We're inclined to, Pete. We're just going through all the details. There's a lot of money associated with that bill. One of the measures alone is $27 billion. We only saw it a couple of days ago. But we're inclined to support all of the tax measures that the Government's proposed, subject to working through those details.
STEFANOVIC: You've written a letter overnight to the ATO, that basically gets things ready, according to the tax breaks anyway.
CHALMERS: Absolutely, Pete. I mean certainly on the income tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners, we've been calling for those to be brought forward for some time so we do support their passage. What happens is the tax office needs to know that the parliament will be passing those tax cuts in order to start the work to get them into people's pockets. So what I did yesterday was I wrote to the Tax Commissioner formally and said Labor will be supporting that. That gives the tax office the green light so that hopefully we can get that money into people's pockets and circulating through small businesses, shops and the broader economy.
STEFANOVIC: Well how significant would that be for people come Christmas?
CHALMERS: I think it'll help a bit. I mean we shouldn't over claim. It's not going to be everything people need to get through a difficult period, but it will help a little bit. It will be spent in some form or another, eventually, and hopefully in our small businesses and shops. The economy is crying out for it. One of the reasons why we're disappointed in the JobKeeper cuts, for example, is because it pulls so much money out of the economy. Brendan Smith’s up in Cairns I saw a moment ago. I spent the first half of last week up there, and you really understand that the cuts to JobKeeper are biting, so we need to replace that with something. Tax cuts will do part of the job but not all of the job.
STEFANOVIC: When it comes to the omnibus bill, you said you're inclined to support it, but what is the trepidation?
CHALMERS: I wouldn’t describe it like that Pete. I mean, we want to be able to support it. We are keen to support it but we got it at 3.30 on Tuesday afternoon and there's a stupendous amount of money associated with it. So, I think people expect a responsible Opposition to work through it, to understand all the legislation - there's a lot of complexity in some of these changes. So, we are inclined to support it, we'd like to support it and unless anything pops up that surprises us, we'll be supporting it.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, budget reply tonight, Anthony Albanese’s speech. I'm sure you're going to give us a lot of exclusive detail at the moment Jim but first of all…
CHALMERS: I thought I’d just read it out for you. Is that alright?
STEFANOVIC: That'd be great. Thank you. All right, first of all let's start with, what is the priority?
CHALMERS: Look I think the top priority really is to outline a vision for the economy that was missing on Tuesday night in the budget. One of the things that I think was really conspicuous about this budget week is the Government managed to rack up more than a trillion dollars in debt and still didn't really give the Australian people a sense of what the future looks like, and Anthony I think has done a great job for some time now with his vision statements outlining what the future of Australia needs to look like and how we can make the economy better, stronger and more inclusive, after the crisis, than it was before most of us have even heard of coronavirus.
STEFANOVIC: According to reports this morning there will be a major announcement expected on childcare. Can you confirm that that will be the centrepiece of the speech?
CHALMERS: I won't be doing that Pete but obviously we've been saying all week now that there were some obvious gaps in what the Government proposed. There’s $100 billion in new spending; a trillion dollars of debt and nothing for social housing; almost nothing for Australian women; no vision for getting more Australian women participating in the workforce so that we can properly grab the opportunities of the recovery. We've been saying that all week. I'm not going to be revealing what's in the budget speech, but I think people know where we're headed and what our priorities are.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, well would you support free childcare for low income earners?
CHALMERS: Again Pete, I'm not going to get into sort of ins and outs of policies. I understand why you're asking. It would be career limiting in the extreme if I was to say what's in or isn’t in the budget reply speech tonight. I think people should tune in at 7.30.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, well Scott Morrison argues when it comes to childcare anyway the Government has funded 85 per cent of childcare fees for low to middle income earners, and spent $9 billion every year, plus $900 million through the pandemic. Why would that not be enough?
CHALMERS: I think broadly - not getting into the specifics of policy - it's acknowledged in Australia that even before COVID-19, one of the real ways that our families were getting squeezed was childcare costs. I think that during COVID-19 there was some temporary respite from that. But the system is not delivering particularly for Australian women. We don't want women to be having to make that choice between working, and where we get to that point where going back to work actually costs people more. That’s one of the issues that has been raised with us for some time. We said on budget night that it was unusual - bizarre in the extreme - that they racked up a trillion dollars of debt and still nothing for childcare. Between now and the next election, we will obviously be talking about that because it’s an obvious area where the Government has left people behind.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, also reports in the Australian this morning suggests that there will be discussion about skills shortages. What would you like to see differently to what's already there? I mean there has been announcements in recent weeks. There’s been subsidies, tax breaks for businesses to train, particularly young people. So, what would you like to see differently?
CHALMERS: Well, one of the issues with those announcements that have been made is they have been announcements before. For example, the Government said that they'd have 300,000 extra apprentices, when in reality I think we had 140,000 fewer apprentices over the life of this Government. So, we need to be careful about those announcements that they make. They're frequent, but they're rarely followed through on. On the substance of it these announcements haven't made up for those cuts in the past. What we need to be doing in the broad is making sure that we can teach and train our people, particularly our young people to grab the opportunities of technological and economic change, so that we don't have a lost generation of workers. That needs to be our priority. We're always the party of training and the party of education so I think you can expect us always to make that a high priority.
STEFANOVIC: Just finally Jim, with three new cases in New South Wales, there is a suggestion or a chance that Queensland may reset things so people in New South Wales would have to wait another 28 days to get into Queensland. Do you think that would be unfair?
CHALMERS: Look, I think as I've said to you before Pete on this program and having these discussions, I try not to second guess the premiers. They're getting expert medical advice. I don't know what the development will be out of the State Government in Queensland, but I think that Annastacia Palaszczuk’s got a really good track record of being right and resolute when it comes to difficult decisions and relied heavily on the expert medical advice and I'm certain that that's what she'll continue to do.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us here.
CHALMERS: Thank you Pete.