ABC News Afternoon Briefing 9/5/19

May 09, 2019




SUBJECT/S:  Morrison’s deal with Palmer; Liberals’ big business tax cuts; Labor’s costings; negative gearing; climate change; refugee resettlement; Labor’s frontbench; News Corp


PATRICIA KARVELAS: I want to bring in my first guest. He's Labor's campaign spokesman, he’s the Shadow Finance Minister, and he will be the Finance Minister if he wins the election. Welcome to the program.




KARVELAS: Let's just start with that, because 100 per cent, no deal with Clive Palmer on business tax cuts. They're not going to happen. It won't be revisited, says the Prime Minister. Do you now say you won't raise this issue? He's ruled it out completely.


CHALMERS: As sure as night follows day, Patricia, if Scott Morrison wins this election, these tax cuts for the big four banks and the big foreign multinationals will be back on the table. Scott Morrison himself, when he voted for this 10 times in the life of the Parliament which is just finishing now; the hundreds of times he's spoken favour of it he said he wasn't for turning. He said he wouldn't flip-flop on this issue and that he believed in it very deeply. We don't believe for one second that Morrison won't put this back on the table.


KARVELAS: But he said he won't. You might not believe him but he says he won't.


CHALMERS: I don't believe him for a second. I don't think the Australian people believe him. They know he's signed up for this coalition of chaos with Palmer and Hanson. We know that Palmer would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a big tax cut for the top end of town. I think Australians have every right to be deeply, deeply sceptical that that hasn't been part of Clive Palmer's decision.


KARVELAS: Labor will release all of the costings for your election policies tomorrow. What details are you able to share with us right now?


CHALMERS: We will be releasing all of our costings tomorrow, Patricia. We will be doing that much earlier than is the tradition, and the reason for that is because we have done a heap of work to make the Budget more sustainable and more responsible. We can reveal that tomorrow the bottom line - our bottom line in our Budget - will be stronger than the Liberals have put forward in their Budget. And that is because we will be closing down tax loopholes which overwhelmingly favour people on the highest incomes or people with the most wealth in this country. We also will be demonstrating what the price tag for that has been for ordinary working people around Australia to subsidise those big tax breaks that Scott Morrison likes so much, which are only accessed in lots of cases by three or four or five per cent of the population. So that will be part of the job tomorrow as well. But overwhelmingly, it will demonstrate the different choices that we would make. We choose hospitals and schools over those big tax loopholes for the top end of town. We choose cost-of-living relief over the big tax breaks. And Chris Bowen and I, when we release those costings, that will be very clear to everyone. But we are doing it earlier because we have such a good story to tell. You contrast that with a Liberal Government, which has more than doubled debt in the six-year life of their Government. They have managed to do that, while still cutting hospitals and schools. The reason they have done that is because they maintain these massive tax loopholes, which are hollowing out the Budget and eating the Budget from within.


KARVELAS: We know economic growth slowed between the release of the mid-year economic forecast and the Budget. How significantly has that changed your costings?


CHALMERS: Well, we use the same economic parameters that are in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, released by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance. And you're right, that they showed a slowing of growth under this Liberal Government. The forecast for growth was downgraded. The forecast for wages was downgraded. The forecast for consumption was downgraded, and those three facts together really do give you a bit of a sense of how badly the economy has been performing under the Liberal Party. I think it is the biggest lie of this campaign that the Liberals have done a good job managing the economy and managing the Budget. We do have slowing growth and we do have debt that has more than doubled and whoever wins this election will inherit a budget in deficit, and Scott Morrison finally admitted that to Leigh Sales during the course of this week.


KARVELAS: The Liberal Treasurers is in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia say that Labor's planned changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax could hit their economies by as much as $1.4 billion. What will the cost of these policies be to the states?


CHALMERS: Well it's entirely predictable that those three Liberal Treasurers would make that point. But the laughable thing about it, Patricia, is that the New South Wales Treasurer who signed that letter today, his Treasury department yesterday put out detailed figures which showed that Labor's proposals, the proposals that we are taking to the election, will have hardly any impact on the housing market in New South Wales. I mean, it's just laughable. You couldn't make this stuff up, Patricia. He's signing a letter saying it will have this devastating impact at the same time his Treasury department has said within the last 24 hours it would have a negligible impact. That's also by the way what the Commonwealth Treasury has been saying. Also, the third fact, which seems to be ignored conveniently by the Liberal Treasurers and also by Scott Morrison, is the housing market has softened on the Liberals' watch. We've have had a softening in the market. That has happened under Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg and under these three Liberal Treasurers.


KARVELAS: Then if there has been a softening, aren't people right to be concerned of prices going further down under your policies, given there has been a softening? You make that point. Isn't that the concern around all of that?


CHALMERS: No, Patricia, because the Commonwealth Treasury and the New South Wales Treasury have both said that Labor's proposal would have barely any impact on house prices. The point that we are trying to make and the policy objective we are trying to meet is wherever the market is, at any given point in time, we need to make sure that there is a level playing field within that market. And that means stopping this subsidy for people who might have seven or eight properties already, investment properties, competing against people who are trying to get into the market for the first time. So wherever the market is at any given point, our policy is in making sure that the taxpayer is not subsidising to the the tune of multiple billions of dollars, people who already might have multiple properties which then disadvantages people who are trying to get into the market in the first place.


KARVELAS: Will you guarantee GST compensation for any state or territory that is left worse off from the changes as the Treasurers has demanded?


CHALMERS: No, we won't be doing that. We don't expect the states to be taking a hit from this. 


KARVELAS: OK, but if they do take a hit because sometimes the implementation of policy can be different than modelling or predictions, so if they do take a hit, will you offer them compensation?

CHALMERS: It's entirely hypothetical, Patricia, but I wouldn't have thought so because we are not anticipating the housing market to take the hit that these Liberal Treasurers have claimed today. We rely on the modelling from the New South Wales Treasury and the Commonwealth Treasury under the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government, which shows that the impact of our policy on house prices would be barely anything at all.


KARVELAS: Former Labor Environment Minister Peter Garrett says you should declare a climate emergency if you win Government and convene a summit. Is that a good idea?


CHALMERS: I haven't seen what Pete said. It's nice to hear him engaged. He's a very passionate advocate for real action on climate change. In that, I think he's with the majority of the Australian people. He is certainly in accord with what Labor is proposing. I think, by the way, the strongest contributions that Bill Shorten made in that debate that he won for the third straight time last night is when he was talking about climate change. We've got a raft of policies. We haven't proposed those two things you've just mentioned but we have a raft of policies for real action on climate change.


KARVELAS: Do you think there is a climate emergency?


CHALMERS: Certainly something needs to be done and I don't necessarily use those words that the British Parliament passed through their Parliament, but it is a very serious situation. It is something that any responsible Government would deal with. I noted in your introduction when you were talking about Malcolm Turnbull's sensible intervention into this conversation, when you were talking about his impact on the Liberal Party. If the Liberal Party actually still believed in climate change action, Malcolm Turnbull would still be the Prime Minister. We've had six years of denial and delay and division over climate change. That needs to end if we are to take serious action. The only way to get real action on climate change is for Labor to become the Government after the 18th of May. 


KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek said this morning that Labor would pursue refugee resettlement agreements with countries other than the US and New Zealand. So which other countries do you think would be suitable?


CHALMERS: We have said that repeatedly. That wasn't a new comment. I listened to Tanya talking with Kim Landers this morning on AM. That is not a new statement. We have said that for some time, but we've also said you can't conduct these negotiations from Opposition and the task for an in-coming Government, who cares about resettlement arrangements, would be to see what can be done to open up a dialogue of that nature. 


KARVELAS: And how about the Malaysia solution - is that something you would revisit?


CHALMERS: No, that's not our intention. Tanya mentioned that as an example from a former Government. That has been misrepresented today. We don't intend to reopen those negotiations, but there are other opportunities, too. The first thing that the Government needs to do is stop being so pig-headed about the very gracious offer that Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealanders have made. If the Government was able to do a deal with the United States, which we have supported, in a bipartisan way, then they should be able to ensure the same kind of safeguards with New Zealand. 


KARVELAS: Alright. So with New Zealand, how would you make that - people obviously can come to Australia pretty easily if they become New Zealanders - how would you deal with that?


CHALMERS: Those of matters of negotiation and working through all the issues. It shouldn't be beyond us, in the same way it hasn't been beyond the Government to negotiate an agreement with the Americans. What is happening here is people are languishing on the islands because we don't have these are resettlement options. The government is being pig-headed about New Zealand, as I said, and a lot of negotiations and discussions can only really happen with the resources of Government. And we intend, too, if we win the election, to have those conversations with the New Zealanders as a priority, but also elsewhere if we can.


KARVELAS: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says if you win Shayne Neumann will be Minister for Home Affairs. Is he right?


CHALMERS: First of all, Peter Dutton's intervention today was the usual pathetic, dangerous stunt which shows they have absolutely nothing positive to say. That is the first point. On the point about the make-up of Labor's ministry and Cabinet if we win the election on the 18th of May, we have a two-step process. The caucus colleagues choose the make-up of the ministry.


KARVELAS: Based on factional alignment?


CHALMERS: Not entirely, no. But obviously groups support candidates in that process. That has been self-evident for a long time, just like it is in the Liberal Party as well. But the caucus determines the make-up of the ministry and then the leader allocates the portfolios. That is a job for Bill to do, to decide all of the portfolios and not just the one that you mentioned.


KARVELAS: Why isn't he providing clarity on Home Affairs, given it is historically, at least, a point of weakness for the Labor Party and you know that. In fact, Bill Shorten last night in the debate conceding that Labor had got it wrong on boat turnbacks and now it embraced the Liberal Party policy. So why not provide clarity on this issue?


CHALMERS: First of all, that portfolio has only existed for a short while. The second thing is we are not getting ahead of ourselves about the outcome of the election. The election is genuinely in the balance. We are not sitting around working out who does what in a Shorten Cabinet. We are doing our best to make the case to the Australian people and do the policy work and I have been doing policy work on our costings for tomorrow. It is up to Bill and it is up to the caucus who gets what responsibilities if we get over the line in nine days' time.

KARVELAS: Just finally, is Labor at war with News Corp?


CHALMERS: Oh, look, I wouldn't describe it that way. I think it is self-evident that News Corp has a view about Labor. They have gone to great lengths to try and prop up this floundering and flailing Government. They have made their position very clear. I thought it was grotesque what happened the other day in relation to Bill's mum and I was very proud of Bill, how he responded to that and it has been really heartening to see the outpouring of support, not just for Bill, more importantly the stories about people's mums. I saw that you put one up and a lot of people have been using social media to tell stories about their mums, so that's been at least something good that has come out of this. But News Corp has a view about this election. They have made that view very clear. They have made it clear for a long time. I am confident that the Australian people can make up their own mind about who they want to be the Government of this country. It won't necessarily be News Corp that makes that decision for them and when the Australian people decide, they will decide between better hospitals and schools or more cuts. They'll decide between getting wages moving again or more tax breaks for the top end of town. They'll be deciding on the basis of real action on climate change or years more of denial and delay and division. Those are the things that really matter and not necessarily what is on the front of The Tele from one day to another.


KARVELAS: Jim Chalmers, thanks for coming on.


CHALMERS: Thank you, Patricia.