MONDAY, 1 JULY 2019
SUBJECTS: Floundering economy under the Liberals; Labor’s plan for tax cuts for all workers in this term of Parliament
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: As you know, the Shadow Cabinet and the Labor Party caucus met today to discuss the legislation which is before us around the Government's income tax package. Our position is guided by three things. We want to see a boost to the economy right now; we want to try to get every Australian worker a tax cut in this term of the Parliament; and we don't think it's responsible to sign up to Stage 3 of the tax cuts, which cost $95 billion and won't come in for another five years.
The economy is stalling on this Government's watch. This is a third-term Government in its sixth year. Economic growth has slowed substantially, wages are stagnant. Consumption is weak, consumer confidence is weak. The economy is floundering and middle Australia is struggling. And this Government just wants to pretend that there is nothing wrong. This Government just wants to pretend there's nothing wrong and to promise more of the same. More of the same cuts to penalty rates; more of the same tax cuts and infrastructure spending on the never never.
Labor wants to give a boost to the economy right now. The economy desperately needs a shot in the arm and Labor is proposing a way to get more tax cuts into the hands of more workers and flowing into the economy sooner than what the Government is proposing.
So what the Shadow Cabinet and then the caucus have agreed today, is to support Stages 1 and 2 of the Government's tax package, but also to move amendments in the house and then in the Senate to bring forward part of Stage 2 and also to take Stage 3 out of the bills that are before the Parliament. So the decision taken by Shadow Cabinet and by the caucus today is to move those amendments which give effect to our priorities, which are to give the economy a boost now - and it desperately needs it - to get every Australian worker a tax cut this term, and to hold off on committing $95 billion five years down the track.
If the Government votes against our amendments tomorrow night, they will be voting against every Australian worker getting a tax cut this term. If the Government votes against our amendments, they will be saying that tax cuts in five years' time are more important than tax cuts which could start this week. The Government should stop holding tax cuts this week hostage to tax cuts which wouldn't come in until 2024-25.
It's long past time for the Government to take responsibility for this floundering economy. Stop trying to shift the blame and point the finger and obsess over Labor; to take responsibility to do something about this floundering economy. A good place to start would be supporting amendments which would give every Australian taxpayer, every Australian worker, a tax cut this term. The only proposal which is on the table right now from any of the parties which would give every Australian worker a tax cut this term is Labor's. The Liberals are proposing tax cuts on the never never. If we want to get serious about boosting this floundering economy, we need to do something about it, and Labor is proposing a constructive way forward.
CHALMERS: We'll go to David and then Eryk.
JOURNALIST: Will you block the entire package if you can in order to stop Stage 3 from taking effect?
CHALMERS: We're going to put all of our effort into our amendments. If those amendments are unsuccessful, then we will consider our options at that point.
JOURNALIST: The Government has already said that they're not going to consider those amendments, so what's your position if they don't consider those amendments?
CHALMERS: There's also the Senate, obviously. And we'll put effort into our amendments in the Senate. The crossbench has not announced their position on what will happen in the Senate as yet. So we will put all of our effort into our amendments, trying to get them up. If those amendments are unsuccessful, then we will have the usual discussions in the usual way at that point.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) so is it all or nothing?
CHALMERS: It's important to remember that the job that's given to the Shadow Cabinet and to the caucus of both the major parties is to consider the legislation before us and to determine a position on that legislation. Our position is to seek to amend it, to make it better, to improve it, to boost the economy now and to get more money into more workers' hands and circulating in the economy.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) that you will consider passing the package if those amendments fail? You've said you'll consider it. Will we be here next week asking if you'll consider passing it?
CHALMERS: We've said for some time now that our efforts will go into moving and passing these amendments through the Senate. If they're unsuccessful, then we'll consider other alternatives at that point.
JOURNALIST: And does that include passing it in full?
CHALMERS: It considers all of the alternatives that are available to us if our amendments fail in the Senate.
JOURNALIST: Would you have another caucus meeting before you went to that decision?
CHALMERS: The Labor Party's processes are a matter for us. We would intend to at least bring the Shadow Cabinet back if our amendments were to fail, if that's possible. Sometimes that's not possible with the pace of the proceedings in the Senate. But that would be our intention, to have another discussion if our amendments fail to come to a final position. It's entirely normal and entirely reasonable for either side of politics to come to a view on what's before them without necessarily war-gaming out hypothetical situations. After that, we'll be respectful of our usual processes and we'll do what we've been doing all along, which is to be considered about it, constructive about it; to do the right thing about the economy. We're worried that the Government is doing an irresponsible thing here committing to such a large sum five years out. The responsible thing to do is to give tax cuts now to boost the economy and what we're proposing gives effect to that.
JOURNALIST: Centre Alliance has said that negotiating with Labor's a waste of time, because you're not the Government. So how on Earth are you going to get through to the crossbench?
CHALMERS: Well, they're not the only part of the crossbench.
CHALMERS: Rosie, and then you Jen.
JOURNALIST: Have you or will you speak to Jacqui Lambie this week, and are you optimistic of getting here onside?
CHALMERS: We intend to have conversations right across the crossbench.
JOURNALIST: Have you already spoken to Jacqui this week?
CHALMERS: I haven't spoken to Jacqui this week, but Senate colleagues are engaging with a range of crossbenchers.
CHALMERS: Just to Jen first, mate.
JOURNALIST: Even if you get the numbers in the Senate, it'll go back to the House and fail your amendments.
CHALMERS: It's another hypothetical, Jen.
JOURNALIST: They're the Government with a majority in the Lower House. It's not a hypothetical. It's a certainty, because they have a majority in the Lower House.
CHALMERS: Jen's talking about after it goes to the Senate, and if it comes back that's still a hypothetical because you don't know what will happen to our amendments in the Senate yet.
JOURNALIST: We know their stated position and we know that they have a majority in the Lower House. We know their stated position, their policies, and their majority.
CHALMERS: Jen is talking about the position after it comes back.You can re-ask your question if you like?
JOURNALIST: OK, if you get the numbers to pass your amendments in the Senate, it will go back to the House where it will be blocked again, and then the Government will then put the original bill back to the Senate. So aren't you just playing games here?
CHALMERS: Well, there's a couple of steps in between now and then. And the point that I've made repeatedly, is that we've come to an initial position on the bill. That's the position that I'll put into the House tomorrow night. We've agreed with the Government to put it in earlier than it would otherwise be the case. We'll do that tomorrow night and any of the decisions that flow after that are decisions for further discussion.
CHALMERS: I'm not going to go into the caucus discussions.
JOURNALIST: Was there any discussion today about what you would do longer term for the cuts passed by the proposition of taking to the next election in terms of repealing bits of them, or is that too far ahead?
CHALMERS: No final decision.
JOURNALIST: Given that, basically, outside of getting a couple of the Coalition members in the Lower House to cross the floor, it's impossible your amendments will pass. Are you just wasting everyone's time?
CHALMERS: I think it's important that we put our amendments to the House. We're realistic about not being in a majority in the House, and clearly the Government has a majority there and they've said that they're not keen on our amendments. But our responsibility to the Australian people, to the people who send us here, is to propose the best possible economic and fiscal policies. That's what we're doing, recognising that the economy is weak; that people need a tax cut now, not in three and five years' time and that's our responsibility. We're doing the responsible thing. I'll take one more question.
JOURNALIST: But what about the argument within Labor that the Opposition shouldn't stand in the way of tax cuts? Given that it's now July 1st, people will be lodging their tax returns soon. Don't you risk angering people by standing in the way of this and potentially just drawing out the inevitable?
CHALMERS: The first point about that is, today is the 1st of July. The Government promised during the election campaign that Stage 1 of the tax cuts would be in place already by now. They've broken that promise. That's not received sufficient attention. They've broken their key core promise to get Stage 1 of the tax cuts flowing by 12:01 this morning. That hasn't happened. The Government's broken that promise. We have been constructive when they've come to us and said perhaps we should put it in the Parliament on Tuesday night, which is a bit early. And we'll be constructive when they come to us with their proposals about how we handle it in the Senate to try to get this resolved as soon as possible. Yes there have been a range of views put on all sides of politics about the best way forward. What caucus and Shadow Cabinet has decided today is what I've outlined to you. That's the responsible course of action. It's entirely reasonable that we consider our next steps after that once we know how the Senate responds to that. Thanks very much.