TUESDAY, 2 JULY 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for tax cuts for all workers in this term of Parliament; interest rates; floundering economy under the Liberals
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I'll be moving some amendments in the House of Representatives today to the Government's tax package. It's a big test for Scott Morrison. Will he vote for or against every Australian worker getting a tax cut this term? Will he vote for or against getting more money into more workers hands sooner to boost this floundering economy? The problem we have in this country is that Australians are worried about their mortgages, they’re worried about their wages, they’re worried about the slowing economy and Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, they just want to pretend that nothing's wrong. They just want to promise more of the same. More of the same tax cuts on the never never; more of the same infrastructure spending on the never never; more of the same same anti-union rhetoric. We need to do something differently here, we need to do what we can in this Parliament to get the economy growing again, not more of the same from Scott Morrison. We need him to support a tax cut for every Australian worker this term.
If the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates today, that will further bolster our strong case that we need to get more money into the hands of more workers sooner to boost this floundering economy. The Reserve Bank can't do all the heavy lifting on its own. The Reserve Bank has already cut interest rates to extraordinary lows - much lower than they were even during the Global Financial Crisis. It's time for the Government to do their bit. Labor's prepared to do our bit to get Stage 1 of the tax cuts into the economy and to bring forward Stage 2. That's what my amendments will seek to do tonight. The test for Scott Morrison is does he want a tax cut for every Australian worker this term or not? That's the question for him.
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg need to stop obsessing about Labor, stop spending all of their time poring over our transcripts and writing op-eds about the Labor Party and they need to actually do something about this floundering economy. They've been pretending that nothing's wrong for some time now. We've got slowing growth, we've got stagnant wages. People are worried about their mortgages, people are worried about their standard of living. People are worried that their wages aren't keeping up with their costs of living. We can't have a Government that keeps pretending that nothing's wrong. It's time for them to act. We've proposed a responsible way forward, which would pass Stage 1 of the tax cuts, bring forward part of Stage 2 of the tax cuts and take out Stage 3, which commits $95 billion five years down the track when we don't know what the economy or the Budget will look like in 2024-25.
JOURNALIST: To use your phrasing, if the Government doesn't accept your amendments will you vote for or against the working people in Australia?
CHALMERS: Well, I don't see it that way. All of our efforts are into getting our amendments up. Obviously, that will be difficult in the House of Representatives. We don't have a majority there, but we'll put a lot of effort into the Senate as well. Our intention is to get it to the Senate as soon as possible. That will be Thursday and we'll have a discussion there. The Government will win the vote tonight in the Parliament, but I think it's important that we move our amendments and we move our amendments in the Senate as well because what Labor is proposing is to get a tax cut into the hands of every Australian worker this term. We are the only party proposing to get tax cuts into the hands of every worker this term. If the Government votes against that they'll have to explain why they are doing absolutely nothing to turn around an economy which has slowed dramatically on their watch.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say absolutely nothing when they're bringing forward this tax cut bill?
CHALMERS: They're not bringing it forward. We've had data since the election that shows that the economy is slowing - the slowest growth in the economy since the Global Financial Crisis. The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates since the election to extraordinary lows and they're contemplating another cut today, or soon. And the Government just wants to pretend that there's nothing to see here. They want to spend all of their time talking about the Labor Party, pointing the finger, shifting the blame. It's about time they took responsibility for this floundering economy. They need to do something differently. We've proposed a responsible way to bring forward some of their tax cuts into this term. If they vote against that, they need to explain to the Australian worker why they think Australians don't deserve a tax cut this term, right up and down the income scale.
JOURNALIST: What incentive is it for the Government to make these amendments considering you've signalled that you would more likely pass the bill even if those amendments aren't passed?
CHALMERS: We've reserved our rights on the final decision in the Senate. We've said that if our amendments fail in the Senate, that we'll consider our options then. That's entirely responsible and normal for an Opposition party to do. What we agreed yesterday was the amendments that I'll be moving tonight in the House. Clearly the Government has the numbers in the House of Representatives. The Senate is a different matter. We'll put all of our effort into the Senate into getting those amendments up. If they don't get up, we'll consider our options at that point.
JOURNALIST: On the RBA's potential cut, do you agree with some of the reporting we saw in the AFR and elsewhere today that it might well shake the confidence of the Australian people if we see an interest rate cut?
CHALMERS: First of all, I don't give the RBA advice. I don't make predictions about what the RBA might do today in their meeting. I don't ever do that. The market says that there is a chance of a rate cut today. The point that I would make about that is this: if the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates today, that will further bolster our case that we need to get more money into workers' hands and flowing through an economy which desperately needs it. The Reserve Bank has been left to do all the heavy lifting on their own in this economy, because the Government wants to pretend there's nothing to see here, there are no problems in the domestic economy. And so whatever they decide today, we have a strong case already from the last interest rate cut, but also from the data that's been coming out since the election, that we need to get this stimulus into the economy. We need to do that urgently. That's what we're prepared to do. The Government wants to pretend nothing's wrong. If the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates today, that will further bolster our case.