THURSDAY, 9 MAY 2019
SUBJECTS: Leaders’ debate; Liberals’ $80 billion big business tax cut will be back; Morrison’s deal with Palmer; Liberals’ $77 billion income tax cut for top end of town; Labor’s policy costings; Cowper; emissions target; multinational tax avoidance; Morrison’s missing environment legislation
JIM CHALMERS, LABOR CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: The reason why Bill Shorten won the debate last night even more comprehensively than he won the first two was because he had forward-looking, positive plans about workers and pensioners and positive plans about the future. He sounded like a Prime Minister. Scott Morrison lost the debate last night because when Australians are crying out for real change, all he's offering is more of the same - more of the same cuts and chaos, more of the same stagnant wages and cost-of-living pressures and tax loopholes for the top end of town, more of the same denial and delay and division on climate change.
Elections are about choices and the debate did a good job of painting for the Australian people the big choices which are at play here in this election and on election day nine days from now. It's a choice between better hospitals and schools under Labor or more Liberal cuts, a choice between getting wages moving again and dealing with the cost of living pressures, or more tax loopholes for the top end of town. It's a choice between the unity and stability of Labor, or the chaos that has been shown by the Liberals and Nationals over the last six years, which would be continued in a Coalition of chaos with Hanson and Palmer - a choice between real action on climate change or more of the same denial and delay and division that we've seen in the Liberals and from the Liberals in the past six years. What this election boils down to is in Scott Morrison's Australia, workers and pensioners will pay more so millionaires and multinationals can pay less. In Bill Shorten's Australia, he wants workers and pensioners to pay less by dealing with some of the big expensive tax loopholes which overwhelmingly advantage and benefit the top end of town.
As sure as night follows day, if Scott Morrison wins this election, his $80 billion gift to the big banks and foreign multinationals will be back on the table. This is Scott Morrison's reason for being. His personal passion project, his personal obsession has been to give an $80 billion tax cut to the four big banks and the foreign multinationals. He personally voted for it 10 times in the Parliament. He argued for it hundreds and hundreds of times here in Canberra and right around Australia. Scott Morrison's highest priority if he's elected will be to give $80 billion to the top end of town and to big business.
Scott Morrison's in cahoots with Clive Palmer, who stands to be one of the biggest single beneficiaries of Scott Morrison's tax cuts for the top end of town. The Australian people need to know before the election what deals Scott Morrison has done with Clive Palmer over tax policy. Scott Morrison cannot go to this election without coming clean on the precise nature of any deals that he's done with Clive Palmer for preferences over tax policy. We do know this already - if Australia elects a coalition of chaos of Morrison and Palmer and Hanson, then these tax cuts for the top end of town, for big business - $80 billion in total - will be at the very top of Scott Morrison's to-do list.
Just as he's being shifty on big business tax cuts, he's also being very shifty when it comes to personal income tax cuts for people on the highest incomes in Australia; people who are in the highest tax bracket. Independent modelling has shown that Scott Morrison's income tax cuts will give $77 billion to people in the highest tax bracket in this country. 25 days ago, Mathias Cormann said that he would provide the Australian people with the dollar figure - the total number of dollars - which would go people on the highest incomes as a consequence of their income tax policy. 25 days have passed. Josh Frydenberg was given, by my count, up to nine opportunities this morning to say what that dollar figure is. How many dollars does Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann want to give to people on the highest incomes in this country? For 25 days, they've ducked and weaved. It's time to 'fess up, it's time to come clean. They should not go to the election without telling people how many billions of dollars they intend to shower on the wealthiest Australians in this country. It's been 25 days already. It cannot go another nine days without this question being answered. If it's not $77 billion, what is the number? It's time to come clean and we need to keep the pressure on, because Australians deserve to know.
JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers -
CHALMERS: One more thing before I go to you, Jen. Tomorrow Labor will be releasing our costings for our policies. We will be doing that much earlier than has traditionally been the case because Chris Bowen and the team have done a heap of work so that we can take to this election a more responsible set of books than our political opponents, a more responsible approach to the economy and the Budget than our political opponents. The biggest lie of this campaign has been that the Liberals have done a good job managing the economy and the Budget. Net debt has more than doubled under the Liberals, at the same time as they're cutting hospitals and schools, and that's because they are defending and advancing big tax breaks for the top end of town. What you'll see tomorrow when Chris Bowen and I release our costings is that Budgets are about choices. We choose better hospitals and schools, not more cuts. We choose getting wages moving again and dealing with the cost of living and not more tax loopholes for the top end of town. We choose these things and we can afford to pay for these things because we want to make multinationals pay their fair share of tax, and that's what we'll see tomorrow as well. Sorry, Jen.
JOURNALIST: Why do you assume a policy deal was done with Clive Palmer when the Prime Minister has ruled that out, when the Treasurer emphatically ruled out as well that he will be bringing back the big business tax cuts for the next decade? Did Palmer seek a deal when Labor was in negotiations with him?
CHALMERS: No, and we weren't in negotiations with him. The Australian people need to know if this was a factor in the deal that was done between Scott Morrison and Clive Palmer. Clive Palmer stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Scott Morrison's approach to tax cuts for the top end of town. The Australian people deserve to know whether tax policy was part of the deal that was done between Morrison and Palmer as part of this three-ringed circus of Morrison and Palmer and Hanson; this coalition of cuts and chaos. Australians need to know that before they go to the polls, because it's an important thing that they need to factor into their choice.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister's in Cowper today. A sign I suppose that the Coalition expects possibly that seat is in trouble. Have you reached out to Rob Oakeshott and any of the other independents? Has Labor done that?
CHALMERS: I haven't done that. I haven't spoken to Rob for some years. I am obviously aware that there is a very tight three-way contest there, including Labor in Cowper. Rob's a good guy, but I haven't spoken to him for some time. I don't know if other colleagues have.
JOURNALIST: Just further to Jen's question, there is no evidence that any tax cut deal's on the table. Is this another Mediscare campaign from Labor?
CHALMERS: Of course not. We're asking the question - what role has tax policy played in the dodgy deal done between Morrison and Palmer? That's not an unreasonable question for the Australian people to have answered, given Clive Palmer would be such a massive beneficiary of what Scott Morrison is proposing. The other thing is, when Scott Morrison argued for three years - for much of that three years it was arguably his highest priority, the main thing he would bang on about - he said that he wouldn't be changing his mind on tax cuts for the top end of town. He said he wouldn't flip and flop on it. He said it was a very high priority when he was arguing for it for much of his time as Treasurer. And so I think it is entirely reasonable for the Australian people to understand and to expect that if Scott Morrison is re-elected, there'll be $77 billion for people on the highest incomes and there'll be $80 billion-plus back on the to-do list for the big four banks and foreign multinationals.
JOURNALIST: In terms of your own costings tomorrow, will they include the cost to the Budget of your 45 per cent emissions reduction target?
CHALMERS: That will include the cost to the Budget of all of our climate change and energy policies, including electric vehicles, including our fund for sensitive industries - that will all be contained in tomorrow's numbers?
JOURNALIST: Specifically on that 45 per cent target?
CHALMERS: All of the policies that get to that target - all of the fiscal costs - will be included in that document.
JOURNALIST: Nothing will be left out of that document?
CHALMERS: No, it will be a comprehensive document. We've done a heap of work over the last three years, indeed over the last six years. I've been working very closely with Chris Bowen, with our Expenditure Review Committee, with all of the Shadow Cabinet and all of the colleagues. The reason we're releasing it earlier than parties have traditionally done - and much earlier than the Liberals did - is because we will take to the election a more responsible set of books than our opponents, and that's because we want to do three things: we want to make the tax system fairer; we want to pay down debt, because debt has doubled under the Liberals; and importantly, we want to make room for game-changing investments in kindy and preschool, in childcare, in schools, in health care, including cancer care, in infrastructure, in renewable energy - all of these sorts of things. That is what it comes back to. Budgets are about choices, and elections are about choices too. We choose hospitals and schools, not cuts. We choose wages and dealing with cost of living, not more tax loopholes for the top end of town. And as this election nears its conclusion, the choices are crystallising for the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Back on tax, what specific measures will you use to go after the likes of News Corp and other multinationals?
CHALMERS: Our tax policies are not about one company or another. But we've made it very clear and you've written hundreds of stories about our plans to deal with some of the loopholes which see big multinationals paying little or no tax in this country, despite making their money here. We've said that is a high priority, that is how we go about paying for our game-changing investments to deal with cost of living, to deal with education and health and all the rest of it. Our policies aren't framed with one company in mind. We don't know the internal structuring of a lot of companies when it comes to their tax affairs. It's a fact that News Corp didn't pay any tax here for a four-year period. That's a fact that's been established, and not contested. But our policies are about making the tax system fairer, a key part of that is making multinationals pay their fair share across the board and not necessarily directed at any one company.
JOURNALIST: As the potential Finance Minister, can you see a scenario where under a Labor Government the Budget will return to the red?
CHALMERS: No, the numbers that we will be presenting tomorrow will be stronger numbers than the Government has provided in their Budget. They will be numbers which reflect the hard work and the decisions that we've taken and the proposals we're making around tax. And that's because we think that we need a more substantial buffer against international uncertainty. We have said multiple times, and Chris Bowen has spoken eloquently about this in the past, that the global economy is an uncertain place and we need to make sure that we do have a buffer. Bill Shorten's talked about the surplus as a fighting fund against future global uncertainty and that's the right way to look at it. And that's one of the reasons why we are being more responsible with the Budget than our opponents. We do accept and acknowledge that there's a lot of global uncertainty, but there's also a lot of household insecurity too. And the best way to deal with some of these challenges on the horizon in the economy, global or domestic, is to make sure that we can deal with the consumption problem we have, which is essentially a wages problem. People are running down their savings to pay for the essentials of life because they're not getting the wages growth they need and deserve, and that's flowing through to the rest of the economy. So that's our highest priority to deal with.
JOURNALIST: Jim, can you remember in the last week of Parliament legislation being debated and passed that would have dealt with the issue of animal conservation?
CHALMERS: I didn't play a big role in any animal conservation debate at the time, Tom. We were dealing with the Budget.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister's made that claim and there's some doubt that that happened.
CHALMERS: I certainly don't recall it, Tom. I was dealing with Budget issues at the time. While we're on that, the Prime Minister has made a lot of claims, including last night in the debate which are total rubbish. He said last night that people being treated in public hospitals have no out-of-pocket costs to deal with cancer. That is horrendously, horrifically out of touch. He's made up all kind of things about our housing policies. He's made up all kinds of things about the PBS. I think as the Prime Minister gets more and more desperate, he gets more and more willing to make stuff up about policies. He said that he had a policy to deal with extinction, which is obviously rubbish. He's made up a whole lot of things on the run. That's very troubling; it's a reflection of how desperate this Prime Minister is. Thanks very much.