FRIDAY, 12 JULY 2019
SUBJECTS: Government’s MyGov fail; income tax cuts; Liberals’ economic mismanagement; Liberals’ public service cuts; Indigenous voice; Iran
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Millions of Australians who rely on the MyGov portal to lodge their tax returns have been left stranded today. The same is true for all of those Australians who rely on MyGov to do Centrelink business or Medicare business, to make those transactions. This is a complete and utter shambles brought to you by Josh Frydenberg and Stuart Robert. Before they patted themselves on the back for these tax cuts, they should have actually checked that they could deliver them. First, they missed the first of July deadline for these tax cuts. Then they told everybody to get their tax returns in. And then, when people did that, the system fell over.
This is a complete humiliation for Josh Frydenberg and Stuart Robert. They were warned that there would be extra burden on the system if they encouraged people to put a return in. They were warned that Stuart Robert would be a disaster in this portfolio. Unfortunately, both of those predictions have turned out to be true. The least surprising thing about this is that there was a surge in tax returns and that Stuart Robert stuffed it up.
These characters like to pretend that they are good at managing the economy when they can't even get a tax cut into people's hands on time. This has been a shambles from beginning to end. Josh Frydenberg should stop patting himself on the back for these tax cuts and make sure that they can be actually delivered.
With this kind of incompetence, it's little wonder we've got a slowing economy and stagnant wages and interest rates have been cut to a third of what they were during the Global Financial Crisis. This is a Government which can't get anything right when it comes to the economy. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's surprising that we've had a one-line statement from the Government so far on this today?
CHALMERS: Well, the Government's been humiliated by what's happened today. A one-line statement does not make up for the fact that they say that this was their one core promise that they took to the election, and they haven't been able to implement that promise without stuffing it up. This is a Government which told hundreds of thousands of Australians to get their tax return in, and then made it impossible for them to do so. And that says everything about this Government. They like to pretend that they're good at managing the economy. They like to pretend that these tax cuts will be out and flowing in the economy. Just one problem with that: they've completely and utterly stuffed up the implementation of their one core promise.
JOURNALIST: Given the demand at the moment, how bad is this, having the website - it's already been down for a number of hours today - how much will this impact people's returns and what they're expecting back?
CHALMERS: A lot of people don't have the time to be wasting time on MyGov just because Stuart Robert and Josh Frydenberg can't get these tax cuts out the door. They've already been delayed from the original 1 July deadline. The tax cuts were supposed to be flowing from the 1st of July this year. The government missed that deadline. And now they tell everybody to get their tax returns in and make it impossible for people to actually get their tax returns in. So this will delay things further. We've got a slowing economy - the slowest growth in this economy for the 10 years since the Global Financial Crisis. We've got stagnant wages and weak consumption; consumer confidence fell again this week. And now the Government's delaying this tax relief that workers need and that the economy needs to try to turn the place around again. It says everything about the incompetence of this Liberal Government when it comes to managing the economy. We've got slowing growth and weak wages and weak consumption and they can't even get these tax cuts out the door on time.
JOURNALIST: What about the cuts? The CPSU is saying that the ATO's workload hasn't been helped by their job cuts?
CHALMERS: Absolutely. The union and others have warned the Government that there would be a surge in tax returns and that the Government needs to have the resources for people to lodge those tax returns. Only a couple of days ago, Josh Frydenberg was out there giving himself a big round of applause for these tax cuts and for all the people that had lodged their tax returns without actually making it possible for people to do that. And that goes directly to Josh Frydenberg and Stuart Robert's incompetence, but it also goes to resourcing in the public service. And we've had a lot to say over the last year or two about the fact that for a lot of Australians service standards have fallen. That's not the fault of the people who do work in our public agencies and in our public service. It's the fault of the Government, which has been hollowing out the public service and replacing people with contractors and consultants; paying more for those contractors and consultants and getting worse outcomes for it. The Government is responsible for this monumental stuff up today with the MyGov portal. The Government needs to take responsibility for the fact that after they told everybody to get a tax return they completely stuffed that up so that people weren't able to get their tax return in. They should be issuing more than a one line statement. They should be getting this right so that we can get the tax returns flowing into workers' hands and circulating into an economy which desperately needs help right now.
JOURNALIST: I've got a few other questions from Canberra.
JOURNALIST: On constitutional reform, will Labor demand that a First Nations' voice be the outcome of constitutional reform discussions?
CHALMERS: Let's have all of the discussions. We were very encouraged by Minister Wyatt's comments earlier in the week. We think that it is time to move on the key questions which were identified and articulated by the Uluru Statement From The Heart. We want to work with the Government, and most importantly we want to work with and consult with and listen to elders and communities right around Australia. It's long past time for the Government and the Opposition to come together to make this meaningful change. We don't want to see it derailed by disunity and division in the Liberal side over issues around the voice. We want to have the right conversations with Government, with communities, with elders, so that we can take this important step.
JOURNALIST: Would you support a referendum if there was no mention of a voice?
CHALMERS: Let's have the conversations, but we've made it very clear for some time now that we support the Uluru Statement. We support a voice. We've said things before about a legislated voice and a constitutional voice. Let's have the conversations with the Government. Linda Burney has done an outstanding job already in our show articulating our views on all of these matters. It should be possible for a country like ours to take the next step in reconciliation along the lines proposed by our indigenous brothers and sisters.
JOURNALIST: Just one more from Andrew Probyn. Would Labour support Australia lending its military assistance to an international mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz, giiven the Iranian aggression?
CHALMERS: I'm not aware that a request of that nature has been made. If it has, it hasn't been communicated to me. Our issue around Iran is we want to make sure that the concerning developments of the last few months are not continued. We want to make sure that all the parties to it take whatever steps and make whatever they can to de-escalate tension. We've all got skin in the game when it comes to the passage of ships, and stability in that part of the world. So we want to make sure that tensions can be deescalated. If a request comes from the international community or from any of our partners, I'm sure that'll be considered in the usual way, and I'm sure that Labor will be briefed on that request in the usual way via our relevant spokesman. Thanks very much.