SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
THURSDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: National Accounts; Labor’s responsible and considered policy agenda; Energy; Liberals’ plans to sell public energy assets; Medical transfers legislation
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now the Shadow Finance Minister, Jim Chalmers. Thanks so much for your time. Let's start with Mr Frydenberg's argument in terms of the broader strength of the economy - the 27th year of consecutive growth. Overall, the fundamentals remain strong, don't they? You'd accept that, wouldn't you?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Australia's got a remarkable record of continuous growth, which has been contributed to by both sides of politics. I think the fact that we got through the Global Financial Crisis is a big part of that story. Some of the numbers that were released yesterday are disappointing; quite soft. Growth is slowing, and we think growth is slowing because the Government's distracted and divided and has taken its eyes off the ball. We've got the triple whammy of weak wages, weak saving and weak spending all at the same time. So when Josh Frydenberg says that the economy's going gangbusters, I think a lot of people out in the community would be scratching their heads - because the economy's not delivering for middle Australia.
LAURA JAYES: If it's not going as gangbusters as you say Jim Chalmers, you could inherit this problem in a couple of months’ time. So, have these figures yesterday, these economic indicators, given you any pause for thought of already-announced policies from your side?
CHALMERS: No, we're confident in the policies that we've announced. They're carefully considered and carefully calibrated. As think I've said to both of you over the last few months we make those policies for the long-term and the medium-term. It's very important that we get our Budget into shape, for example, and that means closing down some of these tax loopholes which are smashing the Budget, which the country can't afford any more. So we're being very careful about our policies. We want to get the Budget into good nick, because if there is a softening economy, we need to have the capacity to respond if necessary.
GILBERT: Do you expect there'll be some short-term spikes or slumps, given - and you've said this yourself - you're introducing quite an array of legislation if you do win the next election, most notably the capital gains tax changes and negative gearing. Would you expect to see maybe a spike in purchases of new properties and a slump elsewhere? What's your advice on that?
CHALMERS: I wouldn't expect there to be a dramatic impact. Our policy's been known for some time. It's been on the table, in that case - capital gains and negative gearing - for years now. So people have had the opportunity to consider our policy. It's not something that we're dropping on people on the eve of an election or immediately after an election. That's one of the things we've been very careful about, is to give people a lot of notice.
JAYES: But you haven't given us a time frame. When will the negative gearing changes actually be implemented? Because this is important, right? Because it's a grandfathered policy. Is there a delay, a push back for this negative gearing policy, given the timing in the election and these economic indicators?
CHALMERS: We've only really just found out the timing of the Budget and the timing of the election. The bringing forward of the Budget was only really announced in the last couple of weeks. What we say every year, not just this year, is that it's entirely reasonable for us to update the costing and the timing of our policies after we get the most recent figures. So we'll get the mid-year update in a couple of weeks. We'll be in Adelaide at our National Conference. We'll respond to that then, and we'll take the time in the aftermath of that MYEFO to update the timing and the costing of our policies so that they are the best reflection of what we intend to do if and when we win office.
GILBERT: If the Government's able to get its so-called "big stick" legislation through the Parliament - it's looking more likely in terms of the lower house now, and possibly through the Upper House next year - if they do, will Labor seek to revoke that particular power?
CHALMERS: Well our effort at the moment is to knock the policy over, because it's a disastrous policy. It will reduce investment and push power prices up, and will run the risk of power privatisations in Queensland. So we're putting all of our effort into making the case that this is a disastrous policy.
GILBERT: Mr Frydenberg says there's no privatisation. If there was a divestment of power from a government-owned entity, it would have to go to another government-owned entity.
CHALMERS: It's farcical. Queenslanders don't believe them. They know that the Liberal Party wants to privatise public power assets. Scott Morrison is the Campbell Newman of Canberra. He has spent all week saying that one of the possibilities of their policy is privatisation. They're scrambling now because they've got a political problem, but it's in their DNA to privatise these public assets. Queensland have said repeatedly that they don't want to see that happen. Even the Queensland LNP leader - the state LNP leader! - has said rightly that Scott Morrison is completely out of touch with Queensland on this issue.
JAYES: Given that, will you repeal it?
CHALMERS: It hasn't been passed yet, Laura. And we're not giving up yet. We've got work to do. We've got a case to be made. We're not going to go through all the scenarios if it gets passed. But we've made our views very clear. And on our side in this argument by the way, it's a remarkable diversity of groups who have our opinion on this. Not just the business community, but other important stakeholder groups, state oppositions even. Right around the country people know that this is a disastrous policy. The Government's been humiliated again and again. They keep having to tweak it. The point that we're making is it's a mess that can't be cleaned up. It needs to be abandoned.
GILBERT: Now let's look at this fight that’s going on in terms of Nauru, because the Government says it's been getting the kids off Nauru, that there aren't that many left. Yet it's this awful thing to have a Bill to get the rest off. Why is Labor picking a fight here anyway, given we're talking about such a small number, and the Government has made progress on this front. Surely you don't want to have a row over border protection right now?
CHALMERS: Look, I don't see it that way, Kieran. This is fundamentally about making sure that sick people get the treatment that they need, and we're in discussions with the crossbench about the best way to ensure that. We'll be in those discussions, I'm sure, for much of today. But at the end of the day it's about sick people getting the right treatment. We don't want to see the functions and powers of the Immigration Minister given to somebody who's not the Immigration Minister. But overwhelmingly, I think there is some agreement across parts of the Parliament that we can do better to ensure that sick people get treated properly.
JAYES: Why are you making this move, Jim Chalmers? Based on what advice?
CHALMERS: I beg your pardon?
JAYES: Why are you making this move? Based on what advice? Is this based on just media reports you've seen? Anecdotal evidence from doctors that have been provided? Why are you making this move with the crossbench?
CHALMERS: Because we consult with the broader community, with the medical community, with experts in the field. We listen to people's views. There are a lot of people in this conversation who are well-intentioned, who want to see the right thing done. They want to see people treated properly and get the medical treatment that they need. So we've listened. We've been consulting via Shayne Neumann, our Immigration Shadow Minister, and others, to make sure we get this right. That's how we do all of our policy, whether it be on border protection or other areas of policy. And we have those conversations as we will continue to do during the course of today.
GILBERT: Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers, we'll talk to you very soon, thanks so much as always.
CHALMERS: Thank you. Happy birthday, Kieran!
GILBERT: (Laughs) Thank you very much, another reminder of that.