SKY NEWS NEWSDAY
MONDAY, 3 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Liberals’ scaremongering on encryption laws; Liberal chaos, division and dysfunction; Religious exemptions; Banking Royal Commission; 2019 Budget; dividend imputation reform
ANNELISE NIELSEN: Joining me now live to discuss the news of the day is Shadow Finance Minister, Jim Chalmers. Jim, thanks for joining me.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: No worries, Annelise.
NIELSEN: So those are some quite passionate words from the energy minister, you could say. He’s saying that Labor's helping to run a protection racket for terrorists. Do you think those comments are fair?
CHALMERS: They're ridiculous comments, obviously. I think anybody who's been following this debate knows what's going on here. Whether it's Angus Taylor or Scott Morrison, they're trying to pick a fight with Labor over these laws to try and distract from the extreme internal division that they have on their own side. I think it's disappointing, but not especially surprising to see that Morrison and Taylor and others are prepared to trash what is generally a spirit of bipartisanship on national security, just to try to paper over those internal divisions.
NIELSEN: So, if the Labor Party and the Government can agree on the fact that it is senior agencies like ASIO who should be allowed access to encrypted messages, why not just come to the party on that part of it?
CHALMERS: We were prepared to compromise and we said to the Government that we would give the agencies the powers that they need while we took the time to properly scrutinise the legislation. What normally happens with important national security legislation - what has happened for some years now - is that the committee goes through the detail of what's being proposed, and where we can make those laws stronger, then we propose that. Quite often those kinds of suggestions are taken up by the Government. I suspect that's what members of the Government wanted to do in this case. Instead, because of these extreme internal divisions we get this ridiculous rhetoric from Angus Taylor, we get all of these political games. Our intention, our reason for making our views known is because we want national security laws to be stronger, not weaker. We're concerned that what's being proposed might actually weaken our arrangements in important areas, and we have a responsibility to the Australian people to do the right thing, even while Scott Morrison and the others tear themselves apart.
NIELSEN: This has been stuck at the committee stage. Do you accept what the Government's saying, that it should be rushed through the stage to have it passed by the end of the week?
CHALMERS: I don't accept that it's been stuck. What happens with these kinds of laws, as I said, is the committee - people of good will from all sides of the Parliament - sit down and work their way through the laws. For five years now, there's been heaps of amendments made which have improved the laws and been accepted by the Government. There's no reason why that couldn't have happened on this occasion. The only difference is that the division is dialled up to 11 now and they've got more and more issues on their own side, and so they're trying to pick this fight. That's why you get the ridiculous rhetoric. But that doesn't really serve the Australian people well, because what the Australian people want from us is to work together, as we have been in the past, to make sure our national security laws are as strong as possible.
NIELSEN: It is pretty extraordinary to see former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull go on radio this morning. He had some pretty strong words for his current colleagues. Do you think that really is just showing how divided the party is now?
CHALMERS: Of course. This is more fuel on the Liberals' dumpster fire of chaos and division and dysfunction. And I think what Malcolm Turnbull said this morning probably really reflects the view of the broader community, which is that the Liberal Party is spiralling out of control and the only way to resolve the deep internal divisions in the Liberal Party is to change the Government, to give them a spell in Opposition. I think he was reflecting a pretty common view...
NIELSEN: I don't think he was quite saying that. I think he was saying go to an early election. I don't think he was saying we need to go into Opposition.
CHALMERS: He was saying that the Liberal Party was so divided that it's jeopardising the political prospects of the New South Wales State Government; that was the point that he was making. I think most people in the community - I was out and about as most people were in our electorates - and most people want this chaos and division to end. People recognise that the Liberal Party now is just a steaming pile of personal resentments and get-squares, and for as long as that continues, middle Australia won't get a look in.
NIELSEN: Do you think they'll be able to come to any agreement on these religious freedom laws about protections for students at least? I know there's been some disagreement over whether that should extend to teachers, and how much that impacts on the school's rights. But it seems like the Labor Party's pushing with entering Bills in both the Senate and the lower house.
CHALMERS: Yeah, two related, but different issues. Bill Shorten's just given a terrific speech in the Parliament about how we guarantee really what is pretty basic human dignity, which is to say to Australian kids you shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of your sexuality. Scott Morrison, of course, had that same view when the Wentworth by-election was on, but he seems to have sacrificed those principles on the altar of these internal divisions in the Liberal Party. We're calling on Scott Morrison to do the right thing, to support the Bill that Bill Shorten spoke for so passionately this morning and to lock in those protections. We've also said there's an issue around teachers, but we're prepared to address those issues at the beginning of next year.
NIELSEN: We still haven't seen the Ruddock Review...
CHALMERS: It's amazing.
NIELSEN: ...but you're still pushing ahead with these changes anyway? Wouldn't you want to wait to see what the Ruddock Review says?
CHALMERS: I have no faith that the Ruddock Review will ever be released. They've had it for the bulk of this year. They've had extreme division on its contents. They've had bits and pieces of it leaked. You'd think that they'd have released it by now. I don't need the Ruddock Review for example to know that we should look after kids in our schools who are at risk of being discriminated against. It's a pretty simple principle that we should be implementing. Scott Morrison said he believed in it. It's time for him to get behind the Bill that's in the Parliament now and do the right thing.
NIELSEN: Now, if we could move on to the Banking Royal Commission, which wrapped up last Friday. The Labor Party's been pretty vocal saying they wanted more hearings, but Commissioner Kenneth Hayne said it was in the best interests that it was done as quickly as possible. Are you still doing your hearings out in the community? And why?
CHALMERS: We don't make a judgement on Commissioner Hayne, who has generally done quite a good job. Our issue is with the Government, who gave such a ridiculously short time frame for this Royal Commission. Only 27 victims out of 10,000 who made submissions have actually had their voice heard at the Commission itself. What Clare O'Neil has been doing, and Bill Shorten has been doing, is a terrific job of going around the country and making sure that people who have been exposed to these rorts and rip-offs have their voices heard. But, as Clare said in Parliament, that's no substitute for being properly heard at the Royal Commission. We would have preferred it if the Commission had longer time frames, so they could speak to more of these victims.
NIELSEN: Looking ahead, the Government has promised that when they deliver that Budget, it's going to have a surplus. Surely that's good news? Surely you can support that one?
CHALMERS: The Budget's improving despite the Government's efforts, not because of them. We're getting billions of dollars rolling through the door courtesy of a stronger global economy. The vast bulk of the improvement in the Budget is revenue increases - so more taxes - and the Government gets up there in Question Time and tries to pretend they've had something to do with this. The global economy is going quite well, and our Budget is benefiting as a consequence of that. Of course, when the Budget is handed down, if the Government gets to the Budget - and a lot of Liberals around this building are saying they might not even be able to limp to a Budget - but if they get that far, they will be claiming a surplus for the following year, which is a very different thing to handing down an actual surplus. The improved Budget will be a consequence of those increased revenue numbers.
NIELSEN: One of the ways you've said you're going to increase revenue is by taking out franking credits from a lot of pensioners' budgets and we saw 200 go to an inquiry hearing last week about your proposed changes. Do pensioners have something to be worried about?
CHALMERS: There'll still be franking credits. People can still get their tax liability down to zero. We just will end the practice which has existed now for about 18 years or so, which is to send people cheques when they haven't paid tax in the first place. No other country doesn't in that kind of generous way...
NIELSEN: Well no other countries have self-managed super funds though.
CHALMERS: There's no other countries that do tax refunds for tax that hasn't been paid in this way; no other country in the OECD. When it was first introduced, it cost about $500 million. Now it costs almost $6 billion. In our view, the nation can't afford it. We've got other priorities - schools and hospitals, apprenticeships, TAFEs and the like.
NIELSEN: Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
CHALMERS: Thank you.