Oct 7, 2020







SUBJECT: Federal Budget.


PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, joining me live now is the Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning. So, you’ve had a bit more time to focus on the Budget. What is your biggest problem with it?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: The biggest problem is we’ve got a trillion-dollar debt, but still no comprehensive plan for jobs. There’s still too many people left out. There’s no real strategy for women’s workforce participation. And if you’re over 35, the first hit is JobKeeper gets cut. The second move is JobKeeper gets removed. The third hit is that your unemployment benefits go back to $40 a day. So, you’re put back into poverty. And the last hit is that there’s no support for you. And you’re competing to get back into work against people who are receiving subsidies. So, we need to support young people. But we need to not forget those people who are aged over 35.


STEFANOVIC: But there is a plan for jobs. There’s billions of dollars’ worth of incentives.


ALBANESE: What we have is no comprehensive plan for jobs. Where’s the big vision for how we emerge out of this crisis, the Morrison recession, with comprehensive reform? What’s the big change? What happened when Paul Keating had a recession in the early 90s, of course, was we had compulsory superannuation. When you look at this, you want to get big bang for your buck if you’re racking up a trillion dollars of debt. This still leaves a lot of people behind. The aged care packages are under 6,000 a year when we know that 10,000 people died last year waiting to get a homecare package. There’s no plan in terms of women’s workforce participation. There’s no big infrastructure projects here. What we have is a whole series of pots set up of money.


STEFANOVIC: Aren’t they fast-tracking infrastructure projects right around the country?


ALBANESE: Well, this is a mob that have underspend by $6.8 billion in their first Budget.


STEFANOVIC: But it is true that they are fast-tracking infrastructure projects.


ALBANESE: They are fast-tracking announcements is what they’re doing, Peter. And that’s what they’re good at. Announcements. What they’re not good at is delivery.


STEFANOVIC: So, what are you saying that more money should be spent on?


ALBANESE: What we are saying is that it should be spent more wisely. And what this Government has, we’ve seen them do it, we’ve seen them pay $33 million for a plot of land that was worth three, and then lease it back to the same people for under a million dollars, quite extraordinary. We’ve seen, of course, sports rorts, we’ve seen a whole lot of waste occur. We’ve seen $4.5 billion allocated in this Budget to put fibre to the home and business for the NBN. $4.5 billion that should never have had to have been spent. They said that their NBN model, the second rate, slow model, based on copper, that was obsolete before it was rolled out, would cost $29 billion. It’s already cost 52. And now they have to spend more to go back and do what they should have done in the first place, which is to use 21st century technology.


STEFANOVIC: Money’s cheap, would you be spending more?


ALBANESE: What we’d be doing is spending it more wisely.


STEFANOVIC: But not any more? But why not spend more, with money so cheap?


ALBANESE: We’d have proper infrastructure investment that would make a substantial difference to the country. I will ask you, I was looking last night, where’s the big infrastructure project that’s new announced in this Budget? I couldn’t find one.


STEFANOVIC: It all forms part of an omnibus bill, would you support it? Will you support it?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ll support the tax cuts. And that means that they can flow immediately. We’ll examine the other detail. There’s a reason, Peter, why we have a Budget on Tuesday night, a Budget reply on Thursday, and the normal processes, of course, here, should apply. But this is a Government that trashes convention. This is a Prime Minister that doesn’t like scrutiny. I would have thought a trillion dollars of debt, where every single dollar that’s spent is borrowed from today’s and future taxpayers, given the debt goes right out into the future, there are deficits across into the future with no end in sight. I would have thought that it was prudent to have proper scrutiny.


STEFANOVIC: The Treasurer on the program a short time ago said that there is a bit of a watching brief at the moment when it comes to stage three tax cuts not being brought forward at the moment. Do you remain opposed to that being brought forward?


ALBANESE: Well, we’re concerned that the higher end tax cuts, what we know is that if you give benefit to people on low incomes and middle incomes, and these stage two cuts, the primary beneficiaries are between $90,000-120,000, that they’ll spend it. So, it’ll stimulate the economy. And we know that if you’re on a couple of hundred thousand dollars, you’re less likely to spend it and you are more likely to save it.


STEFANOVIC: But is there a danger of people who are on a lesser amount of money not spending it as well, of saving it from fearing that they may well lose their jobs eventually?


ALBANESE: Well, that is a concern. And that is certainly something that we will examine. We are very concerned, for example, that 600,000 Australians have been left with zero dollars in their superannuation accounts. That will impact their retirement incomes. But it also will mean a future burden on taxpayers because they’ll be more reliant upon pensions down the track.


STEFANOVIC: What is the priority for you tomorrow night?


ALBANESE: Well, you’ll see.


STEFANOVIC: I knew you were going to say that. Childcare, is that something that you’d be looking at boosting?


ALBANESE: You’ll see our reply tomorrow night, Peter. But one of the things that will be our priority is immediate job creation. We think that the Government has missed an opportunity, for example, economists were asked, ‘What’s the number one thing that you would do to boost jobs immediately?’ And it was public housing, social housing investment. And there’s nothing in this Budget for that.


STEFANOVIC: So, that will be a priority for you?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ll see tomorrow night. But clearly, we’ve been saying for some time that maintenance of social housing, you could have tradies on the tools, fixing up people’s plumbing, fixing up people’s homes in a couple of weeks, frankly. We know there is this massive backlog. We know there’s 200,000 Australians on various social housing waiting lists around the country. It’s a bit of a no brainer, which the Government missed last night.


STEFANOVIC: Is it your plan to fully offset all of your expenditure?


ALBANESE: One of the things that we’ll do is not be lectured by this Government about debt and deficit. I mean, this Government have produced a $215 billion deficit in the coming year, and they’re still leaving people behind. If you’re over 35, if you’re a woman who wants to participate in the workforce, there’s so many people who’ve been forgotten. Aged care crisis, we know the interim report of the Royal Commission made recommendations. They have largely been ignored by this Government. There are so many people missing out in spite of such a massive expenditure by this Government. But we will certainly be announcing well before the election all of our expenditure, all of our costs. But quite frankly, the Government’s economic credibility, and all of their rhetoric that they had over all those years, is in tatters.


STEFANOVIC: But what was the alternative?


ALBANESE: Hang on, Peter. They doubled the debt before the pandemic. Last year, the debt had doubled. We had wage stagnation, wages going nowhere. We had the Reserve Bank having to intervene with record low interest rates to try and stimulate economic activity because they weren’t doing it. You had massive failure to deliver on what they were promising in areas like infrastructure, in areas like the emergency response fund. They established a $4 billion fund to fix up areas that had been affected by the bushfires to look at ways which they could have mitigation in the future. There’s an ongoing season coming down the track. You know how much they spent in the first year? They allocated $200 million each year. Zero. Not a dollar. We still got people not far from here, living in caravans on land that has not been cleared. This is a Government that is all about the announcement. And last night was basically a series of grab bag announcements with no real strategy, no story to tell. No plan for comprehensive job creation in this country, and no plan for the future. This is a series of 24-hour-based announcements that we saw rolled out before the Budget. And I think it was a very disappointing Budget.


STEFANOVIC: Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Pete.