Subject/s: Budget; Senate; GST.
DAVID LIPSON: We’re joined now by the Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. Thanks for your time this afternoon. We will get to the GFC in a moment but I want to start with Martin Parkinson’s speech today. He said that we’re at a critical juncture and pointed to the unpopular reforms of the 80’s and 90’s which transformed the economy and set the nation up for decades of growth. Is Labor getting in the way of tough but important economic reform?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well where’s the economic reform in this Budget? Economic reform isn’t punishing those in the community who are the most vulnerable. Economic reform isn’t inhibiting productivity by cutting gall funding for public transport projects and doing nothing about freight rail. Economic reform is not what we see in this Budget. What we see is a mean spirited, ideological crusade from Tony Abbott, from the Coalition, with all of their prejudices laid bare. If they’re serious about economic reform we’re certainly up for that debate as Labor has always been. But one of the things we see is a retreat from some of the economic reform that is necessary. Martin Parkinson I’m sure would agree that one of the economic reforms that is needed is moving to a carbon constrained economy. This mob want to write off clean energy from any legislation or any description, they want to wind back on those reforms, and we don’t see a reformist Budget which is why it’s been rejected so whole-heartedly by the Australia people.
LIPSON: Do you think if there is a blockage in the Australian Senate, as appears almost inevitable now, that Australia’s triple A credit rating could be put at risk?
ALBANESE: Well it is of course the former Labor government that delivered the triple A credit rating. That’s in spite of the fact that the Liberal party spent year after year talking down the economy. The problem for the Coalition is that since September they’ve still maintained themselves in that negative Opposition mode. They’ve talked down the Australian economy. They haven’t had a vision for the nation. They have engaged in increased expenditure like the Paid Parental Leave scheme. More than $5 billion each year and growing is the projection there.
LIPSON: But if you’re blocking all their savings aren’t you partly responsible for any of the fallout of such a move, and also, by blocking so many measures, aren’t you just as bad as what you yourself coined the Noalition in the last term of Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well David they are the government. They are still acting like the Noalition. They’ve knocked back saves like, just to give one example in superannuation, if you earned more than $100,000 in terms of income from your superannuation then you would be taxed appropriately. So they’ve gotten rid of the high end for the people who have multiple millions of dollars in superannuation. At the same time they’ve cut the low income superannuation contribution. A very stark example of how they’re punishing the most vulnerable in our community. At the same time it’s a free-for-all if you’re at the top end. That is not the action of a government that is prudent in terms of fiscal measures. There are a range of savings that we made in terms both in terms of last year’s Budget but also in the economic statement that we made prior to the election being called and they’ve just dismissed them all – thrown them all away. I mean remember the fuss over the idea that people who are not entitled to claim for their car for work should have the law apply appropriately.
LIPSON: Let’s stick with the here and now and one of the most prominent areas of the debate is the GST. Now, Tony Abbott says it’s up to the states to make the case. But why can’t we have a sensible adult discussion about the GST because everyone from Tim Costello on the left to Ian McDonald on the right and everyone in between as well are calling for such a discussion.
ALBANESE: Well because what we’ve got is a government characterised by its dishonesty. Characterised by saying we’re not breaking any promises when it is obvious to every mum and dad in the street that they are breaking promise after promise after promise. And then setting it up saying we’re not about increasing GST, that’s to do with the states – what nonsense. The GST is a federal tax. What Tony Abbott has done is rip $80 billion out of education and health. Done so in a way with no notice, done so in direct contradiction to what he said not just at the election time, but even at the COAG meeting that was held weeks ago. The Premiers and Chief Ministers weren’t given notice.
LIPSON: But they would have had the same problems in addressing the structural fiscal imbalance, so that would have had to come from somewhere so why not the GST? Doesn’t matter who’s collecting the tax does it? The states or the federals?
ALBANESE: We introduced measures, David, in the economic statement. They’re measures which the government has chosen to oppose. Not only that but to add on top tens of billions of dollars of additional expenditure through additional measures including the Paid Parental Leave scheme. So in terms of the public, I think they’ll have a look at this and they’ll say the federal government rips all this money out, gets its mates in state governments to say. I mean have a look at Mike Baird, he was going to take on the Federal Government, he was going to stand up for NSW. Two days later he’s there all smiles and cuddling up to Tony Abbott. Then on Sunday he’s doing a press conference saying, oh, well, we really are going to get angry and shake our fist at the federal government. I mean where are they, the Coalition? Have they sat down in a back room somewhere and sorted out this three scene play that we’re seeing acted out by the Coalition? The GST is fundamentally a regressive tax. I tell you what, it doesn’t make a difference to me, but it makes a difference to pensioners and those on low incomes in my electorate.
LIPSON: Anthony Albanese, unfortunately we’re out of time. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thanks David, pleasure.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.