SUBJECTS: Tax cuts; RBA interest rate cuts.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you that you’ll be able to get these amendments through the Senate with the tax plan?
ALBANESE: Well the decision by the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates by a further 0.25 per cent down to 1 per cent is quite extraordinary. What that is the Reserve Bank saying that the economy is softening. We know that the growth rate is extremely low. We know that interest rates are now 1 per cent, which is one third of what they were during the Global Financial Crisis and that is the Reserve Bank saying with two interest rate decreases, two months in a row, a couple of things. One is that there’s a need for stimulus. And the second is it’s an indication of the uncertainty that’s there in the economy.
So that reinforces our two amendments. The first amendment that we’re proposing is to bring forward tax cuts so that every Australian worker would get a larger tax cut sooner. That’s what we’re about with our amendments to stage two. And that’s reinforced by the fact the Reserve Bank has now done its bit in terms of monetary policy. It’s hard to see how it could do any more. There’s a need for fiscal policy and for the Government to respond. The bringing forward of stage two tax cuts so that every Australian worker would get a tax cut is one way. The second is what we’ve also called for to bring forward the infrastructure investment. I mean, the Linkfield Road project for example, that was announced by the Government in between the electorates of Petrie and Dickson in Queensland is due to begin in 2026-2027. It’s even more absurd than the tax cuts that begin in 2024-2025 and that goes to the second point of our amendments, which is surely when you’ve had two interest rate decreases in just, since the election that was held less than two months ago then that shows that for those who think that it’s smart economic policy to say they know what the economy will look like in 2024/2025 is quite frankly a triumph of hope over economic reality and economic experience. And today’s decision just reinforces that.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on religious freedom. The Government is offering its –
ALBANESE: Can we just do this at this stage?
JOURNALIST: If the crossbench doesn’t come to party on the tax cuts, let’s say Jacqui Lambie doesn’t vote with the Government, will Labor then stick with its amendments? Will you block the tax cuts if you have the ability to do it?
ALBANESE: We’re moving our amendments and we are putting the case and I must say our case has been boosted today for these amendments to be carried. These amendments are good policy. This is us putting the national interest before politics and the Government has a responsibility to actually do the same and stop playing politics. If the Government suggests that they will hold up immediate tax cuts now because of something that might happen in 2024/2025 then that is an incredibly irresponsible position to take. It’s only Labor that’s arguing that every worker should get a tax cut right now.
JOURNALIST: So what I’m asking is if say Jacqui Lambie doesn’t vote with the Government and they can’t get their package through as they would like, is Labor prepared to hold the line and tough it out in a battle between the House of Reps and the Senate?
ALBANESE: The question is one for the Government. It is the Government’s responsibility –
JOURNALIST: Sure it is but –
ALBANESE: It’s the Government’s responsibility to govern. What we’re doing is putting forward propositions that are in the national economic interest. We’ll continue to do so. The Reserve Bank today have made a very dramatic intervention. This is monetary policy at work but there is a need for fiscal policy and there’s a need for the Government to have here this wakeup call from the Reserve Bank. They are saying that this will have a massive impact. They’re talking about specifically in their statement they speak about low consumer demand and they speak about low wages growth. This Government presided over a cut to penalty rates just yesterday but up to 700,000 workers. So on the one hand the Reserve Bank is doing all the heavy lifting. It’s up to Scott Morrison and the Government to do their bit. Thanks very much.