Subjects: Tourism; Philip Lowe; infrastructure; housing affordability, penalty rates.
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Thanks for coming out ladies and gentlemen. It’s fantastic to have Anthony Albanese once again here in the Top End. It’s always great to have our colleagues from down south come up and see what is happening in the Territory and in the tourism space it’s very exciting to have these awards, the Qantas Tourism Awards, here in the Top End for the first time. The tourism market is becoming such an important part – it always has been but it’s becoming even more important to our northern economy and that needs some investment. So I’m really pleased that Labor has been on the front foot in this area, making sure that we are going to have the tourism infrastructure we need for the future. This great facility down here at Stokes Hill Wharf, and after we had those massive crowds at the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin last week, this virtual reality experience and the Royal Flying Doctor Service here, it’s really a first-class tourism destination. Military tourism Is becoming a big feature of the landscape in the north of Australia. It’s obviously where war came to Australian shores for the first time. And so it is excellent to have Anthony here and to be showing him part of our tourism product. But we will hear and see more of that tonight. All the best to the nominees. I look forward to seeing who is going to take out those national awards tonight. But its fantastic to have 700-800 people from our tourism industry here in the Top End. So thanks for coming up Anthony. I will hand over to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Firstly, on tourism the fact is that in the last year we have seen a considerable increase in overseas visitors to Australia. The one state or territory that has seen a decline is the Northern Territory, with a decline of more than 2 per cent in visitor numbers. What that means is that the national government has a role of providing support for tourism that is so vital for jobs and for the local economy. This facility here at Stokes Hill Wharf is world-class in its knowledge, in teaching people history and in the experience here and this is the sort of project that is worthy of support. There’s a need for the national government to step up when it comes to tourism. It employs a million Australians directly and indirectly and it’s increasingly important as part of the national economy. Indeed, just recently it overtook coal in terms of an export for our national economy. And that’s why during the election campaign we committed to $1 billion of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund being allocated and available for tourism projects. Tourism is important to give that support to the local economy here. And it says a lot for the Territory and its potential, the fact that the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards are being held here tonight. They are a big deal. People have come from all over Australia and the great thing is that many of the tourism operators will get to see the quality product that the territory has on offer, particularly here in the Top End. Can I make some comments further about Philip Lowe, the Reserve Bank Governor and his appearance before the House Economics Committee here today? Now Governor Lowe has said three things of great significance. Firstly, in my area if infrastructure he stated how important it was to have proper business cases for the funding of major infrastructure projects. We have seen a government that has dropped the ball when it comes to infrastructure development. Here in the Territory Tiger Brennan Drive was funded by the former Labor Government in partnership with the Northern Territory Government of the time. We’ve seen though projects like the Perth Freight Link, the East West project in Melbourne and Westconnex funded prior to the business cases being made available and that’s bad practice and leads to bad outcomes for taxpayers. And it is the case that for each quarter that the Coalition has been in office, they have funded less for public sector infrastructure investment than any of the quarters when Labor was in office from 2007 through to 2013. Governor Lowe also said that perhaps internationally the race to the bottom when it comes to company tax is not in the interest of national governments or the people who governments are elected to serve. But significantly as well he stated that when it comes to capital gains tax discounts and negative gearing on investment properties, that that is adding to the decrease in housing affordability when it comes to particularly our capital cities right around the nation. So here you have Governor Lowe sending a very clear message to the Turnbull Government – stop being dogmatic, do something about negative gearing and about the capital gains tax discount because unless there is reform here what we are seeing is a whole generation locked out of the housing market in our cities and in our regions. The Australian dream of home ownership is at risk of being something of the past and the sort of comments we’ve seen from Coalition ministers, of just find themselves a rich parent, or find themselves a well-paying job, is not good enough. They should listen to the policy experts. Today the Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has joined the chorus call saying that we need action on negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts if we are going to do something about housing affordability.
REPORTER: How significant is this in supporting Labor’s position?
ALBANESE: Well this is a very significant statement indeed. But every economist who is serious who has a look at this knows that at the moment young families trying to get into home ownership simply can’t compete with investors for the same properties and what that is doing is putting upward pressure on house prices and we are having people simply locked out of the housing market. Governor Lowe has belled the cat. It’s about time that Malcolm Turnbull took action. They have a Budget coming up in May. That is the absolute deadline for them to stop being intransigent about this issue. The Government said itself that they had to deal with excesses when it came to negative gearing. But as soon as Labor announced our policy last year they retreated into this ridiculous rhetoric and scare campaign rather than act like a government. It’s about time the Turnbull Government governed rather than just played politics.
REPORTER: You mentioned the comment about the race to the bottom for corporate tax rates. How would Labor ensure that Australia remains competitive in the international space?
ALBANESE: Well I will tell you what doesn’t make Australia internationally competitive as a national economy is cutting the wages through the decision of penalty rates for some of the poorest people in our economy who spend every dollar that they earn. That decision will add to a contraction of the economy rather than boosting jobs and boosting economic activity. And at the same time, they want to give the top end of town $50 billion worth of tax cuts. I think the contrast is stark. If you are a working middle income earner you get hit with this change that will make a huge difference to people who rely upon penalty rates to simply pay their bills, pay their mortgage and look after their families. And what we have at the same time is a call for this corporate tax cut of some $50 billion including of course some of the biggest companies in Australia that will simply transfer that benefit offshore.
REPORTER: Do you agree though that Australian businesses need some support to remain competitive?
ALBANESE: We have said that we support the tax cuts for small business. But small business isn’t defined as every single business. That is what they have done. And the fact is that under the previous Labor Government we had a strong economy. We saw Australia through the Global Financial Crisis. We had economic policy leadership that created jobs, that saved jobs, when around the world we saw jobs being shed. What we have seen from this Government is higher debt, higher deficits, lower growth and no strategy for the economic future of this country other than driving wages down. Thanks.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.