SUBJECTS: Tax cuts; Christopher Pyne; John Setka.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, well welcome back to Parliament. Today of course is July 1. The day that Scott Morrison said tax cuts would already be in place – the Stage One that he spoke about during the election campaign. So today marks the day of Scott Morrison’s first broken promise.
It marks something else as well. It’s a day when 700,000 workers will lose their penalty rates. Penalty rates that they rely upon to put food on the table, to put petrol in their car, to pay the school fees for their kids. The fact is, that at a time where wages are not keeping up with the costs of living for so many Australian families, this is a blow to them. But it’s also a blow to the national economy because the Reserve Bank have indicated that the economy is softening. They recently of course cut interest rates and tomorrow they’ll meet again. It’ll be interesting to see whether they cut interest rates again.
What this economy needs is stimulus. They need Stage One of the tax cuts but they also need Stage Two brought forward. If a tax cut is good in 2022, why isn’t it good in 2019? The fact is that only Labor is arguing that every Australian worker should get a tax cut this term of parliament. The Government’s proposals are off in the never never and if the Government suggests that it’s going to hold up tax cuts today over theoretical tax cuts in 2025, then that is entirely economically irresponsible. It’ll be on the Government’s head frankly because the Government was elected to govern not just to play politics. And all we’re seeing from this Government at the moment is playing politics.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: You said you wanted to [inaudible] a debate, what do you mean by that?
ALBANESE: Well what that means is that tomorrow is the first day of Parliament. So without the opposition agreeing, there’s no way that you could have any debate on legislation and of course this, the 46th Parliament will be in, certainly in my memory, the first time that you’ve had some debate on the parliament. We’ll give leave for the Government to introduce its legislation and so that we can have that debate tomorrow night so that the Senate can consider these matters on Thursday. Of course, on Wednesday we’ll be devoted to the commemoration for Bob Hawke as is appropriate and as has occurred in the past, Parliament will adjourn. That will be the only item of business before the Parliament this Wednesday.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Labor has caucus today, will the final position on tax cuts be agreed to in caucus before that bill goes to the House tomorrow?
ALBANESE: Well what we’ll agree to and what the recommendation will be from the Shadow Cabinet to the caucus is to agree to our proposal to split the bill and to support the bring forward of Stage Two of the tax cuts. We think that this is a responsible position. It’s only Labor that is arguing at the moment in this whole parliament that every worker deserves the tax cut and that the economy needs that tax cut right now.
JOURNALIST: If the caucus doesn’t agree, what’s your plan B?
ALBANESE: The caucus will agree to the shadow ministry recommendation and we’ll take that forward into the Parliament we’ll argue our case in the House of Representatives. Of course we don’t expect to be successful in the House given the numbers that are there. But in the Senate we’ll argue our case, we think it’s a very strong case. We think the Government’s proposition to have tax cuts that come in in 2025, that have a considerable cost to the budget, whereby the Government will say what less revenue they will have. What they won’t say is what cuts to expenditure will be required as a result of that. The Government won’t even give of course Labor the information that we requested about the distributional impact of the tax changes that they’re putting forward. And that shows the Government frankly isn’t confident about its position with regard to justifying this in terms of the impact on the economy. Labor is being responsible in terms of what the economy needs right now. We’ve already seen changes occur as a result of the Reserve Bank cutting interest rates, an indication that they think the economy is softening. They’ve called for infrastructure investment to be brought forward. We’re also arguing that that should occur.
JOURNALIST: If the economy is so important, shouldn’t you compromise at the end of the day to make sure that there is some tax cut given or extra tax cuts given to make sure it’s stimulated (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: We are compromising, we are compromising. We’re taking Stage One and Stage Two. We went to the election – be very clear – we went to the election just supporting Stage One. We have compromised, we’re saying Stage Two, the Government has put it forward. Given the state of the economy, yes we’ll agree to that but bring it forward so that we change the threshold from $90,000 to $120,000. And therefore by doing that everyone at $120,000 and above will receive a tax cut of $1,350 dollars regardless of how much they earn. And between 90 to 120 they will receive a tax cut of course up to that $1,350.
JOURNALIST: The Government did run very strongly on its income tax relief package during the election. Why won’t you respect their mandate?
ALBANESE: Okay, what’s the Stage Three of the tax cuts.
JOURNALIST: You’re testing me, but …
ALBANESE: What is it?
JOURNALIST: It’s to flatten the tax rate so that most Australians pay 30 per cent …
ALBANESE: No actually the flattening of the tax rate was carried in 2018. That’s already occurred. That’s already legislated. The changes that occur that they’re proposing is to reduce that rate from 32.5 to 30. The fact is that last night at the airport we did a bit of a doorstop. There were a few journos there. Cabinet ministers don’t know what’s in Stage Three, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know because it wasn’t mentioned at any stage. Why wasn’t it mentioned? Because it’s in 2025, it’s 2019. Don’t feel bad you don’t know about it because Scott Morrison didn’t talk about it either. What Scott Morrison talked about was Stage One of the tax cuts. They’re tax cuts that we support.
JOURNALIST: You’ve indicated you’ll lose the vote in the House because you don’t have the numbers, so when the bill gets to the Senate you’ll argue the case, the Government says it won’t be splitting the bill so would Labor then change its position?
ALBANESE: We’re arguing to win.
JOURNALIST: It looks like they are likely to strike a deal with the Senate crossbench (inaudible)?.
ALBANESE: They always say that. If you’re seeing crossbenchers Pauline Hanson Jacqui Lambie, Senator Alliance, holding a joint press conference saying they will. I haven’t seen that yet.
JOURNALIST: If they do gain – strike a crossbench deal, what factors will influence whether Labor decides they’ll pursue a campaign (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: We’re arguing our case, we think it’s a strong case. I haven’t given up on the Government seeing common sense yet. The Government, when the Reserve Bank meets tomorrow we’ll wait and see what they have to say about the economy tomorrow because they’ll be announcing that prior to the Parliament consideration of this legislation.
JOURNALIST: Who do you think the Australian people will blame if these – if this package is rejected for [inaudible]?
ALBANESE: They’re the Government, they’re the Government. We’re prepared to support tax cuts this term right now for every worker. They’re the Government.
JOURNALIST: On Christopher Pyne’s new job, will Labor support a Senate inquiry into Ministerial standards?
ALBANESE: Look we’ll give consideration to that.
JOURNALIST: Just on penalty rates, we know that that has been decided independently by the Fair Work Commission. Are you sort of – just to clarify advocating that the Government interfere with that process? Or what would you like say?
ALBANESE: Hopefully you’ve been paying attention over recent years. We have argued very strongly, very strongly and it remains our position that penalty rates are a critical part of the family budget.
JOURNALIST: But in terms of wealth (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: I’ve just answered the question. We’ve argued very clearly that penalty rates and we said that we would legislate. The fact is, that penalty rates are a critical part of the family budget. The context here is that the Government is in a position whereby they could have an impact. They’ve argued in favour of cutting penalty rates. Let’s be very clear, they’re in favour of cutting penalty rates. Labor’s in favour of penalty rates. Thanks.
Could I make another comment about John Setka. He wrote to the National Secretary of the party on Friday asking for additional time to consider his case. Some might say there is some – I’ll leave it up to others to add some colour but the fact that he was tied up in dealing with the matters that were before the courts last week, he says that he hasn’t had enough time to prepare his submission to the ALP National Executive. I don’t want to get tied up in any technicalities with regard to this. So the National Executive committee have agreed to give Mr Setka extra time in terms of preparing his case and argument before the National Executive.
So National Executive will now meet. Again, we’ll have an ordinary meeting this Friday July the 5th. We will give Mr Setka an extra ten days to prepare his submission so we’ll have a separate meeting by teleconference as provided for under the ALP rules on July the 15th.
It is a fact that Mr Setka of course pleaded guilty to very serious charges of harassment. It’s also a fact that his wife Emma Walters identified herself as the victim of that harassment that included 45 text messages which were of a nature that clearly, clearly put I think Mr Setka outside what the principles and values that Labor holds with regard to issues of domestic violence. With regard to his own assistant secretary, Shaun Reardon has resigned from the position of Assistant Secretary of the Victorian branch because his values he has said would be breached were he to stay in that position while Mr Setka remains as Secretary.
If Mr Setka was a rugby league player he would have been kicked out of his club over the revelations that have been made. He will be kicked out of the Australian Labor Party because quite frankly his ongoing activities, statements and behaviour are not consistent with the membership values of the Australian Labor Party.
So that will occur it will occur on July the 15th but he’ll be given every opportunity to put his argument before the party as is appropriate. And – but I’m very confident that the National Executive will agree with me that these values aren’t consistent with his remaining membership of the Australian Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Is this a delaying tactic by Mr Setka?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly he’s put forward the argument that he has been concentrating on the matters that were before the courts. The fact that he pleaded guilty to serious charges and that he is on a good behaviour bond and there were other statements made very clearly by the judge about the misogynistic nature of those comments about Mr Setka not expressing remorse for that – I think the judge’s comments are very clear. And certainly my position is very clear which is that Mr Setka by his own actions has placed himself outside the membership of the Australian Labor Party and that will be formalised by the national executive on July the 15th.
Thanks very much.