Subjects: Omnibus Bill, Negative Gearing and Capital Gains Tax; Budget; pensions; WA election; abolition of MPs’ gold pass.
WARREN MOORE: And here they are, Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.
PYNE: Warren, nice to be with you.
MOORE: Likewise, and Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
ALBANESE: G’day Warren, what have you done to Ben?
MOORE: He’ll be back tomorrow I think, he’ll be back with you guys next week.
ALBANESE: I thought he might have been recovering from our rigorous session last week.
MOORE: It was a rigorous session last week.
PYNE: I don’t think we should do it in the same studio again Anthony.
MOORE: Arm’s length.
PYNE: (inaudible) turn off my microphone.
ALBANESE: Someone had to, it was in the interest of the listening public. If you turn off his microphone, your ratings will go up.
MOORE: Let’s get to some issues. The Federal Government’s warning that Australians could face higher taxes if proposed welfare cuts aren’t passed and the Turnbull Government has introduced the Omnibus Bill, which has got 16 different changes to dole payments and childcare assistance and so forth. The aim to claw back $5.6 billion in welfare payments. And as we’ve been hearing, the Government is having trouble passing the Bill, both Labor and Nick Xenophon opposed to it. Anthony Albanese, is the Omnibus Bill dead?
ALBANESE: It would appear that that’s the case. This is rotten legislation that would target those low and middle income earners who can least afford it and cut people’s payments of some one and a half million people. It would also punish young people, leave them without any income at all for a period of many weeks. Yesterday Scott Morrison was threatening the National Disability Insurance Scheme, unless it was passed. Today, he’s promising higher taxes, be it, I don’t know whether it’s a GST increase or higher income taxes for lower income earners. Whatever it is, it is entirely inappropriate.
MOORE: What do you think, Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well Warren, unfortunately Anthony has just told a litany of red herrings. The reality is we have never threatened the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In fact, we are the Government that is funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme after Labor lost office and didn’t have enough money to run it. Now it’s a good scheme, we support it 100 per cent and it’s got to be paid for, and we are the ones finding the money to pay for it.
Listen to Anthony, you see this old, old Labor yet again. Labor who says you can spend more money but you don’t have to actually find any savings. What we’re trying to do is expand childcare to make it more affordable and accessible to a million more Australian families, particularly low income ones, but we say you have to be able to pay for that. And what we want to do is take away a supplement that was introduced to pay for the carbon tax to compensate for the carbon tax. The carbon tax doesn’t exist anymore, and the compensation is still being paid.
These are quite inconsistent with good government, and Labor always says we can spend more money, we’ll increase your taxes, we’ll borrow more money. The last election they ended up, after everything they said, with a $16.5 billion more going on the national credit card. We on the other hand say, enough is enough, someone’s got to be able to show where the savings are in order to be able to make these spending changes.
MOORE: Anthony Albanese, I suppose to pull the line from Scott Morrison, do you accept that if this Bill doesn’t go through it’s necessary to have tax increases?
ALBANESE: Well we’ve put forward a range of savings and, as well, we’ve put forward proposals like dealing with housing affordability by having a fix and winding back some of the generous concessions that are there for negative gearing and capital gains tax. That’s a sensible proposition, and the Government last year was saying that they acknowledge that there are excesses when it came to negative gearing and they were going to deal with them.
And, of course, once we came out with a specific proposal one year ago, this time last year, they reversed and just said well Labor’s put it forward so we’re against it. So that is an example of a practical solution that we have and we’ve also said don’t, under the current circumstances, proceed with the $50 billion of tax cuts from the big end of town.
PYNE: Which you’ve already counted. So Labor counts tax increases as savings, when of course they’re tax increases, they’re not savings. Savings is when the Government makes hard decisions to stop giving people money that they received for one particular compensation, which doesn’t exist anymore. And, of course, in the election Labor banked the corporate tax cut changes and had that as part of their own policy. Now that the election is over, they are trying to pretend they had nothing to do with it, so they’ve already spent that money.
ALBANESE: During the election campaign we made it very clear that we were opposed to the tax cuts for the big end of town and what’s more, when it comes to negative gearing and the housing affordability measures that we’d pursue, what that would mean is that the tax concessions that are currently there would be less. That’s what it means, and currently for your listeners who have kids or grandkids that are out there, wondering how they’ll ever get into home ownership in a market such as Sydney, they know that the current position is simply unsustainable. Former Premier Mike Baird – certainly that was his view. We’ll wait and see what the new unelected Premier has to say about those issues. But Mike Baird (inaudible) and supported reform of negative gearing.
MOORE: Just generally with the Omnibus Bill, back to that. Christopher Pyne, do you think it will just be a necessity or reality that it’s going to have to be unwound and put through in pieces, not just as one piece of one Bill?
PYNE: Well we are very committed to the savings measures and the spending measures in the Bill. We are continuing to talk to the cross benchers about what they see as the parts of the Bill that they support and how we can modify if necessary any other parts of the Bill. But we are not giving up on the savings and the spending measures because it is critically important. The households out there amongst your listenership who use child care, they know it is critically important to reform child care. But you have to be able to pay for it. That’s what good governments do. So we are certainly not giving up on the savings and the spending measures in this Bill.
ALBANESE: What good governments don’t do is continue to attack pensioners. A whole lot of pensioners had a reduction in their payments in January this year; reductions that they didn’t see coming; reductions that they hadn‘t budgeted for. They’d retired expecting a certain level of income and it was ripped away from them and now these changes would impact families and people on benefits right across the board. This isn’t just about the energy supplement. This is supplements that would be taken away from people who rely upon that to survive from fortnight to fortnight and this Government is just out of touch. It was out of touch with its 2014 Budget and they themselves got rid of Tony Abbott. Malcolm Turnbull is committing the same mistakes.
MOORE: But surely there has to be some cutback in the welfare sector for the budget deficit to have any hope of being cleared up?
ALBANESE: We’ve supported changes and we put forward changes last year. Indeed in the Omnibus Bill which that was passed after suggestions from Labor that actually added to the amount savings thant was originally proposed in the legislation. But this legislation no-one has seen coming some of the measures. Some of them are the same measures that have been rejected time and time again. There’s a reason why our national anthem is called Advance Australia Fair. Australians believe in fairness.
PYNE: They also believe in sensible government Anthony and the problem with your position is that Labor is putting the Triple A credit rating at risk that the Government has protected for the last three and a bit years and is making sure that it’s almost impossible for us to govern properly in terms of fiscal management unless we spend more money or increase taxes. But we are not prepared to spend more money and increase taxes like Labor would do. We are doing the hard yards of finding the savings necessary in order to be able to improve the lives of Australians, which should be the job of good government.
ALBANESE: Growth is down. Full-time employment is decreasing.
HOST: Let’s move on – Liberal Party internal polling doesn’t read well for the Government in Western Australia – we’ve got the state election next month – showing a swing against the WA Liberal Government of about 14 per cent. Now that result would hand the Labor Party 20 extra seats and put them in government. So Christopher Pyne, worrying polls?
PYNE: Oh look, the only poll that matters, of course, is election day. Before the last election I was behind in every poll in my seat in Sturt and the only one that I won was the one on election day and that’s actually the only important one and I won it quite comfortably thanks to the people of Sturt. This poll shows that Labor is a real chance in Western Australia of winning. They have the wrong policies for Western Australia. They will set the state back decades. They have the same crazy renewable energy target of 50 per cent that Federal Labor has which will mean high electricity prices, it will mean more unreliable electricity in that state, driving out businesses, jobs and investment. So I think by election day Colin Barnett will have explained that to the Western Australian public and I am hopeful that the Western Australian public will see that they’ve got a good government.
HOST: Will the word coalition in Western Australia one day mean with One Nation and not the Nationals though – based on the preference deals.
PYNE: No, of course not. But you know the One Nation preferences in Western Australia are a matter for the Western Australian Liberal Party. But the Labor Party are quite happy to preference the Greens. In your state you’ve got Lee Rhiannon, Lethal Lee Rhiannon, who of course has proudly talked about her connections to the Australian Socialist Party and those people who used to support communism in Australia and yet the Labor Party has no qualms about preferencing the Greens and the Greens preferencing Labor. So Labor is not in a position to lecture us. A number of their members got elected on One Nation preferences at the Federal election, particularly in Queensland.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, you must like these polls?
ALBANESE: The Coalition are a mess in WA. What Christopher says is right, that the only poll that counts is the one on March 11. But you have circumstances whereby the Liberal Party is putting One Nation above the National Party in WA.
PYNE: Only in the Upper House.
ALBANESE: Only in the Upper House. Well that’s OK then. That’s why there’s a riot over there from the Nats. But you have circumstances whereby you had this huge mining boom and Colin Barnett managed to lose the Triple A credit rating. They talk about economic management in the Coalition but they are just no good at it, just like federally they’ve got an increasing deficit, they haven’t built the infrastructure that is required in WA, they don’t have a plan for the future and they are a mess internally. They tried to knock off the sitting Premier last year. There was an attempt to do that that was unsuccessful and I think Western Australians will be saying we’ve had enough of the Barnett Government. But we’ll find out in a few week’s time.
HOST: What about your views on ditching the gold pass for ex-PMs. Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well of course that is the Government’s policy to remove the life gold pass for Members of Parliament. I can tell you I have been in Parliament for 24 years and when I finally retire or get thrown out I guess by the Australian public, the last thing I’m going to want to do is get on a plane. I’ll be staying with my family and potentially one day maybe grandchildren and looking after them rather than travelling around Australia
ALBANESE: I think most MPs would agree with Christopher. We’d be very happy not to get on a plane for some period of time I’ve got to say. But I think with regard to former PMs we’ve got to have some respect for the office of Prime Minister and if people, whether it’s John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, whoever, get invited around the country. I think that there is no time when a former Prime Minister is clocked off, is not on the job. You know that is the truth of the matter and we’ve got to be a bit sensible about this and we’ve also got to, I think, acknowledge this for what it is – that a bloke who last week turned his back on the party …
HOST: As in Cory Bernardi, yes?
ALBANESE: Yes, that has provided him with his livelihood for a long period of time, he wouldn’t have got elected were it not for the Liberal Party, he’s struggling for relevance even after one week of changing his allegiance and I think that’s why he has come up with this frankly I think absurd proposal.
HOST: I’ve got to leave it there. Thanks you for being gentlemen for the guest host, if it was a bit robust last week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.