Subjects: Adani coal mine, corporate tax cuts, Murray Darling Basin, the Nationals.
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us. Good morning to you gentlemen.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Greetings.
HOST: We start with you Albo following revelations on the ABC’s 7.30 program about what appears to be a contradiction in Bill Shorten’s position on the Adani coal mine. According to Geoff Cousins from the Australian Conservation Foundation, he was told by Bill Shorten that the licence for the mine would be revoked should Labor form Government, yet at the same time you’ve got Bill Shorten fronting workers from the CFMEU saying your jobs are safe with me. So which is it?
ALBANESE: Well Bill Shorten has been out there consulting very widely. Last week he had three town hall meetings in Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton. He has spoken to industry. He has spoken to conservationists, as you would expect him to do. And what we have said consistently is that if the economics or the environmental issues don’t stack up, then this mine won’t go ahead. And what we are seeing on the ground is the fact that again Adani has missed a deadline. They keep putting deadlines on themselves and saying ‘we will begin construction on this date’ and they never meet them and they don’t meet them because they can’t get any financing of this project.
HOST: Is this a case of, in combination with your position on the corporate tax cuts federally as well, of potentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater trying to secure Batman, the inner Melbourne seat, from the Greens, and that the party is lurching to the Left?
ALBANESE: No it’s not. It’s a matter of the fact that this mine has not got financing. It hasn’t got any money for it to proceed and indeed environmentalists said to me that without public subsidy, ie without the taxpayer coming in building all the construction for the private company, then this project wouldn’t be viable. Now both Labor and indeed, I note, the Government, have now ruled out public subsidy in terms of the proposed infrastructure project, the rail line, from the mine to the port – that it won’t support such a subsidy. And what we are seeing around the world is that the thermal coal market is in decline as the world moves towards clean energy and what that is resulting in is the economics of opening up a new basin in the Galilee with the Adani mine becoming more and more obvious that it’s not viable, which is why they can’t get financing here in Australia from any banks, they can’t get financing in the North American markets, they can’t get financing from China, which was proposed earlier on.
HOST: On the question of corporate tax cuts though, and we will bring you in here Chris, Labor with this rallying cry of Bill Shorten at caucus yesterday seems to be trying to paint Malcolm Turnbull as having come back from Washington giddy with sort of neo-con delight at having met Donald Trump and having converted to trick-down economics. How hard is it going to be for the Government to win over blue-collar voters on the merits of a corporate tax cut in the face of a populist campaign against it by the ALP?
PYNE: Well David, I don’t think it will be hard at all because the reality is that the more tax cuts are delivered for companies, the higher the wages for workers. And, similarly, the more income tax that the cuts deliver, which has been the hallmark of Liberal Governments in the past, the more take home pay that people have in their pockets. The public know that in Liberal Governments we manage the economy better than Labor. We manage the Budget better than Labor and if we think that company tax cuts will have the impact of increasing wages, well the evidence for that is not just us saying it; that’s what Labor used to say, that’s what Bill Shorten used to say.
HOST: I couldn’t agree with you more in principle about the idea of giving companies tax cuts, provided the money is going to trickle down. But is it a harder argument to make? Is it harder to make that case at a time when we’ve got such low wages growth in Australia and there’s a lot of people working now who have been zeroed out for the past three, even five years, for pay rises?
PYNE: No I don’t think so. Because what Labor is doing, and what Bill Shorten as you’ve quite rightly pointed out, is speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and Anthony very carefully stepped around all that in previous answers. But the public are hearing from Labor that they are going to increase taxes by $164 billion, they’re going to soften our border protection policies and they want to empower the unions. Now that’s what the Left agenda is and they have the numbers at the National Conference.
The reality is that Labor is going very sharply to the Left to try and win the Batman by-election and the great middle class of Australia and the vast majority of our population, they recognise that to be able to have tax cuts for either companies or individuals, you have to have a growing economy and a balanced Budget, and that’s where the Liberals usually end up and Labor, on the other hand, think that if you increase taxes by $164 billion somehow this will be good for the economy.
The public know in their instincts, that that is not correct. But what we saw with the Adani mine is Bill Shorten of course telling Geoff Cousins one thing, and saying to the public another and this is a real pattern with Bill Shorten. There is a great mural in Batman at the moment for the by-election, with the two faces of Bill Shorten, one with his hard hat on saying one thing to the miners in Central Queensland and one with his soft greenie hat in the other direction when he says what he thinks the greenies want to hear and you have to be consistent in politics.
PRESENTER: Are there any circumstances Albo where Labor would support a company tax cut?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that it is a matter of priorities. And our priority is investing in education, investing in health, investing in infrastructure and what we’re talking about here is more than $60 billion of cuts, on the basis of – trust us it will all trickle down. The fact is we have some record profits out there, including from the banking sector, that not only is not passing down any of those profits to their workers, they’re also laying of thousands of staff at the same time. Now workers can see that, they’re not silly, and Australians know that bosses don’t just, in major corporations, say ‘Oh well we’re doing OK, here’s some more money’. That’s not the way that the world works unfortunately.
PRESENTER: The banks might argue though, that they are one of the few groups in Australia that’s actually not just taxed once, they’re taxed repeatedly. They pay payroll tax, they pay company tax, now they have paid a brand new Federal Bank Tax as well. They’ve got taxes coming out of their nostrils.
ALBANESE: This Government of course brought in that new tax, we supported it. They’re very convenient when targeting particular industries, at the same time as they are arguing for a major tax break of course. And at the same time of course there is a tax increase in terms of personal income tax that they are arguing for as well.
PYNE: You don’t think we should fund the NDIS Anthony? Because that’s a $300 increase in the Medicare Levy, which you supported, to fund the NDIS …
ALBANESE: There are a range …
PYNE: You’re now pretending that is an income tax increase are you?
ALBANESE: You and I both know that taxes in Australia aren’t hypothecated.
PYNE: We think it’s important to fund the NDIS. You don’t apparently.
ALBANESE: We created the NDIS.
PYNE: But you didn’t fund it my friend.
ALBANESE: We created it, it’s a Labor creation!
PRESENTER: We’re going to wrap up …
ALBANESE: Like Medicare!
PRESENTER: I need a buzzer!
PYNE: We’re funding it.
PRESENTER: Hey guys, Christopher just finally and this one’s just for you, Chris. The Nats are meeting today to thrash out the ministerial positions that they are going to be carving up. Wearing your South Australian hat now, are you concerned that Michael McCormack, who seems to have some quite unnerving views about the joys of irrigation; for those of us who have the pleasure of living down the bottom end of the Murray, are you concerned about his views about irrigation? And are you concerned too, that we are going to see a continuation of this system where the Agriculture portfolio is split, and these pro-irrigation Nats end up retaining control of the water portfolio?
PYNE: Well that’s not how it’s characterised. I mean we’ve got the balance right. We’ve got a Liberal in Anne Ruston, who is South Australian, as the Minister for Water, and we have Michael McCormack, David Littleproud at the moment, is the Minister for Agriculture. He’s a National. That works very well. In fact most recently it was David Littleproud standing up for the Murray Darling Basin Plan and it was Labor voting the Murray Darling Basin Plan down in order to support votes in the seat of Batman. So selling out South Australians to win votes in Batman.
ALBANESE: We were supporting South Australians, give us a break! We were standing up for the Murray! We were standing up!
PYNE: Really? How many of the gigalitres in the Northern Basin were flowing into South Australia?
ALBANESE: We were standing up for the Murray …
PYNE: Less than three, less than three …
ALBANESE: You have allowed – on your watch there has been massive water theft …
ALBANESE: … in Northern NSW and Queensland.
PYNE: We stood up for the Murray Darling Basin Plan!
PRESENTER: Come on guys. The debate about water will continue beyond this particular day on Two Tribes. Unfortunately though we are out of time. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thank you both. We will be revisiting that issue, because it will continue to be one here in South Australia, beyond certainly even the South Australian State Election.