Subjects: Budget 2017, cuts to infrastructure investment, Deficit Levy, Medicare Levy
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: We’re joined now by Labor MP Anthony Albanese from Parliament House. Anthony Albanese, good morning, thanks for joining News Breakfast.
ALBANESE: Good morning Virginia.
TRIOLI: Now look, some aspects of the infrastructure announcement in the Budget had already been anticipated and was even part, I think, of a previous Budget handed down by Joe Hockey. But looking at it as independently as you possibly can, can you see any considerable growth coming from those infrastructure projects over ten years?
ALBANESE: Not at all. That’s the problem here Virginia. There was actually a cut in this year’s Budget of, just last year they said $9.2 billion. The figure in the actuals is $7.6 billion. There is a decline each and every year of the forward estimates so that by 2020-21 that figure is down to $4.2 billion. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the industry group, have said that this is the lowest level that infrastructure investment has been for over a decade. This is all spin. And in the outer years, in the never-never, saying they are going to do something.
For example the so-called $10 billion rail investment fund is nothing this year, nothing next year, nothing the year after and $200 million the year after that. I mean, this is a joke. Absolutely not a dollar being spent between now and the next election, in terms of the Budget.
And what we’ve seen is a series of delays, a series of shifts, in some cases, double counting, in the Budget Papers itself. It’s interesting that they couldn’t get it right. It says 75, but it says 70 in their actual documents, but they are double counting. They are counting $1.2 billion towards the METRONET rail project, but then it says $1.2 billion for Perth Freight Link. It’s the same money. You can’t spend it twice.
TRIOLI: All right, we’ve got some infrastructure specialists joining us later in the program to break that down so we’ll get to your points and your criticism later…
ALBANESE: But there’s only one new project, astonishingly. The only actual real investment announced in this Budget is $13 million for a road called North Collector, which is near Nowra that I certainly hadn’t heard of and we presumed it was near Collector. It’s not. That’s it. That is the only, in Budget Paper No. 2, it clearly indicates new infrastructure investments, that’s it for on Budget investment in this Budget.
TRIOLI: Let’s move on to other matters now if we can Anthony Albanese. The Opposition’s considering arguing for the retention of the Deficit Levy, in order to support the Medicare Levy in return and the increase there. Can you clarify what your position is going to be on that one?
ALBANESE: Well Bill will be announcing it tonight, but clearly the papers have been briefed. Not surprisingly that Labor objects to the idea that if you’re a millionaire you get a $16,400 tax cut as a result of the abolition of the Deficit Levy. But if you’re earning $22,000 or above, you’re going to be hit with a new tax in terms of the increase in the Medicare Levy.
TRIOLI: So is that going to be the non-negotiable for the Opposition? That that Levy has to stay in place in order for there to be any support? Or you are arguing for an either/or here?
ALBANESE: Our position, Bill will outline the details tonight, but our position has been for some time that you shouldn’t have a tax system that hits those people at the low and middle end and lets people at the top off scot-free. Whether it’s individuals or the big $50 billion tax cut for corporations that’s still in there and is unfunded.
TRIOLI: Anthony Albanese, am I wrong in picking up that you’re a bit narky that the papers have been briefed on that this morning?
ALBANESE: No, not at all. It was a Shadow Cabinet decision to do that.
TRIOLI: Look John Howard yesterday described the Budget as a highly political document. How badly though, do these politics marginalise you, marginalise the Opposition, given that they’ve really manoeuvred into your space?
ALBANESE: It’s all colour and movement though, Virginia. And what we’ve seen in the past…
TRIOLI: Well it’s not if it translates into a big bump in the polls, which conceivably it could.
ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see. But what we saw in 2014, if you go back and have a look at the front pages, in 2014 or 2015 or 2016 for that matter, what you get is a big splash about success and growth and how the Government has a strategy and it all went to pieces over a period of days.
This one, in terms of its flawed infrastructure strategy, of course has already been picked apart by people like Michael Pascoe, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. In terms of healthcare, people are pointing out that the change to the freeze on Medicare payments has been deferred for three years. I think people will have a look at the fact that they’re going to be paying more taxes, but millionaires are going to be paying less tax as a result of last night’s Budget.
When you look at the education changes, there’s a $22 billion difference between what Labor committed to in agreements with the States and Territories, with the Catholic Education Office and with independent schools and what the Government is putting forward. There’s no plan, actually, for jobs and growth coming out of this Budget. What we’re seeing is higher unemployment, lower jobs growth, lower economic growth and deficits without a real plan for how the economy is going to grow. You can invest in people through education, skills and training, or you can invest in infrastructure. This Budget, from this Government, does neither.
TRIOLI: Just turning to you Anthony Albanese, you’ve absolutely ruled out any tilt at the leadership, but given the politics of the time and the economic shifting of the Government right now, does the leadership approach then of the Opposition now need to shift too?
ALBANESE: Look what we do Virginia is get on with the job of doing each of our jobs that we have as a team.
TRIOLI: Sure, but my question goes to when the Government that you’re opposing shifts ground so substantially, doesn’t your approach need to shift too?
ALBANESE: Our values don’t shift. Our approach on issues is one whereby we determine our action collectively and we move forward in a united way. But our values don’t shift. We stand for the many, they stand for the few. We stand for economic growth, but economic growth with a purpose so that the mass of the population can benefit. They haven’t broken away from standing for the top end of town and this Budget shows that.
TRIOLI: Ok, Anthony Albanese, good to talk to you this morning. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.