Subjects: Tax cuts, Malcolm Turnbull, Parliament, marriage equality, Manus Island.
ANDREW BOLT: Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for joining me.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
BOLT: A personal tax cut would actually be good wouldn’t it?
ALBANESE: Of course. Everyone wants to see lower taxes. But the problem for this Government it is actually increasing taxes for low and middle-income earners. It has that legislation before the Parliament at the moment and it is stopping Parliament sitting.
BOLT: But if you think it is good to have lower taxes, why are you guys promising to raise them?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that what Malcolm Turnbull has done, in order to distract from the horror day that he had yesterday – I mean of all of the disastrous days that you have seen a Prime Minister have, yesterday was when he called off the Parliament, where he decided this Government stuff is a bit too hard so we will just put our hand up, say we’ve got no legislation, we’ve got no agenda, we’ll just see you in a couple of weeks folks. Today he has come up with this thought bubble: Oh we might have tax cuts. We don’t know how much. We don’t know what the timetable is. We don’t know how it will be costed. I mean it is just a distraction.
BOLT: I’ve been critical of all that, but now I am talking about Labor. You said personal tax cuts – it would be good if they were lower. But you are promising a tax rate even higher than the Liberals – 49.5 of every dollar.
ALBANESE: We are promising that the Temporary Deficit Levy that they introduced while the deficit was there … guess what? Debt is worse. The deficit is worse. And so in those circumstances, in order to create a path back to surplus, yes we are prepared to make tough decisions including for those above $180,000 to not get what has happened in recent times which is they have got a tax cut, but the people at the low and middle-income earners are getting a tax hike. We don’t think that is fair.
BOLT: (inaudible) that’s what I am saying – 49.5. I thought the Temporary Deficit Levy was wrong and I criticised when Tony Abbott when introduced it. I said it would be permanent. You are going to make it permanent. But also business, your plan is to actually raise the taxes on small businesses – those turning over more than $2 million a year – by 2.5 per cent. Bigger business is stuck at 30 percent. That makes us, amongst the advanced economies, higher taxing on business than, only Argentina and Brazil are worse. Only Argentina and Brazil. This is ridiculous.
ALBANESE: Governments Andrew, are about priorities and our priority is making sure, is making sure that we get proper funding for education. Our priority is making sure that we have a path back to surplus. Our priority is making sure that we can fund health care, that we can fund our infrastructure priorities. That’s our priority, whereas their priority is to have tax cuts for big business and also tax cuts which accumulate. Over ten years there’s an enormous cost …
BOLT: Big business is a company earning over $2 million a year in turnover? Is that what you are saying? That is a big business?
ALBANESE: Where the big cost of the Government’s agenda is is for those large businesses. That is what will really hit the Government bottom line.
BOLT: I am talking about your policy. Your policy on election would be to increase company tax on every business turning over more than $2 million, which is actually small, that’s not very big, by 2.5 per cent to make it up to 30 percent. That is ridiculous.
ALBANESE: If you have a look Andrew at the number of small business, most businesses in Australia do fit that category of under $2 million. Most small businesses are in that category and what we are about is being realistic. We are not saying that we can spend money and not worry about revenue. We have been quite courageous. We’ve put our policies out there like the changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax as part of dealing with housing affordability. We have been prepared to say that for those income earners earning above than $180,000 a year who had the deficit levy while the deficit levy is there then that is a reasonable thing.
BOLT: There’s also the Medicare increase. They’ll be on 49.5 per cent. I mean, doesn’t this strike a warning bell with Labor that your tax rate on big business and even smaller businesses, earning more than $2 million a year, turning over, you would be in the bracket of Argentina and Brazil? The light doesn’t go off thinking (inaudible). Does that scare you?
ALBANESE: The fact is Andrew that taxes as a proportion of GDP have actually increased under this Government. Under this Government whilst …
BOLT: Don’t talk to me about this Government.
ALBANESE: The deficit has got worse. The debt has got worse.
BOLT: I know that.
ALBANESE: So what we are about is responsible decision-making, making sure that we can pay for the commitments that we‘ve put out there,
BOLT: Don’t make so many commitments is my …
ALBANESE: … making sure that we have plan for economy to grow. We’ve got a plan to invest in people through TAFE, through education and for investing in capital through infrastructure …
BOLT: (inaudible) spending more of our money, that is what I am scared of.
ALBANESE: … that is how you grow the economy.
BOLT: Hey listen, the curious thing about that same-sex marriage poll – your Sydney seat of Grayndler had a yes vote of 80 per cent. Right next door, I mean right next door, is another Labor seat, Watson, which takes in Lakemba, a No vote of 70 per cent. I mean, chalk and cheese. How do you explain the difference?
ALBANESE: Well they are very different communities Andrew and the truth is …
BOLT: What’s the difference?
ALBANESE: Well the big No vote was communities that are ethnic-based and particularly religious faith-based …
BOLT: Which communities are you talking about?
ALBANESE: … whether that be Muslim, whether that be Coptic Christian, the Orthodox churches, the Greek Orthodox community in my electorate. I sat down with the priests and had a discussion about my views, a very constructive discussion. I’ve got a good relationship with them. We happened to disagree on this issue.
BOLT: But I wonder how that makes Labor think though. I notice your reluctance to use the M word initially …
ALBANESE: Not at all Andrew.
BOLT: When you’ve got immigrant communities so strongly No, when the Labor hierarchy is so strongly Yes, and the so-called progressives that you represent, does that make you have another think about concepts like multiculturalism?
ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that our communities are diverse. I mean one of the groups around Campsie, for example as well, is the Korean community that have a large evangelical community. If you look at, if you map Sydney out, and you map out your higher non-English speaking background groups, particularly those of faith, whether it be Islamic or Christian, what you’ll find is that the No vote was higher in those areas. But those communities also engage across a whole range of other issues. I’m from a Catholic background. One of the local Catholic priests in my electorate told me that they were out there campaigning effectively for Yes.
BOLT: I don’t doubt that, but there was a strong Muslim No. And I just wonder whether you regret some of the tenor of how many on the Labor front attacked people who were for traditional marriage, against same-sex marriage, as bigots and homophobes even, and liable to force the suicide of children even, that is what your Leader said, doesn’t this, aren’t you actually vilifying the Muslim community by saying that? Are you saying that the Muslim community are a pack of bigots?
ALBANESE: What I do Andrew, is speak for myself, and I have consistently argued in favour of a conscience vote. I’ve consistently put out there opinion pieces where I’ve argued where you have to respect people, particularly of faith, and shouldn’t put them a position of choosing between their political allegiance and what they saw as their faith.
BOLT: I agree with you.
ALBANESE: I’ve been consistent over a long period of time, as you know.
BOLT: It’s not a personal thing. But I could name you any number of Labor MPs who were talking like, talking about Tony Abbott or…
ALBANESE: Some of the bigotry on the right, some of the bigotry on the right of this debate, as well, you know Andrew…
BOLT: Call it out. Call it out. I’m talking about the Left and Labor MPs. I just wondered the tone was pretty poor when it came to attacking the Liberal Right, and then very muted when it came to the fact that the Muslim community voted very specifically against it.
ALBANESE: I think what we need to do is to have respect for each other; part of my concern with politics in general in this country is the lack of respect which is there. And whether that be the violent attack on yourself, whether that be other attacks. I mean I have an occupation planned for my office tomorrow morning by people concerned about the Adani issue. You know what that will do Andrew? That will stop constituents getting service by my office tomorrow morning.
BOLT: The thuggery on the Left. What is driving this?
ALBANESE: I think there’s a lot of intolerance out there on the Left and the Right…
BOLT: But the two examples you’ve given, the one against me and the one against you, are both from the Left.
ALBANESE: We know as well, Andrew, that there is an enormous amount of vilification that goes on against people who happen to have a hijab on, against people who happen to look different. The vilification against gays and lesbians, in my lifetime, and your life time, they were assaulted physically as a regular occurrence. The sort of bashings that occurred whereby you had carloads of people driving down Oxford St looking for people to pick on, that’s the sort of vilification that has occurred, and it’s all unacceptable.
BOLT: I’m come from Adelaide; I remember when a university lecturer was thrown off a bridge.
ALBANESE: One of the things I said in my recent piece was to pay tribute to those people in the gay and lesbian community who, when it was really tough, you know people like Lex Watson, Craig Johnson from City of Sydney Council, Paul O’Grady, who was a friend of mine. He was the first out parliamentarian in Australia. That was a really tough thing for him to do. When he also said that he was HIV positive, he was vilified. He had a tough life. He was a tough fellow. He could stand up for it. But that made it easier for those …
BOLT: Absolutely. So many people who came out when there was a penalty to pay for it.
BOLT: Listen, Fairfax Media says we should be shocked by video that was secretly recorded by activists of the filth faced by those illegal immigrants refusing to move from the Manus Island detention centre which is the issue galvanising the left at the moment. Shouldn’t these guys actually be cleaning up after themselves? Have a look. Shouldn’t they guys actually be cleaning up after themselves? Picking up the bottles they left there, maybe cleaning the toilets, cleaning up the papers that are left lying on the floor. Why is it someone else’s problem that they’re filthy?
ALBANESE: I don’t know what the circumstances are of that video Andrew, but I would say this. The people have been there now for more than four years. The Government has a responsibility to actually provide a solution, a third place of settlement…
BOLT: That’s a different issue. The sense of entitlement that activists can say that a toilet left filthy by the illegal immigrants is a shocking crime against them. I mean what on earth? You clean your own toilets at home don’t you?
ALBANESE: I do indeed, Andrew.
BOLT: So do I. What is this? Some people have lost total contact with reality.
ALBANESE: I don’t know the circumstances there so I’m not going to pile on.
BOLT: No, pile on, it’s much more fun.
ALBANESE: I’m not going to Andrew. One of us on this program is enough doing that. What I would say is that I’m very sympathetic to the idea that people who have been left for four years, who have been found to be refugees, who’ve been found to be legitimate refugees, those people have, and require therefore, third places of settlement that we have a responsibility to do. And the Government just sitting back saying oh well, this was created by the former government.
BOLT: You’d let them in then.
ALBANESE: No, I’d find third places of settlement.
BOLT: You’d hand them off to New Zealand and then they’d come straight here.
ALBANESE: No they wouldn’t come straight here Andrew. How many of John Howard’s refugees that were settled in New Zealand under the Howard Government came here?
BOLT: You tell me.
ALBANESE: They didn’t, they stayed there.
BOLT: We only have to find one…
ALBANESE: That’s why I didn’t say none. I’m smarter than that Andrew. But the truth is, they settled in New Zealand, they were happy in New Zealand, and it was the Key Conservative Government that made the offer. And this Government, if it’s got a better solution, then fine, talk about it. But they can’t continue to have no solution.
BOLT: So you guys would let 150 go to New Zealand no problem?
ALBANESE: They need to fix this problem.
BOLT: You would let them go to New Zealand?
ALBANESE: I would let people go to New Zealand, yes I would.
BOLT: And then when the rest of them think, you beauty, it’s open again, and then come, would New Zealand accept them too? Or would we then take them?
ALBANESE: Well why didn’t it happen with the Howard Government then? If the Howard Government’s program was so successful, they settled people in New Zealand, that happened, and here by the way, under the Howard Government, on the quiet, people who came on the Tampa. Remember the great statement from Phillip Ruddock and John Howard? The fact is, a whole lot of people who came on the Tampa settled here, and settled in New Zealand.
BOLT: And they stopped the boats too so whatever they were doing was right. Anthony Albanese, thank you so much indeed for your time, so much fun.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Andrew.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.