Apr 2, 2019

Transcript of Television Interview – Sky Agenda – Tuesday, 2 April, 2019


Subjects: Budget; electric vehicles; the hypocrisy of the Greens Political Party.

LAURA JAYES: Shadow Minister Anthony Albanese joins us now in the studio on this Budget Day. A bigger than expected surplus next year from Josh Frydenberg that will be delivered tonight. Do you give the Government any credit for what they have done over the last six years to bring the Budget back to where it is?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Well of course this is a Government that promised a surplus in its first year and every year thereafter. This is a Government that has had six years of cuts to education, cuts to health, cuts to infrastructure. This is a Government that has six years of division and disunity and they want Australians to forget all about that – “we will be good into the future’’. Well Australians won’t forget about what they have done and what a shambles they have been and in tonight’s Budget I am sure there will be further signs of that.

KIERAN GILBERT: You talk about shambles, but this looks like a very much, you know, planned, achievable, not just surplus by 2019-20, but wiping out Government debt by 2029-30. That’s going to appeal to a lot of voters isn’t it?

ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see what they actually have tonight of course but what they are asking voters to do is to forget about the past. “Just trust us and we will have all these surpluses into the future and we will remove debt into the future.’’ But Australians I just don’t think they will be conned. I think they won’t forget what a shambles this government has been. I mean this is Josh Frydenberg’s first Budget of course because we have had three Treasurers, three Prime Ministers, three Deputy Prime Ministers. I have shadowed 13 separate people while I have been in the one job over the last five and a half years.

JAYES: That’s quite remarkable, 13 people, but I don’t think voters will forget the words uttered from your former Treasurer: “The four surpluses I deliver tonight,’’ which never eventuated. So if you want to make that political point about promises on the never-never, I think it can be blood on both sides of politics which just feeds into a cynical public. But Kieran’s point about paying down net debt in a decade, it’s essentially the Government’s credit card debt. Can Labor make that same commitment on a time frame?

ALBANESE: I make two points. The first point is that we had the Global Financial Crisis. It was pretty important.

JAYES: Sure.

ALBANESE: The Government likes to forget about that, but Australia performed better than any advanced economy in the world and our stimulus plan was recognised as the best in the world, the best designed and Wayne Swan of course was awarded World’s Best Finance Minister for that package. So that is the first point. The second point is last year we had a Budget where they announced tax cuts and we announced bigger tax cuts – instead of $500, $900 for working Australians and we were able to do that because we, unlike previous oppositions, we have put out there a courageous amount of policy, including on tax. We have said where the money will come from for the commitments and priorities we have – for education, including early childhood right through to university …

GILBERT: So that won’t prove too hard then to match the Government. Sky News understands that the Government is going to double that low and medium income tax offsets.

ALBANESE: What, they are going to match what we did last year?

JAYES: And go on a bit further. Will you now match them?

ALBANESE: Of course they will go sort of a dollar or so further. That is not surprising. But the fact is that they are playing catch-up. It is Labor that has led the policy debate from Opposition. I mean, someone has had to lead in this country over the last few years and Labor has been prepared to do that. We were doing it yesterday again on climate, on our electric vehicle policy on transport …

GILBERT: We will get to that in a moment. But it’s still important for you to also show that you are economically credible in terms of the forecasts. You could easily outdo them tonight. But you want to also show voters that you can do better.

ALBANESE:  Well, Kieran, Bill Shorten will have his Budget reply on Thursday night and you will hear our response to tonight’s Budget. It’s a bit hard for me to comment on our Budget reply before the Budget is held with respect.

GILBERT: That’s true.

ALBANESE: Good try.

JAYES: But on the net debt and paying that down in ten years it seems like a reasonable timeframe. Labor wouldn’t want to see that blown out even further would it?

ALBANESE: Well have a look at what we did last year. Bigger tax cuts and a bigger surplus was what we offered in our Budget reply last year. We will have our reply on Thursday night, but we have been prepared to make tough decisions. We’ve been prepared to lay out our priorities. We’ve had consistency in policy. We have had consistency in personnel, consistency in our values that reflect what we think the priorities for the nation should be. Meanwhile, we’ve had a Government that in a whole range of areas, like energy policy have had 13 and adopted none of them.

JAYES: Consistency to your detriment in some ways do you think? I mean Chris Bowen, before even seeing the Budget that will be handed down tonight, before seeing the growth forecast is already committing to bringing in the negative gearing changes on the 1st January next year. Now that is eight months away. Sure, the timeframe is fine. But I mean your constituents must be concerned particularly about house prices. You are in Sydney, in inner Sydney. It’s a little bit reckless isn’t it?

ALBANESE: Not at all. What is reckless is not having policies out there, is not having certainty. And one of the things that business and investors want, whether it is in climate policy, whether it is in housing policy and the need to increase housing affordability, on all of these issues, in the transport sector, what they want is certainty going forward. What they don’t want is short-term political decisions made in a 24-hour time frame and this isn’t a Budget …

GILBERT: Do you think that is already priced into the housing market.

ALBANESE: Our policy has been out there since prior to 2016.

JAYES: But so much has changed since then.

ALBANESE: What Treasury has said, what actual modelling has said, is that this will have a minimal impact. But one of the things that it will do is to encourage investment in new construction and that is after all … when negative gearing was introduced, that was what it was introduced for.

JAYES: Sure.

ALBANESE: Two things about our policy – one is, it is not retrospective, so no-one who currently has an investment is impacted. But secondly, going forward, if people want to access the negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount then they have to invest in new housing. What that will do is stimulate housing supply and therefore – laws of supply and demand – the more supply you have in terms of having a benefit and giving people …

GILBERT: Let’s talk about the other issue of certainty because there is still no certainty on climate policy. We see Brexit and the chaos of Brexit, but I mean our version of that is energy and climate policy in this country. Both sides and the Greens are to blame I think it is fair to say. In terms of your response yesterday, the Government when it put in direct actions said that the market safeguard mechanism was scaleable. Now you are seeking to scale that up in terms of its ambition, they say it is a carbon tax. What do you say in response?

ALBANESE: Well that just shows how disingenuous they are. Of course we had one of your co-commentators Peta Credlin bell the cat on the Abbott Government’s rhetoric about the so-called carbon tax. She basically declared on Sky News that that was all a fiction; that it wasn’t a tax at all. Now what we have is Labor essentially taking the same mechanism that the Government has and scaling it. Whatever description is used on our policy equally applies to what they have done and it’s just farcical frankly. What they have is not a policy. They just have a scare campaign and it is so predictable, the screams from the Coalition. I mean, take for example their opposition to electric vehicles, the fact is that – the document is here (waves mobile telephone) – Australia has the highest take-up of new technologies in the world as they come in. We are great takers-up. Except what we are seeing with electric vehicles, we are the lowest in the OECD, the lowest on 0.2 per cent and the rest of the world is moving forward as you both know, because we had a discussion from London. When I was in London, where I was staying, in the street attached to the poles there were overnight – every second pole has a plug and cars are plugged in there to charge up overnight. We are getting left behind.

JAYES: Sure iPhones are very different to an electric car, I would argue. Where is the detail from Labor in terms of how you get that increase over the next decade? How much is it going to cost and what is the plan to do that?

ALBANESE:  Well we have a comprehensive plan. Firstly, accelerated depreciation of 20 per cent in the first year to encourage the private sector to take up …

JAYES: Sure.

ALBANESE: Secondly we have a target of 50 per cent for the Government fleet. The Government fleet is a major contributor to new car purchases in this country. New South Wales – a range of state governments – already have various mechanisms in to encourage electric vehicles. We have a target of 50 per cent of new sales by 2030. That is very modest. So the call that was made yesterday by the NRMA – the NRMA, not the Labor Party – called for a ban on the sale of petrol vehicles after 2030.

GILBERT: What do you say to the Greens then who argue that the Government, the hopeful Government, the Opposition, dismisses as a cop out from you in terms of including international permits, that you are basically offloading Australia’s …

ALBANESE: Well, what hypocrites the Greens and Adam Bandt are. This is the mob that if they had got up in the Senate and walked across the Chamber and voted for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009 we would have avoided the decade of wars on climate and energy policy. They are responsible. Two Liberals cross the floor. All it needed was the Greens to vote for it. It would have been there. And the hypocrisy is shown again by their criticism of the international permits because they of course want to take some credit for the scheme that was introduced under the Gillard Government that of course allowed international permits that they voted for, that they championed, that they say was good policy. They are exposed yet again for being just opposed to anything that Labor puts up. As far as I am concerned they are as bad as the Coalition in not wanting to find a way through on policy.

JAYES: One final question: reducing emissions isn’t free. I think that is the only thing that this Parliament over a decade has been able to agree on. Why can’t Labor say how much your plan is going to cost?

ALBANESE: Well have a look at what the costings have been. Have a look at what Warwick McKibbin did in his modelling for Tony Abbott that says …

JAYES: So you are relying upon Tony Abbott’s modelling?

ALBANESE: We are relying upon Warwick McKibbin, who is a senior economist and who is respected. His modelling went to those issues. What we’ve got to talk about when it comes to cost is the $550 that the Coalition themselves said that having the NEG would save households. They said that. The $500 that we know motorists are paying extra at the bowser because we have inefficient fuel in our cars.

GILBERT: Okay, Anthony Albanese. Appreciate it. A big day.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.