SUBJECTS: Election 2019; Labor’s fair tax policy; Coalition tax policy; national infrastructure funding; Labor energy policy.
LAURA JAYES: Let’s go live now to Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Thanks so much for your time this morning. Bigger surpluses. No more tax cuts.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning from Brisbane.
JAYES: Good morning from Brisbane. The Brisbane Line, the Coalition is potentially calling it, behind the scenes, so welcome to that fair city. Good to see you this morning. I want to ask you about bigger surpluses…
ALBANESE: Always good to be here.
JAYES: Under Labor, no more, instead of tax cuts, or bigger tax cuts. Why is Labor taking this position? Are you worried about your economic credentials?
ALBANESE: No, what we’re worried about is some of the uncertainty that’s in the international global economy, and this Government is saying, of course, that they’ll have surpluses in the future, but it’s dependent upon a whole range of factors and they’re very thin surpluses. What we think is that it’s prudent to have larger surpluses. We’re able to do that. We’ve put forward our economic plan for all to see. There’s some criticism coming in, but when you ask, as you just did, Minister Birmingham to outline exactly how much the big end of town are going to get from their tax cuts, he won’t even give you a figure. He actually said then that the Government knows what the figure is but they’re not going to tell the Australian people. And just like they’re not telling the Australian people either what was obvious in the pre-election fiscal outlook, which is that their tax cuts for the high end, high income earners rely upon $40 billion of cuts to expenditure. That means education, that means hospitals, that means infrastructure, every year in order to deliver for the big end of town. We don’t think that that is prudent.
KIERAN GILBERT: They rejected that analysis though, the $40 billion. They say that their spending –
ALBANESE: It’s there. It’s there in the Budget papers.
GILBERT: And their record of spending shows that they will be able to achieve, you know, both things: surpluses and less tax.
ALBANESE: Well, they’ve doubled the debt. The fact is they have doubled the debt. They came to office saying that they would have surpluses in their first year and every single year after, and they haven’t delivered any surpluses. That’s the truth. They’re doing nothing more than what they promised back in 2013, which is to deliver a surplus next year. The fact is –
GILBERT: Because of Labor baked-in spending, though, didn’t it?
ALBANESE: That’s a complete nonsense. The fact is that it is the Government that have failed to deliver on what they themselves said they would do, which is to have surpluses in that first year. They said it during the 2013 campaign, when all of the factors going forward were known in the Budget papers and again in the pre-election fiscal outlook that was released during that campaign and they’ve failed to deliver through one, two and three Treasurers, just like they’ve had three Prime Ministers, three Deputy Prime Ministers. Kieran, they’ve been too busy fighting each other to fight for the interests of the nation and to put together a coherent economic policy. Just like they have failed to put forward a coherent social policy on education and health. They’ve been busy trying to recover from the disastrous 2014 budget that they brought down and they certainly have failed when it comes to infrastructure issues. There’s not a major project in Australia that’s been opened that was begun and funded by the Coalition Government and they’ve been there for almost six years.
JAYES: Mr Albanese, you’re really going after the top end of town. You will have an effective marginal tax rate of 49 and a half cents in the dollar. Why stop there? Why not go even further?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that under their policy, if someone is earning up to $200,000 a year, they’ll be paying the same rate of tax as someone who is a nurse or a teacher or someone on the median wage. We actually think that there should be a progressive tax system. What they want to do is to abolish the progressive tax system. What they want to do is to make sure that they deliver this massive tax break without saying where they’ll make the cuts in order to pay for it, in schools and hospitals, and infrastructure, roads and railways.
JAYES: But why, why stop at 49 and a half cents in the dollar to pay for all these promises that you talk about, and services? I mean, would Labor go even higher than 49 cents in the dollar? You’re putting the argument forward.
ALBANESE: What we’ve done very clearly is outline what our tax policy is. We’ve done that so that people will know on May 18 what we will pay for and how we’ll pay for it and they’ll also know that they’ll get bigger surpluses that look at more responsible economic management whilst at the same time delivering the social policy that Australia needs. Early childhood education –
JAYES: How will you pay for those bigger surpluses?
ALBANESE: Education for every three and four year old –
JAYES: Would it be bigger taxes on the top end? Do you rule out going higher than a 49 and a half cents in the dollar tax rate, effective tax rate?
ALBANESE: We have. Yes, we have put our policies out there for all to see and we’ve done that in a consistent way: closing tax loopholes, making sure that the tax system works effectively for the entire nation. But making sure as well, that we can fund schools, we can fund early childhood education, we can fund TAFE, we can fund hospitals, including, of course, our Medicare initiative, expanding with regard to people dealing with cancer. We’re funding, of course, importantly I’m here in Brisbane, we’re going to fund the most important infrastructure project for South East Queensland – Cross River Rail. We will assist in the funding of that. We have a funding model, it’s pretty similar, I’ve got to say, to the funding model that I agreed with Campbell Newman, when Campbell Newman was the Premier of Queensland, but Tony Abbott kiboshed because he didn’t believe in funding public transport and then of course what we’ve seen as a result of that is almost six lost years. We could have, if the Government hadn’t have reversed the cuts to public transport, Melbourne Metro would be nearing completion now in Melbourne. You’d have the Perth Airport Link would have been completed and probably opened by now, Parramatta to Epping Rail Link would have been opened by now, Cross River Rail would have been really advanced or pretty close to opening by now.
GILBERT: OK. On climate change though; have you opened up a black hole here because you’re relying on the modelling of Warwick McKibbin in 2015, as, as Simon Birmingham put it? At that time international permits were cheaper than what they are now. Is it going to cost Australian businesses more now, given you’re still relying on a modelling done three or four years ago?
ALBANESE: Now of course Simon Birmingham conceded this morning that the Government has nothing but a scare campaign. He conceded that Warwick McKibbin’s modelling, done for the Government, backed up what Labor has been saying. And what we know, Kieran and Laura, is that if you actually transition the economy there’s – I wouldn’t call it first mover advantage – it’s more like avoiding last cab off the rank disadvantage by moving towards a clean energy economy. The sooner that you move, the better it is for the economy. We’ve seen that already. Kieran, I was the climate change spokesperson when we adopted the 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. At the time, under the Howard Government the target was two percent. When we called for 20 percent by 2020 we were told that that would have devastating impacts on the economy. That it wouldn’t be affordable because solar in particular was so much more expensive. Well, guess what? When we were elected to Government in 2007 there were about 8,000 houses in Australia with solar panels on their roofs. Today there are 2 million. You know what? That’s good for the economy, but it’s also good for those people who have solar panels on their roofs.
ALBANESE: And good climate policy, going forward, will actually be good for the economy. What has been bad for the economy is the fact that this Government had been there for a long time and they have had something like 14 different energy policies. None of them have been implemented. So when the Government talks about our policy –
ALBANESE: I’ll tell you what business will tell you – that what we need is certainty. That’s what Labor will provide.
JAYES: Anthony Albanese, we have run out of time unfortunately. We will speak to you again next week hopefully. Thanks so much.
ALBANESE: Talk to you next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.