Subjects: Tax cuts; by-elections.
ASHLEIGH GILLON: Here in the Canberra studio with me, is the senior Labor front-bencher Anthony Albanese. Good to see you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Ash.
GILLON: Drama. A few fiery scenes this morning, in the House as well as the Senate.
ALBANESE: There has been indeed. The Government has not been prepared to actually defend its position. They came into Parliament this morning in the House of Representatives and crunched through debate – move that motions be put, before they even put their case for tax cuts and that’s because their case is so weak at the top end. What they’re wanting to do here, is to give tax cuts to the 20 per cent at the top of the income scale in – not this term, not next term, but perhaps the term after that. And it will have an impact of some 12 per cent on the Budget on an ongoing basis. This has real consequences for the future responsibility of the Budget. But they haven’t been prepared to debate it which was quite extraordinary.
GILLON: Is it really fair, though, to accuse the Government of not being prepared to debate this? We’ve seen this topic being pretty much all you lot have been talking about since Budget night. We’ve had this debate.
ALBANESE: Well, they haven’t been introducing the debate. They crunched it the first time in the House of Representatives – didn’t allow everyone to speak and now they’re doing it again today. It’s now before the Senate and they’re attempting to stop anyone to speak who doesn’t agree with them. And that’s not the way a democracy works and you can get really bad outcomes.
What we saw in the Senate last night, was that the Senate firstly voted to remove part three of the tax cuts, if you like, those really at the wealthy end from 2024. But in doing that they ended up with no income tax rates at all. They removed them from the schedule. So Labor moved a proposition to put back the schedules, as common sense would indicate should have happened. The Government voted against that, because they were just in – ‘we’re voting One Nation no matter what’s put up here’. So you had the farcical situation whereby the legislation that went from the Senate to the Reps, actually didn’t have any income tax rates at all in it.
GILLON: But what matters to people at home is the fact that it looks very likely now that, with the support of the cross-bench, this full income tax cut package will be passed. Which is a huge win for the Government because that seemed to be a pretty unlikely outcome from Budget night, when these tax cuts were first announced, and some of these key cross-benchers indicated, very early on that they wouldn’t have a bar of it. Especially those high income earner tax cuts that you were talking about.
You talk about the impact on the Budget’s bottom line but surely this is a good day for the economy, billions of dollars will be flowing back into the Australian economy. Australians are getting tax cuts. This is something that most people around the country will be cheering, today.
ALBANESE: We support the tax cuts in stage one. Those that are aimed at low and middle-income earners and we’d vote for it today. They could get it through with the support, I’m sure, of the entire Parliament. What we’re talking about here, is the Government that – just six months ago they were arguing for a $44 million dollar increase – billion dollar, sorry, increase in income tax. Now they’re arguing for a $140 billion dollar cut. So that is a $184 billion dollar turnaround in, what they themselves were arguing at the beginning of this year, this year. That’s been the change in six months. And now they’re suggesting that in 2024, all of their assumptions about economic growth, about what’s happening in the global economy, including the potential for significant trade disputes that would have an enormous impact on Australia’s bottom line and our fiscal position, that in 2024, we can determine now what will happen. Now I make this prediction, Ashleigh, there will be income tax debates between now and 2024. As sure as the sun will come up tomorrow.
GILLON: That’s a very bold prediction by you, Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: And the Liberal Party and the National Party will not have the same position in 2024. Between now and that day, each and every day between now and then.
GILLON: Well, we’re focused more on some by-elections that are coming up shortly. Do you see these by-elections as a litmus test on the tax policies between you and the Coalition?
ALBANESE: It certainly is on fairness, not just on tax, but right across the board. On fairness in terms of education, whether schools should be properly funded. On fairness in terms of health, whether healthcare should be properly funded. A test when it comes to the agenda that both political parties have.
Labor – that’s committed to fairness, committed to a strong economy, with a plan to ensure that future employment growth happens, through infrastructure investment, skilling Australians, giving people good educations.
And a Government that, once again is showing itself to defend just the top end of town. Including, of course, with their ally and Federal Coalition partner, One Nation, through Pauline Hanson.
GILLON: If the by-elections are a litmus test on policy, are they also going to be a litmus test on leadership?
ALBANESE: They are about the vision for the nation. And it’s a chance for people to cast their vote. There’s no doubt we obviously will have an election some time in the next 12 months. And we are putting forward a very bold vision. We are an Opposition …
GILLON: Sure, but again, if Labor does lose some of the by-elections, the by-elections that you’re running in, is that seen as a litmus test for Labor to look at reworking policy because it didn’t go down well at the by-elections and perhaps also looking at leadership issues?
ALBANESE: No, what it is, is a test of our Party as a whole. And our Party as a whole is united. Bill Shorten is showing strong leadership again this week. Being prepared to be out there with a strong plan. Not trying to just be an Opposition that hopes to sneak into Government, without putting an agenda out there.
GILLON: So you’re not waiting in the wings? Waiting to sneak into the leadership position if the by-elections don’t go well?
ALBANESE: What I want to be is a Minister in a Labor Government. And I’m focused on my portfolio. I’m also focused on doing what I can to assist Susan and Justine and Josh to return to the Parliament, and Patrick Gorman to be a fantastic new Member for Perth.
GILLON: But you are going to these by-elections telling some Australians that you’ll be taking a tax cut away from them, if you get elected at the next Federal election. Do you really think that’s a smart strategy?
ALBANESE: No, what we’re telling them is that people in the top 20 per cent bracket …
GILLON: Sure, which are Australians, they’re still Australian tax payers.
ALBANESE: Absolutely, and people like myself will be putting the case that people who are on $200,000 a year, that they have an interest in a strong economy. They also have an interest in things other than just themselves and their hip pocket.
GILLON: Those are the people already paying the bulk of the tax anyway, in this country.
ALBANESE: They have an interest in a good education system. In a good TAFE system. In a good health system, should they get sick. When Kerry Packer had a heart attack and needed to be revived, he went to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in the Inner West of Sydney. To a public hospital to get that care.
We all rely upon a good society and a good society is one that recognises that we prioritise, unashamedly, tax cuts for low and middle-income earners because they spend it.
That creates jobs. That creates economic activity that benefits the entire economy as a whole.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.