PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining us now is Wyatt Roy and Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be back.
WYATT ROY: Thanks for having us on.
STEFANOVIC: Good morning to you. I’ll start with Wyatt first and I’ll come to you shortly Anthony. But I think Wyatt here, the operative word here is “try” because it’s controversial, it’s unlikely to get across the line, because people don’t want to pay more taxes.So how can you guarantee that people aren’t going to pay more taxes?
ROY: Well, this is a really important conversation for us to have. It’s not going to happen overnight and we can’t do it ourselves, we need the states to be involved with this.
But currently all the incentives in the system are about the states fighting the Commonwealth and this argy bargy that you see between politicians, and when you have a system that’s all structured about us fighting each other, nobody actually gets better health care service delivery out of it, nobody gets a better education when it is all about politicians fighting each other.
We have had a long debate for many years about how you do two things – one is how you stop the overlap in terms the administration of actually running the hospitals and the schools and another about how you actually fund them.
We want that long-term security and this is a really significant way of achieving that. It is a significant change but surely just having politicians fight each over and not actually finding real solutions that is not going to fix the country’s problems.
STEFANOVIC: Well, if the Prime Minister doesn’t get this proposal over the line, how much is he in danger of becoming the PM that can’t close a deal?
ROY: The important thing is that this isn’t going to happen overnight, I think you need to recognise this.
Of course, the political system is all designed for really quick solutions but this is a big fundamental change for our country, which is about fixing a really big problem which is the overlap between the state and territories in actually giving the states the authority, the security to give us that long-term service delivery that we want, and we should take our time with that.
We should actually have this discussion and not devolve ourselves into cheap politics.
STEFANOVIC: Alright Anthony, let’s move it over to you. I mean, doesn’t this proposal have some merit, because wouldn’t it create some kind of competition between the states?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s appropriate that it is on April Fool’s Day that COAG are meeting with this quite absurd proposal, that you would have nine sets of income taxes around Australia.
I mean, one of the things we have struggled with in this country since we went from colonies through to Federation is to rid get rid of the duplication, to get rid of ridiculous circumstances like different rail gauges.
What they want now is different income tax systems depending upon which state you are from. The idea that that is efficient is absurd.
It is as absurd as the idea floated yesterday that we’d now have a complete Commonwealth removal from involvement in funding public education. We would still fund private education, but not public education.
It is absurd. In terms of going back, we have had a national system of income tax since 1942. There is a reason for that.
STEFANOVIC: Wyatt, how concerned are you that these two big issues, education and health, are being chucked around like a hot potato at the moment?
The Prime Minister doesn’t want them and the states don’t want either, because that is going to cost them votes if taxes have to go up.
ROY: What’s important is that we are actually brave enough to have this conversation. Politicians sitting back and saying these challenges are all there, we all know them, we always have these complicated arguments.
We talk about what’s an overlap or a complication of administration, or a complicated system, but currently there are over 100 different funding agreements between the states and Commonwealth and we have this ridiculous fight every single time.
Now that’s a great system if a politician wants to get their headline out of it, or a sexy headline attacking one another, but that actually doesn’t help anybody.
And I think that we need a bit of political bravery to actually go out there and say, this isn’t going to happen overnight, there is no silver bullet, but there are big problems.
We know the challenges. This is a potential solution and let’s have that conversation and people put ideas on the table.
ALBANESE: The big problems are there because of the $80 billion of cuts to education and health.
This is a distraction by Malcolm Turnbull who doesn’t want to fix the problem; he just wants to transfer the blame to the states so that he can blame the states.
STEFANOVIC: Hence the hot potato.
ALBANESE: $80 billion of cuts.
ROY: You guys have announced an enormous of spending but no actual funding.
ALBANESE: We actually have, as you full well know, all $37 billion is funded. We are the first opposition to never make a promise without saying where the money is coming from.
ROY: Is that funded through an increase in taxes, or borrowing more money?
ALBANESE: We’ve said where all of the money is coming from.
ROY: This is the argy bargy that we are we talking about. When the only solution is we will just raise more taxes, we’ll borrow more money; we actually get out of a situation about how we can actually provide the best health care, the best education for Australia. This is actually about funding it.
STEFANOVIC: You brought up healthcare there. Let’s move onto – this proposal may well get through. This is the healthier Medicare that’s about to be announced. Do you see any problems in that going through?
ROY: No. I think this is a great thing. We know that one in five Australians have two or more chronic illnesses and we know that half of all the avoidable hospital admissions actually come from people with a chronic health care condition.
It is a very complicated system and this is all about giving people the ability to work through that system and ensure they get the best possible care and when they do that, we actually remove that burden on the hospital because in many cases they won’t actually have to end up going to that point.
STEFANOVIC: See a problem here?
ALBANESE: We’ll look at the detail of the proposal, but I think it is similar to some of the proposals that we had and implemented indeed, like Medicare Locals, the idea of delivering health care to individuals but on the basis of need.
But that there doesn’t take away from the fact there’s been these massive cuts to the health care system from the Commonwealth.
And today the states will be demanding that that money be put back; otherwise we are going to have a crisis in our public health system.
STEFANOVIC: A COAG meeting on April Fools’ Day, is that wise?
ALBANESE: It’s appropriate for this Prime Minister who clearly had a plan to beat Tony Abbott but doesn’t seem to have a plan to govern.
If he doesn’t want to lead, he should just get out of the way.
STEFANOVIC: That is all the time we have got for Wyatt and Anthony. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
ROY: Thanks mate. Cheers.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.