TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda
with Kieran Gilbert and The Hon Dr
Andrew Leigh MP
24 August 2015
E & OE
Taxation, reform summit, free trade agreements, NDIS, Andrew Hastie
This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company this Monday. With me now the Shadow
Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and in Melbourne we’ve got the Assistant
Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield. Thanks for your time gentlemen. Mitch
Fifield, first to you, more calls for tax cuts from the Treasurer, but how are
they going to be paid for? He’s got the idea but not necessarily the solution.
Well Kieran, I think, as you know, we are very much for a lower, a simpler and
a fairer taxation in Australia. We’ve demonstrated that through the abolition
of the Carbon Tax and the Mining Tax. We will have more to say in the near
future about personal income tax through the Taxation White Paper process. But
we’re not hearing any talk from the other side about how to reduce Australia’s
levels of taxation. Labor still want to bring back the Carbon Tax, they want to
call it a different name, they want to call it an ETS. So I think the people of
Australia really do have two competing visions when it comes to taxation.
But I guess the question is Senator Fifield, how you fund this when, as I say,
it’d run into the billions to bring the Australian marginal tax rate down to
say New Zealand’s for example.
Well Kieran I’m not here today to announce a Coalition taxation policy. We have
the Tax White Paper process which is there for a reason. It’s there to elicit
views from the Australian community, from Australian business as to how they
think our taxation system can be more competitive. There are a number of stages
to that Tax White Paper process. And we will have more to say on personal
income tax as a part of that process.
Well that’s a starting point I guess at least Andrew Leigh. The point is that,
compared to other nations, our marginal tax rates are not competitive are they?
Well Kieran if you look across the OECD, what they call the ‘tax wedge’ is
below the OECD average in Australia. For income taxes, and our total tax take
which is in the bottom handful of countries in the advanced world. We should
always be trying to craft a better income tax system. But if the average
Australian had a dollar for every time they were promised tax cuts from Joe
Hockey, they’d be as rich as he is. The simple fact is: Joe Hockey is all hot
air and no action when it comes to tax reform. Labor’s announced our
multinational tax plan, our high-end superannuation plan, tax reforms which
make a difference to the budget bottom line but are also fair and sustainable.
So you’re happy with the status quo in terms of the marginal tax rate?
would be great to bring them down, but there’s that old Milton Friedman line,
‘to tax is to spend.’ So effectively, if Mr Hockey intends to cut one area of
taxes, he needs to either show us he’s going to cut, which other tax he’s going
to raise or how debt’s going to blow out. Under Mr Hockey’s watch we’ve seen
the tax share go up, not down. His Budget paper one shows very clearly that
he’s taxing more highly than the Rudd or Gillard governments before him. Which
again, just shows the lack of seriousness from Mr Hockey when it comes to tax
go to Senator Fifield. On the broader issue of reform we’re seeing business
groups this morning the front page of the Fin Review ahead of this reform
summit to be co-convened by The Australian and the AFR on Wednesday. They’re
saying they’re willing to put their interests to one side to see reform,
growth-orientated reform, undertaken. But I guess, there just seems to be very
little common ground right now on anything, when it comes to whether industrial
relations or wide-scale tax reform. You know, it’s a good idea to have the
reform summit but is there any sense of optimism that they’ll be some common
ground here Senator Fifield?
Well Kieran I
think the reform summit is a good thing. It’s always good when journalists and
business leaders take an interest in public policy and want to help create an
environment that’s more conducive to good policy and to reform. But what we
need is growth to lead to even more jobs in the Australian economy. And there
are some really practical things that can be done, which we’re in favour of and
which the Labor Party are against. Legislation to bring back the Australian
Building and Construction Commission, to bring productivity back to building
sites, to eliminate militant trade unionism. That’s something really practical.
Another practical thing is if Labor would support us with our Registered
Organisations legislation, that would see union leaders subject to the same
penalties and the same expectations that are there for company directors.
There’s some really practical things. Labor could get on board and support the
China Free Trade Agreement. We’ve negotiated three important trade agreements.
Labor seem to have great difficulty embracing something which should be a
self-evident good for the Australian economy in the form of the Australia/China
Free Trade Agreement. So there are some really practical things that Labor
could do to help support growth in Australia. So I don’t agree that basically
we’re on the same page here.
On the FTA, I can’t see, if we just to pick up one of those points that Senator
Fifield referred to, I can’t see Labor blocking this. And certainly as an
economist yourself and a former adviser to a trade minister you would be,
there’s very little chance that you would endorse Labor attempting to block or
repeal this FTA.
Labor’s got a strong track record on free trade. It was Labor governments that
put in place Australia’s big tariff cuts in 1973, 1988 and 1991. Our concern in
this trade agreement doesn’t go at all to the tariff cuts, it goes to the
immigration measures and the measures which potentially would allow companies
to sue the Australian Government. That’s again our concern with the
trans-Pacific partnership being negotiated in secret. But Labor’s concerns are
not over the trade liberalisation parts, they’re over the threats to our
intellectual property systems.
Do you welcome the
business groups saying they will put self-interest to one side as the debate
around reform cranks up on Wednesday at this summit to be convened by the AFR
and the Oz?
and Kieran like Mitch I really welcome to contribution of business groups to
that ongoing public policy conversation. But we need to be careful of lionising
the Hawke/Keating days. When Parliament passed the legislation to enact the
Mabo decision, the Liberal leader at the time said it was a day of shame. And
today we’ve got a Liberal Prime Minister going to visit Eddie Mabo’s grave.
That reflects how far the Liberal Party has come over that time. But no one
should look back and see the Labor reforms of Native Title as being backed
bipartisanly. Same with Medicare, superannuation, capital gains tax, fringe
benefits tax, the assets testing of…
There’s another big reform that both sides have agreed to up until this
point, but Senator Fifield. With Joe Hockey saying he’s going promise tax cuts
at the election, if you look at the big spending initiative that the
Government’s committed to, but in the last few weeks you seem to be wavering on
in terms of the timeline, that’s the NDIS. Is the NDIS going to be delayed here
to fund the tax cuts in the short term?
No Kieran. That’s the
short answer. That’s long answer. That’s the unequivocal answer. We as a
Government are not looking for ways or reasons to delay the NDIS. We are
determined to see the NDIS rolled out in full. I’ve been working extremely hard
to see that become a reality. I wasn’t put in the job as Minister for
Disabilities to do anything other than deliver to the NDIS and to do it in
Well I know you’re
committed to it but the problem is, and the suggestion is, that the ERC—others
within your Government—are trying to make savings from it. You’re saying this
morning that is not going to be the case.
Kieran we are not
looking to pull money from the NDIS. I’m conducting negotiations with state and
territory jurisdictions so that we can work out together the roll out plans for
the NDIS beyond the current trial sites to take the scheme nation-wide. There’s
immense goodwill with my state and territory counterparts. We want to see this
become a reality, it will become a reality.
Well you heard that.
You must be reassured by the Minister this morning. He is the Minister
responsible Andrew Leigh. He’s saying that no, there won’t be savings being
made as some suggestions around this place this morning might have indicated.
Kieran I’ve got no
concerns with Mitch’s goodwill on this important issue. But you can hear there
in his language where he says, ‘we’re not looking to’, the unwillingness to
stick to the agreed timetables. When he was asked about this in the Senate, he
wasn’t willing to commit to the NDIS roll out timetable that we thought was a
bipartisan timetable last election. This is such an important reform and the
notion that it’s going to be slowed down will be deeply concerning to the
millions of Australians with disabilities…
He hasn’t said it’s
going to be slowed down. He’s still committed to that timeline.
He hasn’t recommitted
to the timelines that were bipartisan at the last…
Senator Fifield your
response to that. Because by my reading what you said was you are still
committed to the timeline, but you haven’t given a guarantee that you’ll
necessarily meet it because of the state negotiations.
The timeline for the
NDIS—the target date—is 2019. That is embedded in the Heads of Agreement
between the Commonwealth and the jurisdictions. That is the target. That is the
objective that I am working towards with my state and territory counterparts. I
can’t put it more clearly than that Kieran.
And just to reassure
one final time for those with families and loved ones with disabilities this
morning that this NDIS is not going to be the victim of a cost-saving in order
to fund tax cuts. Just a reassurance on that.
Absolutely not. The NDIS is the core business of government. And that is,
helping people who face extra challenges for reasons beyond their control. It’s
one of the reasons why people pay their taxes. People are very happy to pay
their taxes to support something like the NDIS. I’m in this job to see it
through. To see it delivered in full. That’s what’s going to happen.
Good on you. That’s
good to hear and let’s hope that you achieve that timeline despite Labor’s
doubts. And let’s go to by-election on Canning now, the Canning by-election in
WA. It was a very impressive speech by the Liberal candidate Andrew Leigh.
There were some reports about his time. The contingent that he was captain of
in the SAS in Afghanistan and then a forceful response to the reports in the
Fairfax papers on the weekend. You’d have to be impressive by Andrew Hastie,
Captain Hastie, the Liberal candidate for what he’d said on the weekend.
Kieran I’m certainly
not going to question somebody whose served overseas for his country. This
by-election is about whose best able to represent Canning on the issues of
jobs, and health and education. Labor’s candidate, Matt Keogh, grew up in the
electorate, lives in the electorate, knows the electorate. He’s concerned about
30,000 additional West Australians who joined the unemployment queue since the
last election. Concerned that the Abbott Government’s cuts to hospitals and
schools are hitting the Western Australia and a time when the Western
Australian budget can least afford…
On Captain Hastie.
The reports about him. And, you know, you saw the reports in Fairfax about the
actions of those in SAS contingent that he was captain of. He responded to them
forcefully. Your reaction to the way he handled that very difficult situation.
Look he did and I
think that was a perfectly appropriate response. My feeling though is that the
people of Canning need more than a rubber stamp for the Abbott Government’s
cuts. They need a candidate, Matt Keogh, who’ll actually stand up for their
community at a time when Western Australian jobs are under threat. The idea
that unemployment is just the fault of the individual. That a one-month waiting
list, waiting period, for young unemployed people will somehow starve people
back into work. The idea that unemployment is the fault of the individual,
rather than a lack of demand is a real problem for Australians.
Well Senator Fifield,
going into this crucial by-election. Crucial for a number of reasons. For the
Prime Minister, for the Government generally, it comes at very important time
for Mr Abbott. It’d be encouraging to see the likes of Andrew Hastie—very, very
impressive at the weekend.
Hastie is a first-class candidate. He’s served his nation in uniform. He was a
distinguished officer. He served in the SAS. He’s a decorated individual. And
I’ve got to say one of the really pleasing things for me over the past few
elections is the number of people who’ve served in the Australian Defence Force
who are putting themselves forward for parliamentary office. There was a time
where we were getting extremely low on the numbers of Members of Parliament
who’ve actually worn uniform and served. So I think it’s a great thing. People
like Andrew Nikolic, people like Linda Reynolds. And very hopeful that Andrew
Hastie will join them and bring that perspective to the Parliament.
Yeah well. We’ll see
Mitch Fifield September 19’s the date. Certainly a strong candidate. Labor’s
got a pretty good candidate as well. It’s going to be a very interesting
campaign over the next month or so. Mitch Fifield, Andrew Leigh, gentlemen
thanks so much for that have a good day.
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