ABC NewsRadio

27 May 2016

FRIDAY, 27 MAY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Economic Debate; Labor’s Budget Priorities

MARIUS BENSON, HOST: Jim Chalmers, the prospect of a debate between the Treasurer and the Shadow Treasurer is obviously important. The economy is central to any election, but it's an unsatisfactory exercise really, isn't it? Because it's just going to be claim and counter-claim with both sides still not revealing all their economic policies yet.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES AND SUPERANNUATION: We're still five weeks out from the election, of course, Marius, but what we will see today is a contest between slogans from Scott Morrison and substance from Chris Bowen. As you know, the Treasurer's job is a really complex one and what we have seen so far is that Scott Morrison isn't up to that complexity. He's sort of fumbled and flailed around from one stuff-up to the next, getting his numbers wrong, cooking up dodgy reports and piling up lies about Labor policies.

BENSON: Slogan versus substance - that's just another slogan isn't it?

CHALMERS: No, I think anyone who has paid attention to the policy work that Chris Bowen has been doing for some time now, the way he talks calmly and intelligently about the economy, versus the way that Scott Morrison sort of rants and raves about Labor policy, I think that's a contrast between the two of them - between slogans and substance. I think people will be very impressed by Chris today as we are.

BENSON: The opinion polls, I mean, as you say Chris Bowen, Labor, has been putting out its policies for a long time, but all the opinion polls consistently give the Government higher marks for economic management. Labor is just not highly regarded as economic managers?

CHALMERS: I think that's a contested point. I mean, sure, sometimes the polls give that kind of indication. But really, when you're out and about in the community, Marius, people understand that this election is really a choice between a big gift to multinational corporations - which is the Liberal policy - versus investing in people, investing in their schools and hospitals and Medicare. People have a far broader understanding of economic policy than those polled questions can ever get to. What we'll see today in the debate will really go to the crux of the campaign, which is that choice between hospitals and schools and Medicare, done in a fair and responsible and fully-funded way, versus that $50 billion gift to big multinational companies. I think Scott Morrison will have the opportunity today and must take the opportunity today, to explain to the Australian people why he wants to take money out of hospitals and schools and give it to big business.

BENSON: There are clearly different priorities and a genuine choice for voters in the emphasis in economic policy. Going to that central point of you being able to fund those things that you are promising, the last time the hard evidence was in was when Labor was last in office in the last Gillard Budget. There was a promise to restrain real spending growth to two per cent, but in fact the Audit Commission assessed that and said that the projected spending from that Budget was an increase in real terms of 3.7 per cent. You are big spenders.

CHALMERS: I'm pleased you asked that, Marius, because this is one of the furphies that get dragged around by the Liberal Party. We had a Global Financial Crisis, as you know, that did mean that the Budget deteriorated in our time in office. But what has happened since then without a Global Financial Crisis is that the Liberal Government has tripled the deficit and that responsibility is Scott Morrison's and Joe Hockey's and Malcolm Turnbull's and Tony Abbott's. You cannot blame Labor for the tripling of the deficit that has happened under the Liberal Party's watch. That's a fact that the deficit has tripled. You're quite right to say that Budgets are about choices and the choice here, as I said, is between investing in people versus that big, $50 billion tax cut to big business. Every single time that you hear Scott Morrison say today that we can't afford to save Medicare, we can't afford to invest in hosp itals and good schools for our kids, remember that those commitments that Labor have made are smaller than the $50 billion that he intends to give to multinational corporations.

BENSON: Jim Chalmers, not all your policies are out, but can you answer this broad question? Overall, will the current level of taxation go up under Labor?

CHALMERS: Well, there's still five weeks to go Marius and we will account for all of the various commitments that we make on both sides of the Budget before the election. That's the standard practice. We'll do it earlier than the Liberal Party did it at the last election, that's our commitment. But already we've got policies on the table. A whole lot of budget repair. More budget repair than I can recall any Opposition having.

BENSON: Sure, but can I take you back to that broad question. Overall, will tax increase under Labor?

CHALMERS: Well, we've got a combination of revenue measures and savings measures as you know. As I said, they will be accounted for properly, in advance of the election, so that people can make their assessment. There's a lot of focus -

BENSON: So is the answer to that, will the tax level go up overall - we don't know yet?

CHALMERS: That will be very clear to people when they vote on the second of July. In advance of that, when we present all of our costings, when we update all of our numbers to take into account those new numbers that were provided by the pre-election outlook.

BENSON: Jim Chalmers, I'll leave it there. Thank you very much.