ABC RN Breakfast 25/6/18

25 June 2018


MONDAY, 25 JUNE 2018


SUBJECT/S: Turnbull always siding with top end of town; Liberals’ $80 billion corporate tax handout; Labor’s engagement with business; Labor’s united team; Pauline Hanson and income tax


HAMISH MACDONALD: Jim Chalmers is the Shadow Finance Minister. Good morning to you.




MACDONALD: Labor very clearly, overtly, attacking the man not the policy. Why? And are you comfortable with this?


CHALMERS: We're attacking the policy, Hamish. And it's entirely legitimate for us to point out that Malcolm Turnbull always sides with the top end of town. One of the reasons that we have this system of disclosure is so that people can make an assessment of the various influences that someone like Malcolm Turnbull brings to the policy debate.


MACDONALD: But why are his personal investments relevant here? 


CHALMERS: Because he brings a certain background, certain influences to his job as the Prime Minister.


MACDONALD: What's that?


CHALMERS: He has been an investment banker. That's a fact. That's his career background. I'm not making, necessarily, a judgement on that, except to say that he always sides with the millionaires and the multinationals over middle Australia. That's the main point the ad is making, and I'm entirely comfortable with that.


MACDONALD: If he's bringing certain aspects to his policy making, and that certain aspect is his background as a banker, why are you claiming you're not making a judgement on it? It's pretty overt in the advert.


CHALMERS: What we're saying is Malcolm Turnbull time and time again, no matter what the issue is, but especially on these company tax cuts, has a habit of siding against middle Australia in the interests of the top end of town. I think that's a view widely held in the community, and it's a point we're entitled to make.


MACDONALD: How many Labor MPs and Senators have investments in companies with turnovers of more than $50 million that would also stand to profit from the tax cuts?


CHALMERS: One of the reasons we have that system of disclosure, Hamish, is so you can go and look it up on the Parliamentary website and you can make a judgement about that, about all of us. What we're doing is we're saying that Malcolm Turnbull...


MACDONALD: So how many of you are there?


CHALMERS: Well, I haven't counted them, Hamish. If you would like to do that, you're entitled to do that.


MACDONALD: But you acknowledge that there'd be plenty of people on your side of politics who would also stand to benefit?


CHALMERS: Yeah, I'm acknowledging that people make investments and they’re disclosed and the point we're making about Malcolm Turnbull's investments is that they are many and varied, and he's got a lot of money in these companies, and a lot of them will benefit substantially from the policy proposal that he's got before the Senate this week.


MACDONALD: You might give the impression that you are somehow against people that have investments because of this ad. Do you have a problem with people that are trying to make money through investment portfolios?


CHALMERS: Of course not, Hamish. A lot of people have investments around Australia and they're entitled to do that. For people who do well, good on them.


MACDONALD: But they shouldn't run for politics?


CHALMERS: What we're saying is that Malcolm Turnbull brings a certain background, a certain set of influences to his job. He's the Prime Minister of Australia. He's a very influential figure and his signature policy is these tax cuts for multinationals and the four big banks. We are entirely within our rights to point that out to people and to say that in our judgement this is one of the reasons why Malcolm Turnbull always sides with the top end of town over middle Australia.


MACDONALD: We've had a flood of messages this morning over social media via text, people responding to our interview with Nationals Senator John "Wacka" Williams. They seem to support his argument when he pointed out that Malcolm Turnbull is a self-made man after a very rough start in life. Here he is:


SENATOR WILLIAMS (file audio): He puts himself through university. He works hard, he's smart, he becomes wealthy. I find that appalling. I think that's just the supreme socialism where many, many Australians would aspire to be as successful as Malcolm Turnbull and Labor taking a short-cut here to bring him down because he's been successful from a pretty rough start. I find it appalling.


MACDONALD: There's obviously a lot of people that are going to be upset by this ad.


CHALMERS: People will have different views about it, Hamish, and they're entitled to their different views. I'm pretty confident that the view that we're expressing about Malcolm Turnbull will find fertile ground out there in the community. I think Senator Williams is being a bit precious there. I don't remember Senator Williams saying anything about Malcolm Turnbull going after family members of Labor politicians in the Parliament last week. This is a robust contest, Hamish. It's about company tax cuts, it's about personal income tax cuts. It's about who deserves tax relief the most when we've got record and growing debt, and we will engage in that in a robust way. That's what people expect of us.


MACDONALD: When Anthony Albanese gave the Whitlam Oration on Friday night, he was talking about exactly this kind of attack - the divisive, class warfare type of stuff. Isn't that the point that Anthony Albanese was making?


CHALMERS: The point that Anthony was making was that we've been through a very divisive period under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Part of that has been this policy agenda which takes money out of hospitals and schools and attacks wages at the same time as it showers largesse on those who need tax cuts the least. That's a very divisive approach. We're against that. We do need to bring the country together and I think Bill is uniquely placed to do a good job of that, because he's been bringing employers and employees together all of his professional life.


MACDONALD: But he was making the point that you needed to do more to work with business, rather than against it; to appeal to people who are not members of unions. But then this ad seems to do the opposite?


CHALMERS: No, I don't accept that it does, Hamish. I think the point that Anthony made is a point well made. We do need to reach out. We do need to attract support from all parts of the community, and we do need to work with business where we can. I personally spend a heap of my time engaging with the business community, as does Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese, right across the board. We do have to do that. We do need a range of perspectives. This ad is doing a different job.


MACDONALD: Is Albo positioning himself for the Labor leadership?


CHALMERS: No, I don't think he is, Hamish.


MACDONALD: Do you think he's behaving in a way that might give people the impression that he is?


CHALMERS: Not necessarily, Hamish. I thought that the speech made some good points on Friday night. I had a squiz at it on Saturday after the big fuss was made of it in the papers. I don't think it was necessarily a big deal.


MACDONALD: He's a smart operator though. He must have known what he was doing?


CHALMERS: There are lots of points in there that we all agree with. They're all entirely consistent with a lot of things that we've been saying, including for example, one of the main points that Albo made, which is that we need to brave on policy. I think that any objective observer of the last five years would conclude that Labor has been very brave on policy, and we've been setting the policy-making pace, particularly when it comes to the economy.


MACDONALD: You've got a lot of by-elections ahead of you. The two clearly that there are concerns about are Longman and Braddon. In Longman, for example, the latest poll shows you at 50-50 two party preferred with the Libs. If you lost both of these seats, would you need to have a conversation in your party about leadership?


CHALMERS: I don't think so, Hamish, but we're working our tails off to win those seats. We're trying our best to win Longman and Braddon. They'll both be incredibly tight contests in my opinion. Longman was a Liberal seat less than two years ago and people seem to forget that in the analysis. But we've got better candidates, we've got better policies, we've got a better leader, and I'm confident that when people hold up our policy to the light and hold up the Liberals' policy and their preference for the top end of town over middle Australia, I think we can get there.


MACDONALD: The question though, is if they don't. 


CHALMERS: We're all focused on getting there, Hamish.


MACDONALD: Of course you are. But if you don't, what are you going to do? Surely it would be time to have a think about the leadership?


CHALMERS: I don't think so, Hamish. I think if we didn't get there, it would be something that we would be collectively responsible for.


MACDONALD: Alright, the brawl with One Nation over its support for the income tax cuts has become relatively bitter it would seem. Last week before the final vote, the ALP was robocalling voters in Longman saying that Pauline Hanson was voting to give another tax cut to the top end of town, she's even giving herself a massive tax cut. All the crossbenchers apart from Tim Storer backed the cuts. Why then did you single out One Nation for special treatment?


CHALMERS: Because Pauline Hanson wanders around Longman and wanders around Queensland pretending to be a friend of the battler, then she wanders into the Senate every single time and votes with Malcolm Turnbull to prioritise the millionaires and the multinationals. I just think that pretty fraudulent behaviour from Pauline Hanson - to pretend to be a friend of the battler, and then vote directly against their interests.


MACDONALD: But don't most of these crossbenchers say they're friends of the battlers? Why her? Is it because you're worried about her in Longman?


CHALMERS: I just think her record has been to vote with Malcolm Turnbull on all of the key issues, more than the others. She's a more prominent figure than many of the others. Every time Malcolm Turnbull says "jump", she says "how high?". It's entirely legitimate for us to point out that she has form in that regard.


MACDONALD: Is she a hypocrite?


CHALMERS: I think so, yeah. I think some of her behaviour is hypocritical. She wanders into Caboolture or Morayfield and says that she will do the right thing by the battler, and then into the Senate and takes her instructions from Malcolm Turnbull. I think that is hypocritical.


MACDONALD: Jim Chalmers, thank you.


CHALMERS: Thank you, Hamish.