ABC RN Drive 22/6/18

22 June 2018


FRIDAY, 22 JUNE 2018


SUBJECT/S: income tax cuts; by-elections; Pauline Hanson; energy


PATRICIA KARVELAS: Jim Chalmers is Labor's Finance spokesman. Welcome to RN Drive.




KARVELAS: Do you accept that campaigning on a promise to take money off people is going to be a difficult political sell?


CHALMERS: Every argument's difficult to prosecute when you're dealing with a Government which has all kinds of advantages. When you're in Government, you can prosecute your arguments. But I think we've got a good story to tell. And that is that 60 per cent of the benefit of these tax cuts go to the wealthiest 20 per cent of Australians, and I think the more that people understand that out there in the community, the more they'll support Labor's alternative, which gives more money to people on low and middle incomes.


KARVELAS: Voters are getting a very simple message from the Government, which is that everyone is getting a tax cut regardless of how much they earn. And it's an accurate message. Everyone gets a tax cut under this plan. What will your message be to them, because you’re playing on the line that someone might have more money in their pocket in the end? But are you really expecting people to care much about that when they're getting an effective tax cut? 


CHALMERS: Some of these tax cuts that the Government's promising come in more than two elections away, and I think people understand and appreciate that as well. But our message is, in a tight Budget, you need to work out what you can afford and where you can do the most good. Our priority has always been, and will always be, people on low and middle incomes in this country. I think the more you talk to people about that, they understand that we can't just be spraying money around to those who need it least. We shouldn't be giving tax cuts overwhelmingly to the wealthiest Australians who won't spend them in the economy and help our small businesses. I think that's well understood out there.


KARVELAS: Labor is saying that you want to repeal Stage 2 and 3. So Stage 2, the cuts for people earning between $70,000 and $90,000 a year - do you want to take money away from people earning between $70,000 and $90,000 a year?


CHALMERS: Everyone up to $125,000 a year will be better off under our plan over the next four years, so I think that's an important point that's been lost in all of this, that we actually have an alternative which is much fairer - a bigger, better, fairer tax cut for middle Australia. Some of the other tax cuts that come in seven years away, or five years away, they overwhelmingly favour the top end of town. So even if we come to Government at the next opportunity, even if we were to repeal those tax cuts, it's not as if people would have experienced them by then at the top end of the income scale. And for people on the low and middle incomes, they'll get more from us. So I don't think that's a valid concern.


KARVELAS: But it's Stage 2, as you say, people earning $110,000 a year will lose money, right?


CHALMERS: They won't have had the tax cut, Patricia, is the point I'm making. Those tax cuts that you're referring to...


KARVELAS: Well they've been told now that it's been legislated, that they should expect the tax cut. So they won't expect it, they won't get it under your changes?


CHALMERS: That's a very different proposition though, isn't it? It's not taking money away from people. What Malcolm Turnbull's done is promised people a tax cut five and seven years away. If we win the next election, it will be in the next two to 10 months. So I don't think people will necessarily take Malcolm Turnbull at his word. They won't have factored in to their family budgets that they'll be getting a tax cut of that kind because it's so far down the track.


KARVELAS: Have you been bullying Pauline Hanson in the seat of Longman?


CHALMERS: Of course not.


KARVELAS: Labor is running a campaign of robo-calls against One Nation. Are you putting inaccurate information in those robo-calls?


CHALMERS: Of course not. The point that we're making about Pauline Hanson is that Pauline Hanson is the sell-out Senator. She wanders around Queensland, she wanders around Longman, around the country, pretending that she's some friend of the battler and then every single time she goes into the Senate and she votes for Malcolm Turnbull's tax cut for millionaires and, previously, for multinationals. I just think the people of Longman and Queensland need to understand that. She can't be a friend of the battler if she always sides with Malcolm Turnbull against the interest of people on low and middle incomes. It's really hard to tell, Patricia...


KARVELAS: Aren't you telling the people in those robo-calls she's supporting the corporate tax cuts, which she says she isn't?


CHALMERS: She said she is, then she said she isn't, then she said she might. I haven't heard those calls that are going into Longman, but I think it's legitimate for us to point out that she has changed her tune multiple times and, I suspect given she always votes with Malcolm Turnbull on these kinds of these issues, it's entirely likely that she will do so again.


KARVELAS: Today she said she wouldn't.


CHALMERS: She has said she will. She has said she wouldn't. She has said she'll think about it. She's changed her mind multiple times. We don't know, for example, as well what the Liberal Party has done with One Nation to get the income tax cuts through. So who knows what sort of promises they'll be making with her secretly on the company taxes? I think that's entirely legitimate for us to point that out, especially when it's getting harder and harder to work out where the Liberal Party ends and One Nation begins. Because every time Malcolm Turnbull says "jump", Pauline Hanson says "how high?".


KARVELAS: Polls suggest Braddon and Longman are both going to be a challenge for Labor to retain. If you lose either one of those seats, will you need to rethink your message and your policy on tax?


CHALMERS: It's a hypothetical, Patricia. We've never said that either seat would be easy. They're very challenging political fights.


KARVELAS: But if you do lose either of those, will you rethink your policy?


CHALMERS: We'll cross that bridge if we come to it, Patricia.


KARVELAS: Do you think it's worth revisiting the policy? Would that be an indication, in your view, that voters were unhappy with the policy?


CHALMERS: I am supremely confident. I know a bit about Longman, I've spent time there. I've spent a little bit of time in Braddon as well. The people of both of those places understand that Labor is the party of low- and middle-income earners and that Malcolm Turnbull is for the top end of town. There has never been, in the almost 20 years that I've been involved in federal politics, a starker contrast between us for middle Australia and Malcolm Turnbull for the top end of town. And I think that message will resonate in Longman and Braddon arguably more than anywhere else in Australia.


KARVELAS: Is it a referendum on your alternative tax plans?


CHALMERS: It's a referendum on the alternative approaches to tax, yeah sure. We've said that for some time. These by-elections - and the general election after them - are about a whole range of things. It's about cuts to health, it's about cuts to education. But it's also a chance for people to express their views. Do we want to have a Government which has record debt but still wants to throw money at the wealthiest people in this country and the multinationals and the big banks as well by the way. Or do we want a Government that prioritises middle Australia? Not just in the tax system, but in the health system and in the education system as well. I think there's some pretty stark contrasts, some pretty big choices for people to make, and I'm confident that we have a better offering than our opponents.


KARVELAS: Who will bear responsibility if there is a loss in any of those by-elections? Is it Bill Shorten, ultimately?


CHALMERS: All of us. All of us will. We're a collective political fighting force, and if we didn't get over the line then, or in the general election we would all be responsible for that. But it's a hypothetical. I'm confident that our message will resonate in the by-elections and in the general election for all of the reasons that I've outlined already.


KARVELAS: The Federal Government is trying to finalise its National Energy Guarantee and get the states and territories on board. We've seen business and the National Farmers' Federation get behind the National Energy Guarantee. Will Labor?


CHALMERS: We're certainly up for a constructive conversation about it, Patricia, I think as I've said to you before. But what that requires is for it to survive the Liberal party room and we've seen almost on a daily basis a break out from the dinosaurs and the knuckle-draggers in the Liberal Party and the National Party. But if in some form the National Energy Guarantee can survive that process, and if we can get the assurances that we need on things like renewable energy, which is very important to us, then obviously we'll engage in good faith on that.


KARVELAS: Jim Chalmers, thanks so much for your time tonight.


CHALMERS: Thank you, Patricia.