Doorstop - Brisbane (17)

22 January 2018



SUBJECT/S: Inequality on the rise under Turnbull Government; Turnbull’s tax cut for top end of town; record low wages growth; Unions; Turnbull Government jacking up income taxes on middle Australia; Abbott and Australia Day

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks everyone for coming out. Today we have some more figures that point to the substantial challenge that we have in this country with growing inequality in our economy. I think only someone as out of touch as Malcolm Turnbull could deny that in Australia the rich are getting much richer while ordinary working people are being left behind. A lot of people in Australia think that the rules of the economy are written to benefit somebody else at their expense. They feel like no matter how hard they work, they just can't get ahead. They can't keep up with the rising costs of living. 

As a consequence, Australians know what these reports show today to be true - that we do have a problem with inequality in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull is part of the problem when it comes to growing inequality and not part of the solution. The Liberal Party is turbocharging inequality in Australia by giving big tax breaks to the top end of town, by jacking up income taxes for people on low and middle incomes, and by attacking the wages and conditions of ordinary working people. 


Under Malcolm Turnbull, if you're a millionaire or a multinational, you get bigger and bigger tax breaks; if you're middle Australia, you get the middle finger. That's the unfortunate reality of the suite of policies that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison want to inflict on the Australian people, which will only serve to make inequality worse; whether it's in the tax system with their plans to jack up income taxes for low and middle income earners; whether it’s in the industrial relations system where they want to cut penalty rates, attack wages, and undermine collective bargaining. 


For all of these reasons, what Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have is a recipe for more division and less growth and what we need in this economy and in this society is more growth and less division. We will not get the economic growth we need by attacking people's wages, by giving tax breaks to the top end of town and hoping they'll trickle down to everybody else or by inflicting big cuts on education and training and productivity in this country. 


Labor takes an entirely different approach to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party. Turnbull and his Liberals are so out of touch they don't understand that if we want to grow the economy, we need to grow it in an inclusive way. That means reward for effort. It means fairer taxes. It means investing in productivity via education and training. And it means a decent social safety net for those left behind. If we care about inequality in this country, as Labor under Bill Shorten does, these are the sorts of things that we need to be doing; not giving big tax cuts to multinationals and millionaires at the expense of people who work and struggle.


JOURNALIST: Jim, unions also seem to be calling for a pay rise across the board for most workers. Do you think that's something that needs to be looked at as well?


CHALMERS: There's absolutely no question that wages growth in this country is stagnant. Wages growth is at historic lows in this country, and that's a really big challenge because what that means is that working people aren't getting the wage increases that they need to save, to invest, to spend in the shops to provide for their families. That's a problem for the broader economy as well. I think the Australian union movement has done an outstanding job highlighting the broader economic consequences of that stagnant wages growth. When people aren't keeping up with the rising costs of living we all suffer together because we can't have a growing economy when people don't have the disposable income that they need to survive. What Turnbull and Morrison and the Liberal Party are intent on doing is attacking the living standards of middle Australia by undermining wages and conditions. For as long as they do that, this inequality problem that we have in our society will get worse, not better.


JOURNALIST: Your colleague Peter Khalil has told Sky News that Labor supports a tax cut for businesses up to a turnover of $25 million. Can you confirm that?


CHALMERS: I thought you might have had a question about that. I haven't seen the whole interview; I've seen part of the interview. Pete's a terrific bloke. He gave me a ring after the interview and said that he had misspoken. I think that's a fair enough explanation. Whether it's myself, Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, or others, we've made our view abundantly clear on those company tax cuts. We don't support the $65 billion gift to foreign multinationals and the big banks. We do support genuine tax relief for genuinely small companies with a turnover of up to $2 million a year and we've said that we'll make our views known on the rest of the legislated tax cuts in due course, well in advance of the election. Our position is very clear. Pete has called me about that. We've had a great chat about it. He misspoke earlier this morning. I think that's the end of that.


JOURNALIST: So just to be 100 per cent correct, what he said this morning was incorrect?


CHALMERS: What he told me was that he was referring to the passage of those tax cuts through the Parliament. That, of course, was the deal between the Liberal Party and the Nick Xenophon team. He said that he misspoke. I've got no dramas with his explanation. We've made our view abundantly clear. I'm happy to make it clear again here today. We don't support shovelling $65 billion in the direction of big multinational corporations, including the big four banks and a lot of foreign companies at the expense of everybody else. We do support genuine tax relief for genuinely small businesses with a turnover of up to $2 million. The other legislative tax cuts are under consideration. We'll have our view out there in due course well in advance of the election so that people can judge us on it.


JOURNALIST: What about cuts to income tax? You've spoken about tax cuts for millionaires, but do people on the top tax bracket of $180,000 deserve an income tax cut?


CHALMERS: Of course not. The reason that Malcolm Turnbull's agenda is so damaging is it's not just those $65 billion in tax cuts for multinational corporations, but also huge tax cuts of something like $16,400 a year for millionaires in the income tax system. At the exact same time in the Parliament right now, there is legislation introduced by Malcolm Turnbull to jack up income taxes on people on middle incomes and people on low incomes in this country. If there's one thing which really shows what these characters are all about, it's the fact that they want to cut taxes for the top end of town while they jack up taxes for everybody else. We have an entirely different set of priorities to Malcolm Turnbull and his out-of-touch Liberals, and we're looking forward to the contest this year as we get towards an election so that people can consider and contrast our plans to support ordinary working people versus Malcolm Turnbull's plans to take money off working people, attack their wages, take more tax off them and hand it directly to the bottom line of the big companies of this country.


JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, Tony Abbott has said the events of January 26, 1788 were a good thing for Aboriginal people. Do you agree or disagree with the former Prime Minister's comments?


CHALMERS: I think that the last thing that indigenous Australians need is to have Tony Abbott lecturing them about what's good for them. I think it's deeply disappointing, shameful even, to see Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott try and politicise this important conversation that's going on. We all know what this is about, whether it's Turnbull or Abbott, they're trying to outdo each other because their personal conflict continues into 2018. We all know that's what's going on. Bill Shorten has made it very clear that, under Labor, the date of Australia Day will not change. But we also believe, in not changing the date, we believe it's possible to celebrate the 26 January without dismissing or talking down to people who have a different, well-motivated view about the appropriateness of the date.


Thank you.