Doorstop - Logan (7)

11 March 2018




SUBJECT/S: Turnbull cuts to Energy Supplement; Liberals’ economic mismanagement; Turnbull’s $65 billion big business tax cut; US trade tariffs and exemption; Labor’s anti-dumping proposal; union campaign on insecure work; minimum wage


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks for coming out to Logan this morning to talk about the reports in the paper about the Energy Supplement.

Labor calls on Malcolm Turnbull to abandon his cruel cuts to the Energy Supplement, which pensioners and carers rely on to deal with rising electricity prices and the cost of living. For two years now, Malcolm Turnbull has been trying to take $1 billion out of the pockets of two million Australians, including 400,000 age pensioners. For a new pensioner, that means a loss of something like $365 for a single pensioner and $550 for a couple. We call on Malcolm Turnbull to abandon this cruel cut to the Energy Supplement.


Throughout this parliamentary term, Labor has been opposing Malcolm Turnbull's efforts to cut the Energy Supplement and so far we've been successful, working with the Senate and with the broader Australian community. But Malcolm Turnbull's inability to pass this measure, to pass this cruel cut, has left a $1 billion hole in his Budget. We call on him to abandon this cruel cut and while he's at it, he should abandon billions of dollars in other cuts to pensions and payments which are propping up the Budget, even though they have very little or no chance of passing the Parliament.


In the case of the pension age being jacked up to 70 years, among the oldest in the developed world, Malcolm Turnbull and Co are not even trying to legislate that measure despite the fact that they've booked a $3.6 billion saving against it. They haven't even tried, since the election more than 18 months ago to legislate that change despite the fact that they are relying on it to prop up their bottom line in the Budget.


Malcolm Turnbull's Budget is one big fiscal fairy tale. For as long as we have these fake savings boosting the bottom line, the Liberal Party's dodgy Budget won't be worth the paper that it's written on. 


These characters are so out of touch and so incompetent, they've managed to find a way to smash the national Budget and household Budgets simultaneously. We have record and growing debt in this country and we have stagnant wages and declining living standards. The deficit for this year is eight times bigger than Joe Hockey predicted in his first Budget in 2014. Net debt has more than doubled from what this Government inherited from its predecessor and gross debt is the highest it's been in this country, well over half-a-trillion dollars and rising with no peak in sight.


The National Accounts showed just last week that we have declining living standards, we have stagnant wages barely keeping up with the cost of living, and we have over the last couple of year a wages share of national income in decline, and a profit share of income growing. So you can see why people are unhappy with the economic mismanagement of Turnbull and Co.


The reason we have record and growing debt is because the Turnbull Government clings to tax concessions which go to those who need them least, and because they have a $65 billion company tax cut, which they cannot guarantee will be invested back into Australian onshore jobs and wages. They can't guarantee that their $65 billion gift to multinationals and big corporations won't just be turned into bigger executive bonuses, or share buybacks, or higher dividends for people who are already doing very well.


Labor has an alternative. We think we should deal with those tax concessions at the top end of the tax system. We think there is a way to repair the Budget in a fair way.


We call on Malcolm Turnbull to abandon his cuts to the energy supplement, to abandon his other cruel cuts, to abandon his $65 billion gift to big multinational corporations and to pick up and run with Labor's sensible tax reforms, which will repair the Budget in a fair way and which won't ask the pensioners and carers of this country to carry the can for Malcolm Turnbull's Budget failures.


JOURNALIST: Do you reckon that Australia has (inaudible) to secure this tariff exemption?


CHALMERS: First of all, we welcome the exemption that has been secured to Donald Trump's extra tariffs on steel and aluminium. We were very supportive of the Government's efforts and we're very positive about the outcome that has been secured here. It remains to be seen what other arrangements have been agreed to. We have no visibility in the Opposition what they might be. We're only aware of course of comments from President Trump and from Malcolm Turnbull. We will await with interest to see if any other arrangements have been made, but we're not aware of them so far. We think that the exemptions that have been secured are a good thing and now's the time to start dealing with the dumping of steel within the domestic market, which threatens businesses and the jobs of our workers. We need to see the Government be as positive about Labor's constructive proposals to increase penalties for dumping, to properly resource the Anti-Dumping Commission, to be as positive about those suggestions as Labor was about the Government's attempts to get this exemption from the steel and aluminium tariffs.


JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull insists that the President's tweet about the agreement refers solely to the paperwork for the exemption and nothing else. Are you confident that's the case?


CHALMERS: That's for Malcolm Turnbull to explain in due course, his comments about any arrangements that might have been struck with the American administration. The exemption is a good thing. We've got a long history of very close engagement with the Americans on military matters, on intelligence matters, right across the board including economic engagement. That's been a good thing for Australia for a long time. If there are other arrangements that have been struck between Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump, then the onus is on Malcolm Turnbull to let the Australian people in on that. Until he does that, or unless he does that, we don't have much that we can say without visibility from the Opposition side.


JOURNALIST: Surely it's only a good thing though if it doesn't come at the expense of movement on some other issue?


CHALMERS: It's difficult for us to speculate from the Labor Opposition federally on the nature of any arrangements that might have been struck. The ball is in Malcolm Turnbull's court to explain any that have been agreed with President Trump. For now, we say that we're pleased with the exemption that has been secured for Australia. Now we need to move on anti-dumping. We need to be vigilant about the impacts of these new tariffs on the global economy. The global economy's in very good nick, but we can't see it threatened by retaliatory measures from around the world, which will impact on Australia as well. But the nature and content of any agreement between President Trump and Malcolm Turnbull is not something that Labor has been involved in, so we would await further information if it's available, when it's available.


JOURNALIST: The ACTU's launching a campaign on insecure work. Is this something that you guys are going to take to the next election?


CHALMERS: Absolutely. One of the defining anxieties of people's lives in the Australian economy is insecure work, precarious work, the impact of things like labour hire, the fact that we have underemployment at or near record highs; people who want more hours but can't find them. We have wages growth at or near record lows; stagnant wages that can't keep up, or can barely keep up with the rising cost of living. I think that the campaign that the union movement has begun today is an absolutely crucial one.


One of the reasons why inequality stalks the developed world, including the Australian economy has been the decline in organised labour. We need to see people joining unions, adding their voice to a collective effort, to make sure people get a fair go at work. That's a crucial part in making sure that Australia continues to be the land of the fair go. I support their efforts wholeheartedly, because unless we deal with insecure and precarious work, then people's experience in the economy will continue to be one where they continue to be living from week to week trying to deal with the cost of living.


JOURNALIST: Will Labor give the Fair Work Commission greater powers to arbitrate between unions and employers?


CHALMERS: The final nature of any commitments we make in that area will be made between now and the next election, but Brendan O'Connor and Bill Shorten and others have made it very clear that the decline in collective bargaining is a very big concern for all of us in the Labor Party and in the broader labour movement. We don't want to see the power relationships at work skewed even more in favour of employers. We want to make sure that people get a fair go at work and a fair go across the country, and that means doing what we can to strengthen the arrangements so that people can bargain for fair outcomes. One of the reasons why we have stagnant wages growth here, and one of the reasons why we have such insecure work is because people's bargaining position at work has been so substantially eroded.


JOURNALIST: And what about the minimum wage? Would Labor legislate for bigger increases to the minimum wage?


CHALMERS: We want to see the minimum wage lifted in a responsible way. We're participating in the Fair Work process at the moment, which is the established process for determining the minimum wage in this country. Other ideas have been floated for how we might go about that, but our focus for the time being is on getting wage justice for the most vulnerable workers in our economy and that means getting a decent minimum wage rise in the next round.


JOURNALIST: So does that mean that you wouldn't legislate then? That's not something on your agenda?


CHALMERS: We'll consider all kinds of ideas proposed to us for how we ensure that the minimum wage keeps pace with the living costs of vulnerable workers in this country, but our focus is on the process immediately ahead of us. If we've got more to say on other matters, on strengthening the arrangements, we'll make those comments in due course.


Thank you.