MONDAY, 20 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/S: $4 billion interest bill on big business tax cuts; Turnbull Government’s energy crisis; Newspoll; multicultural statement
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: We're releasing new calculations today which show that the $50 billion big business tax cut in Malcolm Turnbull's Budget will cost the Australian people an extra $4 billion in interest charges. Malcolm Turnbull is so out of touch that he thinks it's OK to borrow $50 billion to give to big multinationals and the big banks at the expense of ordinary Australians who will be sent the interest bill. It speaks volumes about this Government that after all the lectures about debt and deficit and spiralling interest costs we have a $50 billion big business tax cut in the Budget, which will vandalise the Budget and which will threaten Australia's AAA credit rating. We call on the Government to ditch this $50 billion ram raid on the Budget, to stop sending the Australian people a $4 billion interest bill and to lock in Australia's AAA credit rating. Australians will be furious to learn that they're not just up for the $50 billion that Malcolm Turnbull wants to give to the big banks and the big multinational companies in this country, but Malcolm Turnbull also wants ordinary Australians to foot the interest bill on the $50 billion tax cut.
JOURNALIST: How exactly did you arrive at this interest bill?
CHALMERS: The $4 billion interest bill was calculated using a 2.7 per cent interest rate, which is a very conservative assumption. That's today's interest rates, which don't factor in what most people expect to be higher interest rates into the future. It's a figure over the medium term - the 10-year figure to 2026-27. It's a very conservative estimate; it's likely to be higher than that. But the fact is that when Malcolm Turnbull borrows $50 billion to give to the big banks and multinationals, Australians will be sent a $4 billion interest bill on that tax cut.
JOURNALIST: That Snowy scheme that the PM announced last week - do you think it was worthy of a three-point bounce in the Newspoll?
CHALMERS: When it comes to the energy crisis in this country, we've got prices going up; we've got pollution going up; and we've got jobs disappearing. And in the absence of any national leadership from the Prime Minister, we get this finger-pointing and we get what amounts to really just a feasibility study for something that might happen years down the track. The country's crying out for leadership. Instead we get blame-shifting and finger pointing from the Prime Minister. When it comes to the Newspoll today, anybody who spends time in communities like I do, and like many of us do here, know that Australians are deeply disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Government. Australians know that this is a divided Government, a dysfunctional Government and they know that their Prime Minister is desperately out of touch. We've been raising the things that matter to ordinary Australians - penalty rates; their take-home pay; all of these sorts of things. I'm confident that the Australian people understand that under Malcolm Turnbull, big business gets a tax cut, while low-income workers get their wages cut.
JOURNALIST: And yet Turnbull's personal popularity has risen, while Shorten's has fallen further.
CHALMERS: No rational, objective assessment of that Newspoll would conclude that there's any good news in it for Malcolm Turnbull. Australians have been deeply disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Government for some time now. That is a reflection of their disappointment that Malcolm Turnbull looks after the big end of town at the expense of ordinary working people. He wants to see penalty rates cut at the same time as he wants to shovel $50 billion in the direction of the big banks and multinationals and that will cost Australians an extra $4 billion in interest charges.
JOURNALIST: But how do you explain that disparity in the personal approval ratings? Is Mr Shorten on the nose among voters?
CHALMERS: I'll leave it to you to comb through the ins and outs of each Newspoll. My point is this: Australians understand that this is a deeply divided, dysfunctional, out of touch Government. They know that this Prime Minister stands for the big end of town against the interests of middle Australia; against the interests of people on low incomes. The polls that we've seen for some time now are a reflection that the Prime Minister's priorities are desperately out of whack. The Prime Minister is out of touch with the ordinary needs and aspirations of people who work hard to make a living in this country.
JOURNALIST: Just finally, there's a multicultural statement to be released today. Among its key messages is "obey our laws". Do you agree with that sentiment? Or what sort of message is that sending migrants?
CHALMERS: Of course I do; every Australian has a responsibility to obey our laws. The test of the Government's approach to multiculturalism isn't the document that they release later today. It's their insistence on watering down race hate laws in this country. It is an absurd proposition that at the same time as they want to release a glossy document with all of the nice words, they have a party room that wants to water down important protections against race hate speech. At this time, we need more unity in this country; we need more understanding between people; we need less running down of each other, particularly on the basis of race. What we get instead is a Prime Minister too weak to stand up to his backbench; a Liberal party room going out of its way to water down important protections against people being slammed on the basis of their race.