Government leaks about Budget advertising

19 April 2016


SUBJECT/S: Government leaks about Budget advertising

BILL WOODS: There you go, Paul Murray talking about the leak of these commercials that we are led to believe will take place after the May 3 Budget. They include references to crackdowns on superannuation tax concessions and crackdowns on multinational tax avoidance. Jim Chalmers, the Labor Party's financial spokesperson has had a bit of fun with this today and what it might mean for the Government. Good afternoon, Jim.


WOODS: I'm fine thank you. Thanks for your time. Now, I've said you had a bit of fun with this. You've referred to it as humiliating; on what grounds?

CHALMERS: We have had a bit of fun with it, but it's a very serious issue. The Treasurer of Australia can't even survive the first day of an election campaign without being humiliated by this leak. It's very clear that somebody close to the Treasurer or at least somebody in the know has spent the first day of the election campaign trying to sabotage his Budget. And that just shows that people on the inside have the same opinion of Scott Morrison that many of your listeners would have -- they don't take him very seriously, they don't think he's very good and they don't want him to be Treasurer any more.

WOODS: It's interesting that there would be an ad campaign, clearly devised for an election before the Budget is even released and before we have even had the confirmation of a double dissolution. Now, I know that Malcolm Turnbull has given a date today and confirmed that there will be a double dissolution request, but it just seems strange that would have been mapped out so soon.

CHALMERS: I think the Australian people are pretty angry, or will be pretty angry when they find out that the Government intends to use taxpayer dollars to fund their election advertising. That's highly unusual. Of course, in more normal times, Governments advertise different policy initiatives, but it's highly unethical and highly unusual what the Government is planning to do here which is to pile millions of dollars of taxpayer money into election ads that will air after a Budget but before an election that has already been called.

WOODS: Clearly Paul Murray, you know, has got his own sources and there's no way in the world he's going to reveal those and he has been a pretty responsible reporter of news over the years so he would have treated this thing on its merits. Have you done any of your own investigation into where this leak might have come from or how serious it is?

CHALMERS: We gave the Government multiple opportunities today to say that the leak wasn't real or to say that the leak didn't come from the highest levels of the Government. They weren't able to do that. I think everybody in Canberra and probably right around the country who knows anything about these things would understand that information of this type is held really tightly. So if it does find its way into the public domain, it's usually a very deliberate act by somebody who is trying to sabotage Scott Morrison, which is a real symbol of the chaos and dysfunction and division which is right at the core of the Turnbull Government.

WOODS: So these leaks can come from anywhere as we know and any level as well. Do you think it's a bureaucratic leak that might have been sanctioned from a Minister or vice versa?

CHALMERS: I think it's for the Treasurer Scott Morrison to explain where this has come from. He's been unable to do so today. He's also been unable to say that they won't proceed with millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded election ads. We gave him multiple opportunities to do both of those things today to clarify the situation. It's very clear by his reluctance to do so, to clear it up, that the Government does intend to proceed with these election ads funded by your listeners. And it's also very clear that he has been humiliated by somebody in the know, somebody who has information about the Budget that the Australian people don't have.

WOODS: The fact that it would be paid for by the taxpayer aside, the actual content, as released by Paul Murray last night, contains a couple of tid-bits that I think would go down pretty well with the electorate, don't you think? I mean a crackdown on superannuation tax concessions and multinational tax avoidance, that would pretty much be universally popular.

CHALMERS: Well the choice that people will have at the election, as I'm sure you'd appreciate, is that we've had policies in those areas out for some cases for more than a year. So we've had carefully costed, calibrated, configured policies out there well in advance of an election. The only reason we know the Government might be interested in these general policy areas is because somebody leaked a television script. I think it says it all. It's five minutes to midnight in an election campaign year and the only thing we know about any type of agenda from the Government is via this leak. I think that's laughable. They're trying to show people around the country, your listeners, they're trying to pretend that they care about multinational tax avoidance and superannuation tax concessions when in reality, they've spent the last two-and-a-half years resisting our efforts to clean them up.

WOODS: Interesting development. Jim Chalmers, thank you very much for your time.

CHALMERS: Thanks for your time.