SKY News Afternoon Agenda 26/7/21

26 July 2021

SUBJECTS: Legislated income tax cuts; negative gearing; Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccine and quarantine; Labor’s policy agenda; JobKeeper.


MONDAY, 26 JULY 2021

SUBJECTS: Legislated income tax cuts; negative gearing; Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccine and quarantine; Labor’s policy agenda; JobKeeper.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's go live to Brisbane now. The Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joins me. Jim Chalmers thanks for your time, is this all about being a small target at the next election?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Kieran, this is all about providing some certainty and some clarity around our positions on tax. We said for much of the last two years that we'd take the time to listen and consult and we'd come forward with a final position on both of these sets of policies well in advance of the election and that's what we've done today. So what it means is for the 9 million plus Australians who earn $45,000 or more they'll get the same tax cut under the Morrison Government as under us, and there's certainty when it comes to the existing negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements as well.

GILBERT: It doesn't remove the risk of being painted as a party, pursuing the politics of envy?

CHALMERS: I think others will make an assessment around the politics of it, I mean, from our point of view what we want to do is focus the economic debate where it's most important, and that's the economic costs and consequences of the Prime Minister getting vaccines and quarantine and JobKeeper wrong, costing the economy $300 million a day and billions of dollars a week, but also whether or not we can do better in this economy after COVID than before, whether we can do better than the eight years of wage stagnation that we've had whether we can create more jobs and better paid secure jobs and more opportunities in more parts of the country. I mean that's what the election will be about. It won't be to re-prosecute last election or any previous election. I think the Australian people want us to look forward rather than back and that's what we're doing.

GILBERT: So, will there be an alternative put up or is it, it won't be just a negative campaign of attacking the government over vaccines or the economic response which you argue is flawed?

CHALMERS: Oh, look I think inevitably Kieran it'll be a mix of both things. I think Australians understand that the reason we're having these lockdowns, which are so costly in the economy is because the Prime Minister didn't do those two jobs - vaccines and quarantine. I think it's just common sense around the rest of Australia that we're paying the price for the Government ending JobKeeper too early. So that will be part of the election campaign obviously. I think the Australian people want us to stand up for them and speak up for them and be on their side when it comes to those issues.

But it will also be about the future. We've already got policies out there, whether it's childcare, reconstruction fund for advanced manufacturing, cleaner and cheaper energy, apprenticeships, government procurement. All these sorts of things which are really crucial to making sure that we can make the economy stronger and more sustainable and more inclusive after COVID than it was before, and the election will be about that too.

GILBERT: Did you personally find it hard to accept this policy outcome, where you wouldn't tinker with the final stage of the tax rates, that 30% flat rate for workers on six figures, you reportedly thought it was offensive?

CHALMERS: Kieran, this was my recommendation to the Shadow Cabinet, to the Caucus, to the Expenditure Review Committee. Indeed in all of the forums that I've participated in recent times I've made it clear that this is my preference. This is in my portfolio and this is the recommendation I made to colleagues. I think everybody understands that these are big, difficult decisions. There are no easy decisions when we're talking about dollars of this magnitude and the various aspects to it. Nobody's pretending that it's an easy decision but it's the right decision. It's why I recommended it. And that's so the country can focus on those big near term challenges and the longer term challenges as well, without necessarily re-prosecuting elections from the past.

GILBERT: So you didn't get rolled on this particular policy issue?

CHALMERS: Of course not Kieran. I think anyone who says that doesn't know what they're talking about. This has been my recommendation in all of the forums that I've participated in. We took our time, as Anthony Albanese said in the press conference today, to listen, to consult with colleagues, to make sure that we are weighing up all the various considerations. We said two years ago when these were legislated, that we would make our view known in advance of the next election. We did that today. That provides some certainty and some clarity when it comes to tax for those 9 million-plus Australians who will be getting a tax cut under a government of either persuasion. Now we can focus on those other issues that matter so much. I mean this is a Government that pretends they're good at managing the economy at the same time as their mistakes are costing the economy $300 million a day in lost activity. So we will contest that robustly. We will contest the future robustly as well. We've already got policies out there to do that and there'll be more to come.

GILBERT: You said that though, just to wrap up on this issue, you said that they were the least responsible and least fair tax cuts. Do you stand by that assessment?

CHALMERS: I'm glad you've given me that opportunity Kieran because I was asked repeatedly two years ago and subsequently to compare the first three stages of the tax cuts, and we made no secret of the fact that stage one and two were our priority. And we made that point all along at the same time as we said that we would weigh up all the various considerations, all the relevant considerations and come to a view, and announce that view before the election. I've done that consultation. I've done that listening. We've made that announcement today, and that's important. 

GILBERT: Now, the Government says the payment in terms of the disaster support at the moment amid lockdown is the same level it was as what it was in the December quarter of last year with JobKeeper. Why does it have to be a JobKeeper framework?

CHALMERS: Well we've been really constructive on this front Kieran, we've said for some time if you don't want to call it JobKeeper, you want to call it something else so be it, but reintroduce the most important aspects of JobKeeper - the level of support, as it was at the beginning; the proper guarantee that there'll be a link maintained between employer and employee that's important too; but also bring back JobKeeper without the rorts, and with proper eligibility for people doing a tough. I think that's just common sense now Kieran. If you look at the period of the last few months, we said the Government was withdrawing JobKeeper too early. Unfortunately we've proven to be 100% right in that regard. The business community, the union movement, the Liberal State Government, the Labor State Opposition in New South Wales, really right around the country people just think it's common sense to bring back JobKeeper or something like it, which maintains those important elements, but doesn't maintain all the rorting and all of the exclusions which bedeviled the first version of JobKeeper So, I mean I think the Government has to go there at some point they should just get on with it. The only reason they're not doing that is because it will be absolutely humiliating for them to do so, having patted themselves on the back right around the country for cutting JobKeeper, declaring victory over this economic and health crisis prematurely without getting the vaccines and the quarantine and the support arrangements right and the whole of Australia is paying the price for that right now but especially people in small businesses doing it tough in locked down communities. 

GILBERT: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joining me live from Brisbane, appreciate your time. Thanks. 

CHALMERS: Thanks Kieran.