Sky News AM Agenda (24)

09 March 2017



SUBJECT/S: Turnbull Government risking AAA credit rating; $50 billion big business tax cut; Coalition’s energy shambles; Pauline Hanson’s damaging anti-vaccination comments


KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now from Brisbane is Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers. Jim Chalmers, thanks very much for your time. First of all, your reaction to Mr Teehan and also the Prime Minister is going to be making this point as well shortly, a renewed call for bipartisanship on the economic front.


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: If the Prime Minister was serious about locking in Australia's AAA credit rating, he wouldn't be giving a $50 billion tax cut to the biggest businesses, including $7 billion to our four biggest banks. The AAA credit rating matters a great deal to Australia and if we lose it under the Liberals, it will smash confidence and will push mortgage repayments up. Labor secured that AAA credit rating from all three rating agencies when we were last in Government. If it's lost by Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves. They've tripled the deficit for this year, they've blown out net debt by more than $100 billion. It's time that they took responsibility for that debacle and it's time that they spent more of their time and energy, instead of blaming Labor for the mess they've made of the Budget, they should be adopting some of the sensible alternative proposals that we've put on the table and they should ditch that $50 billion tax cut. That would do more than anything else to lock in the AAA credit rating.


GILBERT: On the AAA credit rating though, can I ask you as someone who's obviously worked in this space for a long time now - does it really matter as much as it used to in the sense well, first of all the ratings agencies, aren't they diminished in the wake of recent news in the appalling lack of intervention in the lead up to the subprime mortgage crisis that led to the GFC?


CHALMERS: Even if you agree with that point of view - I don't necessarily - but even if you did agree with that, it's still the case that a lot of the prices that are set in the international financial community are based on credit ratings like these and if Australia was to lose the AAA, it would have the very real prospect of pushing up mortgage repayments because the banks would be downgraded as well. And more importantly, and less tangibly or less predictably, it would have an impact on confidence in this country as well, business and consumer confidence. So if it's lost by Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, they need to have a very good hard look at themselves because there are options on the table, proposed by Labor to lock in that AAA credit rating, including ditching that big business tax cut, which sees $7 billion flow needlessly to the four big banks.


GILBERT: The huge structural issue in this country right now beyond the Budget is the energy system, I think most people would agree with that right now. It's a debacle really and it's leading to higher costs and we're seeing this from the Energy Council today and the Government hoping that it will be able to have a national plan in place, obviously not before time, but it does mean the states will need to get on board. 


CHALMERS: I think the Energy Council intervention today was a pretty important one. They have pointed to the costs of the Turnbull Government's policy shambles on energy. But if we step back from the political debate, the political argument, three facts are true in the last few years of the Abbott-Turnbull Government: we've seen pollution go up, we've seen prices go up, we've seen jobs lost. Anyone who looks at that combination of those three pretty worrying trends knows that the policies, or lack of policies, from the Turnbull Government is a real problem for Australia. We want to see that policy shambles rectified. We've proposed an emissions intensity scheme, as you know. We've also made some proposals as they relate to the gas market. We want to work together with anyone who wants to see this situation resolved. We want the Government to stop ignoring expert opinion...


GILBERT: Should the states also cooperate in a national plan, as opposed to going off on their own with sometimes much more ambitious renewable energy targets?


CHALMERS: Everybody needs to cooperate to fix this mess that has arisen in the last two years, that's true. But what we really need to see is the Turnbull Government stop prioritising politics over the national interest when it comes to the energy market. They spend all of their time trying to blame others for this shambles. The Energy Council today has shown what the cost of that politicking has been and the lack of a national plan from the Federal Government has been. We need to get on with it in the interests of the Australian people.


GILBERT: I want to ask you about the comments of Pauline Hanson. She's apologised in part for her remarks in relation to vaccination, admitting there is not a test which can test if children will have an adverse reaction, but not apologising for her broader message for parents to get advice. What do you make of this?


CHALMERS: This was a terribly damaging intervention by Pauline Hanson. You just despair when you see that sort of ill-informed commentary. I agree with Dan Tehan, who you had on just a moment ago: vaccination is absolutely critical. We want to see our kids vaccinated. The commentary that Pauline Hanson injected into the national political debate the other day did untold damage. It breathed new life into the anti-vaccination movement. That's a real obstacle to the progress that's being made. We don't need that sort of ill-informed commentary. We want to see our kids vaccinated in everybody's interest.


GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, appreciate your time.