Sky News AM Agenda (25)

23 March 2017



SUBJECT/S: London attack; Turnbull Government’s $50 billion big business tax cut; child care changes; Malcolm Turnbull’s family payments cuts


KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now is Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers and Jim, another terrible attack this time at the Houses of Westminster.


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Kieran, I think for so many Australians who've been to London, many of them if not most of them have spent time around Westminster Bridge and around the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, so they probably feel some kind of personal connection to this. I think if you're looking for some sort of assurance or some sort of support out of what's happened, it's the fact that when it all went down, so many people ran towards the scene to help out.  And the stories that are emerging now are really inspiring stories - stories about doctors and nurses running from the hospital to help treat others; ordinary people who, when most of their human instincts would tell them to run in the other direction, ran towards the people who needed help. So I think that's really quite an amazing thing. And London's a really resilient city. I was there in 2005, a couple of streets away from one of the main sites of the tube bombing and one of the things that really struck me about that period was how quickly London got back on its feet. So they'll do whatever they need to do – Prime Minister May and the Government will do what they need to do – to learn any lessons. And if there are lessons to be learned from it for Australia, we'll be part of that conversation too.


GILBERT: Indeed, well said. Let's move on to the issue of company tax cuts, because the Government's not going to get it all through. I'll ask you what I've asked members of the Government this morning as well - could this be a blessing in disguise for the Government in the sense they get to add an additional $40 billion to their bottom line but still have a very potent political message to small business saying "you're being looked after"?


CHALMERS: The first thing to note Kieran, is that the Government's not saying that they think it's a bad idea to take $50 billion out of hospitals and schools and give it to big business; they're saying they're unable to do it. So they still want to do it, that's the first point. But I think if they do ditch these big business tax cuts, it will be the final humiliation for Scott Morrison and he's a guy who's pretty routinely humiliated in this building and around the country. He's been given a choice - he can either keep the tax cuts or he can keep his credibility and he's found a way really to smash both. He's unable to confirm that they're in; he's unable to confirm that they're out. The Australian people need to know what's happening here. But the Government still wants to do that massive redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction. They still want to give $50 billion to big banks and big multinational corporations and we oppose that. 


GILBERT: Is there a risk that you'd have a distortion though, even if you came in at your level of $2 million turnover, which is where Labor wants the definition of a small business, or the $10 million. By having two different tax rates, does it risk a distorting of the way that businesses operate? That it might provide an incentive for example for a medium-sized business to break itself up into three or four separate entities.


CHALMERS: Wherever you draw the line in the tax system, that has impacts on how people behave, of course. But we've always supported a tax cut for legitimately small businesses up to $2 million as you say. We think that's a good thing. You have to draw the line somewhere. The Government drew the line at the biggest multinationals and the Government was saying they wanted to give $7 billion to the big four banks. That's clearly inappropriate. They should dump these big business tax cuts. When they do, it will be humiliating for the Treasurer.


GILBERT: And finally on the child care changes, obviously you and I both know it's quite expensive, childcare, with two young children each. In that sense, do you support support for those on low and middle incomes? Because this package from the Government looks like it's been designed by the Labor Party in some respects, because it's really targeting the low to middle end.


CHALMERS: Not quite. The current child care package has a couple of flaws. Of course we support more and better investment in child care. Child care's one of the big challenges we face in the country – in getting people into the work force. But the issue with this package that the Government has is it doesn't guarantee the minimum two days for disadvantaged kids - that's a real problem. There are also issues around mobile care and also indigenous kids. So we think that improvements can be made to the child care package and we want to see those improvements made so that we can support the package.


GILBERT: And what about the overall saves? The Government's made some compromise, you didn't support those either in terms of the freezing of the family payments, but it's obviously much softer than the Government initially intended, so why didn't Labor back it?


CHALMERS: I don't think it is soft. It's a resurrection of the worst aspects of the 2014 Abbott-Hockey Budget. It's taking $1.4 billion out of the pockets of 1.5 million families. That's a cruel cut that we can't support. We shouldn't be robbing disadvantaged families up and down the low-income scale. We shouldn't be doing that to pay for the child care package. And we've said that since the beginning. In the Senate last night, on one side you had the Labor Party standing up for families and on the other side you had the Liberals and One Nation not just taking money out of families' pockets, but also supporting cuts to low-income earners’ pay as well.


GILBERT: Shadow Finance Minister, we're out of time. Appreciate it, Jim Chalmers. We'll talk to you soon.