Sky News AM Agenda (38)

01 March 2018



SUBJECT/S: Liberals’ $65 billion big business tax cut; Australia-China relations; Michaelia Cash’s disrespectful comments

KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program now, the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers. Thanks for your company. First to the Government's argument on company tax cuts that we, as a nation according to these numbers put out by Mathias Cormann will fall within the G20 from 5th to 12th in terms of competitiveness. Is that a worry?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: I think the Government's getting more and more desperate about these big business tax cuts. I think that they've finally realised that they are becoming a real symbol in the community of a Government that's really out of touch and has out-of-whack priorities. They are working out finally that the broader community thinks it isn't an especially good idea to give $65 billion to big multinational corporations paid for by cuts to schools and hospitals and higher income taxes for workers.


GILBERT: In relation to your call for equality, though, the Government's also pointed to Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary in the United States, who says 70 per cent of their tax cuts will flow to workers. Mr Turnbull says the same thing can be said here.


CHALMERS: There's been other analysis done in the United States. There was a very interesting article in The New York Times in the last week or so about just how wrong those sorts of assumptions are about how much will be passed on to workers. Even the Australian Treasury's own analysis says that the benefits will be negligible and will be felt way down the track - 10 and 20 years' time away - and that's our own Treasury. So I think we have to take these sorts of comparisons that have been released with a grain of salt. Take, for example, that graph that was in Jacob Greber's story in the Financial Review, which was based on Mathias Cormann's claims. It doesn't take into account the most recent US tax cuts, but what it shows is, up to 2017 - and remember the growth in the American economy really started taking off during the Obama administration - and on that graph it's got an effective rate for American companies of 35 per cent compared to 27 per cent for Australian companies - an eight percentage point difference. And the American economy really started to gallop despite having an effective rate of 35 per cent. And what that tells us, and what businesses tell us privately, is that companies and investors make their decisions based on a whole range of factors, not just taxes.


GILBERT: But that's part of it. Are you worried that we'll lose investment, lose capital as a part of this? Because it is mobile, it can shift.


CHALMERS: Australia is an extraordinarily attractive investment destination and I'm not especially worried that will change. Businesses and investors make decisions based on the quality of the workforce, the quality of the infrastructure, the stability of the regulations, all of these sorts of things. And our priority, when we don't exactly have lots of money sloshing around in the Budget, our priority is invest in people, invest in productivity in the economy, to grow it that way and that's how we get the inclusive growth that we need.


GILBERT: Doesn't it also, the tax cuts, because the business community argue and have been stepping up that argument via Jennifer Westacott and other key players in that field, they're saying that actually will drive productivity through reinvestment of the revenue.


CHALMERS: Obviously big business in this country is going to argue for a tax cut. We don't begrudge them that. That's entirely understandable. That's fine. But the case made by the BCA, or by Scott Morrison and others, doesn't sufficiently address our three really big concerns about this $65 billion tax cut. It's unfair because it comes at the expense of middle Australia. It's unwise because Treasury says there won't be much growth and it'll be down the track. And it's unaffordable because we've got record and growing debt.


GILBERT: On to China, there's been suggestion that there's been some sort of diplomatic rift. Not so, says the Minister this morning, Craig Laundy, who says that's not the case; that the Prime Minister was never planning to go in March at the ASEAN meeting in Sydney; that this is misplaced concern about China reacting badly about recent developments on the South China Sea and so on. That'd be positive if that's the reality?


CHALMERS: It would be positive. It's hard for us to know from Opposition. We all read those kinds of reports with interest and with concern. But it's really something for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to explain. I think more broadly, Australia has every right just like China has every right to stand up for their own values and interests. The most important thing as we go about that is that we don't get into the unnecessary inflammatory or exaggerated language like when Barnaby Joyce said that China was worse than ISIS. We need to make sure we're very measured and very careful with the relationship and we don't go about it in a ham-fisted way.


GILBERT: And finally I want to ask you about Michaelia Cash. The defence this morning from Ministers and Craig Laundy was very strong on this, that you need to look at the context of the overall discussion that Doug Cameron was creating innuendo about Senator Cash's staff when she said "don't go down this path" because this is where we end up. That's what the reality was. According to Mr Laundy, who have to look at the whole situation.


CHALMERS: That is just hopeless. We had Craig Laundy say that it was all Labor's fault. We had Mathias Cormann say a few minutes ago, about Michaelia Cash who's made these outrageous comments, we have Mathias Cormann describe her as outstanding. Michaelia Cash's comments weren't outstanding, they were outrageous. They were a disgraceful slur on some of the most talented and dedicated and intelligent and extraordinary people that you will come across in any workplace.


GILBERT: Senator Cameron, according to the Liberals, was creating innuendo himself.


CHALMERS: No, Senator Cameron is rightly questioning Michaelia Cash about her role in misleading the Senate, tipping off the media about the AFP raids on the AWU, and if Michaelia Cash had clean hands on this front, she would've fronted up to Estimates last night and she didn't. She went missing. If Malcolm Turnbull's language about respecting women in the workplace is to have any meaning, he needs to ensure that Michaelia Cash comes out and apologises unreservedly and immediately.


GLIBERT: Mr Chalmers, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.