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Budget omnibus, NDIS, corporate tax, RET

Posted February 16, 2017

DAVID SPEERS: With me now, the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen. A very good afternoon to you. Thanks for joining us.


SPEERS: Is there anything in the Omnibus Bill that Labor actually support?

BOWEN: By enlarge, no. There are one or two, some minor matters which we will refer to a Senate Committee and have a look at but –

SPEERS: Would you know what they are?

BOWEN: There’s a couple of matters there which we will keep an open mind on – we have concerns but we will see what comes out of the Senate enquiry. For example we are dead against one of the changes to pensions, about pensioners going overseas. That’s a new matter here and we will see what comes through the Senate.

SPEERS: That’s where you can only spend six weeks out of the country before…

BOWEN: There’s a matter of pensioner supplement. We will take some advice, we will do some consultation through the Senate process – that’s one example. But by enlarge, in terms of the Omnibus Savings Bill – no. And we’ve been through a lot of these measures from the 2014 Budget. I mean these are not new measures. We’ve been down this road. You and I have done countless interviews on them, we understand them, we know what they are.

SPEERS: Some of them have softened a bit this time though…

BOWEN: Not very much…

SPEERS: Your fortnightly family payments will go up a little bit, and you lose the end of year supplement, doesn’t that make it a little bit…?

BOWEN: No, we’ve been through this. What we could support in this space, we did through the other Omnibus Savings Bill that went through last year which you will recall is bipartisan, between the Government and us, it was a good process and I give due credit to the Government, it was negotiated in good faith. We negotiated in good faith. We supported what we thought we could as good policy, we won’t support these cuts. They are harsh, unfair, and they are not new.

SPEERS: But do you accept that the welfare bill is ever increasing? It’s got to be reined in.

BOWEN: I accept that there’s a case for obviously always monitoring the welfare bill and ensuring that it’s appropriately targeted. We’ve done that in office. We got rid of the baby bonus against the squeals of the Liberal Party. Remember Joe Hockey?

SPEERS: Well there’s got to be more than what you’ve previously done. When you look at the trajectory it’s still on. What about the energy supplements for example, they were tied to the carbon tax. It’s long gone. Why do you need to keep those?

BOWEN: Well David, you might have noticed but the Government is talking about rising energy costs. I mean we are talking about some of Australia’s most vulnerable people. We are talking about people on very low incomes. Aged pensioners, and people on incomes below that.

SPEERS: But the regular payments go up with CPI, and then there’s additional carbon tax compensation…

BOWEN: The clean energy supplement in the other omnibus savings bill, we supported taking that off where it wasn’t primary income so where it is supplementary income, difficult decision but it’s probably justified. But this is the primary income of people. People rely on this, it’s what they live on. And energy prices are going up, and these are not wealthy people. So are we really saying as a nation that this is something that we can’t afford anymore? To give aged pensioners support to pay their energy bills? No we don’t think that’s appropriate. We will oppose that all the way.

SPEERS: How will you pay for the NDIS? The growth in costs there?

BOWEN: Well this is the Liberal myth isn’t it, the Liberal lie. I mean Scott Morrison was coming close to denying we put the Medicate levy up during Question Time. I mean it happened. David it’s a fact. I was here when it happened.

SPEERS: But it didn’t cover the full cost…

BOWEN: We did other things as well. We changed the indexation of excise on tobacco. We made other changes it wasn’t just one measure. We paid for the NDIS. And it is just fundamentally dishonest for the Liberals to claim otherwise. And the other point is if they do have concerns about Budget sustainability, drop the corporate tax cut, $50 billion dollars.

SPEERS: But they still say there’s not enough money there for the NDIS. And Scott Morrison challenged you in Parliament this afternoon, saying it was part of your plan to continue the freeze on the GP rebate.

BOWEN: He got that wrong. What we did is align the MBS indexation to the start of the financial year. That was the measure. He called it the continuation. He’s got it wrong. I don’t know if he misunderstands or is deliberately misleading, he’s got it wrong.

SPEERS: So simply changing…

BOWEN: November to July. November to July. It was one change. It was not a continuation. He extends it out for years and says, or they’ve changed it from November to July, it’s okay to freeze it for years. Well no. We thought it was sensible to align it with the financial year.

SPEERS: Ok but just on this point, I mean yes you said there were things that would pay for the NDIS and they have passed, like the tobacco excise increase, superannuation reform, but are you sitting here saying there was enough in the kitty to pay for the NDIS.

BOWEN: Yes. The NDIS was funded by us. And not just for the immediate future, for the long term future as well. Now sure, I completely accept that the NDIS is being rolled out, and people with profound and severe disabilities are receiving support, the Government has to keep monitoring that. But we made the provision. And it is fundamentally dishonest for Scott Morrison to claim otherwise.

SPEERS: On company tax cuts you’re saying now is not the time to cut them, we can’t afford it, but there’s as the PM rightly pointed out there’s you, Bill Shorten and others are on the record arguing the productivity and jobs benefits of company tax cuts.

BOWEN: What was happening then? Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison were voting against company tax cuts. I mean if we want to have the hypocrisy argument, let’s have it. I mean Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull can’t live in a glass house and say, oh you once personally supported company tax cuts. You were voting against it at the time. Now you’ve changed position. You’ve changed position. They’ve changed position.

SPEERS: Now it was a smaller cut to the carbon tax.

BOWEN: Yes it was modest. No it wasn’t tied to the carbon tax. It was more modest.

SPEERS: It was the mining tax.

BOWEN: Yes part of the package.

SPEERS: They didn’t support the mining tax.

BOWEN: But the fundamental issue is they voted against corporate tax cut. And what we say. And I make myself very clear. It’s not a matter of ideology for me. It’s not. I completely accept yes, in a perfect world is lower corporate tax better than a high corporate tax? Sure! But we don’t live in a perfect world. We have debt.

SPEERS: We do live in a competitive world as the Reserve Bank Governor points out. We live in a competitive world where the US, the British, the French are lowering their company tax cuts, their company tax rates.

BOWEN: Well the Governor actually said we have to keep an eye on competitiveness. I said similar things. He said you have to have a fiscal buffer. I agree. He said you have to invest more in infrastructure. That’s right. I mean for Scott Morrison to claim the Governor gave some ringing endorsement to his particular plan, is not particularly accurate. I have great respect for the Governor. Let’s quote him correctly if we are going to quote him, Treasurer. And the fact of the matter is governments have choices. And priorities. Now Scott Morrison is out there telling all and sundry newspapers today that he’s going to put taxes up. Well there’s a way to avoid putting taxes up. Don’t cut corporate tax.

SPEERS: So you’re saying if we don’t get these spending cuts through we will have to look at other spending cuts or tax increases…

BOWEN: The vast majority of those aren’t going to get through. He’s doing what he always does. He does two things when he can’t get something through. First comes the tantrum, and then comes the threat. He’s having a tantrum that he can’t get it through the Senate. He announced the package with what appears to be no consultation with the crossbench. His office spinning that it was some great triumph on behalf of the Treasurer. He’d obviously done no work with the crossbench. He can’t get it through, has a tantrum. And now he does the threat. The threat in this instance is to increase taxes on ordinary Australians. There’s choices to be made. The pathetic irony of arguing for tax increases while saying ‘but we are going to put corporate tax down’ seems to escape this bloke.

SPEERS: What about the Renewable Energy Target? You heard Bill Shorten, on radio this morning I’m sure, unable to say what it would cost. Are you able to say what it would cost?

BOWEN: Well what we have is two Labor policies. There’s the Renewable Energy Target and there’s the goal of getting 50 per cent renewable energy. Now the 50 per cent renewable energy is underpinned by a range of policy measures including for example the electricity trading scheme which we announced at the last election which would have no impact on electricity prices. No impact at all, which has been independently verified.

SPEERS: Hold on. Are you saying that there’s a difference between the goal and the Renewable Energy Target?

BOWEN: Well there’s a renewable energy target, and then we have the 50 per cent aspiration which is separate to our renewable energy target.

SPEERS: Hang on, this sounds like an important nuance.

BOWEN: There’s nothing new here. You asked about the renewable energy target. And I don’t want to mislead you, I’m very careful that I’m answering the correct question.

SPEERS: Your colleague Mark Butler does refer to it as the 50 per cent renewable energy target.

BOWEN: But there’s the RET, I’m very precise with you intentionally, there’s the RET and there’s also our policy on renewable energy. The RET is a policy initiative in and of itself. Ok it’s a policy lever. And then you’ve got our objective of getting to 50 per cent renewable energy which has other policy levers underneath it.

SPEERS: Objective sounds a lot, lot softer.

BOWEN: Well it’s further out, isn’t it, than the Renewable Energy Target.

SPEERS: Well it’s 2030, so it’s 13 years away.

BOWEN: So it’s further out. So. But we have a range, again, there’s nothing new here, what I’m saying is entirely consistent with what Mark Butler said during the election campaign.

SPEERS: So to be fair, you’re saying objective, goal, he’s saying target.

BOWEN: Well if you want to talk about the 50%, which is, I think I was trying to be clear which one you were asking me about. If you want to talk about, independent analysis has shown that it will create 28,000 jobs and create billions of dollars of new investment.


SPEERS: How many jobs would be lost?

BOWEN: Well that's net. My understanding is. But that's the cost. If you're talking about costs, it has benefits. The government of course has objectives that they've signed up to under Paris, the same which we support, now that has a cost as well. They say what's the cost of Labor's, well what's the cost of, what's their policy to reach the Paris objective. If they're going to go to Paris and big note themselves and say we sign on too. What's their policy?

SPEERS: Well that's coming they say in the Finkel review process that will be underway in the coming months. Just to be clear, do you know the costs to households of 50% renewable energy?

BOWEN: Im making the point David that under the 50% objective, there are a range of policy initiatives, including if you're talking about the cost to households, we're talking about electricity, and there is no impact on electricity prices, because what you do is where you have an electricity generator who is not meeting their targets they have a price to pay, and where they are exceeding their targets they get a benefit.

SPEERS: So it’s not necessarily a 50% RET in other words?

BOWEN: That's what im saying to you. We do have a RET policy, and we also have as we've always been very clear about is a 50% policy beyond the RET.

SPEERS: And no net impact to the Budget?

BOWEN: No net impact to electricity prices.

SPEERS: What about the Budget?

BOWEN: Well the net impact of the electricity scheme cancels each other out.

SPEERS: What about the Budget?

BOWEN: Not of that particular measure no, that's right. We've said we would continue to consult on the finer details of what we are talking about, on what is as you say many years away.

SPEERS: So you are saying we can get to 50%, with no net impact on power prices and no net impact on the budget?

BOWEN: I'm pointing out to you we've got the RET, then you've got the 50% objective which is separate, and the government tried to run a scare campaign on the electricity trading scheme, and I'm saying there's no impact on electricity prices out of that policy we took to the last election and again the impact of that cancels each other out, that's right.

SPEERS: And no net impact on the Budget?

BOWEN: That's right.

SPEERS: Alright. And that's been modelled by someone?

BOWEN: Again we took this policy to the last election David and we had all our costings, PBO, independent verification through our costings panel. I mean this is not new, this is not new.

SPEERS: Shadow Treasurer thank you very much for joining us.

BOWEN: Great pleasure David.




MEDIA CONTACT:             JAMES CULLEN (BOWEN) 0409 719 879

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