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Posted December 09, 2016

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks for coming everybody. Well just days after one of the worst economic results we have seen in a long time in Australia, as the Government is at war with itself on climate change and carbon pricing, we had the news that under Scott Morrison the biggest priority: he is commissioning a report by the Treasury from an academic who is well-known as an opponent, an ideological opponent of the Rudd Government’s stimulus package.

A cursory look through the record shows that Tony Makin first attacked the Labor Government’s stimulus package in October 2008. And he has done so on seven separate occasions in writing since then, most recently in 2014 when he did so the Treasury under Dr. Parkinson, the now Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, released a stinging rebuke of Professor Makin’s work pointing out its errors.

Now it is appropriate of course that the Treasury contributes to academic debates and discussions about economics, but let's call this as it is; this is just the latest in a long line of ideological attacks by somebody who simply does not support the fact that sometimes Governments need to intervene and stimulate the economy.

Now this morning I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury asking for further information about how and why this report came about, asking how and why it was released. I note it was only put up on the Treasury website a few minutes ago despite the fact that it was released to some newspapers apparently yesterday which is not normally the way Treasury reports are released. So there are questions to answer here and particularly under Scott Morrison it says it all: that the biggest priority is not the challenge facing the Australian economy today. The biggest priority is not working out what to do about climate change and carbon pricing. Under Scott Morrison the biggest priority is playing politics about the actions of the previous Labor Government.

Now let's be very clear during the Global Financial Crisis; Labor acted, and it worked. The OECD has called the Labor Government's actions as being appropriate for the time. It has been described as one of the best designed and implemented stimulus packages in the world at the time. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out that it was one of the best designed packages for the times. So we are happy to debate the actions of the previous Labor Government and I am happy to do that anytime, but I am actually happier to debate the lack of action by this Government and Australia's future, not it's past. And that is the debate that I would rather the Treasurer be engaged in. He refused to turn up when the 7.30 Report invited both him and I on earlier in the week to talk about the economic figures for a debate. He refuses to debate the future of Australia, he is only interested in raking of the coals of the past. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: So what is your plan then to fix the slowing economy?

BOWEN: Well we have plans to obviously improve investment in education, to improve investment in the NBN which is vital for Australia’s economic future and to ensure appropriate investments in Australia’s infrastructure. The other thing we are going to do is not embark on a $50 billion corporate tax cut. The other thing we are going to do is reform negative gearing and capital gains tax and we have a whole series of policy announcements which we will be making throughout the course of the next year.

JOURNALIST: Can I turn to a different matter? Out of all the States and Territories only the ACT and the Northern Territory support South Australia’s call for a state-based ETS. Does that suggest that it is in fact a bad idea?

BOWEN: Well I think it is perfectly understandable that Premier Weatherill is, in the absence of federal leadership by the Prime Minister or his Environment Minister, looking for alternatives. Now I don't think state-based systems are the future of carbon pricing. I think that the national system is the appropriate way forward but I completely understand and welcome Jay Weatherill’s contribution to the debate. But what we really need is national leadership.

JOURNALIST: So what do you make of the report by Alan Finkel about the ETS?

BOWEN: Well again, I mean this is extraordinary. The fact that the Government has had this report, didn't release it and the report shows very clearly the view of the Chief Scientist of Australia about the most appropriate and efficient way of reducing carbon emissions in the future and the Government has ignored it and sat on it. Now Labor went to the last election with an electricity scheme based on the recommendations of the Australian Energy Market Organisation, it was a good policy and now Josh Frydenberg to his credit said that this was something to be considered going forward and it lasted less than 24 hours as the Prime Minister caved in his normal craven fashion to the Cory Bernardi’s of the world because he could not stand 24 hours more of a mature and sensible discussion about what climate policy looks like in Australia. I mean it sums up this Prime Minister and this Prime Ministership. What is the point of Malcolm Turnbull? There is none as Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about other questions too please? Can you tell me do you welcome the Federal Government’s $117 million homelessness package proposed at COAG?

BOWEN: Well look obviously we will look through the detail. Any contribution, any improved contribution to homelessness is very welcome. I haven't had the opportunity to look at the announcement in great detail but if there is a greater contribution and a greater focus on homelessness from the Federal Government of course we would welcome that. I imagine Doug Cameron will have more to say about that but obviously we want to see the Federal leadership on the issue of housing affordability more broadly. The Treasurer has been totally absent from the housing affordability debate because he refuses for his own reasons to embrace sensible reforms like negative gearing, but if this package from the Federal Government stacks up then of course we welcome it.

JOURNALIST: Chris Bowen, WA will be pushing at COAG for a gas reservations scheme in Australia. Is that something that you would support?

BOWEN: Well we went to the last election with a national interest policy on gas, I think that is the right balance. Western Australian at a state level has a gas reservation scheme. I think our national interest test which is the policy we developed ensures in an appropriately designed way that gas is extracted in Australia’s national interest and gets the balance right between the needs of the domestic manufactures because it is a very very important issue, the access to appropriatly priced gas for Australia’s manufacturing sector. Of course it is good that LNG gets exported but we've got to ensure as well that we get the balance right.

JOURNALIST: Gun control is also in the news. Do you think that the Adler shotgun should be placed under category D for professional use only?

BOWEN: What I think is that the strictest possible restrictions should be put in place and I think it is absolutely outrageous, absolutely outrageous that the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and the Nationals as Members of the Parliament take a different view to the Government on this matter. I mean when it comes to gun control there should be a unity ticket between Labor, Liberal and the Nationals. That was the way under John Howard and I think Barnaby Joyce has shown an utter lack of leadership when it comes to this.

All covered? Great thanks very much.

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