18 June 2018
Transcript - #2018112, 2018

Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

Subjects: Tax relief for working Australians; Enterprise Tax Plan; Treasury costings of Labor's retiree tax revenue; ABC; Clive Palmer.

SABRA LANE:

We're joined now by the Treasurer Scott Morrison, good morning and welcome to the program.

TREASURER:

G'day, Sabra.

LANE:

Will the Government put both these tax packages to Parliament this week?

TREASURER:

Yes.

LANE:

What happens if they're both rejected?

TREASURER:

Well, we'll see what happens over the course of this fortnight but the Government continues to prosecute our case enthusiastically and passionately because we believe two things. We believe that Australians should pay lower taxes and all Australians who work hard and pay taxes should get tax relief and we believe Australian businesses should be more competitive and have competitive tax rates so they can keep investing and create more jobs. That's why we're doing it.

LANE:

If Parliament rejects both of these packages, will the Super Saturday of by-elections next month become a referendum on the tax packages?

TREASURER:

Well, Labor has to decide whether they're for lower taxes or higher taxes. And clearly, their $200 billion and more in higher taxes suggest that they're for higher taxes because they're for higher spending. So, they'll have to argue that case in these by-elections and at the next election. But we're for a more competitive economy, a stronger economy, an economy where people who work hard get to keep more of what they earn.

LANE:

And to the point of the question, will it become a referendum on tax?

TREASURER:

What the election's about is up to voters, it's not up to politicians or the media for that matter. Our position on tax is very clear. We believe Australians who work hard, all of them, should get tax relief.

LANE:

On the personal income tax package, phases one and two, they appear to enjoy a lot of support on the Senate crossbench – delivering tax relief to low and middle income earners, starting from next month, 13 days from now but you're still short of a majority to pass it. Seven crossbench Senators appear to favour one and two. Why not be pragmatic and split those aspects of the bill off and get it passed and argue for the remainder parts later?

TREASURER:

Because we believe that we're in a position to put the whole package as we should as a Government. I mean, this was in the Budget, we put the whole package in the Budget, we were elected to Government, we were elected to put forward our plans for a stronger economy which is what this is and so we will put that to the Senate. Now, the Senate will consider that bill and it will vote and we'll see what they decide to do.

LANE:

You've been pragmatic in the past. Not this time?

TREASURER:

On every occasion we've put the whole plan and we continue to put the whole plan. We would like to see all of our plans for a stronger economy and lower taxes supported by the Parliament. We were elected to do this. We said we'd deliver jobs and growth and that's exactly what we've delivered and we've delivered it by doing things like this. So we won't apologise or step back from plans that we believe are good for the country, good for hard-working Australians, good for businesses who are out there creating jobs – which is what our policies do. Now, you'll see the Labor Party playing a lot of games this week and all it will amount to is this, they want to stand in the way of lower taxes for hard-working Australians and businesses that create jobs.

LANE:

But it's a game now of political chicken. Someone's going to blink and maybe it's passed or the whole package is defeated – which is the case…

TREASURER:

I expect that's a fair summary…

LANE:

[laughs] It's a case of all or nothing.

TREASURER:

Well, that's always the way, Sabra. But the Government won't be blinking. We'll be putting this forward because we believe it's the right thing to do. Now, we've been advocating this on business taxes now for two years. We know it hasn't enjoyed great popularity at various times – I think that's changed a lot actually more recently but that said, we're doing it because we think it's the right thing to do because we know it creates jobs and helps people get paid more.

LANE:

Are you personally getting involved in trying to woo the Senators into supporting this? Are you talking with Pauline Hanson or Peter Georgiou from One Nation for example?

TREASURER:

The Government's way of handling this is through Senator Cormann as the Leader of the Government in the Senate and we provide every support and every assistance he needs to do that job, called in as necessary but certainly working closely with him in terms of the arguments we're putting forward and the way we're arguing our case more broadly in the public. This has proved to be a very practical way of dealing with these things. You don't need to have 50 conversations with 50 different people. I don't think that helps. I think having a very clear lead negotiator in Mathias Cormann has been effective in the past and will continue to be.

LANE:

Senator Cormann has also been leading the discussions on the corporate tax plan, and he has said that it won't be split but it seems that many crossbenchers and Senators have a problem because they see the big banks as being beneficiaries of this and yes, the Government has applied a bank levy on the banks but still, it hasn't swayed voters' concerns about the package.

TREASURER:

Well, the only vote that needs to take place right now is to vote to support more competitive taxes for the Australian economy and big businesses are the clients of small businesses. It's one big economy and if all businesses are doing better, all businesses are doing better, particularly small businesses. I mean, the tax relief we've already been able to deliver for small businesses up to $50 million, they employ more than one in two people in the Australian economy. Look at the benefit we've got already from that. Now, you extend that across the economy, that means we can spread the benefits of this plan right across the economy for those working for larger businesses as well because their job depends on the strength of their business.

LANE:

But many voters and many crossbenchers are really concerned that the big banks will be big beneficiaries of this package and given what they've heard and seen…

TREASURER:

Well, the bank levy wipes that out. As we've discussed before, before their taxes even fall…

LANE:

But given what they've seen – sorry, Treasurer...

TREASURER:

They pay $16 billion in the bank levy…

LANE:

Treasurer, given what people continue to hear before the Royal Commission, sounds like we're about to hear a whole heap more of bad examples, they don't think that they should be beneficiaries – full stop.

TREASURER:

The corporate tax rate applies across all businesses in Australia and more competitive tax rates for all of our businesses means more investment, more jobs and it means better wages. Now, that's not what I said, that's what Bill Shorten said, that's what Chris Bowen said. They've all said this. So the Government is acting with complete conviction and out of a firm belief that this is the right thing to do for a stronger economy. I don't know what the Labor Party's doing. I've got no idea.

LANE:

You're in Government. You've got to get the numbers.

TREASURER:

Well, they're voting against policy that they have supported in the past and I think that tells you everything you need to know about Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen. They're complete hypocrites who cannot be trusted on tax and they can't be trusted to run the economy and we've seen that today, again. As you know, the costings I've already released this morning on their retirees tax…

LANE:

And we'll have plenty of time between now and the next election to discuss that.

TREASURER:

No, we'll talk about it now if you don't mind because $10 billion in a black hole…

LANE:

No, actually I do mind because I've got questions for you and you're the Government.

TREASURER:

Well, I'm happy to talk about a tax that they want to impose on retirees which is cruel, they stuffed it up when they launched it the first time, they said it would raise $59 billion, then $55.7 billion and now we find out it's even $10 billion less than that. It's a house of cards, Labor's Budget, that's why they can't be trusted.

LANE:

How do you explain to ordinary voters the decision by the Liberal Party Federal Council to endorse privatisation of the ABC?

TREASURER:

Members rank and file can go to their party meetings and they can vote for things. The Government is not privatising the ABC.

LANE:

This is the supreme policymaking council of the Liberal Party…

TREASURER:

No, no. The supreme policymaking of the Liberal Party is the Parliamentary Liberal Party – that's how our party works. We're not the Labor Party. The members are entitled to their view, the Government is not privatising the ABC…

LANE:

It says something about the party though. Its values and its priorities.

TREASURER:

They have the view, Sabra. They're allowed to have that view.

LANE:

Nobody on the floor spoke against it.

TREASURER:

It's not illegal to have a view that they think that…

LANE:

That's right but nobody defended the ABC.

TREASURER:

Actually, Mitch Fifield actually spoke against the motion.

LANE:

He spoke against the motion but didn't defend the ABC.

TREASURER:

It's the ABC's job to demonstrate to the Australian people that they are acting impartially and unbiased. There are a lot of people out there who don't think you are. Now, that's the ABC's job…

LANE:

And you, what do you think?

TREASURER:

That's the ABC's job.

LANE:

What do you think?

TREASURER:

It's not for me to defend the ABC or promote the ABC. I fund the ABC as the Treasurer and we do that every year and I think there are concerns out there in the Australian public about that and I think it's for the ABC to demonstrate to the Australian people that they are not doing that. Now, I'm not saying they are and I don't think you do, Sabra, and I don't think you do on this program. I think this program is a good example of the unbiased nature of the ABC.

LANE:

One last question, Clive Palmer seems to be attempting a comeback to federal politics. What's your message to him?

TREASURER:

Look, I think people out in Australia would say the circus doesn't need another sideshow.

LANE:

Treasurer, thank you very much for joining AM this morning.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much.