26 June 2018
Transcript - #2018130, 2018

Doorstop interview, Canberra

Subjects: Labor's business tax; Enterprise Tax Plan; GST; energy

TREASURER:

Bill Shorten and Labor have confirmed again today that Labor is for higher taxes. What he has said today is that he is not only going to roll back tax relief of $70 billion on Australians paying income taxes. He is going to roll back tax relief to help medium-sized businesses, many of whom are actually small businesses with a turn-over of up to $50 million and higher than $10 million, he is going to roll back their tax relief as well and make them less competitive. He still hasn't confirmed what he is going to do for businesses between $2 and $10 million. In the Budget, the estimates that he presented would indicate that he's still going to roll back the tax relief for businesses of greater than $2 million as well. But for those who he particularly targeted today, of whom he is going to steal back the tax relief which was legislated by this Parliament, there are some 20,000 businesses between $10 and $50 million. There is. on average, 75 employees in those businesses. This is terrible news for 1.5 million Australians who work in those businesses that will have to face higher taxes under Labor if Labor is elected.

How Labor thinks taxing those businesses with an average of 75 employees is going to help those businesses actually go out there and compete and make their way ahead is beyond me. I think it just demonstrates how Labor just don't get it when it comes to having plans for a stronger economy. Labor used to talk about the ladder of opportunity. We all remember that. They used to talk about the ladder of opportunity. Well, under Bill Shorten, under the Labor Party today, what we have is the snake of envy. This is a snake and ladders game under Labor. It used to be the ladder of opportunity and now it is the snake of envy under Bill Shorten. Australians will slide down under Labor. They will slide down. They will either pay those taxes directly in higher taxes, as we know more than $200 billion in higher taxes on the economy, or they will pay for them through the suffocation of the economy through higher taxes.

Now, these companies are not multinationals. You have heard me often talk about Coxon's Radiators up in Rockhampton. A business that only has 35 employees, they have a turn-over of just under $50 million – a successful business in regional Australia in Central Queensland. Bill Shorten thinks that Coxon's Radiators should pay a higher rate of tax – a mum and dad, a grandmum and granddad actually, business. The sons are working in the business. They are out there doing their bit for their family, for their community, for their country and Bill Shorten's present for Coxon's Radiators is a kick in the guts of higher taxes.

Bill Shorten talks about the 'top end of town', by refusing to support lower taxes for businesses, more competitive taxes for business, all he is doing, he's saying to the top end of town in Manhattan, in San Francisco, in Dallas, in Houston, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, in Paris, in Frankfurt, in London, what he is saying is that companies that are based there, they can enjoy lower rates of tax, more competitive taxes, but Australian businesses in Rockhampton, in Bunbury, in Broome, down in Victoria, in the electorate of Corangamite and Geelong, in Hobart, up in Burnie, up there in north Brisbane in the electorate of Longman – they have to pay higher taxes to compete with those other countries. When it comes to a plan for a stronger economy, Labor just don't get it. They have cut the cord on any connection that they ever had to economic credibility and today's announcement I think just confirms that fact.

Now, it is also clear that this seems to be a captain's call from Bill Shorten. Shadow Cabinet, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't met to actually make this decision. The party room, I understand their Caucus has not met to confirm this decision or make this decision. He gets under a bit of pressure from Anthony Albanese and he runs out, after giving a speech, and makes a unilateral call on what he is doing with tax policy. You can't trust this guy with tax. You can't trust this guy with anything. He has taken Mark Latham's ladder of opportunity and turned it into a snake of envy and that tells you everything you know about how shifty Bill Shorten is.

QUESTION:

Could you tell us what those tax cuts are worth in terms of a cost to the Budget and what it is that Labor looks like it wants to undo?

TREASURER:

First of all, I don't consider tax relief a cost to the Budget. I consider that hard-earnings of businesses being able to keep what they earn, as you know. I make that point. But the revenue estimate, as best we can determine, splitting out the $10 to $50 would be upwards of $20 billion.

QUESTION:

Can you confirm the number of businesses [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

About 1.5 million…

QUESTION:

But 20,000…

TREASURER:

..That's employees, 20,000 businesses.

QUESTION:

I thought it was about 14,000.

TREASURER:

No, it's 20,000 both incorporated and unincorporated.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, that is a $20 billion war chest that Labor can now spend on health care and schools and tradies, as Bill Shorten says. Are you worried this is giving them a real election footing?

TREASURER:

They'd already put this in their costings. They actually put in their last set of costings that you have seen, the full abolition of the Enterprise Tax Plan. So, if they are actually now shrinking what they are proposing to do, they would actually have less revenue than they were thinking about before. They already have a $10 billion black hole in what they are saying they will get out of the retirees tax. So, the tax house of cards that Chris Bowen has built is actually crumbling and starting to fall over. So, I will let him explain his numbers because he's the one who has got to justify that to the Australian people. Australians don't trust Labor when it comes to finances. Bill Shorten will say anything and do anything and then Chris Bowen will stand there beside him looking like a numpty trying to make out that it all adds up. Australians get it. They can see it. They don't trust these guys with the economy or their own money and the roll back of tax relief that Labor are now proposing –a $70 billion roll back on personal income taxes. Vote Labor and pay higher tax. Roll back on making business taxes more competitive for companies with an average size of employees of 75. Give me a break, they are not multinationals. This guy needs to get out more!

QUESTION:

Treasurer, just on company tax cuts in the Senate, would you be willing to agree to Derryn Hinch's proposal?

TREASURER:

We don't negotiate through the media when it comes to the Enterprise Tax Plan.

QUESTION:

When the PM was in Tasmania a fortnight ago he said that the PC report into the GST and the Government's response will be out by the end of the month. Are you going to meet that deadline?

TREASURER:

I will have more to say about that over the balance of this week, but the Government is preparing its response to the PC Commission report. I think it will be important for these things to be considered at the same time, but I will have a bit more to say about the timing of that later in the week.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott has confirmed he'll still cross the floor against the NEG, is he and other Coalition MPS wrecking the Government's chances of energy policy certainty?

TREASURER:

I think everyone's jumping the gun on that. Let's just see what happens.

QUESTION:

Just back on the GST, could you confirm at least that the Government's response to the report will involve a reshaping of the carve-up?

TREASURER:

Well, what I'll confirm is that the Government will have a response and the nature of that response will be released at that time. But what I can say is the Government has been working very carefully, over a long period of time and we appreciate the good work of the Productivity Commission that has identified that there's a real problem that needs to be fixed…

QUESTION:

But there is a [inaudible] problem…

TREASURER:

I haven't finished my answer yet. We'll be working to fix that problem but we'll be working to be doing it in a way that we ensure that the impact on other states, there won't be such an impact on other states and territories. That's why we're working carefully on this issue. So we're taking our time to get it right and we'll continuing to take the necessary time to get it right.

QUESTION:

So you're taking a no-losers approach? Is it a no-losers approach?

TREASURER:

Our response will be announced when it's announced and then you can report on what's announced.

QUESTION:

Just back on the company tax cuts, you previously argued that banks shouldn't be exempt from the company tax cut, is that still your view?

TREASURER:

We believe the Enterprise Tax Plan should apply across all businesses. As you know, by the time that there are reductions in company taxes for businesses at that level, the banks would have already paid some $16 billion in the bank levy which basically completely wipes out any benefit that they would directly receive from a lower tax rate so…

QUESTION:

You wouldn't carve them out?

TREASURER:

Sorry?

QUESTION:

You wouldn't carve them out?

TREASURER:

We believe the Enterprise Tax Plan should apply across all businesses and there's a simple reason: small businesses do business with large businesses. I mean, take Qantas for example, they have like 13,000 small business suppliers. How do they do better with Qantas if Qantas is paying higher taxes? I've never understood the argument for taxes remaining high. It's bad enough that there seems to be some view in the Labor Party – even though, as we all know, they used to support these changes – that if you ask businesses, demand, mandate them to pay higher taxes, how that actually helps them to be more competitive, how it actually helps them employ more people to increase wages, to increase productivity. I don't understand the argument which says, "pay the Government more tax and you'll do better and the economy will be better off." But what's even worse is that the global movement in taxes on business around the world is down and if our businesses remain where they are, we will have the second highest tax rate for business in the OECD. Now, when it first came down – both under Treasurers and Prime Minister Keating and under Treasurer Costello – there were 19 countries that had taxes higher than us. There'll only be one and how long will that last? They want to leave us up there in the stratosphere of higher taxes for our businesses and not afford them relief – even for businesses with a turnover between $10 million and $50 million. This is a naked tax grab to go and spend money all over the shop in some sort of big political cash splash. That's what Bill Shorten wants. He wants a big chest to just splash cash all over the country, to pursue only one interest and it isn't the national interest, it's his own political interest.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, one of the things that keep business awake at night is energy policy – or the lack of it over the last decade – prices volatility. Clearly from today's meeting, across all sectors they are very anxious that this issue is settled and there is agreement reached. What is your message to your own colleagues who are opposing the NEG or want to oppose the NEG? What is your message to them?

TREASURER:

Well, the Government's message is quite simple. We're turning the corner on energy prices. There's still a long way to go but we're turning the corner on electricity prices and we've seen that in the modest change we've seen in the most recent announcements but it is important to have certainty regarding energy policy in the future. The politics and the ideology and the idiocy, as the Prime Minister says, of times past – you know – we're going to rule a line on it and we've got to provide that certainty for the future. That's what brings electricity prices down and we've heard that from some of the biggest energy consumers in Australia today, speaking to my colleagues and I think they've had an unequivocal and unanimous message in that this is an important change that will actually reduce costs for business and make sure that business is more competitive. So, I think that's a fairly compelling point that's been made. There's another part to this too and that is, under the emissions reduction target that Labor are talking about at 45 per cent, and their other reckless target of 50 per cent on renewable, I mean, that will only drive electricity prices up. So, just like on taxes, where it's higher taxes under Labor, it's lower taxes under the Coalition. It's higher electricity prices under Labor, it's lower electricity prices under the Coalition. Australians will pay more under Labor.

QUESTION:

Just back on the banks, Treasurer, will you consider increasing or extending the bank levy to perhaps get Derryn Hinch on board?

TREASURER:

My views on the bank levy I stated at the time and we're not changing…

QUESTION:

Treasurer, just on Labor's announcement on company taxes today, will the Government still be putting the company tax package to a vote in the Senate?

TREASURER:

We're fully pursuing our Enterprise Tax Plan. Nothing's changed on that. We remain committed to this. We don't flip and flop on these things. We know what we believe is right for the economy. We took this to an election. I put it in the 2016 Budget and we went to an election and I stood everywhere from Burnie to Townsville and over in the West and said, "This is what's right for the Australian economy." And we've delivered that tax relief for businesses up to $50 million which Bill Shorten wants to reach in and rip back out of those businesses. We believe that relief should be there right across the economy for one simple reason: we know it will drive jobs, we know it will drive growth and you want hospitals and schools – which we want – and a disability care system and a Pharmaceutical Benefits system, all of these things. They all depend on a stronger economy and what this has demonstrated today, is Bill Shorten cannot be trusted to deliver a stronger economy. He doesn't know how to deliver a stronger economy. His decision today punishes those who depend on a stronger economy. People on welfare, people receiving a pension, people getting more affordable medicine, people getting larger, affordable childcare rebates as a result of what happens in just a week or so's time, that all depends on a stronger economy. Bill Shorten cannot give you that. He will just give you his snake of envy. Thank you.