27 June 2018
Transcript - #2018131, 2018

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

SUBJECTS: Business tax, Enterprise Tax Plan, energy

KIERAN GILBERT:

With me is the Treasurer, Scott Morrison. How many businesses are we talking about in that bracket from $10 million to $50 million?

TREASURER:

Well, there are 20,000 businesses in total, 14,000 who are incorporated. I mean, the cost of this, Labor has not said and that demonstrates Bill Shorten was off on a captain’s call yesterday. Normally when they would have announced something like this they would have had a costing and they would have said what it was but none of that yesterday – it was just all on the run. He’s kicked all of those businesses in the guts basically and that was the message from business yesterday. This is a real threat to jobs. It’s a real threat to wages. When we finally see what they say this will cost or what the estimate is, I should say, you’re talking around about that many. You’re potentially talking about $1 million for every business over the next ten years…

GILBERT:

But he doesn’t look too worried about the Government attack because from the Shorten perspective, this is a clear divide now. He says his priorities are about services, about education, about health and you can be about the tax cut, but he’s about the services. That’s what he’s saying.

TREASURER:

He’s running around saying he’s hitting the top end of town. Businesses between $10 million and $50 million are not the top end of town. They are the regional radiator business in Rockhampton, that’s what they are. They’re suburban businesses, they’re businesses with about 75 to 80 employees on average and he’s going to hit them all with this massive multibillion dollar slug. Now, that’s not good for jobs. But what he should do today, if he can so casually go out and end the mystery about what he’s going to do for businesses between $10 million and $50 million. Well, let’s end the mystery about businesses between $2 million and $10 million. Because at the last election, Labor said they were going to reverse the entire Enterprise Tax Plan. Everything they have said up until now has not contradicted that. So end the mystery, Labor Party, Bill Shorten. Tell us what you’re going to do before the by-elections. Tell us today. He’s demonstrated…

GILBERT:

It looks like they’re going to keep those…

TREASURER:

Well, they’re costing actually getting rid of the tax cuts. So I don’t know what they’re going to do. The best I can tell from what they’ve said publicly, is if you’re a business between $2 million and $10 million, you’re gone too. But they can end the mystery today.

GILBERT:

But those – you said – 20,000 businesses between $10 million and $50 million turnover, if you went lower than that, we’re talking about over 100,000…

TREASURER:

We’re talking over 100,000 businesses. We’re talking more than three million and more employees who are affected. So end the mystery for all those employees. You’ve already told those businesses between $10 million and $50 million that Bill’s tax slug is coming after you. That ladder of opportunity, that’s gone for you. You’ve got the envy tax now. The envy tax hitting personal income tax, housing, superannuation, small businesses, family businesses…

GILBERT:

You say it’s envy, he says it’s fairness. That’s the very clear political divide and very clear economic divide we’re seeing right now in terms of the argument. He says it’s fairness, you say it’s envy. That’s where the battle line is, isn’t it?

TREASURER:

I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s envy. I think that’s how Australians feel about it as well. What he’s saying is that people creating jobs in this country should be taxed more. Where’s the fairness in that?

GILBERT:

He’s been proven right though in a political sense at least…

TREASURER:

Has he?

GILBERT:

…up until now in terms of his fairness approach…

TREASURER:

No, I don’t…

GILBERT:

You don’t think so? He’s still ahead in all the polls.

TREASURER:

No, I don’t agree. You only have to look at the difference between how they rate the Coalition on economic management versus how they rate the Labor Party. How they rate the Prime Minister versus how they rate Bill Shorten - but they’re polls. The truth is this: Labor are no longer the party of opportunity – as if they ever were. If you want to get ahead in this country, don’t vote Labor.

GILBERT:

Well, they say they’re the party of the worker and that’s what it’s always been…

TREASURER:

But the workers are the ones who are affected. I mean, 75 to 80 employees – and companies between $10 million and $50 million – who have been working for a business paying higher tax. How are they helping the workers? They’re actually harming the workers. What we’ve seen in the United States, what we’ve seen in Treasury’s own work, it’s the employees who actually, ultimately, get the benefit of what we’re seeking to do here. This is why we’re doing this.

GILBERT:

Well, there was some internal criticism of the way that Mr Shorten handled it but I don’t think that it comes as a surprise to anyone that he opposes the company tax cuts.

TREASURER:

At least…

GILBERT:

That’s the message from the outside.

TREASURER:

He’s tried to be very shifty in pretending that somehow he wasn’t doing this but was doing this. He was counting the money but wasn’t being clear about the fact that he was actually going to rip back, roll back, take back legislated tax cuts from the Australian Parliament. So my question to him today is: “Come clean on $2 million to $10 million. Come clean on $2 million to $10 million, tell the Australian people, will you roll back the small business tax cuts?” It’s not about hitting the top end of town, he’s hitting small and medium sized businesses. The only top end of the town he’s helping is the top seven towns overseas in New York, in Singapore, in London and Paris. They’ll have lower rates of tax than Australia will. Our businesses will be at a disadvantage, our jobs will go offshore.

GILBERT:

And onto some internal issues for the Coalition, the National Energy Guarantee, yesterday some big business representatives in the Party Room to endorse the National Energy Guarantee. Some critics, including Tony Abbott, who a couple of years ago – August 2015 said, “There’s a definite commitment to 26 per cent.” He said, “of that target, this is a good, solid result. It’s a solid, economically responsible and environmentally responsible target.” Do you agree with him that that target – well, you agreed with him a few years ago in his view then that it was economically responsible? Is it still economically responsible?

TREASURER:

I agree, it’s the Government’s policy. It was Government policy under Prime Minister Abbott, it’s the Government’s policy under the Turnbull Government. I’ve been a member of both Governments, of course I agree. What we’ve seen here is a complete contrast in approaches. Here we have the National Energy Guarantee, worked through in a methodical and very detailed process about how to get electricity prices down and provide certainty on energy policy which has been a key contributor to prices going up – as the business sector has clearly articulated it and so I understood it very well yesterday. The Labor Party giving a speech, running out and announcing, unilaterally, changes to tax policy affecting tens of thousands of businesses and millions of Australian workers.

GILBERT:

Josh Frydenberg’s consulted widely in terms of the business – as those business representatives…

TREASURER:

He has. Josh has been meticulous in his approach. There’s been a special subcommittee of Cabinet that was set up to actually work up this policy. It’s been through the Party Room on several occasions now, including a very exhaustive process on our backbenchers committee. This is a policy that is actually going to help us continue to turn the corner on electricity prices. I mean, we have turned the corner on electricity prices now and the National Energy Guarantee will ensure that we keep bringing those prices down for Australians. That’s a real policy, it’s a real plan.

GILBERT:

Do you feel it’s got the vast bulk support within the Party room as well?

TREASURER:

Yes.

GILBERT:

In terms of Tony Abbott’s suggestion now – and those who are saying it was an aspiration or a target – as a member of the Government at that point, as I’ve said, he said there’s a definite commitment to 26 per cent. Was that the view within the Government as well? That this was not an…

TREASURER:

Of course it was. It was articulated by the Prime Minister at the time so they’re his words.

GILBERT:

And you believe that Josh Frydenberg has been able to navigate…

TREASURER:

I think Josh has done an extraordinary job. It’s a difficult issue but the objective has always been how do we get electricity prices down? And I’ll tell you what doesn’t get electricity prices down, talking about 26 per cent, Labor wants 45 per cent. Labor wants a RET at 50 per cent. I mean, you want electricity prices to go up, vote Labor.

GILBERT:

And the other component is the international element, just finally, there’s a view that people say Trump’s pulling out but that actually doesn’t happen until the week of the next US Presidential election as well. I guess, the question is if Australia were to pull out of the Paris Accord and then the US stays in, that would be a blight on our record as well, wouldn’t it?

TREASURER:

The Australian Government is not going to do that. The Australian Government – we set what our targets were, that was done, as you rightly say, under Prime Minister Abbott. That’s the Government’s policy and that policy, we’re committed to that and we’ll follow through on that but we’re also committed to having an energy policy which delivers certainty, which brings down electricity prices. That’s the work that has been done with the National Energy Guarantee and we’ve been working with the states and territories now for a long time to bring them all together to support what will be a landmark point in energy policy in this country. It will be a new era where there will be certainty and lower electricity prices.

GILBERT:

Treasurer, appreciate your time, thanks.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Kieran.