Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen joins me in the studio for his take on the Budget
Ross Greenwood: You’ve heard from the Treasurer Scott Morrison and his explanation of the federal budget. Let’s go now to a man who is pivotal as to whether much of that federal budget can be passed through our Parliament. The Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen who also needs to come up with the alternative strategies. Many thanks for your time Chris.
Chris Bowen: Pleasure Ross.
Ross Greenwood: Can you just tell me would there be key measures of this budget, that you could imagine the Labor Party supporting through the Parliament.
Chris: Well, there will be some. Inevitably there’s some that we’ve really looked at and will support and there’s others that we’ll work through and will-
Ross Greenwood: The tax on the banks.
Chris: We will oppose that. [crosstalk] Now, now Ross, this is 10 times bigger than the tax which the Labor Party put in place on the banks, you might recall, which the Liberal Party said would end Western civilization. I’m not going to give them a late pass on the hypocrisy but at the same token at the– in this budgetary circumstance with the pressure on budget, we’re also not going to oppose it.
Ross Greenwood: The reason for it is, it does help to fund the National Disability Insurance [crosstalk] policy and the Labor Party policy?
Chris: No, no, that’s the bank levy just going to consolidate the revenue, just straight into the budget. That’s even on the government’s own paperwork. That’s where it goes. Now again, would I do it exactly this way? No probably, not. But the budget is under real pressure and the opposition should be constructive where we can and I’d like to point out it’s one of the most hypocritical action Australian political history on the Treasury’s behalf. Nevertheless, we won’t oppose it because that would be irresponsible.
Increase in Medicare Levy
Ross Greenwood: Okay, in regards to the increase in the Medicare levy?
Chris: We’re going to take some time on that, Ross. That’s a big decision. It’s $8 billion over the next four years. Almost every Australian taxpayer will pay and so we want to just take a little bit of time. Not too much time but a little bit of time to think that through, look at the ramifications and to look at some alternatives and to have more time to say.
Ross Greenwood: Some of the infrastructure spending that the government has announced, Badgerys Creek Airport and some of the roads and so forth around the place, I mean this is obviously part and parcel of what your policies would be on them as well.
Chris: Well, the infrastructure program is a joke. It’s a joke, Ross. I mean the treasurer actually read out a list of projects in the budget speech, he didn’t fund them. He said they had potential, I mean potential seriously. Really that’s the best he can do. He shouldn’t have announced something if he’s not going to fund a budget. You announce something in a budget when you put dollars next to it. He has not put a single dollar next to those projects.
I think the biggest infrastructure project in this budget is the Collector road. I mean, well good luck to the Collector road. I’m sure all due respect to the town of Collector. I’m sure that’s a very good town. But really, is that the biggest infrastructure project we’ve got in Australia?
Ross Greenwood: In regards to the affordable housing package which is another one, with that is important to Australia, was to try to try and take pressure of Australian housing prices. Do you think that that will stand up?
Chris: We used the package, that word ‘package’ very lightly, Ross because it’s a damp squib. It will make no difference, no difference at all. Now there are a few elements in it that we will support obviously, but there are other elements that we will oppose. But most importantly any scheme which doesn’t involve negative gearing reform is a joke. It’s an utter joke because negative gearing reform is the biggest lever that the government has at its disposal and this government has refused to use it.
Tax on the banks
Ross Greenwood: Do you believe the tax on the banks and the measures taken against the banks would obviate the Labour Party’s call for a Royal Commission into those banks?
Chris: No. No, you don’t fix a Royal Commission by putting a tax on. But we still need Royal Commission on banks, we still need them. I think most Australian consumers understand that and I know that the taxes are not going to fix bad behaviour. We need a full and proper internal inquiry into the banks.
Ross Greenwood: Do you believe that much of the spending that the government has initiated is also based on the expectation that there will be some significant growth in our economy. Right now they are being even conservative in some of those economic growth numbers. Do you think really that there is a question mark as to whether the government can get back into surplus?
Chris: Well, some of the figures I wouldn’t quibble with others like wages growth have sort of automatically, just whirring back into them you know much stronger territory I think the Government’s got a lot of explaining to as to how that’s going to be meet.
Ross Greenwood: Now you also have a busy evening. Chris Bowen is our Shadow Treasurer and Chris, we appreciate your time.
Chris: It’s always a great pleasure to see you, Ross.