MARIUS BENSON: Tony Burke good morning.


BENSON: Labor is voting to block many of the savings measures the Government’s proposed and Mathias Cormann says if you can’t have savings you need to increase taxes, would you consider backing tax increases?

BURKE: The interesting thing with this one, is one of the first things the Government did when they came into office was to get rid of some of the taxation measures we had at the top end of the scale. Measures we had on high income superannuation and measures that we had that were aimed at dealing with multinational companies offshoring their profits, those tax reforms the Government just ditched them as soon as they came in. So we know when they talk taxes what sort of priorities they’re talking about. Our concern with the way that the Government’s been operating has been, every time they get a judgment call the decisions they make are to put the higher burden on the people at the lower end of the income spectrum. They do it every time. If it was just Joe Hockey saying it yesterday, you’d say ‘oh it might be true, it might not be,’ but let’s face it, Mathias Cormann has been their most disciplined performers and he wouldn’t say this unless Tony Abbott seriously had plans to introduce a raft of new taxes.

BENSON: So you think tax increases are in the Government’s sights?

BURKE: If it was Joe Hockey you’d just say ‘who knows?’ But when Mathias Cormann says their contemplating this, then I think there’s no doubt whatsoever that this is within contemplation of the Government. This is one of the things they’re planning, they’ve given up completely on the claims of no new taxes that Tony Abbott made before the election. What they’re trying to play now is this bizarre game where they’re saying ‘well if you don’t vote for an unfair Budget, we’ll come up with something even more unfair.’ Well that’s more about extortion than it is about governing and if that’s the way they think they’ll put threats over Labor and other members of parliament, it’s a silly way of operating. The truth is, we’re not voting for this Budget because it’s unfair. That’s the decision that we’ve taken and if they think we’re going to vote for something that would be even more unfair then they’ll be waiting a long time.

BENSON: What about tax increases that you think are fair? What if they were to reverse the high end superannuation tax changes that you just referred to. Would you back them if Labor believed the tax increases were fair?

BURKE: We’ve called for a long time for them to not give up those sources of revenue they ditched the moment they came into office. We’ve consistently, ever since the election, called for those measures on high income superannuation and the measures on offshoring of multinational income, for those to be brought back. We’ve said that the whole time, we’ve been completely supportive of that. The reason quite simply the Government does’t return to those measures is because their priorities have always been to favour those people at the higher end of the income spectrum and to put a higher burden on lower and middle income earners. That’s what they’ve done every time they’ve made a decision.

BENSON: What about another specific measure, the company tax cuts. Would you be in favour of not having company tax cuts?

BURKE: Well let’s be clear on this. The proposal that the Abbott Government has at the moment on company tax is a tax increase, which is part of the package for their paid parental leave scheme. So the Government already, as what the Prime Minister is defining as his signature policy, involves an increase in company tax for the biggest companies, which no doubt whatsoever would be passed onto consumers. No doubt whatsoever that that’s what would happen. One thing that needs to be kept in mind with all of this, a claim from the Government that bringing in increased taxes is something new, is just not true. They’ve already promised with paid parental leave an increase in company tax, they’ve also in the Budget wanted to introduce a tax on people for being sick with the GP tax, they’re wanting to change the cost of the degrees; there’s measure after measure where the Government is already in the realm of increasing taxes. They’re not tending with the exception of the paid parental leave, the tax changes that they’re putting forward are well and truly aimed at those who can least afford it.

BENSON: You were quite dismissive of Joe Hockey in that remark where you said you wouldn’t take seriously any statement from him, only those from Mathias Cormann. Is Joe Hockey going to be a target as parliament resumes tomorrow?

BURKE: I’m in charge for the Labor Party of managing the business and the legislation as it goes through the Parliament. Now during the last week we had Joe Hockey claim that we shouldn’t presume that the changes to the pension would be brought in this term, that no one should presume that they’d be introduced into the parliament this term. They’ve already gone through the House of Representatives. There’s a Senate Committee about them right now. So Joe Hockey’s making big points about not presuming this would happen or that would happen when it’s already been introduced into the House of Parliament that he’s a member of and gone through. I can understand why he’d be in high demand for interviews because you’d get a different comment every time. Mathias Cormann will give you the same key lines every time and when those key lines change, you can only work on the basis that the Government’s changing its position. 

BENSON: Tony Burke just a couple of quick questions. There are two polls out today on state election prospects. According to Newspoll the Napthine Liberal Government in Victoria is doomed and according to Galaxy the Coalition Government in New South Wales will succeed at the election next year. Does that sound about right to you on both counts?

BURKE: I’m not close enough to state politics to give a high level of analysis. The New South Wales one still represents a 10 per cent swing from where they were at the last election when they New South Wales result for Labor was a long way back. The thing that I find in each of the states now is when you talk to people about state politics, they merge very quickly to conversations about the Abbott Government as well. I think there’s no doubt that at the moment in those results today you’re seeing an increased number of people wanting to vote Labor as compared to what happened at previous elections. There’s no doubt that those results have Tony Abbott’s fingerprints on them.

BENSON: Tony Burke thank you very much.

BURKE: Talk to you again.



Tony Burke