SUBJECT/S: The Government’s plan to increase the GST; NewsPoll on terrorism; Boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

TONY BURKE, SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: We’re now entering the final Parliamentary fortnight of the year. This will be the final Parliamentary fortnight and the final opportunity for the Turnbull Government to let us know what their plans are for the GST. People are about to go into the summer period where they have the biggest grocery bills they see for the year. They need to know whether this Government believes those bills should be even higher the following year. 

The GST increase the Government’s been contemplating, they keep saying they want to have a conversation but they just don’t want to be the ones providing any information in that conversation. People have a right to know: does this Government want their grocery bill to go up to a 15 per cent GST. Do they want to extend it to fresh food? This Government is then saying: ‘oh, but there would be compensation’. But at the same time the Treasurer says the net tax take wouldn’t go up. If that’s the case, how can you be providing compensation for pensioners? How do you provide compensation for people on modest incomes who Labor took out of the income tax system completely when we tripled the tax free threshold?

This Government has always been about, whether it was Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, they’ve put the highest burden on people who can least afford it and provided the biggest benefits to the people with the most means. They’ve done it every step of the way. In this final Parliamentary fortnight for the year, people have a right to know on exactly what the Government wants to do with its increasing of the GST to 15 per cent and the extension to fresh food.

REPORTER: Mr Burke, we saw in the AFR last week an IPSOS poll saying the majority of Australians support an increase to the GST if there is appropriate compensation. Malcolm Turnbull says any increase in the GST would need compensation and would have to be fair and seen to be fair. Would you support an increase in the GST if it was fair and with appropriate compensating measures?

BURKE: There’s no way of expanding the GST without it being regressive. No way. It works very simply: if you are on a lower or modest income, you spend a higher proportion of your income on consumption. You spend a higher proportion of your income on the general supermarket visits and on buying the basics. If you’re on a high income, then it’s a smaller proportion of your income on the basics. The GST is a tax on those basics, particularly if you extend it to fresh food. There is no way of doing this without putting the highest burden on the people who can least afford it. In that question, one of the things you referred to was them saying they won’t increase the net tax take. Well if that’s the case, how do you compensate people who don’t pay any tax.

REPORTER: Today there’s a NewsPoll suggesting that about 76 per cent of Australians fear there will be a Paris style attack in Australia. How can people feel confidence authorities are doing everything they can to protect Australians?

BURKE: I’m not going to do anything to damage bipartisanship and support for the authorities. At times like this it’s important that no matter which side of politics you’re on, that we work together, we work in a bipartisan way, and we work constructively for the national security of Australians. There’s an attempt by Michael Keenan in a fairly silly little game he’s played in the papers today to try and breakdown some of that bipartisanship, I don’t think that’s smart and I’m not going to stoop to that level.

REPORTER: What about the same poll indicating almost 42 per cent of people would like to see boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria? Does that make you more open to us widening our military engagement?

BURKE: The poll reflects a view which is completely understandable that people want to do whatever is possible to stop Daesh. You can understand that point of view and that’s shared by every member of this building. What you want to make sure of is whatever you do does in fact help, and there can be a difference between winning a war and winning a peace following the war. That’s why the Government has been right to be careful in these sorts of decisions, indeed the governments of the world are being careful with these sorts of decisions.

Thank you very much.

Tony Burke