The Election Countdown | Q&A


Good evening and welcome
to this election campaign Q&A. I’m Tony Jones.
Answering your questions tonight, the editor of Guardian Australia,
Lenore Taylor, the Minister for Communications
and the Arts, Mitch Fifield, the managing editor of Crikey,
Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, the foreign editor of the Australian,
Greg Sheridan and the Shadow Treasurer,
Chris Bowen. Please welcome our panel.
(APPLAUSE) Q&A is live in eastern Australia
on ABC TV, iview and NewsRadio. With less than three weeks
until the election, there’s a lot to cover. We’ll be asking our panellists
to keep their answers short and I’ll pull them up
if they run longer than a minute. Earlier, the two leaders met
for their first debate in Perth. Let’s get to our first question.
It’s from Liz Whiffen. Thank you, Tony. Despite Clive Palmer’s history
of not paying his former workers, the Prime Minister has made
a preference deal with him. Why does Palmer’s United Australia
Party seem to have struck a chord with Australian voters that neither of the major
political parties seem to have done? Lenore? Uh, possibly ’cause he’s spending
$50 million on advertising. So far.
So far. I think it certainly can’t be for
his well-thought-through policies because, whatever
your political perspective is, he hasn’t really got
very many of them. Clearly, the voters are disaffected and they’re looking for somewhere
to put their vote other than the major parties, but I just really hope
that the major parties, and particularly the Coalition,
has thought through the long-term implications of doing
a preference deal with Clive Palmer, despite the fact that taxpayers
had to pick up the $70 million bill for the entitlements
of his nickel refinery workers, despite him still owing money
to the workers on top of that, despite the fact that,
last time in parliament, his record sort of oscillated wildly
between chaos and non-attendance. Um…voters can vote
for whomever they want, that’s the purpose of this exercise,
that’s why there… But I hope voters will look for
his policies and have a good look at them and not just sort of accept the
ad line that he’s someone different. And I really hope the major parties think about
the long-term ramifications of another dose of that Palmer drama
in the parliament which can only cause…bring
more kind of disillusionment to the whole process, in my view. Mitch Fifield, are you proud
of this preference deal or ashamed of it? Well, we’ve had compulsory
preferential voting in Australia since 1918. So, since that time, political parties have spoken
to each other, and every citizen is required
to put a preference against every number
on the ballot paper. Now, when a party enters
a preference arrangement, it doesn’t mean that
that party endorses the parties further down on the ticket, it doesn’t mean that they support
their policies or their candidates. If that were the case, the Australian Labor Party
would be guilty of supporting
the Australian Greens – of supporting the abolition
of the alliance with the US, with supporting death taxes, with supporting the criminalisation
of the export of coal. Now, I don’t believe
that they are the positions of the Australian Labor Party, but neither are the positions
of the UAP the positions of the Coalition. Mitch, can I just interrupt you?
Are there any moral issues here? The Prime Minister said
in the debate tonight that Mr Palmer is being pursued
in the courts for more than $70 million that he refused to pay
to his refinery workers after the refinery packed it in. Do you think it’s actually moral
to give preferences, to make a special deal,
for someone who’s done that? Well, obviously, anyone who owes money
should make arrangement for that. What we’re talking about here is something which is
entirely separate. Now, obv…
It’s not really separate, though. I mean, the government had to pay
the $70 million, so that money has been paid
by the taxpayer, and now Clive Palmer is effectively
using possibly up to $70 million or more that $70 million
of taxpayers’ money, you could argue,
to pay for his election campaign, and you’re preferencing him. Well, that particular matter
is currently before the courts, as is appropriate. But if it was inappropriate to
talk to the United Australia Party, we would not have had
Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm, as an authorised agent
of the Australian Labor Party, talking to Clive Palmer. Clive Palmer today,
at his press conference, said that Anthony Chisholm phoned him
last week and said, “Is it too late
to talk preferences?” And I also recall,
sitting on the floor of the Senate, looking up the back of the chamber
and seeing Clive Palmer wander in and sit in the adviser’s box. One minute later, I saw Senator Anthony Chisholm
break a hamstring to get to the other end
of the chamber to sit down and snuggle up to Clive. OK, Mitch,
I’m going to interrupt you there so that we can get Chris Bowen
to answer this because Senator Chisholm has actually
put out a statement today. Absolutely. And a text message saying, “What are
you doing with your preferences?” is not a preference negotiation and it’s certainly not
a preference deal, and any preference deal would have
needed to be approved by our leader, and he would not have approved it. What Scott Morrison has done
in this deal has shown that he cares more about
the next three weeks than the next three years. There’s two issues here.
There is the moral issue. I mean, this guy is a charlatan
and a fraud. He owes the taxpayers $70 million
and his workers $7 million. Every ad, every Facebook ad,
is theft from those workers
and the taxpayers. And by Scott Morrison doing
this deal, he has abrogated
any moral responsibility here. And secondly, there’s the chaos. I mean, Scott Morrison has basically
guaranteed his return to the Senate. Now, have we forgotten the chaos that went with Clive Palmer
being in parliament? Added to that,
the other members of the Coalition, the National Party, are preferencing
Pauline Hanson and One Nation. So if the Coalition wins
the election they will have to have agreements
with Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson on every piece of legislation
through the Senate. Now, haven’t we had enough chaos
over the last six years without guaranteeing that
for the next three years? That’s your minute. Tony, there’s just one point
I’ve got to make, and that is, the Australian
Labor Party today, in 69 seats, has preferenced Clive Palmer’s party ahead of Liberal
and National candidates. I’d be interested in…
Well, and we get… And we… I’d be interested in Chris Bowen
or Bill Shorten’s explanation as to why, given everything
they’ve said over the last few days, the Labor Party sees it appropriate
to preference Clive Palmer’s party ahead of Liberal and National Party
candidates in 69 seats, and why, in the Prime Minister’s
seat of Cook, Labor are preferencing
the Fraser Anning Party ahead of One Nation.
Alright, let’s get an answer to that. Well, while we take nothing
for granted in this election, the case of Labor’s preferences
being distributed in the lower house is pretty slim. Where it counts is in the Senate…
As it is in our case. Well, no, not in the Senate,
it’s not for you. You are guaranteeing
United Australia Party senators by your preferences. By your actions, you are putting this party
into the Senate, almost certainly. This is your responsibility, Mitch,
and your party’s responsibility. You are perpetuating more chaos by putting this charlatan back
into the parliament, this wage…wages theft…
this wages thief, this man who has stolen $70 million
from the taxpayer and $7 million from their workers, and who is the definition of chaos. Have we forgotten
he had three senators elected? Can I just interrupt, though?
‘Cause did you…? I don’t know that you’ve
directly answered the question. Is Labor preferencing his party –
Palmer’s party – ahead of Liberal candidates?
No, in the lower house. I thought it was a matter
of principle. Well, it…
Except in 69 seats. Well, we are not preferencing him.
We have no deals with him. We are not preferencing him
in the Senate. In the lower house, often it depends
on the order on the ballot paper and a whole range of factors. We put One Nation last –
One Nation last – and then there’s
a whole range of factors that go into the lower house. But the fact of the matter is
it’s the Senate where Clive… Would it be acceptable
under any circumstances to preference his party
ahead of the Liberal-National Party? Well, look, as I said, candidates in the party
and the leadership will look at the flow of the ballot paper for the most sensible distribution
in the lower house. But I would be surprised
if there’s any of those seats where the Labor Party’s preferences
will actually mean anything. It’s the Senate…
it’s the Senate where… The story is changing already,
Chris. It was a great matter of principle
which… Mitch, if Clive Palmer is
in the Senate after the election, and his other candidates
in other states, it is your responsibility. But, Chris…
OK… BHAKTHI: If I could jump in, Tony…
Well, you can, yes. Go ahead. Because…
(LAUGHTER) I, um…I want to go back
to Liz’s question, which is an interesting one, because this goes back
to polling numbers. That’s why
we’re talking about Clive, that’s why this deal happened. And I went to
Clive Palmer’s YouTube channel to look at some of his ads ’cause I honestly…
I tune out on the telly and I thought,
“No, I’m going to focus.” When his ads come up,
I tend to tune out, but I thought,
“No, let’s pay attention to this.” And there weren’t many hits
on most of the videos, but there was one video
that had nearly half a million hits, and he was promising to increase
the pension weekly by $150. Now, he can’t promise that. He doesn’t have any authority
to guarantee that. He doesn’t have to do any costings.
He can just throw numbers out there. He’s also been suggesting
he might be prime minister at the end of this election, so…
(LAUGHS) I mean, you have to take a lot
of what he says not at face value, which is why I wonder, Mitch, whether you’re taking him
too much at face value when he says that Labor
approached him for a preference deal? Well, Anthony Chisholm,
the Labor senator, has not denied that he had contact… Well, no, he actually has
quite specifically denied that in his press conference.
(LAUGHTER) No, no. I’ve actually
looked at what he said. He did not deny
that he said to Clive Palmer, “Is it too late
to talk preferences?” Alright.
So he has not denied that. Tony, I think discussion
is complete baloney. There is absolutely
no moral difference between preferencing Clive Palmer
or Pauline Hanson or the Greens. We have a very eccentric
electoral system which means
you have to preference somebody. Now, what Chris Bowen
and part of the media are asking the Liberals to do is ensure that a Labor senator
or a Greens senator gets the last Senate position
in Queensland. Now, that is utterly ridiculous. The deputy leader
of the Greens party, Adam Bandt, called Jim Molan – one of the most magnificent soldiers
Australia has ever produced – a war criminal. The Greens Party is a party
of hatred of Western civilisation and of our economy, which wants to
deindustrialise Australia and destroy every tradition
we’ve been built on. They are absolutely as extreme
and much more dangerous because they’re much more competent than either Clive Palmer
or Pauline Hanson. (LAUGHTER)
Now, it is just ridiculous. Greg, it is wild to say…
Are you really asking… ..that the Greens are more
dangerous than One Nation. You’re really asking
the Coalition… It is wild to say that. ..to put a Labor senator
or a Greens senator in the Senate who will never vote for them ever,
as opposed to Clive Palmer… LENORE: Isn’t competence
a good thing? ..who will vote for them…? I’ll just interrupt you because
we have another question on this. And we’ll go straight to it.
It’s from Julian Hepburn. Thanks, Tony. Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton
and Barnaby Joyce all seem to be liabilities
for the Coalition’s campaign. If the far right is so unpalatable,
is it then a poor move for the Coalition to give
preferences to Clive Palmer? Mitch Fifield?
Well, thank you. I’ve got to emphasise again – we are urging everyone
to vote Liberal or to vote National. We don’t want anyone to put
a number one next to Clive Palmer or the Australian Labor Party
or the Greens. We want people to vote for us.
That is our message. As I say, people are required by law
to number every box, and individual voters will choose
how they do that. In fact, in the Senate we outlawed,
before the last election, what were known as
group voting tickets, where the parties actually got to
dictate where the preferences went. We’ve outlawed that so that political parties
can no longer dictate where Senate preferences go. It’s entirely a matter for voters. We now have optional
preferential voting in the Senate so people can order the cards
as they want to… Just briefly, on the first part
of that question – Abbott, Dutton, Barnaby Joyce – not going to see a lot of them
during this campaign, are we? What, in particular,
has happened to Peter Dutton, who was one of
your most prominent frontbenchers for all the years that I can remember that the government
has been in power and now he seems unable to even
pop his head above the parapets? No, not at all. Peter Dutton, on TV last night,
was taking part in a debate of the candidates in Dickson – all the candidates in Dickson, except for the Australian Labor
Party candidate, who didn’t front. Peter is in a tough seat. He’s working hard, as you would expect a member
in a marginal seat to do. But Peter has been
an incredible colleague. He has ensured
that our borders are safe, that they’re secure, that the people smugglers
can no longer… So you’d think he might be
at the front end of the campaign rather than just appearing
on a Sky debate late at night when no-one’s watching. (LAUGHTER) Well, people choose the media that they want to choose
to consume, Tony. But Peter’s made
an immense contribution and he’ll continue to
in the next parliament. Um, Lenore. I just want to first take issue
with something that Greg said, which was that he finds
the Greens more dangerous because they’re competent. I actually think competence
is a factor to be admired in a political party. And, you know, Greg can dislike
the Greens or think that they’re… ..you know, disagree with their
views – that’s entirely his right. But I would say,
looking at the Greens versus the United Australia Party, the obvious difference is that the Greens have thought-through
policies that they cost. Greg might not like the costings,
but they’re considered policies. The United Australia policy has,
you know, no policies at all or policies that they
pull out of their ear. And in my view, it would be
far better to have a parliament made up of a range of parties, but at least ones that take the
process of governing seriously, rather than having a lend of us all. I think that’s wrong, because I think they’re
competent at electioneering, they’re not competent at policy. But they’re electioneering in order
to govern. They’re supposed to be… They plan to criminalise
coal export. So, you wipe out $70 billion
of coal exports like that. They’re going to get to
zero emissions in 10 minutes, or something.
We have to get to zero emissions. Now, that is not costed. That is
baloney. That is fantasyland. Greg, you’re the foreign editor
of The Australian, so what damage could it do
to our relations with China to have a prominent senator with
a kind of…the appearance at least of some kind of agreement
with the government, coming to power, saying
effectively that China is about to invade our deep water ports?
Well, look… ‘Cause that’s the sort of thing that
he’s saying in some of these videos. A lot of things that Clive Palmer
says are utterly idiotic. A lot of the things the Greens say
are utterly idiotic. Just insane about treatment
of cattle in Indonesia and so forth. And about the need
for militant veganism to rule our agricultural industry. But guess what – most nations
in the world don’t fixate on what eccentric, weird senators
say in the Australian Senate. If the Australian government
said that, they might fixate about it. But I tell you, it’ll have zero
impact on our reputation. BHAKTHI: But isn’t it…?
I’m sorry. I’m just going to go back
to our questioner. Julian Hepburn has got
his hand up. Go ahead. Yeah, you could say that Tony Abbott
is just good at electioneering too. His policies at the moment
are for a tunnel and for more buses, which are both state issues,
as far as I’m aware. So, it’s like…it doesn’t seem
like they’re capable either or we’re not really seeing
the true Coalition’s campaign. It’s just a bit of a facade
with the hard right wing hiding in the background
at the moment. Chris Bowen. Well, I think you make
some important points. Yes, the Liberal Party
is dominated by some people with very extreme views. Tony Abbott, Craig Kelly, Peter
Dutton – I mean, take your pick. I think there’s
a broader point, though. You talk about Peter Dutton
being in hiding. In fairness to Peter Dutton,
the entire cabinet is in hiding. I mean, most of the cabinet is in the witness protection
program, frankly. MITCH: Uh-uh.
I mean… (LAUGHTER)
Special guest appearance. I mean, good on you
for fronting, Mitch. But, you know, when was
the last time we saw Angus Taylor or Melissa Price or any number
of cabinet ministers? I mean, we’re out there campaigning
as a team, a shadow cabinet team. I think a very competent team. Is that partly because you’re
a better team than a leader? No, it’s because… The focus on…
(LAUGHTER) ..Bill Shorten,
as opposed to the full team… No, no, these… No, it’s…
..seems to be more a Labor priority. Well, we’re very proud of our team,
we’re proud of our leader. He’s done a great job on the debate
tonight, for example – is widely regarded as the winner. But government is not just
about one person. Government is about
the quality of the team. It’s about our experience, with 16 of us having served
in a cabinet before, in the shadow cabinet. With that experience
and that talent, whether it’s, you know,
Tanya Plibersek, myself, Jim Chalmers, the entire team,
that we bring to the table. We are campaigning as a team
and we’re proud of the team. We’re proud of the leader, and the
agenda, and policy and the team. And that’s what, really,
a government is about. Let me just quickly go back
to Mitch on that and then I’ll come to Bhakthi. But is it… I mean, it seems that
this campaign is very presidential from the Liberal-National Party’s
point of view. It’s all focused on Scott Morrison, who, without the value of incumbency, really has to focus everything
on him, so people get to know who he was –
or who he is, I should say. But is this a problem, do you think, that your team seems to have
disappeared, as Chris Bowen says,
into the background? No. I don’t think the team
has disappeared at all. Scott Morrison was standing
next to Linda Reynolds, the Defence Industry Minister,
today, making… Did she say anything?
She did. (LAUGHTER)
She…she spoke at some length. But every day, Scott
is standing with colleagues, making significant policy
announcements. So I don’t accept that
for a second, Tony. Bhakthi.
Mm. I just wanted to go back
to something Greg said about… I think it’s this false equivalence
that we now have between the far left
and the far right. We just had another shooting
in a synagogue in the US, where, obviously,
Jews are being persecuted. We had the Christchurch shooting. We know from intelligence
that the greatest threat to safety is the far right in this country. We’re seeing Fraser Anning
supporters bashing up journalists, which is an appalling
state of affairs. So, to create this kind of, “Oh, they’re bad on this side
and bad on this side,” it’s just false. And it’s dangerous. You’re saying
they’re only bad on one side? No, I’m saying that what we have…
the knowledge that we have now is that the danger is greater on one
side to a physical safety of people, particularly religious minorities. GREG: Yeah, that’s
not entirely true. Look, I despise the far right
in this country. I despise them and
I don’t accept for a second that Tony Abbott or Peter Dutton
or Barnaby Joyce are the far right. I despise Fraser Anning
and everything he stands for, and I despise people who base
anything on racial motivation. But it is not true to say that the greatest danger comes
from the far right. They are evil
and they are full of danger. Islamist terrorism is also evil
and full of danger and there have been, whatever it is,
28 serious terrorist plots foiled in this country, which would have
killed many people. And many hundreds of Australians
have been killed by Islamist terrorists,
not by the far right. But that doesn’t fall within
our political spectrum, does it? We don’t vote for
Islamist terrorists. Now, I don’t have any truck
for any of them. And I’m not suggesting
the Greens are terrorists – I’m suggesting they hate our society
and their policies are insane. (LAUGHTER)
Big difference. OK, it’s time to move on.
You’re watching Q&A live. We received a number of questions
on Labor’s plan to spend $4 billion over four years to make childcare
free for low-income families and cheaper for households
earning under $174,000 a year. Our first is a web question. It’s from Bryan Hale,
in Christie Downs, South Australia. “Why should taxpayers
that do not have children, “or do not have children
in child care “be responsible for funding
other people’s child care? “Having children
is an individual choice “and others shouldn’t be responsible
for funding that choice.” Chris Bowen? Well, I mean, the questioner
is entitled to that point of view, of course, but we take the view
that having people with access to affordable child care is good
for their cost of living but also good for our economy. We’ve want people participating
in the workforce, particularly, frankly, mothers
participating in the workforce. Lifting female participation. And that is very hard
when you have child care costs that have gone up 25% while
this government has been in office. So, it’s very hard for many families to engage in that participation
in the workforce. The fact of the matter is that
child care costs have gone up a lot, around $2,500. And we think we can provide
better relief. Now, both sides
have child care subsidy. In fairness to the government,
they had child care subsidy as well. Ours is better. Ours is…
(LAUGHTER) Well, it is. Ours is better
for Australians earning less than $173,000. A quarter of families are worse off
under the government’s reform. So if we are going to have
child care subsidy, let’s do it properly,
let’s support families. Cost of living pressure
is very real. It’s very real. And, of course, governments have
a choice whether to intervene to support families
to re-enter the workforce. To support, also, early learning. I mean, early learning, we know,
is absolutely vital to our economic future. And we are falling behind
the rest of the world. Our policy is to provide
universal access to preschool for three- and four-year-olds. Our policy is also
to provide proper pay for early childhood educators.
Now, early childhood… Now, speaking of the educators,
the proper pay issue, why is it necessary for the
government to intervene there, to boost the pay of these workers? ‘Cause that’s the other half
of this policy. It is, and it’s a very important
part of the policy. Early childhood educators
are very important for our economy and our society. We delegate to them
the nurturing of young minds that need to be developed. And we pay them very poorly. We pay early childhood educators
very, very poorly – $25 an hour. Some of the lowest-paid workers
in our society are early childhood educators, and they do some of the most
important work. Now, you can require the childcare
centre to pay them all, and fees will go up,
or the government can intervene. We choose to intervene. We actually make the choice –
it’s a big call, I accept – to intervene, to work
with the sector and say, “We will pay for the increase.” Now…
OK, that’s your time. ..Mitch’s colleague today
called that communism. I don’t know… I wouldn’t put
those words in Mitch’s mouth… I’ll actually put…
That’s your time. I’m going to put that
to Mitch Fifield. The Education Minister did indeed say that this policy
of paying extra money for these early childhood workers
is a fast track to communism. Well…
Do you agree with that? It’s very serious
government intervention. And if you think that what Labor
are talking about with child care, with their additional subsidies and also with paying
childcare workers more sounds too good to be true,
there’s a reason for that – it IS too good to be true. Labor have not explained how they’re
going to be enhancing the wages of childcare workers, whether
they’re going to pay that to the childcare providers and if so, what would stop them
just pocketing it? They haven’t said if
the government is going to make some sort of direct payment
to childcare workers themselves, to supplement their income. This is something
that we haven’t seen before. Well, shall we quickly ask
the Shadow…? Well, Mitch just said
we haven’t seen it before. Actually, we have
seen similar before, under the last Labor government,
with community services workers. So, it’s not that radical a concept. We have said we will work
with the sector. We have said that
we will work with the ACCC to make sure that there isn’t
upward pressure on price. How are you going to pay them,
though, is the question? Well, we’re going to pay it…
We would envisage paying it to the childcare centres
under the condition that it’s passed on
to the childhood educators. It’s not that complicated.
I mean, you make a payment. You say, “This is going to the
childhood educator, “the salaries have got to go up.” It is no longer acceptable for our society to treat our
childhood educators so poorly. MITCH: Just a question
on that, Tony. OK, so, can I come back to you
on what the Minister said? This is a fast track to communism –
do you agree with that or not? Look, I haven’t seen what he said,
or the context. But I’m happy to… That is the context, exactly as we’ve
just been described…describing it. I rely on primary source documents,
rather than what others say. He did say that, Mitch.
But anyway…. I can back him up. He said it. But anyway, I absolutely agree that this is unprecedented
government intervention. The question I was going to
put to Chris on this is… He mentioned
that there was a precedent. What I would like to know is,
in this particular case, will a Labor government insist that in order to receive
that additional payment those childcare workers
are union members? Good try, Mitch, but you can’t…
Well, the answer’s no. ..take over the role of moderator. If you want to answer that
quickly, you can, but actually, I did put
your last question to him. Good, ’cause that’s a change
from what you did before. I can answer it very quickly.
I can answer it very quickly – no. OK, Lenore Taylor. I just wanted to go back to the
premise of the original question, which was that some members
of society who don’t have kids shouldn’t have to pay
for higher child care payments. I mean, I think
that’s a bit ridiculous. We, all of us, pay taxes for services that
we don’t necessarily use. You know, healthy people pay
for hospitals that sick people use. I mean, that’s the way
our society works. It’s a matter of choices
that the parties make about how much they want to pay
for those services. Labor’s policy, I think,
is a big, bold intervention in this election campaign, and
I think it’s likely to be popular, because child care costs are
a big part of household budgets. You hear people talk about it
all the time in terms of returning to work and whether the secondary earner
in a family can return to work after kids. So, I think it’s going to be
quite a defining issue for the second part
of this election campaign, as we move from the sort
of negative campaigning that’s characterised
the first few weeks to the actual battle of ideas
about lower taxes versus more spending on services. I think it’s really central. Did you want to jump in there? Oh, yeah, just on the, uh…
the child care subsidies themselves. When Labor were last in office
and they increased the rebate from 30% to 50%,
child care fees doubled. Labor don’t have a good track record
when it comes to compliance. They say they’re going to
have the ACCC… Mitch, I’m going to interrupt you only because we’ve got a follow-up
question which deals with that issue. It’s via Skype. It’s from Alan Winslade
in Wangaratta, Victoria. Good evening, Tony. How are you?
Very good. My question is in regards
to the rebate. Once the rebate is set, how will
the government control it so that the businesses and companies
don’t take the rebate and actually increase
the child care, as they did with the gas subsidy
and the solar subsidy? How are they going to control it? Chris Bowen, it is a big issue… Well, of course it is.
..and no-one’s got the answer yet. Well, look, it’s not dissimilar
to private health insurance. The government has a big subsidy
for private health insurance. And, you know, I don’t think Mitch
would argue against that. He’s argued against intervention
to support early childhood educators and child care subsidies. I don’t think Mitch would argue
that we shouldn’t intervene to support private health insurance. But at the same time,
there’s controls. Because the government subsidises
it, the government says, “Well, therefore, we’re going to
have a say in how much you charge.” And you can enter into
a similar arrangement with child care going forward. We’ve said…we have said that there
is more work to do with the ACCC on how that would be…how the
modalities would be implemented. But that’s the principle
that we would apply. I mean, on these two issues…
on these two issues, the government says
they believe in higher wages until they see a scheme
that actually delivers it. And as soon as they see a scheme,
they’re against it. That’s on early childhood
educators. I mean, as I said before,
early childhood educators do very important work
in our society. They deserve to be paid more.
Let’s… In relation to the subsidy,
families deserve more support than what they’re receiving
at the moment. Greg Sheridan, Lenore just said
this could be a defining issue. And it’s certainly a bold initiative.
What do you say? Yeah, so I want to offer
two thoughts on that, Tony. The first is, the single most
important issue facing this country is the massive
armaments growth of China and the revolution
in our geo-strategic circumstance and you’re not going to hear
one word about it in this debate. This whole election debate
has been trivial and tactical. We’re hearing a lot about it
from Clive Palmer. The second thing… Well, what a pity that it’s left
to a fruitcake like him… (LAUGHTER) ..instead of, you know, our Foreign
Minister, who is in hiding. But… OK, now, Greg, we are talking
about child care here, so… Yeah, yeah. So… Now…
(LAUGHTER) ..let’s go back from armaments
and China to child care. Absolutely. So…
It’s a bread-and-butter issue. Yep. Now we get back to the bribes. Now, both sides have failed dismally in providing a competitiveness
agenda, a productivity agenda. Now, it’s very easy to promise
any amount of social spending. The whole Western world is in crisis because it is making
social spending promises which it cannot possibly honour. And I’m very worried
about the Labor Party – although the government
is scarcely better – that it is looking for its model not
to the Hawke-Keating governments, which had productivity agendas
and competitiveness agendas to make Australia wealthy,
and then a redistribution agenda. They’re looking instead
to the Whitlam government. The Whitlam government
had a redistribution agenda and it was a colossal disaster
for this country – massively increased unemployment,
massively increased inflation, and in the last year
of the Whitlam government more people left the country
than came into it. And the government
is scarcely better. Neither side… This is just a crude auction –
“My spending, your tax cuts.” I wouldn’t dignify it
by calling it a battle of ideas. OK, so our questioner has got
a follow-up, I understand, to what was said. Skype questioner. I beg your pardon. Yes, um…
There you go. Go ahead. In regards to the initial question –
what controls? They said there was controls
before for the other products, as with the gas and the solar, but the controls
don’t seem to be there. The product still goes up. They take the rebate
and we’re back to square one. OK, Chris Bowen, a brief answer. Well, I mean, the point
is valid to some degree. And we’ve looked at that and
taken those lessons on board. That’s why we’ve said explicitly as
part of this announcement today… (COUGHS) Excuse me. ..that we would work with the ACCC
to develop a model… (COUGHS)
Excuse me. ..uh, for the ACCC then to ensure that those costs aren’t passed on
to the customers. Bhakthi, I know you want
to come in. Go ahead. I was just going to add that I think
this is a smart play from Labor to focus on child care, because we know that
the Coalition is quite weak on issues pertaining to women. We know that they have woeful representation of women
in their team, they’ve had senior women leave
in recent months, and to…for the Labor Party
to target… You know, it will primarily be women
who take the brunt of this cost, or they’re perceived to take that,
and I think it’s just a smart play. OK. Let’s move on.
The next question is from John Boyd. My question is for you, Chris. As the possibility of you being
the next federal treasurer in a Shorten Labor government, can you explain the changes,
proposed changes, to the franking credits
that will affect people that have already retired
and are already enjoying the benefit of franking credits
in their income streams? Thanks, John. I can. Firstly, we are the only country
in the world that sends tax refund cheques
to people who haven’t paid tax. The only country in the world
that does it. It costs $6 billion a year
at the moment. It’s going to grow
to around $8 billion a year. That’s more than we spend
on public schools from the Commonwealth government. Three times what we spend
on the Australian Federal Police. I have to tell you,
we can’t afford it anymore. It’s sending tax refunds to people
who haven’t paid income tax. Now, what does that mean
in the real world? Let’s take an example. If you’ve got a nurse
who is earning around $67,000, we charge that nurse
around $13,000 a year tax, roughly. Fair enough.
That’s what we charge her. If you’ve got a retired shareholder who owns their shares
in a self-managed super fund, who earns $67,000 in dividends,
we don’t charge any tax. Fair enough. And then we send a tax cheque
refund for around $27,000. $13,000 we take from the nurse. $27,000 to the retired shareholder through their self-managed
super fund. Same income, different outcome. I have to tell you it’s not fair. Now, I understand people who receive
the cheques like the arrangement. And I understand
that they, you know, want to argue for that arrangement –
I completely respect that. I completely respect that people
have worked hard and saved hard and have managed
to build up savings. But I have to tell you
we can no longer… And this argument about
where we’re investing money and whether we can afford more
for schools or hospitals, whether we can afford
to provide increased support for pensioners to go to the dentist, which was another big
announcement on the weekend, or to ensure that Medicare
supplies support for people who are going through the battle
of their lives with cancer – all expensive things… Can we just go… Can we just go back
to our questioner? Are you actually going to lose money
out of Labor’s policy? Yes, I would.
And do you have any idea how much? It’s probably around about
$7,000 a year. OK.
The thing… Can I make a comment? You quoted those numbers of a person
with a self-managed super fund. I think you’re forgetting
that’s at the top end of it. The average person is nowhere near
those sort of numbers. And the other thing is
if that goes away, doesn’t that increase their pension
from the government, ’cause they won’t be getting
that income? Even if you are receiving a smaller
amount of franking credit refund, and you’re not on the aged pension – ’cause, remember,
aged pensioners are exempt, so we’re not taking… And that’s means tested. So, in effect, we’re means testing
the benefit. At the moment… There seemed to be some confusion
about that in the debate tonight. And I’ll bring in Mitch Fifield to…
on that question in a minute. But can you explain what was
going on in that debate? Well… It’s very confusing
to a lot of people. But there seemed to be a suggestion
that pensioners WERE affected. No, Scott Morrison was deliberately
confusing it in that debate, to be frank. All pensioners with individual
shareholdings are exempt and all pensioners
with a self-managed super fund at the date of our announcement
are exempt. And there are very,
relatively, few pensioners with a self-managed super fund. And therefore, the pensioner
guarantee is very clear that we will not impact
on pensioners. And that’s how we means test it. At the moment
it is reverse means tested. The more shares you own,
the bigger cheque we send you. The more shares you own,
we send you bigger cheques. Now, that is, with respect,
welfare for the wealthy. When you get up
into the big shareholdings and we’re sending big cheques
every year for income tax they have not paid. Now, the rest of us
in the pay-as-you-go tax system, the average worker,
can claim deductions, a few deductions here and there. You might even,
if you claim a lot of deductions, get your tax bill down to zero. Let me just… You said welf…
But you won’t get a tax refund. You had a questioner here,
he’s sitting in front of us, and you said welfare for the wealthy. Does that define you?
It doesn’t define me. But unfortunately my wife
would agree totally with what you’ve said,
in the respect that what you’re doing
is taking away the things that the Howard and Costello
government put in and taking it back to
the original Keating scheme. Is that…?
That’s exactly right. And age pensioners are exempt? That’s exactly right, sir. So,
just very briefly, Paul Keating… No, before you do that…
Well… I’ll come back to you, but…
Alright. ..Mitch Fifield wants
to jump in here. And there was a huge issue
in the debate – in fact, News Limited were
calling it a defining issue – but, I must say, a lot of us
were rather confused. Right. OK. Well, I’ve got to
make the headline point that this is a $57 billion
tax hit on retirees, on people who have planned for
their futures, who have worked hard. Chris says that pensioners
are exempt from this. That’s not correct. I think Labor announced their policy
on 28 March last year. And Labor say, therefore, anyone
who had a self-managed super fund before that time,
who’s a pensioner, is fine. Well, if you were someone who
was a pensioner before that date, who subsequently gets
a self-managed super fund or you’re someone before that date
who has a self-managed super fund who subsequently becomes
a pensioner, you’re hit. And the estimate is that
there will be 50,000 people over the next 10 years
who are pensioners who will be hit by Labor’s changes. So, when Labor say that pensioners
are exempt, it is not true. OK, Mitch, I’m going to
pause you there, because you need to respond to that.
Well, I mean, very clearly… 50,000 people over the next 10 years.
Well, Mitch said it’s an estimate. It’s HIS estimate. It’s HIS
estimate. I mean, you know… The fact of the matter is
we have announced this policy well in advance of an election,
more than 12 months ago. We’ve said all pensioners are exempt
with individual shareholding. We’ve said, for integrity reasons, that if you have
a self-managed super fund you’re exempt at this date, otherwise you’d find people
trying to game the system. We’ve been very, very clear
about that. Now, to your question, sir,
you’re 100% correct – we are taking it back
to the original design. When Paul Keating implemented
franking credits, dividend imputation, in 1987, he said you can get
your tax bill down to zero but then we won’t provide refunds
after that. John Howard in 2000 said, “I can do better than that,”
and he provided tax refunds. Now, what is dividend imputation
designed to do? To avoid double taxation. So the company pays tax and then the individual shareholder
does not pay tax again. With franking credit refunds, when we’re refunding the tax paid
by the company to the shareholder, that’s not avoiding
double taxation – that’s avoiding ANY taxation. The company pays tax and we refund
every dollar to the shareholder if they’re retired
and don’t pay income tax. So the net tax take for society,
for our country, out of that profit that Qantas
or BHP or Telstra or whoever make, is exactly zero. That is zero taxation. Not double taxation,
not single taxation, zero taxation. That is not sustainable anymore.
OK. And as Chris Bowen,
I think now famously said, “If you don’t like the policy,
don’t vote Labor.” No, well, I was making the point – and it’s a very important point,
Mitch – I was making the point
that we’ve outlined our policies. Unlike you, who said
“no change to the pension” and then threw 100,000 people
off the pension and reduced the pension
for 300,000 people. So I’m not going to take lectures
from you, with respect, about treating pensioners…
OK. Let’s hear, if we can…
(APPLAUSE) One quick…?
Alright. Very briefly, because I want to hear
from our other panellists, Mitch. Yeah. All I was doing was quoting
what Chris himself said there. And I was putting it in context,
Mitch, about your promises. That’s right. But it’s also
important to recognise, apart from those
in self-managed super funds, there are 900,000 people
who will be affected by this change. On average they’ll be
about $2,000 a year worse off. These are real individuals
who have worked hard, who’ve planned on a certain basis, who are now going to be hit
by this tax. OK, alright. Lenore, it’s obviously
a calculated risk, I suppose, but Labor has to find the money
to pay for its promises… Exactly.
..and this is one of the big ones. Yep.
Is it a risk that’s going to work? Well, I mean, I find… ..I think Chris Bowen’s
arguments on equity… ..on the equity grounds
are compelling, but Labor did make a decision not to grandfather this policy
for everybody, I assume precisely because
they wanted to use the money straightaway for other priorities. And I can also understand
someone like John, who has planned for a retirement
on the basis of one set of rules and then the rules change,
being a bit miffed about that. So clearly Labor’s made
a cost-benefit analysis that the miffed retirees are less…
you know, are less important, or that’s less of a… Fewer than the people
who might benefit. ..consideration than what they
can do for that amount of money. That’s a political calculation. Probably, on balance,
if you’re just looking at it through a raw political lens, rather than, you know,
justice for John, it… MITCH: Got a good ring to it,
though, doesn’t it? (LAUGHS) ..it’s a valid…
it’s a valid calculation. But, you know, they could… ..Labor could have made
the decision to grandfather it and then it wouldn’t have been
as controversial a policy. Justice for John
but not, apparently, his wife… Well…
..who seems to disagree with him. Um, now, you’re watching Q&A, and the election is just
three weeks away. If you want to find out more
about where you stand in the political spectrum,
check out ABC Vote Compass. It’s a short survey
on the ABC website that will compare your views
to the policies of the major parties. Our next question
comes from Ani Parthiban. Thanks, Tony. In light of the recent
water buyback scandal that the Coalition is embroiled in, the gross mismanagement
of the Murray-Darling system and the fact
the Coalition Government has had to be brought kicking
and screaming to any attempt
at systemic corruption reform such as the Banking Royal Commission
and the Federal ICAC, is it time for the Coalition
to just come clean and admit it that
it has a problem with corruption? Before I go to the politicians,
I’ll hear from our other panellists. Bhakthi, you can go first. Look, I think that what happened
with Watergate, as it’s now being called, is systemic of how politics
operates in this country, which is that politicians
have priorities and then the public servants
need to change what they do, bend the rules
to meet those political priorities. That is… And I don’t even know
if that’s specific to the LNP. So I wouldn’t necessarily say, yes,
one side is worse. We know what this party… We know what Barnaby has done
in this case. We don’t know enough but we know
that we need to ask more questions. The Banking Royal Commission… To be fair, we know
that he signed off on a deal he says was recommended
by his own public servants. Yes. That’s right. But whether we get all the documents
that a royal commission or a proper inquiry…
We haven’t been guaranteed that. And we’re not going to get them
before the election? That’s right. I think going
to the Banking Royal Commission… I mean, again, that’s not… ..that’s not what either
of these men would call corruption, that’s, you know, business as usual, which is that the employer groups
in this country have a lot of sway, and they get in the lobby,
at the lobbying table, and they get to argue
for why, you know… ..why they should be
treated differently. And that…it is…
That is a problem. So it’s not just about one party,
it’s the whole system. Greg, Watergate? Well, look, starting with the banks, I think Labor did very well
on the banks, and I think they were justified
to call for a royal commission. I didn’t think so at the time. Part of our crisis of morale is that the institutions,
nobody has faith in them anymore. That’s partly
because of the nature of our debate, but it’s partly because of
the behaviour of the institutions. And the Royal Commission
was tremendously powerful in showing this institution. Now, the structural point, I think, is we are much less of
a free market economy than we claim. We are really a “government
plus cosy oligopolies” economy, and the cosy oligopolies
are in private hands, but they need
to be heavily regulated when competition can’t do the job. With the Watergate thing,
it does seem to me that there’s way too much money
which is discretionary, and if a government is going
to spend discretionary money, it should make the decision itself. If it says
there’s an arm’s-length decision by an independent statutory body, that really should be
an independent statutory body. If the Government decides
it’s going to spend $80 million on a preferred tenderer…
Coming up to a minute. ..you know,
it should be the minister, not some bureaucrat who says that. OK, Lenore,
you’ve followed this closely. I’ll come to you in a minute. Um, I think corruption
is a very big word, but I think – and a big claim – but I think the problem is
that we don’t have a national…an integrity commission
at a federal basis to answer valid questions
when they come up. And on the Watergate issue –
there are valid questions. The Federal Government paid
nearly $70 million for floodwater
that happens once in a blue moon. The Queensland Government had
assessed, a couple of years earlier, that it was worth $123 million to buy the two farms
that the floodwater came from, the river that went through… ..the water from the river
that went through, that is, like, regular,
there most of the time, and the floodwater. That doesn’t seem like we got
a very good deal as taxpayers. And then it seems like the dams that kept the floodwater
for the irrigators – and then they sold it –
are still there. So, it’s not even clear how the floodwater gets back
to the environment anyway. And the calculations
as to how much we paid were based on a period of time before, really,
the effects of climate change were being felt in the river system. So, those are all
really big questions about whether we got
value for money or not, and, you know, the emphasis
would seem to be on the “not”. Um, and there’s nowhere,
no mechanism at the moment, no trusted mechanism
to deal with those questions. So I agree with Greg, actually, that we need to find ways
to improve trust in institutions, and having some kind
of properly constituted, thought-through integrity commission
to deal with questions like this would be a way to do that. Mitch Fifield?
Yeah, thanks. The water buyback was, as Tony said, done on the basis of assessment
and advice from the department, at arm’s length
from the executive. Uh, but…
Did someone screw up here? ‘Cause it doesn’t sound like
it was value for money. But, as I was going to say, Tony, um…it is important that there’s
public confidence in these processes which is why David Littleproud,
the Agriculture Minister, has written to the Auditor-General asking them to look at the
water buybacks of the last 10 years, not just this $79 million buyback, but also the $300 million
water buyback of the Australian Labor Party. So, the Auditor-General
will look at this area. In terms of the proposition for
a Commonwealth integrity commission, it’s one that we fully support. But we wanted to take the time
to learn some of the lessons of what’s gone wrong
with state integrity commissions where you’ve had people
who’ve been smeared, for political or personal reasons, and have subsequently been found
that they’ve done nothing wrong. So, we’ve put forward
a fully-formed proposition for a Commonwealth integrity
commission with two components – one for those who are
in the public sector, including MPs and their staff, and another for the law enforcement
bodies in the Commonwealth. OK. What we haven’t heard from Labor
is what their proposition is. They have been calling for…
Alright, OK. ..an integrity commission…
I’m going to go to Labor now. ..but we do not have
a full proposition. So rather than paraphrase
their position, we’ll hear it from them personally. Well, you raise a number
of very important examples. Take the
Banking Royal Commission – the point I want to make is that we’ve done
none of these things lightly. We thought about the Banking
Royal Commission very carefully before we called for it. It was hugely controversial,
and we did it. There was hardly anybody at the time
who said it was the right call, but it was the right call. And who could have looked
at the evidence from the Banking Royal Commission
and said it wasn’t justified? And, frankly,
we were lectured and moralised by Scott Morrison and the Liberals who said it was wrong
and irresponsible, and they were dragged
kicking and screaming to do it, and it was a failure
on their behalf. It would have been over years ago if they had listened to reason
when we called for it, and we would now be
implementing its recommendations and dealing with justice. 26 times they voted
against the Royal Commission. The Federal Integral…Integrity
Commission is a similar point. Again, we looked at it carefully
before calling for a national ICAC – a national integrity commission. We weighed up all the pros and cons, and Bill showed great leadership when he went out and said
a Labor Government, a Shorten Labor Government,
will introduce one. The Government said no, and only because they were going to
lose a vote on the House of Rep… ..on the floor
of the House of Representatives, did they finally, eventually,
reluctantly agree to it. This has been standard practice
at the state level for 30 years, and we should have one
at the national level. That’s your minute. But just one quick
follow-up question, ’cause you didn’t talk
about the Watergate thing. Well… Do you think that’s actually peaked,
in a sense, as an election issue and is now going to go away because someone else is going
to look at it in the future? Well, we’ll see. But, again, we haven’t called
for a judicial inquiry lightly. The Government says
it was all at arm’s length and they’ve released documents –
heavily redacted documents. OK.
Heavily r… If they had nothing to hide, they
would release the full documents. This stinks. $80 million for water
which, effectively, did not exist. I mean, there are
very real questions for Barnaby Joyce
and the Government to answer. We won’t hear about them, probably,
before the election is over. The next question is on
a very live issue in the election. It’s from Richard Munao. Thanks, Tony. I bought my first property,
negatively geared, when I was 17. By the time I was 23, I had two, which helped me buy
my first family home. Thankfully,
due to those investments, today, I hope that when I retire
I’ll be off the social system. I’m also now trying to help
my 17-year-old son buy his first property so that hopefully one day he can
also be off the social system. I guess my question really is, why would we take away something
that you, I think, believe is just purely for the rich and has been a great vehicle
for many people to get into the investment market,
to get into the property market? That’s one of the things that the Labor Government
is actually talking about – wanting the young to be able to get
into this hot property market. Why would you take
this vehicle away? OK, before I go to the politicians, I want to hear from the other
panellists briefly. Greg Sheridan. Basically,
this questioner is saying, you need these kind of opportunities
through the tax system to get ahead. Do you agree? I do. I do, I agree with the thrust
of that question, absolutely. I think abolishing negative gearing
is a tremendous mistake. See, I think Chris has
a lot of justice in some of his tax reforms. I think exotic tax measures and measures
where you get tax returns for tax you haven’t paid and so on, I do think there’s room
for a lot of reform there, and there’s been a lot
of intergenerational injustice in favour of people my age. You know, we baby boomers have had
a lot of good fortune in our lives. But negative gearing is
a simple principle. If you incur costs
in making an income, you can claim those costs
against the income. You can claim interest…
you know, deductions from a whole range of investments, and property should be no different. And property,
as the questioner suggests, is the one way in which
the ordinary man who – or woman – who works very hard has often
got ahead in this country. Lenore, it’s another one
of those trade-off issues that’s going to provide money
for other policies. Do you think this one will work? I think this one works a lot better because it’s been on the table now
for three, four years, and because it is grandfathered. So, it isn’t going to hit people
who have investment properties now. And we always get
this equity argument around it where the Coalition talks about,
you know, the hardworking nurses
and policemen who have one
negatively-geared property, and the Labor Party talks about,
you know, the very rich people who have 10
negatively-geared properties. I think,
when you look at the figures, it’s true that proportionally
higher-income earners have many more
negatively-geared properties, and that is as you would expect. But I think, again,
on equity grounds, it’s a reasonable policy, and I think it’s easier
for the Labor Party to get it through, politically,
because it is grandfathered. Bhakthi. The difference
between your generation and the issues that
the current generation face, Greg, with respect, is that the size of a deposit is
just insurmountable for most people. Many, many, many people. And that is what, I hope,
this policy will try and address. And it’s interesting to me that we spent a lot of time
talking about franking credits, and even this issue, but there are lots of issues
that young people care about that neither major party
is speaking to. You know,
whether it’s climate change, whether it’s health insurance
which is also deeply unaffordable, whether it’s rental housing, because that’s where the majority of
young people have been pushed into, those issues aren’t on the table. It’s about, to be fair,
baby boomers. Yep. Chris Bowen, can you
directly answer the question? Because, basically, the argument is,
“I could give my son a leg-up. “I got a leg-up when I was 17.”
Sure. “I got into the property market.” That’s a way to do it,
when everyone is despairing about getting into the property market
if they’re young. Well, we do need
to put first-home buyers on a more level playing field
with investors. At the moment, first-home buyers
do find it very tough. Despite the fact the property market
in Sydney and Melbourne and other places has softened, it is very hard
for first-home buyers, and we want to put them on a more
level playing field with investors. This is the most generous property
tax concession in the world, in effect. very few countries do it. Of course you can continue
to claim your expenses against your investment income, but claiming them
against wages income, we’re the only country in the world,
in effect, that does that. Now, you say
you’d like your children… GREG: Lots do. Well, New Zealand, but, you know,
they’ve reformed it as well. Now, you say you want…you would
like your children to do it, fair enough. Negative gearing will be retained
but put to work. We’re saying negative gear
in the future, by all means – buy something new,
stimulate new construction. We need more supply,
we need more construction. If you buy something new, you can
continue to claim the tax deduction. Can I just go back to the questioner
on that specific issue? Richard, why can’t you just
continue to negative gear but buy, for example,
a new apartment? I actually think,
to be honest with you, we’ve got a glut of it
at the moment. And we’re starting to see
the property prices come down. Isn’t that actually a good thing
for most people? Yeah, it certainly is. But I guess the question is, can they afford
that type of property? I mean, the property
I’m talking about is taking my son up Northern
Queensland to buy a property, just to get some equity. And I guess, from my perspective,
I really do believe that… I totally understand, you know,
trying to knock down the rich, but this is not just about the rich. Why not have a cap? Why not say,
“After your first property,” “After your first two properties”? Moving forward, I’m talking about. I understand the grandfathering.
I still believe… I’ve just helped
a 50-year-old staff member, 50-year-old, and the only way he could
buy his first property was to negatively gear it. 50 years of age.
Alright. Chris Bowen? Because we do actually need
more housing supply if we’re eventually going to deal
with housing affordability. I mean, that is… Well, it’s one thing I think
both sides would agree with – the ultimate answer
on housing affordability is supply. We want to put negative gearing
to work, to say, “Use it to increase supply.” Just as the foreign investment rules
are put to work. It’s easier for a foreign investor
to buy a new property in Australia than an existing property. That’s been explicit
government policy on both sides. We apply a very similar principle
to negative gearing – all grandfathered
for existing investments, do it going forward, by all means,
but work with us, work with states
to increase housing supply by stimulating construction,
by buying something new. It’s a good tax deduction. We want to see more return
for society from it by ensuring it is put to work
by increasing housing supplies. OK. Now, Mitch, is there anything wrong
with the philosophical notion of restricting it to new property, thus, theoretically,
boosting the new property market? Well, yes, in principle, the change that Labor’s proposing, and many variation on it,
I think is wrong. And I want to start
where Greg left off. I think there’s almost
a conception out there that there is something
on the statute books called “The Negative Gearing Act.” There is no such thing. It’s a basic principle
of our tax system since 1936 that expenses incurred
in earning income are deductible. That is what the Australian
Labor Party are wanting to change in this part of the economy. So, this is yet another tax hit. This one’s $31 billion. It’s going to affect
more than a million Australians. Labor, when they first…
It’s grandfathered. Labor, when they first
presented this, said that this was the centrepiece of their housing
affordability policy. You don’t really hear Labor
talk about that. Mitch, Chris Bowen
just interjected there to make the point
that it’s grandfathered. So, does that change the figures
that you’ve just cited? Well, looking into the future, this is going to affect
many, many people who are not going to have… You just said it affects
a million people. By the fact that
it’s grandfathered, it affects no existing investor. None is the figure. Zero. I’m talking about people won’t have
the opportunity in the future that people have had in the past.
OK, alright. But you’ve got to…
There’s a theme here. It seems that the solution to every problem
that the Labor Party sees is more taxation. What we’re talking about here
is $387 billion worth of new taxes over the next 10 years. So, Labor’s approach is,
when they’ve run out of their money, the government’s money,
they’re coming after your money. That is Labor’s fundamental plan
for being in government. $387 billion in new taxes.
OK. The next question, different subject,
from Yasmin Frost. Thanks, Tony. My question is to Mitch,
in particular. You wrote in your op-ed
to The Australian that the Coalition delivered
a cheaper solution in regards to the NBN, yet up to 10% of users can’t even
get 25 megabits per second. Today, we were ranked 62nd
in the world for internet quality and there’s just a general very low
opinion on the quality of the NBN. How are you going to hold yourself
accountable, as a minister, and hold your department accountable
for this? Go ahead?
Thanks, Tony. Well, the good news
is that 99% of the nation is now either in construction,
in design, or able to order an NBN service. That 75% of the nation
can already order an NBN service. It’ll be done and dusted by 2020. When we came into office, the NBN
was essentially a failed project. Despite $6.5 billion having
been spent over four years, contractors had walked off the job, and only 51,000 premises
had been connected. So, the end is very much in sight
with the NBN. Mitch, can I just make the point,
we got dozens of questions on this and many of them
were about inefficiencies, problems in getting connections,
low speeds, dissatisfaction with the service
being provided. It seems this could be
a bit of a sleeper issue and I’m just worried
that you may not have noticed. (LAUGHTER) Tony, I do dozens of NBN
committee forums around the nation. So, you have noticed the number
of people who are angry? Well, Tony, what we’re doing over
the space of about 10 years is what it took the PMG,
Telecom and Telstra, the best part of 100 years to do, and that is to roll out
a new network to the whole nation. Now, when you’re connecting
every one of 11 million premises, there will be some people
who have experiences that aren’t
all that we would want them to be. The stats show that NBN gets
connections right the first time on about nine out of 10 occasions. But I would never want to diminish the experience of an individual
or a business that isn’t all that it should be. You’re a little over the time
and we’re running out of time, so I just want to get
some response to that from people who were rolling their eyes
while you were talking. (LAUGHTER)
I never had a good poker face! So, Mitch says the good news
is that it’s nearly done. I think we’ve spent $50 billion,
yeah? And I think the bad news is that a lot of Australians
think they got a dud deal. And I was particularly struck
by a comment from the ACCC chairman Rod Sims
recently, where he said that, particularly for sort of
budget-constrained households that are buying
less-expensive plans, they’re actually getting
lower speeds at higher costs than under their old ADSL services. So, I mean, I really think that is
an issue that needs to be addressed. BHAKTHI: I’d agree
that it’s a sleeper issue. You know, any time Crikey
writes an NBN story, we just get so much interest in it. Do you think it’s just because
they’re incredibly organised, that group of people? (LAUGHS)
No, there’s a lot of them. They notice, for example,
that the Communication Minister is coming on and you get bombarded
with questions, or is it really a serious issue that
a lot of people are concerned about? I think infrastructure
is what people care about and this is a huge
infrastructure project. And there are two
ideological perspectives that we get from the left and the right. The right believe
it’s a user-pays issue. That if you want
really good internet, then you should
have to pay more for it. The left comes from
this human rights angle. The internet is a right
and it means that people’s lives, no matter where they live,
can be significantly better. And I think we all know where the
majority of people fall on that – they want good internet. It’s essential,
especially in the country, where the LNP say
they’re supposed to be stronger. So I think you’re right,
it’s going to be a sleeper issue. Let’s hear from Chris Bowen. I mean, is Labor prepared
to unscramble the egg and go back to Fibre to the Premises,
your original promise? It’s an epic fail
on behalf of the Coalition. And I think, with respect, Mitch
just shows how out of touch he is with the anger of
the Australian people, when he says how well it’s going. I mean, it’s over budget,
it’s running late, and the service delivery is poor.
Wrong and wrong. They’re facts, Mitch. No, it’s not over budget
and it’s not running late. Three chief executives, three successive chief executives
of the NBN Co, have given evidence at estimates to say your claims,
in effect, are wrong about how well it’s been rolled out
on your watch, on your Government’s watch. I mean, this is a great pity. Now…
Can you unscramble the egg? Would Labor go back to the original
promise of Fibre to the House? Michelle Rowland’s made it
very clear. If we’d won the 2013
or the 2016 elections, we would have had more scope to stop
the disaster that’s rolled out. We accept the fact that the Government has bought,
you know, enough copper to go from Sydney to Perth and back
on multiple occasions, as part of their rollout, and has not adopted
the best practice technology, but it is what we’ve got. Now we’ve got service guarantees,
we’ve got proposals to try and improve the Fibre
to the Node where we can, etc… But Michelle Rowland has laid out
a very realistic policy, but the degree of difficulty
in fixing the mess that the LNP has left us in the NBN
will be very significant. Alright, we’re going to move on because we’ve got at least
one final question we want to get to. Remember, if you hear
any doubtful claims on Q&A, let us know on Twitter. And keep an eye on
the RMIT ABC Fact Check and the Conversation website
for the results. There’s time, as I said,
for one last question. It’s from Tony Babic. As a school teacher…
I’ll direct my question to Mr Bowen. As a school teacher since 1983, and I’ve been paying superannuation
since the age of 23, now that I’m at the age of 60, I’m starting to turn my mind towards
the whole idea of retirement. I’ve got a couple of concerns
about some of the things that I’ve heard and read
in the media about Labor’s plans in terms of superannuation – both current and potential people,
like me. In 1983, I didn’t think there’d be
a pension available by the time I got to retirement age. And with the mantra
of Keating and Hawke, I thought, yeah, that might be the
thing, so I’ll look after it myself. Look, I don’t really want a pension.
I just want to be left alone. Perhaps a couple of days
casual teaching and that’ll do me fine. But as the Shadow Treasurer, and seeing as your leader seems to be deflecting questions
more often than not and giving the answer, “It’ll all
get clearer as the day gets nearer,” I wonder
if you can answer me this – are you going to change
the playing field that I’ve been on for the best part
of 40 years and tax the daylights
out of my retirement savings? No. I mean, if you look at
our superannuation policy… (APPLAUSE) Perfectly valid question, of course,
sir. But if you look at
our superannuation policy… I’ll do it as quick as I can,
Tony, but it’s a serious question. To fix up the gender inequality, and pay superannuation
and pay parental leave, because too many women
are retiring into poverty – number one priority for us. Deal with superannuation theft – too many workers are having
their superannuation stolen by dodgy employers, and the Government is doing nothing
about it – it’s a very big problem. In relation to your question, we’ll reduce the threshold
for the high-income tax from $250,000 to $200,000. I’m not sure if that impacts on you,
sir? No, I’m a school teacher. I wouldn’t have thought so.
No. I wouldn’t have thought so.
But I just wanted to… I don’t think there is,
going through our policy… Can I ask a question that Bill Shorten seemed
not to be able to answer? How much will Labor be extracting
from the superannuation system in the form of new taxes? Well, no, we did answer that
question, with respect, in Perth. We did say that,
in relation to superannuation, we’re looking at around $30 billion
over the decade. But the vast majority of people
are not impacted. You would not be impacted, based on
everything you’ve told me today. There would be absolutely no impact. I agree with you, superannuation has been one of
Labor’s greatest achievements. It’s meant that more people retire
into dignity and can have the miracle
of compound interest work for them
during their working life. We invented superannuation
against vociferous opposition from the then Liberal Party, who tried to stop us
introducing superannuation. It has been a success.
It can be improved. But we do need to make sure
it’s properly targeted and it’s not used
for estate planning and it’s used to provide people
with enough income for an adequate retirement. That’s what our reforms do. The vast majority of people
are completely not impacted. As I said, the $250,000
to $200,000 change, the Government changed it from,
I think, $300,000 down to $250,000. We think fair enough,
but it should go a bit further. So, the government really
can’t claim the high moral ground. Again, the government said
“no change to superannuation” and then Scott Morrison,
as treasurer, brought in a retrospective tax. OK, I’m going to go to Mitch Fifield. We’re running out of time.
You’ve got your minute, of course. I’ll be quick, Tony. You notice when Chris was asked
the question about what the tax hit was
of the superannuation changes, he said $30 billion very quickly. But I’ve got to give credit
to Chris, he at least was up-front
that it is a big tax impos. When Bill Shorten was asked
if Labor were going to introduce any additional superannuation
taxation changes if they were in government –
you’ll remember that doorstop – he said, “No.” He either didn’t know his own policy
or he was fibbing. And the next day, Chris Bowen
was flown across the country to stand next to Bill Shorten…
That’s not true. ..so that someone was there
with the answers. So, Chris, congratulations
on being up-front… Don’t be silly, Mitch. I mean, I happened to be
in Perth with the leader – surprise, surprise! And Bill said… He took it on the
chin, he was up-front. He said… It was a hospital announcement
that was being made. You don’t seem to be at
all the hospital announcements. I was campaigning in Perth
the day before and that day, so, you know, great conspiracy. (LAUGHTER) Anyway, Bill was very fortunate
to have you there. I think the point is,
given you raised it, Bill said, up-front,
“I misunderstood the question. “I thought they were talking about
further announcements “that we haven’t yet made.” He took it on the chin and said
he could have worded it better. Our policies, again – I mean, being
accused of hiding our policies, I mean, this policy has been
out there for three years. And the Government is
quite dishonestly saying it would impact on people like you. It simply will not.
Alright, we’re out of time. Just going to quickly go back
to Tony Babic, who asked the question. Are you satisfied that you won’t be
affected in the way that you feared, or are you… We’ll just have to wait and see. But just on that point, let’s
just say I live to a fair age – and, eventually, I’m going to die –
if there’s any money left over, are you going to tax my kids
on death duties? No. No. And that is the most
fundamental and dishonest thing the Liberal Party has done
in this campaign. I mean, I don’t mind debating
my tax policies, but stop making them up, Mitch. I mean, the Labor Party
has no policy, and will not have a policy,
of death or inheritance taxes. We have a very robust agenda. It has never been our policy,
it will not be a policy. It’s actually not even the policy
of the Greens at this election, as I understand it. And yet we have the Liberal Party
asserting that it is. I don’t hold the PM and Treasurer
responsible for every tweet by a Liberal Party supporter. Supporters say things
on social media all the time. I hold them responsible for their
own words and their own actions. OK. The Treasurer started
this fear campaign. The Prime Minister has whipped it up
further, in his press conference, saying, “How do we know
there won’t be a death tax?” It is a lie. And you should
stop perpetuating that lie. You weren’t going to have a carbon
tax either but look what happened. (AUDIENCE GROANS)
Read my lips – no new taxes. That’s all we have time for tonight. Please thank our panel –
Lenore Taylor, Mitch Fifield, Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, Greg Sheridan
and Chris Bowen. (APPLAUSE) Sorry for mispronouncing your name
about three times. You can continue the discussion with Q&A Extra on NewsRadio
and Facebook Live, where Tracey Holmes is waiting
to take your calls with PricewaterhouseCoopers’
chief economist Jeremy Thorpe. Next Monday on Q&A,
we’ll be live from Melbourne when Bill Shorten
faces your questions. After six years
as opposition leader, Mr Shorten is in striking distance
of the top job. Can he seize the moment? Of course, we’ve also invited
Scott Morrison to face Australian voters
on a solo Q&A, as Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard,
Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull did in past elections. We’re still waiting to hear
from the Prime Minister. As soon as we do, we’ll let you know.
Till next week, goodnight. Captions by Red Bee Media Copyright Australian
Broadcasting Corporation

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Vote Liberal => zio agenda and censorship/destruction of internet, further erosion of freedoms
    Vote Labor => zio agenda with communism
    Vote Greens => communism with cultural marxist anti-white agenda

    Pick your evil. Voting leads to violence.

  2. Love to know which way the hosts steers his vote, being a part of all these panels and interviews over the years. he would have a lot of insight into politics.

  3. Bowen is far more articulate and convincing at selling Labor's policies on franking credits and negative gearing than Shorten.

  4. Mitch Fyfield failed civics AND mathematics and has shown he doesn't grasp taxation. The government's money IS the taxpayer's money.

  5. I am confused….. I have tried to find any mention of a Dickson Electorate Candidate debate and have found nothing, except one from 2 weeks ago which featured Dutton and France. so what was Fifield talking about?

  6. Why does the ABC have Murdoch's conmen like Sheridan on to disinform Australians?
    It's bad enough having liars like LNP members on, but Murdoch's goons are just way beyond what's reasonable.

  7. " Queensland Nickel workers are still owed $7m Palmer says he has paid into a trust fund to be disbursed – but only after the election. "

  8. The Crikey manager lives in fantasy land by saying right wing extremists are more dangerous than Islamist scum.

    I think Sheridan is wrong when he says that the Greens are just as dangerous as the crackpots on the right. The Greens are far worse.

  9. What is sad, is that more people know the name Clive Palmer than their own electorate's Liberal/Labor candidate…

  10. What is going on with Tony between 0:52–1:12

    He picks up, and puts down his pen 3 times within the space of 20 seconds

  11. Its very simple, either people will vote for the Banks or the people….the coalition is the protector of the banks

  12. Mitch Fifield vs. Chris Bowen reminds me of Alexander 'Curly' Downer vs. Paul Keating…..no contest and I'm not comparing Bowen to the supreme master Keating by the way.

  13. I gave up on this about half way through because, frankly, it was dull. A mediocre debate about mediocre policy for a mediocre election in a mediocre country. If indeed Australia was once a pioneering nation, those days and the people who made them have clearly long passed. I guess we now just wait for China to turn up.

  14. "I hope voters will think and look at policy"

    Oh dear, you really overestimate the IQ of the average voter.

  15. I thought if a person was going through a court case, that the couldn't be in parliament until the matter was resolved

  16. Greg Sheridan must Explain his Hatred for Australia's Very Enormous Amounts of Solar Energy, why is he trying to Prevent Clean Competition to Fossil Fuels.? Also Greg must Explain Why Australians are going to "Leave the Country" when Scot Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have Told us " Australia is the Best Nation in the World " , Very Few People leave the USA, France, Germany, Britian, Spain, Japan whoever is in Power!, in Fact more and more want to Live there. In Fact People are Walking to those Countries.

  17. Labour and the Greens are the most dangerous party in Australia. One step away from Socialism.

  18. That crickey school girl is wrong in every statement she makes . I guess that is what happens when you employ chidden to report on adult social circumstances in current affairs

  19. Clive Palmer is a lot more organised than he was. Harping on a wobbly start isn't going to cut it anymore.

  20. I took the litmus test on the abc website. I'm confused as to why they keep calling the liberal party far right? It was 2 squares from the center, and Labour are 3½ squares to the left (greens are 6, as far in the left corner as One nation is on the right). One nation are far right, LNP are centrist-right as suggested by the abc themselves.

  21. I love how that black woman waffled on about right wingers being the biggest terrorist but NOT once mentioned any of the terror attacks caused by Islamist extremists!!! This piece of filth fits in at the ABC…oh and someone from the guardian defending the greens haha there's a shock!!!

  22. funny watching a greens global activist try to debate with a real national journalist😳.

  23. American asking here, "what is this thing you speak of, 'pension'?" When our careers are over we get nothing.

  24. The optics of a political party paying $70 million to settle the debts of a very wealthy businessman/crook and then making a preference deal with that same businessman don't look good.
    It smells of quid pro quo.

  25. sigh, would be good to watch an episode of this without the politicians parroting out and repeating pre-prepared digs at their rival party.

  26. Personally I'm going to vote in parallel opposition to ANY position the MURDOCH media is taking, in this case, our mate from the Australian newspaper. GREENS IT IS!

  27. How can anyone vote for Liberal? absolute Lies about the NBN, it is WAY over budget, it was promise to be complete in 2016, now its 2020? like, wake up.

  28. Australia……the country that has those who produce nothing calling themselves experts, and telling those who produce and keep the country going, how they should do their jobs.
    This show is a prime example of exactly that.

  29. Anyone voting LNP or Labor is a complete moron. The minor parties are the only choice.
    Who in their right mind believes these scumbags from Labor and LNP. The Greens are complete ratgbags and highly destructive.

  30. Both party,s are communist clowns – more of the privatization , corporate governments
    The same people who commit treason upon Australian people. Ask yourself why Rod Culleton was targeted and removed from parliament for asking / why the law is not being followed. As per the people Constitution 1905 .Wake up Australia

  31. Labor talking about Chaos… lol and the Labor/Green deal has been the worst thing to happen to Tasmania. And they won on preferences, even though Liberal won the majority.

  32. its not a contest of ideas its a bidding war ABC .stacked a leftist pannel as always only one intelligent voice

  33. think its a mistake to go after the self funded retiree ,,,,,,and the negative gearing policy ,will only create more work for guest workers more profit for business ,NOTHING FOR WORKERS WITHOUT A CAP ON GUEST WORKERS

  34. Lenore Taylor, Greg Sheridan and Chris Bowan were easily the most intelligent people on the panel. I 100% agreed with everything Chris said and to some extent what Greg was saying. Greg was in a completely different field of thought to Bhakthi and I think she couldn't understand where he was coming from. He was saying that the Greens are worse because they are actually able to implement policy that could ruin the economy. And yeah, Hason and palmer are corrupt but they would only slightly change things to benefit themselves, the greens would implement rapid policy that would radically reform Australia. Whether it be for better or worse, the Greens are the second most competent party after Labor.