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Transcript of interview with David Lipson: Sky AM Agenda: 12 November 2012: GST; Parliamentary Budget Office; Catholic Church sexual abuse allegations; nuclear submarines

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Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Australia  Tel: (02) 6277 7400 Fax: (02) 6273 4110

PW 230/12 12 November 2012




WONG: We’ve made clear we’re not in the cart for jacking up the GST. Joe Hockey might be, but the Government is not. We’ve said we’re not going to be increasing the base, nor the rate. And the reason is that we don’t believe that Australians who go to the supermarket and buy fruit and veg should be bearing the brunt of the cost of tax reform.

LIPSON: What about the broader GST though? You could increase it. I mean, you often argue that Labor is a very low-taxing government historically, so is there room to argue the case?

WONG: And we are. We’re lower taxing than John Howard’s government ever was. But I would also make this point: what’s really interesting about the way the debate has gone, and what’s interesting about Mr Hockey this weekend, is he’s egging on the Premiers to campaign for this, but Tony Abbott’s ruled out a change to the GST. So who’s actually speaking for the Coalition on this? Is it Tony when he says ‘well, no, we’re not going to do it’, or Joe Hockey when he’s clearly saying to the Premiers ‘you campaign for it and I’ll deliver it’?

LIPSON: Do you fear a campaign from the Coalition of Labor being a high-taxing government?

WONG: They’re already saying that and it’s not true. So I don’t fear it, no. I think that the party that has been very clear about our commitment to maintaining a lower level of tax than Joe Hockey did when he was a minister, is the Labor Party.

LIPSON: OK, well, Joe Hockey says he’ll submit the great bulk of the Coalition’s policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office before the election. They’ll be released, though, much closer to the election. What’s the problem with that?


WONG: Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are serial offenders when it comes to policy costing mistakes. Let’s remember where we were: These are the duo that before the last election failed to submit their policies in accordance with Peter Costello’s Charter of Budget Honesty.

They used an accounting firm for what Joe Hockey described as an ‘audit’; that firm was subsequently found to have acted unprofessionally. They then had their policies - because the Independents demanded it - costed by the Treasury and Finance, and they had an $11 billion black hole. And we also know, from them themselves - from Mr Hockey and Mr Robb themselves - they have a $70 billion black hole.

So, really, what we see is Joe Hockey, yet again, refusing to be transparent - fully transparent - with the Australian people, about the cost of his policies.

LIPSON: What’s not transparent though about submitting policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office, as he says he will do?

WONG: Well, if he does that, will he release them and when will he do it?

LIPSON: Well, he says he’ll submit them well before the election, release them closer to the election - as Labor has done, in terms of the full consolidated policies. That’s pretty standard for Labor, or anyone - any Government or Opposition - to release them just before the election isn’t it?

WONG: We see Andrew Robb saying that their policies are now fully costed. We know that they have at least $70 billion worth of cuts that they have to find. We know the sorts of cuts that would be required to the age pension, to Family Tax Benefit, to Medicare, were they to do that.

I think the Australian people deserve to know it. And I think people have had enough of Joe Hockey refusing to be upfront about what his decisions would be were he to win government.

LIPSON: Okay, a few other issues. The Catholic Church - should there be a Royal Commission into these allegations not only of abuse but also of cover up in the church?

WONG: The first thing is I think everyone reading the various revelations and stories coming out find them heartbreaking. And they are heartbreaking. And the personal cost is obviously enormous and our hearts go out to the people who’ve been victims of this.

In terms of the form of the inquiry, I think the Prime Minister said while she was overseas she’d consider that upon her return to Australia, so obviously she needs to have the opportunity to do that. But whatever the form of the inquiry, I think all of us would want it to be full, frank and fearless to make sure these matters are resolved.

LIPSON: But you believe there should be a national inquiry?

WONG: I don’t think the form of the inquiry is something I can put to you at this point. What I’d say to you is the PM has said previously she’d consider it upon her return. But I think


what we know is what type of inquiry we want - what is the outcome - and that is something that is transparent and, as I said full, frank and fearless.

LIPSON: And just finally on nuclear submarines; Joel Fitzgibbon said it was ‘a mistake’ to rule out the nuclear option in 2009. Was it?

WONG: I think we need to understand what the nuclear option would mean. It would mean that we would outsource construction, sustainment, maintenance to another country because we don’t have that industry here in Australia. That’s not the Government’s position.

LIPSON: Penny Wong, thanks for your time.

WONG: Good to be with you.