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Transcript of interview with Greg Jennett: ABC24: 8 May 2018: Budget

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GREG JENNETT: What to fight on and what to actually support depends very much on the state of the books that the Treasurer outlines tonight. To check where Labor will be looking this evening, frontbencher- one of many- is Amanda Rishworth, and she joins us in the studio now. Amanda, welcome. First of all, deficits and debts, we are seeing a bit of an argument advanced by the Labor front ventured out the blowout in debt under this coalition. What makes you think that it is going to resonate against the sort of both that the Treasurer will make tonight about getting back into surplus and handing off tax cuts?

SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, AMANDA RISHWORTH: Of course, for the thirsty few years of this government, we heard them talking about a deficit crisis, it was a debt crisis and really, having ago at Labor in government. What we are seeing now is the Treasurer has not been talking about that and it seems to be very relaxed about the level of debt that Peter Costello has even been critical of.

JENNETT: Let me ask you about that magnitude. Are you genuinely fearful, as Peter Costello seems to be, that a Labor government is going to wrestle with this for decades as well?

RISHWORTH: What Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers have been talking about is; we need a budget that is fair and responsible, we need one at that delivers too middle

income and low income Australians, at the same time, being responsible. We are seeing none of that responsibility being demonstrated by the Treasurer, he has been lucky in terms of global conditions picking up. But what we haven't seen is any serious attention to that debt that will be there for a long time to come. It has been Labor that has been putting forward the ideas about tackling those sort of revenue as well as spending issues. It hasn't been the Coalition.

JENNETT: Even allowing for that, and you have, do you have any personal estimates, clearly in Pete Costello's reckoning, it is decades, 30, 20, maybe 40 years away, depending on how long you live, I suppose; he talked about in our lifetimes. We don’t need to crunch that against his own life expectancy but what do you reckon? 40 years? 30 years?

RISHWORTH: I am a little younger than Peter Costello. I can't make any estimates, but what I want to see is some responsibility from this government to take this issue seriously. What we got is a government who has continually persisted as a central plank is tax cuts for large multinational companies. That has been time and time again what the Treasurer has pursued, and we know that our budget simply cannot afford it. That is a structural problem into the long-term. It really is up to the Treasurer to explain himself considering this was a crisis only a few years ago.

JENNETT: That business tax cut is an established part of the landscape now as a feature for some time. Why don't we look at the personal income tax side of the equation? It would seem churlish when you look at cost of living pressures to not support whatever tax relief is embedded in tonight's budget. Is that the view you take?

RISHWORTH: Obviously, Labor will have a good look at what is on offer when it comes to personal income tax cuts, and our focus has been on cost of living pressures for low and middle income earners. Our focus as always and will continue to be around fairness and about relieving the pressure is for those low and middle income earners. We have to remember that it has been those low and middle income earners that have faced the brunt of cuts to hospitals, cuts to schools- under this government- and we will be looking at those very closely. I think Australians will look at the tax cuts on offer tonight through their personal income tax and compare it to the $80 billion worth of cuts that will be handed out to big business.

JENNETT: Is that to suggest that Labor would at least match, if not go further, recognising that you have some big savings in your kitbag already that you promised, perhaps go further on personal income tax?

RISHWORTH: As Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers has said; we will have to look at the details. Both our economic team, as well as the broader Labor team has been working on a platform for the next election that puts low and middle income earners, families, older Australians and pensioners right at the centre of why we want to work for the Australian people. The government does not have that vision. Last year at budget time they talked about an increase in personal income tax. Now we are talking about a

decrease. We have to look at the details but we have been clear that we want to fight for middle and low income earners. That is our mantra and of course protecting those essential services that low and middle income families rely on.

JENNETT: For working families in particular, there are child care issues, early education issues, the government will say they address that in the last couple of Budgets, but you are looking for something in particular on early education. What is that?

RISHWORTH: What I would like to see in this Budget is locking in money for four year old preschool- universal access to preschool. This agreement between the states and the Commonwealth occurred in 2009. What it does is it offers four year old children access to early education. What we have is the Minister for Education unable to lock that in the forward estimates, we know that expires in 2019. I would like to see tonight that locked into the Budget to give some certainty to preschools right across the country, certainty to state governments that are looking at their to ensure that young children get the best start to life. I think families want to see that as well.

JENNETT: We will look out for it. Amanda Rishworth in case it is there tonight. For your thoughts today, thanks so much for joining us.



Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra