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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: Wednesday 25 May 2005: OECD economic outlook; tax debate; Coalition split on detention policy.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer



SUBJECTS: OECD Economic Outlook, Tax debate, Coalition split on detention policy

SWAN: Well, yet another OECD report has exposed the Government’s economic complacency, its failure to invest in the future to generate productivity growth that’s required for future prosperity. The OECD report points to the skills crisis in the Australian workforce, infrastructure bottlenecks, failure to put incentive in the tax system and failure to deal with the competition policy. So coming just a week or so after the federal Budget, it shows that the Budget has squandered an opportunity to invest in the future and to generate strong productivity growth and to keep downward pressure on inflation and therefore interest rates. It points to the fact that we have among the highest long term interest rates in the western world and the fact that they will be rising faster here than many other parts of the world. These are all serious concerns and point to risks in the Australian economy in terms of our future growth and prosperity.

Journalist: But there’s nothing there that the Government itself hasn’t acknowledged in the past.

SWAN: I don’t think that’s true. The Government denies there’s a skills crisis, the Government has been in denial about infrastructure bottlenecks and the Government, most of all, is in denial about the need for genuine tax reform and the

need to put incentive into the tax system.

Journalist: Should Labor back these private members bills being put forward by Petro Georgiou?

SWAN: There’s no doubt that the Liberal Party room is in revolt. There is a vote of no confidence there, both for John Howard and Amanda Vanstone. I’ve watched Amanda Vanstone closely over the last six to seven years, very closely. She is clearly one of the most incompetent ministers this country has ever been unfortunate enough to have. She should be removed immediately.

Journalist: How will you vote?

SWAN: Well, I will leave that to my colleagues who have responsibility for that. I don’t know whether they’ve yet to see the bill but I’m sure they’ll be able to talk to you

about it.

Journalist: The ninety day processing and release is broadly consistent with the position that Labor had before the last election. Would that not give it basis for support?

SWAN: Well Labor has a very progressive position particularly when it comes to children in detention but I’ll leave that to my other colleagues to outline our policy.

Journalist: What’s your personal opinion?

SWAN: My personal opinion is that children should be in the community not in detention. You see every time Amanda Vanstone gets into trouble with her policy she makes a concession, but then goes on to continue with the same harsh policy. This is a vote of no confidence in Amanda Vanstone and John Howard and I really think it says something about the lack of heart, compassion at the very core of the Howard Government.

Journalist: It’s not really a conscience vote is it? Would you concede it’s more of a policy vote?

SWAN: Look, I think it goes to the heart of our values, all these debates that we’re having. The debates about fairness in the tax system, the debates about fairness in our border protection policies. They go to the heart of our values and that’s what it’s about.

Journalist: There are reports that in order to block the Government’s tax cuts there might be a disallowance motion in the Senate. What is Labor’s position?

SWAN: Labor’s position will be on show in the House of Representatives this morning when Kim Beazley will put forward our amendments, our positive changes to the legislation that will give seven million Australians a fair go in the tax system. We’re going to shame all those backbench members of the Liberal Party into exposing their position where they’re going to deny a fairer deal to their constituents. That’s what will be going on in the House of Representatives this morning.

The other thing that we see this morning is that the Government’s silly political tactics, silly political games have been exposed by the Clerk of the Senate. The highly respected independent Clerk of the Senate has exposed Peter Costello’s games that he’s playing with the withholding schedules for the Tax Act. What the Clerk of the Senate has said this morning is that if the Government wants to it can push its schedules through from the 30th June with no disruption out there to the business community or anyone else. What we’re about is first things first. We’re going to amend that legislation in the House of Representatives, we’re going to amend that legislation in the Senate and put forward a fairer alternative for seven million Australians. So, Peter Costello’s rantings about disallowance motions and so on have been completely exposed by the comments from the Clerk of the Senate this


Journalist: Are you going to insist on your amendments?

SWAN: Absolutely, we have made this clear from day one. We can’t carry the vote in the House of Representatives but we’re going to go out there and fight like hell for a fairer go for seven million Australians. We’ll go up into the Senate and do the same. We have 28 votes in the Senate to fight for our better deal for seven million Australians and we hope we can attract the support of the minor parties for our amendments and we will continue to press our amendments in the Senate and we hope we get them up.

Journalist: Are you afraid the Democrats might cave in?

SWAN: I don’t know what the Democrats are doing on this. You might have noticed that they issued a statement last night. I think you should ask the Democrats what they’re doing. I think you should ask the other minor parties in the Senate. But there’s one thing you can be sure that Labor will do. We’ll be moving our amendments and fighting for a better deal for seven million Australians left behind by John Howard and Peter Costello. We’re not going to play their silly political games.

Journalist: (Inaudible.)

SWAN: Well we will, and the Democrats can see our amendments and they can either support them or they can vote with the Government. But when people are voting with the Government on this, they’re voting to deny seven million Australians a fair deal in the tax system. We’re going to fight these amendments in the House of Representatives. That’s where Kim Beazley will be first thing this morning and in 2 weeks time they’ll go to the Senate and we’re going to fight all of the way there. But when Peter Costello’s going on about disallowance motions, I think the comments from the respected independent Clerk of the Senate expose his political game and his political tactics.

Journalist: Seeing the Democrats would normally also oppose … (inaudible)?

SWAN: We’re happy to talk to the Democrats, but we are still two weeks away from the Senate vote. We have not even had a chance to argue our amendments in the House of Representatives. That’s what will commence today. That’s the whole point and that’s the position that we took to caucus yesterday. The first thing we have to do is fight the Bill to get some fair amendments in it. After we’ve done that we consider other matters.


Wednesday 25 May 2005 Contact Jim Chalmers 0417 141 676