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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 137

Turnbull Government

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:32): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister to confirm the reports today that he and the Treasurer were in favour of making changes to negative gearing before the minister for immigration rolled them in cabinet, arguing there was 'political value in doing nothing so as to attack Labor's changes with clean hands.' Isn't this yet another case of the Prime Minister with no authority being dragged to a position by the right wing of his party?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:33): I thank the honourable member for his question. Can I just say that we do not comment on cabinet discussions other than to say that the story recounted by Mr Van Onselen, apparently in his book, has no basis in fact at all. Indeed, it is a reminder of Mark Twain's very wise words that 'only fiction has to be credible', and in this case it is not even credible.

The facts are these: Labor's negative gearing policy was announced in a rush on 13 February this year. It was ill thought out, was ill considered, would have smashed the residential housing market and was profoundly unjust. There is his claim as this sort of latter day Robin Hood, this latter-day champion of the poor and oppressed, this sort of latter-day Jack Lang taking on the banks—he is so tough. What about those employers he did deals with to sell out his low-paid-employee members? He wasn't so tough then. In all my years I have never seen anything as sycophantic as a Labor politician in the presence of a billionaire and I reckon this Leader of the Opposition would absolutely qualify for that.

The Labor Party policy on negative gearing would have deprived hundreds of thousands of hardworking Australians from being able to make an investment in property and offset the losses against their wages or their salary. What it expressly did not do was prevent people with large investment incomes from offsetting rental losses against their investment income. So this was a policy that was so ill thought out it was actually calculated, designed, to undermine the ability of wage earners and salary earners—policeman and nurses and teachers—union members—from making an investment. But wealthy people with lots of assets, with big funds, with lots of dividends and interest, and income from various properties would be able to keep on negative gearing. This was slipshod. It was dangerous. It was calculated to undermine investment, and therefore it was calculated to undermine jobs. That is precisely why the government would have no part of it.