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Transcript of Q&A: Per Capita: 5 March 2018: US Tariff negotiations; Grattan Institute report on housing affordability; Labor's policy agenda

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SUBJECTS: US Tariff negotiations, Grattan Institute report on housing affordability, Labor’s policy agenda.

JOURNALIST: (audio cuts in) to the Australian economy if we don’t get these exemptions?

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: This is very bad news. There are three real risks for Australia. Firstly, if we don’t get an exemption there are millions of dollars of steel and aluminium exports to the United States that are at risk. That’s the first thing. Secondly, even if we did get an exemption, other countries which aren’t able to export to the United States may then dump their product in Australia. That is a bad thing as well. Thirdly, a general trade war will be a disaster for the world economy and Australia has plenty to lose in that, more than many other countries. So it is very important that cool heads prevail and we give full support to the Government for anything that they can do to get an exemption. But not only an exemption, all Governments that believe in free trade and global rules around trade need to be making it very clear to the United States administration that this is a very, very dangerous road to be going down.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is doing enough?

BOWEN: Malcolm Turnbull was in the United States just a couple of weeks ago talking to the President. I understand he raised this issue. Of course it would have been better if he had got a satisfactory outcome. The relationship with the United States can’t just be about nice words saying that we like each other. Here’s a policy which will materially damage Australia. I make the point I’m not trying to be too partisan. The Government will have our full support in efforts that are necessary to get the United States to see sense. The first step would be exemption. The second step would be to drop the tariff increases in total.

JOURNALIST: We’ve seen this Grattan housing report come out today. Does Australia need an explicit population policy and perhaps a reduction in migration to improve housing affordability?

BOWEN: Look I welcome the Grattan Institute’s report. Obviously I don’t agree with every single element but I certainly do welcome the report. It’s a very serious contribution. Let me make a few points. They strongly back Labor’s negative gearing and capital gains tax reforms. Strongly back them. Despite the Treasurer saying the contrary today, it’s very clear in the report. Now the Treasurer of course engaged in a ridiculous scare campaign saying it’d crash the market, and he was found out in January with an FOI of Treasury advice saying that was not true. Now the Grattan Institute makes the point that supply is a key issue, we agree with that. They then go onto say if you can’t fix supply, then look at immigration. Well I agree with them that fixing supply is the better solution. We support a National Housing Supply Council, they support it in their recommendations as well. If the Government was actually serious about housing affordability they’d look at some of those recommendations.

JOURNALIST: You haven’t announced any new policies today but can you give us a bit of a clue about what you will be looking at into the future?

BOWEN: Well I just gave a speech where I outlined some of the principles underlining Labor’s policy agenda. I’ve said we have more work to do when it comes to repairing the Budget and making room to fund important social investments, and I talked about the need to look at measures which go to fairness. If there’s things in the Budget that benefit high income earners in particular, then they need to be considered. It’s the approach we’ve taken with family trusts, negative gearing, capital gains tax and we will continue to do that. We will have more to say in terms of detailed policy announcements, but as we usually do in the Labor Party, we identify the sorts of approach that we will take while we are undergoing that very detailed policy work at the same time.