Interview with Tony Arthur, Mornings, ABC Illawarra


4 July 2019


TONY ARTHUR: Now, you may have heard the interview between Sabra Lane and Mathias Cormann in AM this morning after the news came through overnight that the Federal Government has secured enough crossbench support to pass all three stages of its $158 billion income tax plan. Joining us this morning is the Member for Hume and Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Mr Taylor, good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

TONY ARTHUR: This is a big win for the Government, isn't it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It is a big win. Of course, it was central to our election campaign: tax cuts for middle Australia. A big focus for the Government. They've been a big focus for the Government for a long while. This is part of a series of both short term and longer term reforms that we think will have a big impact on the economy, and most importantly, on the back pockets of everyday Australians. This is a tax cut that will see 10 million taxpayers benefit immediately. And you know, it's important. You will see the benefit when you get your tax return in. It's not normally exciting to get your tax return in quickly but there's a good reason to do it this year.

TONY ARTHUR: And it's not normally that something can happen so rapidly. Why is that the case?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's a big focus for us. As you know, we took this to the election. It was central to our election campaign. It's absolutely central to our policies. And we know, aspirational Australians, everyday Australians want to see more money in their pocket, and we want to see more money in their pocket because they know more about how to spend their money than Governments do. Importantly, we also need to see money in people's hands to strengthen the economy. And this is, whilst we've had an extraordinary period of almost three decades of economic growth - unrivalled across the Western world to see that kind of growth - we do want to see it continuing. And it's important that people have money in their pockets in order to be able to continue to spend and keep our regional areas, our towns, our villages strong. And that's absolutely essential.

TONY ARTHUR: Is that the main hope, though, that people won't keep this money in their pocket, they will in fact spend it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's important people keep spending. I think confidence is up since the election. We've certainly seen that already in some of the indicators on housing markets. But we have seen a slowdown in the lead-up to the election in housing markets and that has an impact on people's confidence; it has an impact on people's willingness to spend. It's important we continue to spend on those important things that we need, all our essentials; but also the odd luxury. And we want to make sure that people have, as I say, money in their pockets. And what this will mean in practical terms for a single income family, up to $1080 in your pocket and over $2000 for a dual-income family. So that's a significant- a significant increase.

TONY ARTHUR: Any estimation on how much this will be to each person? Carmel sent me a text, saying: please ask Angus Taylor how much a week will it be for the lowest paid worker? Because there appears to be no rise for pensioners or other concession holders.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it just depends on your income. Many pensioners do have an income, actually, but it just depends on your income level and it depends on, obviously, what tax threshold you're at. But as I say, the number of Australians who benefit is about 10 million. Four and a half million will receive the full amount, so that's the $1080 or $2160 if you're a couple. So that's a large number of Australians who will be receiving some benefit, and 4.5 million who will be receiving the full benefit. So it's a very, very significant injection into the economy and into people's back pockets.

TONY ARTHUR: The expected passage of this $158 billion income tax plan later today, it all still has to be ratified but it appears everyone has shaken hands and taken their word that they'll follow through when it comes to votes. Some would say it was negotiations, it's been called horse trading as well. It's come at a cost because Jacqui Lambie is asking the federal Government to waive her state's $157 million social housing debt. Has it come at a significant cost?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely not. I mean, this is an essential reform we took to the election and I think it is fair to say that the Crossbenchers have shown real respect for the fact that we fought an election on this as an absolutely central issue. It's also fair to say that Centre Alliance, in particular, has been asking for us to lay out reforms in energy markets in particular and we're doing an enormous amount in that area, and it has been important for us to demonstrate the work we're doing in that area. But look, democracy is such that we don't have control of the Senate. We rely on Labor or the Crossbenchers to support us. Sadly, Labor hasn't shown the support for what was an extraordinarily clear election mandate - the respect that we think they should have shown for that mandate - and we have been in discussions with Crossbenchers as well but there's still an opportunity for Labor to join us to get these reforms through quickly. These are reforms that we know Australians want. They voted for them and it's important they happen quickly, which is why we've been so focused on it.

TONY ARTHUR: As I mentioned, in Carmel's text, she said there's nothing in this for pensioners or other concession holders. But the Prime Minister has now conceded, hasn't he, that it's worth taking a look at the deeming rate.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, look, this issue obviously is one that has become much more real as interest rates have come down. There's no doubt about that and we're seeing record low interest rates at 1 per cent. So, the deeming rate is an issue that is worthy of discussion. Obviously, there'll be more discussion about it in the coming days. But there are other important reforms that we took to the election that will help pensioners and others. For instance, the energy supplement, the energy assistance payment, which has gone through on 30 June. We know it's important to ensure that the pensioners who are seeing a lower rate of return, particularly on term deposits, it's very important we keep that in mind at a time of very low interest rates.

TONY ARTHUR: And before I let you go, in your role as Energy Minister, and you talked about the negotiations with Centre Alliance senators, in particular, I understand a South Australian Senator has been lobbying the Government to reduce gas prices. Were you at the table for these discussions and has anything been negotiated?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, I'm not going to divulge, obviously, what are important private discussions that may have taken place over the past weeks. But look, all policies that we are taking through Parliament or through Cabinet in full time will be discussed in public. That's the nature of our democracy. That's how it works. But what I would say is this: we've put in place very important reforms in electricity which are coming through from 1 July, only a couple of days ago, a reduction or price caps that have been established for the electricity market. We're also very conscious of what's going on in the gas market. There's been major changes in the gas market and we have to be keeping downward pressure on gas prices for households and also bigger industry. There's a lot of heavy gas-using industry in our region and it's very, very important we make sure they're competitive. There are ongoing discussions and this is important work, which is absolutely central to what I do every day. None of this happens overnight but it's important work that will continue, and we'll be talking with our colleagues right across the Parliament about these sorts of reforms.

TONY ARTHUR: Alright. Thank you for your time. We'll leave it there for now.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction