Topics: Scott Morrison resigns; Stage three tax cuts; Albanese’s broken promises; 

07:15AM AEDT
24 January 2024


Michael Rowland:  Well, the Liberal Party is preparing for a by-election in Scott Morrison’s Sydney seat of Cook after the former prime minister announced he is quitting politics next month to take up a job in the United States. Simon Birmingham worked very closely with Mr. Morrison in the Coalition government, and he’s now the Shadow Foreign Minister. He joins us from Adelaide. Simon Birmingham, good morning to you.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Michael. Great to be with you.


Michael Rowland: Great to have you on. What are your thoughts on Scott Morrison’s decision?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I acknowledge that Scott is providing an opportunity for renewal and regeneration with a new Liberal candidate who will run in Cook. But also, we have a former prime minister leaving the parliament and that always deserves a little reflection. And in Scott’s case, he’s a leader who saw Australia through the most unprecedented times in your lifetime, mine and most viewers. And that, of course, was a global pandemic, something that none of us had seen or knew how to deal with and yet Australia came through it. Really in flying colours in terms of health outcomes, economic outcomes, individual Australians, lives saved, jobs saved, as well as a number of other achievements, particularly in the defence and national security space. The building of the Quad partnership as well as the AUKUS partnership. I think over time these things will be looked back upon as being more and more significant, with a more and more positive legacy attached to them.


Michael Rowland: Well, looking at legacy, and yes, the former prime minister, is being widely lauded for helping steer or steering Australia through the pandemic. But on the other side of the ledger, we have Hawaii. We have “I don’t hold a hose, mate”. We have secretly swearing himself into multiple ministries. We have the former prime minister’s mishandling of Brittany Higgins allegations, initially. We have Scott Morrison accused of lying by the French president, and we have Scott Morrison accused by the robodebt royal commission of misleading cabinet. Surely Simon Birmingham the misses outweigh the hits here?


Simon Birmingham: Look, if any of us are without fault then, then by all means step forward. But ultimately, I think when you look at the big calls and the things that impacted the lives of the vast majority of Australians and will impact them in terms of their security and prosperity into the future, Scott Morrison absolutely got it right. And I am proud to have been a member of that government and the achievements there that left record numbers of Australians in jobs with record low unemployment. That saw Australia come through the pandemic, not only with far more lives saved than virtually any comparable country, but also far more businesses saved than any comparable country. These were things that had huge impacts in a positive way, right across Australia and right into the living rooms of Australians. That is why it’s such a strong and positive legacy in that space. But as I said, when you build upon, be it in the defence and security architecture or in one of the portfolios I held with Scott in the trade space, the relationships we were managing to open up with new deals sealed towards the end of the time in government, with India and with the United Kingdom, as well as those with Indonesia across South East Asia. These were all very important arrangements as well, all of them designed to strengthen Australia and help Australian businesses.


Michael Rowland: Okay, I want to turn to politics of the day, and it looks very likely now the Albanese Government will tweak the promised stage three tax cuts. I guess the question is if that was to happen, what is wrong with the principle of giving more help to low- and middle-income earners?


Simon Birmingham: Well, in a segue perhaps between the two. Let’s start by saying Scott Morrison was defeated on a lie. Anthony Albanese, more than 100 times with Jim Chalmers and his team, said they would leave these tax cuts untouched. And yet now they’re proposing to change them and to change them in ways that will see some Australians worse off. Now, why were these tax cuts important? Well, because they were the third stage of a carefully calibrated package and also win that third stage because they effectively eliminate bracket creep for the vast majority of Australians, ensuring that anybody earning less than $200,000 would pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar as their top marginal tax rate. And what appears to be the case in what’s speculated is that Labor is going to break this promise. They’re going to slug some Australians more. And for many other Australians, the threat of bracket creep will remain real and ever present as a result of the Labor Party’s approach.


Michael Rowland: But those potentially being slugged more. We’re speaking of people on incomes above $180,000 can handle those slugs more right than people on 60, 70, $80,000?


Simon Birmingham: There are twice as many Australians in the top income tax bracket today than when the threshold was set for that tax bracket. Those people have been pushed up into that tax bracket as a result of bracket creep. And if it’s not changed, more and more Australians will be pushed up into that tax bracket over the years to come. These are the people paying the greatest amount of tax. These are Australians who don’t deserve to see more and more captured in that tax bracket. It makes our tax system less efficient, makes our economy less efficient. And ultimately, there’s a reason why this was the third stage, because the first two were calibrated, targeted, directed to low-income earners. But we can’t be a country where we see more and more and more people who are hardworking Australians, pushed into the top income tax bracket. In many cases, these will be people. Who have now high mortgages facing higher interest rates, high cost of living. And what we’re seeing in Labor’s approach is not only a broken promise, but also one that is class warfare, divisive, penalises some Australians, but also will leave that bracket creep in place in the future. Meaning that even if under whatever Anthony Albanese is planning under his broken promise, you might be a little bit better off today. you will likely be worse off in the long run, as you do get pushed into those higher and higher tax brackets.


Michael Rowland: Okay, Simon Birmingham, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Michael. My pleasure.