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

06:20AM AEDT
24 January 2024



Patricia Karvelas: Scott Morrison’s departure will trigger a by-election in the seat of Cook in Sydney’s south. Simon Birmingham is the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister and of course worked alongside Scott Morrison. Welcome to the program.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Patricia. Good to be with you.


Patricia Karvelas: Does this allow the Liberal Party to reset and say goodbye to that era, with all of the former prime ministers finally leaving the parliament?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it allows the Liberal Party to see a great new candidate preselected for Cook and the regeneration that will come with that regard. It does see a former prime minister leave the parliament and a former prime minister whose record, I think over time, will be judged more and more positively as people look at how Australia successfully navigated Covid-19 and the benefits that were accrued in terms of economic strength coming out of Covid-19, particularly with record low unemployment, as well as the lives saved and the businesses saved throughout. But, also the significant security and international legacy that Scott Morrison leaves with the strengthening of the Quad and especially the delivery of the AUKUS agreement. So, there is much that I think will be looked back upon positively from Scott’s time as prime minister. And I’m proud to have been a part of that government as I was with his predecessors.


Patricia Karvelas: Scott Morrison has been criticised, and on Monday, the ABC will begin its three part series into the time and legacy of the government you were formerly part of, including his prime ministership. How do you think people will remember him?


Simon Birmingham: Well, as I just said, I think it will be seen in a growing positive legacy over time. We face some of the most unprecedented circumstances in the lifetimes of you, me, or pretty much any of our listeners in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. And the swift actions led by Scott Morrison to close Australia’s international borders, gave Australia time to be able to manage Covid-19 in ways that most other countries didn’t have the opportunity to do. During that time, we provided temporary, targeted and highly effective economic support that ensured Australia had a rate of business failure that was far, far superior to almost any other comparable economy. And with that, a rate of saving jobs far, far superior to almost any other economy. And so we did manage to see through those times, in addition to being able to pursue many other things despite the complexities of the circumstances and the times in which we faced. Those security agreements are referenced before but in my first portfolio under Scott of trade, we also saw under me and then Dan Tehan, a range of extensions in Australia’s trade network. Be that ultimately with the UK and India or also with Indonesia and across South East Asia, so many achievements that I think the government and ultimately historians will look back upon and say, well, these were good things.


Patricia Karvelas: Would you like to see a woman preselected to run in Cook?


Simon Birmingham: I would always like to see more women in our team and in our ranks. But of course, we have a system that is deeply embedded as a grassroots pre-selection system. In the New South Wales division that means that every eligible member of the Liberal Party who resides in Cook, who is a paid-up financial member of the Liberal Party, they will come together and they will choose our candidate. I don’t get a vote in that. Those grassroots members get a vote in that, and it will depend who offers themselves and ultimately how they present themselves to those voting members of the party.


Patricia Karvelas: Let’s talk about an announcement that’s looming, the Labor caucus meeting today and the Prime Minister delivering a Press Club address tomorrow, where he will unveil what looks to be changes to the stage three tax cuts and a cost of living sort of framework for why they’re making those changes. You’ve come out swinging opposing this, but how about if it makes good economic sense to do it?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Patricia, there are a number of reasons why we are deeply concerned with what the Prime Minister appears to have been limbering up for and preparing for. The first of those is just the scale of the broken promise. Anthony Albanese was asked time and time again, pre-election and post-election, about the stage three tax cuts, and every single time he reiterated they were legislated and the government’s commitment to standing by what had been legislated. So, there is no question that this will be a significant broken promise. It will be a broken promise that, based on the speculation in today’s papers, will indeed leave some Australians worse off and some hard-working Australians. The next part of the concern does go to the substance and it depends, of course, on what the government does. But a lot of the speculation seems to suggest that they won’t be eliminating the 37 cent in the dollar tax bracket. Now, if that’s the case, it will see bracket creep remain in place as a tool of government budget policy in Australia, whereas our government previously and this legislation tried to eliminate bracket creep for the vast majority of working Australians. That was a really important reform to ensure that the vast majority of Australians would pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar as their top marginal income tax rate, creating a real, genuine incentive-.


Patricia Karvelas: But isn’t- Let me just. That was- let’s not re-prosecute all of that. What I want to know from you is, don’t you think Australians who are middle income earners deserve more support right now? And isn’t this a way to achieve that?


Simon Birmingham: I think Australians who are middle income earners deserve the type of support that indeed these tax breaks are calibrated to deliver, and that is to help ensure that they can get ahead over time.


Patricia Karvelas: Okay. But under these changes, the ones that are already legislated, a worker on $100,000 a year gets about, you know, $1,375 a year. Someone on more than $200,000 a year gets over $9,000 as a benefit. Isn’t it going to be a pretty easy sell, potentially, for the Prime Minister to say, well, why should people over $200,000 a year at this point in this cost of living crisis, get such a big, such a big windfall?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t think it will be an easy sell because of the scale of the broken promise by Anthony Albanese and the fact that-


Patricia Karvelas: But I mean, on the economics, on the hip pocket part of it. I think the promise is a different part of the story.


Simon Birmingham: Well, let’s also understand, Patricia, that there’s a reason why these are called stage three tax cuts. That is because they come after stages one and two, which did target other parts of Australia, did target low-income earners first, and then sought to progressively work its way through the entire tax system. There are twice as many Australians in the top income tax bracket today than when the threshold was set for that tax bracket, and that’s purely a result of bracket creep that people have been pushed up into that tax bracket over time. That is why it does need to be addressed to keep fairness in terms of the top income tax bracket. And if you don’t address it, then what Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers will be doing is possibly giving some people a little bit more today, but many of those people will be pushed up into those higher tax brackets tomorrow and in the years ahead. So, that’s why you’ve got to actually address those. It could be dressed up as a short tum giveaway, but it will come with long term consequences of a government relying on even more income tax-


Patricia Karvelas: Simon Birmingham, we’re out of time, but we’re going to talk about this a lot, I suspect, over coming months. Thank you.