Topics: Albanese’s broken promises; Stage three tax cuts; PMO knowledge of PLA sonar incident;

11:35AM AEDT
24 January 2024


Kieran Gilbert: Welcome back to News Day. Great to have you company. Let’s go live straight to the Opposition Senate Leader Simon Birmingham. It’s been a big day, a big week in politics. The Prime Minister’s broken a promise. He thinks they’re on the right side of this. Those on less than $150,000 a year from what we’ve ascertained will be better off. Do the numbers tell the story? Will those Australians be feeling happy about this change of heart by the Labor Government?


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Kieran. First and foremost, there is this broken promise. And it’s not just a light, throwaway, broken promise. Anthony Albanese was asked on countless occasions whether he stood by the stage three tax cuts and Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers and the Labor team on hundreds of occasions across all of them, all said pre-election and post-election, we stand by the stage three tax cuts. This is a monumental broken promise and Australians will see that for what it is, which is that Labor never really liked these reforms. They lied before the election. They were always looking for an excuse to cut these tax cuts, and they have now decided to go ahead and make their own changes. Now then there is, of course, the impact of what these changes are. And we don’t know precisely the details, but the speculation to date Australians should be very careful about what they see as good news or bad news out of this. Because the big part of the stage three tax cuts was the elimination of bracket creep for most hard-working Australians, that they were going to ensure that for anybody earning up to $200,000, they would never face a top marginal tax rate, more than 30 cents in the dollar. But if Labor is going to keep the 37 cent in the dollar tax rate as well, then Australians will face the real prospect of constant bracket creep and what Anthony Albanese might give Australians this year or next year. They will quickly lose in the years thereafter as a consequence of bracket creep because many-


Kieran Gilbert: You can see where he’s this argument is going though. He’s going to say that, well, he’s already said this morning circumstances have changed, cost of living crisis, post Covid and so on. He is focusing on middle Australia. And as I say, you can see where this politically goes for him. He’s going to put the heat on your side of politics. And Peter Dutton saying, if you are really about middle Australia and workers, as the Opposition Leader has said he is as Leader of the Liberal Party, then how can you not support these changes?


Simon Birmingham: The cost of living pressures Australians are facing aren’t new. And indeed, Anthony Albanese was claiming and talking about pressures prior to the last election. So, if he thought he was going to have to make these changes or might want to make these changes, why lie? Why couldn’t he be honest about the fact that Labor would look to make the types of changes? But these are changes that also look like they’re being drawn up on typical Labor class warfare lines. They seek to divide Australians, seek to denigrate one part of Australians as being wealthy, and another part as being more deserving, rather than recognising that there’s a reason these tax cuts are called the stage three tax cuts. Because there were two prior stages that were targeted at low- and middle-income earners. This stage helping to eliminate bracket creep, as I was saying before. But yes, also dealing with the fact that there are twice as many Australians in the top income tax bracket today than when the thresholds for that bracket were set, and they’ve all been pushed into that tax bracket because of bracket creep. And so, you’ve got to address that to keep the tax system fair and not to have an undue burden on some Australians and –


Kieran Gilbert: Absolutely your point makes a lot of sense and it’s a broken promise. We agree on that. And the point on bracket creep makes a lot of sense just in terms of the raw politics though. The Prime Minister and the Government believe clearly that they think they can win this, because the vast bulk of Australian taxpayers are going to benefit. In a much greater way than they otherwise would. I think. How do you navigate the politics of that?


Simon Birmingham: I think, Kieran, firstly, the vast bulk of Australians will see it for the broken promise it is. Secondly, I think Australians will be right to look at it with dubious outlook and that is because, as I said before, what they receive that some Australians might get in the next year or two at the expense of other Australians, will only be eroded in the couple of years that follow, because Labor’s going to maintain a system that has higher rates of bracket creep in it. So, Australians who might get a little bit more under Anthony Albanese’s reforms this year will quickly be worse off because Labor’s changes will simply keep bracket creep as a fundamental problem in Australia’s tax system. Whereas the Coalition’s changes eliminated it for the vast bulk of hardworking Australians.


Kieran Gilbert: As the Shadow Foreign Minister, I need to ask you quickly about this story that the Prime Minister’s department was notified of that Chinese naval sonar incident last year before the Prime Minister met Xi Jinping. We still don’t know whether he raised that issue with the Chinese President, though he could well have?


Simon Birmingham: Well, firstly, the revelation that he was, or his department was informed beforehand is deeply embarrassing because Anthony Albanese has faced direct questions about what he knew when his office was informed, when his department was informed, and he’s refused to answer those questions. This information has had to be dragged out through freedom of information processes. But all of it underscores the fact that there’s a deep lack of transparency from Anthony Albanese about what he knew on this and what he did with the information. Ultimately, it appears as if he did not raise it directly with President Xi, and not raising it was a betrayal of Australia’s hard working defence personnel and all Australians who would expect their Prime Minister to take the opportunity when they had it face to face, to raise concerns about any Chinese military actions that endangered the lives of Australian service personnel.


Kieran Gilbert: Simon Birmingham, we are out of time. I appreciate you joining us. Thanks.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Kieran. My pleasure.