22 February 2016
Transcript - #2016018, 2016

In the role of: Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer [21 September 2015 - 18 July 2016]

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, AM Agenda, Sky News

SUBJECTS: Tax reform; Newspoll.

KIERAN GILBERT:

With me now is the Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer. Your thoughts on that? Wasn’t a great week for Mr Morrison was it? The Press Club – he got up, set the parameters but there was no new detail. He got hammered on talk back radio and criticised internally.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

It’s probably not going to surprise you that I don’t agree with that assessment at all. The Government has been very careful and very clear in our analysis of tax policy, making sure that we are not going to be introducing tax policy that will have unintended consequences that will actually deliver the increased competitiveness that our nation needs and increase growth which in turn will increase jobs in our economy. That’s the key focus for us. It’s simply not true to say we haven’t announced economic measures – we have. If you go back to December in a short number of months we announced a really big new innovation…

GILBERT:

That’s true but you’ve raised expectations that there’d be a tax plan…

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well no, you’ve asked me…

GILBERT:

It was the Treasurer who raised expectations.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

You’ve asked me what have we done and I’m just telling you that this innovation policy statement was really broad in its scope, making sure that we can encourage people to invest in new and innovative businesses, in start-ups, to expand those businesses, we’ve made it easier for people to make those investment decisions…

GILBERT:

That’s fine but you’ve moved on from that. The Treasurer moved on from that and raised expectations that there would be some new detail on tax, first of all on the GST – that gets shelved – then there was a vacuum basically last week and Labor has exploited it.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

The Treasurer made it very clear, our big statements are going to be made in the Budget. That’s where they’re always made – in the Budget. We have always said in terms of our tax policy, it will be made incredibly clear before the next election – which will be held this year. We’re not rushing forward with reckless policies that are going to harm our economy such as the Labor Party that have been very clear in their intent to undermine the wealth of everyday Australians who’ve got investments in their homes who might have in fact investment properties which are going to in fact cause great harm to those investments…

GILBERT:

We will get to those in a moment, I do want to get to that in a moment but you’ve said that the Treasurer is being clear that we are heading on this timetable towards the Budget. It hasn’t been clear. There have been all sorts of suggestions that there will be information dropped, information provided, in terms of changes to super. All sorts of hints here and there that there will be a greater clarification on what the tax plan will be – we’ve seen nothing.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

There has been a lot of media speculation and there always will be…

GILBERT:

And comments from the Treasurer as well.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

There always will be a lot of media speculation around these things. We encourage a national conversation about these really important issues. There is no harm in that. We will always look at good ideas, we will always contemplate those good ideas.  We’ve been very clear that when the Government has a package to bring forward to the Australian people, we will do that…

GILBERT:

But the Treasurer said just last week that there would be more some more information on super – on the super changes – before the Budget, that was the implication, is that not right? We will have to wait for the Budget for everything is that the case?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

What I’m saying to you is that when we have an announcement Kieran and we will make it very clearly. We are not going to be in this position where people like yourselves are trying to rush forward Government policies, we’re working on it very carefully, we’re not reckless…

GILBERT:

So we might not have to wait for the Budget?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Kieran, when we’ve got an announcement to make, we’re going to make it.

GILBERT:

So that could well be, for your political sake you’d hope it would be sooner rather than later wouldn’t you?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

I don’t know how many times I can say it Kieran, we’re working very carefully on our taxation policy, we’re working very carefully on our taxation policy, we are working very carefully on superannuation measures. We are working on a whole suite of policies just as we are working on defence policies and the like and when we are in the position to make announcements in relation to those policies, we will do that. There is nothing controversial about that…

GILBERT:

So it’s going according to plan?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

That’s what Governments do.

GILBERT:

It’s all going according to plan?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

That’s what governments do Kieran.

GILBERT:

OK. So it’s all going according to plan, as you’d hope so?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well, Governments make announcements when they are ready to do that.

GILBERT:

OK. On the poll. Why have we seen this drop then, in terms of the primary vote, in terms of the approval rating for the Prime Minister? Tangible drops here in the last few weeks. What do you put that down to?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Kieran, you have asked me many times on your program before about polls and I give you the same response every time you ask me which is, I am not an expert on polls. I don’t claim to be. You are a commentator, I’m not, I’ll leave the commentary to you…

GILBERT:

The Prime Minister referred to the Newspoll when he took the job.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

My job is simply to get on with the job that I have been tasked to do. I have been tasked to make sure that we can have a competitive environment for small business. We are delivering on small business tax cuts of 1.5 per cent, company tax cuts, a 5 per cent discount for those small businesses which are unincorporated entities…

GILBERT:

The Prime Minister mentioned the thirty Newspolls that you trialled, where you do trial prior to the coup last year. He has raised that as the benchmark upon which you should be judged. So why isn’t it fair enough to say ok, he has fallen here, he should respond as to why his popularity is slipping?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well as I said to you, I am not an expert on the polls. I don’t claim to be. I’m not going to start commentating on them now. I’m focussed on the job that I have been tasked to do and that job is to make sure that we can encourage small businesses to invest in their business. We’ve got a Bill, a measure in the Parliament at the moment that makes it easier for small businesses to be able to change their structure and not trigger a tax liability. This will mean that businesses can be more innovative. It means that they’re not going to have a capital gains tax liability trigged just because they would like to potentially change, they can grow…

GILBERT:

What do you say to your colleagues, who’ll be spooked?  What do you say to your colleagues?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

These are the sorts of things I think people are actually interested in, Kieran…

GILBERT:

That’s fine, absolutely and I think that that’s probably right when you talk about the small business constituency which is so important to your Party. But what do you say to your colleagues who are spooked by that survey today?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well, I think most of my colleagues are focussed on doing their job as well, which to make sure that they represent their local communities well…

GILBERT:

And the hold their seats.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

That they advocate for their local communities…

GILBERT:

And hold their seats.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

That they contribute to policy development and discussion which is what happens here at Parliament House with various Ministers. I know that I consult very extensively with my colleagues on a whole range of issues and making sure that we do the job of government which is to govern well and to govern in a very careful and considered manner.

GILBERT:

  The analysis in the Herald today suggesting that the bracket creep changes, if you do move on that, 80 per cent threshold to $100,000, $80,000 to $100,000 that you’ll benefit higher income earners as opposed to those lower middle income earners. Should the Government be looking further down the scale?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

So again, there is a lot of speculation about potential taxation changes, what we have said we are keen to do, is make sure that we don’t have a situation in this country where people who are on the second highest tax bracket, find themselves moving higher and higher into further tax brackets, that people on fairly modest average incomes of around about $80,000, which is the around the average wage, that they don’t find themselves in the second highest tax bracket.

GILBERT:

What about those further down the scale?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

You know the reason for that, the reason for that is because it’s a disincentive to work. It’s a disincentive to work hard and to work perhaps extra days.

GILBERT:

What about the equity issue though, of those on higher incomes actually benefit more than someone who moves into $80,000 to $81,000 dollars a year?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well, obviously people who are on higher incomes, pay more tax. They do that. We have one of the world’s most progressive taxation systems and nothing is changing in relation to our progressive taxation system. We look after those people in our community who are some of the most vulnerable. We do that through the social safety net, again, you know, that is part of the core principle behind this Government too. We believe that we have to care for the most vulnerable people in our society. But we also don’t want to provide a disincentive for people to work hard.

GILBERT:

What about the equity issue though of those on higher incomes actually benefiting more than someone who moves into $81,000 to $82,000 a year?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well obviously people who are on higher incomes pay more tax, they do that. We have one of the world’s most progressive taxation systems and nothing is changing in relation to our progressive taxation system.  We look after those people in our community who are some of the most vulnerable, we do that through the social safety net, again that is part of the core principle behind this Government too. We believe we have to care for the most vulnerable people in our society but we also don’t want to provide a disincentive for people to work hard. Basically we had a period about 15 years ago where 80 per cent of taxpayers paid 30 cents or less in the dollar now it has dramatically changed. It’s a disincentive…

GILBERT:

There has been a focus, there has been a lot of talk that you are going to focus on that $80,000 scale from that threshold - would you be looking down the scale as well is it important in terms of equity?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well what I would say to you, Kieran, is when our taxation policy is ready to be announced we will announce it, but I have given you some broad parameters around which we are considering these issues.

GILBERT:

Alright, we are out of time, Kelly O’Dwyer thanks so much.