SUBJECTS: Election 2016; Newspoll; Negative gearing; Tax breaks for politicians.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland. Michelle, thanks for your time. Your thoughts on the Newspoll today, it must be a bit encouraging to see Bill Shorten's approval rating up again, it's been a steady rise since late last year.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: I think today's Newspoll reflects the fact that Labor has been listening for the last three years or so to Australians and we've been responding to them with policies that are now clearly resonating in the community, unlike our opponents who literally spent a year trying to prosecute, for example, a GP Tax. We actually have been listening to people. Our policies have been designed so we address the needs of Australians and I think also it's very clear that Malcolm Turnbull is not the Malcolm Turnbull people thought they were getting when he rolled Tony Abbott last year.
GILBERT: Do you accept that, it's obviously three-quarters of the campaign to go, a long, long way and we've seen numbers that have had governments a lot further behind than this, this time of the election cycle and they've gone onto win. I guess a lot of people aren't engaged right now.
ROWLAND: It is a very long campaign, Kieran, and I think it's fair to say that people are aware that they've still got some six weeks to go until the election, but I can tell you this: as I go around my community I know that the issues of education, of health, and of the complete lack of focus that Malcolm Turnbull and his Government have given to broadband access are really ones that are resonating in our community. There is a long way to go and I think that it's important as some of your other commentators have said to recognise that the swings are never really uniform. That's why I would say to every voter in seats like Eden Monaro: you should ask your sitting MP what his position was before the last election on Gonski funding, for example. Why he went to the last election promising that there would be no difference in funding between the Labor Government of the day and the Liberal government when it came in. Then they should ask Mike Kelly what he proposes to do about exactly the same issue. I think voters have a very clear choice, they have ample opportunity in the next couple of weeks to quiz their sitting members and ask them precisely where they stand on these issues.
GILBERT: I've been told by people in your party that your seat is looking like the most difficult for Labor in terms of holding onto it, that your margin of 3 per cent exactly at the last election, it had a bit of a boost by poor performance by your opposite number Jayme Diaz in the last campaign. How is it holding up, your vote in Greenway, your seat in Western Sydney?
ROWLAND: Greenway is a seat I have never taken for granted and in the six years that I have been the member I have been fighting every day for my local community, in the Parliament and on the ground. I will continue to fight against this government's cuts and its attacks on Medicare, against its attacks on our local schools, for example, where they want to rip millions of dollars out of our schools. These are the issues that matter to people and the people of Greenway know that I have been out there fighting every single day for their interests. You never take a seat for granted, you always need to be accessible, open, and someone who is very willing to stand up for their local community. That's the record that I'll run on as we lead into this next election, and that's also what I'll be prosecuting to the people of Greenway.
GILBERT: We know that in terms of the Labor campaigns on health and education and on services, but there also needs to be a credibility about the spend. Does Labor need to be, and to be fair you have been proactive in terms of costings and savings to this point, but now that we've had the pre-election fiscal outlook and so on, it's incumbent upon Labor is it not, to get your final numbers out there ASAP to say we are credible on this and not simply do the usual trick of providing your final costings in the last few days of the campaign?
ROWLAND: As Chris Bowen has said, Kieran, we will be very clear about our final costings before the election day. We have had our policies independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and we have been very clear about the savings that we will be making and the choices we will be making. This election is about choices, do you want a choice where you choose, for example, to give a tax break to multinationals or do you want to invest in our health system? Do you want to invest in the future education of our children? Elections are about choices and there is a clear choice as we lead into this election about the kind of Australia we want.
GILBERT: The PBO has done the costings, but this is about the net impact on the bottom line, and Labor likes to talk about the ten year numbers and I can understand that in terms of the company tax cuts which you're not going to go ahead with. That saves $48.2 billion across ten years but across the four years it's only $5.5 billion. Labor keeps pointing to this saving saying 'okay we'll use that to pay for that promise and this promise,' but it's only $5.5 billion across four years.
ROWLAND: Kieran, we will be very clear and very upfront with the Australian people before election day about what our final costings will be. This election, as I said, is about a choice and we have made some very difficult and challenging choices which we knew we would be attacked upon by the Government and subjected to their scare campaigns including, for example, in the area of negative gearing and capital gains tax reform. But we're prepared to have that argument, Kieran, because this is a government that seems to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. We are prepared to go to the Australian people prosecuting our case, the kind of Australia we want for the future, not one that simply benefits the few.
GILBERT: The Treasurer is releasing some numbers today that shows that your negative gearing changes, this is analysis done by the tax unit of Treasury, of your negative gearing changes, and they're saying they're going to overwhelmingly benefit the more well off, that they will still be able to negative gear against interest paid on other investments like shares or other bank deposits, but the less well-off will not have that opportunity.
ROWLAND: I've seen some of the commentary on this in today's media, for example, I think it runs along the lines of something such as “abolishing negative gearing will be regressive”. The issue though is, Kieran, we are not proposing in our policy to abolish negative gearing. We are proposing to make certain changes and that anything that is currently under an existing investment is grandfathered. You will be able to negatively gear in new properties, but I think the fundamental premise of this report that we're seeing now, as I just alluded to there in that quote, is absolutely false. And for example, you look at what the government's alternative is: we announced this policy on around about 13 February, and since that time this government has come out with no policy on affordable housing, other than Malcolm Turnbull showing how out of touch he is and suggesting that wealthy parents buy properties for their children. We have had every single report including this one where the government has tried to latch onto it and attack our policy; and above all we've had the most negative scare campaign engaged in by Malcolm Turnbull, someone who got the leadership on the promise that he wouldn't engage in these sorts of scare campaigns. In the meantime I've got constituents in my electorate who are telling me that they've got their children and grandchildren living at home and they can't see any prospect of that not changing because they can't afford a deposit for a house. Now when you've got that kind of situation Kieran, you have to question what is the government's motive here. We know that Scott Morrison said some time ago that there were excesses in negative gearing that needed to be addressed. We know that Malcolm Turnbull, when he was in Opposition thought there needed to be changes here. So they can't even prosecute their own thinking in this area. All they are doing is t rying to promulgate a scare campaign and meanwhile people are suffering.
GILBERT: All right, finally in relation to the politicians having access to claiming interest paid on properties in Canberra even if you don't have a tenant in those properties, is that fair?
ROWLAND: I think for a start these matters are settled independently by the ATO, for example when it comes to tax, and also the Remuneration Tribunal. But I fully understand, Kieran, there are certain expectations the community has and these issues have been raised in the last couple of days and I think that it's fair to say that there shouldn't be a situation where you have one rule for a certain cohort and one rule for another. I think that is certainly the expectation that needs to be addressed. And I believe that Labor in government should be looking at this issue, and I know that we will, and we will sort out those details if a Labor Government comes in. But I think the premise of having a situation where there's one set of uniform rules is one that should be adhered to. We should also have a situation where parliamentarians aren't setting their own rules.
GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time.