SUBJECT/S: Budget; Liberals’ tax cut for banks; revenue share among States; electronic voting; Indian Independence Day

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us on the program now the Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland. Michelle, I want to ask you about these comments from Catherine Livingstone in the Financial Review this morning, saying that both sides of politics have to face up to the harsh realities of entrenched deficits and saying, well the attacks on big businesses as well was hurting the front line of the economy during the campaign, pointing the finger at Labor particularly.

Kieran, I'll say two things on that. Firstly, Labor went into the election campaign with a very clear policy of what we wanted to do in terms of making sure that the Budget was brought under control but also that we had fairness in that. And we don't want to, unlike this government, we don't want to give $7 billion in tax cuts just to banks alone. We want to make sure that our social safety net is preserved, that we have a fair and sustainable Medicare, and I know that that resonated with many people in the community during the election campaign. And the other point I'll make is that the notion that this government somehow has a plan to execute its jobs and growth mantra going into this election and subsequently has just proven to be absolutely false. If we want to take commentary on whether or not governments have a plan to reign in the deficit, we need to also ensure that we have a sustainable social safety net. The government has proven that it is incapable of doing either.

GILBERT: So you disagree with Catherine Livingstone that perceptions and confidence aren't important here?

ROWLAND: Confidence is absolutely important and I think the fact that the Reserve Bank - we've had a lot of talk about interest rates not being passed on in full and Labor will continue to prosecute that - but the fact that the Reserve Bank seems to have such little confidence in this government I think speaks volumes for the capacity of Malcolm Turnbull to be able to deliver in this term. Labor has been absolutely clear, Kieran, about taking our responsibilities very seriously, not only as an effective Opposition but as an alternative government. The fact that we need to bring the Budget deficit under control, we were the only party going into this election that had a costed and sustainable plan in curbing for example, the sort of concessions that we see in negative gearing and capital gains tax, which the government absolutely dismissed and ran on a scare campaign. We are the only party going into this Parliament about to resume who has those policies to actually make it possible to bring the Budget under control and have a sustainable social safety net.

GILBERT: The PM on the GST front in WA at the weekend promised a change in the distribution approach to ensure a floor under the revenue share for each particular state. Now Saul Eslake, as I put it to David Coleman before the break, he says WA's persistent bleating reminds him of a pensioner who has won the lottery and then complains about losing their pension. What's your take on this in the way WA is being responded to right now?

ROWLAND: Firstly we should be very concerned when Malcolm Turnbull starts floating these thought bubbles. It's reminiscent of his double taxation thoughts that he had some months ago and it's also reminiscent of him trying to push for changes to the GST on increasing it. So he floats these ideas then jettisons them when they all become too hard. But I think what this says, and there's been countless pieces of analysis that I've seen on this point, Western Australia has enjoyed the benefits of this formula, other States it has been to their detriment in the past. But it's very clear that Malcolm Turnbull is using this for purely political processes. He's going into a State election campaign where the WA Liberal government is on the nose, he didn't have a good result in Western Australia in the federal election and he's now proposing these changes that aren't cognisant of the Commonwealth grants commission. The Queensland Premier has come out and said, “Well no one has told me about it”, and the whole process is set up so you consult with the States. I see the Premier of Tasmania has arced up about it too. But we've had a Liberal Government -

GILBERT: So do you think WA just has to suck it up, the reduction in their share of swings and roundabouts in terms of the way that this works?

ROWLAND: WA needs a better State government, not one that has squandered the massive benefits that they enjoyed during the mining boom where they assumed that the iron ore price was going to be high for such a sustained period of time.

GILBERT: And finally, the Census debacle, we've seen the fallout over the last week or so, there's suggestions that this would also put the ice on any thoughts of electronic voting federally. What's your take on that, do you think that's fair enough given the system has worked for a century we should stick with it as is?

ROWLAND: Well the bungling of this government makes me particularly angry when it comes to the issue of electronic voting. I'm a strong supporter of moving to electronic voting. Today is Indian Independence Day, India is the world's largest democracy and it has electronic voting. We've had a situation coming out of an election where we had weeks and weeks of not knowing the results in the lower house and even longer for the Senate and electronic voting would go a long way to curbing an unacceptably high informal rate, meaning that the intentions of voters could actually be heard. So I'm very disappointed that the bungling of this government has led to what I think is an inevitable backlash against electronic forms of government management.

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, we're out of time. Happy Independence Day to our Indian viewers.

ROWLAND: Hear, hear.

GILBERT: Thanks for that bit of information as well. We'll take a quick break, stay with us.