SUBJECT/S: Election Timing, Ipsos Poll, Negative Gearing, Marriage Equality Plebiscite.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Minister for Small Business, Michelle Rowland. Polls in just a moment, first though this move by Ricky Muir the Motoring Enthusiast Senator, with the support of the other cross benchers they’re going to move to suspend debate on the Senate voting reforms so they can bring on a vote for the Building and Construction Commission. Do you support that move because really it’s about putting pressure on the Government’s efforts to create a double dissolution trigger with the ABCC and a clear strategy to do that, what do you make of that?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: Kieran, I know that our Labor Senate team will closely engage with Mr Muir and see what he is proposing and what his timing is. But I think this goes to the point that Bill Shorten was making over the weekend. The Government is saying that it is using the ABCC as a potential trigger but it’s not even listed on the agenda. So I take Ricky Muir’s point, if it’s not listed then how can it possibly end up being a trigger? And I think that in the coming days we will see whether the Government is serious or not on this matter. 

GILBERT: If they did then schedule sittings after the Budget, say if the Budget was held on May 3 and then you have a vote it’s a clear trigger isn’t it if it’s knocked over at that point?

ROWLAND: Well that should be the case Kieran, but again we don’t know when the Budget is going to be held. There’s speculation that it’s going to be brought forward. We don’t know and I question whether the government knows that either. 

GILBERT: Let’s look at the other issues around today and this poll that shows Bill Shorten nudging up his approval rating, Labor still well behind with a primary vote in the low 30s. 

ROWLAND: We always knew we’d be going into this election as the underdogs after the 2013 election and such a large loss of seats, we’ve got a lot to make up going into this year’s election. But I’ll tell you this, if I was Malcolm Turnbull I would be taking no comfort from this poll. And I’ll also say this Kieran, a lot of the conventional wisdom is that Australian federal elections have gone presidential. They’re decided on a leadership level. I think going into this election we’ve got much more engagement, people are hungry to talk about ideas and the only team in town with ideas when it comes to the economy, when it comes to taxation reform, when it comes to education, the only team in town is Labor. I would encourage every single voter to go to your local MP, ask them what their plan is for tax reform, what is their plan for education, ask them why Malcolm Turnbull broke his promise to deliver the NBN to every Australian home and business by the end of this year. The majority of those people are Liberal and National Party Members and I’d be very interested to know the results. 

GILBERT: Well let’s look at some of those ideas you’ve put forward. The Fairfax poll has looked at specifically the negative gearing proposal and reining in exemptions in superannuation and very mixed numbers here in terms of negative gearing, 42 per cent opposed, 34 per cent support. A quarter of those surveyed in both the negative gearing policy and on super are undecided so this is a real battle for the hearts and minds on those matters.

ROWLAND: Kieran, at least we’ve gone into the battle and are prepared to prosecute our case. We have a situation where the Treasurer says there are “excesses” in negative gearing but he’s not even prepared to state what they are. We are prepared to prosecute this policy because it is the right long term agenda for this country. It includes addressing the very serious issue of housing affordability. I go around my electorate and I listen to young potential home owners, people who are still living at home with their parents in their 30s because they can’t get a deposit. I know that this is exactly the policy that we need. 

GILBERT: The Treasurer has released 28 questions that Labor must answer on this issue, they clearly believe this is a weak spot for you. Among them, ‘what is new property?’, ‘how would you classify a knockdown rebuild?’, ‘how would the ATO determine that a negative gearer is only claiming a tax deduction in respect of a new home or a grandfathered investment’. This is 28 fairly complex questions which he’s set to Labor as a challenge, will you respond?

ROWLAND: This guy’s got more front than Myer, Kieran. Here is a bloke that can’t even answer his own questions on what are the excesses in negative gearing. He can’t even come up with his own tax policy, can’t even tell us the date of the Budget. We had the last Parliamentary sitting week, he thought he had his king hit with the BIS Shrapnel report and that blew up in his face. We’ve got a situation where we have a majority of economists, people like Saul Eslake coming out in favour of our policy. Everyone from Jeff Kennett to ACOSS agreeing with it, and here we have the Government conducting exactly the sort of scare campaign that Malcolm Turnbull committed he would not do. The Malcolm Turnbull of six months ago said he was prepared to engage with the Australian people and have a conversation on this. And here we have the Treasurer asking these sorts of questions. I think he should go to the Australian people and tell them what his tax plan is before he starts questioning us. 

GILBERT: One of the fundamental questions that Labor is going to have to answer in some form or another, I know that you’re saying it’s about making growth more sustainable but what the Government is arguing and questioning again today is that you will not only see growth sustainable but actually reduce growth and that’s what they’re saying in terms of existing house prices, that’s going to be the vulnerability for Labor. 

ROWLAND:  Here we have the Government saying house prices are going to fall, a couple of weeks ago they couldn’t decide whether they were going to smash through a ceiling, so they can’t even get their lines right on that. But I would put up Labor’s costed policies on this any day compared to the government, one that can’t even sustain an economic plan for this country and a Treasurer who is sadly lacking when it comes to prosecuting his own case for taxation reform.

GILBERT: We’ve only got about a minute left, can I get your thoughts on this report. Price Waterhouse Coopers analysis of the costs associated with a plebiscite on same sex marriage. Over $500 million is the cost forecast by PWC, what do you make of these numbers, it does sound an extraordinary amount.

ROWLAND: It does sound extraordinary, because I believe it is. We’ve got $160 million or so of taxpayers’ money that’s going to be spent on it and then half a billion dollars in costs to the economy overall. If the Government was serious about Budget repair, if the Government was serious about resolving this issue of marriage equality, it could bring forward a vote. If I as an MP and everyone else could do their jobs, we could get it sorted within an hour and save that money. 

GILBERT: Shadow Minister for Small Business Michelle Rowland, appreciate it. 

ROWLAND: A pleasure.