SUBJECT/S: Death on Christmas Island; Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to increase the GST





KIERAN GILBERT: We have Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland here. What do you make of these riots this morning?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: For a start, Kieran, we need to remember that someone has died and this is obviously a tragic circumstance which will be the subject of some kind of coronial inquiry. I believe we are seeking a briefing from the government on the matter. We really don’t know anything else other than what we’ve seen in the media and through reports that you’ve clearly obtained. But it is a disturbing situation if this is true and the level of guard activity and so forth appears to be questionable, I think would be a correct word. But as I said we actually don’t have any information other than what we’ve seen in the media so we will await the government to give us an update on that.

GILBERT: And when you say questionable, the guard activity, can you elaborate on that? Are you talking in terms of specifically the situation of this Iranian Kurdish asylum seeker which lost his life?

ROWLAND: I’m talking about the reports and again, none of this I have had verified from the government - I don’t know anyone who has – saying that the guards don’t appear to have control of the facility. But again, this is purely coming from the media. We haven’t received a briefing on it and it would be really difficult to comment any further without that knowledge.

GILBERT: Sure, but just finally on it, is this the symptom – because it seems almost on a cyclical basis we see riots erupt, whether it be there or elsewhere where people are held in immigration detention facilities for lengthy periods.

ROWLAND: Kieran this is one of the reasons why Richard Marles has introduced a Private Members’ Bill to have more transparent oversight of these facilities and of these activities. So I have always believed that has merit but I think that that would go a long way to being an improvement in the situation in the long term.

GILBERT: Obviously the news still coming to hand, we’ll keep our viewers across it as we find more information as I mentioned in the introduction. The Immigration department confirming a disturbance, not much more than that and not a lot of detail. Let’s look at the debate on the GST, Labor arguing it’s a regressive tax. Can you explain to me, obviously it is regressive and so was the carbon tax – what’s the difference for Labor because you obviously supported one but vehemently opposed to the other.

ROWLAND: Well the issue with pricing carbon is it was a whole of economy change and it was designed to -

GILBERT: So is the GST.

ROWLAND: If you’re going to change the economy, if you’re going to do it through a regressive tax, that certainly wasn’t the premise of pricing carbon. Pricing carbon was about providing price signals. If the only price signal you want to give through increasing the GST is that people who are less well-off should pay more and feel the pain, and at the other end have other groups benefitting from that, and every now and then you’ve got a government that throws in the word ‘fairness’ here and there - that’s not fair at all.

GILBERT: But how is it, if you have appropriate compensation, regressive – people could be better off, if their pensions are increased substantially beyond any increase in the GST.

ROWLAND:  Here’s the thing, Kieran, and I note this is a debate that’s already going on within the government itself, you’ve got backbenchers that feel this is a debate going nowhere. If you want to be shuffling money between different bureaucracies, different forms of welfare payments, different tax rates and actually not do anything about growing the economy, not actually admit that you’ve got a revenue problem, then you really have a recipe for disaster. We’ve had Angus Taylor on the doors today saying that the increase would be the lazy first way of doing it. We’ve seen Andrew Broad come out and express some very real concerns that I share as well.

GILBERT: But he was talking about, the lazy reference was just the GST increase, he’s talking about broad reform of the tax system and if that’s undertaken with lower marginal income tax rates, compensation at the low end, what’s Labor’s problem with it in terms of how is it regressive?

ROWLAND: Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter where you go shuffling the money around in this system. You have point one it is regressive because people on lower incomes will feel the pain the most.

GILBERT: But they’ll be compensated.

ROWLAND: But what is the compensation? We have no plan from this government about how it intends to use any broadening or any increase in the GST. All we have from them is a few thought bubbles, some of their backbenchers running off getting modelling done. We’ve got people like Andrew Broad echoing concerns that I have about broadening it to include fresh food and what that is going to mean for many of these small businesses for whom these items have previously, up to now, been exempt. You’ve got all these thought bubbles running around the place with no coherent structure at all. I’m not one to oft-quote Andrew Bolt, but even he points out today this is going on without any structure,  just saying the word reform, saying the word fairness every now and then with no coherent strategy from this government, it’s not a debate.

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, appreciate your time.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.