NICK RHEINBERGER: On the other side of the ledger it is the Labor party challenging. As you might have heard the polls are 50-50 or something like 49 -51 according to others like The Australian’s poll.
They are almost neck and neck. Stephen Jones has had his margin cut back a little but not quite as much as in Gilmore. It is now known as the seat of Whitlam. Stephen Jones, g’day.
SHADOW ASSISTANT HEALTH MINISTER, STEPHEN JONES: Good morning, good to be with you.
RHEINBERGER: Is it correct that as of yesterday we can now call you the candidate for Whitlam?
JONES: That’s right; the name change takes affect with the dissolution of Parliament.
RHEINBERGER: Okay and what do you see as the big issues in the seat of Whitlam?
JONES: The big issues here are around jobs, ensuring that we look after existing industries like the steel industry which has been my number one priority over the last 18 months. But also ensuring that we are preparing the region for the industries and jobs of the future. Critical to that is the National Broadband Network, making sure that we have every home and every business connected. It is important so that when kids get home from school that they can do their homework, but think also people running micro and small businesses who are connected with the markets of not only Australia but the world. You would be surprised Nick how many people are running businesses from the study in the back of the house. Once upon a time these people would have been jumping on a train and travelling to Sydney to get a job or look for work. They are now running small businesses in their home, they need the Internet; they need fast, reliable, affordable broadband. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The third thing is around education, we have got to have a strong pipeline from primary school, through to high school and then TAFE or universities. It’s got to be affordable and accessible. Finally, I will be advocating for a decent health system - we want to ensure that it is your Medicare card, not your credit card, that matters when you are crook.
RHEINBERGER: It seems to me – particularly when you mention small business – that the recent Government Budget is going to help small business a great deal. Will they get a better deal under Labor?
JONES: We agree with tax cuts for small business, it has been in our plan since Bill Shorten became Leader of the Opposition. What we don’t agree with is redefining what a small business is, so that you get big businesses getting the same tax cuts and advantages as small businesses. That was one of the sneaky things in Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget last week was redefining what a small business is to include companies with an income of up to $1 billion a year. Now I like Bunnings, Coles and Woolworths as much as the next guy, but they are not small businesses. They shouldn’t be given an advantage over businesses which are genuinely struggling to meet turnover targets and keep their people employed week after week.
RHEINBERGER: So why is this a hidden bomb in the Budget?
JONES: People support generally the idea of a tax cut to make small businesses more competitive and to help them with their cash flow. But the idea that you are going to redefine what a small business is to include those with a $1 billion turnover? We don’t think that is fair. It is giving large companies a massive tax cut and wealthy individuals a massive tax cut by the same token. At the same time ordinary wage and salary earners get nothing.
RHEINBERGER: Now can I talk to you a bit more about the numbers. I mentioned to Ann Sudmalis that they called it a Budget emergency when Labor was at $18 billion worth of debt; it’s getting on double on that now. She says that is because of leftover Labor policies. Does that ring true to you at all?
JONES: Regrettably, she couldn’t name one policy when you challenged her on that. What she didn’t talk about was their plans for health cuts and education cuts. Because that is what lies behind the rhetoric, that is what they mean. They are talking about cuts to services that matter on a daily basis for ordinary Australians. The underlying story behind the Budget is this: Tony Abbott went into the last election promising things he couldn’t deliver. That was to keep everything the same whilst bringing the Budget back into surplus. Everybody knew that wasn’t true. What the Liberals have had to deal with ever since then, is how they are going to reconcile the lies told before the election with the reality of declining revenue and a change in the world outlook? That’s the situation that we are facing at the moment –
RHEINBERGER: How would Labor deal with declining revenue?
JONES: We want to close down some of the tax loop holes and some of the revenue leaks if you will within the existing Budget. That is why we have put closing the down the loopholes on high earning superannuation earners and closing down the loopholes on multinational tax avoidance front and centre. They are two good ideas, so good that the Libs decided they were going to pinch them at least in part. The one that they haven’t stepped up to the plate on is the distortions created in the tax system and investment system through negative gearing arrangements in the housing market. We’ve said that we will keep negative gearing arrangements in place for new builds, because that will continue to stimulate building in the areas where it is needed. But we don’t think there is a justification going forward for negative gearing arrangements and generous tax concessions for investing in existing houses. Quite frankly Nick, we think it is more important that someone should be able to buy their first home than to invest in their seventh.
RHEINBERGER: Thanks for talking to me.
JONES: Thank you.