Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda - 8 November







SUBJECTS: Labor campaign review, tax policy.                                        

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me is one of Mr Albanese’s front bench team the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones. Thanks so much for your time. Mr. Albanese wants this to be the end of the introspection, but it's easier said than done. Isn't it? After an election loss like that. 

STEPHEN JONES: It sure is. If we're still talking about this on Monday, then there's a problem, but I think we need to send a clear message to Australians that we've learnt the lessons of May 2019 and I think, frankly, that Jay and Craig have done a very, very good job of this report. It's balanced. It's even a goes directly to the heart of the problem. I've got to say Scott Morrison got lucky in 2019. He won't find us making the same mistakes in 2021-22. We'll keep the Government to account over the next three years and ensure we've got the policies right. But just as importantly we've got the campaign right in 2021-22 because my analysis goes something like this: I think we ran a pretty good opposition over the last three or four years, but ran a pretty bad campaign. I think the Government is the opposite. They ran a pretty hopeless government and a pretty good campaign. They got lucky in 2019. It's not going to happen again.

GILBERT: It was cluttered in terms of the amount of policies. One area where had it's been problematic, we heard Joel Fitzgibbon talking to Laura Jayes this morning about his views when it comes to responding to climate change, but the authors of this report Weatherill and Emerson are emphatic that you need to maintain that as a core belief in terms of dealing with this. How do you bring the blue collar base, many in your own seat, with you? 

JONES: I've got a big manufacturing base, I've got a big coal mining base with in my electorate and they are concerned as anybody else about the environment that their kids are going to inherit. They want to ensure that the government's got their back on their economic security on their, job security and there's a plan forward for the region that I represent that they live in. I think we can do this. I don't think it's that hard. I think in Anthony Albanese his first speech on jobs he laid a path forward for that narrative. We talked about the jobs that are there right now not some, you know, future narrative about what might happen 10 or 20 years down the track of the jobs that are there now in environmental and in energy generation industries. Use the example of wind turbines, there's a lot of steel made out of Port Kembla in my electorate, to the goes into the wind turbines and those alternative energy generation projects. Let's have more talk about that. Let's talk about all these disparate grievance type policies that Jay and Craig identified as a weakness.

GILBERT: That makes sense to be positive on the one hand, but you as the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, do you believe that the Labor Party needs to be more forensic and more transparent in terms of the costs to put it all together. It's fine to be positive but to explain to people: okay, this is where it fits in terms of the cost benefit. You need to be more transparent on all of that, don't you?

JONES: I think there was no problems with us being very transparent on our costings. In fact, we probably paid a price for having so many policies. Over 300 costed policies most of them announced throughout the course of the last two years. One of the problems that we've identified in this report is that we didn't have a central narrative.

GILBERT: I'm just talking specifically on climate change. It's obviously a very complex area but to make your case, which you believe the upside is there and it's surprised me that people and politicians haven't done this sooner, to be talking about where they want change and where the positives exist.

JONES: How it’s tangible.

GILBERT: How it’s tangible, but you need to be putting that in the context of where things won't exist anymore and how you're going to manage that.

JONES: We won't make the same mistakes in three years’ time as we've made in May this year. We can be absolutely certain of that. The issues will change, the debate will move around, but we will take the learnings from this report and our failures in 2019 to ensure that we that we don't repeat them again at the next election and one of the things that Anthony Albanese is going to set out in his Press Club speech today is to make it quite clear that to win the next election, we have to have a very strong economic story, which is about jobs, which is about growing the economic pie and about ensuring how everyday Australians in electorates like mine, in electorates like Joel Fitzgibbon’s, throughout regional and outer urban Australia have got a stake in the future and if we let ourselves down in the last election, we didn't tell that story adequately and there was a bit much overweight, if you like, in the disparate other issues and not enough emphasis on those core economic issues that are the centre of people's concerns.

GILBERT: On that aspiration issue. I want to ask you about Paul Keating's intervention, not last night but last year, when he basically said it was outrageous that the marginal top marginal tax rate had not reduced since he had cut it in 1990 from 60% to 47% across seven years, but that was his move and he was critical of the fact that it's still there. Labor at the election was going to bump it up, the top marginal tax rate. Do you get the argument as Keating made it last year and in years gone by, as other Labor figures have made it, that you need to address that sort of issue if you're talking aspiration?

JONES: There are two sides to the tax debate. We've got to ensure that we've got enough money in the budget to spend on the things that people expect the Federal Government to do. If we we've got a criticism of what the Government's doing is that they've got a whole bunch of unfunded tax arrangements baked into the system at the moment. The last round of tax cuts are 95 billion dollar hit to the budget. Sure, growth might get us there but we've got a lot of other big hits coming to the budget. 4.6 billion dollars one-off NDIS saving which is pumping up the budget surplus for this current year. But also, we've got an Aged Care Royal Commission which is going to shine a light on the fact of a lack of resources in the aged care sector. Tax cuts are always very, very popular. 

GILBERT: You talk about aspiration on the one hand and yet Paul Keating says, 30 years on from his reform, they remain pathetically high, double what it is in Singapore. You say aspiration on the one hand, but then you're going on to talk about why it might be impractical. Where do you land it? 

JONES: We've got to get the tax policies right. There's no doubt about that, and we have got the balance between our income taxes and other taxes right. Absolutely, no arguing about that and ensuring that everything we are doing is talking to those Australians who want to look after themselves and get ahead in life. No argument about that. But at the same point in time Kieran, we've got to be able to say to people if you want more money going into the aged care system and it is obvious that that needs to happen, if you want a fully funded NDIS and it is obvious that needs to happen, if you want to fund your infrastructure, then we've got to have a revenue base that makes that possible. We're very doubtful whether the Government's got all those numbers out. 

GIBLERT: When you say aspiration and people get in ahead. Are you just using those words or do you firmly believe that you need to deal with the aspirational class in terms of that that top marginal tax rate? It might not be the blue-collar base. It might not be the base that Labor would traditionally target. If you want to target people not just earning that now, but those that want to earn that, that's symbolic isn't it? You were going to bump up the top rate.

JONES: I firmly believe that. I come from an area that is built. In the electorate that I represent people have come from all over the world with nothing in their pocket, worked in manufacturing, worked in mining, put their kids through school, many of them now going through university the first in family doing that. My region is the story of aspiration, people coming from nothing, getting a livelihood owning a home, joining or starting a trade or profession, having a lifestyle that was never available to the people that came before them. We know all about aspiration and won’t be lectured about it by Morrison. 

GILBERT: That's fair enough, but you've also got to move on it.

JONES: And we will.

GILBERT: Even former Prime Minister Paul Keating said, it's pathetically high and yet you weren't listening to that, not you personally, but the Labor Party. Surely you've got to listen to him and others in the next cycle. 

JONES: Yes, we will. We will have a tax policy, but we will also have policies around wages, because the biggest aspiration that working people have is ensuring that their standard of living isn't going backwards as it is at the moment under this Government. They've got a plan to cut superannuation. They've got a plan to cut services but they haven't got a plan to deal with the biggest crisis that the Reserve Bank Governor and everybody else has identified and that is the fact that wages are going backwards. They’re stagnant, living standards are going backwards and there's no plan to address this issue.