Transcript - CNBC Street Signs Asia


MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018

SUBJECT: Byelections; corporate tax cuts; Labor Party Leadership.

MARTIN SOONG: Let's bring in Wayne Swan right now – President of the Australian Labor Party, also former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, he joins us live down from Brisbane. Mr Swan, good to see you and appreciate your time. First things first, Labor – after this Super Sunday, these by-elections – must smell blood now, which we can talk about in just a bit. But before that though, I want to know, what do you think Labor did right to be so successful in the by-elections? Because they defied most of the pollsters.

WAYNE SWAN, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Well I think we’ve been putting forward a strong alternative program to the government’s program of trickledown economics. We’ve been emphatically opposed to these very significant tax cuts for some of the largest multinationals in the world. The government has also been arguing for significant tax cuts for very high income earners, and at the same time they’ve been cutting spending in health and education. And we’ve said that we rejected that approach and we put a different approach – a different approach, investing in particularly health and education, and doing something about the wage stagnation which is dragging our economy backwards. So essentially we said Australia’s becoming far more unequal, we’ve got a program to promote growth but spread opportunity, and we’ve been arguing that for five years. We almost won the last election, we came within a whisker. The significance of the win in Longman is that, in Queensland, the next election can be won here solely on the seats in this state. And this swing was of such significance that if it were to be repeated in the general election we’d be winning half a dozen seats in Queensland and taking government.

SOONG: Okay Mr Swan I am glad you brought up the issue of Queensland which is conservative heartland, of course. There is a by-election there as well which didn’t quite go the way that conservatives had planned, even though they had the support of One Nation, what does that tell you?

SWAN: Well it tells you there is a very significant movement in terms of primary votes to the Labor Party, who have taken votes off the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party also lost votes to the One Nation Party which is an extreme ring-wing party. So I think what it says is that Australia is getting ready to elect Bill Shorten as Prime Minister and to have a Labor Government. Now, we’ve got a way to go. It’s very clear now that it will not be an early election. The election will almost probably be in early May next year. So the speculation here now is that Prime Minister Turnbull may walk away from some of his signature policies, particularly the corporate tax cuts.

MATT TAYLOR: We'll touch on that a little more in a moment. But was the outcome of these by-elections a rejection of Turnbull government policy, or was it a pretty standard result from by-elections if you look back at the last hundred years of history, we've not seen a government win a seat from an opposition in about 98 years. We usually see a swing against an incumbent, and that is what we saw in these elections.

SWAN: I don’t think that is what we saw. It wasn’t a standard byelection outcome. The government’s not behaving like it’s a standard byelection outcome either. The result that we got in Longman saw us get a result which was stronger than the vote we recorded in 2007, when we won Government with a very substantial majority. So the truth is, it wasn’t a standard result in Longman at all. And that is why the Government has been spooked by this result, and that is why you are seeing an enormous amount of speculation as to whether the Prime Minister will change policy, because it was not a standard result, no matter what people would like to argue. It was a breathtaking result, in some ways, for the Labor Party.

TAYLOR: Alright. Well how likely do you think it is that the Prime Minister and the government will change their policy on what they are planning, with respect to corporate tax cuts? And what was the message that the electorate that you heard first-hand from the electorate up there in Queensland, that they gave you about that particular policy?

SWAN: Well the electorate sent a very clear message that they want to see investment, particularly in health and education. The local hospital in the middle of the electorate of Longman was a key part of that debate – that its funding had been cut in recent years. I think the electorate sent a very firm message that they were not interested in the raft of policies from the government, which simply attacked basic services in the community. I don’t know whether the Prime Minister can abandon his policy approach. If he does so, then he has no economic framework policy left. He’s put all of his eggs in the basket of arguing that a corporate tax cut increase wages and more jobs. Now of course as we know even in the United States that is not what has happened with the corporate rate cut – it’s gone to share buybacks, it’s gone to executive pay, and so on. It hasn’t gone to increased pay or increased investment. So we are going to be having a very big debate about this. I can’t see how the Prime Minster survives if he drops his commitment to the corporate rate cut. He has no economic policy left if he does that.

TAYLOR: I just want to talk about the leader of your party, Bill Shorten, rating fairly poorly when it comes to opinion polls on personal standing. On satisfaction he trails the Prime Minister 48 percent to 29 percent on the preferred PM poll. Is Bill Shorten an electable Prime Minister, an electable leader, in your opinion?

SWAN: Absolutely, because he’s been leading, if you like, for 35 polls in a row. He came within a whisker of winning the last election. You know there’s been a lot of talk about the personal ratings of Bill Shorten and the Prime Minister but the key rating, in any election, that all of the analysts look to, is the party vote. It isn’t the ratings of the leaders. But we had a contest, the Prime Minister came to Longman and said, ‘you can choose between Bill Shorten or the Prime Minister’, and people chose Bill Shorten. So I don’t think that that personal rating is the determinant of what happens in elections in Australia, it never has been in the past, and I don’t think it will be in the future.

SOONG: Ok, fair enough. Mr Swan, great to talk to you, appreciate the time.

SWAN: Thank you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra