Transcript - Sky Newsday with Laura Jayes


MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018

SUBJECT: Byelections, Company Tax Cuts, Malcolm Turnbull’s Leadership; Federal Election Timing; Labor Party National Conference; Mark Latham.

LAURA JAYES: Let’s go live to Brisbane now. The ALP President, Wayne Swan, joins us now live. Wayne Swan, thanks so much for your time. The Prime Minister says you’ve got nothing to crow about – do you?

WAYNE SWAN, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Well I think there was a very strong result across the country for Labor, and in particular in Longman. A collapse in the Liberal Party vote of 10 per cent, a surge in the Labor primary vote of 4 or 5 per cent, and a result bigger than the result we received in 2007. But there’s a feature of this voting pattern which I think should really frighten the Liberals, because they lost votes not just to One Nation, but they also lost votes to Labor. So they were bleeding to One Nation and bleeding to Labor in a place like Bribie Island, where Labor did particularly well, particularly with older voters who the Liberals campaign very heavily among.

JAYES: The One Nation vote is still up on what was expected, probably coming in a little bit below expectations at 16 per cent. Did Labor lose any of those potential votes to One Nation as well though?

SWAN: No I don’t believe we did. So we’ve got a primary vote with a four in front and the Liberal Party have a primary vote with a two in front. So they had a collapse in their primary vote of 10 per cent. But Labor took votes from the Liberals, and One Nation also took votes from the Liberals. I believe the Liberal Party in Queensland through both the State Election and this by-election have a deep structural problem with voters support and I think it is causing panic amongst their Federal Members in the state of Queensland. There’s no doubt that seats like Petrie and Dickson and so on, are very much under threat given this voting pattern.

JAYES: Well I was just going to ask you that, not just Queensland but this socioeconomic profile of Longman, we are talking about working class, we talking about a suburban lifestyle, people that commute every day. On winning this seat in Longman and looking at that result, are you looking at other seats – not only in Queensland Petrie and Dickson, you named – I mean Western Sydney seats – I know Labor holds a lot of them at the moment – are they the same kind of profile? And looking at this result, you must be pretty confident going into the next election?

SWAN: Well if you look at the median income in Longman and Braddon, it’s $43,000. People on $43,000 don’t even qualify for the Government’s measly $10 tax cut. You see, basically people out there have twigged to the fact that stagnating wages and growing inequality in Australia is a problem for their living standards. And all they hear from the Government is that gigantic tax cuts to high-income earners and large companies will solve that problem. I think that the public of Australia who are on modest wages or on modest fixed incomes are awake to the Liberal Party and the growing inequality that is flowing from their program of trickledown economics which says, ‘we’ll solve everything by giving tax cuts to the high income earners, to large multinational companies, and wage suppression doesn’t matter. We don’t care about your wages, just have some faith that this will all trickle down and you’ll be right.’ That’s been rejected, and there are plenty of electorates around Australia where those median incomes are around $43,000 just like Longman, that can be won – not just from the Liberals here, but from the Nationals as well.

JAYES: And this cements Bill Shorten’s leadership doesn’t it?

SWAN: Absolutely.

JAYES: Was it ever in doubt?

SWAN: No, no it was never in doubt.

JAYES: What do you make of Anthony Albanese, though, putting out almost an alternative manifesto? Some Caucus Members have said to me this morning that they were frustrated that Anthony Albanese in some ways made it about himself the last couple of weeks and essentially he’s been told to pull his head in. Is that true?

SWAN: Well I think the lesson of the last five years has been that we have been a united party under Bill Shorten’s leadership. And during that period we have done very well. We have been in front in terms of the opinion polls the whole time. We came within a whisker of winning the last elections. We are really in a very good position for winning the next election and one of the reasons we are in that position is that we haven’t been talking about ourselves and we’ve been unified. And the great thing about this result is that it is a demonstration of why unity is important, and concentration on policy. And that’s what we’ve got to do.

JAYES: And obviously the net favourability rating that we constantly see in Newspoll – Bill Shorten’s way behind Malcolm Turnbull, but it doesn’t seem to be having an effect. Why not?

SWAN: Well they don’t have an effect. If you look at the history of polling – I don’t want to waste time really talking about polling – it’s always been the Party vote that’s been the determinant of the likely election outcome. And I can’t for the life of me understand, particularly the media concentration on that one particular measure. They didn’t go on like that when Tony Abbott had terrible ratings – and I’m not comparing Bill Shorten there. What I am saying is, over time and in history, it has never been the leader’s rating that has been the determinant of the outcome.

JAYES: Okay, I don’t want to talk about polls either. So let’s talk about company tax cuts. There are some calls from within the Coalition for modifications of this policy. Will Labor have to modify its spending and spending announcements if the Government refashions this policy? And it’s spending less on corporate tax cuts – are you going to have to cut spending elsewhere on some of the policies you’ve already announced?

SWAN: Well I’m not announcing policy for our frontbench, I will leave that to them. But what they have done—

JAYES: But is this simple math? The Government’s spending $60 billion on corporate tax that you’ve kept up your sleeve to spend on other areas. But I mean, it would be sensible to modify some policies surely?

SWAN: Well, I’ll leave that to people like Jim Chalmers to talk about. But I will make the point – I want to address it directly – the truth is we have done a very, very sound job over five years of finding very substantial savings in the Budget, to fund over time the necessary resources, particularly for health and education and also for trying to refocus personal income tax cuts to people on lower incomes. I believe that all of that is possible and that it’s still possible even if the Government were to reconfigure its company tax cuts. But I want to make this point about the company tax cuts. They are not a solution for an economy which is burdened by stagnating wages and a squeeze on middle incomes. That sort of trickledown economic approach of Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull is a failure when it comes to economics. You cannot run a prosperous economy by having a declining share of your GDP going to working people and that’s what we have to fix in this country if we want to lift living standards for people on low and middle incomes.

JAYES: Business need certainty don’t they, when it comes to what their tax footprint is going to be? Labor’s policy is to have a tax cuts for businesses up to $50 million – that’s already been legislated and gone through Shadow Cabinet we now know. But is there scope to go a little bit further if there could be some kind of bipartisanship on corporate tax cuts, if Labor went a little bit higher and the Coalition came down a little bit lower? Wouldn’t that be the best outcome economically?

SWAN: Not at all, because I think the Coalition’s focus exclusively on tax cuts misses the challenges in the economy. And there’s plenty of people in the business community who don’t necessarily speak up who share our view.

JAYES: Who are they? Because they are very quiet.

SWAN: Well they are fairly quiet, but there are plenty of people in the business community that recognise that investment in Australia is not solely driven by the level of corporate tax. And in addition to that, because we have dividend imputation, it is nowhere near as important in this country as some in the business community try to make out. The truth is investment is driven not just by tax rates. It’s driven by the quality of our workforce, the quality of our investment environment, the rule of law. All of those factors are just as important. The quality of our workforce is more important, in my view, than the headline company rate which, by the way, isn’t paid by a large number of large corporates in this country. So I don’t know why people would think it is a solution to investment in jobs and increased wages to try and give a tax cut to somebody who’s not even paying the nominal rate of tax.

JAYES: So when are you planning for an election to be called? Looking at this result, when do you think the Prime Minister would call an election?

SWAN: Well Christopher Pyne told the whole of Australia yesterday that it was going to be in May – he’s a genius!

JAYES: Well that means you’ve got time to reschedule the Labor Party meeting [National Conference] that was blown out of the water by this Super Saturday. Will you?

SWAN: Well we’ve got it now in December, because you have to make bookings at convention centres and these are very big investments. So we’ve settled into December. But I haven’t seen much commentary over the last few days about the genius of Malcolm Turnbull calling a three month byelection campaign and somehow forcing us to move our conference. It’s blown up like an exploding cigar on him. We’re going to have our conference close to Christmas – that won’t be too comfortable for many people who wanted to go on holidays, but it will give us a chance to demonstrate again what a coherent, sound policy plan we’ve got for the nation, and it will be a great way to finish the year. Thanks Malcolm!

JAYES: That will be probably a couple of months out, as we know, from the elections in May, thanks to Christopher Pyne. Border protection is a major issue within both major parties; we saw that from Anthony Albanese’s speech. What about time limits on detention? What is Labor’s policy on that and do you expect it to be a pretty big fight in December between the left and the right?

SWAN: I’m not going to speculate about individual debates at the conference. We can talk about them at the time. We’re a passionate party. We always have passionate debates about all of the economic and social issues. That’s the great thing about the Labor Party. Our conferences are meaningful and the contributions are passionate. And I think that is what people are looking for in politics and the thing we are most passionate about, is making sure we tackle growing inequality in this country and I think that will be the focal point of our National Conference just prior to Christmas.

JAYES: Well just finally, Mark Latham’s robocall obviously had a huge effect on the Labor vote in Longman?

SWAN: He’s almost as big of political genius as Malcolm Turnbull.

JAYES: We’ll leave it there Wayne Swan thanks so much for your time.

SWAN: Thank you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra