NATALIE BARR: Well, extra tax cuts for middle and low income Aussies are a step closer after the Coalition agreed to support the government's changes. Opposition leader Peter Dutton says he won't stand in the way of Labor's new look stage three, but he's flagged the Coalition will now reveal a new policy to reduce taxes again ahead of the next election. For more, I'm joined by Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, good morning. Clare, let's start with you, Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor says the tax cuts are kind of like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. I guess even with these changes, many people are still going to struggle to afford essential items. Is he right?
CLARE O’NEIL: Nat, Australian families are hurting right now, and the first, second and third issue around the kitchen table is the cost of living. Because of our Prime Minister and the decision that he's made, every single Australian is going to get a tax cut as of 1st July and for the average income earner, they're going to be about twice as better off as they would have been under the Liberals’ plan. This is something real and practical that our Parliament can do this week to make sure that we're helping families manage what is the biggest problem in our lives right now and that is the cost of living.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, you've said the coalition is going to unveil a strong tax policy ahead of the next election, which will encourage aspiration. Does that mean cuts for higher income earners?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly we'd like to see that bracket creep, that reform, restored back into our system because what Clare didn't tell you is that only about $15 a week is what even that's the most generous tax cut in this package and you won't get it for five months. So let's be very clear. This is not a cost of living measure that is going to take effect right now. It won't take effect for five months. It frustrates me that the Government have only just noticed that there is a cost of living crisis, and they've gone back on a promise that they made over 100 times to maintain that reform of our tax system, that would restore aspiration and instead decided to essentially lie to the Australian public, lie over 100 times last year, lie 12 times over the summer after they'd already commissioned this work from Treasury, and essentially give the Australian public a tiny little break, a tiny little break that will essentially buy them a by election in Dunkley. That's why they've done this. is not a cost of living measure. This is a political fix.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, you're attacking it. They're giving double what you would have. But you're saying they should get more?
JANE HUME: Nat, what they haven't done, which is extraordinary. They actually commissioned Treasury to find out what sort of tax break they would give the people of Dunkley, but they didn't work out what taxes they were taking away from thousands of Australians. There are going to be more Australians paying more tax, in fact, $28 billion more. They've already factored into the medium term. So there's a lot of Australians that are going to be worse off out of this decision. Quite frankly, what this has proven is that whatever the Labor government give you, they then steal it back again later on.
NATALIE BARR: It seems very popular, the polls say two thirds of Australians are right behind it, though. Clare, you're shaking your head at Jane.
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah. Look, I mean, I just get really frustrated because all I hear from the Liberals is politics and this is not about politics, this is about people. This is about your viewers who are watching it.
JANE HUME: Oh nonsense, this is about Dunkley, this is about a by-election.
CLARE O’NEIL: Sorry, Jane. If I can finish a sentence, that'd be so nice. This is about your viewers at home and my simple message to them and my simple message to them Nat is every single Australian is going to be better off as of 1 July because of these tax cuts. We’re here on International Women's Day, 90% of Australian women are going to be better off because of the decision that Anthony Albanese made about changing these tax cuts. This is a really important change for our country and I hear Liberal politicians going around sneering at the amount that's going to go back into people's pockets. All I want you to know is for the Labor Party, we want you to earn more, we want you to keep more of what you earn and that is our plan for the economy.
JANE HUME: Clare, it’s not International Women's Day. There's a liar in the lodge, you just told a lie, it'd be really nice if your government started telling the truth.
CLARE O'NEIL: Jane, come on. Can we please be kind and respectful to each other?
JANE HUME: Well how about we’re accurate and how about we’re honest?
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, and at the same time, Jane, you're saying I want a bit of what they're having. So it's sort of hard to get to the bottom of it really.
JANE HUME: We won’t stand in the way of a tax cut but we would like our Government to tell the truth.
NATALIE BARR: Let's move on. Millions of Aussies looking to book an appointment with their local GP could soon be forced to pay more. The New South Wales and the Victorian government's are pursuing payroll tax changes which will sting many doctors who will pass that cost on to patients. Last year Queensland axed a very similar proposal. Clare, why isn't there a nationally consistent approach here?
CLARE O'NEIL: Yeah, well, it's a really good question and I couldn't agree with you more. As a Government, we are striving to make Medicare stronger and to help protect health care for every single Australian family. That's why you've seen our Government make such huge strides in this. We're starting to see bulk billing rates lift for the first time in such a long time. We're taking the price of medicines right down for Australian families. Our Government every day is here working to make sure that families at home can access Medicare, one of the greatest inventions that our Australian Governments have ever come up with. What we don't like is just the State Governments do things that might get in the way of that and it's really important to me that we make sure that all Governments are working together to make sure medical care is accessible to every single Australian. What we don't want is to do something like what we see in America where families might have a child who's sick or an elderly parent who's sick and they actually can't see a doctor because they don't have enough money in their pocket. That is not Australia. We'd love Medicare, we protect Medicare and we will fight anything that sees health costs increase.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, this is something that's affecting everyone. Labor is preparing to grant employees the right to disconnect from work outside their usual hours if a new bill gets through Parliament. Jane, can you explain to us when a boss will have the right to contact their staff. So if I'm a boss, and everyone, a couple of people call in sick can I then approach someone to come in? How on earth is this going to work?
JANE HUME: Don't you feel frustrated Nat, that we continually make laws make rules about what that should really be a pretty basic conversation between two human beings, just basic good manners and good sense and yet this Government continually makes more laws, more rules telling you what to do. How about we just have the conversation about how we'd like to operate our flexible workplaces rather than continually having somebody wagging their finger at you and telling you what to do.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Clare, it sounds like it's going to be harder for small businesses?
CLARE O'NEIL: Well, I think the proposals are still under discussion now. But just so your viewers at home have a little bit of an understanding about what the debate is, really this is about the fact that we've now all got mobile phones in our pockets and emails at home and we're seeing work life increasingly come into people's family time, now to some degree that's going to be just a part of life in the modern age. But there is a point at which what we're actually just seeing is people being asked to do work outside of work hours and not get paid for it and that's something that I do have a little bit of a problem with. So I think we've got to find a happy medium here, where we acknowledge that technology has made things easier and more flexible, and those can be really good things but we don't want that to unfairly affect police officers and nurses and other Australians who want to be able to clock off at the end of the day look after their kids and be with their family and I don't think it's appropriate that work just basically take over our lives 24/7. So that's really the discussion that Governments leading.
NATALIE BARR: Those keywords happy medium, how do we get it? That's going to be the hard part, isn't it? Thank you both for joining us. We welcome you back for a New Year.