The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

3 December 2007 - 8 June 2009

Transcript of 15/05/2009

Interview with Alexandra Kirk

ABC AM

Friday, 15 May 2009

SUBJECTS: Budget-in-Reply, Tobacco tax, private health insurance rebate, savings measures.

NARRATOR:

The Government is dismissive of Mr Turnbull's higher tax proposal. The Assistant Treasurer says that if Mr Turnbull wants to be taken seriously on this he has to support the Government's alcopops tax increase.

Mr Bowen is speaking with Alexandra Kirk.

CHRIS BOWEN:

Well Mr Turnbull said, just last month – and this is a quote – "the last thing the Australian economy needs now is new taxes, especially blatant tax grabs dressed up as health measures."

So he has a lot of explaining to do. He has been banging on about the debt and deficit for weeks now, and last night the best he could propose was a swap between one savings measure and another. So all taxes are before the Henry Review, including cigarette taxes, and we will look at it in that context.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:

So you are not saying no?

BOWEN:

Well Mr Turnbull last night said that this could be a health measure, now when we proposed a tax increase which was a health measure, the alcopops tax, he laughed at us, he derided us, he said it is just a blatant tax grab, how could it possibly have any health impacts. Now he has changed his tune.

KIRK:

But on the Government's side, if it is okay to increase the tax on alcopops by 70%, why wouldn't it be okay to use a tax hike to send a health signal on tobacco?

BOWEN:

Well there is also very significant taxes on tobacco, and we will look at whether there is the scope as part of the Henry Review, but Mr Turnbull said that he would have a lower deficit, last night he proposed the same deficit or even higher – he didn't support all of our savings measures, he proposed some new revenue measures, and all he proposed was a swap, a new tax to replace one of our savings measures.

So he has no credibility on the debt and deficit issue, he is saying on the one hand that he would have a lower deficit, but when the time comes to put your money where your mouth is, he actually proposes the same deficit or even a higher one.

KIRK:

Malcolm Turnbull is saying no to winding back the 30% private health insurance rebate – does that constitute the early election trigger the Prime Minister has been threatening when he said the Budget must be passed in its entirety?

BOWEN:

Well the Prime Minister said that he doesn't want an early election, the Treasurer has said that the last thing the nation needs is an early election. We're focussed on getting this budget through, that's what we want. The Australian people don't want an early election, they want certainty, they're looking not only to the Government for leadership but to the Parliament for leadership. They're asking the Parliament to show a bit of leadership, provide a bit of certainty and pass the Budget, and that's what we are trying to do.

KIRK:

Well Malcolm Turnbull was effectively offering you a revenue swap, so the budget bottom line would not be affected by taking away the winding back of the 30% private health insurance rebate and in its place an increase in the tobacco tax, so you basically haven't had your budget threatened at all?

BOWEN:

Well no, Mr Turnbull didn't last night support all our other savings measures; he said they would still look at them, they were still considering them – so there is still a big question mark on all the savings measures that the Government put forward.