19 December 2017

DAVID KOCH, PRESENTER:The Opposition has come out swinging at the Federal Government's mid-year economic update. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen joins me now. Chris thanks for joining us.


KOCH:Let's look at a couple of specific issues. Changes to higher education include students will have to pay their HECS back from a lower salary level.

BOWEN:We are not impressed with that at all. I mean this is a government who has attempted to reduce university funding since 2014 and has been blocked in the Parliament every time by us and other parties, as we should. Now they are trying to find a way around that through changes which don't need legislation, dont need changes to the law. They will impact on people going to university or hoping to go to university, particularly people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, people who aren't wealthy who dare to dream to go to university. So we are not impressed with those changes at all.

KOCH:The economy is looking in much better shape. The Government is saying we have got to tighten our belts on one hand and then promising tax cuts on the other.

BOWEN:Tax cuts for some Kochie. Tax cuts for big business, tax cuts if you earn more than $180,000 a year. But increasing taxes on every Australian earning more than $21,000 through the Medicare Levy Increase. Thats 7 million Australians. So Scott Morrison talks about income tax cuts, but actually they are trying to increase personal income tax. We are opposing that.

KOCH:Ok. What about the proposal to extend waiting times for new migrants to be able to get on welfare. The average Australian would actually agree with that. Theyd say if you are going to come to this country youve got to look after yourself.

BOWEN:Well Kochie, there are quite a few new measures that were announced yesterday. We are going to take our time, to look at them carefully, talk to the people impacted. We have some concerns about that measure because that measure might just increase the pressure on the community sector or charities, but we will work through it, we will talk to the Government, talk to those impacted. We will come up with a sensible response. Theres a whole range of measures, whether its that or after hours doctors where the responsible thing for us to do is say We have only seen it yesterday, so let's look at the detail.

KOCH:Overall, the economy is doing well. Scott Morrison, what grade would you give him?

BOWEN:Not a great one to the Treasurer, but a good one to the Australian workers and to the world economy. The Government actually downgraded growth this year, yesterday. They have also admitted that wages arent going to get back to what they thought they would, and wages growth is a big problem.

KOCH:26 consecutive years of economic growth.

BOWEN:Its a great achievement, a great achievement.

KOCH:Its extraordinary. You cannot be too grumpy about it.

BOWEN:It is a great achievement, which is the responsibility of successive governments, of those big changes in the 1980s and 1990s, getting Australia through the global financial crisis without recession. And workers, businesses and unions all working together over those 26 years.

KOCH:Yeah but dont you think that the problem is when you criticise the economy, it just has a ripple effect.

BOWEN:Well Kochie I am always very careful about my comments about the economy. I am always measured, Im never alarmist, I never say that the world is about to fall in, that the sky is about to collapse. Im always very careful but I will also call it as I see it. As the alternative Treasurer, I am not going to give a tick to things which I think are concerning. So for example I am very concerned about household debt in Australia. Its one of the highest in the world. I think thats a big risk, a big problem. Again, not being alarmist about it, but I think change is necessary like reforming negative gearing, to get some of that under control. I do think we have some challenges. We are in a good position globally. The world economy is coming together every well. Weve got a synchronised recovery. It is the first time in a long time, we have America, Europe, Asia looking good and theres some good benefits.

KOCH:Good to see you, thanks for coming in.