Subjects: China; Company tax cuts; Family Court system
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, the Attorney-General. A misspent youth at the milk bar?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, does- Galaga, is it?
GARETH PARKER: It's actually Space Invaders, but certainly of a theme.
I think by getting the answer wrong to that your credibility is actually enhanced because you were doing more productive things in your youth.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, misspent youth, yeah.
GARETH PARKER: Exactly.
Thank you for your time this morning. Lots to talk about.
Can I start with your WA Liberal colleague Andrew Hastie's speech to the Parliament the other night about the Chinese-Australian billionaire property developer, Dr Chau Chak Wing? What did you make of it?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well look, you can certainly start with that. The difficulty that I've got as AG and first law officer of the Commonwealth, there's also a defamation matter that's before the courts at the moment involving the individual that was spoken about, so I am properly limited in what I can say because I don't want to in any way prejudice those proceedings.
GARETH PARKER: Yup, we grappled with on the program yesterday as well. So we understand that.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Indeed. But you know, that really does constrain me. So if you've got a specific question I'll give it my best, but there's limitations.
GARETH PARKER: Well, perhaps if we can steer…let's steer to some of the politics of it. Is that an appropriate use of parliamentary privilege to make a speech like that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, everyone will make a determination, all Australians, about that. But what I would say is that parliamentary privilege is a very broad and very important and over time's been a very resilient benefit that members of Parliament that Australians elect have enjoyed. It's there for a reason, but it is a very, very strong power, if you like, that parliamentarians have.
GARETH PARKER: So has Andrew Hastie done the right thing?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, he clearly believes that he has, and people will make their judgements about that, but it's certainly one of the ways in which privilege is used.
GARETH PARKER: Dr Chau's donated lots of money to both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. I think he was the largest single donor for the WA Liberal Party in the last financial year: $200,000. Donated $200,000 the year before as well. Does the WA Liberal Party have a clear conscience in accepting those donations?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well again, donations are matters for the party organisation. Certainly, they're not donations that have been made to a campaign of mine. I don't know about that quantum of them and I don't have access to that sort of information, other than what’s publicly available …
GARETH PARKER: Well, they're publicly available.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I understand that. In addition, look, obviously with this defamation action going on it's very difficult for me, particularly in my AG's position, to comment on.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Alright. I understand that. Can I ask you more generally about the Australia-China relationship? How's it going at the moment?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I mean it's a relationship that obviously at certain points requires some navigation. Western Australians have a very particular understanding of the Australia-China relationship because of the very deep commercial ties, and it's a relationship that we've enjoyed all the benefits of for decades now. So in a way, our relationship in West Australia is as mature with China as it is anywhere in Australia, but even amongst very close mutually beneficial trade relationships, such as the one that we've got with China, and I might add friendship with China, there are going to be periods where there are issues that need to be navigated, and we're probably in one of those to an extent at the moment. But the relationship is sound fundamentally. Commercially it is mutually beneficial to a very large degree. And of course we all just need to be mindful of all of those things.
GARETH PARKER: We've got Chinese newspapers. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, they're all state-run newspapers, issuing a lengthy editorial suggesting that China should leave Australia hanging for a while, perhaps not buy our beef or our wine and things of that nature, maybe teach us an economic lesson. I mean, that's a bit interesting.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, certainly one description of it. Obviously we're mindful of those types of products from Chinese newspapers and we enjoy a very free press here in Australia, and I'm sure there are sometimes things that journalists print in Australia the Chinese don't particularly find enamouring, but that's just the nature of these relationships.
GARETH PARKER: OK. Pauline Hanson seems to have scuttled the Coalition's plans for passing the company tax cuts any time soon. Is it to just ditch that policy, spend the money on personal income taxes so you can match or trump Bill Shorten and get on with life?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No. I think the reason that we're able to offer the income tax cuts that we are is because we're growing jobs and growing the economy. The reason we've been able to grow jobs and grow the economy is because the first half of our company tax relief went through, and that fact has contributed to very significant growth in the small business sector and that's what produces the 410,000 jobs. And we've produced a million jobs five months early since we've been elected, and this makes life better for families. It produces the economic strength in the Budget that allows us to give tax relief to families, and, you know, people need to understand that you can't like jobs and dislike business, because business, small business, medium sized business, large business, that is what produces jobs in Australia. So, the two are intimately connected.
And we had this conversation, I think, a week or two ago about the way in which the progressive tax system works, and what we're trying to do is create a flatter, fairer tax system, and the system that we are putting before Parliament for personal income tax means that by 2024 the amount of tax that someone would pay on $200,000 would be 13 times as much as the amount that someone would pay on 41,000 – like 13 times as much. So it's still an appropriately progressive system, but you'd also have 90 per cent of Australians who wouldn't face a higher marginal tax rate than 32 cents in the dollar. So you've got, I think, very significant structural reform, but the only reason that we're able to do that is that we're growing the economy, and that is linked to the fact that we're making business conditions better for business who provide jobs.
GARETH PARKER: And yet there are far more people in Australia who earn less than $90,000 a year, rather than more than $90,000 a year, and to those people, Bill Shorten seems to be offering a bigger tax cut, or for many of them. Is he going to win the politics of this?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, because I think that the fundamental difference is twofold. One is that he is paying for his personal income tax cuts by taking money off self-funded retirees, by taking away their tax return on franked dividends. That's how he's funding it. We are funding personal income tax cuts by job growth, revenue growth and business growth. That's how we're doing it.
And secondly, our plan is thoroughly structural. It's actually reform, and over time, what happens is you get rid of the second highest tax bracket. So you're right, there are many people who earn less than $90,000 and fewer who earn more. But at the moment, when you reach that second to last tax bracket, and when you're in the $80,000 bracket and you get a better job or you get a promotion or you work more hours, you get absolutely hammered by the tax system. So, Australians who want to do better and who work hard to do better for themselves and their families, under a flatter structure, are rewarded more, and not to the detriment of any one under $90,000. Because, as I say, the flatter system still means that it's proportional but fairer.
GARETH PARKER: This one perhaps doesn't affect a great number of people, but I find it interesting. It seems as though there are some Family Court judges who are fighting a bit of a rear-guard action about changes you might be prepared to make to the Family Court system. What's going on here? Why are they upset with you?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I've not had any judge approach me who….I literally have not had a judge approach me indicating that they're upset about anything. I've read a few media reports here and there, but it's no secret that we've been looking into the operation of the family law system. George Brandis, my predecessor, commissioned a full Australian Law Reform Commission review into the actual law surrounding family law. I have been looking at the throughput and efficiency and backlog and time to trial for the actual courts, and there are two courts: the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia. And certainly, the conclusion that I've reached is that we can do better for families. There are 43,000 families who are divorced in Australia every year. In fact, that number's kind of reduced a little bit over the last couple of years, which is a good thing. But all of those families end up going through the family law system, some of them into the courts and some of them into trial, and frankly it just takes too long at the moment and we can do much better by those families. And yep, we'll be talking about that more over the coming weeks.
GARETH PARKER: Alright. We'll stay tuned for that. Thanks Christian.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: OK. Cheers Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, the Attorney-General.