Subjects: tax cuts; republic referendum/plebiscite
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter's the Attorney-General. Good morning, Christian.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Gareth, yeah. Well that was a great story.
GARETH PARKER: Amazing. Hey, have we got a tax cut yet?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: We are tantalisingly close so bells are ringing at the moment in the Senate and I think this will be one of the last...
GARETH PARKER: In the Senate, thank God. I'm having heart palpitations. I can hear the bells through the headphones, I'm wondering if I'm going to get stiffed again.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: The light's flashing green, mate, for those of us who are tone deaf, but yes, the Senate's very close.
GARETH PARKER: Okay, alright, so not far away. What does that mean?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well it means we're entering a realm of pretty substantive income tax reform, a changed structure, but ultimately what it means for people out there is that every single income tax earner in Australia's going to pay less tax which is going to be great for individuals and for families. But I think also it means in the long run we're going to have a much more efficient and competitive tax system and everyone between sort of $40,000 and $200,000 is going to be on a single rate of tax.
GARETH PARKER: Labor says that this is unfair, that the biggest benefit goes to the rich people who can most afford it.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, the fact is that once this becomes law and it is finally worked through and is in full operation the wealthiest income earners, so those above $200,000, will pay a larger proportion of the total amount of tax taken in Australia than they did previously. So I don't understand how that means that it could be unfair. I mean in that sense having the higher income earners pay a greater proportion of the total amount of all of the tax paid means that there's a greater progressivity to the system. But everyone pays less tax and at the end of the day the best thing about what is happening here is that all income earners in Australia will pay less tax.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. We're expecting it will happen shortly when the Senate gets around to voting on it. I mean whatever you think about it ..
CHRISTIAN PORTER: What this means…
GARETH PARKER: It's a win for the Government. The politics of it it's a big win for the Government.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: It's a huge win for the Government but it's a win for us because it's a win for taxpayers. I mean what's Labor going to do out in all these by-elections now? Are they going to go out and run on a policy of increasing tax for everyone? Good luck with that.
GARETH PARKER: Maybe should have run a candidate in Perth and capitalise on it.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, you know, I'll tell you what it's an interesting thought, but the reality is...
GARETH PARKER: Not too late? The ad's in the paper this morning, I saw it. Nominations haven't closed yet. Is it too late?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: It might surprise you that my answer is those decisions are outside my control. But look, Australians really were getting hammered by bracket creep and they were getting hammered for being aspirational and moving in between tax brackets. So when you got above in that sort of high 80s range and you went from one tax bracket to the next because you'd earn a little bit more, what you saw was that it all just got washed away in tax and it barely made your efforts to get a promotion or work longer hours, worth it. So for aspirational Australians I mean this is a fantastic outcome because when you do better and you earn more or you get a promotion or you work longer hours you get to keep more of what you earn and ultimately sort of one of the things that Labor often says is that there's a cost to all of this. As if it weren't other people's money in the first place. This is a government allowing people to keep more of the money that they themselves earn.
There seems to be on another matter a bit of a - I don't think it's a push just yet - but there's a bit of chatter around the possibility that we might revisit the republic issue sooner rather than later. And I noticed that in one of the newspapers this morning Tony Abbott is sort of presenting himself as the vanguard of the constitutional monarchists who will fight against this. What's going on here?
Well I think this is all kind of sparked to the extent that I can describe it that way by Bill Shorten saying that as an election policy if they were ever elected to government they would have a plebiscite on the republic, which I've got to say is an idea that is quite a lot stupid and a little bit dishonest because I think first of all there's no appetite for this now at all and there are bigger things and more important issues facing Australia that government needs to be focusing its attention on. But ultimately if you were ever to have a republic you've got to change the constitution which means of course that you've got to have a referendum. So what Bill Shorten wants to do is have some kind of plebiscite vote or opinion poll which says; do you like the idea of republic, but not also ask the question what sort of republic is it that we would move to.
I mean it's the equivalent of saying to people I want you to agree to move house but I'm not going to tell you where you're going to live until much later down the track after you've made the decision to move house. No one's going to wear that. The issue with the republic has always been that you have to put to people with a great degree of specificity what it is that you want to change the Australian constitution and system of government to - like you've got to put up a model. You can't divorce the two ideas and the two concepts of the model from the desire to have a change.
GARETH PARKER: That's where it fell down in '99 was on the model. Are you a republican or a monarchist?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: I wouldn't describe myself as a monarchist, like I have pictures of the Queen in my office or anything like that, but I'm a constitutional conservative and I do think that our present arrangements have served us very well for a very long period of time, that we've got a fantastically structured system of government that is enshrined in our constitution. I've just never seen a model that we would move towards that I find particularly convincing along the lines that it produces a better result than what we've got at the moment. So like most Australians if someone says to me; right, we're going to change the fundamental structure of your democratic system and your system of government, I want to know how you're going to change it and why is system B that you're proposing better than this great system that we've had working for a long period of time.
GARETH PARKER: What if you just said; well, instead of a Governor-General we've now got someone we're calling president and the Prime Minister will nominate him by convention.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, you know, that's one of many models. That comes close to what they used to call the McGarvie model which I think was the appointment of a president by two-thirds (majority of a joint ) sitting of both Houses of Parliament. But those things fundamentally change our structure of government and people who want to advocate those sort of things, that's fine, they can advocate them, but it is a dishonest process to try and suggest that you should have an Australia wide opinion poll or plebiscite saying to people; do you like the idea of a republic but not at the same time put to them what that would actually mean, put to them the model. And as I say it's like saying to people you must right now tell us whether or not you want to move house but we're not going to tell you where you're going to live until 18 months down the track and no one's going to wear that.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Thanks Christian.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Cheers, Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter the Attorney-General. So our tax cuts tax not far away.