Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with ABC News Breakfast
Speaker: Jennifer Westacott
Date: 9 May 2018
Topics: Budget, company tax
Michael Rowland, host: Let's now speak to Jennifer Westacott, the head of the Business Council of Australia, for the business community's reaction to the budget. Jennifer, good morning to you.
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good morning.
Michael: What's your main take out?
Jennifer: I think it's a very strong budget, it's a very sensible budget. It's a Budget focused on growth through better business conditions, through good infrastructure spending. But, the key thing is that, that growth is now allowing us to put back - through tax relief for low to moderate income earners, a big aged care package, you know, investment in infrastructure, more money for health and education. I think, this proves beyond any doubt that when business is thriving, when business conditions are good, we can put back. The community is stronger, the community can thrive. You know, over the forward estimates, business tax revenues will be $100 billion, that's including the tax cut. We've got to make sure we lock that in.
Michael: If things are going so well and there's this huge revenue stream coming in, as you say, not just from the business community, should the government, therefore, have gone bolder and offered more than $530 a year for the low to middle income earners of Australia.
Jennifer: Well I think people are underestimating the impact of this personal tax cut. First of all, you are targeting those low to moderate income earners, for an average couple, that's $1,000. That's a lot of money to a lot of people. But, you know, as it goes out, which is, kind of, fiscally calibrated and quite sensible, you know, you're taking out a whole tax bracket. You're taking out one of the great incentive sapping parts of our tax system. This bracket creep. You're simplifying it, you're allowing people from 40,000 onwards, to not have that constant anxiety that they're going to pay more in tax. I think, most people want more money in their pocket than in the government's pocket. So, you know, I think the challenge now is not to reverse course. The challenge is to stay the course. The challenge is to get the business conditions working. One thing that's changed, is that other countries have put their tax rates down, particularly, the US. Yeah, we've got to make sure that we now make our economy more resilient to external factors like commodity prices, lift our productivity, lift our competitiveness. That's why we need the full Enterprise Tax Plan to be passed. And we've also got to remember, and I keep reminding people of this, that $100 billion, I want it to be 120 but, you know, if it's 65 or 80, we've got a very different budget in 4 years' time.
Michael: Just very quickly before we wrap up, talking about the rest of those company tax cuts and the balance. We had independent senator Tim Storer on the show earlier, he is still yet to be convinced about offering the big banks, the top end of town, company tax relief. So it's not certain?
Jennifer: The banks don't get their tax cut for a long time.
Michael: But they still get a tax cut some years down the track.
Jennifer: Yeah but they're getting a signal now and that's what the senate has to remember. They're sending people a signal, that signal is important to lock in the investment, particularly, for companies like BHP and RioTinto, who operate in a very competitive world. Look, you know, my message to everyone is this, this budget proves that when business is thriving, when business conditions are good, the country can put back. We can put back into working people, we can put back into low income earners, we can spend money on health and education. If business conditions are weak, that becomes harder and harder and harder. We need to lock it in.
Michael: Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia. Thank you for joining us.
Jennifer: Thanks very much.