Jennifer Westacott - Interview with TODAY

09 May 2018

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with TODAY

Speaker: Jennifer Westacott

Date: 9 May 2018

Topics: Budget, Newstart allowance, company tax



Karl Stefanovic, host: Welcome back to the show. Tax relief for hard working Australians, a push to back business and guaranteeing our essential services. That's what Treasurer Scott Morrison promises his budget will achieve. But one thing he didn't back, was a call to increase welfare payments for our of working Australians. Two of the loudest pre-budget voices calling for an increase in the Newstart allowance, Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Services and Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia. They both join us now. Good morning ladies, thank you for your time. Cassandra to you first.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good morning.

Cassandra Goldie, chief executive Australian Council of Social Services: Yes, good morning.

Karl: How disappointed were you that the Treasurer didn't come to the party?

Cassandra: Oh look, we were bitterly disappointed. I think, for the government to say that this is a budget for people on low incomes and not to do anything to address the woefully low level of that unemployment payment, just $39 a day, is, in our view, a completely wrong move and the wrong priorities. We've got billions being delivered on personal income tax cuts but we couldn't find the money to address the number of people who are living in poverty, and, of course, the children in those families as well.

Karl: So what will happen then?

Cassandra: Well, we will continue to put pressure. I think it's been really important the business community and others have highlighted this. Chris Richardson said last week, his own analysis was, that's the thing you would do, if you're going to spend in this budget that you would lift the level of Newstart. We're very worried that this Budget won't guarantee essential services. The way that this tax plan has been announced, the, sort of, $10 a week for people on, you know, low and middle incomes. Remember, this is a tax plan that delivers tax cuts across the board, including people on the highest incomes. We're going to be taking revenue away that we need for health, education. A big concern is that we will have people paying even more out of pocket because we haven't got the revenue base that we need for essential services. There are some positives in the budget for sure.

Karl: Sorry to interrupt, the Treasurer insists this budget will help those on lower incomes with those tax cuts though. It will those people won't it?

Cassandra: Well, if you're earning up to $37,000, if you're lucky you will get about $4 a week back. But, at the same time, your housing costs, renting in the private market, what's going on with energy prices, all the costs of living, the risks for you if you need dental care, we don't have cover for dental care. I think it would be really interesting to see what the community says about this and also, I am very heartened we have people on higher incomes telling us overnight, don't give us the tax cut, lift Newstart, finally tackle the number of people we've got living homeless in this country.

Karl: Okay.

Cassandra: Karl, we have not done anything for people who really are on the lowest incomes and that's a big shame in this budget.

Karl: Okay, Jennifer, the Treasurer has promised tax cuts. Pretty tough convincing Australians if big businesses also deserve tax relief. It won't happen anyway with the senate of course. What are your thoughts?

Jennifer: Well I think you've got to look at the budget in its overall. I think it's a very strong budget, it's a sensible budget. It's about growth through better business conditions, through infrastructure, and it's about putting the proceeds of growth back into giving low and moderate income earners tax relief, needed tax relief. It's about a very very substantial package for older Australians. There are, you know, big investments in health and education, but I think Karl, this is living proof, this is absolute proof, that when business conditions are strong, when businesses are profitable, when businesses are successful, we can give back to the community. 

Karl: So you don't need tax relief?

Jennifer: Over the forward estimates businesses....well that's not true, we do. Because, and this is why, because many of those assumptions are still based on terms of trade. They're still based on what happens in China, they're still based on what happens in the rest of the world. We have to now bring this in. We have to make our businesses more competitive, we have to make them more productive so we can give those wage increases to people. So that we can continue to see that putting back. In the end of the forward estimates, business will be paying $100 billion a year in corporate tax to the Budget, that's including those tax cuts. We need those tax cuts so that we can keep going, keep a stronger business community going, because it's economic growth that allows us to do the things that Cassandra wants to do and I agree with her about Newstart. It's very disappointing that Newstart isn't in there. We're going to continue to work with ACOSS to advocate for it but we need a strong, growing economy so we can put back to the community. 

Karl: Ladies, always good to talk to you the day after the Budget is handed down. Thank you for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

Jennifer: You're welcome thanks.




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