October 10, 2022

SUBJECT | Labor junking stage 3 tax cuts, Novak Djokovic | 10 October 2022

Pete Stefanovic: Dan, you’re in my hood; what are you doing up there?

Dan Tehan: I’m meeting with businesses here, Pete, to talk about workforce shortages. Talking to the local tourism industry and the chamber of commerce just to hear what’s happening on the ground and to get a sense as to whether these workforce shortages are starting to be addressed. We’re hearing good numbers of backpackers coming back – obviously international students as well. But just want to get a sense of what’s happening on the ground.

Stefanovic: Right. So you feel like headway is being made there but still a long way to go?

Tehan: Still a long way to go and still a lot of questions to be answered by the government. Obviously, we had the skills summit, but we’re still waiting now there was going to be this review into the immigration system; we don’t know who’s been appointed to that, what the terms of reference will be. So what was put in place last year in terms of trying to get those international students and backpackers returning – doing marketing campaigns – all of that seems to be paying dividends now. But what we haven’t seen is any action since the jobs summit. So, I’ll be very keen to hear what’s happening on the ground and what business is looking for up here in this very important tourism industry to make sure they’ve got the skills they need as tourists start to come back. And they are coming back, both domestic and international.

Stefanovic: The NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, said this morning there's red tape to blame for the lack of foreign-trained GPs in the State at the moment. Is that an argument that you would agree with?

Tehan: Well, one of the things we do have to do is make sure that we can fill these workforce shortages, especially when it comes to doctors in regional and rural areas. And there has been, historically, a lot of red tape that's been put in place, especially by the regulatory and governing bodies. So, I think one of the things we need to do is look at streamlining that; obviously, we've got to make sure that the safety of the Australian patient comes first, but we've also got to make sure that people can get access to doctors, so being able to streamline the ways that doctors can apply to come in from overseas to work here, I think, would be a very, very good initiative.

Stefanovic: Dan, the government maintains its position hasn't changed on stage three tax cuts. Murray Watt echoed that claim a short time ago. Are you buying it?

Tehan: Well, we called him ‘Each Way Albo’ before the election, and it seems that that was pretty right. Here we have the government obviously floating out that they want to get rid of the stage three tax cuts or at least part of them. What we need now is Anthony Albanese, to be honest with the Australian people. Is he going to rule out doing anything with regard to the stage three tax cuts, or is he going to keep floating this kite and break his word at the budget in May?

Stefanovic: Andrew Clennell’s information on the programme yesterday was that it won't be a target or may not be a target for this budget. Could well be a factor in the next one or possibly, possibly, even taken to the election in the far-off distance. Do you fear it's an inevitability that the government got its eyes on this and wants to change it?

Tehan: Well, the sad reality is that Labor always wants to tax more and spend more. That's been their history in government, and it looks like this government is going to be exactly the same. They're going to come after your money. And what would be a really, really positive thing would be for the Prime Minister to come out and say, ‘I was honest with the Australian people before the election. I said we wouldn't touch the stage three tax cuts in the lead-up to the election, and we aren't going to do it because I want to keep my word. That's what we'd like to hear from the Prime Minister. Him coming out and saying, ‘I want to keep my word. Wouldn't that be really positive?

Stefanovic: Rod Sims had some interesting points to make on this show last week, saying income taxes have been maxed out, personal income taxes, we should go back to super profit taxes of mining companies, etc. Would you be open to that, seeing as debt needs to be paid down somehow?

Tehan: Well, once again, what we're seeing and hearing is that Labor does want to tax more and spend more. What we've got to do is make sure that we get our budgetary settings right. We've got to make sure like we did when we came to government, that we've got a cap, or a limit, on spending. So, spending growth will not occur above 2-2.5 per cent, then you've got to make sure that you're maximising the revenue by ensuring you've got integrity in the system. There are ways you can go about doing this rather than just taxing and spending more, which is what Labor always seems to want to fall back on.

Stefanovic: Okay. Should Novak Djokovic be allowed to compete at next year's Australian Open?

Tehan: Well, Pete, as a tennis lover, I'd love to see him there. He's obviously won it nine times, and it would be great to have him there at this or next year's tournament. But the most important thing here is that we’re protecting the integrity of our immigration system. So, obviously, the rules about coming into Australia have changed. You don't have to be vaccinated anymore. So, what the Government has to do is, if he applies to come to Australia, to make sure that they look at this like they would any other case and ultimately, what they've got to do is if they decide that he can come, they've got to do so, in making that decision, in a way that protects the integrity of our immigration system. They have to be able to explain why they made the reasons and why it is consistent with the integrity of our system.

Stefanovic: It was character grounds as to why your government ruled him out last time. Do you still think that was the right decision?

Tehan: Well, obviously, it was the right decision because there was requirements that needed to be met for him to enter the country, and it seemed, according to the courts, that those requirements weren’t met. Now, those requirements have changed, and now the government has to look at those new requirements. And if he does make an application, look at, okay, how do we judge this as to whether he now meets those character grounds or not? And the one thing that they just have to make sure that they have foremost in the front of their minds is the integrity of our immigration system. They’ve got to put aside that he's a nine times champion of the Australian Open and make this decision like they would any other decision based on protecting the integrity of our immigration system.

Stefanovic: You'd have to think we'd be facing some bad PR or negative PR, wouldn't we, if we knocked him back two years in a row?

Tehan: Well, with all these things, it can't be about PR. It's got to be about the protection of our immigration system. You protect your immigration system you can bring people into this country. The Australian people have faith and confidence in how you're acting as a government. You get it wrong, and you can't do that. Now, there could be very good grounds for making a decision to allow him to come into the country and play. And I think all tennis lovers in Australia and around the world would welcome that, but any decision has to be made in a way that protects our immigration system.

Stefanovic: Dan Tehan live from Cairns, appreciate it. Hope you can get to the Yorkeys Knob Yacht Club while you're there. We'll talk to you again...

Tehan: I would love a coldie while I’m up here, Pete, but I don't think I'll get a chance.

Stefanovic: Fair enough. You've got a bit on, Dan Tehan and, as always, thank you. We'll talk to you soon.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232