Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has ruled out reviving Labor’s unsuccessful and politically corrosive mining tax under a future Shorten Labor government but has committed the ALP to putting a fully formed carbon pricing policy before voters at the next election.
The policy on carbon pricing, which is likely to begin with a floating market-set price without a fixed price period, will nonetheless hand the Abbott government a politically fertile line of attack on the ALP over the incendiary carbon tax issue.
Clarifying his party’s stance on the two taxes that together helped Tony Abbott win the 2013 election, Mr Bowen said the world had changed since 2010, rendering a mining super-profits tax no longer relevant.
“With commodities prices the way they are, a mining tax is not on our agenda,” he told the National Press Club during the traditional shadow treasurer’s post-budget address.
However, a price on carbon remained central to the ALP’s platform.
“We continue to believe firstly that climate change is real,” he said.
“Secondly, that it’s caused by humankind and thirdly, the best way of dealing with it is a price on carbon. We continue to believe that, and that will be reflected in our detailed policy that we announce and seek a mandate to implement.”
The declaration means the political fight at the next election will in some senses be a carbon copy of the carbon-dominated 2013 race after Prime Minister Tony Abbott managed to abolish Labor’s fixed-price scheme last year.
Labor’s clarification of the two controversial and divisive taxes came as Mr Bowen committed the opposition to waving through some $2.4 billion in government budget measures including the abolition of the nearly $20,000 tax-free threshold on foreign backpacker earnings, the abolition of the large-family bonus, the government’s pro-vaccination no-jab-no-pay policy, tighter work-related car expenses deduction methods and the removal of the special lower taxation zone for fly-in-fly-out workers.
He also said Labor planned to fight the next election on superannuation, saying the Abbott government’s second budget showed tax concessions on super earnings had become the fastest growing tax concessions and someone had to start winding them back.
He said super tax concessions were estimated to grow to $50.6 billion in 2018-19, up from $29.7 billion in 2014-15, at an average annual growth rate of 14.3 per cent.
The government’s recent budget shows the cost of the aged pension will be $50.4 billion in 2018-19, up from $41.6 billion in 2014-15, at an average annual growth rate of just 4.9 per cent.
“This is exactly why the earnings concession on superannuation is the fastest growing tax concession in the federal budget,” Mr Bowen said.
“That rate of growth dwarfs the increase in the scale of age pension costs.”
“I read that Tony Abbott wants to make superannuation an election issue. Bring it on. Labor is always delighted to fight an election on superannuation, one of our proudest creations,” he said.
The shadow treasurer said Labor planned to put the ideas and needs of entrepreneurs at the centre of economic policy-making because they will be key to future economic growth.
If elected, Labor would create a “regular and formal mechanism”, called the Treasurer’s Entrepreneurial Council, through which entrepreneurs could have a direct line of communication with Treasury and the Treasurer’s office, he said.
It would help to keep the interests of entrepreneurs, and the ever-changing challenges they face, at the forefront of Treasury’s mind.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said Labor needed to understand that superannuation accounts were full of money that people had earned themselves, rather than being full of government money.
“There is a world of difference between tax-funded benefits and people’s own savings,” Mr Abbott said.
“Yes, superannuation is tax-advantaged. Still, you’ve got to make the money and put it aside in your super account, so it’s your money … the Labor Party should wake up to the fact that superannuation savings belong to the people who worked hard to accumulate those savings and they should stop seeing Australians’ super as a piggy bank that they can raid whenever they are in trouble.”
In the lead-up to last week’s budget, Mr Abbott upgraded the Coalition’s promise to make “no adverse changes” to superannuation in this term of government to making no changes in the future.
It formed part of the government’s plan to differentiate itself from Labor, which the Coalition wants to brand as the party of high taxes