Politics with Michelle Grattan

Politics podcast: Chris Bowen on Labor’s budget responses

Politics podcast: Chris Bowen on Labor’s budget responses.

Labor has come under fire for some of its budget responses, including its opposition to the schools package, and only partial support for the Medicare levy increase.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen rejects the government’s argument about the schools plan being more “needs-based” than present arrangements. He tells The Conversation its “one-size-fits-all” approach will put pressure on families and the public system. “Being needs-based is a bit like being pregnant, isn’t it? You either are or you aren’t.”

Bowen defends targeting the Medicare levy rise only at higher-income earners by saying Australia’s low wage growth and other factors mean the circumstances are different from when Julia Gillard raised the levy across the board.

Small and medium-sized businesses – with a turnover of up to A$50 million – are waiting to find out whether a Labor government would cancel their legislated tax cut.

Labor is “taking a bit of time” before announcing its position, Bowen says, to look at “all the implications.” He’s commissioned work from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

“There’s all sorts of stuff on the public record that I carefully sift through so that when I make a recommendation to shadow cabinet it’ll be a good one and a firm one and enable a good discussion.”

On the controversial Adani Carmichael coal mine, which is dividing Queensland Labor and is publicly opposed by several federal ALP MPs, Bowen stresses the project’s future must rest squarely on its own merits, without government subsidy. “If it stacks up, it stacks up.”