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Jim Chalmers

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers on promoting vaccine uptake and a ‘modest spending program’

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers on promoting vaccine uptake and a ‘modest spending program’

In the lead up to the 2019 election, the Shorten opposition attacked the government’s planned 2024 tax cuts, and promised to curb negative gearing and halve the capital gains tax discount.

Last week, the Albanese opposition said it wouldn’t try to unwind the tax cuts and would leave negative gearing intact - a pragmatic decision designed to make the party a small target at next year’s election.

Speaking to The Conversation in the Mural Hall in Parliament House – COVID restrictions prevented a visit to his office – Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers defended the change of stance:

“I think people understand that the highest priority right now needs to be the management of this pandemic, which is doing such damage to the economy and to local communities, and also what the economy and our society will look like after Covid-19. And what we’re able to do now is to focus properly on that. And that’s why we took that decision and why we announced it immediately.”

In a populist move this week, the opposition called on the government to provide a $300 incentive to anyone who was fully vaccinated by 1 December. Such an initiative – vehemently rejected by the government – would cost $6 billion, which Chalmers concedes “is not a small amount of money” but “is a fraction of the money that the government has given in JobKeeper for companies whose profits actually went up and didn’t need JobKeeper support. $13 billion at least wasted there.”

Chalmers says $300 per vaccinated person would be “a lot of bang for buck in terms of public health outcomes, but also in terms of economic outcomes.”

If successful at the election, as treasurer Chalmers would be inheriting an enormous debt, with not much room for spending. Despite this, he says Labor’s approach to spending “won’t be held to constraints that the government’s not held to.”

“The government spent a 100 billion dollars in one night on budget night[…]not a dollar offset, and nobody’s saying to the government ‘what taxes are you raising to pay for that 100 billion dollars in spending?’

"The commitment I give to the Australian people as the alternative treasurer is our budget position will reflect the needs of the Australian people and the economy[…]

"It will be more responsible than the Liberals. We won’t be taking a lecture on responsibility from the most wasteful government since Federation, and our budget settings will reflect the economy.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

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