Scott Morrison asks business not to abandon Coalition for Labor's 'dark vision'
The treasurer, Scott Morrison, has asked a business audience in Canberra not to lose faith in the Coalition and risk voting for Labor at the next election, warning Labor has a “dark vision” for the economy that will set the country back years.
He accepted the business community may have criticisms of the Turnbull government, and acknowledged they may be frustrated with the Coalition’s “handling of politics”.
But he told them key elements of the economy were doing better than they had for decades. He highlighted employment – where 296,000 new jobs were created in the first 10 months of this year, a 40-year record.
Speaking at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual dinner on Wednesday night, at the National Gallery in Canberra, Morrison released new Treasury costings of eight Labor policies to demonstrate how a future Labor government would lumber the economy with $164bn in extra taxes over the next 10 years.
But he didn’t ask Treasury to model any of Labor’s savings measures, which would have provided a complete picture of Labor’s policy platform.
“Since the budget I have continued to set out the Turnbull government’s economic narrative,” Morrison said.
“It is a message that is unashamedly geared towards economic growth, because an economic policy platform that fails to have growth as its core pursuit or its end game, sets the nation up to fail.
“So just in case some people think they can risk their business with Bill Shorten becoming prime minister, allow me to provide a gentle and respectful warning.
“If Bill Shorten becomes the next prime minister, Australian households and businesses will be slapped with a crushing $164bn tax bill, according to new Treasury modelling I have released this evening.”
At Morrison’s request, Treasury has costed Labor’s policies limiting negative gearing to new housing, putting a $3,000 cap on the amount individuals can deduct for the cost of managing their tax affairs, and limiting tax cuts to businesses with a $2m turnover only, among others.
It used a start date of 1 July 2018 for six of those policies, which assumes Labor would be in power before that date.
Morrison warned such policies would come at exactly the wrong moment for Australia’s economy, which was finally getting “back on its feet”.
“A $164bn tax slug over 10 years dumped straight on top of an economy that is getting back to its feet and moving towards better days ahead,” he said.
“I asked Treasury to prepare these costings of their specific tax measures based on Labor’s own policy announcements. The costings are to the same standard that Treasury would apply if asked to do a costing under the charter of budget honesty.”
The shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, has criticised Morrison for using Treasury officials to compile explicitly political costings.
“This is outrageous politicisation of the Treasury and is the latest fumble from Morrison on tax,” Bowen said on Wednesday.
“It takes a series of guesses at Labor policy assumptions including on company tax, fails to include Labor not proceeding with Morrison’s Medicare levy increase, and hilariously, the treasurer seems to assume an early 2018 election to get the 1 July 2018 start date to these numbers.
“Morrison talks tax but no mention of the prime minister’s income tax cuts. What happened to them?”
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, used a speech to the Business Council of Australia last week to try to switch the focus back on the Turnbull government’s economic agenda after contention about cabinet leaks and a persistent insurgency from Nationals over a commission of inquiry into the banks.
Cormann told the BCA a tax cut for big business had become more urgent, countering internal speculation that the prime minister floated personal tax cuts as a prelude to dumping the company tax promise.
Scott Morrison has told the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry he accepts they may have criticisms of the Turnbull government.