Scott Morrison asks busi­ness not to aban­don Coali­tion for La­bor's 'dark vi­sion'

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Gareth Hutchens

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.

Pho­to­graph: Bren­dan Es­pos­ito/EPA

Scott Morrison has told the Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try he ac­cepts they may have crit­i­cisms of the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment.

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