Transcript: Jenny McAllister on the Gender Breakdown of the Government’s Proposed Tax Cuts

2.30pm | June 07, 2018



SUBJECTS: Facebook, gender breakdown of government’s proposed tax cuts.

GILBERT: Welcome back to the program with me now, Labor's Jenny McAllister. Jenny did you , what are your thoughts in relation to this Huawei story and Facebook that is being reported today. Do you share the concerns of your colleague Anthony Byrne? 

MCALLISTER: It raises some very significant issues about how Facebook operates. You know there have been stories in the last week about Facebook providing access to user data to a range of companies including Huawei as discussed this morning. They're really significant issues for privacy and consumers, Facebook users, internet users have a right to know really clearly what the platform that they are interacting with are planning to do with their data. I don't think Facebook has accomplished that. I think they've been really quite negligent in describing to consumers exactly what's going to happen to their data, and as the Cambridge Analytica story tells us, the use of that data can be very powerful indeed. 

GILBERT: So, it’s a wakeup call to everyday users as well as Government.

MCALLISTER: I actually think we're at the beginning of a pretty interesting phase. I think this will be a decadal conversation. I actually think that the community is a little bit frog  in hot water. People have provided a lot of information, not just to Facebook, but to energy companies, banks, to supermarkets. The availability of consumer data to the private sector is vast and in some sectors, like the banking sector it's quite tightly regulated. In other sectors it's not regulated at all. I think we're emerging from a  period where people were relaxed about that to a period where people actually starting to question whether or not it's a good idea at all, or maybe that it's a good idea that it ought to come with certain constraints and that is the conversation the Parliament is going to need to have. 

GILBERT: yeah, constraints but also I guess more self-restraint as to what people share in terms of their lives, their personal information. 

MCALLISTER: I think that's right Kieran. It's rare that a problem that's this broad, deep and complex is going to be solved just by legislative action. I think what's happening now is a public conversation about how we behave, what norms we adopt, do we read the terms and conditions before we sign on. it's not to absolve the Parliament from responsibility. I actually think the Parliament is going to have to take a very close look at this but I suppose I would observe that this is going to have to be a dialogue between the community, individuals, community groups, parliament. It's actually a big conversation. Part of it is going to be about understanding how these technologies actually work. One of the problems to date has been that there has been very limited transparency around how some of these platforms actually function and what it means to provide that data, but I think we're going to have to have a much broader conversation about these things and actually I welcome it. 

GILBERT:  Yes, absolutely, it’s hard to disagree with any of that. Now let’s look at something that people are disagreeing with. In fact Chris Bowen has copped a bit of flack this morning from a range of quarters. Particularly the business sector but  ah, when he raised that issue of the tax changes affecting, or benefiting men and higher income earners to a greater extent than women, but the core question , isn't it about the pay gap, that's how you deal with that as opposed to the tax system which as the government points out rightly is gender neutral? 

MCALLISTER: Well you can't dispute the numbers Kieran, in that final phase of the program men get about 30 million, (corrects) ah 30 billion dollars and women get 11  billion dollars, that is a very big gap. Now there is already a gender pay gap. Women are already being penalised just for being women in the economy. I think the question is why would the government seek to exacerbate that by designing an intervention in the tax system that so overwhelmingly rewards men. It just seems an unusual decision for a government that purports to support women. Kelly O'Dwyer's busy preparing an economic statement for women we're told. What's it going to say about a tax plan that delivers benefits in a ration of three to one, men to women?

GILBERT: Let's look at the broader tax plan because Brian Burston looks like he's going to back it. The Government still needs a few other votes. It's hard to see Labor saying no to that changes of July one this year. Particularly in the lead up to those by-elections, it would be courageous, for want of a better term for you to do that. 

MCALLISTER: We want to see tax relief from July one this year. That is absolutely our goal and in fact under our proposal, not only would we like to see tax relief from  July one this year, we'd also like to see additional tax relief twelve months later. Almost twice as much for quite a large number of tax payers. So that's our objective, that's what we're trying to achieve in the Senate chamber, I'm a Senator. It's really up to the government. They could split this Bill. They have Senator Storer asking them to split the Bill. We are asking them to split the Bill. If they split the Bill this all becomes very straight forward. We can put those tax changes in place so that relief is delivered to low and middle income earners from the first of July, very very straight forward. 

GILBERT: Yeah that's fine but it is brinkmanship now in the sense that Labor, could, well what you could do is allow it through as you did in the lower house and then seek to repeal it you win the next election. That seems the obvious way forward. 

MCALLISTER: We’ll make our decisions, I suppose, based on what we see in the chamber at the time but we've got a clear negotiating objective and that is to deliver tax relief to low and middle income earners. you know, wages are flat lining, we know that that part of the community needs some help we saw it in yesterday's economic data. Consumer spending is really stagnant, barely growing. There is a problem in the low and for low and middle income earners and for low and middle income households and we want to fix that. 

GILBERT: So you won't stay in the way of that surely? That's the point isn't it? 

MCALLISTER: We want the government to come to the party and make it possible for the Senate to pass tax relief for those parts of the community but you know we are really concerned about phase three. It is a very expensive intervention that we are being asked to legislate this year to come into place in 2024. It's a 40 billion dollar intervention into the federal budget which will take place years from now. We've got no idea what the state of the economy will be in 2024 and to that extent it actually seems kind of irresponsible to be waving through this tax cut which we know goes to high earners, living in capital cities, mostly men and will have an uncertain impact on the budget a long way off in the future. 

GILBERT: Do you have any concern though that Labor is giving up a bit of ground here in terms of the, what's known as, being called the aspirational voter in the electorate by saying that no, we'll have tax cuts for this cohort, but many of those workers and the vast bulk of them will want to be earning more in a few years’ time, in five, ten years’ time, so they see those tax cuts further up the scale and think that's good? 

MCALLISTER: we've got to make the call as we see it Kieran. As I said, consumer spending is flat lining, we've had very, very slow wages growth. We've got families earning 50, 70 thousand dollars a year. Half of Australians earn less than 55 thousand dollars a year. In that context it does seem pretty difficult to prioritise tax cuts for people earning six figure salaries. 

GILBERT: Ok. Senator Jenny McAllister thanks so much.