SUBJECT/S:  Chris Bowen National Press Club Address; Marginal tax rates; Medicare Levy increase; Banks Levy. 

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me now is Labor frontbencher Tim Hammond.

Tim, the Special Minister of State says that Labor won't ever deliver a surplus, so the argument today by Chris Bowen that you'll look at reducing marginal tax rates when you are in office eventually and have a surplus, that it can't be accepted, because it won't ever be delivered.

TIM HAMMOND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS: Good morning, Kieran. Sadly I couldn’t disagree more. The reality is that what we've got in front of us now, and what everyday Australians have got in front of them now, is basically a double con job from Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull. These are Budget figures that are projected on an unsafe foundation, at the end of the day and as revealed on the last day of Parliament, are going to land a $64 billion tax cut to big business. That doesn't sound like responsible economic management to me by any stretch.

GILBERT: You in Labor, though, are arguing that there should only be an increase in the Medicare Levy for the top two marginal tax rates. The question here that's been put repeatedly since the Budget Reply that your former leader only four years ago, Julia Gillard, said this was a sliver of the average worker's pay packet, as she delivered a half a percent increase in the Medicare Levy across the board. Why is this not hypocrisy from Labor?

HAMMOND: Well, Kieran, this gets back to a fundamental issue that's part of Labor values, and quite frankly just simply in the reach of a Liberal Party focus group. But what we're talking about here and what Chris Bowen is talking about here is fundamental fairness. The way things are currently structured, and what needs to be remedied, is that under the current Budget we see the top end of town - not only business but also the top end of town in terms of wage packets - getting a disproportionate level of relief under this Budget. Whereas Chris Bowen, Bill Shorten and the Labor team are all about delivering equity and fairness across the board. The current Budget sees the CEO of a bank get a benefit of over $170,000 out of this arrangement. What Chris Bowen is proposing today is a proper level of fairness across the community in relation to Budget repair.

GILBERT: In relation to the banks, you're supporting that bank levy, but still keeping open the option to criticise the Government if the banks pass it on. It's a bit of a bob both ways, isn't it? When you're supporting the levy surely you should take some of the accountability as well?

HAMMOND: A couple of things about that, too, Kieran. Firstly this is not our Budget, this is Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull's Budget. Secondly it is absolutely right to say that we won't oppose any measures in relation to trying to get some relief out of the banks but again the risk that we currently face, as this proposal is currently structured, is that on the one hand that there is a proposition that will deliver a $64 billion tax cut to big business, of which probably $7 billion of that is going to the banks, on the one hand. On the other hand this proposal of a $6 billion levy with two problems.

Firstly as you can see it's in one hand and out the other. And also there is simply no guarantee under this Government that the cost of that levy will not be passed on to the consumer. So sure, we won't oppose the measure. But it's not our Budget and this is the time for Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to stand up and explain to the public how it is that they will not be slugged with this levy. That's their job in Government

GILBERT: Let's look at Labor's proposal then. You say it's not your Budget but what is your proposal is a Royal Commission. How do you think the banks would recover their costs for lawyers in the event of a Royal Commission? They'd pass them on to their consumers.

HAMMOND: What's at the heart of a Royal Commission here is getting to the underlying conduct of how a bank goes about its business in terms of structuring its banking arrangements. A Royal Commission, unlike a levy, is aimed at challenging that conduct and changing corporate behaviour. You can’t put a price on…

GILBERT: But it'd cost consumers wouldn't it?

HAMMOND: You can't put a price on changing corporate behaviour when it comes to delivering overall long term benefits to mums and dads who are investing their hard earned money in these banks. So it's about changing the conduct of these companies and that's important.

GILBERT: Tim Hammond, good to see you - early in Perth, thanks for that!

HAMMOND: Always.