18 November 2020

SUBJECTS: Japan defence pact; Labor staffing; tax reform.
DANICA DE GIORGIO, HOST: For more on this and the rest of the day's political news I’m joined by Stephen Jones, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Stephen Jones, appreciate your time. As we've heard Scott Morrison has struck a defence agreement with Japan. Are you hopeful that this will increase stability in the Indo-Pacific?
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: We certainly do, we welcome the agreement. Six years in the making and we hope that it serves to further strengthen our ties with a very important trading partner, a very important national security partner and one with whom we share strong democratic ties and strong a strong set of shared values.
DI GIRORGIO: Let's move on now, because I want to ask you about the opposition's Deputy Chief of Staff. Now, she's resigning after reportedly an anonymous malicious attack against her was posted online. How concerned are you about this anonymous leak?
JONES: I'm very concerned. Firstly, concerned for Sabina. It's important that she gets on top of her health issues. We wish her very well. My dealings with her in the past have all been very good and very professional. I'm very concerned that we've got an anonymous leak. It appears to be fake or faked. Substantial parts of it have been used online to make an attack on a staff member. There's a long-standing protocol in politics, and I think that it’s a good one, and that is the staffer in the background, the bosses that are in the foreground. It's up to us to be at the centre of the debate, the discussion, to take the matter forward and we should be leaving our staff out of any of the public attention or the public opprobrium that necessarily attaches itself to politics.
DI GIORGIO: So, should it now be investigated by Anthony Albanese's office?
JONES: Look, I think we’d all like to see the matter put behind us. What's more important now than ever is that we're focusing on keeping the Government to account, particularly for the key economic issues …
DI GIORGIO: … Stephen Jones, we're talking about potential alleged bullying claims here. Should the office of Anthony Albanese not get to the bottom of what has occurred?
JONES: My understanding is that the person in question has resigned from her position. We've got very strong policies in place already in regard to bullying, in regards to any form of harassment. If there are allegations that need to be made, or allegations of improper behaviour, then they should be made formally, and they should not be made through anonymous postings on an online site. They should be going through the official channels. I think that's what we'd expect in any office and the principles of natural justice would apply. Frankly, posting something online, an anonymous post online where the veracity is unable to be tested, frankly is cowardice. And I don't think it does anything to assist dealing with these sorts of issues and ensuring we have good culture in our workplaces.
DI GIORGIO: Well, there has been a lot of talk in the last couple of weeks about culture, particularly towards women in Parliament. Is this another example of a systemic issue?
JONES: Again, I want to return to the point I’ve already made. You've got an anonymous post made online. Serious questions about whether any and all of the claims that are made within that post are right. There's allegations that some of it may have been faked. So, I really don't want to continue to return to that when there's no capacity to test the veracity of that claim. What I would say is that under Anthony's leadership, in fact under the entire Labor leadership, we are committed to ensuring that bullying is not a feature of our offices and our workplaces. And that's a message we take to the community at large. And it doesn't sit very well for us to be calling for certain standards of behaviour if they're not adhered to in our own workplaces.
DI GIORGIO: All right, let's move on. I want to ask you about the New South Wales budget, which was handed down yesterday. The state is planning to phase out stamp duty and allow home buyers to pay an annual tax levy instead. Does it reignite the debate about national tax reform? Is it time to look at that?
JONES: Look, this Government has really put the cue back in the rack when it comes to tax reform. It’s given up the ghost. It’s given up the game. I welcome the fact that the New South Wales Government is taking on this issue of stamp duty reform. It's one of the most inefficient taxes. It is a brake on economic growth. It is a brake on labour mobility. It's a break on people selling houses when they want to downsize or move to a new location. So I welcome the fact that the New South Wales Government, actually following the ACT Government many years ago, has decided to grasp the nettle and reform this important area of tax. Of course, calling for tax reform is the easy bit. Ensuring that you've got the revenue he comes to cover off where the revenue losses are going to be is absolutely important. On the face of it, from what I've seen on what the New South Wales Government has done, they seem to have met that task. Something that Scott Morrison hasn’t done. Something the coalition haven't done with any of the tax changes that they've made. And we see already baked into the budget the third stage of tax cuts, which are going to make it even harder for the Commonwealth to rein in the massive budget deficits that we have. Over $200 bn this year and no sign of us bringing in a budget surplus any time over the next five years, made all the more harder by the income tax cuts, the high-end big end of town tax cuts, that this Government's baked into this budget. And I think what the New South Wales Government has done is welcome, and I think other State Governments around the country will be looking at it with very close attention.