SUBJECTS:  Tax policy; Labor’s united team; Government division; By-elections.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: Let's take you back to Federal politics now and pressure continues to mount on Labor leader Bill Shorten to reverse his so called "Captains call" to reverse tax cuts to small to medium businesses. The Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us now from Parliament House. Good morning. 


ROWLAND: I'm very well thank you. So is Labor poised to lower the tax cut threshold for businesses with turnovers of $2 million?

PLIBERSEK:We have said all along that we absolutely support tax cuts for businesses up to $2 million. We know that those businesses are often just Mum or Dad working from home, they’re quite in need of that extra assistance, and so we have said that we support those tax cuts. We have also said we absolutely won’t support tax cuts at the very high end. We know those very large companies don't allow that tax cut to trickle down as wages. The Business Council tried to get its members to sign a letter saying that they would pay their taxes, employ more Australians, invest more in Australia, stop offshoring, and their members didn't want to sign that letter, so we are absolutely not going to support a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks and the other high end tax cuts that will most flow to overseas shareholders. What we have said is we are looking at the thresholds in the middle. 

ROWLAND: Would you support a cap of $2 million personally?

PLIBERSEK: We don't have discussions about what we personally think, we will have a normal discussion in our Shadow Cabinet.

ROWLAND: You would have a view though Tanya Plibersek, based on everything you said about where the money should go?

PLIBERSEK: Yes and I will make my view very clear in our Shadow Cabinet processes, that’s what we do. 

ROWLAND: Would you have liked that opportunity to make your view clear before Bill Shorten announced that captain's call?

PLIBERSEK:We are still talking about the threshold now, and I have had so many discussion now will Bill, with Chris Bowen, and with others about how we best direct tax support to Australian businesses and families. I mean we've got our Australian Investment Guarantee, that would allow businesses to immediately write off investments up to $20,000. That is real tax relief for Australian businesses that drives extra investment in Australia, it actually creates jobs in Australia, it doesn't just flow to overseas shareholders. We've got bigger, more generous tax cuts for the bulk of Australians through our personal income tax proposals as well. In fact, most Australians would get almost twice as much under Labor's tax cut proposal. So we know where we want to see tax relief directed. We want to see it for small businesses, for families on low and middle incomes. We are not interested in giving tax cuts at the top end. 

ROWLAND: OK, they're all polices as you say that are out there that went through the Shadow Cabinet and the Labor caucus. Were you consulted by Bill Shorten before he announced the winding back on the $10 million to $50 million turnover?

PLIBERSEK: Oh, we have had many, many conversations about it...

ROWLAND: Were you consulted before that particular announcement?

PLIBERSEK: ...many, many, many conversations about it...

ROWLAND: But before he went out and answered yes, were you consulted Tanya Plibersek?

PLIBERSEK: I’ve had so many opportunities to make my views clear, we’ve had so many discussions about this.

ROWLAND: OK. But did he run that by you before that media conference?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve had a million conversations - I can't say it any more clearly Michael - so many conversations about where the threshold should be...

ROWLAND: It was only a few days ago...surely you recall a conversations a few days ago?

PLIBERSEK: …and we’ve said that we are not interested in directing those tax cuts at the top end of town and we are absolutely committed to keeping them for businesses below $2 million. And as Bill said we are having a discussion about where the threshold is between those areas. 

ROWLAND: OK. Lots of concern, as you would well know as Deputy Leader speaking to the troops on a daily basis within the Labor caucus about what Bill Shorten did. I'm quoting an anonymous MP who spoke to Phil Coorey in the Financial Review he says, "People have the irrits", in fact a strong word was used but I have censored it for breakfast TV, "because it came out of nowhere, it was a cock-up, no-one was prepared for it."

PLIBERSEK: Well I don't comment on anonymous comments look I’ll tell you what Michael… 

ROWLAND: But you know that there is anger in the Labor caucus about this?

PLIBERSEK: …if you want to talk about division, you only have to look at the Liberals who have a former Prime Minister and a former Deputy Prime Minister threatening to cross the floor on an energy policy the Prime Minister can't land. This is now the third or fourth energy policy that the Government's had, and you've got a threatened walkout by a former Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Or have a look at One Nation. There's a caucus of two and they can't decide whether they support company tax cuts or not. It's yes, it's no, it's maybe, it's yes, it's no. That's what division is like.

ROWLAND: Excuse me in the interruption, in the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese clearly, clearly trailing his coat on the leadership front. We have a Labor colleague of yours telling AM this morning, our sister radio program, that if Labor loses two of those looming super Saturday by-elections there'll be a question over Bill Shorten's leadership. Will that be the case?

PLIBERSEK: Malcolm Turnbull's already lost two by-elections because he hasn't even got candidates in two Western Australian seats.

ROWLAND: We'll get to Malcolm Turnbull when he comes and joins us, but we're asking about the Labor Party. Will Bill Shorten's leadership be under threat if Labor loses two of those by-elections?

PLIBERSEK: We're not contemplating that. We've got the best candidates and the best policies in those seats and we're working very hard to retain them. They are very marginal seats, it's true. They are hard fought these marginal seat battles but we're very confident because we've got the better candidates and the better policies. Malcolm Turnbull has refused to run in two Western Australian seats. That's what a loser looks like. We've got Mayo as well which is the jewel in the Liberal crown where instead of being way ahead as they ought to be they're fighting for their lives in the seat of Mayo trying to knock off Rebekha Sharkie. That's what a real struggle looks like and in Malcolm Turnbull's case he's not even prepared to give Liberals in the seats of Perth and Fremantle someone to vote for.

ROWLAND:If the worst happened from a Labor perspective and you lost one or two of those by-elections, and with the next Federal election obviously happening sometime within the next 12 months, obviously it would be too late to change horses. Would you still support Bill Shorten's leadership?

PLIBERSEK: Michael, honestly, I don't know where this conversation has come from. For five years we have been united…

ROWLAND: It's your colleagues talking, it's your colleagues talking to us.

PLIBERSEK:…we have been disciplined, we have been out there every day talking about what matters to Australians - investment in health, in education, protecting penalty rates that this Government wants to get rid of, making sure that Australian workers get a decent pay increase - that's what we've been talking about. We have not been talking about ourselves. We don't have, as the Liberal's do, people threatening to cross the floor because we won't build them a new coal-fired power station. We have been united and disciplined and that continues.

ROWLAND: OK and just finally very quickly, Tanya Plibersek, as a member of the Leadership Group, can we expect a decision today on where Labor will land on the company tax threshold?

PLIBERSEK: No. We're still talking. Malcolm Turnbull says there's no election until early next year. We've got plenty of time to make our policies, all of our policies, clear by then.

ROWLAND: OK we look forward to seeing them. Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.