Why Albo won’t say ‘sorry’ for tax change

PM Hosting Aust of the Year Morning Tea
Anthony Albanese has declined to say what he’d be willing to offer to secure the smooth passage of his overhauled stage three tax cuts. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Anthony Albanese has refused to say whether any further changes could be made in order to secure the smooth passage of his overhaul to the stage three tax cuts.

The Prime Minister will this week embark on a tour of the regions and suburbs across Australia in a bid to convince voters the reworked scheme was worth breaking his election promise.

Under the proposal, people earning under $150,000 will receive a larger cut than originally promised while those earning more will have their cut slashed.

But lacking the numbers in the upper house, the Prime Minister will need to strike a deal with either the Greens or the Coalition to pass the cuts in time for it to come into effect as planned on July 1.

Mr Albanese declined to give an iron-clad guarantee that there would be no further changes to the proposal as a result of the negotiations despite being asked five times by Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Albanese was asked five times. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

However, he did rule out buckling to the Greens’ main demand -- to cut those on higher incomes out of the tax cuts all together.

“This is our plan. We will put it to the parliament. We’ll put it first to the House of Representatives. We will put it to the Senate … We are determined to argue our case, we have our plan,” Mr Albanese said.

But host Andrew Clennell pushed back: “I’m gonna ask you to repeat this again, you are not going to change this plan?”

“We will put our plan to the parliament. That’s what we’re doing,” Mr Albanese said.

“And you don’t intend to change it?” Mr Clennell asked again.

The Prime Minister replied that he was “hopeful” of getting support from the crossbench.

“We will talk to people across the parliament … We’ll argue our case. It’s a good case.”

The changes would reduce the lowest tax bracket from 19 per cent to 16 per cent for earnings under $45,000 and retain the 37 per cent tax rate for those earning between $135,000 and $190,000.

The 45 per cent tax bracket will now kick in for those earning over $190,000, down from the planned $200,000.

Mr Albanese denied the upcoming Dunkley by-election in Melbourne, triggered by the death of late Labor MP Peta Murphy, was the catalyst, reiterating he felt it would have been “irresponsible” not to act in wake of the changing economic circumstances.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton claimed otherwise.

Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, he described Mr Albanese as a “Prime Minister obviously in panic mode” and repeated his demand for an early election to be held.

AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos - General view editorial generic stock photo of Australian cash money currency. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar
The reworked tax plan was unveiled last week. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar

“He’s worried people have seen him distracted over the course of the last 18 months,” Mr Dutton said.

The earliest date the next federal poll is in August, a month after Labor proposes the tax cuts will start.

Neither Mr Dutton nor his deputy Sussan Ley offered any indication on whether they would support or oppose the legislation -- expected to be put in the first weeks of parliament.

Ms Ley last week had to walk back her suggestion the Coalition would repeal any changes to stage three.

On Sunday, she said the party would wait to see the fine print before coming to a conclusion.

“Our position is that the tax relief everyone was promised under stage three, that tax relief is what people should get. That’s our starting point,“ Ms Ley told Sky News.

Mr Albanese has been unapologetic in his defence of the plan to rework the original stage three tax cuts that were first implemented by the Coalition in 2019.

The Prime Minister repeatedly committed to the cuts during the election and in the 18 months after.

On Sunday, he maintained the decision to rework stage three was not considered ahead of the October 2022 or May 2023 budget and that cabinet agreed to the proposal only last Tuesday.

Ms Ley said Mr Albanese was a ‘liar’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

He said it would have been “irresponsible” to not make changes after interest rate rises and cost-of-living pressures slammed lower-and-middle income Australians.

But Ms Ley said Mr Albanese must apologise to those higher earners who would be left worse off.

“He should be apologising to those who will be worse off as a result of his broken promises … but more importantly, he should be apologising to all those who get left behind because he’s providing no cost of living relief and no economic plan.”

Further cost-of-living relief for households is also being considered before the May budget.

“(Stage three is not) the beginning of our cost of living relief and it won’t be the end either,” he said.

“We’ll continue to look at further measures that we can undertake.”