ELECTION19 TREASURERS DEBATE PRESS CLUB
The election campaign debate between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his Labor counterpart Chris Bowen unsurprisingly centred on their respective tax policies, but there were two figures that kept popping up.
Not just the $387 billion that Mr Frydenberg's office claims is the amount of taxes Labor will impose on the Australian economy should it win the May 18 election.
But the $77 billion that the Australia Institute estimates will be the cost of the government's tax relief for high income earners above $180,000 in 2024.
Mr Frydenberg continually dismissed the modelling of an institute that he says is aligned with the Labor party but declined again to give an alternative figure.
Instead, he give his bulk standard answer that the cost to the budget to reduce the rate of tax from 32.5 to 30 cents in the dollar for those who are are earning between $45,000 and $200,000 is $95 billion.
The treasurer hit back by suggesting Labor may bring in an inheritance or death tax, as promoted by the Australian Institute, which Mr Bowen dismissed as a dishonest scare campaign.
"Tell the truth, stop making things up and scaring people about an inheritance and death tax because you know it is fundamentally untrue," Mr Bowen responded during the debate held at the National Press Club in Canberra..
For his part Mr Bowen flagged that if the Liberal Party is returned to government it would again try to cut the corporate tax rate for big corporations.
"We have no plans to change the company tax rates. We tried that and you know what the story is," Mr Frydenberg said.
The debate came 24 hours before the Reserve Bank board is due to hold its monthly board meeting.
Neither Mr Frydenberg nor Mr Bowen were willing to pre-empt the interest rate decision.
"The fact we're have having this conversation and contemplating that interest rates ... could be reduced further, I think it shows the real concern about the economy under this government's watch," Mr Bowen said.
Mr Frydenberg reminded the press club audience that when Mr Bowen was briefly treasurer in 2013 and was up against former shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, he said lower interest rates were good for the economy.
Mr Bowen said it was a time to be creating big surpluses as a buffer against uncertain international economic times.
Back on taxation, the treasurer said under his government it will represent 23.3 per cent of gross domestic product for 2919/20 but under Labor it will be 25.9 per cent.
Mr Bowen said the tax to GDP ratio would be the same or lower than when John Howard was in government.
"If you want to accuse John Howard of being a socialist, go ahead," Mr Bowen quipped.
Mr Bowen will be handing down Labor's election policy costings later this week..