Talking to news.com.au’s Joe Hildebrand during an interview streamed live on Facebook from Capital Brewing in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Turnbull also defended the rollout of the NBN saying it was “the right call to make” and said the next Federal election would be called no earlier than 2019.
He defended one of the eyebrow-raising announcements in the Budget, a plan to have a single tax band of 32.5c in the dollar for people earning anything between $41-$200k.
Hildebrand asked if it was unfair that people on relatively low incomes would be paying the same proportion of their wages in tax as some on high incomes? It may be the same percentage, but it was vastly different dollar amounts, replied the PM.
“A person on $199,000 is paying 13 times more tax (than someone on $41k).
“Bracket creep is a real disincentive. A flatter tax system is a good thing as it doesn’t provide a disincentive for people to do more work, invest and take a promotion.”
On the lack of an increase in Newstart allowance, which even former PM John Howard who put an unemployment benefit freeze in place thinks is now a good idea, Mr Turnbull said: “It’s meant to be a safety net, not a substitute for the minimum wage. A strong economy will deliver more jobs.”
CITIZENSHIP: “THEY HAVEN’T RESIGNED YET”
On the blow Labor received Tuesday when four of its MPs were told to resign in the never-ending dual citizenship schmozzle, Mr Turnbull said that the opposition was now in the spotlight was a “very good difference as far as I’m concerned”.
“Do you know they haven’t resigned yet?” an exasperated PM told Hildebrand. “Bill Shorten has run a protection racket for those MPs. The High Court settled this in October, they should have resigned then.”
On rumours a Budget fit to burst with billions in handouts was a sweetener to slide Australia into an early election, Mr Turnbull said that was not the case.
“The Australian people want parliaments to run for three years, a full term, and that’s what we’ll be doing. We’re going to have an election next year.”
NBN ALL GOOD
When that election does come, the troubled National Broadband Network, is likely to be a hot issue.
The NBN is costing an eye-watering $50 billion to roll out, is late in many places and when homes are connected it’s to a slower version because it relies on copper cables for its last kilometre rather than fibre to the premises.
Wouldn’t it have been better to just spend a bit more and go the full fibre hog?
“We made exactly the right call (on the NBN),” said a bullish PM.
“Four million people are connected to it and satisfaction levels have improved enormously.
“The Labor Party plan would take six to seven years longer and cost $30bn more — and you’ll end up paying for it.”
CANNABIS AND CRAFT BEER
He was in a brewery, so talk turned to drugs, specifically booze and cannabis.
Should marijuana be legalised, or at least decriminalised, asked Hildebrand?
“Look, I’ve tried (marijuana) in the past, most people have, but it’s actually stronger now than ever. It’s not a harmless drug, it’s a very strong and dangerous drug and we don’t want people to engage in.
“It causes a lot of mental illness … and I think it should remain illegal.”
Nevertheless, he said the level of cannabis people are found in possession with that should be considered illegal was a matter for the states.
Beer though? Well, beer’s all good. Online, the PM was getting some questions as to why he was doing that most un-Australian of things and not partaking of his.
It appears, he was simply talking too much. When a question came from a news.com.au viewer as to whether he could discuss what he was drinking, well, let’s just say, he was in the know.
“I’m drinking the Evil Eye Red IPA,” he said taking a gulp.
And did Hildebrand know what IPA meant, Mr Turnbull asked? “India Pale Ale,” said Hildebrand, which led the PM into a discussion of IPA’s particular qualities.
“IPA has lots of hops in it, it’s a much tastier beer. When they used to make the beer in England and send it out to India when they put more hops in it, it kept for longer.”
“For a conservative prime minister should you not be drinking Evil Eye ‘Blue’? Or is that Julie Bishop’s beer?” Hildebrand quipped.
It was the PM’s second beer of the night, he confessed. “I actually prefer this one. But it’s not unknown for the second beer to taste better than the first.”
He didn’t reveal if his third Budget was just as tasty.