In 2015, she asked then Treasurer Joe Hockey, “Is this what political retreat looks like?”
But the ABC presenter was altogether cheekier when she came face-to-face with Scott Morrison after he delivered a 2018 Budget laden with tax cuts.
Within seconds she mentioned the Treasurer’s bottom, albeit the French term for said bodily feature.
Sales’ bottom reference came as she asked Mr Morrison if he was reckless locking in permanent tax cuts if a $35 billion Budget windfall was chiefly due to a – possibly temporary – uptick in the world economy.
“Has your derrière had a lucky encounter with a rainbow?”
“No,” said, Mr Morrison: “Stronger economies don’t happen by accident. You have to work hard. Businesses and employees work hard and that is what is happening in the Australian economy.”
Sales wasn’t convinced: “To the contrary, there is an enormous amount of luck and timing involved in the economic performance. You are benefiting from external factors, not through any policies you have introduced?”
Mr Morrison was having none of it. “We said at the beginning of last year the global economy was turning and we put ourselves in a good place to benefit from that. Opportunities are one thing. Opportunities pass many countries by. They are not passing Australia by”.
Sales went on to call Mr Morrison’s debt reduction skills a “failure” and questioned how much of a difference a $10-a-week tax cut would make.
Morrison in turn, did a far bit of finger-pointing at the 7.30 host and at one point fractiously exclaimed, “I have to pull you up there, Leigh.”
Sales asked why half the $35 billion windfall was going to fund income tax cuts.
“If you live within your means, why aren’t you using that to pay down debt and get back to surplus faster?”
“We are not giving anything away, it is (taxpayers’) money. They earned it,” said Mr Morrison.
“They pay us tax; we don’t. We are saying when taxes rise too high, we’ve got to give the money back. If you run taxes too high it ends up costing them their own jobs, their own investment, their own futures.”
Mr Morrison said Governments should not tax at a rate higher than 23.9 per cent.
“Don’t you think Australians care about the numbers?” said Sales.
“They care about paying higher taxes. You can achieve the essential services which we have set out in this Budget,” Mr Morrison replied.
The Budget is now due to get back into balance one year early, enabling a surplus to pay down debt. Mr Morrison said the country was “turning the corner on debt”.
“You say net debt is turning a corner,” said Sales. “It’s double what it was when you took office. It will take 10 years to drop away to four per cent of GDP, will that pass most Australians’ benchmark of turning a corner?”
Mr Morrison said without a budget surplus you couldn’t pay down debt and, “this is the moment we have been working towards for years”.
Sales wasn’t letting go: “Australia has had 10 years of deficits, your party is responsible for half of that. National debt has doubled since you have been in office.
“How is that not a failure?”
By this point, Mr Morrison was in full finger-point mode: “When the Labor Party set off on a spending binge and blew the expenditure from the previous Coalition Government from day one we have set about turning this ship around.”
“You say Labor was on a spending binge. Your spending is roughly the same as what theirs was,” said Sales.
“Hang on a tick. I have to pull you up there Leigh,” the perturbed Treasurer said.
“Our growth in expenditure under this Government is 1.9 per cent over. Under Labor it was 4 per cent.”
The big headline of this Budget has been the tax cuts for low- to middle-income earners, which could equal around $10 a week for some.
“Is it an attempt to buy swing voters?” asked Sales.
“It is an attempt to reward working Australians who have seen it tough,” said Mr Morrison.
“This tax relief means filling up your car six times; it means a quarter’s electricity bills; your school uniforms and books for your kids to go to school. It means a new washing machine.”
“It is 10 bucks a week,” said Sales.
“It is,” implored Mr Morrison. “It’s $530 and for a family earning average incomes, it’s $1000 a year.
“It is their money. I want them to keep it. They earned it.”