Malcolm Turnbull just put taxation at the centre of his reform platform

Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says tax reform will be central to his government’s agenda as the economy transforms from the mining boom.

Speaking on ABC TV’s 7.30 last night, the PM told Leigh Sales that bringing “tax minister” – assistant treasurer – Kelly O’Dwyer into cabinet was a signal of his intentions, and that business confidence was a critical issue.

The assistant treasurer under the Howard government was known as the “minister for revenue and assistant treasurer”, a position held by Helen Coonan and Mal Brough, and sometimes shortened to MiniRAT. While the full title hasn’t been restored, Turnbull has signalled focus on the revenue element of the position.

Asked if he would look at expanding the base and rate of the GST, he said he wanted to “change the paradigm” on the discussion.

“The important thing is to be open-minded, consult, engage intelligently, explain the challenges to the public in a manner that respects their intelligence and then make a decision, and having made a decision, then argue, advocate, in other words, why your decision is right,” Turnbull said.

Reiterating his focus on being more competitive, productive and innovative nation in a global economy, the PM said “We have to ensure that we remain a high-wage, First-World, generous social welfare net economy and that requires strong economic growth”.

“The economy is not in bad shape,” Turnbull said, adding that the way it had responded to the end of the mining boom was “very impressive”.

The “system is working” he said because “automatic stabilisers such as the exchange rate in particular are providing a lot of cushioning against that shock. Normally we have a real economic crisis”.

The PM reiterated his push to lift the national mood in order to boost the economy, damaged when former treasurer Joe Hockey released his first 2014 budget.

“Why is business not investing more? And the answer is: lack of confidence. So everything I can say to inspire confidence is going to help the economy,” Turnbull said.

He also signalled a more conciliatory approach to industrial relations and labour market reform, saying “I think the important thing is to seek to explore ways in which we can achieve more flexibility, higher levels of employment, higher levels of business activity and do so in a way that reassures Australians, Australian workers in particular, that this is not threatening their conditions”.

Turnbull added “the challenge for us is not to wage war with unions or the workers that they – that they seek to represent, but really to explain what the challenges are and then lay out some reform options”.

The full interview with Malcolm Turnbull is here.

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