Subjects: Income tax cuts, English language testing; US immigration
The Liberal Minister Alan Tudge is with me in the studio, fresh from the House of Reps. Where are we up to down there? What's been going on?
We have seen this is going to head back to the Senate now, where we will see the real vote as to whether or not these tax cuts will be passed on to Australians.
Well, that's right. I mean, Labor is taking every opportunity it can to delay these tax cuts going through.
But they are not going to succeed in the House. We eventually will get those tax cuts through the House.
Then it will go back to the Senate, and we hope that it will go through the Senate so that millions of Australians can get some tax relief.
Well yeah, the outcome in the Lower House is pretty obvious, but in the Senate are you worried there could be some last minute wobbles like we have seen on company tax cuts, for example?
There are crossbenchers who have not been 100 per cent reliable in the past.
Well, we take nothing for granted. We want to see the vote and we want to see it through today, obviously.
And that would be good news to millions of Australians who will see tax relief.
At the bottom end, immediate tax relief of over $500 per person and then gradually over time to 94 per cent of all Australians and big structural reform as well, because we will have a flatter tax rate over time.
Higher income earners probably should not pop the champagne corks today though, should they? Because those tax cuts are not due to kick in for another two electoral cycles.
You have heard Labor saying if they win the next election, they will move to overturn them.
A lot of the crossbenchers, even though they might end up voting for this full package today, are saying, well we are not really happy about the cuts to higher income earners, and we will probably have to repeal that down the track.
Ash, we will be very happy to go to an election where we are advocating for lower taxes and the Labor Party is advocating for higher taxes. That is what they have committed to do.
And it is not just higher taxes on income, by the way. I mean, the Labor Party has already committed to taxing your savings, taxing your property, taxing your investments, taxing all sorts of things.
I mean, this is going to be a very stark contrast at the next election between the Coalition who wants to continue with downward pressure on cost of living and start to further cut taxes as well. And the Labor Party on the other side, who wants to tax everything that moves.
The Labor Party of course has its own plan when it comes to these income tax cuts.
When it comes to the negotiations with the crossbenchers, has there been a lot of horse-trading here? Because we know over the company tax cuts there was a huge wish list of demands from parties like One Nation.
This time, it does not seem like that has been the case.
I think the crossbenchers, from the discussions which have been had, they realise and they understand that the Australian public want tax relief, and many haven not seen it for some time.
They want to have more dollars in their pockets to spend as they wish. And they also understand that if we put more money back into people's pockets, they will spend that in the economy and there can be a multiplier effect as well.
It creates further incentives for people to work harder, and ultimately that grows the economy so that we have got more money for better services.
Viewers are going to get a lot of this tax cut debate throughout the rest of the day here on Sky News, so let me just ask you a bit about your portfolio while we have got you, of course, the Citizenship Minister.
Have you decided yet if you are going to be extending that English language test to make it a requirement for permanent residency? Is that all on track?
We have signalled that we are looking into this, and we haven't determined the final settings.
The key issue here is that we are approaching almost a million people in Australia who today have very little English language capability.
That is not good for those individuals but nor is it good for social cohesion or for our democracy.
We do need to take a good close look at this, and we have signalled that we might apply it to permanent residency in terms of there being some sort of English language requirement and potentially at citizenship. We haven't finalised our proposals yet.
And is that because it is still in negotiations with the crossbench?
Because we know that the initial citizenship package that you were aiming to get through, which I think included an English language test of about university level English - that was slammed by pretty much the whole Parliament except your party.
It was never university level English that we were requiring. That was just the Labor line. I have been doing a lot of consultation…
I think it was quite a high level of English.
It is a competent level of English. We are now saying that—and this is based off of consultations I have been having over the last six months.
The key thing that we want is for people to be able to integrate with others, and that means most importantly to be able to speak and to listen and understand each other.
That is what we are focused on predominantly. I am still doing further consultations with different multicultural communities, with different business groups, academics and others as to what the appropriate level should be and how it should be applied. Once we have settled that…
But you are looking at a lower level at about…
…and conversational English is the most important thing. Basic, conversational English.
Why? So that people can have a chat with their neighbour, so they can go to the shops and interact.
So that we can continue with our great multicultural success where we integrate together and blend together, rather than live parallel lives.
That is what our objective is, and that is where a common language, a shared language, is so important.
As somebody who is spending so much time at the moment looking at citizenship issues, multicultural issues, what is your reaction to what we've seen in the US overnight, with President Trump signing this executive order to stop that family separation?
There were pretty cruel scenes we were seeing unfolding there with young children separated from their parents.
I mean, there was a lot of heated debate in relation to that issue, but ultimately, they are for the US Congress and the US President to decide. We do not get involved in their public policy matters.
We have our own policies in relation to offshore protection, in relation to how people come into the country and we are pretty happy with our particular…
Sure. Donald Trump has said that he is holding Malcolm Turnbull up as almost a hero when it comes to border protection.
The outrage in the US really escalated when cameras were taken in to see children in cages, essentially.
The difference with Australia's detention policy is that Australian media still is not allowed in to see the conditions that asylum seekers are being held in on Manus Island.
Well, I mean as you know Ash, there used to be 2,000 children in offshore detention centres before we got to government because the Labor Party opened the borders again, the people smugglers started again, and there was 2,000 children.
There are now no children in detention centres offshore. Now, that is a great outcome, I think, for the nation.
And we are a very generous country in terms of our humanitarian intake coming into the country, but it is premised on the basis that we determine the program settings and we do not outsource it to people smugglers.
Alan Tudge, I know we have got to let you get back down to the House. Appreciate you popping in to see us here on Live Now this morning. Thank you.