No One Really Wanted To Mention The 'S' Word During The Treasurers' Debate

Although it did deliver one promise.

27/05/2016 4:38 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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And the zinger doesn't go to Scott Morrison or Chris Bowen.

The Canberra Press Club is often home to great debates and thought-provoking conversation, and on Friday it housed The Treasurers' Debate as Scott Morrison and Chris Bowen went head to head over budget measures and economic policies.

But there wasn't much shouting in Canberra on Friday afternoon; only bickering between the treasury counterparts (although less polite than the first leaders' debate). And the best line not only summed up the entire debate, but came from a journalist.

"I was enjoying that but let's move on," David Crowe, The Australian's Political Correspondent, said after a pension assets test debate was brought to a halt.

Zinger, anyone?

However, before you move on, let us take you through the biggest issues debated by the two because you really do need to know about them. To borrow a few words from Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen: "in this election, economic policy will be at the core of the debate. I agree."

And we agree too. So let's get to it.

Labor will soon announce when they aim to reach surplus.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor would release its full bottom-line costings soon. He's promised to do this well before the last week of the campaign. When he releases these details with Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke, the pair will announce the year a Labor Government would reach a surplus. However, Morrison doesn't think the pair have a leg to stand on (more on that later).

Surplus, Surplus, Surplus, no more.

Treasurer Scott Morrison would not be coaxed into giving a date the Coalition would reach a surplus, and hounded the Opposition in his defence.

"When it comes to the projections of getting the Budget into balance, you need to show there is a clear trajectory for economic growth and the things that will drive that growth," Morrison said in Canberra.

And here comes the dig.

"The previous government promised a surplus 650 times. I mean, Julia Gillard promised it 165 and Wayne Swan promised it 366 for a surplus. I'm not going to do that. I will be honest with the Australian people and the plan to get the Budget back into balance; and that envelopes getting expenditure under control."

Negative Gearing.

Morrison continued to defend negative gearing, reiterating the Coalition's position that Labor's policy would cut one third of buyers out of the housing market and would drive house prices down.

Bowen argued Labor's policy cutting negative gearing and raising the capital gains tax would deliver long term "good quality structural reforms".

"The Treasurer and the Prime Minister criticised our negative gearing policy when we first announced it," Bowen told the room.

"The first criticism was it doesn't raise enough over four years. It raises over ten. That's one of the points. We look for good, quality structural reforms that build over time."

Education is a debate Bowen doesn't think we need to have.

Bowen said Labor's education funding commitments would deliver 11 percent economic growth over the long-term and challenged why better schools funding is even debated, in terms of delivering an economic impact: "I would have thought it is self-evident that better schools funding and lifting educational outcomes has an economic dividend. These are people in jobs. They probably wouldn't have been in jobs beforehand."

Morrison said spending cuts would not be made by the Coalition in the education sector.

"We are increasing investment in public schools by one-third," Morrison told the room.

My superannuation policy is less hated than yours. No, mine is.

As Morrison announced a $1.6 million cap on the amount of super that can be transferred by an individual into a retirement fund, the Treasurer and his Labor counterpart argued about which policy was less hated by the superannuation sector.

"On the retirement phase, the $1. 6 million cap ensures every cent has no tax on its earnings. You know that's the case. Under [Labor's] policy the retirement phase superannuation account will attract tax on it earnings. That is a key difference between our policies," Morrison said on Friday.

And here's how the rest played out:

Bowen: "I think you will find the superannuation sector prefers our policy to yours."

Morrison: "I don't think they do."

Bowen: "I think you may want to take advice on that."

Morrison: "They say your proposal is unworkable."

Bowen: "They are not big fans."

This isn't the last debate to be seen, if Bowen has anything to do with it.

The Shadow Treasurer challenged Scott Morrison to join him for another debate on Q&A on June 13.

"In the last election, almost a million people watched Mr Hockey and I debate on Q&A. I think we owe those people another debate."

Stay tuned.

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