The government will welcome all ideas at its upcoming jobs and skills summit, but it won’t ditch planned income tax cuts for the wealthy, the treasurer says.
The September summit – a Labor election promise – will aim to address Australia’s economic challenges and will bring together about 100 representatives from the business, union and community sectors.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is calling for an overhaul of the economy to ensure businesses and workers are prioritised.
But while the ACTU’s suggestions were welcome, they did not reflect government policy, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said.
“The whole point of having a summit like this is to bring people together to see if there can be common ground found,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.
“It would be pretty strange if we said, ‘Come along to a summit and only bring along ideas which have been pre-approved by the government’.
“That’s not in the spirit of the summit (and) not the spirit of the way the government operates.”
The ACTU has called for the government to cancel planned stage three tax cuts, which will predominantly benefit higher-income households.
Dr Chalmers said the government wouldn’t go ahead with the tax cuts, which are due to begin in the 2024/25 financial year, if it didn’t think they were necessary.
“We intend to leave them in place… there are steps that can be taken now in the tax system particularly in relation to multinational tax avoidance,” he said.
“That’s where our priorities should be.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was invited to attend the summit but on Wednesday said he would not go, labeling the event a “stunt with the unions”.
Nationals leader David Littleproud accepted an invitation.
Mr Dutton said the opposition would instead back manufacturing and local business.
“It’s about the passion these individual businesses bring,” he said after touring a manufacturing plant in Western Sydney.
“We’ve spoken to a dozen local manufacturers here. They’ve got startups, people who have invested their own money. They’ve employed staff, and they’ve made a decision – which is a gutsy move – to put money into a business.
“We would back them, so it’s about listening to their voices.”
Mr Dutton was going out of his way to divide people and “wreck consensus”, Dr Chalmers said.
“I think his behavior in the last couple of days has isolated himself, humiliated himself, and it’s already split the coalition,” he said.
But Mr Dutton on Thursday reiterated his stance, confirming he would not attend.
“The job summit is going to be a stunt,” he said.
“Sally McManus is no union leader from the 1980s. She’s no Bill Kelty, and certainly, Anthony Albanese is no Bob Hawke.”
He said expectations of a new prices and incomes accord, similar to that reached between Mr Hawke and the union movement, was “just not realistic”.