Bill Shorten has denied misleading a Queensland worker by claiming he would "look at" tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 a year, even though Labor is going to an election with a plan to add a 2 per cent levy on the same workers.
In a political dispute over trust on the campaign trail, Mr Shorten was asked about a conversation with a group of workers in Gladstone where one of them told him it would be good to see a tax break.
The worker told Mr Shorten some of the group earned $250,000 a year because they worked at night.
In a part of the conversation picked up by television microphones, Mr Shorten replied: "We're going to look at that."
The remarks are at odds with the settled Labor policy at the May 18 election after Mr Shorten and Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen ruled out supporting the second and third stages of the government's $158 billion tax cut.
The Labor stance means workers earning more than about $90,000 a year would gain a bigger tax cut from June 2022 under the Coalition policy compared to the Labor alternative.
Labor offers a bigger tax cut for workers earning up to $48,000 a year and phases out its $1080 tax offset, which matches the Coalition, once a worker earns $126,000.
As well, Labor intends to legislate a budget repair levy on workers earning more than $180,000 a year, adding 2 percentage points to the 45 per cent marginal tax rate on earnings over that level.
Mr Shorten was asked on Wednesday if he had misled the Gladstone worker.
"No, we've actually said, previously ... that we will take off the budget repair levy in 2022-23," Mr Shorten said.
"Beyond that, we've said that when we can afford to lower income taxes in this country we will.
"But what we won't do is rob Peter to pay Paul. What we won't do is deny three and four-year-olds universal kindergarten because of unfunded tax cuts to the top end."
Mr Shorten was asked why he had not said this to the worker in Queensland the previous day.
"We had a brief interchange," Mr Shorten said.
The dispute over his remarks came one week after Mr Shorten was asked whether he intended to increase taxes on superannuation and answered without mentioning his policy to raise $30 billion over a decade by changing tax rules on super.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Shorten had not told the truth to the worker by failing to mention the Labor tax policy.
"He didn't tell him that on the first of July he was going to increase his taxes. He didn't tell him that at all.
"No, he's going to increase their taxes on the first of July of this year. He forgot his own income tax policy.
"Last week he forgot his superannuation tax policy. The week before that he couldn't tell, and he still can't tell to this day, tell Australians what the impact is of his carbon emissions reduction policy."
- SMH/The Age