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Going back to an interview from earlier today, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has appeared on Sky News to defend the federal cabinet’s lack of consensus when it comes to the much-discussed phase three tax cuts.

The cuts, approved by Morrison’s government, were supported by Labor in federal elections. But there are renewed calls to dump them, as they are estimated to cost the budget about $240 billion in a decade.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Here is the pertinent exchange between Jones and Sky News presenter Peter Stefanovic. The back and forth has been edited for length and clarity.

Stefanovic: Sounds like there’s going to be some movement [on the stage three tax cuts]. So can you rule out at least changing them?

jones: What I’m ruling out is making sure we don’t add anything to a bad situation or make it worse. We have to deal with the cards we are dealt. We must ensure that we do not aggravate a bad situation in putting together this difficult budget.

Stefanovic: Sounds like you’ve got your eyes on those phase three tax cuts.

jones: We’ve got our eyes on fixing the budget, making sure we don’t make a bad situation worse, and making sure we try to put some sustainability into the budget in the future.

Stefanovic: So you don’t leave them as they are?

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jones: You can ask the question in dozens of different ways, and I don’t blame you. But forgive me for answering it the same way. We have a difficult situation. I don’t make budget announcements here in your program, as much as I like [our] conversations.

Stefanovic: Would you be willing to break an election promise if you had to?

jones: Look, I’m not even going to think about that. We are dealing with the situation we are faced with here and now. So I don’t want to get into a speculation situation.

Stefanovic: Is it true that the reports suggest that the right side of the party doesn’t want the tax cuts changed in phase three, but the left does?

jones: This is not a left-right thing. You will find outspoken opinions about this on all sides and in every other taste. And in my experience of our party of more than thirty years … that kind of left and right stuff really doesn’t hold up when you’re dealing with difficult and challenging economic policy issues. Normally they don’t, and they don’t today on this matter.

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