Bill's Transcripts

936 ABC Hobart – Statewide Mornings

LEON COMPTON:  Bill Shorten is the Senior Minister in the Federal Government. Mr Shorten, good morning.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good morning.

LEON COMPTON:  Tasmania faces some big issues in health, education, business people dealing with crippling costs in getting products in and out of the state, and infrastructure needs. Is it reasonable to suggest the Budget doesn’t really address too much of that?

BILL SHORTEN: No, I think when you say Tasmanians are facing crippling costs, this is a Budget which is focused on the battlers. And specifically what it means in plain English for your listeners who might get sick of the sort of standard Liberal say, “Labor is bad.  Labor say, Liberals have got an unfunded black hole and can't make their promises”, what I want to do is to cut through that nonsense.

In Tasmania there will be parents of primary school children will get a cash payment of $410 and $820 for every child in high school.  What also is the case is - so that’s 34,800 families in Tassie will get that $410 for each child in primary school, $820 a year in high school, I think that’s appropriate.

LEON COMPTON:  Mr Shorten, I don’t dispute that that might be a fantastic thing if you are one of those parents. What about the long-term improvements through adopting the recommendations of the Gonski Report that will cost billions of dollars, that would improve schools in Tasmania for everybody in the long-term? Where were reforms like that?

BILL SHORTEN: I agree, what we have said that we are working through the cost of the Gonski Report and what we do. It’s only this Government that has actually blown the whistle on the current system and said, we need to better.

LEON COMPTON:  But haven’t you really just ducked that and gone for the quick fix, the short feel-good on this?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh no. The truth of the matter is and I can speak as a parent, the bills come in. Now I won't get this because I earn more than the amount of money, which the cut off is, but for a lot of families who are making ends meet on quite low amounts of money and doing remarkable things, this is real. 

You know, part of the challenge I suppose the Government has is people take anything you do and put it in their pocket and say, well you should do that, what’s your next trick? 

So I'm not going to move off the point which is we are doing something real.  We are the ones also, this Gonski Report you refer to in case people aren’t quite aware of it, is this is a review of how the Federal Government funds education. The report was path breaking, it’s met with a pretty good set of goodwill from the Government sector and from the private school sector and the Catholic sector but we can't, we are not going to reconstruct that whole system by the time of this Budget.

LEON COMPTON: It is hugely important, it will require billions of dollars to adopt and yet when given its choice the Government did not do that but did this.

BILL SHORTEN: Rome wasn’t built in a day and this current system of funding and some of the inequities have literally taken decades to build up. But what we are doing also if we talk about long-term, another issue which is I know important to Tasmanians is the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

LEON COMPTON:  Will we be one of the four places in Tasmania where that will be trialled? We spoke with the Health Minister the other day. She said that we would know at the Budget, so will we?

BILL SHORTEN: You will know by the end of the year and what the proposition this National Disability Insurance Scheme is and I've been involved in the debate about it in the last few years. This disability and what happens to people with severe or profound disabilities and their carers has not been on the national political stage except when Labor got elected to power.

So when everyone wants to focus on the twenty-four hour news cycle and this issue and that issue, for people who live their lives with an impairment or a carer, this is more important than the usual stuff, froth and bubble of the newspaper headlines. 

We have said that the system is unfair as it currently is; that you have got a lot of people living in almost semi-exile in their own country being treated as second class. The midnight anxiety of aging parents who wonder who is going to look after their adult child when they no longer can. 

What we have said is we want to set up an insurance scheme where people get packages of funding as of right. What we have said in this budget is that we will have four launch sites and that’s what you are referring to, ten thousand people [inaudible] twenty thousand.

LEON COMPTON: And the question is, will we be one of them?

BILL SHORTEN: That decision hasn’t been made. I can see it’s a good case for Tasmania.  It won't be me making the decision. I am aware of the work that Premier Giddings did when she was the Disability Minister. You know, I think Tasmania and disability has tried to do with things. The not for profit sector there is pretty dynamic but it won't be me making that final decision but certainly I could see a case for Tasmania but that decision will have to be made looking at all the facts.

And you know if people, you read the headlines and everyone is just bagging the Budget. I tell you when it comes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, every suburb in Australia will be queuing up to be one of the initial sites because this is so important what we are doing.

LEON COMPTON:  When it comes to money, now we have got significantly fewer dollars going to all of the states and territories because of the Budget position. You must acknowledge that this is particularly difficult for Tasmania and it will mean more pressure from the mining states to have a greater share out of the Budget. These are tough times for Tasmania particularly but to all of the states.

BILL SHORTEN: Yes they are. All I can say though about Tasmania is that we will be delivering on our commitments by investing in this financial year coming up over $2 million in the Tasmania Cancer Care project.   In this next 12 months we will be keeping our promise and investing four, nearly four-and-a-half million dollars in provision for after hours GP services. 

These things do matter but we will take higher education which is important to Tasmanians. We think there will be - we estimate that there will be about a 10 per cent increase in the number of offers made to kids from poor backgrounds to attend the University of Tasmania.

LEON COMPTON:  But what about our ability to stand on our own two feet, the work for the business community? When you were in the studio here a couple of weeks back I asked you about the Freight Equalisation Scheme. It doesn’t seem that there has been any further address on that issue, for getting freight in and out of the state less expensively.

BILL SHORTEN: I do get you know, I do get that the cost of freight is a big issue in Tasmania.  The Government does provide some support. That hasn’t been a focus though, increasing that hasn’t been a big focus of this big Budget, you are right. But that hasn’t been easy. There is something like - this is a Government who, it’s unfashionable to say this, but when we look at what’s happening in our own backyard we also have to look at how money…

LEON COMPTON:  Mr Shorten, we have got to run, it’s news time, but thank you for talking to us.