ABC AM WITH SABRA LANE
WEDNESDAY, 9 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: Turnbull’s budget for big business over the battlers.
FRAN KELLY, HOST: And joining us now for the first time this year is the Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, good morning and welcome to the program.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Sabra, thanks for having me on.
LANE: You started the year by saying that Labor starts 2018 one big middle-income tax cut ahead of the Government. Have you been snookered?
SHORTEN: Not at all. I think, thank you for kindly reminding Australians that last year Mr Morrison said he needed to increase the income tax of all Australians. We said no not for people under $87,000. The centrepiece of their last budget took them 50 weeks to give it up, but they gave it up. Now again, we look at what we're going to do in this budget. This budget favours the big business over the battlers. All that Mr Morrison can do is find $10 a week for people on $50,000 and $60,000 a year but he's going to provide $7.5 million extra per week to the Commonwealth Bank.
LANE: Will you match the Government's tax cuts for low income and middle income working Australians?
SHORTEN: The proposed tax changes for July 1, 2018 we will back, yes - sorry, for this year - yes we will back. But beyond that, we're saying the Government's engaging in a massive hoax in this budget on Australians.
They're saying that if you vote for Mr Turnbull in the next three elections you may get a tax rise after that. You know, so, no, for the first round, we're up for that but for the rest of it with $140 billion cost we want to see the detail and we want to take more time to look at the rest of it.
LANE: Mr Morrison made it pretty clear yesterday that this seven year tax package couldn't be broken up. That it was this or nothing.
SHORTEN: This is not the first budget we've seen from the Liberals. Remember they were going to engage in all manner of cuts and we've been fighting and stopping them. They said last year they were going to increase the Medicare Levy come hell or high water and we stopped that.
So just so the Government is putting forward a proposition now what I say to them is this - don't stand in the way of low-income people getting a tax cut merely because you want to take them hostage so you can pass on mythical tax cuts in seven years’ time - that's rubbish. They know it. We know it and the people know it, most importantly.
LANE: So by saying it's a hoax and a mythical tax cut you just don't believe that they're going to deliver.
SHORTEN: Well I just don't believe that Turnbull will be there in seven years. I mean if they want to legislate tax cuts for seven years, are they going to legislate Malcolm Turnbull's Prime Ministership for seven years? No. This is - what the Government is doing is it wants to have an early election, they want to promise people tax changes in seven years’ time. They hope that's the discussion which the nation has and distracts people from the fact they're trying to legislate corporate tax cuts of $80 billion, principally for the big end of town. At the same time schools and hospitals and pensioners are getting cut.
LANE: How will you woo older Australians given the measures that the Government has announced in this budget to try and win them across? More assistance in home care, concessions to employers to employ older people, schemes to help them access more money.
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, let me just not always be someone who opposes. In terms of providing some incentives for employers to hire older Australians, we're interested in that we'll examine that positively, pretty closely. I for one know that a lot of older Australians who want to find work are the victims of discrimination. So I want to encourage that. So that's a plus. But when we go to the rest of what this Government is pretending to do for older people you know spare me I didn't come down in the last shower.
They are saying they're going to fund extra aged care places but where is the money coming from? As best we can tell in the last 12 hours, the money's coming from cuts from within the existing Department. So they're robbing Peter to pay Peter.
The other thing here is that these people are persisting with a seven dollar cut in the pension effectively by not providing an energy supplement to people who go on the pension after September 2016. Put another way, if you happen to go on the aged pension now this Government couldn't find $350, $360 a year to help you pay for your energy bills. Yet they can find billions of dollars for large corporations for tax cuts. This government wouldn't have a clue how most people are putting their family budgets together.
LANE: Compare what the Federal Government is now offering to older Australians with some of the ideas that Labor is putting forward they're abolishing refunds for excess franking credits, curbing capital gains tax and negative gearing rules for investment property and a lot of older people have their money in investment properties. Those things are pretty unpopular with a large chunk of the population. They just might prefer what the Government is offering.
SHORTEN: Well I said at the beginning of this year that this would be a year of political courage by Labor. We've made hard decisions to reign back unsustainable tax expenditures. Yes, we do think it is wrong that first home buyers don't have a level playing field where their taxes are subsidising property investors to buy their fifth and tenth property. We don't think it is right that some people can set up discretionary trusts to minimise- split income with other adults in their families and everyone else is just got to pay the normal tax rate. And yes, we don't think it is sustainable to provide income tax refunds to people who don't pay income tax.
Of course we've given our pensioner guarantee so that no pensioner or part-pensioner will be affected. The real issue here is can this nation actually set Australia up for the long term?
And there's three things which are involved in that in my opinion. One, are we properly funding our schools and hospitals and looking after our pensioners? Two, are we making sure that the budget's in a solid position to withstand global shocks in the future? And three, can we provide genuine relief for working and middle-class families and individuals in this country? Labor's made hard decisions including opposing the Business Council of Australia and big business and saying no, you should not get corporate tax cuts.
LANE: They're points that you've made well before today and we've got a few more issues to get through.
SHORTEN: Our consistency is reassuring, isn't it?
LANE: Scott Morrison looks like he'll be the Treasurer that brings the budget back to surplus, based on the papers last night where does that leave you?
SHORTEN: Well it depends if there's an election before then. If not, if there's an election before the future predictions of this Government then it will be Chris Bowen who brings the budget to surplus, to balance.
LANE: But isn't your biggest weakness though, that the last Labor Government never actually delivered a surplus despite Wayne Swan promising surpluses that never happened. So that's your biggest weakness, is it not?
SHORTEN: In all fairness, I don't suffer from amnesia. And the point about this is that when Labor was last in power the then Opposition the Liberals said that they'll bring it to surplus. Well I've had five years now haven't they?
LANE: So did Wayne Swan.
SHORTEN: Yes but my point is that this Government said that it would tackle debt and debt is now north of half a trillion dollars. This Government basically wants to pretend that because they've done nothing in the last five years except cause harm, that we should just forget about it – well I won't. The fact of the matter is there's cuts to school funding baked into the budget and cuts to hospital funding. What on earth is this country going to do if we're not providing proper support in our hospitals and our schools?
LANE: If the forecasts are right - do you do you trust these forecasts?
SHORTEN: Well there's one number which as you know to be honest even a crocodile wouldn't swallow, and that is the issue of the projected wages growth.
You know I love this Government they do nothing to help wages grow, then they rely on wages growth numbers to justify their surplus predictions. The secret of this budget is that they're predicting wages growths are higher than what has been seen in recent years. And on that, they're predicting higher tax revenues which they take from the workers who get these increased wages to fund their surplus to give away to big business. It's amazing.
They're asking workers to pay taxes which allows them to hand it away to their mates at the top end of town and in the meantime - you know I was talking to some people last night after the budget, how are they going to go when they ask for their next wage rise over the next three or four years? Mr Turnbull says we'll get between three and three and a half percent per annum 12 percent plus over the next four years. Does that mean all the bosses in Australia because Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison said wages are going to go up by this amount should immediately give wage rises of this amount? Spare me.
LANE: Will you match the tax package?
SHORTEN: We've said that we will, in the first, round support that, absolutely. Because that reflects our values. But beyond that, you know this Government is basically saying vote for them for the next two or three elections on the basis of tax cuts which haven't been explained how they're paid for in seven years’ time.
LANE: That's not the question - will you match it?
SHORTEN: Well no, I've answered your question. I've said for the first stage yes and for the rest let's see the detail. You and I know Sabra that this Government is desperate to have an early election to get a lift in their electoral fortunes and their basic promise is this - We will look after the corporates and big business, we'll give some of you a tax cut in seven years’ time provided you keep voting for us.
LANE: They're points that you've previously made during this interview. The Government is freezing the ABC's funding. It says that the ABC has to live within its means. You're worried about that, why?
SHORTEN: Oh listen, this Government is lazy on many of the issues you know they've got their favourite whipping boys and one of them is the ABC. Because the ABC occasionally asks hard questions of the Government they're going to wind back $83 million.
Michelle Guthrie has made it clear that this compromises the ability of the ABC to carry out its charter and let's be clear, this Government manages to find tens of millions of dollars for other media outlets. They've dropped the TV licenses for the free to air TVs and I supported that. But when it comes to the ABC it's one of the pet hates of the right wing of the Liberal party. And yet again the dogs are barking at Mr Turnbull who used the ABC to help undermine Tony Abbott, used to go on Q and A with his leather jacket. Now what's happened is he's forgotten the people who helped put him there and now he's dancing to his masters in the right wing of the Liberal party.
LANE: The High Court today will rule on Senator Gallagher's eligibility to sit in Parliament and if it rules that she is invalid Justine Keay, Josh Wilson and Susan Lamb are in the same boat but facing by-elections. How prepared are you for that?
SHORTEN: Well let's see what the High Court says if they set a new precedent in terms of the interpretation of the law, the Labor party will deal with the new precedent.
LANE: Okay this is the first time that our audience has heard from you this year, there are heaps of other issues we'd like to discuss. Will you come back soon?
SHORTEN: Of course, I have to say I do go on the various ABC outlets but it's always good to talk to you, Sabra.
LANE: Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
SHORTEN: Good morning everybody.