Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Belmont - Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government’s cuts to the pension





SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government’s cuts to the pension; GST; Family violence; Falling iron ore price


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here today in Belmont, in the seat of Corangamite with Labor's remarkable new candidate for Corangamite, Libby Coker. I'm also here with Richard Marles, a senior member of Labor's Opposition team, who is the member for Corio. It’s been a good opportunity to talk to older Australians about their concerns about the future of pensions and about the actions of the Abbott Liberal Government. What we've seen this morning though, and the pensioners frankly couldn't believe it, is Tony Abbott in an alternative universe and has declared on television that he wants to keep the good work of last year's Budget going.


Why can't Tony Abbott just hear what ordinary Australians are saying? Is Tony Abbott so out of touch that what he calls the good work of last year's Budget: $100,000 degrees, a GP tax, cuts to the pensions, are exactly what Australians don't want from a Government in Canberra? And then Joe Hockey has also said this morning, again living in a parallel universe, that he wants to continue the measures from the last year's Budget. The Government don't understand that Australians have decisively rejected his $100,000 degrees, his attack on pensions and cutting pensions, and of course the attempt to undermine Medicare through a GP tax.


What kind of incompetence, what special breed of incompetence is it with the Abbott Liberal Government that they want to continue breaking their election promises? They're in denial about how unpopular and unwelcome their measures are, and that we're still arguing about the 2014 Budget within a month of them bringing down their second Budget. Pensioners do not want what Tony Abbott is offering them.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: You heard the woman in there saying that she’s concerned the party’s running too small and wants big ideas. Why do you keep facing these questions?


SHORTEN: Well you should also speak to the lady after I answered the question and I think you'll find it was a different proposition all together. Labor has announced costed policies in terms of tackling multinationals and we've seen belatedly the Government working out they've got a major problem. On one hand they want to keep talking about a GST, cuts to the pension and a GP tax but they go soft on multinationals not paying their fair share of taxation.


Labor has also put a deal on the table about the future of our submarine contracts, where they can be built in Australia. We’ll make sure that we get the best defence equipment possible in the biggest defence purchase using taxpayer money in a generation. And finally Labor said last week that we would offer a deal on Renewable Energy Targets which would see tens of thousands of jobs kept, the expansion of solar power in this country continue unaffected by the Government's random decision making, and also see billions of dollars of investment, the drought which is currently under way since Tony Abbott got elected, the drought in investment in solar energy solved.


These are all good policies. We're announcing policies barely half way through the life of the current Government and we're also determined to stand firm on a range of issues. There is overwhelming, universal support for Labor's tough stand against the Government's unfairness on the GP tax, Christopher Pyne's bungled efforts to see Australian kids pay $100,000 university degrees, and Tony Abbott pocketing people's pension increases for his own rotten purposes.


JOURNALIST: Corangamite’s been a marginal seat in recent elections, are you confident that you will be able to win it back from the Liberal Party and is this region as a whole going to play quite a strong part in the election campaign?


SHORTEN: The Geelong-Corangamite region is an important part of Australia. Hundreds of thousands of Australians live here, raise their family, pay their taxes and want to work here. Labor is complementing the region by offering up Richard Marles in Corio and Libby Coker in Corangamite as their champions for this region. Both of our candidates for the next election are Geelong-based and they’re very committed champions of Geelong, the surf coast and the Corangamite region.


The fact that we've picked a candidate of Libby Coker’s quality to be the Labor flag bearer in Corangamite shows you how serious we are not only to win the seats but to reinvigorate faith in politics. We've got a community champion in Libby Coker, who is very active in promoting issues which affect the everyday lives of the residents and the people who live here, it’s a fantastic part of the world. I'd match my two champions of Geelong and Corangamite against the rest of the parties and who they put up.


JOURNALIST: You mention the election cycle is only halfway this cycle through. Isn't it a bit early to be coming out with candidates when people in there are still asking who are you and what do you stand for?


SHORTEN: Well we can't seem to get it right either way. Your previous question was that we need to be putting more policies out now, and this question is we're putting our candidates out too early. I think it is true to say that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have burnt up a lot of goodwill with the Australian electorate so that does mean there's greater interest in our policies and as I’ve articulated, we are releasing serious policies which go towards jobs, jobs and jobs and fairness, fairness, fairness.


But by the same token we're fortunate that we are putting our candidates in the field because who knows when this Government is just going to give up. Who knows what they’re going to do in this Budget. My concern is that today Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey basically may have changed some of their tactics but they haven't changed what they believe. They'd love to see the GST increase. They don't see what all the fuss is about with cutting the pension. They want to keep trying with their unfairness in higher education, which sees young people and mature aged students paying $100,000 for degrees. And we all know that the Liberals can't be trusted when it comes to maintaining Medicare for all.


JOURNALIST: On falling iron ore prices, your Shadow Treasurer has acknowledged it is a real problem. How should the Government deal with it?


SHORTEN: It is undoubtedly a real problem for the nation with falling iron ore prices but when agricultural commodity prices go up we see Government ministers taking credit for it. They just don't like to be around when there's bad news, not good news. There are things which Governments can't control but there are things which Governments can control. Ever since the last Budget, business confidence in Australia has been in the toilet. We've seen unemployment go up, and now one dollar Australian will barely buy one dollar New Zealand. Australians aren’t stupid. They thought that things were going to be different with Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.


Things have got worse, there's no real economic security around. At the same time as we see the Government mucking around with older Australians' pensions and their cost of going to the doctor, we see multinationals sitting in Senate inquiries saying that, you know, they're able to drive a truck through our tax laws. Australia, the economy, the Government have just simply got it wrong.


JOURNALIST: The big iron ore companies have been increasing production, do they have a case to answer here? Should the Government be talking to them about their business practices?


SHORTEN: First of all, iron ore volumes have increased in Australia and that, in the long-term, will be a very good thing. World prices have gone down. What it shows though is that the Abbott Government, when they got elected, never had a plan for Australia. They just saw Australia as a quarry and thought the good times would roll on forever. Tony Abbott’s got the economy wrong. At the very time we should have been building confidence they were cutting confidence with the GP tax, making it harder for kids to go to university to get an education, and going after the pensioners with an axe.


This Government – Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey – have got Australia's economy wrong. They've written Australia small when they should have been writing it large. They're not picking up the change in the services, the transition to the non-mining economy. This is a Government who is killing confidence in the high street of Australia, they’ve got no plan and unfortunately the only plan they do present is one of manifest unfairness.


JOURNALIST: On the GST carve-up, do you think it's appropriate for WA to let guess than 30 cents for every dollar collected in that state?


SHORTEN: Well the chickens have come home to roost for Tony Abbott. Before the last election Tony Abbott would make himself out to be a son of Western Australia, he was over there, slapping everyone on the back in his high vision shirt saying ‘yeah, we’ll do the right thing by Western Australia and the GST’. Then he’d nip on the plane, get over to Tasmania and say ‘don’t know what they’re talking about elsewhere, I’m going to look after you in Tassie and everywhere else’.


The problem is Tony Abbott made too many promises and it now turns out they were lies. What I do think is they should keep the process independent of the politicians. There's a Commonwealth Grants Commission to allocate GST resources, there's no doubt the State Governments are doing it hard but Tony Abbott should take his hands off interfering with the politics of the GST, he should take his hands off the pension, he should get out of higher education and he should stop making it harder to go and see the doctor.


JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s appropriate though that WA receives that rate?


SHORTEN: Well there's an independent formula. What Australians don't want is politicians playing political games, interfering with decisions just to gain a quick sugar hit in the polls. What we need to see is the Abbott Government just get over their addiction to politics. It's not the fault of Australia that Tony Abbott promised all things to all people and now has to break his promises and can't deliver on his dishonesty. But when it comes to the GST I’ve got one bit of advice for Tony Abbott: do not increase the GST.


Don't start extending it to a whole lot of products which have never had GST on them and what is even more important is if you want improve the mood of nation Tony, it's not about just states and GST allocation issues. Perhaps you could just leave the age pension alone.


JOURNALIST: What about child care, can we expect a bipartisan policy to be announced before the May Budget? Are you still in talks with the Government there?


SHORTEN: Labor's always prepared to be bipartisan on important issues. Unlike when Tony Abbott was Opposition Leader, what we've done in Opposition is we’ve agreed to work with them and support their efforts at tackling the scourge of ice. We've made it clear that we can do a bipartisan deal on renewable energy. When it comes to national security there's been an unprecedented period of bipartisanship.


We're in talks with the Government on child care but one thing we won't do is we won’t give up on our basic principles. People expect the Labor Party to be strong defenders of Medicare and we have been. People expect the Labor Party to be the party which will ensure that working class kids and mature-aged adults seeking to retrain get that opportunity without having to pay $100,000 and we’re winning on that front. And they certainly expect to us stand up for old age pensioners and by goodness we will keep fighting for old aged pensioners.


JOURNALIST: Do you have a scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister yet on family violence?


SHORTEN: No, not yet.


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]


SHORTEN: We've asked for a range of meetings with the Prime Minister on a range of topics. Sometimes we get them, sometimes we don't. I'm not critical of the Prime Minister at this point on that, we’ll just keep pressing it.


JOURNALIST: What role do small meetings like this play in your campaign, particularly in Corangamite? There's been a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton and what role small meetings will play for her, what role do you they play for you?


SHORTEN: What matters is truth and trust in politics. What we’re doing here is part of the rebuilding process for the Labor Party. There's a lot of capable people in that room who want to make a contribution to politics, they like our Geelong team, they like Libby, they like Richard. They want to hear that the Labor Party will be champions of what people expect the Labor Party to be champions for.


Today's very important and this is being repeated every day below the radar all over Australia, there is a mood for change in this county. People want to see the Labor Party step up. What we are doing today is we are saying to the Federal Government, using the voices of 50 people here and indeed the voices of millions all over Australia, saying to Tony Abbott: you may think that the last year’s Budget was all good work, we don't. Joe Hockey may think that they should keep pressing ahead with what they said they’re going to do. The voices of these 50 people join millions of others and simply say to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey: drop your cuts to pension.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the recent Newspoll has shown Labor lags behind the Liberals, are you going to be able to turn this around?


SHORTEN: Well let's be really straight here. I think most Australians are incredibly disappointed with Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. They know that this is a dishonest and incompetent Government. The numbers which matter to me and I think to all Australians is the youth unemployment number, it's above 20 per cent in parts of Corangamite.


The numbers which matter is the collapse in business confidence, that’s what matters to small business in the high street. The numbers that matter to Australians are $100,000 degrees, a GP tax of $7 or a co-payment charge of $20 which is manifestly unfair. The numbers which matter to pensioners is that the Abbott Hockey Government is slicing $23 billion away from age pensioners over the next 10 years. I think most Australians are shocked that the New Zealand dollar is almost up to the Australian dollar. This Federal Abbott Government is dysfunctional, chaotic, out of touch and not focussed on real people.


Last question, thanks.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of this change in the poll? Why do you think it’s happened?


SHORTEN: Well I think that what matters here is that we push the issues which real Australians care about. The real numbers that they care about and it's really similar to the last answer I gave. They care about the fact that unemployment under this Government has got higher since they’ve been in power. This is a Government who’s got the economy wrong. They've tried to cut and slash, they've pushed the program of austerity, they’ve said there was a massive debt crisis, they’ve said there's a problem in our health system and age pension system.


Now they're clearing the decks, having wasted 18 months in the nation’s life, to say that maybe because they can't handle some of these issues that somehow their priorities then should be forgotten about. The truth of the matter is this Government got the 2014 Budget wrong, they've wasted a year and a half of the nation's life and they show from this morning's comments no sign of learning any of the lessons.


Thanks everyone.