Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra





SUBJECT/S: Cuts to pensioners, Chaos and division within the Abbott Government, Education cuts and university funding.


ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well good morning everyone. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fraser and I’d just like to welcome you all here to Dickson, the heart of the north side of Canberra.


We’ve been speaking this morning to a group of pensioners who are concerned about the impact of Tony Abbott’s cuts to their standard of living. As one pensioner in my electorate wrote to me, “I’m worried about what this will do to my quality of life but I’m even more worried about what this will do to the Australia that I love”. I’ll hand over now to Bill Shorten to say a few words.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, great to be here talking to some of Australia’s older Australians with local member Andrew Leigh and of course our shadow spokeswoman Jenny Macklin. There is real fear and concern amongst older Australians about this heartless and mean budget. Older Australians have worked hard their whole life, they've paid taxes, they've raised their children, they've made a contribution. They do not understand why they, older Australians, should be the victims and pay the price for Tony Abbott's budget of lies and broken promises.


In addition, it’s not only the pensioners who are feeling concerned about the mean and unfair budget of broken promises and lies. It is clear that one of the emerging stories of this budget is the massive standstill it's brought to Australia's business confidence. Every part of Australia, but in particular Australia's pensioners, are suffering from a mean and unfair budget. I might hand over to my colleague Jenny Macklin to make some further points.


JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill, and thank you, Andrew, for having us all here today. I want to refer to some analysis done by the Australian Council of Social Service. ACOSS has shown that if Tony Abbott is successful in changing the way Australia's pensions are indexed, that will mean a cut to Australia's pensioner incomes of $80 a week over 10 years. $80 a week is the real impact of Tony Abbott's pension cuts on Australia's 3.2 million pensioners. That's the reality of Tony Abbott's pension cuts.


Tony Abbott promised before the last election there would be no changes to pensions, no cuts to pensions. Well, the ACOSS analysis shows that pensioners will lose around $80 a week if Tony Abbott gets his way with his pension cuts.


SHORTEN: We’re happy to take any questions people might have.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would it be reasonable to chase up HECS debts from deceased estates like other loans?


SHORTEN: It is the height of meanness for this government to be proposing what Christopher Pyne said yesterday. But it shows what disarray this government and their unfair budget is in. Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey say one thing then out rushes the Prime Minister to smack down his senior Ministers within half an hour. Coalition thought bubbles don't even last 30 minutes anymore with this government and its budget which is in disarray and sinking fast.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any dinners planned with Clive Palmer [inaudible] negotiation?


SHORTEN: Like everyone, we were interested to see Malcolm Turnbull and Clive Palmer and Martin Parkinson having a special dinner last night. What I do know is that Malcolm Turnbull was eating Peking duck last night, Joe Hockey's left looking like a goose this morning, and we've got a lame-duck Treasurer. Will the real Treasurer of Australia please stand up? Is it Malcolm Turnbull, Clive Palmer or Joe Hockey?

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Mr Parkinson being there at that dinner with these senior members?


SHORTEN: Well, Joe Hockey didn't even know why Martin Parkinson was there or what he was doing. This is a government in disarray, relying on late-night meals, Malcolm Turnbull’s eating Peking duck, Joe Hockey's left looking like a goose, and we've got a lame-duck budget with a lame-duck Treasurer.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Budget wasn't on the menu for discussion [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: I have no idea what was on the menu but one thing's for sure, Joe Hockey is left looking like a goose. He doesn't even know what his other Ministers and crossbench Senators and Treasury secretaries are doing. We've got a lame-duck budget which unfair to Australia's pensioners. It was built upon lies, systemic and wilful lies before the last election, and now we've got a government in disarray. They don't even know what's going on. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing in the Abbott-Hockey Government.


JOURNALIST: A spokesman for Mr Parkinson says he was going to dinner with Malcolm Turnbull, he didn't know that Clive Palmer was going to be there. Regardless, is there anything wrong with the Treasury Secretary having dinner with senior parliamentarians?


SHORTEN: For me the issue isn't about public servants, the issue is that clearly Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have wheeled Malcolm Turnbull out of the freezer where they keep him, and what we now see is that you've got decisions –  Malcolm Turnbull negotiating with Clive Palmer and Joe Hockey doesn't even know what's going on.


JOURNALIST: So the Gillard Government didn't wine and dine Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott in order to get their support for not just the budget but for parliament? You know, Labor didn't do any of this kind of stuff in the past?


SHORTEN: Joe Hockey doesn't even know what is going on. What we have is you’ve got Malcolm Turnbull eating duck, you've got Joe Hockey forced to eat some humble pie and we’ve got a lame-duck Treasurer.


JOURNALIST: Have you had any meetings with Clive Palmer?
SHORTEN: Pardon?

JOURNALIST: Jokes about the dinner aside, have you met with Clive Palmer about the budget?

SHORTEN: We talk to the crossbenchers and we talk to people about why this is an unfair Budget. Not only are we meeting with members of parliament, we're meeting with millions of Australians. Unlike the Coalition, who's gone into witness protection, and many of them are not even trying to sell this budget. This is an unfair and mean budget.


This Prime Minister lied and lied and lied before the last election. Today we see them talking about a student death tax. Today we find out the Treasurer doesn't know who's meeting with who about the budget. This is a government in disarray. Their unfair budget, the verdict is in about it from the Australian people. They don't like it. It's too mean, it's unfair and this is a government who has no idea what they're doing about trying to even get their measures up.


JOURNALIST: So you haven't shared a banana split with Clive Palmer?


SHORTEN: No, sorry, there were two questions. I've never had a banana, no [laughter]. I eat bananas, but not with – [laughter]


JOURNALIST: Have you met with Clive Palmer though regarding the budget?


SHORTEN: Yes, I've met with thousands of pensioners who are upset. I've met with crossbenchers, I've met with thousands of parents who are worried about their kids being able to go to university. I've met with people who are worried about whether or not they can afford to go and see a doctor.


This a mean and unfair budget, the whole of Australia knows it. This government is in denial about what a dud of a budget it is, how unfair it is, it's built on broken promises and lies. This is a government who has resorted to, you know, talking about taxing the deceased estates of students, then they slap it down. This government is pushing an unfair budget down the throats of Australians who don't want any part of it.


JOURNALIST: Has Labor come to a decision yet on whether to support the $100,000 threshold for Family Tax Benefit Part B?


SHORTEN: We've made it clear our principle objections to this budget is it will divide Australia. We've made it clear that we do not support punishing unemployed people by starving them for six months with no income whatsoever. We've made it clear we do not support a GP tax which will discourage sick people from seeing a doctor. We do not support putting a new tax on petrol which will affect every Australian who drives, and every Australian family.


We do not support much of what they are doing. We do not support their freezing of the rates of indexation for family payments. We are working through the rest of the matters in a sensible and structured fashion. But we should – again, I'll be really straight with the Australian people. We hear the Australian people loud and clear. We know that you are concerned that you have an out of touch government who do not have the best interests of the Australian people at heart. It is based upon a lie before the election and it's based upon a false budget crisis.


JOURNALIST: But the $100,000 threshold?


SHORTEN: We haven't arrived at our final position but one thing is for sure, if you're an Australian family struggling to make ends meet, Labor are the people who are in your corner, and you've got an Abbott Government out of touch, you’ve got Joe Hockey – doesn’t know what Malcolm Turnbull and Clive Palmer are doing, you’ve got Tony Abbott rushing out in damage control, slapping down what Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey are saying. This a government in disarray over their unfair budget and everyone knows it. And the Prime Minister and Treasurer just don't have the courage to admit that their first budget is a disaster for millions of Australians.


JOURNALIST: But the government says it's not going to flinch on this budget. Are you prepared to wear the political consequences of having the Senate and the House fundamentally disagreeing on key measures in this budget?


SHORTEN: Labor will not sell out the will of the Australian people just because Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want us to. We will fight and fight to defend the interests of Australians against a mean government who lied their way through the last election. Tony Abbott made himself the patron saint of never breaking election promises. He, more than any other political leader in recent history, staked his reputation on being a politician who wouldn't break promises and tell lies. Well, he lied and he lied, he is the national champion of political lying, and Labor will not bow its head and give in to Tony Abbott despite whatever bullying tactics they choose to apply.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister admits that, he says that this is a political risk for the Coalition. Is it a political risk for Labor as well to block a lot of these measures given some of the warnings about the long-term impact?


SHORTEN: What a cynical and insincere fellow our Prime Minister is. He evaluates the budget in terms of risk to the Coalition and his own job. This budget is a risk to all Australians. Tony Abbott needs to stop thinking about himself and his own political fortunes, and think about the future of this country. He wants to make it more expensive for kids to study science. He's cutting the scientists at the CSIRO. He's making unemployed people under the age of 30 face the potential of having no income for six months. He would divide Australia to remake it in his narrow and mean vision of the future.


He should stop worrying about his own political fortunes and start worrying about the fortunes of all Australians. He should not make a budget which is a burden on the backs of all Australians. We are a smarter, more generous nation. All Australians, no matter what their backgrounds, know we don't need to have a budget which puts the burden on families with less than $50,000 to do the heavy lifting in this economy and this community.


JOURNALIST: Haven’t you, though, been cynical and hypocritical by voting through the deficit tax, but then ridiculing it at the mining conference yesterday?


SHORTEN: Well let me be very clear. Tony Abbott promised he wouldn’t increase taxes and he has. What we are doing though, is we are using our political ammunition and our effort to stand up for those who are the most vulnerable in society. I do believe that Tony Abbott is wrong to be increasing taxes on Australians who go to work. But I happen to believe he’s even more wrong putting a tax on people going to the doctor. I happen to believe he is completely wrong about slugging pensions. I thing he is wrong to discourage young people and their families from the dream of a good education after they’ve finished school. I think he’s wrong to be pushing his negative attitudes in terms of family payments and affecting low income earners.


So yes, I think he breaks his promises habitually, but what we will do in Labor is we are going to fight for Medicare, the pension, opposing the petrol tax, university and a fair go for people who are unemployed to be able to find jobs. They are our priorities, that defines Labor, and the difference between us and the Liberals.


JOURNALIST: You don’t have a limited number on ‘no’ votes, it’s not like you have a quota on how many you can use. Why not [inaudible] vote against it?


SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we’ve got a certain amount of priority which we have to give to the most important issues, and we will do that. We also think that Tony Abbott should reconsider his opposition to the means testing of the private health insurance rebate. We think – and by the way, so does everyone in Australia, I’m sure including most people in this press conference – think that he should drop his egotistical, arrogant paid parental leave scheme, which he foolishly boasts is the equivalent of Nixon going to China.


How on earth can this Prime Minister lecture ordinary Australians about equality of sacrifice? He’s going to pay an increased tax rate for three years. The pensioners are going to lose their money forever. He’s going to discourage a generation of kids from going to university. What Tony Abbott doesn’t get with his extreme right-wing ideology is that there’s no free lunch. By cutting welfare benefits to the unemployed for six months will lead to a New York style, an American style us-and-them society, where the really poor have to sleep rough in the doorways. He will create the sort of Australia which none of us want.


JOURNALIST: There’s report today that around 40,000 foreign workers have been brought in to work in Australia despite our unemployment rate. Are you comfortable with that level of skilled migration?


SHORTEN: Well skilled migration has been part of Australia’s immigration mix for a very long time. What I do believe is that if you train Australians and offer Australians the opportunity to work, Australians will grab those opportunities. But we’ve always had a mix of domestic employment and also where there are skill shortages, using the skilled immigration program.


What I believe though is that Tony Abbott is doing nothing to help employment prospects in Australia. One of the stories which will emerge in this budget in that Tony Abbott has taken a sledgehammer to business confidence. You only have to go to the high street of any country town in Australia or city, and see that business confidence is moving to a standstill. Tony Abbott is meant to be this great friend of business, he is killing business confidence in Australia because all Australians fundamentally know that the way this country works best is when we’re cooperating, when we’re united not divided.


Tony Abbott is dragging this country down a path which most Australians don’t want to go. And I can promise Australians that Labor will fight the creation of a permanent underclass in Australian society. We will work with the government where we can, but what we won’t do is sit back and watch Tony Abbott wreck Medicare, challenge and undermine pensioners’ financial security, and put greater pressure on cost of living through a petrol tax. And we won’t let him tangle the dreams of future generations of Australians by discouraging them from going to university with higher debts and higher fees.


JOURNALIST: The businessman Maurice Newman thinks you should be outlining some more positive policy proposals, when can we expect that from the Opposition?


SHORTEN: The Prime Minister’s chief business advisor, member of the Prime Minister’s cheer squad, has got some negative words about Labor. That’s not news. Labor will have positive policies for the next election, but we’ve got some positive advice for Maurice Newman, for Tony Shepherd, for the other big end of town guys, who are helping wreak their extreme ideology on Australian society. Here’s some positive advice for Tony Abbott as well: don’t wreck Medicare, don’t make universities out of reach of ordinary Australians, don’t go after the pensioners, don’t put a tax on petrol. Start thinking about Australia and not your own political interests and your extreme and mean and unfair ideology based upon lies before the last election. Thanks everyone.