Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - Tony Abbott’s year of broken promises; Tony Abbott’s unfair budget;

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2014


 

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s year of broken promises; Tony Abbott’s unfair budget; Immigration; Abbott Government’s back down on PBS co-payment; GP Tax; Passing of Lynne Kosky.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This has been a year Tony Abbott would rather forget; but this has been a year that Australians will certainly remember. This has been a year of Tony Abbott’s broken promises. It has been a year of disappointment, dysfunction and deceit. Today, Labor has published a little book, a written record of Tony Abbott’s broken promises this year. If I might just quote from the little book of lies: Tony Abbott promised in Health – “let me say it again, no cuts to Health. No cuts to Health”. This is a broken promise. With $57 billion promised in actual cuts in the Budget to Health. Another chapter of the book of lies - Education. Tony Abbott promised no cuts to education. The Abbott Government has cut $30 billion to education in their Budget. There is another chapter; Higher Education. In the Liberal Party policy document, euphemistically named ‘Real Solutions’, Tony Abbott promised "We will ensure the continuation of current arrangements of university funding." As we know, they cut university funding in the Budget and they still persist with that even as late as yesterday. Perhaps a final broken promise amongst the many broken promises is cost of living. Tony Abbott promised yet again in the ‘Real Solutions’ book he would reduce the cost of living pressures and help families with the cost of raising children. The Abbott Government cut $5 billion worth of family payments in the Budget this year. I might just ask my colleague Jenny Macklin to make some additional remarks about the Government's latest proposals around pensions. Then we will be happy to take questions.

 

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill. In the cruellest Christmas present any government could deliver, this Government has put the pension cut into the House of Representatives today. Tony Abbott is trying to force through the pension cuts through the House of Representatives today so that pensioners will face a cut to their pension as a result of the changes to pension indexation. Tony Abbott promised before the last election there would be no changes to pensions. He said there would be no cuts to pensions. Well, Tony Abbott has legislation in the Parliament today that will see a cut to the pension. $80 a week, it will mean to pensioners over the next 10 years. $80 a week or $23 billion taken out of the pockets of pensioners, and that's according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. Broken promises, lies that Tony Abbott has delivered to 3.7 million Australian pensioners.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks, Jenny. One of the reasons we've got so many of my colleagues here is that in all of the areas that they represent, Tony Abbott has broken promises. Happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've shown a lot of opposition this year. When will we start seeing some policies released?

 

SHORTEN: Well, I think what this Opposition has done is we've taken our positions based upon principle. When it's come to fighting terror for instance, we’re all in this together and indeed the Prime Minister recognises that on national security, the Opposition has worked for the Government very well. I don't accept the frame of the question that we're automatically opposing everything and the Prime Minister himself recognises that. In terms of opposition of the Budget, it really was an unfair Budget and I think we reflect what the great mass of the Australian people think, but even on the Budget, we've supported north of $20 billion worth of their savings. And indeed, we've offered to support other measures of the Government's. They should drop their paid parental leave scheme, for instance, that is a friendless policy. And also, for instance, when it comes to properly taxing multinational corporations we are prepared to do that and work with them, but it's the Government who's gone soft on them and indeed, when you look at Labor's record when we were in government, from means testing of private health insurance, right through to difficult decisions that were made by the last Labor administration, our record is that we're up for some of the tough decisions but what we can never do is drive this country backwards by shrinking the confidence in the High Street, by tackling the vulnerable with a GP Tax, by creating $100,000 university degrees, by increasing the pressures on cost of living. So Labor takes its position based upon the long-term national interest of the nation, not just this Government's rampant ideology of broken promises in an unfair Budget.

 

JOURNALIST: What is Labor's plan to address the blow-outs in health, education and NDIS spending that was identified in the Commission of Audit?

 

SHORTEN: I'm glad you mention the Commission of Audit, because that was the Government's Plan B which they tabled before they put in their Budget which was Plan A. Also just on this Commission of Audit - I think Victorian Liberals will be asking themselves: why was it that the Commission of Audit was hidden after the Tasmanian, South Australian and West Australian elections, yet the Abbott Government brought down their petrol tax – a clear broken promise in the first week of the Victorian election. This Commission of Audit has I think had a chequered history and is not much loved within some parts of the Liberal Party. But going to, I think, the issue of substance - we don't accept the proposition that our Medicare system is in danger of explosion. We don't believe the case has been made out for the GP Tax. As you know as well as I do, Sid, if there really was the Medicare crisis which the Government rhetorically say there is, why would they be putting the GP Tax money that's raised into a medical research fund rather than plugging it back into the health system now? And in addition, if there was this was this crisis, why is the Government quietly shelved its pharmaceutical benefits co-payment scheme today? Why has it disappeared off the Senate papers today? I mean the Government can't have it both ways. There's a crisis which they'll resolutely prosecute, or indeed there's just a bunch of ill-thought out, unfair ideas which they don't know where they're going.

 

JOURNALIST: If the MYEFO comes back and pushes out the surplus beyond the target year that the Government's set, would you be happy with that occurring?

 

SHORTEN: First of all, I think Joe Hockey shouldn't be waiting till just before Christmas to bring down his mini-budget. I will ask our shadow Treasurer perhaps to supplement this answer. There's a couple of basic questions for this Treasurer. Why on earth does he have to do a mini-budget if his initial budget had been any good? Secondly if the crisis is so urgent, as they huff and they puff, why are they waiting till nearly the death knock of Christmas before they do it? Thirdly, the Treasurer's out there pleading on his knees for Australians to spend money, so why is he taking cuts off families of up to $6,000? I mean I tell you the real problem in Australia. If the Treasurer Joe Hockey was more competent, then Australians would have more confidence. I might ask Chris to supplement this.

 

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks, Bill. The Government of course is at sixes and sevens when it comes to the Budget surplus. Just about 60 days ago, the Prime Minister promised to return the Budget to balance on a timetable. Yesterday, and the day before, Mathias Cormann has been running away from that commitment. Just 60 days, they can't keep a central narrative when it comes to the Budget. Now, we hear a lot about the Budget deficit and what Tony Abbott calls the debt and deficit disaster. But of course, Joe Hockey is the master of disaster when it comes to the Budget deficit. He's the one overseeing blow-outs in the Budget deficit. As Bill said, what we need to see is the mini-budget introduced and released as soon as possible as a matter of urgency so the Australian people can see the true state of the books, and Joe Hockey should produce a realistic set of books, not ones which are based on the premise that they will somehow magically get through the Parliament. Measures which have been comprehensively rejected by the Parliament and the people. Now, if Tony Abbott and Mathias Cormann and Joe Hockey can't get a consistent line on when the Budget will return to balance or surplus, then we'll need to see the mini-budget before commenting further about what that means for the state of the books going forward.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, in relation to the cost of living, the Treasurer says our cost of living - our standard of living is at risk if we don't get this Budget through and he's called for the Opposition, the Greens and the independents to be sensible and work through them. Is our standard of living at risk and are you going to be sensible?

 

SHORTEN: Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott are the risk to the future of this country. Joe Hockey, it is not the job of average ordinary Australian families to fix your Budget. It's your job to fix your Budget. I mean, if you want to talk about the greatest threat to standard of living it's unemployment. If you don't have a job a lot of other things aren't working for you. Unemployment under this Government has increased. It was at 5.7 per cent when at the time of the last election. It was at 5.9 per cent at the Budget and now it's 6.2 per cent. Even worse than that, since the Budget, 42,000 jobs, gone. Full-time job growth in this country has practically stalled since the Budget. Youth unemployment was 12.7 per cent at the time of the last election. Now it's up to 14 per cent. Youth unemployment is at its highest level in 13 years, in fact, since Tony Abbott was the Minister for Employment. This mob at the moment, this Government, they're more interested in their own jobs, it would seem than anyone else's jobs and standard of living. I mean, we've got the situation where Julie Bishop wants the Prime Minister's job, Andrew Robb's job is to watch Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey doesn't even want his own job. David Johnston can't do his job and Scott Morrison, well, he wants to do everyone's job.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, could I please ask you about asylum seekers? I notice that Mr Marles is not out here with you. Can you explain why Labor's been relatively quiet on voicing its asylum seeker policies and can I get your reaction please to the announcement that the Palmer United Party will support the TPV bill that’s currently before the Senate?

 

SHORTEN: Just about, first of all, who's out here. When the word went out, fairly, in the last few minutes did anyone want to join us for this press conference about Tony Abbott's lies, our colleagues have been coming here to do this and so I think if we went another 15 minutes we'd even have more here. I that is in stark contrast to the Government, where let's face it they're not all working in tandem, in sync in the Government, are they? In terms of your more substantive point about being fairly quiet - we don't believe that TPVs are the appropriate solution. We don't believe that. And we certainly don't think it was particularly ethical of the Government to say that the only way children or families might leave detention is if they voted for a particular bit of government legislation which we think has some pretty dire consequences in terms of the functioning of the Immigration Act. So we've got our position, we've stuck to it and if Scott Morrison's done a deal with Clive Palmer, I mean I think they announced that last month. Well, that shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone, should it?

 

JOURNALIST: But Mr Shorten, Clive Palmer seems to be saying that Scott Morrison's now agreeing with him, we don't know whether that's true or not, but the TPVs might lead to other visas and then a pathway eventually for these people to stay in Australia. Isn't politics being the art of the possible the only option there to get these people off Christmas Island, the children and others, and bring them to the mainland, why wouldn't you agree with that?

 

SHORTEN: Well, when I see Clive Palmer and Scott Morrison give diametrically different views about what the same legislation is I'm probably in the same boat you are, it's not quite clear. Clive Palmer believes that the TPV system that he's negotiated will lead to a path to permanent citizenship. Scott Morrison is not saying that. So I think that, you know, there's a big question to answer there. In some ways whilst Clive Palmer and Scott Morrison may be in the same bed they've got different dreams. And this is the issue in terms of what they're promising. It's they’re diametrically opposed. Labor has expressed on record repeatedly our concerns about TPVs. It leaves people in limbo.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Labor's got a press release out today on the PBS, the PBS increases not going ahead. Now, why is it not acceptable to increase PBS prices in 2014 when in the 1990 Budget, Paul Keating said that the system needed to be sustained and he increased them by I think more than 30 per cent?

 

SHORTEN: Sid, are you raising the 1990 Budget?

 

JOURNALIST: I had hair back then.

 

SHORTEN: Okay, okay, I was still at uni then. In all seriousness, though, I think the issue which you do draw attention to, and I can feel Catherine King emanating her desire to supplement this answer, so I would like to grant that wish in moment, but in terms of this issue, let me turn it around and put back a question to Tony Abbott. His argument there’s about, if a co-payment in one aren't they all the same and why can’t you vote for a co-payment in another? Let me say to Tony Abbott, in the light of you retreating and acceding to Labor's wishes not to have an increase in the co-payment on the PBS, why don’t you just actually retreat properly, do the job once, take the barnacles off this rotten Budget, and drop the co-payment on the GP Tax? I mean, you know Tony, you've got your foot on the sticky paper. You're ready to give up on this silly co-payment increase in the pharmacy. Just do the whole lot, rip the band aid off, do not, do not have a GP Tax on the sick and the vulnerable but I might ask Catherine to help supplement that.

 

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks, thanks very much for that, Bill and of course the Government has been forced to withdraw its PBS Bill or not debate it in the Senate and it's only been forced to because Labor has said this is an unfair policy and of course it is an unfair policy in the context of all they are doing in health. A government that lied before the election about what it intended to do when it came to health. No cuts to health - it has cut $57 billion out of our public hospital system, introduced an increased cost for medicines for every Australian, particularly for those Australians who are most vulnerable. And of course, its GP Tax. What we now know, what we now know is that every time, every time this Government increased the PBS co-payment, there were patients who stopped taking medicines. So in the context of a Budget that said no cuts to health before the election, in the context of a Budget that absolutely smashes health care, it is important that people understand what the rise in the increase to the cost medicine would do. It would mean vulnerable patients would stop taking their medications, and I'm pleased to see the Government has dropped the legislation but of course only for now. It should also drop its GP Tax.

 

SHORTEN: Perhaps one last question.

 

JOURNALIST: Can we get a statement on the passing of Lynne Kosky?

 

SHORTEN: Thank you for raising that. The Victorian Labor Party and Victoria has lost a distinguished former member of Parliament, Lynne Kosky. Like some of my colleagues here from Victoria, I had the privilege of actually working with her directly alongside here in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Lynne was a remarkable minister in a range of portfolios. She fought a very tough battle with her illness. She came back a number of times. She was a real fighter. She's left us far too young. My thoughts are with Jim and her children. She’s left her mark in local government, in State Government, in the not for profit sector. Lynne Kosky will be missed. She was a distinguished Australian.

 

LABOR MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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