Bill's Transcripts

Interview on 4BC with Patrock Condren




TUESDAY, 20 MAY 2014


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget lies; Tony Abbott’s broken promise to pensioners; GST.


PATRICK CONDREN: The Opposition Leader is in the studio, Mr Shorten thanks for your time, thanks for coming in.



CONDREN: Always good to see you in the flesh, you politicians.


SHORTEN: Thank you.


CONDREN: So we can look you in the eye when we ask you the questions.


SHORTEN: Of course.


CONDREN: I did ask for people if they had a question for you to email it in, and certainly the theme of a lot of people who are critical of the Labor Party is that in terms of the federal Budget and what’s come out since the Federal Budget, is that Labor got Australia into this financial mess, what’s your solution for getting them out of it?


SHORTEN: Labor doesn’t accept, and I don’t accept, that we have a financial mess that deserves these broken promises, these harsh cuts to millions of ordinary Australian families and pensioners.


CONDREN: Why don’t you accept that there is a financial problem for Australia to solve?


SHORTEN: Budgets always need to be on the trajectory in the medium term of getting into the black, no question. So it is an important issue to get into the black. But we’ve got a triple A credit rating, only eight countries in the world, eight out of 202 countries in the world. And a triple A credit rating, that would say to you that we’ve done something ok. We’ve got low inflation, and we’ve got relatively good, historically, job creation over the last few years.


CONDREN: And yet the Financial Review today reporting that one of the credit agencies, Standard & Poor’s, is looking at the triple A credit rating, dependent on more financial cuts by the Abbott Government.


SHORTEN: Well first of all, the credit rating is based upon what the current Government does. I would submit on behalf of millions of Australians and their families that there are smarter ways to run the Budget than cutting pensioners, increase in a new tax on petrol and going after Medicare.


CONDREN: How much will the petrol excise cost the average family, do you think?


SHORTEN: Well, it depends on how many tanks of fuel you use in a week. But if you’re someone who is going to work -


CONDREN: We had one caller who has done the sums, before you came on. He said it would – the average family, he seems to think, it would cost them $127 a year, extra, in fuel.


SHORTEN: This is a tax on a tax, the fuel excise is at 38.1 cents, and then people pay GST on it, so they pay a tax on a tax. People can do the maths, but let’s also talk about this family. This is a family on about $80,000 a year, so they’ll be paying more in petrol, they’ll be getting less in family payments, depending on whether their kids are at school or not, they’ll be paying more to go see the doctor, they’ll have to pay more for their medicine. This is a Budget which will see thousands of dollars taken out of family budgets. And every year it will get worse. If this petrol tax goes through, it’ll be three times what it is in one year, and people didn’t vote for this. At the end of the day, if Tony Abbott wants to increase the petrol tax people pay, tell people first, that’s all we ask – tell people first.


CONDREN: Peter says in an email ‘it’s very easy to criticise any party that is trying to repay Labor’s debt, so why have the people of Australia not heard how Labor will reduce the debt?’


SHORTEN: Well, Peter, here’s a couple of answers on how you can get the Budget going better than how it currently is. Scrap this paid parental leave scheme - $22 billion over four years, so that millionaires can get an extra $50,000 that they don’t need – that’d be a saving.


CONDREN: Anything else?


SHORTEN: Another saving is that the Government, since they’ve been in, has doubled the deficit, they provided $9 billion to the Reserve Bank, for a currency proposition, I don’t think that was necessary. So there’s some significant resources which wouldn’t have been necessary if this Government hadn’t made the decisions that they do.


CONDREN: Is there any excuse for a politician, for a Prime Minister, to break a pre-election promise? Do we place too much stock in pre-election promises?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott, when he was the Opposition Leader, was going to become the patron saint of never breaking promises. That halo’s slipped, I think we’d all agree. I mean never in the history of the Commonwealth has an Opposition Leader staked so much of their reputation – remember, he argued the whole problem with Julia Gillard was about the carbon price. Now he’s got into power, he’s breaking promise far quicker, he’s setting land speed records. If Mr Abbott hadn’t got up on his soapbox and lectured people so thoroughly before the election, maybe people wouldn’t be marking him down so badly now.


The other thing is what are the promises he’s breaking? These are promises going to pensioners having to worry about their pension. These are promises which go towards whether or not people are able to go and see their doctor and whether they have to pay a tax. We already pay for our Medicare system through our taxes, why do we have to pay for it again at the door of the doctor’s surgery? What is the possible wisdom to discourage people from going to the doctor? If you want to reduce health costs, you do it by sitting down with the GPs who are on the frontline, the clinicians, and the health experts, and you work it through with them. You don’t just whack a tax at the front door to bar people from entry to the medical system.


CONDREN: What’s your view on the GST? Would you like to see it raised and broadened?




CONDREN: Why not?


SHORTEN: I think that for Australians, a broader tax, a GST on your cost of living and your goods comes at the wrong time. It’s a cost of living impost. I also think that –


CONDREN: What if the trade-off was reducing some other taxes?


SHORTEN: Well, that’s what some people say. But for me, in this Budget, what the Government’s done is it’s outsourced its job of running Australia to the states. And the way they’ve done it is they’re cutting $80 billion, that’s $80,000 million, from hospitals and from schools. And what they’re doing it they’re cutting, cutting, cutting. Even Campbell Newman, who I think people would not expect me to ever agree with, even Campbell Newman is on the money when he says that this isn’t on, that this will be a dreadful impact on the Queensland hospital and school system.

CONDREN: The Commonwealth argues that the hospital funding certainly is going up 9 per cent, from the commonwealth to the states over the next four years, each year for the next four years.

SHORTEN: Well, the truth of the matter is that the, our health system despite increasing costs is amongst the best in the world. People would have seen the movies about life in America if you’re not a millionaire. You’ve got a very basic health scheme which doesn’t provide the same sort of support that Australians get and our Australian system is far cheaper than the United States. So, we’ve got to keep trying to improve the system. But you don’t do it by throwing people on the scrap heap. The thing about Australia is that we believe in prosperity for all and where everybody can be prosperous, but you don’t do that by creating a permanent underclass.

CONDREN: So you say no to a GST, to raise the GST or broadening the GST. Campbell Newman has also suggested that in terms of income tax, another way to fund the states is just, for the Commonwealth to return all the income tax, for example Queensland?

SHORTEN: Well, the matters for income tax were settled in the 1940s. I think this just shows the chaos that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have thrown Australian into. I actually think that the Federal Government is all over the place. On one hand they want to give profits back to large mining companies on the other hand they want pensioners to more for the benefits they get. On the one hand they want to pay millionaires $50,000, on the other hand they’re saying in order to do that we’ve all got to pay extra tax to go to the doctor. This government is all over the place. The fact that we’re having discussions about increasing taxes from GST, Campbell Newman wants a new income tax, this just shows you –

CONDREN: Well he doesn’t want a new income tax, what he’s saying is that instead of the income tax from Queenslanders being shared around, all the income tax of Queenslanders pay now comes back to Queensland.

SHORTEN: Well, beauty is always in the eye of the beholder when it comes to taxes and the states. I hear the Victorians say the other day, Denis Napthine, on GST payments Victoria gets 88 cents in every dollar they pay and Queensland gets $1.08 in every dollar they pay. I think that what this shows is that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, they’ve got one big job every year, it’s to bring down a budget which doesn’t confuse and hurt. They’ve got one job every year and don’t think that any fair minded person thinks that this budget has been anything other than an unmitigated disaster, it’s a train wreck and these have justified extreme cuts on the back of a crisis which is nowhere near as bad as they say it is.

CONDREN: You also highlight, in your words, Tony Abbott’s broken promises.  One of his pre-election promises was to repeal the carbon tax. Why won’t you facilitate that promise?

SHORTEN: Because we’re the Labor Party, we ran on a different platform. Just because he won doesn’t mean that the Labor Party stops being the Labor Party, but I tell you what, I wish Tony Abbott would keep to all of his promises. He said before the election no cuts to health, no cuts to education, wrong and wrong, they were lies. He said no changes to pensions, that’s wrong. He said that Medicare would be okay, that was a lie. I mean he’s even gone after the ABC, what did they ever do to deserve Tony Abbott?

CONDREN: Well let’s not open that Pandora ’s Box on 4BC. One final question, last night on the ABC’s Q&A program Joe Hockey, in terms of superannuation, said it’s on my mind and it’s on Tony Abbott’s mind. It seems to be revolving around the preservation age. What’s your view on changes to super?

SHORTEN: I don’t know what Joe Hockey is thinking when he lets out these though bubbles , this guy doesn’t  stop getting it wrong. First of all he wants the pensioners to pay more, secondly he wants people to work until 70, force them to work until 70, but on superannuation it’s not even the government’s money. The deal with superannuation is that you are compelled to save for your retirement and when you reach a certain age you get it. Now Joe Hockey, not only does he want you to pay more taxes, not only does he want to decide when you get the pension, he wants to stop people getting their own superannuation when they’ve reached a certain age. There’s no limit to where this guy is going in terms of being out of control. It is not the right thing for millions of people’s superannuation accounts. It’s wrong.

CONDREN: But he has done you a favour, I mean he’s done what you couldn’t do in terms of preferred Prime Minster, he’s made you the preferred Prime Minister?

SHORTEN: The sort of favours he’s doing, he’s not trying to do me a favour, but the real problem is not what he’s done for me it’s that there’s millions of Australians who might have been willing to think about what they are doing, are just upset because this guy and Tony Abbott going after the pension, discouraging working class kids from being able to go to uni with greater fees, going after Medicare, putting the price of petrol up, now they want to stop people accessing their superannuation after decades of savings. This government has had a train wreck of a budget, it’s no good for Australia and they are not keeping they’re word, they’re broken their promises and they’ve told lies and they won’t even tell people that their lying.

CONDREN: Mr Shorten, thank you for your time this morning.

SHORTEN: Thank you, good morning.