INTERVIEW WITH ALISON CARABINE – ABC RADIO NATIONAL
WEDNESDAY, 18 DECEMBER 2013
SUBJECT / S: MYEFO, Coalition blow-out in Budget deficit, Coalition spending decisions, Coalition spending cuts, NDIS, Tim Wilson appointed to the Human Rights Commission.
ALISON CARABINE: Bill Shorten, thanks for joining RN Breakfast.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning.
CARABINE: A $47 billion deficit this year, $120 billion over the forward estimates, deficits for at least the next decade if left unchecked. Do you agree with Joe Hockey that we simply can’t keep going on like this?
SHORTEN: I think we do have a softening economy and that’s putting pressure on the Budget but I don’t agree that Joe Hockey’s right to just blame Labor for everything which is due to matters including the fact that the economy is softening, and also that since the Coalition got elected they’ve broken promises and they’ve made expensive spending decisions which frankly are unnecessary. Of course, that is for instance the multi-millionaires paid parental leave program, a $22 billion white elephant.
CARABINE: But aren’t you making it almost impossible for Tony Abbott to renege on his pledge to introduce the PPL? You’re not going to let him get away with taking what could be a fiscally wise decision to renege on the PPL?
SHORTEN: So it’s Labor’s fault when were in government and according to Tony Abbott its Labor’s fault when were out of government. If everything’s due to Labor why do the other team, why do the Coalition even collect a pay packet? What’s their day job? It’s not good enough after 100 days for them to say simply ‘we’re still the Opposition’.
They need to reconsider their expensive schemes. I don’t see also when you talk about cuts and tough economic times, and certainly there is a softening economy to be fair to the Government, I don’t see why you cut funding to Westmead Hospital or to the Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne. I don’t see why, when things are tough and you want to encourage people to work more so you’ve got economic growth so people can pay more taxes, that you make it harder to have after and before school childcare. This is a government who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I mean, it’s crazy what’s happened at Holden, their inability to defend them. I’ts better to have, here’s a tip to Joe Hockey, if you want to tackle the deficit it’s better to have full employment not rising unemployment.
CARABINE: But with regards to health, you mentioned Westmead Hospital, Arthur Sinodinos joined Breakfast just before eight, and he said that the health budget would increase by $37 million under the Coalition Government. The Government won’t be proceeding with some Labor commitments such as Westmead but will replace them with some of their own, so you can’t really argue that health will be cut.
SHORTEN: Oh well, Arthur Sinodinos could probably sell ice to the Eskimos if you want to believe them, that they’re actually helping the health system. How is it every newspaper in Australia says were seeing tough cuts and yet Arthur Sinodinos comes on and says ‘actually, health’s fine’, when we know, if you think the health system’s fine, go and speak to someone at the Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne or someone at Westmead, or someone at St George’s or someone at Nepean or someone who is counting on the MRI at Mount Druitt and tell them ‘oh well, Arthur Sinodinos says the health system’s okay so you must be cured’. It’s not just what is really happening out in the real world.
CARABINE: And do you accept the Government’s assurances that it remains committed to rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme?
SHORTEN: I think Mitch Fifield, their spokesperson, is committed to the NDIS and I think there are plenty of individual Coalition backbenchers who are committed to it. But no, I don’t trust the cabal at the centre of the Government, including Treasurer Hockey and Finance spokesperson Cormann. Their hearts, in my opinion, are not interested in fully funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I think they need to come clean today and just make it unequivocal that cutting services to people with disabilities is a no go zone. And again, there’s a practical reason why it should be a no go zone, apart from the principled reason. Does anyone think that if its harder for a person with a disability to get a wheelchair or to get a package of support, that doesn’t actually cost the community? There’s no cheap options when you’ve got an impairment, you just get the right answer, not the wrong answer.
CARABINE: Arthur Sinodinos did tell us that the Government was sticking with its pre-election commitment to roll out the NDIS, lets have a quick listen to what he had to say.
ARTHUR SINODINOS: We’re fully committed to the rollout. Qhat we are doing is carefully sifting through the evidence that’s coming through from the launch sites about the potential average costs of delivering the scheme, the potential coverage in terms of eligibility and we’re seeking to make sure we deliver a scheme that is cost effective as possible while meeting the needs of the constituency that we’ve identified, a very important constituency that we want to look after going forward.
CARABINE: So, cost effective as possible, what’s so wrong with that?
SHORTEN: There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s like saying that the sun comes up in the morning. The point is, what does that actually mean in terms of Coalition policy? See, before the election the Coalition said there was a unity ticket on education and we all know the trauma the education sector system’s been through since Christopher Pyne’s become the Minister. They said before the election ‘oh yeah, we believe in manufacturing’. What they didn’t spell out was ‘we believe in manufacturing in other countries not Australia’. So let’s hope that Arthur Sinodinos is correct. Let’s hope that they’re learning from the launch sites. Let’s hope that it’s all blue sky as Arthur was saying, and I’ve got no reason to disbelieve him on one level.
But I’ve worked on this National Disability Insurance Scheme, we should also be making it clear to people with disabilities that you’ll be involved in what happens to you, this is about empowering you, this is about giving carers and people with disabilities control over their lives, and then let’s see how it’s done. Let’s hope that it’s all exactly as the Assistant Treasurer spelled out, but what I am saying is that when I look at the fact that they’re cutting childcare before and after school, when I look at the fact that they’re doing nothing for Holden workers, expect buying them all a white flag and saying that maybe in the future we’ll help you find another job. When I look at the fact they’ve got a multi-billion dollar scheme which multi-millionaires will benefit from in terms of parental leave, I’m just a little sceptical that that won’t be another broken promise.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten on Holden, the Prime Minister will announce some support for workers who will lose their jobs in 2017. What are you hoping to hear today from the Prime Minster apart from running up the white flag as you put it?
SHORTEN: Well I hope it’s not too little, too late. The fact of the matter is that we could have kept all the jobs if they’d meaningfully engaged with Holden. What I’d like to hear them actually say is that we recognise that a limited form of industry assistance for a set number of years is actually going to be better for the taxpayer and better for the Holden workers, then an insufficient band-aid to people. I mean we’re going to lose literally, not just direct employees at Holden in the engineering and research design which is first world and first class, but there’s tens of thousands of component workers, so one question I will be examining other than being sceptical about the way the Abbott Government managed to lose a whole car company on their watch, is what is the deal for component workers, because they lose their jobs too.
CARABINE: And considering unemployment is now forecast to peak at six and a quarter per cent for the next three years, if the Government cuts too hard too fast, and keeping in mind the Holden job losses, the Qantas job losses and so forth, do you fear we might see a recession in Australia in the next couple of years?
SHORTEN: Well unlike the previous Abbott Coalition, I don’t see my job as Opposition Leader to talk Australia down. So I don’t want us to be in recession. What I do see is that jobs is, I think, a giant economic issue for next year. If an Australian has a job, they can pay a mortgage, they can pay their kids’ school fees, they can feel a sense of confidence, they can spend money in retail. Unemployment is equally as important as inflation so what we need to do is, we’ve seen the job losses in Gove, 1100 jobs gone in a part of Australia, I mean they do feel isolated this Christmas, I don’t hear the Abbott government talking about them.
I think that unemployment, fighting unemployment, should be equal priority any government along with fighting inflation. My concern is that the Abbott Government, they came into power basically telling you what they’re against, they’re against putting a price on carbon, they’re against the mining tax, they’re obviously against anything to do with trade unions. But what are they for? And what are they doing positively? They’re cutting the trades training centres, they’re mucking around with education, they’re having big cuts into the CSIRO, I mean anyone who’s ever thought that cutting science research helped somehow grow a nation obviously hasn’t opened a book in the last hundred years.
CARABINE: Well Bill Shorten, they’re also making decisions with regards to the Human Rights Commission. Tim Wilson from the Institute of Pubic Affairs has been appointed; George Brandis says he will help restore balance to the Commission. Could we be seeing the start of a new culture war in Australia, a clash between left and right over some of the more important institutions? And we won’t mention the ABC here.
SHORTEN: No, I think the attack on the ABC is already underway isn’t. In terms of, congratulations to Tim Wilson, it’s not often that you can get a job helping run an organisation that you’ve spent years saying shouldn’t exist. So I think that shows some admirable policy flexibility on the part of some people. The Human Rights Commission is important, there is more to human rights than just a debate about one topic. So I am concerned about putting people in charge of organisations that they don’t respect, but having said, that let’s see how they go. I mean the reality is if the Government’s puts someone in who doesn’t support the work of the organisation that they’re in charge of, that will get found out. I do remember the Coalition Government use to always complain about Labor appointments, let just record a hundred days in, this is a very cynical administration. Their promises are viewed as things that you say before elections, not afterwards. Frankly who they appoint worries me less than what they’re doing about jobs, but I do think it’s ironic they’ve appointed someone who has been on the record as saying the Human Rights Commission is going down the wrong path, and now they take a position on that board, it’s flexible
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, thanks so much for your time and have a good Christmas.
SHORTEN: Merry Christmas, thank you, bye.
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