Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Moonee Ponds



SUNDAY, 11 MAY 2014


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities; GP Tax; Cuts to Health; Tony Abbott’s Tax Increase; Petrol Tax; Cost of Living; Cuts to Pensions; Politicians Pay.

It's great to be here at Maribyrnong Park watching the under 10s play and now the under 12s play and I’d like to wish all the mothers in Australia a happy Mother's Day. The little footballers here have all been given a rose by their coach to take home to their mother and that's what's great about Mother's Day. What’s been concerning for Mother's Day 2014 are reports that four in ten Australians will be deterred from seeing a doctor because of this new Tony Abbott GP tax. There are many conditions which people have. It could be parents taking their children to the doctor for chronic asthma. It could be people battling with diabetes. It could be older Australians dealing with osteoporosis. There are doctors advising me unequivocally, that if Australians have got to pay an extra tax to go to the doctor, sick people and people caring for sick people will defer going to the doctor because of the cost of living impact and that won't save the Australian taxpayer a single cent. In fact it will cost them because what will happen is sick people will defer going to the doctor in Australia until they are sicker and that will mean a greater cost for all Australians down the road.

In Australia, the quality of your healthcare should not depend upon your credit card but your Medicare card. You should go to the doctor if you are sick and you should not avoid going to the doctor because you are poor. Universal Medicare is one of the things which distinguishes Australia from America. Many Australians, including the parents here today at the local footy, are concerned that Tony Abbott is taking our healthcare system down the path of the two-class American healthcare system where how much money you have determines what sort of healthcare you get. And Labor believes fundamentally that Australians should go to the doctor not because they’ve got money in their pocket, but because they need the best attention they can get when they are sick. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Do you support freezing the pay of politicians?


SHORTEN: I'm up for a politicians' pay freeze. But I tell you one thing that Labor won't be supporting. We see no point in a petrol tax, a GP tax, a hospital tax. We think that making pensioners pay more for their medicine doesn't pave the road to recovery for Australia. We think it takes Australia down a very sick and sorry path where some Australians will not get the medical care they need because Tony Abbott is putting pressure on their budgets and on their cost of living.


JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott once called a pay freeze populist politics, do you think that’s the case?

SHORTEN: Tony Abbott has demonstrated that he’s two different people. When he was Leader of the Opposition and wanted Australians' votes he would make any promise at any time to anyone. Now he’s the Prime Minister of Australia, he's got the wrong priorities and he’s breaking his promises. Tony Abbott is out of touch with the lives that ordinary Australians lead. This football club here has got 240 juniors training on a Friday night. Those parents there work really hard to make sure their kids get a good education, they get the proper healthcare and this idea of a petrol tax, the attitude of parents at this local football club is like the attitude of people right across Australia. Tony Abbott said there would be no new taxes. People know that he’s breaking his promise. Tony Abbott can do what he wants with politicians' pay but he shouldn't be breaking his promises to hard working Australian families who are just trying to make ends meet from one pay period to the next.
JOURNALIST: The government’s going to spend $40 billion on roads over six years, do you welcome that?

SHORTEN: I suspect that the, we’ll have to wait to see the detail, but I suspect that the federal government is, by and large, rewrapping Labor's announcements and presenting them as their own. We’ll have to see the detail. Labor believes that the way you sort urban congestion in cities is through roads funding and through rail funding. We see very little sign that the Abbott Government has any appetite to strongly support public transport around Australia, but we will have to wait and see the detail. But I suspect, like everything else, Tony Abbott will break promises. I mean, it's good that we might fund roads but he’s going to charge people more to drive on the roads courtesy of his petrol tax. It's hardly a great deal for Australians.

JOURNALIST: Just on that, have you ruled out voting for the fuel excise or for the deficit levy?

SHORTEN: We’ll have to wait and see the detail of what they precisely propose, the Budget hasn't come down. But what I do know and what Labor believes is that Australians are battling to make ends meet from one pay period to the next. We know that many Australians put their bills into two piles. The ones which have got red writing all over them and have to be dealt with straight away and the others they kick down the road for another couple of pay periods. Australians watch by about day 12 of their 14 day pay period to see if they can make ends meet. Cost of living is a real issue. Tony Abbott should not break his promises, Tony Abbott should not increase taxes, Tony Abbott should try and be in touch with ordinary Australians. The job of the Federal Budget is to make the budgets of Australian families easier, not harder.


JOURNALIST: Is it any different to ruling out voting for a GP co-payment or Medicare levy, that sort of thing?

SHORTEN: Well Labor really believes in universal affordable healthcare, always have, always will. What you get with Labor are people who are committed to making sure that Australians can get the healthcare they need, not the healthcare they can afford. When it comes to the other matters, we’ve got to see the Budget, but I don't need to wait until Tuesday night to know that a GP tax, a hospital tax, making medicine more expensive, is really bad for Australians worrying about their sick family members and its really bad for the cost of living and family budgets, especially people on lower and middle incomes.


JOURNALIST: The Treasurer’s calling this a contribute and build budget, what would you call it?

SHORTEN: This is a budget where the Abbott Government’s asking Australians to contribute so the Government can build their political stocks. This is not a Budget for all Australians. This is a Budget to tax all Australians, to make life harder for all Australians. This is a broken promise budget as it’s shaping up and on Tuesday night, I sincerely hope on behalf of all Australians and Australian families, that Tony Abbott keeps his promises before the election, hands off Medicare, hands off tax increases, hands off cost of living, hands off the family budget.


JOURNALIST: Joe Hockey says that more money raised by the indexation of the fuel excise will go into roads funding, that’s a good thing isn’t?


SHORTEN: Well, what that tells me is that the Abbott Government’s planning to cut their roads funding elsewhere and use new petrol taxes to replace the money they’re robbing from roads. Surely, ever since 2001 when John Howard got rid of this petrol tax, the Liberal Government should be smart enough to find a way to fund our roads without asking people to pay more in a petrol tax at the fuel bowser.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, talking policy, if you’re willing to oppose the debt tax, if it's a tough Budget shouldn’t high income earners contribute?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott said before the last election that he would be the Mother Theresa of politics, that he would not break promises. He made his willingness to keep election promises a feature of his reputation. Tony Abbott staked his political reputation on being the politician you could trust not to break your promises. Chief amongst his promises that he made is he said that under an Abbott Government there would be no new taxes and that there would be no changes to pensions. Everything we hear ever since Tony Abbott has got elected is broken promises and twisted priorities. We’ve got Tony Abbott on one hand wanting to give millionaires extra paid parental leave. On the other hand, every Australian who fills up their petrol at a petrol station is going to pay a Tony Abbott petrol tax. Every Australian who wants to take their sick child or their sick parent to the doctors is going to pay a Tony Abbott GP tax. Tony Abbott is demonstrating that he can't be trusted in terms of keeping his promises.


JOURNALIST: So are you arguing that the fuel excise should be frozen forever?


SHORTEN: John Howard was the one who created this so-called emergency, according to Joe Hockey. He scrapped increasing the fuel excise. What Labor stands for is we think you should be able to run the Government of Australia without stinging millions of Australians with a new petrol tax. If the Abbott Government's only idea to run Australia is to make sick people pay more to go to the doctor, to make people who drives cars to pay more in petrol, to worry aged pensioners and make people work to the age of 70 and get other people to pay more tax, then Tony Abbott's Government’s run out of ideas within the first seven months of being the government.


JOURNALIST: News Corp is reporting that GPs would be able to waive the co-payment on compassionate grounds. Does that ease Labor's concerns at all?


SHORTEN: Well, isn’t it ironic, on one hand Tony Abbott is sacking thousands of people who work at the Tax Office and on the other hand he’s turning every GP in Australian into a tax collector. Why is Tony Abbott putting the pressure back on GPs to make decisions about what people can afford? Tony Abbott should scrap the idea of a GP tax. It’s a bad idea, all it will do, as we have seen today reported, is that four in every 10 Australians will be less likely to go to the doctor. Tony Abbott doesn't get that if you’ve got to pay an extra $7.50 to go to a doctor and your child’s got chronic asthma or if you’re a pensioner battling with osteoporosis or diabetes, you need to go to the doctor on a regular basis, you can’t help being sick but Tony Abbott’s going to discourage you from going which means that our hospital system will get clogged up, it means that people will delay going to the doctor until they’ve got worse conditions than they already do.


JOURNALIST: What about a GP tax where people with specific conditions just as you mentioned were exempt from paying a fee?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to play a guessing game about what illnesses you’ve got to have for Tony Abbott to decide that’s a legitimate illness. The point is in Australia we’ve got a great world class healthcare system. We don't need to go down the American path. This is a broken promise and it's punishing sick people for being sick just as its punishing people who drive motor cars for getting in their car and driving their motor cars and going to work or taking their kids to school. A petrol tax is a dumb idea and a broken promise. A GP tax is a dumb idea and it’s a broken promise and it’s going to cause more problems than it will ever solve. Thanks everyone, have a lovely Mother’s Day.