TUESDAY, 19 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s 74 Day election campaign; Labor’s positive plans to put people first; Government chaos and division; Banks & Financial Services royal commission.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, HOST: Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten joins me in our Canberra studio now. Bill Shorten, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Michael.
BRISSENDEN: So where do you think the real battle ground for this election will be?
SHORTEN: This will be an election of real differences and stark contrasts. On one hand, you have the Labor Party and our policies will put people first, on the other hand, you have the Liberal Party who are representing vested interests and as we've seen most recently, determined to protect the big banks from a Royal Commission. The choices will be very clear in jobs, education, health, renewable energy and a fair taxation system.
BRISSENDEN: Is it going to come down to who the voters can trust to restore the Budget bottom line? You've outlined $100 billion of savings and revenue measures. How much of that will you put back into the Budget?
SHORTEN: Quite a bit of it and we haven't finished outlining how we'll do Budget repair. We'll see the political document the Government is going to call the Budget on May 3 and we'll reply on May 5 and we'll outline more of our approaches to improving the Budget but this is all about choices. On one hand, we've had Mr Turnbull this year say that he doesn't really see a role for the Commonwealth in funding Government schools. He's quite attracted, as we know, to the idea of a 15 per cent GST, he is reducing the funding going into hospitals. By contrast, Labor is committed to fully funding our schools, we're fully committed to improving the funding for hospitals and protecting Medicare, and we're not interested in ever having a 15 per cent GST, or indeed, the double taxation allowing States to levy new taxes on people.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, but you have outlined $100 billion in additional taxes and savings measures.
SHORTEN: Yes, we have.
BRISSENDEN: How much of that is going to be savings and how much of that is going to be put back into restoring the Budget?
SHORTEN: Well, we've got several priorities. One is to make sure that we improve the Budget bottom line over the cycle. Our other priorities also are to make sure that using scarce taxpayer dollars will reduce wasteful Government spending. That's why we won't go ahead with this baby bonus payment that was cooked-up between Mr Turnbull and the National Party. We won't go ahead with funding this Emissions Reduction Fund which was cooked up by Tony Abbott to pay large polluters for poor environmental outcomes and we certainly won't be funding the $160 million of a plebiscite on marriage equality. These are all improvements to the Budget bottom line and we will have more to say. I notice the Government's recently, or last night, in an act of some sort of internal sabotage, has had their TV ads for selling the Budget leaked already.
BRISSENDEN: We don't know the veracity of those.
SHORTEN: Well, but what is interesting is if they are true, and we haven't seen the Government come out and say that what's being said is not true, that the proposals that Labor's been pushing for a year, making multinationals pay their fair share, winding back unsustainably generous tax concessions for superannuation for people who already have millions of dollars. Labor's been leading to debate in this country on ideas, on fairer taxation, on Budget repair but also the fundamentals, protecting Medicare, properly funding our schools.
BRISSENDEN: No doubt we'll hear more about that in the Budget itself and then we can have a proper discussion that because I think it's hard to have that discussion on the back of one leak.
SHORTEN: On day one. Day one of Mr Turnbull's 74 - Mr Turnbull can't even execute the start of an election properly it would seem to me, and this shows they are a divided Government. The one thing we know, Michael after the next election is the Liberal Party will still be at war with each other.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, well let's look at your $100 billion, the Government says, describes it as an additional tax burden. You have said there will be $37 (sic) would be put back into education. You're not going to have enough room, are you, to restore the full hospital funding that was taken out of the 2014 Budget. What are you going to do with that area?
SHORTEN: We will have to see what's in the Budget and we will have to see the numbers the Government produce in order to fully answers that -
BRISSENDEN: You have made a big deal of that over the last few months?
SHORTEN: Absolutely because we think the cuts that the Government are doing, not just to hospitals, but to basics like taking away the bulk-billing incentive for pathology labs, this is a measure of $650 million that the Government wants to save over 4 years but the problem is every pathology lab in Australia, where you get your blood test, where people with chronic health conditions or cardiac conditions, are going to have to pay now an upfront fee or an increased fee just to get the basic healthcare in this country. See, the choices in this election come down to what are the policies which both parties have which are going to help people in their everyday lives. We're committed to Budget repair and I think a fair minded observer would say we've already outlined more of our policies than the Government but when it comes to hospitals, bulk-billing, schools, Labor is outlining and will continue to outline sensible policies which actually help this nation go ahead. A good Medicare system is about helping build the nation as well as look after sick people. A good school system helps build the nation.
BRISSENDEN: Sure and I don't think anyone would disagree with you on that.
SHORTEN: Well, with respect, we had Mr Turnbull out on a frolic and in one of his trademark thought bubbles said, maybe the Federal Government should get out of funding State schools altogether.
BRISSENDEN: This is also going to be about long-term reform, isn't it? Clearly, that is an issue that both sides are going to have to address. We've got global credit ratings agencies saying they don't like what they're seeing at this stage and the Budget, it's true, the Budget is still saddled with the Gillard Government's ongoing spending.
SHORTEN: Let's talk about doubling the deficit. That's happened when Joe Hockey -
BRISSENDEN: Well, ok, but let's talk about some of the big things like NDIS for instance, that's a bipartisan approach but-
SHORTEN: Well, I'm skeptical if the Government really is that committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They always say it's bipartisan then they'll always give you 10 reasons why they think it can't be done. No, the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, was properly funded when Labor left office and what we did is we increased the Medicare levy. The other thing is the very discussion we have about the National Disability Insurance Scheme goes to again the stark difference between us and the Liberals. They look at properly funding disability as a cost, they look at properly funding schools as a cost. I see these as investments. Speak to any parent who has got a child with a profound or severe disability. They're battling to make ends meet. This nation can afford to prioritise looking after the less vulnerable and actually, that becomes, over time, a more economically efficient thing to do. Having a good Medicare system means we don't have two tiers of health insurance like they do in America. That stops employers having to foot the bill for health insurance in their workplaces. When you talk about the long-term, we don't view people as a cost, we view the expenditure which we do in schools or disability or Medicare as a long-term investment which also helps build the nation.
BRISSENDEN: Do you see spending blowing out as a long-term problem which clearly is of some concern to not just people here but people overseas?
SHORTEN: You're spot on. You're spot on. But it's only Labor who's actually spelled out what we're going to cut. The Emissions Reduction Fund is billions of dollars, it is a boondoggle invented by Tony Abbott to be a fig leaf for not taking real action on climate change. I mentioned how we could save the $160 million on a plebiscite on marriage equality which Mr Turnbull the day before he took over the leadership of the Liberal Party or the month before, said was unnecessary.
BRISSENDEN: We're going to have 74 days of this, and plenty more after the Budget, of this discussion aren't we?
SHORTEN: It is but it is important. There are real choices and the choices which we'll offer is that we'll put people at the centre of our policies, unlike Mr Turnbull and his team who we've seen for the last 7 months prove to be quite a disappointment. 7 months ago I thought my job as Opposition Leader would be harder.
BRISSENDEN: A few people did. A few people thought your job as Opposition Leader might be more difficult.
SHORTEN: There weren't a lot of applicants for it.
BRISSENDEN: You're in a different position now in the polls, that's true.
SHORTEN: But that's in part due to Labor doing its homework. We do have positive plans for the future of Australia but also, what it is, is that Mr Turnbull doesn't seem to have the courage of his convictions. He doesn't run his own party. The good thing about myself and Labor is that I don't have to pretend to be what I'm not. My party and I march to the beat of the same set of values. Mr Turnbull, I think, has had to turn back on a lot of policies that he once championed and now we see everything from 15 per cent GST to state income taxes, Mr Turnbull seems to be making it up as he goes along sometimes.
BRISSENDEN: Yesterday, the criticism of one of your frontbenchers of the Governor-General, is that a concern for you? Have you asked Stephen Conroy to apologise?
SHORTEN: The remarks were intemperate. They certainly don't reflect the view of the Labor Party about the office of the Governor-General and I have spoken to him.
BRISSENDEN: Have you asked him to apologise?
SHORTEN: I have spoken to him and indicated to him what I think, what the Labor Party view of the Governor-General is and I think that's been made clear overnight.
BRISSENDEN: OK. Just quickly and finally on ASIC and the moves - the reports this morning that the Government is going to restore the funding and toughen the powers for the banks. Clearly they're not going to go as far as a Royal Commission but they are obviously intending to do something about this. You'd to welcome that, wouldn't you?
SHORTEN: Michael, why is Mr Turnbull so determined to protect the banks from a Royal Commission? I think it was outrageous -
BRISSENDEN: It would be, as they say, it would take a couple of years for that to work through.
SHORTEN: I think the problems we've seen in banking are persistent. All of us have hoped that banking would learn its lesson but even in the last 12 months, we've seen allegations of rate rigging, we've seen the dreadful situation of people purchasing insurance policies from a bank and then people in the bank actively conspiring to cheat these people out of legitimate insurance claims. Something's got to give here. What we see the Government doing - over the weekend there were reports in the media, they are checking with the banks about what the banks would find acceptable in form of an inquiry.
BRISSENDEN: A Treasurer talking to banks is hardly checking with the banks.
SHORTEN: Well, but you and I both know, and clearly reports were indicating, that this Government is so keen to protect the big banks that we've got this crazy situation in a modern democracy where the Treasurer is checking with the banks, "oh, do you mind if we do this? Is it OK if we do that?" That hardly fills you with confidence. Australians want a Royal Commission into banking. Nothing less will do. I don't know why Mr Turnbull is so determined to do everything he can, not to have a Royal Commission. Banks affect every part of people's lives; the credit card interest rates, the mortgages, the savings accounts. You name it, we need our banks and the attack by the Government saying that somehow, wanting to have a healthy culture and ethical set of standards in banks undermines their business model, I don't buy that.
BRISSENDEN: Bill Shorten, we will leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Michael.
BRISSENDEN: Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.