Bill's Transcripts



SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for Medicare; Labor’s positive plan for Budget repair that is fair; Marriage equality

ALAN JONES: The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten is on the line from Brisbane. Just before I go to him I've got to say this. We have to forget just for a moment because that's the subject which will occupy our mind on Saturday. You've got to forget for a moment whether or not you agree with political leaders. Politics is the resolution of conflict. So there will be conflict between Government and Opposition on policies and the public will resolve that. But at the same time I think we have to recognise these people give themselves in the service of the country. People often say to me, what do you think about x and y and even if you violently disagree with people, the one thing I don't think you can deny is that these people do have the best interests of the country at heart. We have varying views as how you administer to those interests. So Bill Shorten can I thank you for your time.


JONES: May I just congratulate you too on the campaign. Your job, Labor leader is to energise your supporters, you've done that. You've come from nowhere. But can I just ask you this, having lead for most of the election campaign on a two party preferred 51 to 49, what has caused this shift according to the polls in public opinion away from you and your party in the last week?

SHORTEN: I think that our issues are actually biting. I think that we are very competitive. I think this is a very close election and I think the issues have really come into focus for people as they've been making their decisions. Some have started to vote already and most people will vote on Saturday. I believe there is a discernible mood for change, a change of Government.

JONES: The issue of change today and I don't want to sort of throw a spoke in your wheel here, but headlines suggesting that change is about you and that there are moments afoot to shaft you after Saturday that your campaign is crashing. How do you respond to that sort of stuff at a time when you've run yourself ragged, you've given your guts to the party, how do you respond to that sort of stuff?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, I have no surprise that in the days as Labor is closing in on winning, that some people will try and distract people from our case. My case to the Australian people is that we will prioritise Australian jobs, it will clean up this rorted visa system and prioritise Australian jobs. We'll prioritise apprenticeships. We will save Medicare, we will properly fund it. And we will properly fund our education. Now it's no surprise, you're a veteran of politics Alan, that in the last couple of days the kitchen sink gets thrown at you in order to discourage people from voting for you. But I want to assure Australians at a personal level, I'm the fittest I've been in nearly three decades and as a party we are the healthiest we've been, we are united. I think there is a lot of underlying tension in the Liberal Party. You know, people tell you, that there is a great d eal of dissatisfaction within the Liberal Party about their current leader and he's got views which I think are at odds with quite a few people in his party and there's a great deal of dissatisfaction. I think they will be unstable after the election, win, lose or draw.

JONES: Let me just ask you the first question I asked him yesterday because I'm not bringing family into this at all other than to say, I see pictures of you and your wife and your little kids. Now I think that is very significant that picture to me because if we're going to keep going the way we are, those little kids that you and your wife are carting around and we see their big smiles. They're going to be paying for our extravagance and our cowardice in not addressing expenditure that we can't afford. What do you say to that? 

SHORTEN: As a parent, I am deeply conscious about what happens to the next generation of Australians. We've got a plan to pay down Government debt over the next 10 years. But what I also know is I want children, I want everyone's children to be able to go to well-funded schools. I want to see real action on climate change. I want to make sure that they grow up in an Australia where it's your Medicare card not your credit care that determines the quality of health you get. I think that when we talk about the future of this country we do have to have very sensible, steady Government budget management, but we also need to make sure that we're putting in place the building blocks to ensure we don't want to become the last generation, Alan, who received a better inheritance from previous generations. We don't want to become the first generation who hands on a worse set of living standards and a lower s ocial fabric.

JONES: We're running that risk though with these high levels of debt though. See I thought strategically and this is all about strategy, whether you're playing a tennis match, a rugby match or a political match. A budget was brought down, they increased spending in the budget by $19 billion. They added $85 billion over the next 4 years to national debt. I would have thought you would have moved in for the kill and demonstrated that over the forward estimates you are actually going to reduce debt but this week you added another $16.5 billion?

SHORTEN: Well we do believe in reducing debt. But what I'm not going to do is tell Australians that I can do something when in fact it relies on measures which will never pass the Parliament. What I'm not going to do as we reduce debt, and we have a clear trajectory to reduce it, is smash household budgets. If you've got listeners, say two parents, combined income of $90,000, they've got two kids. Courtesy of Mr Turnbull if he is reelected, the family is $2200 worse off in cuts to family payments. This is not the time to make it more expensive to see the doctor to get those vital bloodtests, to get those vital X-rays. It is not the time now to be taking money out of our apprenticeships system. The way you build growth in this country is you bring people with you, you don't leave people behind. This not the time to hand back tax cuts to people who earn a million dollars a year.

JONES: Sorry, Bill Shorten, against that though, Paul Keating said last year the big falls in commodity prices mean that Australia's income has been cut. We can't pretend to go on spending as though nothing has happened. The world has trimmed us down. We now have to trim ourselves down, trim our spending and not accommodate more of it by evermore taxation. 

SHORTEN: You're right. And so what we've done is we've made hard decisions, we're not going to give $50 billion away to large companies over the next 10 years. We are going to make multinationals pay their fair share. We're going to wind back the loans schemes which are being seen to create a private sector vocational education dodgy business model. We are not going to pay $1.2 billion in baby bonus. We are not going to spend $4 billion on an emissions reductions fund to pay large companies for poor environmental outcomes. I tell you one thing we'll save money on, Alan, we're not going to spend $160 million on a non-binding opinion poll about marriage equality. We'll just get that done so that -  

JONES: But you're being belted up about that because in the 2013 election campaign you said you were in favour of a plebiscite?

SHORTEN: You and I both know that the community has even moved on in the last three years. I've always voted for marriage equality when it has come to the Parliament. But I've seen two things which have changed my mind. One is, I think the community, the majority of people do support marriage equality, I'm sure of it. Even my opponent says that. And if we know that, why don't we just get the Parliamentarians to do their job, vote according to their conscience. The other thing is, when we saw that Irish referendum and the Irish had to have a referendum because that's the way they had to change their law. We saw some pretty harmful and ugly arguments come out. Why would we take the second best option when we can just do it in Parliament and just save $160 million.

JONES: Yes I have to say I do agree with that. I just want to come back to this money side of things though, because there in the budget papers, they're not your papers so you're trying to score a goal here. According to the budget papers, gross debt will rise and we're thinking about your little kids, $449 billion this financial year to $584 billion over the forward estimates. That's an increase of 17 per cent. We can't keep going that way, can we?

SHORTEN: No, and we won't. But what we will do is when we make our reductions in Government spending, in what the Government pays out in tax concessions and other things. We will do that in a way which doesn't up-end important building blocks of what makes Australia great; Medicare, education. So we understand the need to get the budget back in the black. And you're right, in the last three years the Liberals who claim to be such sort-of "Masters of the Economic Universe" they have added net public debt to every man, woman and child.

JONES: Can I just, though, take this business about Medicare - because you have invested Medicare with - and I know know, Mr Shorten, has a bit of a bet at race horses so he knows a bit about race horses - you've invested Medicare with status of Phar Lap and ANZAC Day. A general question - last year, there were 360 million individual services on the Medicare Benefits Schedule at a cost to taxpayer of $20 billion. A decade ago, Medicare cost $8.5 billion. This year it is $20 billion, within a decade $34 billion. There's no way in the world you and I should have our healthcare bill paid for by somebody else. Aren't there flaws in the Medicare system where people who can afford should be paying for themselves and they are not?

SHORTEN: I don't necessarily put Medicare up there with ANZAC Day, but I tell you what, it is an Australian standard by which our community measures itself. So I do think it is right up there as an important institution. Your question goes to if people can afford to pay then they should and Medicare should just be...

JONES: But then I see you running around the streets, you see, and then suddenly your knee goes and the doctor says "Mr Shorten, you're going to have to have a knee replacement here." No Mr Shorten can go into a very good public hospital and have all that done for nothing, the taxpayer pays. That shouldn't be allowed. Mr Shorten, Mr Jones - we should be paying our own way because we can afford to.

SHORTEN: I think a lot of Australians pay their taxes and they don't necessarily expect a lot back for it, but one think they do expect of the taxes we pay is good, affordable health care. What I believe is that with healthcare, Australians are already paying a fair proportion of their own health costs but the burden under Mr Turnbull - if he is re-elected - will shift too much to private individuals paying, whereas I think there is a role for Government to pay in healthcare.

JONES: But not for you and me. Just come back to that tax question.

SHORTEN: Many Australians still have their private health insurance...

JONES: Yeah, but you know the gap is ludicrous.

SHORTEN: But it is underpinned by our healthcare system and Medicare. I was at Royal Brisbane Hospital this morning. I talked to some radiation and cancer oncology ward nurses. They have seen, for instance, melanomas in Queensland - it's a great place...

JONES: Yes, be careful, be careful...

SHORTEN: It is a hazard of life in the sun. You know, the reality is unless we properly fund Medicare, treatments such as melanoma - blood tests, pathology, x-rays - if it gets too expensive, people will defer going to the doctor, and then of course - 

JONES: It gets too expensive because too many of us got our hand in the Medicare till. You and I shouldn't anywhere near the till. We should pay our own way. But can I take these both issues back to each of your kids and Medicare back to this tax thing - I thought that you lost support when you attacked this company tax thing. Now, our personal tax is bad enough - the top rate of 47 cents, New Zealand's is 33 cents. But our company tax rate of 30 cents in the dollar compares with the Asian average of 22. Now, when the Government of Ireland made the decision to cut company at tax 12.5 per cent - less than half of what it is here - that cut revenues, which is what you're talking about, that they receive from companies. But a lot more companies wanted to set up in Ireland. the companies that were already there grew because they were paying less tax, so there was more revenue to the economy than the revenue foregone. You have spoken in favour of that in the past, Penny Wong has spoken, Chris Bowen has spoken. Did you lose credibility with the company tax argument?

SHORTEN: No, I think you'll have seen Paul Keating's interesting intervention on this question of company tax. You can't take $50 billion out of the Budget unless you explain how you are going to replace it. The argument that Mr Turnbull uses - that we don't have to spend as much on school and TAFE, and Medicare - but we can afford to spend $50 billion on giving large companies a tax cut -

JONES: Can I just stop you there? Because there's a lot of confusion here. This, I think, is a very valid point that Mr Shorten has not received appropriate credit for. When Paul Keating cut the company tax rate, he did raise other taxes such as a Capital Gains Tax, to replace that money in the economy. That is the point you are making, isn't it.

SHORTEN: That's right. And the fact of the matter is, Mr Turnbull has no plan to replace the $50 billion he's going to give back to big companies other than cutting Medicare, cutting the services, cutting education. In terms of the perceived benefits of this corporate tax cut, his own old investment bank Goldman Sachs has said 60 per cent of the benefit of this corporate tax cut will go to overseas shareholders. Or to put it another way, if Mr Turnbull gets away with reducing $50 billion out of the budget and handing it back to large companies, the big four banks - ANZ, NAB, Westpac and CommBank - will together get a $7.4 billion windfall. 

JONES: Nonetheless, against the argument - I would argue against that. When the company tax rate was 49 cents in the dollar, company tax receipts were 2.5 per cent of GDP. When eventually the corporate tax was reduced to 30 cents in the dollar, company tax receipts are now 4.6 per cent of GDP. You reduce company tax, and the Government gets more revenue which can do the things you're talking about - health and education and schools and so on.

SHORTEN: I have to say that the experts are not promising that at all. They are promising a 0.1 per cent to our economic output. That's almost a rounding error. The thing is - do you think that every company is currently paying all the tax it should?

JONES: Well, we could list a stack of them that aren't. But good luck...

SHORTEN: So why would we give those companies a further tax cut when they are not even doing the right thing?

JONES: Well they may then return that by way of investment in the economy and that will will employ more people and those people will their taxes...

SHORTEN: But the big benefit of corporate tax cuts will go to mining companies who have already made the investment, and to big banks. 

JONES: Can I just ask you...

SHORTEN: They are not going to reinvest all of that in the economy, all it does goes to their profits and bottom line.

JONES: Yeah. You've lost traction in Victoria, we believe because of this disgraceful bullying by Andrews and I'm sure you can't say anything publicly about that, that hasn't helped you - but in the Royal Commission, the Heydon Royal Commission, whether you like it or whether you don't, nonetheless he talked about a culture of quote "systemic corruption and unlawful conduct including corrupt payments, physical and verbal violence, threats, intimidation, abuse of the right of entry permits, secondary boycotts, breaches of fiduciary duty" and so on. Now, given that there are young kids and families listening to you, I mean, in the the construction industry almost 20 per cent of young people start in that construction industry - should they be exposed to a culture on a daily basis the like of which was exposed in the Heydon Royal Commission?

SHORTEN: No one should go to work and experience bullying or harassment. Full stop. But also what I know about that Royal Commission is that it doesn't go to a lot of the other issues which occur in the building industry. Health and safety, making sure apprentices get paid properly. I was in Nowra two night ago and a contractor stood up - he employs people, he is an air conditioning mechanic, a small businessman - he got let down on a Commonwealth construction job by the principal contractor and got ripped off, and he's had to lay people off. I think there are plenty of challenges in the construction industry and I don't believe that it's just industrial relations. But of course, I go back to my opening comment: there can be no tolerance for illegality or harassment. But when I look at small business people being ripped off by bigger contractors, when I look at health and safety injuries and worse on the building sites, this Government only ever talks about, you know, penalty rates and workers' wages, and they don't, in my opinion, look after small businesses enough who are getting squeezed by big businesses, and some of the other OH&S issues which are already a fact of life.

JONES: We've run out of time. Can I just thank you for your time, but congratulate you on the energy you've given to your own people and the extent to which you've reinvigorated your party. It's no mean feat. May I wish you, as I wished Malcolm Turnbull yesterday, the best of luck on Saturday.

SHORTEN: Thank you very much, Alan. Always appreciate a good discussion of the issues and the chance for me to talk a bit more about how we'll protect Medicare.

JONES: Good on you. Nice to talk to you. Bill Shorten.

SHORTEN: Thanks mate.


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