THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
SKY NEWS WITH PETER VAN ONSELEN
TUESDAY 21 JANUARY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Age pension; Disability pension; Commission of Audit.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Bill Shorten, thanks very much for joining us. I wanted to start in this welfare space – you came out earlier today and had a red hot crack at the minister in terms of concerns for pensioners, but they have specifically excluded them. Was that just fear-mongering?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Not at all. The Abbott Government’s got a big challenge in terms of running the government, I appreciate that. But what I don’t accept is that the way that the Abbott Government sorts out its election promises is by punishing pensioners. Why is it that when an LNP government is in charge in Brisbane or in Canberra, the first people to get it in the neck are the pensioners? I wish the Government would look at some of the multimillionaire welfare rather than people who get $19 000 a year from the government.
VAN ONSELEN: The pensioners aren’t the ones getting it, that’s the whole point. They’re going after disability support, and they’re looking at other adjustments, but they have excluded that the old age pension would be affected.
SHORTEN: Then how do you explain that illegitimate Commission of Audit saying ‘everything’s on the table’? Someone’s telling the truth; our problem is we can’t work out who it is. The Commission of Audit said under questioning from Labor Senators last week ‘everything’s on the table’. This week you’ve got the Abbott Government saying some pensioners are more equal than other pensioners. If you’re a person with a disability, you are not a rort-merchant. If you’re someone who’s got a permanent impairment which means that you’re stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, or you’ve lost a limb, or you’ve got serious mental health challenges, why is it that the Abbott Government thinks it’s open season on you, yet they want to propose multimillionaire parental leave schemes? I mean, this is a government whose priorities are all wrong.
VAN ONSELEN: But if you want to shift it across to disability support, we can have a discussion about that, but starting on the age pension, you can only take them at their word can’t you? If they turn around and backtrack on that, they’ll find themselves in as much trouble as your side was on the no carbon tax pledge.
SHORTEN: Well let’s be very clear – before the election they said they were on a unity ticket in education. Then Christopher Pyne sent the whole Abbott Government into a world of pain because of their backflips and changed minds. You have the Commission of Audit – I mean, everyone knows the Commission of Audit is just a fig leaf to justify the Abbott Government attacking certain parts of our community. So who’s telling the truth Peter? Is it Minister Andrews this week, who says the age pension won’t be touched? Or is it the Commission of Audit last week, who said ‘everything’s on the table’? They both can’t be right, and this Opposition led by me is not going to let them off the hook. We know the Commission of Audit is just a thinly veiled attempt to justify raising the GST and other dreadful decisions.
VAN ONSELEN: So bottom line from your perspective: when they say the age pension is out, it’s not in the mix, you just don’t believe it?
SHORTEN: No, I don’t.
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