Bill's Transcripts



SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s unfair Budget for millionaires and multinationals.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Mr Shorten, thanks for your time. Let's start, first of all, with the NDIS. You along with Jenny Macklin have been one of the strongest advocates for many years for this disability insurance scheme, since you were a junior minister in the Gillard Government and beyond that.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Don't be modest Kieran. You always gave me a fair airing when I said that we needed to do a better deal for people with disabilities.

GILBERT: So in that sense, do you think that – there must be something in you that's saying you want to back this Medicare levy, to give people certainty? Because you speak to carers, people with disabilities, they want certainty, don't they, about the future of the NDIS?

SHORTEN: I don't accept that there's not certainty. Now does the scheme need to make sure that it's rolled out properly? Yes. Do the workforce issues need to be resolved? So there's plenty of issues to work through, but one thing is for sure, I don't automatically accept that you have to continually raise taxes on people. 

I mean, we'll weigh up what we do about the Medicare levy increase, and we're just working through that. But I don't accept that the NDIS or the disability insurance scheme isn't funded. And I know that if the Government chose not to ahead with its tax cut for millionaires, if it chose not to go ahead with its tax cut for large corporations, there's tens of billions of dollars available, not only for the NDIS, but to make sure that we don't cut school funding, that uni kids don't have pay increased fees, and to make sure that we have a proper training in apprenticeships systems in this country. 

GILBERT: But if you had the one per cent, as it would be, combined with the Gillard Government's increase of the levy in 2013, another half per cent increase to the levy, that's a clean funding mechanism for the NDIS, and that would give it certainty, funding certainty for the future. I think that would be welcomed by a lot of carers and people with disabilities. 

SHORTEN: The Government's Budget – we are all up for making sure that the lives of people with disability are certain, that's why Labor, along with thousands of parents, drove the scheme, as you generously said at the start. But the assumption that there is only one way to fund a scheme, I don't buy. Just for the record, this Government is raising $250 billion plus in income taxes from Australians each year. Why on earth is Mr Turnbull stubbornly persisting with giving a corporate tax cut to the largest companies in Australia. Do you know on July 1 –

GILBERT: Except the big banks? They've copped a levy. 

SHORTEN: Well no, this is what is even odd about their levy. We're not going stand in the way of the levy. Mr Turnbull says, oh he's tough on banks, they're going to have a levy, well if he's really tough on banks he'd have a royal commission. But leave that point aside, on one hand he's saying the banks should pay more, but then he's proposing legislating that they get a tax cut. It doesn't really sound like tough on banks attitude, does it?

GILBERT: But I think if you ask the banks they'd probably want a Royal Commission over this bank levy, it's five per cent of their profits.

SHORTEN: The banks don't want a Royal Commission.

GILBERT: They don't want a levy either. 

SHORTEN: Well no, but the point is that they know with the levy they're also getting a tax cut from old mate Malcolm Turnbull, a former investment banker. So let's be clear on the banks, we won't stand in the way, absolutely. We want to make sure, though, that Mr Turnbull takes more effort to protect customers and deposit holders, because I don't think that he's given that enough thought. I think they've sort of looked at the cosmetic issues. They ran out, got checked with Mark Textor, what looks tough and plausible. But the problem is he's giving them a bank tax levy on one hand, but then he's going to give them a tax cut on the other hand. Doesn't make sense does it? Nothing less than a Royal Commission will satisfy Labor. 

But in terms of your original issue, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, why does Mr Turnbull, on 1 July, want to reduce the taxes of millionaires in Australia, but say, I therefore have to hike the taxes of every other Australian? Again, this is a fellow who when you scratch the surface, backs the big end of town, large corporations, he's backing the penalty rates cuts, he's backing tax cuts for millionaires. This is not a Labor-lite Budget, this is Liberal Budget.

GILBERT: But the Medicare levy was put in place, but the increase in it, as we touched on earlier, by the Gillard Government, of which you were a Minister. So if that was fair then, why wouldn't it be fair now, and if it's not, would you then argue that the deficit levy be maintained for the higher income earners?

SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull's discovered this word, 'fair'. You can just see in the focus groups, the Liberals have just said, we better describe things as fair – they plaster it up everywhere, fair, fair, fair.  They think the constant repetition of the mantra 'fair' makes things fair. No it doesn't. Fair would have been to scrap the freezes on the rebates that patients get in the Medicare system last night, but they haven't done that. Fair would be not to cut the funding to schools by $22 billion dollars. Fair would be to do something fair dinkum and reform negative gearing, the unfair tax concessions which give property investors and speculators an unfair head start over first home buyers. Fair would be not to give, when there is still a budget deficit, fair would have been not to give a two per cent tax reduction. 

GILBERT: You think it should be permanent? The deficit levy?  

SHORTEN: Well there is still a deficit, isn't there? 

GILBERT: Yeah. So you'd rather that than the Medicare levy?  

SHORTEN: We will weigh that that and you know, Budget Reply night, 7:30 on Thursday. 

GILBERT: I'll be watching. Yeah, indeed. Let's looks at a few of the other issues. The welfare changes, drug testing of individuals going onto welfare. Do you support that, because it's tough love, obviously? It's one of the things hampering a lot of people getting back into the workforce, you'd imagine, substance abuse. This might assist in trying to manage that? 

SHORTEN: Well, let's have a look at the detail. Labor believes in mutual obligation but with this Government, when have they ever done anything right the first time? It couldn't even get the census right, could they? So when they rush out and declare some brand new crackdown on the unemployed, I have a couple of reactions. This is their 9th crackdown. You know, this is crackdown on the unemployed 9.0. So they never get anything right the first time. Secondly, we do believe in mutual obligation, but I want to make sure this is not more expensive than it is. And there is probably something else I actually really think here – they're tough on the vulnerable, they're tough on the unemployed. they have never seen a welfare recipient who they don't want to demonise. So, we're not just going to join in the baiting of the unemployed. I want to see them have a proper jobs plan. I want to see them have a proper skills and training plan. These are the things that matter too, so you know, let's just wait and see – 

GILBERT: So you're not ruling it out but at this stage sceptical?  

SHORTEN: I am certainly not going to get over excited about a measure which you and I know, sounds like something they have dreamed up at Liberal Party headquarters. Yes to mutual obligation, but just to be demonising one group of the population, let's just wait and see. It would be funny if they ever introduced drug and alcohol testing for Cabinet ministers, wouldn't it? 

GILBERT: What about the issue of housing affordability? We've seen the investments – well, basically the savings of first home buyers at concessional treatment through superannuation funds. Is that something Labor would be open to? Because it is over and above the superannuation guarantee?  

SHORTEN: No, let's be clear here. Like so much in, education, even though they're still cutting, in healthcare, you know, their tardy fixing up of Medicare. First home buyers, they know it is an issue, they know what they ought to do which is fix up negative gearing. But Malcolm Turnbull can't do it because his party won't let him and his heart is not in it anyway. 

This issue of where they say, look at what we are doing on housing affordability,  where they say that people, first home buyers can access their voluntary contribution to their superannuation – most young people don't contribute a lot themselves above and beyond the compulsory super. 

GILBERT: But if this was about house deposit, they might do it? Don't you think? Because people aren't putting in super because they're trying to save for a house. 

SHORTEN: Let's be clear. Most people don't have big amounts in their super. Secondly, it's a raid on superannuation. Why do they go the long way when there is a short way to housing affordability? Why do they want to rob the future and retirement incomes of people, muck around with superannuation? I just wish they would take their hands off the super scheme. Instead, what they should do is reform negative gearing and making sure the SMSFs, self-managed super funds, can't borrow against the money. 

Now, on the checks and curves on foreign buyers, we are not only interested in to agree with the Government, we have been leading that debate with increased fees on foreign buyers. Vacant property tax, which Mr Morrison said last night, where have I heard that? That's what Chris Bowen and I said a month ago. 

GILBERT: A couple of quick questions just to wrap up. On the super, is it a raid when it is over and above the super guarantee? Because it is additional funds, it is not on the superannuation fund itself. 

SHORTEN: Why is it that Mr Morrison wants to get his sticky hands on the superannuation and see it go off to purposes other than superannuation? Did you know that if you want to help young people’s income? Don't charge them more to go to university, don't cut their penalty rates and reform negative gearing. 

GILBERT: The Medicare guarantee, last question, goes to the expectation that this could well, neutralise Labor from running another 'Mediscare' campaign. They have guaranteed it, legislation is going to be introduced. 

SHORTEN: If it was a scare campaign, why are they trying to say they're going to fix their mistakes? 

GILBERT: It worked. 

SHORTEN: No, it worked because it's true. The best Medicare guarantee you can get is a Labor Government. The fact of the matter is that what they've frozen is the rebate which goes to patients. Now, they are gradually unwinding some of the freezes over the next three years. If you are fair dinkum about Medicare, you fix the freezes now and you don't give a corporate tax handout to large companies and you don't give millionaires a tax cut. There is a very simple way to protect and safeguard Medicare - vote Labor. 

GILBERT: Budget Reply Thursday night, we'll be on it. Appreciate your time, busy day today Mr Shorten. Thanks for that. 

SHORTEN: Thank you.


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