Bill's Transcripts

3AW with Tom Elliott




FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; The Abbott Government’s Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.


TOM ELLIOTT: The Opposition Leader of the Labor Party Bill Shorten joins us now. Mr Shorten, good afternoon.




ELLIOTT: Thank you very much for joining us, I know you are a busy man at the moment, well you’re always a busy man. The deficit levy -  is it a broken promise?


SHORTEN: Yes. See, Mr Abbott has tried to say that introducing a tax and increasing all of the income tax that people pay only for four years doesn’t make it a ‘real’ tax increase. My definition of a tax increase isn’t the number of years it’s in, my definition of a tax increase is this: if you have less money at the end of a fortnight after this levy, deficit tax, whatever, has been introduced, less money than you had before it was introduced, it’s a tax increase.


ELLIOTT: Between 2010 and 2013 you watched the Labor party be ripped into, not just by the now-Government then-Opposition, but by other people over Julia Gillard's breached promise. I would have thought as an outsider looking in that politicians of either persuasion would have learnt something from this.


SHORTEN: Well that’s true. The current Government, when they were in Opposition, huffed and puffed their way across three years of press conferences, and they said that because of what Julia Gillard said before an election and after an election about how to put a price on carbon pollution, the whole Government was deceitful and wrong. Well, Tony Abbott said before the election, and it's not me making it up, we didn’t ask him to say it, he said ‘no changes to pensions, no increases to taxes.’ They are going to do both of those things.


ELLIOTT: Let's just say there's an election sooner rather than later and suddenly you were elected Prime Minister of Australia, would you get rid of this deficit levy assuming it actually gets through in the first place?




ELLIOTT: You would?


SHORTEN: Well we’re not going to - increasing income taxes is not the way we encourage people to work hard. Australians, whilst we’re by no means the most profitable people on the planet, you know - I get that people especially when you earn $80,000 to $100,000 a year, they’re trying to balance their budget. They live in the real world, and I understand that for a lot of families, doesn’t matter if they’re on a pension or they’re going to work, by about day 12 if they get paid every 14 days, they’re really, really counting their money. There will be families this weekend who will be weighing up what things they can do with their kids, and what they can’t afford to do. There will be people today going through the bills saying ‘well, we’ve got to pay that bill, we just can’t put it off, the notice is red.’ But there’s other which they’ll try and put off. So when there are people living in that real world, it is not the job of the Government to put additional cost of living pressure on people.


ELLIOTT: Joe Hockey has announced today, and this is sort of a budget preview, that we wants to lift the pension age to 70 by 2035. So essentially anyone born after 1965, which his definitely me and I think possibly you -


SHORTEN: It is me, yes.


ELLIOTT: We won’t be allowed to retired, or at least get the pension until we’re 70. What do you reckon of that idea?


SHORTEN: Well, I think the challenge with encouraging people to work harder is you can just simply muck around with the retirement age, but that doesn’t really describe how everyone works. Tom, you know, you’re a reasonably fit person, and I’ve got a job which isn’t laying bricks, which isn’t cleaning hotels. But for people who do tough physical work, their bodies wear out. Secondly, we know that for people in their 50s and 60s, if they lose their jobs, the employment market -  you are likely to be twice as long unemployed than a younger person. And also, older people when they retrain face discrimination. So I think if Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott want people to work longer, it shouldn’t be about ‘fixing the budget’ or some short-term political issue, what you’ve got to do is make it easier for people to work longer, not compel people to work longer.


ELLIOTT: But let’s just remember that you’re, what, Wayne Swan, the former Treasurer, did lift the pension age from 65 to 67. So there is a precedent here.


SHORTEN: Yeah. Listen, when the old age pension was introduced, at the age of 65 by Bismarck in Germany – or, sorry, in about 1912 in Australia, we copied Bismarck in Germany – you know, the old age pension was set around 65 and the average life expectancy was 65. Now I know that we’re living longer. But that is why if you want to encourage people to work longer and have secure retirements, I think the trick is to give people adult education. The trick is to make sure people aren’t doing the same physically demanding work in their 60s. The trick is to tackle the real discrimination against older people trying to find work. And instead of using the stick, I think you’ve got to recognise that all of us come in different shapes and sizes. Some people have got to keep working because they haven’t got enough money to retire. But what we shouldn’t be doing is scaring people about the age pension, and as for the fact that they haven’t ruled out, days and days after it got floated as an idea, using the family home to be part of the means test to even accessing the part pensions, this Government – they’re showing their true colours. Their values are very clear here, and they’re not on the side, in my opinion, of working class or middle class people.


ELLIOTT: Well, we’ll have to wait and see on budget night. I know you’ve got to go, Mr Shorten, but as I said before, the Commission of Audit headed up by Tony Shepherd, the former head of the Business Council of Australia, is looking at both health and education and saying that we’ve got to have more of a user-pay system. Do you think that the sorts of reforms about health and education, do you think they’re being turned back, where we go back to user pays?


SHORTEN: I actually do. I get that you’ve got to make sure you can balance budgets in the medium term, but what I don’t accept is the Liberal Government Business Council of Australia philosophy that if we make ourselves more like America in terms of health care, in terms of access to education, that that’s the path to Australia’s success. I don’t think it is right for Tony Shepherd, he represents big business, and he’s been a successful businessman running companies that dig tunnels. I don’t think it’s right of him to tell people in the suburbs of Mill Park or Mooroolbark that they’re going to the doctor too often. You know, he’s not a doctor himself. The business leaders are welcome to their views. But I think that if we want to make Australia advance, it’s not by putting pressure on the millions of people who go to work every day, pay their taxes, pay their debts, pay their mortgages, educate their kids.


ELLIOTT: Bill Shorten, I know you’ve got to go and I appreciate your time this afternoon, thanks very much.


SHORTEN: Thanks very much Tom, have a nice day.