Bill's Transcripts

ABC 7:30 Report Interview



ABC 7.30  



SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities; Budget in Reply Speech.  

Bill Shorten, welcome to 7.30.




FERGUSON: You've just said in your speech, you asked the Government where is the honesty? Here's your chance, show the way, will you support the deficit levy or not?


SHORTEN: We are determined, and we've already stated, that we are going to oppose the petrol tax, the attacks on pensioners and Medicare. Tonight I added to that list specifically the attacks on young people under 30, and also higher education. We will prevent there being a wall which prevents people from modest backgrounds being able to go to university. In terms of the -


FERGUSON: What's the answer to my question on the deficit levy, excuse me -


SHORTEN: That’s alright. In terms of the deficit levy we think it is a broken promise. We are critical of people who have to go to work being taxed more by Tony Abbott, when he said before the last election there'll be no new taxes. However, we haven't arrived at a final position on that deficit levy. Our priority is to defend low and middle-income earners who are feeling the brunt of Tony Abbott's blueprint to divide Australia and to create a permanent underclass.


FERGUSON: Alright let’s come to that in a moment. You've had two days to think about this, what's the delay? Why don't you have an answer yet?


SHORTEN: Because we've been looking at what we think are the more important priorities. Remember, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott have had the longest run-up of a new Government to prepare their Budget. They've had 75 days longer than even any Government in history to prepare their Budget, but what - first term Government, that is - so we will look at this question of the deficit levy –


FERGUSON: I’m just going to hold you there for a moment Mr Shorten, I appreciate that. Can you give us some understanding why? It's not a complicated policy, we know the amount, we've known about it for a couple of weeks now. Is there disagreement between you and your colleagues as to whether or not you should support it?


SHORTEN: No, not at all. The disagreement and division is within the Government ranks. Our view though is we're committed to a sustainable Budget. We think it's a cheap trick of the Government to sling a tax, increase the highest marginal rate of taxation –


FERGUSON: If it's a cheap trick, why would you support it, if it’s bad policy, or is politics more important to you than policy?


SHORTEN: Not at all. It's because there are even worse decisions, far worse decisions. $5 billion cut in higher education, we see a massive attack in terms of $80 billion over the next 10 years being taken away from the States for hospital and schools funding. We do believe in corrective action, but what we'll also do is we will prioritise fighting for pensioners, fighting for middle and low income families who are losing family payments, paying an increased cost of living and we're going to fight hard to keep Medicare universal.


FERGUSON: Let's talk about family benefits. Do you agree now that families earning $150,000 a year should not be receiving Government welfare?


SHORTEN: First of all, I don't believe that Tony Abbott should be breaking his promises, and no amount of people talking about anything else is going to divert me from the purpose of reminding Australians that Tony Abbott lied before the last election. In terms of where the means test or the threshold should sit, Labor's always been up for a sensible conversation over time of reducing thresholds and having a look at means test. But this idea for a family payment, that all of a sudden a single income family, the age of their child where they're eligible for payments was up to 16, and now it's going to go down to 6? Families need this money and you can't just pull the rug out from underneath them without consultation and discussion. I think Aussies are up for change and hard decisions, but you don't do it in a way which is just hit them over the back of the head.


FERGUSON: Does this mean in Government these are all measures that you would restore?


SHORTEN: First of all we've got to see what this Government gets away with and what they can or can't do. We are going to fight like you've never seen a Labor Opposition fight before to make sure that the pensioners don't get done over, to make sure that petrol tax which will hit every motorist, every family. I mean, I laugh when I think about how Tony Abbott used to talk about great big new taxes. This guy has just won the Olympic gold medal of great big new taxes and he has completely misled the Australian people –


FERGUSON: But you speak of –


SHORTEN: Medicare is a big issue. That's where we're going to fight the first fights.


FERGUSON: I appreciate that Mr Shorten, but you said ‘what Mr Abbott's going to get away with’ as if you have no control over that. Clive Palmer is already offering you a sort of unity ticket. If he joins with you, you can oppose Medicare co-payments, the fuel excise, pension changes. Have you spoken to Mr Palmer about that?


SHORTEN: We haven't had extended discussions and we haven't had negotiations yet about any of these matters. We're watching what the minority party Senators say and do with great interest -


FERGUSON: Why not pick up the phone to Mr Palmer? It's that simple, isn't it?


SHORTEN: Well we speak to him, but what I'd also say to you and I’d say to all your viewers is that Labor tonight, through my Budget Reply, has outlined what we believe. We do believe that we have to have a sustainable Budget over the medium term, but what we also believe is that Medicare and attacking universal health care, free and affordable, is a line which we won't let the Abbott Government cross. We'll summon up all the energy we can possess to stop that. The other thing is, this pension age, increasing it to 70 or cutting indexation rates in the future, this Government's out of control. They want to create two Australia’s and we will fight them.


FERGUSON: You have talked this evening about, in your speech about creating the, the potential for creating an underclass, for a meaner Australia. There is a very quick way to stop a lot of this discussion and that's with a change to the GST, to stop a lot of the pain that you say is going to be inflicted on ordinary Australians. Why not now support a raising of the base of the GST or a raising of the GST?


SHORTEN: Sarah, there's an even quicker way to stop the creation of an underclass. Get rid of the Abbott Government. Vote them out. In terms of the GST, at least John Howard had the courage, the intestinal fortitude to proselytise, to argue his case for the GST. We know that the Abbott Government’s created a Trojan Horse, they're using the States as a cat's paw by advancing unconscionable cuts to hospitals and to schools forcing the States to lead the case for a heavier and broader GST. There are better ways to run this nation than to string the bottom earner, the people at the bottom, the middle class. This Government hasn't tried to engage with Australians. It got into power by deceit. It argued no changes to pension, no changes to health, no changes to schools, no changes to taxes. They've broken every promise. This is the character of the Government.


FERGUSON: And yet when you were in government you made some beginnings to change some of these welfare arrangements yourselves. You were heavily criticised for taking money away from single mothers. Isn't this Government just continuing what you started yourselves?


SHORTEN: There's a world of difference. Labor has always been up for the discussion about how we can decrease outlays and how we can improve revenues. I mean, be it from the Hawke-Keating era with the changes they made with lowering marginal rates of tax through to a better deal on Medicare, through to the Gillard and Rudd eras where we saved, we decreased the prevalence of family payments, but we never did it through this axe handle to the back of the head of ordinary families and we never did it by - we didn't ask Tony Abbott to campaign in the last election, make himself the saint of never breaking promises. Boy oh boy, his halo’s fallen fast.


FERGUSON: Well let's have a look. The total of the changes you're that proposing tonight by our calculations at this stage are around $10 billion worth of cuts. You accept and your senior colleagues accept this is a Budget that needs long-term fixes. What are you going to do instead to make up that $10 billion?


SHORTEN: You're right, we do accept that Budgets always require constant work, but they’ve got to be  –


FERGUSON: Not always require constant work, this Budget in particular, as Chris Bowen has acknowledged, does need a serious effort from both sides of government to arrest the future deficits?


SHORTEN: You're right, it always has to be worked on, but I just need to, perhaps not in the words you said, but perhaps some of the tone of the debate, Labor didn't leave this country in a Budget emergency as this Government would use to justify their terrible cuts to basic services in this community. We had a Triple-A credit rating. Only eight countries in the world have a Triple-A credit rating from the international credit rating agencies. Where is the Budget which warrants this Government's ugly blueprint for the future of Australia?


FERGUSON: Mr Shorten, just to go back to that question, $10 billion worth of cuts that you have taken out of the Government's attempts to reform the Budget, what are you going to do instead?


SHORTEN: Here's a couple. I wouldn't have given $9 billion to the Reserve Bank, we wouldn't have a $22 billion paid parental leave scheme. This is a Government with the wrong priorities. Since they've come into power they've doubled the deficit, then heroically the Treasurer's got up and announced well I’ve halved it. He doubled it and then he halved it, that's not hard work.


FERGUSON: So you don't actually have an answer to the question on the other changes, those $10 billion that you're opposing here?


SHORTEN: Sarah, there's not an election on Saturday. We will work on our policies, but I promise you and everyone watching one thing, when we work on how to restrain health care costs it won't be by barring sick people or discouraging them from going to the doctor. When we work out how to grow jobs it won't be by setting employee against employer. We'll work out how we reduce taxes for small business, how we encourage start-ups, it will put innovation in the middle of policies. We'll have infrastructure which improves productivity, we'll support public transport not just roads. There are a range of measures and we will work on them over time and we will do so in a way which brings people with us, rather than lies to people before an election and then ambushes them afterwards with unbelievably tough cuts and cruelty.


FERGUSON: Alright Mr Shorten, that's all we've got time for, thank you very much indeed.

SHORTEN: Good evening Sarah.