ABC AM INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS UHLMANN
FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; The Abbott Government’s Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, returning to our earlier story and the Opposition says that the National Commission of Audit is a blueprint for the Coalition's broken promises.
Bill Shorten is the Opposition Leader. Bill Shorten I apologise to you for the earlier problem.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: No worries Chris. Happy to talk about this drastic blueprint which will fundamentally change Australia for the worst.
UHLMANN: But don't you accept that there is a need for structural change in the Budget?
SHORTEN: Labor is about making sure that we do return to surplus in the medium term, but there is no way that the Labor Party I lead is going to stand by and watch Tony Abbott's Liberals rip up Medicare, take us back 70 years on income taxation where they would get rid of uniform taxation.
And also, we will fight tooth and nail them putting up income tax. Imagine someone going to work today and they know that if Tony Abbott gets his way they're going to have to pay 2 per cent extra tax.
This Government did nothing in opposition, they huffed and they puffed for three years, said there's waste here, there's waste there, there's waste everywhere. So what do they do when they get into government? They propose flogging off the family silver, they propose going after Medicare and they, they are treating everyone as mugs because they say the only idea they've got is for Aussies to pay more tax.
UHLMANN: Well, let's just look at some of the big spending parts of the Budget. The aged pension is now $40 billion and growing at 6.2 per cent a year. Is that sustainable? Does that need to be changed?
SHORTEN: The best way you take pressure off the aged pension is you increase superannuation over time so people don't have to rely on the aged pension. But what did the Abbott Government do?
UHLMANN: You've had it for 20 years and that hasn't happened yet. It's continuing not to happen so obviously there has to be some change to the pension system.
SHORTEN: Superannuation is the best long term fix. What they are proposing is putting new taxes on low paid workers on their superannuation on one hand, and on the other hand they're not starting to float the idea that at some point in the future someone's family home, which is the main thing that they've saved financially across a lifetime of working, could well be chucked into an assets test.
UHLMANN: Let's look at Medicare benefits; $19 billion, growing at 7.1 per cent a year. Is that sustainable?
SHORTEN: Well, what is the joke about this Commission is Audit is you've had the Business Council of Australia, you've had the chairman, Tony Shepherd, he's not bad at digging tunnels but he's morphed into a sociologist and a doctor. He's now saying that Australians go to the doctor too much.
Well, if I want to take my kids to the doctor, I'm not going to check with Tony Shepherd or the big end of town about whether or not parents should or should not take their kids to the doctor. An extra $15 tax every time you take your kids to the doctor is repugnant. It's attacking Medicare.
Whenever you get Liberals into power, they go after universal healthcare and the Abbott Government will fundamentally stuff Medicare up forever –
UHLMANN: But the question for you is can you afford any program that grows at 7.1 per cent a year, that's well in advance of inflation?
SHORTEN: We're all for finding efficiencies in the healthcare system. What I don't accept though is that big business in coalition with the Abbott Government saying that whenever there's a problem in this country, it should be the sick or the poor who've got to foot the bill. That is not the way this country functions.
UHLMANN: Well, the Commission of Audit actually says that they should cut 22 industry assistance programs. Would you be in for that?
SHORTEN: Let's not get off Medicare so quickly though Chris. The Commission of Audit, you know, where do they get off saying that people shouldn't be going to the doctor as much as they should? They're not doctors. How arrogant of some vested interests in this community to say that the rest of us taking our mum or our child to the doctor is somehow causing the problems in this country. We spend less on national healthcare than America and –
UHLMANN: Well, you are saying that this is a product of big business, this report. Well they're saying that they should cut 22 industry assistance programs. Do you favour doing that?
SHORTEN: There is a bankruptcy of ideas. The real story of this report is that Tony Abbott, and I'll give him points for this, he is not a government of surprises. He's now formally a government of shocks.
They have now outlined, whether or not they do this Commission of Audit in this budget or in future budgets, we now know that this is Tony Abbott's battlelines. We know what Tony Abbott wants to do to this country and where he wants to take it. Whether or not he does it tomorrow, next week or next year, it's on. There is a very clear choice in Australia –
UHLMANN: Well, the books have closed on your government, the books have closed on your government and it shows for the six years that you were in power, you lifted spending by one percentage point of GDP compared against the big spending Howard government so you helped to make government in Australia unsustainable.
SHORTEN: Oh, Chris, I'm not falling for the propaganda of the Business Council –
UHLMANN: That's not propaganda, that's the back pages of the Budget.
SHORTEN: Well, let me give it to you straight. We have a AAA credit rating in Australia. Less than 10 countries in the world have got a AAA credit rating. This Government is enacting a brutal, right wing, caveman-like ideology with the Business Council of Australia. They're going after Medicare. They're going to make it hard for working class kids to ever go to university with student debt. They're even getting rid of the CSIRO and getting rid of that's independence. They're tackling the minimum wage. They want to dismantle uniform taxation.
This is a Government of broken promises, twisted priorities and now we see in this Commission of Audit they do not have a vision of this country. They want to take away fairness. And for all those years in opposition when Tony Abbott and his Treasurer Joe Hockey would give the big rambling lectures about the way it happened is, they haven't got a single idea in Australia except raise taxes on people and cut services.
UHLMANN: We'll have to leave it there, thank you.
SHORTEN: Thank you very much Chris.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053