Bill's Transcripts

ABC AM with Chris Uhlmann






SUBJECT/S: Budget.



CHRIS UHLMANN: Labor says this budget hurts the poor and middle income earners and it's littered with broken promises. Bill Shorten is the Opposition Leader. I spoke with him earlier this morning. Bill Shorten, if you were writing today's newspaper headline for this budget, what would it be?

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITON: Bad news budget, full of broken promises and the wrong priorities for Australian families.

UHLMANN: Why is it a wrong priority for Australian families to try and do something about a budget which was in bad need of repair?

SHORTEN: This whole budget is based on the big lie of the budget emergency, of a financial crisis. Australia has a Triple A credit rating -

UHLMANN: We're heading for debt of $600 billion. Was that sustainable, in your view?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, there is no budget emergency. Secondly, it is the Abbott Government has doubled the deficit since they got into power. That is not a reason not to make sensible decisions over the medium term to ensure that the trajectory of the budget is towards making sure that revenues and outlays line up, but there has been no case made to the Australian people to justify attacking Medicare, increasing the cost of living and breaking promises and increasing taxes.

UHLMANN: Do you agree that you left costs for the Commonwealth over the horizon of the budget which were unsustainable in education and in health?

SHORTEN: I do not agree that the case has been made out by the Abbott Government to justify breaking their promises, to gut $80 billion-plus out of hospitals and schools, to decrease pensions, to attack Medicare and not make it universal and accessible any more. There is no case being made for a cost of living tax, a petrol tax on all Australian motorists.

UHLMANN: And you added $15 billion to the education bill and most of that, when you did the budgeting for that in the Government that you were part of, was put over the horizon of the forward estimates, was parked in a place where people couldn't see those costs.

SHORTEN: I recognise that tough decisions have to be made. What I don't accept is that we should be getting our kids at schools, the sick with Medicare, motorists on the roads, paying the price because the Hockey-Abbott Government can't make structural changes in the medium term and instead have gone to inflict pain on millions of Australian families.

UHLMANN: So will you oppose the rise in the fuel excise?

SHORTEN: Putting a new cost of living tax, a new petrol tax on all motorists when families are battling to make ends meet is a bad idea, so yes, we will.

UHLMANN: And you will oppose it in the Senate when it comes up, obviously?

SHORTEN: Yes. This is a massive broken promise and it slugs ordinary people. There are people this morning going to work trying to pay the bills. There will be mums and dads dropping their kids at school. Why should they pay extra petrol taxes because the Abbott Government has got a confected budget crisis and the only solution which the Abbott Government is proposing is taking the axe to the cost of living pressures, cost of living opportunities that ordinary people have?

UHLMANN: What about the argument that this was a price that should have been in all along?

SHORTEN: Well, we've got this remarkable set of circumstances where the Abbott Government is saying they're fixing up the Howard government's mistakes. For me, the test I apply is: how does this affect real people in the real world? It's okay for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, who never pay for their own petrol, to say that this is just a minor price we all have to pay for the privilege of being Australians, but there is no case made to put pressure on family budgets.

UHLMANN: Will you be opposing the debt levy?

SHORTEN: With the debt levy it is clearly a broken promise. It's a stunt by the Abbott Government to say that they are trying to do things which affect everyone, not just medium and low income families. Having said that, our view is that our first priority is to defend Medicare, it's to defend middle and low income earners from the bad decisions of the broken promises of the Abbott Government.

UHLMANN: Sure. Will you be opposing the debt levy?

SHORTEN: We're not going to rule in, rule out everything line by line at this point. The budget came down last night.

UHLMANN: So that's one that you might wave through.

SHORTEN: Well, we haven't made a final proposition on that. But I am very clear: it is a broken promise, it is certainly increasing taxes, which Tony Abbott said before the last election wouldn't happen. Never has a Prime Minister in Australian history staked so much of his reputation on not breaking promises. And never has a Prime Minister in Australian history broken so many promises so quickly after an election. This is a deceitful budget.

UHLMANN: And you'll oppose the Medicare co-payments?

SHORTEN: The idea that we will make it harder for people to go and see the doctor, put a new tax on them, is repugnant. There's no question that we should always be trying to make our health system more efficient, but you don't make your health system more efficient and fair by stopping sick people from going to the doctor. Over the weekend, reports have emerged that 39 per cent of Australians are less likely to go to the doctor because of a GP tax. How on earth does that help sick people by discouraging them from going to the doctor?

UHLMANN: What about the indexation of the pension being changed? Will you oppose that?

SHORTEN: Well, you could have guessed I suppose that the Abbott Government, if given a choice about picking the lowest form of indexation for all pensioners in Australia, would actually pick that low form of indexation.

UHLMANN: So you will oppose it?

SHORTEN: We think it is a bad idea. We think in particular though telling people that they've all got to work to 70 goes against the grain of where this country's going.

UHLMANN: So if you were in government, what would you do to try and repair this budget? Because it appears that you are saying that everything is affordable as it is now.

SHORTEN: What we've said all along is that there is no budget emergency. On the other hand -

UHLMANN: But you do agree that there needs to be structural change?

SHORTEN: Well to answer your question I - whenever you ask me about the budget I'm going to take on the big lie of the Abbott Government saying there's a giant budget emergency -

UHLMANN: Sure, and if you are opposing this program then you must have one of your own.

SHORTEN: Before the next election we will produce our policies. But before the last election, Tony Abbott misled the Australian people. We can't be any clearer than that.  Do people seriously think that Tony Abbott would have got all the votes that he got if he had told people he was going to hurt families, go to increased cost of living, go to increased taxes, going to go after the pension, going to gut Medicare?

UHLMANN: Does there need to be a sensible conversation now about broadening the base or lifting the rate of the GST given the states don't have the money that they need to deliver services?

SHORTEN: First of all, with the Abbott Government in this budget they haven't made the case to inflict the bad news on millions of ordinary Australian families and individuals. In terms of how they fund the states, if I was a state premier waking up this morning I'd feel I'd been done over by Tony Abbott, because what he's said in the budget, Tony Abbott has said, is that we will be taking - the Commonwealth Government that he leads - will take $80 billion-plus out of hospitals and schools to the states. They're going to take that money away. The Abbott Government I believe has an agenda to try and force an increase in the GST upon the states by denuding the states and indeed Australians.

UHLMANN: And again, they're taking money away that you had budgeted for which you didn't have and could never have funded.

SHORTEN: That isn't correct. And the truth of the matter is that at the last election Tony Abbott said there will be no cuts to the ABC, there would be no cuts, there would be no tax increases, there would be no changes to pensions, there would be no cuts to health and education. Every statement was a lie.

UHLMANN: So you clearly see this as a huge test for the Prime Minister. It's a huge test for you as well, isn't it? Because we've seen in the polls that the Coalition is going down, but you're not going up.

SHORTEN: Well, it's not about the polls. It's about how ordinary families are affected. I'm more worried about the numbers which families have to do to pay their budgets. On day 12, when you get paid day one for your fortnightly pay, by day 12 you've got families who've already made cuts now having to discover that they've got the Abbott Government cutting further. If you're a family on just over $100,000, a single income family, you stand to lose thousands of dollars. You've got to pay more for your petrol. If your children are sick and need to go to the doctor you're going to pay more for that. The role of the Abbott Government's budget should not be to put pressure on the family budget in every house in Australia.

UHLMANN: But you rolled back family benefits in your budgets.

SHORTEN: We always look at how you make structural changes.

UHLMANN: And that's what this Government is doing.

SHORTEN: Oh no, this Government has broken its promises. If you're a family on about $94,000 a year and you've got two children, five and 12, you're going to be down a couple of thousand dollars courtesy of this Government.

UHLMANN: So you think indexation should stay at $150,000 for some of these benefits that have been cut to $100,000; surely that's a reasonable number?

SHORTEN: What Labor believes is that families who are already battling to make ends meet shouldn't be the number one target, the number one priority, of a mean Abbott Government budget.

UHLMANN: Bill Shorten, we'll have to leave it there, thank you.

SHORTEN: Thank you very much.