Bill's Transcripts

ABC News Breakfast



FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014


SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; GP Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promises; The Abbott Government’s Twisted Priorities.


VIRGINA TRIOLI: Labor says the audit is just a blueprint for the Coalition’s broken promises. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten joins us now in the News Breakfast studio. Bill Shorten, good morning.




TRIOLI: Does Government spending need to be reduced and if it does, how?


SHORTEN: This Commission of Audit is a blueprint for the Government's broken promises. Labor gets that we need to always try and improve our fiscal position, but we should do it over the medium term. We are not buying this argument that there's some Budget emergency. After all, Australia's one of the few countries, less than 10 in the world, who have a triple A credit rating. There is not an emergency which would justify taking the axe to Medicare and some of the other drastic claiming solutions that this Government is claiming needs to be done.


TRIOLI: No, but it's not new news to say that spending is growing at an unsustainable rate and will blow out the Budget in 10, 15, 20 years’ time. So on that basis I just ask you again, do you believe spending just as a philosophical point needs to be reduced, and if it does, how do you do it?


SHORTEN: Labor has had a policy, other than in the year of the Global Financial Crisis, of keeping a low rate of increase of spending. But this Government is justifying a radical change to the middle class and to the working people of Australia using a fake Budget emergency. There is no case being made by the Business Council of Australia or by the Abbott Liberal Government to justify fundamentally wiping out Medicare and the way it works now, being accessible to all.


TRIOLI: Now but I’ve got to jump in there, you said Labor in Government, except for that year of the Global Financial Crisis, had a record of low spending but you did increase spending on very big-ticket items such as Gonski and the NDIS and it's been found that actually the funding methodologies for that are not sustainable. They've not been fully funded into the future, so you do have to take responsibility for that.


SHORTEN: Well let's talk about disability reform, for example –


TRIOLI: No, let's just  talk about the responsible for spending, your responsibility for not actually funding your promises and for not overspending and for having some responsibility for having Australia in this situation?


SHORTEN: First of all, we’re not the Government. The people have responsibility –


TRIOLI: You were for quite some time.


SHORTEN: That's right, and during that time the Abbott Opposition would get up and say ‘there's waste here, what there's waste everywhere.’ So what do they do after all those years in Opposition when they've been working on all of those so-called matters of waste? They come up with new income taxes for people. It is lazy. It is the refuge of a scoundrel to propose that the only way you fix Australia's problems is by asking the people who go to work every day to pay more income tax. And this Government has these false arguments with fake straw men. For instance, disability, which you were asking me about before, this Government would like to pretend that somehow, funding disability and increasing the funding of disability, if you slow that down then there’s a whole lot of money saved. People in wheelchairs are still in wheelchairs in the years in which the Abbott Government will slow down funding. Carers of their adult children with severe disabilities are still going to have to look after these kids. There's no cheap option when it comes to disability, but what Labor doesn't believe is that you've got to create a false a Budget emergency. If there was a real Budget emergency, why do we still have a triple A credit rating? If there was a real Budget emergency, why is the Government pushing on with a $22 billion paid parental leave scheme which is ridiculous?


PAUL KENNEDY: Which of the items yesterday mentioned in the Commission of Audit were you surprised that Government didn't stand up straight away and say ‘we reject that’?


SHORTEN: Medicare and uniform income taxation. These are two big issues. Medicare - the idea that you've got these people from the Business Council of Australia, Tony Shepherd, the chairman of the report, he's not bad at running a tunnelling company but he became your saying local GP yesterday. He was taking saying how often people are taking their kids to the doctor and it's too much. The sheer cheek of some vested saying that they know everything about every household, therefore people are going to the doctor too much, therefore they justify getting rid of universally accessible Medicare. Our health bill in Australia from Government is far less than what they spend in America. Medicare is not a bad system but you've got the Liberals who want to put a dagger into the heart of Medicare.


KENNEDY: Do you understand some people listen to Labor now and think the comparisons with overseas, they don't want to hear it, and Labor had its go and should stand back and see what actually is in this Budget and what comes out?


SHORTEN: First of all, the Abbott Government when they were in Opposition made promises to the electorate. So many times it was positively nauseating, they said, ‘we won't increase taxes. We won't touch pensions.’ I am not going to let them off the hook. I know at breakfast time on a Friday morning people don’t want to hear about argument and conflict but what we've seen yesterday is a blueprint for Tony Abbott's vision for Australia. Whether or not he does it all in this Budget remains to be seen but he has outlined he wants to take the axe to kids going to uni, to people going able to go to the doctor, he's proposing to cut the minimum wage. This is crazy sterile nonsense but the big one is increasing income taxes.


I spoke to people this morning at the school bus stop where I was taking my little bloke to school, these are people who are earn just north of $100,000, they are saying, ‘why on earth are we going to pay more income tax?’ They don't buy the argument of the Abbott Government that somehow working people have got to pay because the Abbott Government can't run an economy.


KENNEDY: Just a quick on broken promises, Labor famously went back on its word on a carbon tax explained it in the reality that the times had changed. Is that not what the Government is going to do in the next couple of weeks?


SHORTEN: I'm sure every Australian remembers Tony Abbott time and time again said that a broken promise was a broken promise and Governments should be held to account. I am not going to let Tony Abbott off the hook. He's wrecking Australia with this blueprint that he’s got and his broken promises, he should have been straight with the Australian people. He talks about a Budget deficit. Tony Abbott - people were a little suspicious of him before the last election, they didn't trust him. Let me tell you, Australians are now a lot suspicious of him and no one can trust what he says again in the next two years.


TRIOLI: There are fundamental problems with the Budget and with continuing to fund a great deal of promises in this country. No one seems to have an argument with that. With an aging population, rising health costs and declining revenue base, just tell us very simply if you can, what would you do to fix those problems if this way is not the way?


SHORTEN: When it comes to aging Australia, that is an opportunity not a threat. The way which I would help take pressure off the age pension is lift superannuation over time so that people don't have to rely on the taxpayer for a dignified retirement. When it comes to Medicare, I don't believe that the way that you fix the health care system is by discouraging sick people from going to the doctor. Fundamentally Labor believes in growth and fairness so what we will do in the medium term is put in place policies which encourage jobs growth, because if someone can find a job, get a decent education then they'll get ahead of the game.


TRIOLI: So no cuts to spending at all? If there are people out there who believe that Labor's always overspent, what you're saying this morning is that sort of spending regime would return should Labor ever be in power again.


SHORTEN: I don't accept that there had been the massive problems which the implication of your question to justify –


TRIOLI: You're not suggesting any spending cuts either. You’re not saying -


SHORTEN: We'll have a look at the Budget and see what they do propose, but the test we will apply to whatever ideas they come up with - and we won't just simply say no to everything, but we'll apply this test - did the Abbott Government tell people before the election? Is it fair and does it make financial sense? What we're not going to do is sell out Medicare, we're not going to sell out Australia Post, we're not going to sell out kids going to uni and not going to support a brand new income tax, a great big new to income tax, on everyone who goes to work, discouraging them working harder.


TRIOLI: That’s what you’re not going to do, the question remains what would you do? Of course you had your chance and this must be what many viewers are running around in their minds this morning. You had your go, you had your chance to pull in spending or fully cost and fully fund programs. You had your chance to improve the revenue base when your Government received the Henry Review. Now are you starting to regret that the majority of those reforms were not put in place. Did Kevin Rudd make a mistake there?


SHORTEN: Virginia, you say you had our chance. Let me tell you, during the Global Financial Crisis, when most developed countries went into recession, we did not. We helped create jobs when other countries were shedding jobs. We have a triple A credit rating. You don't get that by being bad economic managers and the real point now is Tony Abbott went to the last election, he made himself the Mother Theresa of politicians. He said ‘I will keep my promises.’ Now we see him saying embarrassingly on radio, ‘if you income people's personal income tax for four years, that's not really a tax increase.’ Wrong. A tax increase is a tax increase, and a broken promise is a broken promise. Mr Abbott said one thing in Opposition, he says another thing in Government. And he is going after Medicare, going after increasing people's taxes and if he wants a fight, we'll give it to him.


TRIOLI: Changing topics briefly before we let you go Bill Shorten, this month we're expecting to hear from the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and also the former Environment Minister Peter Garrett in the pink batts Royal Commission. What do you want to hear them say? Do you want an explanation and responsibility taken for a policy that was apparently written on the back of a napkin?


SHORTEN: I'm sure they will tell the truth. We've had eight inquiries into pink batts, the most dreadful thing about the Home Insulation problems is that young men died. What we want to see out of the Royal Commission is any further ideas making sure that this can never happen again.


TRIOLI: But we've had evidence led already that indicated just how people were browbeaten, shouted down when they raised their problems. Troy Delbridge in particular has given the most swingeing testimony, saying that he was bullied when he raised concerns about this and being told about this program designed on the back of a napkin. Were you hearing such things when you were in office as well, did this filter through to you and did have concerns at the time?


SHORTEN: No, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, no, I wasn't hearing that.


TRIOLI: Do you want responsibility taken by your Government? Is that where it’s going to end up, do you want to hear some sort of an apology from people like Kevin Rudd in the end when we get to the end of this sorry this business?


SHORTEN: I want to make sure this can never happen again. I've met most of the families who lost loved ones. They should never have been in that situation. They're very strong people put into circumstances that none of us, especially any of us who have kids, would want to be. I want to make sure that the Royal Commission's capable of giving us the lessons to make sure it can never happen again.


TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, good to talk to you. Thank you.


SHORTEN: Lovely to talk to you both today.