Bill's Transcripts

ABC News Breakfast - Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promise






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promise.


MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Leader of the Opposition joins us in the Breakfast studio now. Mr Shorten, good morning to you.




ROWLAND: This is just simply a government listening to what voters have been saying. There is nothing wrong with that, is there?


SHORTEN: No, this is simply a government who is still introducing a GP tax through the backdoor. They are making doctors collect the tax for Tony Abbott. It is still a broken promise and I think every Australian knows that this is the thin edge of the wedge. Tony Abbott doesn't think his policies are wrong, he is just changing his tactics because he personally and his government is in political disarray. It’s about protecting Tony Abbott and the Government, it’s not about protecting Medicare.


ROWLAND: You argued and argued very strongly the $7 co-payment was unfair because it included pensioners, kids. They're not included in this $5 - what the Government has described as optional co-payment. Surely that's a better way of trying to plug that Medicare funding gap?


SHORTEN: There is no doubt that Labor has had a win in terms of forcing some concessions, but our principal objection was you shouldn't have to pay an additional tax to go to the doctor. The idea that you will discourage sick people from going to the doctor by putting a tax on GPs, and making GPs who are hardworking to collect the tax, it's poor medical policy. Primary care is important, we don’t want people delaying going to the doctor. This is a broken promise and it also adds to the cost of living. So there’s millions and millions of Australians who under this Government's so-called changes will be paying a tax to go to the doctor which is simply a broken promise. And like the petrol tax, they're going around Parliament and they're trying to force up cost of living pressures on Australians which is a really bad idea.


ROWLAND: By going around Parliament, are you talking about the regulations needed to implement this? Will Labor move to vote against those regulations?


SHORTEN: Well, on some of the regulations, the idea that we should be encouraging people not to be shunted through in six minutes for a doctor, we are open to considering that, that there should be better health care policy in the way that patients are treated. But when it comes to the extra $5 tax, the Government has been very sort of disingenuous. What they're saying is that it is an option if the doctors charge it. So what they're doing is they’re putting pressure back on doctors to make decisions on whether or not they want to slug their patients with a cost of living increase which is, I think, very poor policy. The Government should keep to its election promises - no new taxes. They certainly shouldn't be putting cost of living pressures on families, and they certainly - they say there is a Medicare crisis, yet the money they're raising they’re putting into a future fund, not going in to re-plug any so-called holes in Medicare. So still the Government hasn’t changed what they really think. What they’re doing is they’re just trying a different tactic to get up what they believe.


ROWLAND: Will the Opposition vote against the relevant regulations implementing this change?


SHORTEN: Yes, in terms of the GP tax. We’re just against a GP tax full stop. It's still a tax, it’s still a broken promise and we don't trust Tony Abbott and his Government to not increase the tax at some point in the future.


ROWLAND: You talked about the Medical Research Fund. Shouldn't the money go to that in terms of ensuring Australia's long-term future and medical research developments?


SHORTEN: There is no question that medical research and science generally are important. This is a government who’re cutting billions of dollars out of scientific research though. Hundreds of scientists at the CSIRO are losing their jobs. They want to introduce $100,000 university degrees which makes it harder for kids to study science in the future. This is not a Government who is really interested in research. If they were, they wouldn't be doing all the other cuts to science and research. But my point is what they're trying to do is use a rationalisation or a false argument to undermine the universal basis of Medicare. This is an attack on bulk billing, it is a tax to go to the doctor. It is definitely a broken promise, it’s pressure on cost of living and we all know that Tony Abbott is only doing this for one reason. Everyone knows he is in political trouble and his government is. They’re not doing it to protect Medicare, they haven't changed their mind, they’ve just changed their tactics and if given half a chance, they would bring back all the nasty stuff which they’re now pretending they’re not doing.


ROWLAND: We get back to that fundamental funding gap, the Government spends $20 billion a year on Medicare. The levy only raises $10 billion. How would you plug that gap?


SHORTEN: Two points in that. First of all, the Government is not proposing to fund any gap. The money which they say they are raising is being put into the future fund –




SHORTEN: It’s not going to – my point is -


ROWLAND: OK, how else would you fund the gap then?


SHORTEN: But my point is the Government is not trying to fund it. So they've invented a false crisis to justify the GP tax, and it is still a GP tax. They've exempted some people from it, but millions more are going to pay it. The real point here is they say there is a crisis, but they're sending their so-called fire brigade down the street to put out a fire in another house. This isn't fair dinkum by the Government. Tony Abbott has changed his tactics, but he hasn't changed his mind. And what was amazing is Peter Dutton on the ABC last night says, "Well, we always knew that we would have to compromise". Really, Peter Dutton? Why have we spent seven months kicking this around, where you’ve put your hand on your heart and every other Government Minister says they’re really committed to it. Now what the Government says to justify its change of tactics, is "Oh, well, we always knew we had to do this”. This nation doesn’t have time to waste with silly games from this government. And here’s an idea on how we’d fund any gap - don't waste money on advertising your rotten higher education changes. And you certainly - if you say there is a funding crisis, which justifies a new GP tax through the backdoor, don't waste money trying to sell these rotten ideas.


ROWLAND: That would go a small way to raising the $10 billion -


SHORTEN: It’s a good start, isn't it?


ROWLAND: If Labor is elected in 2016, it is a problem that will confront you. How would you go about filling that gap that’s going to -  where the spending will increase to $34 billion by 2024?


SHORTEN: Well, first of all, when we look at the whole challenge of government revenue, Joe Hockey is going to bring down this much awaited mini-Budget. The Government has made a lot of play this week that they’ve really changed their tune. The fact is they haven’t. They haven't spelt out how their paid parental leave changes will work, and we think that's an expensive lemon. On this issue, they're proposing to change the way they do their GP tax abnd putting the poor old GP in the middle of weighing up each patient. How do you feel every day, you go to your doctor, if you have a job, the doctor has to weigh up, "Do I charge you more or do I charge you less?" This is a crazy system and Peter Dutton, the Health Minister, last night said he encourages the doctors to charge this GP tax. So these guys – they haven’t changed their mind at all. The only way we can change the mind of this Government when it comes to taxing the sick, is changing the Government. And again, when you talk about savings, they could easily look at just scrapping their PPL scheme and looking at going back to what Labor had. Also they're now talking about taxing multinationals. Why did they get rid of a whole lot of tax officials who could hunt down the money that large companies aren’t paying? So there’s another saving they could make.


ROWLAND: Do you think some GPs would be in a position to absorb that $5?


SHORTEN: It is a wonderful system we’ve got now where Tony Abbott wants GPs to work out how to fix up Tony Abbott's problem. This idea that it's optional doesn't I think really - why are we putting our GPs into the middle of a tax war? Why does a GP have to determine will they make Tony Abbott break his promise about no new taxes, or will they decide to absorb the loss in funding from the Government, thereby keeping Tony Abbott’s promise? This is a Government who is in disarray and chaos.


ROWLAND: Just finally, you end the year on a relative political high. You leapt ahead of the Prime Minister in the preferred Prime Minister in the Ipsos Poll this week. Do you accept though, Bill Shorten, that's not so much voters embracing you, they just dislike the Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: What I understand is that this year Labor has been strong in its opposition to the Government's unfairness. But, and I don't make a habit of commenting on the polls, but I think what the numbers reflect is that Australians know that Tony Abbott will only ever change his tactics, he won’t change who he is. He has broken promises, he has got an unfair Budget and we've lost a year that Australia will never get back and I think it is a judgment on the Prime Minister and his Government.


ROWLAND: Bill Shorten, thanks very much for your time this morning.


SHORTEN: Thanks.