Bill's Transcripts

ABC Radio National with Ellen Fanning






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

Bill Shorten, good morning.




FANNING: Your Budget Reply speech tonight is the first real opportunity for you to reposition Labor on the issue of economic management. Are you prepared to add your voice to those telling Australians that the age of entitlement has to end?


SHORTEN: This Budget Reply will clearly identify what Labor stands for. But it will also identify the division between ourselves and the Government. Labor will fight strongly in the Parliament and in the community for the principle of universal free Medicare. We will fight strongly for the proposition that our pensioners shouldn’t receive cuts. We will fight strongly against taxes which increase the cost of living.


That's not to say that we don't need to get the Budget, in the medium term, on a trajectory where outlays are lower than revenues, of course we do, that’s what a conscientious Government does. But a conscientious Government doesn't run the Budget in a way which would cause great harm to families struggling to make ends meet.


FANNING: This Budget is a budget that gets Australia back in the black, not now, but a surplus within a decade, perhaps five years at best. Unless you propose other cuts or tax increases to make up for those you don't support, doesn't that leave Labor again going to the next election the party of debt and deficit?


SHORTEN: That assumes that there is a giant budget emergency which I don't. Of course there's always issues to be addressed in the Budget, sensible governments do that. But we remember that Australia is only one of 10 nations in the world which has a triple A credit rating from the three international credit agencies, only one of 10 countries on the whole planet. We have relatively low interest rates, and we have economic growth and we came through the Global Financial Crisis better than most other first world nations.


FANNING: Regardless of whether it's a budget emergency or a less urgent problem, surely it can only be solved if the political class comes clean about the need to permanently increase revenue, cut spending, or both. Isn’t that the reality Australians are now seeing?


SHORTEN: What is the reality, is that this Abbott Government has put up a budget which will see thousands - millions of Australians, worse off. Surely in this country we're better leading change and leading growth in the country by sitting down and talking to people and working through the issues. Take for instance the increasing costs health system. There are increasing costs in the health system. But why didn't this Government - and they've had a longer run up to their first Budget than any other first term Government in recent political history - why didn't they sit down with the clinicians, the patients, the nurses, people on the front line, to work through the issues? Instead what they've done is said their answer to health costs is to prevent and discourage sick people from going to the doctor.


FANNING: Let's go through the details if you would. You convened a meeting of Labor frontbenchers last night to consider the deficit tax. What's the decision, do you support the tax in the Senate?


SHORTEN: Our priority is low and middle income earners. We haven't got a final position, our priority in terms of where we deploy our political capital to fight is on Medicare, pensions and petrol. We're also concerned that the cuts to hospitals and schools, $80 billion over the next 10 years is effectively blackmailing the States into increasing the GST. We do see the deficit levy as a complete broken promise. It's an el cheapo stunt. When you see Coalition frontbenchers or the Prime Minister saying they're doing their bit by paying more taxes, they will get that back in three years whereas the pensioners lose that –


FANNING: You say it’s an el cheapo stunt, but you know, you’ve made this line lies and deficit, and if that’s your starting point of the Budget, regardless of the conflicting views of Labor frontbenchers, surely you have no option but to block that special tax given it was never mentioned before the election.

SHORTEN: First of all, I do agree with what you’re saying. We think there is no great budget crisis. On the other hand, when you’ve got political capital do you – we’ll obviously make the case for broken promises, because remember Tony Abbott said famously the night before the election, he was trawling for votes, those weeks before the last election, and he said there would be no new taxes in a Government he led.


FANNING: And if that’s your position, then surely you have to block the deficit tax regardless of the conflicting views of your frontbenchers, don’t you?


SHORTEN: It is absolutely a broken promise which people will mark him down for. But in order for us to be an effective Opposition we have to also prioritise our fights. For me what is more upsetting, even though that is an absolute broken promise and a betrayal indeed of many Liberal people who voted for Tony Abbott, our priorities have got to be some of the most heartless aspects of this Budget. What’s the case for wrecking and torpedoing universally accessible Medicare? What’s the case for a big new fuel tax which is based on a broken promise and a lie on every motorist in Australia including regional and rural Australia. What’s the case for slowing down the growths of pensions in terms of the indexation that pensioners will get in the future. These are broken promises, I mean what was the case for them to cut the ABC, they said they wouldn’t even do that Ellen. This is a government who has lied and lied and lied before the election in a systematic fashion and now were seeing the chickens come home to roost.


FANNING: So you’ll vote against the Medicare co-payment, the indexation of petrol excise, the rise in the pension age, what about measures making it harder for people under 30 to get the dole?     


SHORTEN: They are harsh measures –   


FANNING: Do you vote against them?


SHORTEN: We’ll talk about this more today and tonight in the Budget reply speech, but the measurers which we’re talking about are saying that unemployed people under the age of 30 should get no dole for six months.


FANNING: Yes, we understand the measure but will you vote against it I guess is the question?


SHORTEN: Well it’s pretty harsh, you’d have to say the disposition of Labor is that do not punish the most vulnerable, the least powerful in our community when you’re trying to fix the problem which isn’t as great as you say and there a surely better and smarter ways to do it. The best way to help unemployed people is to help get them a job, not to punish them for being unemployed.


FANNING: Family tax benefits, one of the big savings measures in the Budget saves around $7.5 billion, will you support that?


SHORTEN: Again you put this in the category that it’s pretty harsh. We’re very, very, very unimpressed by this measure. There’s a lot of people, perhaps driving to work now listening to us talk, these are people who might be on $100,000 or $110,000 or $90,000. They stand to lose thousands of dollars in family payments. Now there’d be other people who say, why should they get it? Let’s be really clear, a family on $90,000 or $100,000 raising kids, perhaps with mum at home, they’re struggling to make ends meet. This Budget, the Budget should be about growing economies, the Budget should not be about cutting confidence or harming people.                 


FANNING: Alright, we’ll have to see one that one. Just finally the Prime Minister says he’s willing to horse trade to an extent but he won’t countenance any attempt to completely frustrate the business of Government, he’s even threatened a double dissolution on the issue of who runs the country. Is Tony Abbott crazy brave enough to call an early election do you think?       


SHORTEN: No. He knows this Budget’s ridiculously unpopular because it’s bad for this country. Furthermore, isn’t this funny, this is the Prime Minister who use to castigate, this guy staked his political reputation on two things before the last election. One, he said he would be the new political Mother Teresa of not breaking promises, well that halo has clearly slipped. But the other thing he used to do is castigate the former government and say oh, you’re dealing with the cross-bench. Now we’ve got this bloke in power, oh he’s happy to horse trade. Well I’ve got some advice for Tony Abbott on behalf of Australians; why don’t you horse trade away you’re paid parental leave scheme which will give millionaires $50,000 of extra money they don’t need and perhaps leave the pensions alone.    


FANNING: Bill Shorten thank you so much for your time this morning.


SHORTEN: Thank you.